Here's a link on wealth distribution in the USA well worth your time.
(Hat tip to Ralph Smith:)
Seems relevant given the Right's belly-aching about Police, Fire and other public worker pensions.
Yesterday’s OWH paper was a real work of art. A front page article was about the need to update our older nuclear weapons. There are some 400 “B61” warheads that are really old and need immediate fixing. The cost for this fine work is $28 million per bomb!!! This amounts to a cost that is twice the worth of each bomb if made of SOLID GOLD
The kicker is that most of these bombs are considered tactical nuclear weapons to include “bunker buster” bombs. Read wiki-pedia on the B61 if you want to get a headache. The concept is that these would be used in specific targeted spots such as “enemy” nuclear facilities that are dug underground. As a Corps of Engineer officer we studied such weapons to be used to nuc the USSR’s attack throughout Germany. It was part of the barrier plan and the weapons, in that case, were buried in the path of an attack. Needless to say, Germany and other countries were not too happy about such plans. The destructive power in some of these can be dialed up or down to as high as 300KT. Of course the bomb was also described as an Thermonuclear bomb. Generally that means an H-bomb which is much more destructive that the A-bomb in all three effects. (Heat, Light and Radition) The same article in Wiki mentioned power as low as .3 Kiloton or about 300 tons of TNT. So the article seems contradictory.
Anyway the front page article was continued on page 4a. On that page was an article headed: “Nation’s bloated nuclear spending comes under fire” You ought to read all of both of these articles.
It might be interesting to know that the Postal Service had a plan to deliver the mail after the big nuc exchange. No person I know explained to whom they intended to deliver the mail… At that time we had some 32,000 nucs in the arsenal. The Russians supposedly had slightly more than 32,000. Our national plan included the possibility of us using nucs on “them” in Europe w/o necessarily a return strike from them. Madness. Sheer madness.
But all of this is just half of the OWH’s astounding Sunday coverage…Reading from the back page of the front section we run first across an article about how spending on the Great Lakes problems does not run the risk of cutbacks since even Tea Partiers want the funds spent. Also on the same page an article on excess use of force by border agents…
Then on page 10A a lengthy article on the rise of CO2 in the oceans which is killing off much critical ocean ecology. Then page 9A a headline “A Chilling view of tomorrow’s waters with multiple pictures and diagrams along with p8A too.
All of this is presented as solid fact with little, if any, punches pulled. This from a paper that seems to deny the critical nature of Climate change in most of its editorial content over the last 10 years or more. Can there be life left in the OWH or indeed on our Earth? How will we survive w/o these critical B61 weapons? Where will the money come from top fix up these aging weapons? How will we be able to use them on some poor unsuspecting country’s hidden assets? What WILL we do if the F25 cannot deliver these B61 weapons?
Good article on what's going on with the Conservative bloc on the Supreme Court and why they can gingerly accept gays but not blacks.
Saturday Session on Corporations by Vincent Campos? Comments by Stephen P. Horn
Vincent has spent considerable time and effort over the last few years presenting his look at the corporate world and its relationship to economic problems we face today. I attended his presentation with the full intent of seeing it entirely. However, I had a family birthday party scheduled for 5:00 PM that night. I was told that the presentation would be 1.5 hrs so that left me time to get home in time for the party. Unfortunately, the start was delayed apparently waiting for people who had been at the Monsanto demo earlier. At any rate I had to leave about 4:40 so my comments following are based upon what I was able to see before I left plus many conversations I have had with Vincent over the past year or two.
First of all, I would agree that corporate power is out of control. My caution throughout is that there is a tendency to present very complicated problems in “either/or” choices. The listener has got to recognize that seldom in life are such narrow choices really so limited. Most any real life situation has almost limitless variations including certainly political or economic possibility. To reduce complicated topics to ultra simple situations is generally not workable.
We have early in the game a quote: “Free market does work as long as the government stays out.” I would say that so-called Free Market does not even exist let alone solve the problems of our economy. The second part of this statement is but one example of the anti-government stand that was a thrust throughout the presentation. We have these holy tenets one of which is that most all functions of the government can better be performed by “private enterprise”. Despite these claims there are all kinds of examples where government is both necessary and better suited than private enterprise.
Atlanta privatized their water system for a time until disaster made them reverse themselves. The entire country of Bolivia had a similar experience until they essentially threw the rascals out. There are all kinds of other examples. Here in good old Nebraska we have been treated to the privatization of our child care system, a decision that has carried with it all kinds of negative consequences. Our Health Care system is so screwed up largely because various parts of it are obviously in it to make the most money they can. It is certainly not a government run system. Medicare, the semi-government system, runs quite efficiently and costs considerably less than the private insurance run system most of us have (or don’t). Social Security is one of the most successful governmental programs in history. Anyone who actually thinks private companies would do better obviously has missed the huge crash of the stock market which was the supposed place to put your retirement funds by those who want to gut SS.
Vincent spent considerable time on the history of our country and on that of the corporation. Again there was much simplification with positions reduced to the two groups gathering around Jefferson and Hamilton as opponents. The quotes describing their beliefs were questionable in that they were so pointed that I have a hard time believing that any politician would utter them. The listener ought to be aware that those presenting views are not necessarily objective. History itself is filled with “facts” that many people would dispute including, undoubtedly, the very people involved. (Witness the current attempts to limit voter participation in the USA. These people will seldom admit that they want to remove certain groups from the voter rolls. Years from now naive “historians” might rightly “prove” that these people were really concerned about voter fraud by quoting their statements made at the time they were justifying their actions.)
Part of the simplification was addressed by one of the few questions posed while I was still there. Boards were “elected” by the shareholders that in turn chose the CEO. The truth is that shareholders like me, for instance, have little or no input to the actual running of the company. Most all corporations are dominated by major shareholders and the elections held are dominated by these fairly few lucky huge shareholders. Then too, the board (which was held up as a group which ran/decided company policy) most often are largely picked to do the bidding of the major shareholders and many times are nothing more than very highly paid PR fronts for the powers that be. Witness the OWH article the last few days that exposed the 100,000 dollar payments to the president of NU for his “work” on the board of Valmont. Of course, this is not viewed as a conflict of interest by the OWH or any of the NE power structure. This despite NU having big programs dealing with water. Vincent rightly points to the legal immunity of corporations as one of the critical factors that allow immoral or criminal behavior. There certainly is truth in that. However, to think that we can go back to a time w/o corporations is beyond comprehension. Even if we could, evil still exists and such people will still require that controls be placed upon their actions for the good of all. Libertarians want little or no governmental controls. The holy “free market” will address all and punish those who transgress.
This gets way too long. Let me just close with my thoughts on the DVD that was given out free to all at the presentations. Turns out it was a John Birch Society product. Some of you may not be aware of the JBS and it’s history. I first ran up against it in about 1963 or so when they put on a series of fancy presentations at the Civic sponsoring rich, right wing, largely racist, speakers who were really upset with Civil Rights and the Warren Court. As I recall the audiences were all white. Turns out JBS considered President Eisenhower a communist, among other outrageous beliefs. By the way, for you youngsters the concept of “States Rights” which comes up frequently is, in many minds, intrinsically interwoven with attempts to block Federal Civil Rights actions. This organization is not one anyone familiar with its history should use.
What Can We Learn From Denmark?
Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen spent a weekend in Vermont this month traveling with me to town meetings in Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier. Large crowds came out to learn about a social system very different from our own which provides extraordinary security and opportunity for the people of Denmark.
Today in the United States there is a massive amount of economic anxiety. Unemployment is much too high, wages and income are too low, millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable health care and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.
While young working families search desperately for affordable child care, older Americans worry about how they can retire with dignity. Many of our people are physically exhausted as they work the longest hours of any industrialized country and have far less paid vacation time than other major countries.
Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. Nonetheless, are there lessons that we can learn from Denmark?
In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a "solidarity system" that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe. As the ambassador mentioned, while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor. The minimum wage in Denmark is about twice that of the United States and people who are totally out of the labor market or unable to care for themselves have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day.
Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.
When it comes to raising families, Danes understand that the first few years of a person's life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. In order to give strong support to expecting parents, mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child's life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.
At a time when college education in the United States is increasingly unaffordable and the average college graduate leaves school more than $25,000 in debt, virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school.
In a volatile global economy, the Danish government recognizes that it must invest heavily in training programs so workers can learn new skills to meet changing workforce demands. It also understands that when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years. Here benefits can be cut off after as few as 26 weeks.
In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.
Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10.
As Ambassador Taksoe-Jensen explained, the Danish social model did not develop overnight. It has evolved over many decades and, in general, has the political support of all parties across the political spectrum. One of the reasons for that may be that the Danes are, politically and economically, a very engaged and informed people. In their last election, which lasted all of three weeks and had no TV ads, 89 percent of Danes voted.
In Denmark, more than 75 percent of the people are members of trade unions. In America today, as a result of the political and economic power of corporate America and the billionaire class, we are seeing a sustained and brutal attack against the economic well-being of the American worker. As the middle class disappears, benefits and guarantees that workers have secured over the last century are now on the chopping block. Republicans, and too many Democrats, are supporting cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition, education, and other basic needs — at the same time as the very rich become much richer. Workers' rights, the ability to organize unions, and the very existence of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are now under massive assault.
In the U.S. Senate today, my right-wing colleagues talk a lot about "freedom" and limiting the size of government. Here's what they really mean.
They want ordinary Americans to have the freedom NOT to have health care in a country where 45,000 of our people die each year because they don't get to a doctor when they should. They want young people in our country to have the freedom NOT to go to college, and join the 400,000 young Americans unable to afford a higher education and the millions struggling with huge college debts. They want children and seniors in our country to have the freedom NOT to have enough food to eat, and join the many millions who are already hungry. And on and on it goes!
In Denmark, there is a very different understanding of what "freedom" means. In that country, they have gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that comes with economic insecurity. Instead of promoting a system which allows a few to have enormous wealth, they have developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all — including the children, the elderly and the disabled.
The United States, in size, culture, and the diversity of our population, is a very different country from Denmark. Can we, however, learn some important lessons from them? You bet we can.
You may not have heard of The Pirate Bay but Hollywood certainly has. The Pirate Bay is only one of the street mutts chomping on the ankle of the high-dollar 20th Century film studios.
Each year technology makes quality video production possible to people with less and less money. The internet provides the means of distribution while the imploding major networks, in their attempts to save money by elminating script writers entirely, resolutely lower the bar once again.
You haven't made your own TV show yet? Why not?
Tristan Bonn: Still Trying To Figure Out What Is So Hard About Commnity Policing that the Powers That Be just can't seem to grasp it.
Tristan seems to think that OPD is the one that can't give up control. I think that OPD is a bit player in this drama; highly visible, but just carrying out orders. We have to dig a bit deeper (higher?) into the Omaha Power Structure to find out where those guidelines are coming from. Guidelines like: ignore popular expressions of discontent (there have been a lot of meetings with large numbers of people voicing their unhappiness with OPD and City policies - they just weren't called by the Empowerment Network), downplay the seriousness of any problems, do nothing that will upset the current flows of patronage.
Good music video linked in the blog.
Statement from Morrie Davis:
I served 25 years in the US Air Force, I was the Chief Prosecutor for the Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years, and now I need your help.
I personally charged Osama Bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan, Australian anathema David Hicks, and Canadian teen Omar Khadr. All three were convicted … and then they were released from Guantanamo. More than 160 men who have never been charged with any offense, much less convicted of a war crime, remain at Guantanamo with no end in sight. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where not being charged with a war crime keeps you locked away indefinitely and a war crime conviction is your ticket home.
As of April 29, 2013 – 100 of the 166 men who remain in Guantanamo are engaged in a hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention. Twenty-one of them are being force-fed and five are hospitalized. Some of the men have been in prison for more than eleven years without charge or trial. The United States has cleared a majority of the detainees for transfer out of Guantanamo, yet they remain in custody year after year because of their citizenship and ongoing political gamesmanship in the U.S.
That is why I am calling on Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to effect cleared transfers from Guantanamo and on President Obama to appoint an individual within the Administration to lead the effort to close Guantanamo. Obama announced on April 30 that he plans to do his part to close Guantanamo, but he has made this promise before. Now is the time to hold him to his promise and urge him to take the steps necessary to dismantle Guantanamo Bay Prison.
If any other country were treating prisoners the way we are treating those in Guantanamo we would roundly and rightly criticize that country. We can never retake the legal and moral high ground when we claim the right to do unto others that which we would vehemently condemn if done to one of us.
It is probably no surprise that human rights and activist groups like the Center For Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International have been outspoken critics of Guantanamo. It may surprise you that a former military prosecutor and many other retired senior military officers and members of the intelligence community agree with them.
The Patriotic thing, the American thing, the Human thing to do here is to Close Guantanamo.
The previously unremarked ferment within the Omaha 99% has begun to roil the surface. Random reform movements are growing; some coalesce as they explore how to wield power, others flail out against their peers. The Establishment waits and watches, buoyed by their overwhelming control of capital and patronage.
But the phrase "uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" has been around for a long time (and in this case does not refer particularly to elected officials, most of whom are just figureheads). The Powers That Be (bankers, industrialists, media higher-ups - the local Oligarchy) know that they must be forever vigilant lest some unanticipated slip-up (the Wagner video, the Johnson video, the OPS pedophile case, etc., etc., etc.) may become the match that ignites a movement that would loosen their grip on power.
One ongoing discussion has to do with how much the erstwhile reformers should cooperate with the Democratic Party (the ostensible "Progressive" player in the electoral arena).
I would argue for reaching the majority of the electorate - the people who don't vote. These are the people who recognize that neither party represents them. They would be receptive to a grassroots movement that shows that it can be effective and represents their interests, beginning in their neighborhoods.
I encourage the independent progressive organizations to spend some time:
Omahans are not the only ones having this discussion. An excellent article reposted in Nation of Change on April 27 explores different alternatives including working within the Democratic party and forming third parties.
My own choice would be to remain outside of permanent alliance with any party while supporting the occasional worthwhile candidates or legislation. Electoral politics is secondary to the real work of community organizing.
Once Progressives develop real (grassroots) power, the party hacks, sycophants, hangers-on and camp followers will flock to join in. Hopefully by then we will be strong enough to withstand them.
Here is a copy of the letter sent to the U.S. Department of Justice by several concerned citizens. It is possible that the DOJ will take some action, although they were constrained by the sheer volume of such complaints even before the current oligarchy-inspired sequester.
However, local street heat seems to be getting some results. The awesome video taken by the Johnson family's 18-year-old neighbor was the catalyst for militant actions inside and outside of police headquarters and the City Council.
It is good that we have pressure being applied from various sources. All segments of Omaha are right to be concerned when policing practice has broken down to the extent viewed in the video (and usually experienced unrecorded by the general populace).
Sam Walker, Omaha resident and nationally known expert on police-community relations notes:
You might want to tell people that anyone can send the U.S. Department of Justice a letter, telling them what they know and asking for an investigation.
Emails go to: special.litigation at usdoj.gov
The Subject Line should read RE: Omaha Police Department.
In [[your]] own words is best. This is the First Amendment, The Right to Petition Government.
In addition, Tristan Bonn, former Omaha Police Auditor has these trenchant observations about the situation.
How Mark Twain’s Politics are Obscured in His Hometown Museum
By Amitabh Pal, April 5, 2013
During spring break recently, I ventured with my wife and daughters to Mark Twain’s childhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. The trip was great, and we all had a good time. There was one thing that rankled me, however: Twain’s political stances were scarcely visible in the place.
Twain was much more than the author of “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn.” He was markedly progressive on the issues of his day. As he grew older, he became disillusioned with his government and turned more radical in his views. Partly as a result of this, said the owner of the bed and breakfast where we stayed, he wasn’t financially stable even in his final years.
None of this is reflected in the telling of his life at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum complex. The approach taken is highlighted by a central item in the display: The picket fence made famous in “Tom Sawyer.” There is little mention of his outspokenness. Sure, there is some talk of slavery in relation to “Huckleberry Finn,” a safe subject to bring up in this day and age. But that’s pretty much about it.
In actuality, Twain was a staunch critic of American militarism and imperialism. His most scathing attack on these recurrent features of U.S. foreign policy may be “The War Prayer” (a copy of which we bought from a local curio shop).
The prayer has an anger that is incredible in its intensity:
“O Lord, our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst…”
Not surprisingly, Twain wasn’t able to get the work published in his lifetime.
What had worked Twain up to this level of fury was the American conquest of the Philippines, a brutal and racist venture that claimed the lives of innumerable Filipinos. He was so outraged by the war that he suggested that the American flag be redesigned, “with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and crossbones.”
You wouldn’t know it at the Twain museum but he was vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League. Twain was not hesitant to voice his opposition to the Philippines colonial enterprise (and to others such as the Belgian genocide in the Congo, which he denounced in “King Leopold’s Soliloquy”).
“While the United States followed up on its victory in the Spanish-American War by slaughtering thousands of Filipino people, Twain spoke at anti-war rallies,” writes commentator Norman Solomon. “He also flooded newspapers with letters and wrote brilliant, unrelenting articles.”
None of this is at display at Hannibal.
Nor is his criticism of the venality of the rich and mighty of his era. In fact, the very term “Gilded Age” comes from Twain himself, since it is the title of a lesser-known book he co-authored that was a scathing critique of the political corruption of his times.
Twain was also a fervent advocate of social justice, talking in terms few celebrities would dare to today.
“Who are the oppressors?” Twain asked. “The few: the king, the capitalist and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat.”
The uncensored version of Twain’s autobiography that was released in 2010 reveals how thoroughly political he was—and how he so compellingly speaks to our times.
“Whether anguishing over American military interventions abroad or delivering jabs at Wall Street tycoons, this Twain is strikingly contemporary,” wrote Larry Rohter in the New York Times. “Though the autobiography also contains its share of homespun tales, some of its observations about American life are so acerbic—at one point Twain refers to American soldiers as ‘uniformed assassins’—that his heirs and editors, as well as the writer himself, feared they would damage his reputation if not withheld.”
But there is no valid reason to shield us from his acerbic observations today—only the distressing impulse to sanitize our history, the very impulse Twain ridiculed.
Politicians tend to pay attention to those they hear from (the "squeaky wheel" theory). The people who most have their ear have, at a minimum, cushy jobs that allow them to take time off during the day to phone or meet with politicians (it's not even time off when your income depends on that politician's vote). Those same people also have enough spending cash to contribute to politicians or their friends and relatives and, often, the ability to create more cushy jobs for those same politicians and their friends and relatives (being known as a "job creator" has its perks).
This isn't even mentioning the .01% who can create whole astroturf organizations out of petty cash.
This recent article documents how divorced most politicians are from their constituents - in both liberal and conservative districts. As we become organized, we begin countering this influence.
More on what happens then later..
It appears that he might have an extra special interest in seeing Ft Calhoun restarted.
Yes, his last name really is Mines. Thanks to LaVerne Thraen for spotting the lobbyist disclosure.
See also this previous story.
Police beat handcuffed Omaha man; multiple police reinforcements invade home of bystander across the street and taunt him as they arrest him. A six minute video, but worth watching in its entirety as an example of Omaha's version of Community Policing.
This may mean the end of Mayor Suttle's mayoral campaign.