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:


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!


The Cost of Hubris

The Cost of Hubris

Ted Folkert

September 5, 2014

Some like to call it the cost of war. Many of our costs of war were just that. But not the most recent costs of wars. They were costs of hubris, the price of personal heritage, power hunger, tough guy images, and, of course, the funding of the biggest department of our government, the military/industrial complex. That’s not what it is called. It’s better known as the defense department. But it has grown way beyond defense and has chewed up our tax dollars like a growing sponge in a pan of water. We probably have enough weaponry to kill everyone on earth many times over and we are still building more every day. Imagine our defense contractors licking their chops every time another defense budget is passed. It is probably easier to get a grant to develop another military weapon than for a poor kid to get free tuition. The defense contractors not only get lucrative contracts, these contracts are often open ended. The cost over runs are rampant and fully understood on both sides of contract negotiations. When did you ever hear of a military material contract coming in under budget?

The budget request of the military/industrial complex is a mere $500 billion this year. The total spending on national security is a mere $1 trillion dollars. That should pay the annual college tuition for every college age person in the country. That should pay every family in the US a thousand dollars per month. That should provide free healthcare for 100 million people. That would provide enough food to sustain everyone in the country with a subsistence diet every day of the year. No more hunger. Imagine what it would do in rebuilding our rotting infrastructure of highways, bridges, airports, waterways. Imagine what it would do in developing alternative fuels in order to save our environment to support human life.

Of course we have to have national security. We have to have defense. But we don’t have to have hubris at the cost of education. We don’t have to assure personal heritage at the cost of healthcare. We don’t have to feed power hunger at the cost of personal hunger. We don’t have to create tough guy images at the cost of the lives and health of our young people that we send off to wars of hubris, personal heritage, power hunger, and tough guy images for our fearless leaders. We don’t have to allow the military/industrial complex to suck all of the air and life out of the room because we have a fear of looking weak and succumb to the pressure of those who prosper from warfare.

The Bush/Cheney wars have cost us $3 trillion to date. That is just the dollar amount that this pathetic wrecking crew cost us. That doesn’t include the real cost of war, the real cost of hubris, the cost of the families who lost loved ones or who got them back in a damaged condition. All for hubris. All for the tough guy image. All for personal heritage. All for the military/industrial complex and the attitude they engender so they can fill their pockets.

The 3 trillion dollars doesn’t include the enormous and inestimable cost of the damage we do with our bombs, our drones, the innocent people killed and maimed, the communities, the cities and the countries destroyed, infrastructures destroyed, power sources destroyed, hospitals destroyed, schools destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people killed as collateral damage. That term collateral damage is a weasel word for mass murder. If they happen to be in the wrong place when we decide to show our power it’s just too bad. Mass murder is just collateral damage. Victims of collateral damage are easily forgotten because we didn’t care about them to begin with. They aren’t important. We are important. No one else matters.

Our National Anthem says: “….And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.…”, and it also says: “…Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just…”. The question is who decides when our cause is just. Who decides if the bombing is just, if the mass murder is just, if the mass destruction of cities and countries and people is just?

Many of us call for military action in every instance of misbehavior the world over. What should we do in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria? What should we do in Ukraine? What should we do in Russia? Why not let Putin have his path to the sea? Should we get involved? Should we send our kids over there? Tough questions all. No easy answers. No right answers.

And a better question is, who do we want to make those decisions in the future? Do we want the war mongers to decide? Do we want the military/industrial complex to decide? Do we want elected leaders to decide? Who do we want to decide?

Think about it!

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

Hilary may be what the GOP needs

Hilary may be what the GOP needs

Ted Folkert

August 22, 2014

Some people believe that Hilary cannot win an election and that nominating her will open the door for a right-winger in the White House – AGAIN! I don’t think Nate Silver has weighed in on this subject yet but maybe he should since the possibility is frightening, to say the least, for those of us who believe that the government should represent all the people.

Some people say they fear another Clinton in the White House. Not because of any of the embarrassing juvenile episodes that occurred during Bill’s tenure, but because he turned out to favor the bankers and corporatists, which has been proven to be in the best interest of the rich and powerful, not all of us. The shining example, of course, is the elimination of the Glass Steagall Act, which prevented the banks from gambling with our money, which initiated the mad fury for big bucks, which created the financial debacle from which we proletariats are still suffering. And if you read the recent article in Mother Jones, “The Chevron Communiques” by Mariah Blake, you may get that stomach pain that is created by fear and anguish and frustration.

According to Mariah Blake, Hilary’s State Department created an entire bureau and she personally worked diligently to encourage “fracking” all over the world, acclaiming this practice of extracting natural gas as a panacea for cheap fuel and a path to energy independence. This was apparently done with the “involvement” of the energy companies (who would have thought?) and others who could profit handsomely from such practice, but with limited involvement of the environmentalists.

Fracking is a method of using high pressure to break up shale deposits so they will release the carbon products for extraction. One would wonder if the fact that this practice significantly disturbs the thin crust of this planet, which has encrusted this molten rock for billions of years and provides a place that enabled life and a place where we can continue to live, was entered into the decision to sell this idea the world over. The practice of fracking, which the energy companies dearly love, is believed to affect earthquakes and underground water supplies, a couple of factors that would seem to be worth considering if we plan on continuing to inhabit this molten rock for a century or more.

When Hilary personally visited Bulgaria and Romania she was greeted with protesters carrying placards saying such statements as: “Stop fracking with our water” and “Chevron go home”. Apparently, the citizens of these countries pay more attention to saving the planet and the basic necessities of life than to getting cheap fuel for their homes and cars – and do not feel compelled to make the energy companies richer and richer. Apparently these people don’t rely upon them for campaign contributions to enable their fearless leaders to retain control of the largess of the public treasury and gain the training and influence necessary to join the lobbying corps and make some real money.

Hilary offered to fly in the best experts on these practices to help these countries master this technology. I suppose we all know who these experts were, of course – the oil companies, Chevron, Halliburton et al. The same companies who ended up with lucrative contracts the world over to assure the success of this amazing discovery. She appointed a guy by the name of David Goldwyn to head up this effort. He, of course, worked for Bill Clinton in the energy department and directed the US-Libya Business Association. (A scary name if you ask me) He apparently shilled for the oil companies throughout this endeavor, even though he denied it, and then left under inexplicable circumstances. Guess where he is now. You guessed it! A lobbying firm. When Mariah Blake approached Goldwyn recently about why he left the State Department, he ducked out a side door. Hmmmm.

And now we hear that Hilary, when asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel, stated that “I would annihilate them.” Of course, that is probably just Hilary trying to sound tough, but is that her final answer or is that just her unadvised decision and merely a rhetorical comment?

If Hilary has too much baggage to be elected, it seems that we need some alternative candidates on the Democratic Party side of the contest.

Think about!

Read the article: http://www.motherjones.com/about/interact-engage/get-free-access

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

Black Like Me in Missouri

Black Like Me in Missouri

Ted Folkert

August 16, 2014

There was a book for assigned reading in a college human relations class 40 some years ago that really comes to mind with all of the turmoil over the Ferguson, Missouri incident of Michael Brown’s seemingly unnecessary killing by a police officer.

The calls for criminal justice, the calls for demonstration, the calls for violence, and the calls for calm and nonviolence are all valid by those whose voices are heard. None are all wrong and none are all right. The validity or necessity of the calls for action or inaction depends upon the place in society, the vantage point, of the participants.

The book, “Black Like Me”, written by John Howard Griffin, first published in 1961, was an enlightening educational experience which, for most readers, reflected a different light on the challenges of life as a black person in a white dominated and racially prejudiced country. He traveled throughout the South disguised as a black man and documented his experiences of disgusting discrimination.

We cannot fairly judge this incident without all of the facts and we don’t have all of the facts. A police officer’s job is obviously more challenging and dangerous than most of us would be willing to endure, so this police officer’s role certainly cannot be judged by someone who has never faced these challenges. Like a close relative told me once when we were discussing how he approached his job as a police officer on the streets of Kansas City, “I just want to return home to my family every day in the same condition as when I went to work.”

If you read Black Like Me, you can easily see the other side of the story about the everyday life of a black person, an everyday life full of challenges that most of us would choose not to endure, such as discrimination in education, employment, social experiences – life in general – denial of equal opportunity and enjoyment of life at every turn.

It is easy to see that, as a member of the minority community, the enraged demonstrators have endured these experiences throughout life and have witnessed discriminatory actions against innocent and guilty members of their community and immediately assume this incident as just one more of the same – one more of the same unrelenting discriminatory actions against blacks just because they are black.

This police officer may be guilty of murder. Michael Brown may be guilty of strong arm theft or robbery and resisting arrest. There may be what Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story.” Until we have the rest of the story we can’t judge this tragic incident fairly.

However, as Michael’s parents and friends would have it, we could use this incident to better understand the challenges of police officers and the challenges of being black. We could use it to change our individual attitudes about racial discrimination – simply because this incident could have been caused by racial discrimination either on the part of the police officer or on the part of Michael Brown, due to what we have caused him to endure in his lifetime. Think about this police officer and the job he is assigned to do. Think about Michael Brown’s life in the black community, where the majority are black and most all of the police officers are white.

Think about it!

Selective Memory of the Elite Media

Selective Memory of the Elite Media

Ted Folkert

July 31, 2014

How quickly our media moguls forget about the integrity, or lack thereof, of those who negotiate themselves (or stumble) into powerful foreign policy decision-making. Perhaps this helps to explain why our sad and abusive foreign policy has been soft pedaled by the press all these years. Of course, a powerful and benevolent country such as ours could do no wrong when dealing with foreign countries, even when we are forcing regime changes to meet our will or the will of some of our behemoth corporations or the whims of some of our misguided fearless leaders.

Eric Alterman, one of our leading home run hitters in the liberal media these days, has just hit another one out of the park in his Nation Magazine article: “Don’t Know Much About History.” He points out how lies, deception and corruption preceded the Vietnam and Iraq wars and now Henry Kissinger, in evading history entirely, calls them “idealistic”. Alterman states: “After all, it was “history” – which in contemporary American political culture, is another word for “irrelevant”. And it is this contempt for history, as the cliché correctly advises, that condemns our nation to continually repeat it.”’

As another example of the selective memory of the press, he points out that “Elliott Abrams is able to mouth off as a respected Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, attacking Barack Obama … as The Man Who Broke the Middle East”, as the fact is ignored that “he was disbarred in the District of Columbia for his lies to Congress about … crimes in which he participated while serving in the Reagan administration.”

“ …. How about the fact that this criminal, while serving on the National Security Council during Bush II, himself helped break the Middle East by undermining the 2006 Palestinian elections, which helped lead to the creation of a Hamas-run rump state in Gaza in the first place. Yet he somehow gets away with the crazy claim that “the Middle East that Obama inherited in 2009 was largely at peace” in order to blame its alleged collapse on the president.”’

Alterman points out that …. “.… rehabilitations of Henry Kissinger and Elliott Abrams demonstrate, being a known liar and an arguable (Kissinger) or unarguable (Abrams) enabler of genocide is no barrier to career advancement in the American establishment, thanks to the collective amnesia of its most elite institutions, especially its elite media.”

Alterman cites other liars, such as Dick and Liz Cheney in The Weekly Standard, and William Kristol in numerous publications, stating that “as Kristol, Cheney, Abrams and Kissinger demonstrate over and over, success within our political punditocracy means never having to say you’re sorry.

Think about!

Read the article: http://www.thenation.com/article/180680/dont-know-much-about-history


Jim Hightower Defines Antonin Scalia

Jim Hightower Defines Antonin Scalia

Ted Folkert

July 30, 2014

Well, the stuff has apparently hit the fan in the race to wrest control of the largess of the public treasury and all of the political advantages and rewards that control of the government can bestow upon the winners of the winner-take-all contest. Or should we call it an all-out war? A war of the rich and powerful against the poor and powerless; a war of the plutocracy against the proletariat; a war of the privileged class against the working class.

This, of course, is a direct result of the supreme court (it is difficult to capitalize these two words) decision the allow the behemoth corporations and the rich and powerful plutocracy to buy the 500 seats in the Senate and the House along with the executive branch of our government. This is just the start. Once this is accomplished and they have total control of the three branches of government, three branches established to provide balance and prevent this from happening, then they can pack all of the courts with like-minded judges. Then the revolution will be complete. Then we will have the aristocracy and plutocracy that we deserve due to our willingness to stand aside and let it happen, our lack of understanding of what is happening, our preoccupation with enjoying every moment and ignoring the fact that we may be leaving a real mess for future generations and perhaps an uninhabitable planet.

Thanks to Jim Hightower we still have someone who is willing to call them like he sees them. Jim says, “So many absurdities abound in our lives that there’s a whole body of philosophical thought called “absurdism”, as well as an entire catalogue of plays called the “theater of the absurd.” And then there’s Antonin Scalia.”’

“This sour, scowling, and snarky Supreme Court Justice personifies the dictionary definition of absurd: “Utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false.”’

“A right-wing dogmatist and extreme judicial activist who’s full of himself, Scalia has been the court’s chief monkey-wrencher for corporate interests, constantly messing with the Constitution to enthrone plutocratic money over our people’s democratic politics.”

Wow, I don’t think Jim Hightower will get invited to Scalia’s office party this year – just a hunch.

And to add more fuel the fire, Jim goes on to say: “… who’s either sublimely ignorant about the core democratic beliefs of a key author (Thomas Jefferson) of our founding documents; an ideological delusionalist; or a shameless liar.”

That should add enough frosting on the cake.

Jim Hightower’s recent article in the “Hightower Lowdown” (brilliant as usual) underscores the work being done to support the drive for a constitutional amendment to repair the damage done by the current wrecking crew, the supreme court. He mentions: Public Citizen, Common Cause, People for the American Way, Free Speech for People, Move to Amend, democracyforpeople.org, and others.

He reminds us that 84% on Independents, 82% of Democrats, and 72% of Republicans are against the Citizens United ruling. They give a movement for a constitutional amendment a good running start.

Please read the article. You will be glad you did and it may encourage you to get involved.

The Senate will soon vote on an amendment to overturn Citizens United. History is calling!


Vargas Distracts From Cause

This article by Raul Reyes, son of Adolfo and Lupe Reyes, appeared in USA Today.

Vargas arrest at border distracts from cause: Column

Instead of bringing attention to child migrant crisis, activist made himself the story.


Maybe this was bound to happen sooner or later. Jose Antonio Vargas, arguably the most famous undocumented immigrant in the USA, was detained today by immigration officials in McAllen, Texas, when he attempted to board a plane en route to Los Angeles without proper documentation. A picture of him in handcuffs has gone viral on social media, resulting in a Twitter campaign — #IStandWithJose — to draw attention to his plight.

Vargas, who was later released, is a tremendous journalist who has been an outstanding voice for undocumented immigrants. However, inserting himself into the child migrant crisis might not be the ideal way to help the thousands of children languishing in Department of Homeland Security detention — or to pursue his broader goal of promoting immigration reform.

Vargas was sent to the USA illegally as a child by his Filipino relatives, and did not find out he was undocumented until he was 16. He later wrote about his experiences as an undocumented American for The New York Times Magazine and in a cover story for Time Magazine. He has testified before Congress on the need for immigration reform. Still, he may be testing the limits of his activism by getting himself detained in Texas.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Vargas acknowledged the risk of getting stuck in Texas because of his immigration status. “The feeling of being stuck and trapped by our broken immigration system is very familiar to undocumented people like me,” he said. “But it’s even more pronounced for undocumented immigrants who live in the border. And now I’m trapped like they are.”

Yet Vargas was not trapped like other undocumented immigrants are. He was able to rally some of his 45,000 Twitter followers to press for his speedy release, and can continue to pen long-form articles about his immigration problems in Politico. Unlike other undocumented immigrants, Vargas is well known to virtually every major media outlet in the country. His unique standing gives him a platform — even while in detention — that no other undocumented immigrant can claim.

Vargas’ detention does not reflect too well on his personal judgment. His decision to go to the border was not necessary to draw attention to the child migrant crisis; that deplorable situation is already receiving saturation coverage. If he was indeed going to McAllen to report on the border crisis, he should have taken pains to ensure that he could travel without incident.

After all, one of the primary rules of journalism is that a reporter should not make himself part of the story. Unintentionally, Vargas is even playing into the narrative that the current border crisis is about illegal immigration, rather than it being a humanitarian crisis.

During the few hours that Vargas had been detained, Latino advocacy organizations and other immigrant groups demanded that he be released as soon as possible. Although they were right that Vargas should be freed, consider that his personal situation is temporarily dominating the headlines. Plus, Vargas has given the Obama administration one more unnecessary immigration headache. By releasing him quickly, it might smack of special treatment. This distraction was the last thing the administration needed as President Obama prepares to roll out his executive action on immigration in August.

Certainly, there is a case to be made that Vargas should not have been taken into custody. Under the terms of the Obama administration’s 2011 “prosecutorial discretion” memo, immigration enforcement actions are supposed to prioritize violent criminals — which Vargas certainly is not. Still, he was at an airport attempting to board a plane without a government-issued ID. This was knowingly risky behavior, and he paid the price — if only temporarily. And Transportation Security Administration officials who turned him over to the Border Patrol were simply doing their jobs.

The child migrant crisis at the border should not be a story about Jose Antonio Vargas. This is a story that still cries out for a compassionate government response, not a distracting media sideshow.

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

Republican Party Smoke & Mirrors

Republican Party Smoke & Mirrors

Ted Folkert

July 24, 2014

The Republicans have been in such a hissy over the Affordable Care Act that they may collapse out of frustration due to their failure to derail the first successful attempt to provide universal healthcare in the history of our country. This law has caused them a painful meltdown and left them embarrassed in the face of their wealthy corporate supporters. This is a law which was approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by the president. The last I heard those were the requirements to enact a law in this country.

Of course, the House passed this before the Tea Party took control of the House. Once they got control they have been viciously and tenaciously attempting to repeal the law. They have been unable to do so and simultaneously unable to explain their reasoning, other than that it reminds them of Hitler and that it will be the destruction of life as we know it and may even destroy mankind. Boy, what a stretch! The House has not only failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have been unable to do anything positive – period

Their miserable approvable rating is well deserved since they have done absolutely nothing except attempt to prevent Obama from accomplishing anything to improve life for those suffering from the economic debacle created by the funding arm of the Republican Party, the rich and powerful corporations. Few would argue with the statement that this may be the worst and most dysfunctional legislature in our history. Surprisingly and sadly, this general feeling of the people doesn’t even seem to bother the head-in-the-sand Republicans. They seem oblivious to criticism as they steadfastly pursue a dismantling of all social programs that were created in our attempt at a democratic form of government. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that we need to improve our educational system as they continuously move to defund it and support private education which benefits their supporters, the behemoth corporations.

They find it easy to ignore the ridiculous condition of healthcare in this country, the most expensive health care system in the civilized world but far from the best system. They wouldn’t even bother to read the article in the Los Angeles Times by Steve Trumble that I read – “Medical debt’s high toll.”

Steve tells us that “the single biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States isn’t job loss or irresponsible use of credit, It’s medical expenses” … and that Harvard researchers who examined a large sample of bankruptcy filings found that more than 60% of all bankruptcies were medical … and even that 10 million insured Americans have medical bills they are unable to pay.

And, guess what? Congress has declined to act on the Medical Debt Responsibility Act, which might help to alleviate some of these unnecessary bankruptcies. In other words, they don’t give a rat’s ass about the plight of the American people unless they happen to own or control a large corporation or happen to be wealthy donors to the Republican Party. Otherwise, we are red meat to be thrown to the lecherous and greedy corporate interests.

This is just one more of the examples, too many to count, of the Republican march toward an aristocracy, an aristocracy that will throw them to the pit bulls as well as soon as the aristocrats-to-be get what they are seeking. And what we will all end up with is a failed system and a slide backwards in education, healthcare and a strong infrastructure to build on for the future. We will end up with joblessness that we can’t even conceive of, a lack of employable skills, and a country without any safety nets for the people as they suffer with unemployment or poor health or lack of working parents.

Think about it!

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

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