You are browsing the archive for 2015 January 19.

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TIME Op-Ed: Break Down the Wall That Separates Us From the ‘Other America’

January 19, 2015 in Politics & Elections

In his 1967 address to Stanford University, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of two Americas. He described them as, ‘two starkly different American experiences that exist side by side.’
In one America, people experienced ‘the opportunity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all its dimensions.’ In the other America, people experienced a ‘daily ugliness’ that dashes hope and leaves only ‘the fatigue of despair.’
The uneasy coexistence of the two Americas is brought to bear by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Although I was born into the America that experiences and believes in opportunity, my trips to Ferguson, Detroit, Atlanta, and Chicago have revealed that there is an undercurrent of unease.
Congressman John Lewis, who heroically marched in Selma, still sees two Americas. He writes: ‘One group of people in this country can expect the institutions of government to bend in their favor, no matter that they are supposedly regulated by impartial law.’
The other group: ‘[C]hildren, fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers . . . are swept up like rubbish by the hard unforgiving hand of the law. They are offered no lenience, even for petty offenses, in a system that seems hell-bent on warehousing them by the millions . . . while others escape the consequences of pervasive malfeasance scot-free.’
We need to notice and be aware of the injustices embedded in our criminal system. However, we shouldn’t be misled to believe that excessive force is the norm, not the exception. I believe that most police are conscientious and want only to provide safety for us.
The blame should be directed to the laws and the politicians who order police into untenable positions, that insist on ‘taking down’ someone for selling a couple of untaxed cigarettes.
Our pursuit of justice should not obscure the fact that on many occasions, good people do step forward to find justice.
This past fall, Helen Johnson was desperate to feed her two daughters and their small children who had gone two days without food. When she got to the store, she discovered that the $1.25 she had was not enough to buy eggs. She was a mere fifty cents short, so she stuffed the eggs in her pocket.
Helen didn’t even make it out of the store before the police were notified.
When Police Officer William Stacy arrived, something special happened. Instead of handcuffing Helen and taking her to jail, he used discretion and compassion to mete out …read more


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Washington and the Geopolitical Benefits of Plunging Oil Prices: Real but Limited

January 19, 2015 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The past six months have witnessed an extraordinary plunge in global oil prices. A barrel of Brent Crude now hovers below $50, a price roughly half of what it was in the late spring and early summer of 2014. That change has major economic implications for producers and consumers around the world. Consumers, as well as companies that must utilize large quantities of fossil fuels, understandably love lower prices. For example, the average American family of four currently enjoys approximately $35 per month in savings from reduced energy costs — money that can be used for other purposes.

The impact on oil suppliers is more complex. Low-cost producers, most notably Saudi Arabia, can still function profitably at the new price range, but higher-cost producers find their profit margins severely squeezed or even eliminated. US foreign policy officials are not displeased by that development. Although some domestic oil companies find themselves under pressure, the primary impact is on such foreign producers as Russia, Iran and Venezuela. Washington is on bad terms with the governments of those countries and is not unhappy to see their economies come under increased pressure, creating possible political problems for incumbent anti-US regimes.

Indeed, the United States appears to see potential geopolitical gains in all three cases. Those beleaguered oil-producing states also sense that US officials are pleased with the current pricing environment, and some leaders even suspect that Washington engineered the precipitous plunge in prices for geopolitical reasons. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro explicitly charged that the Obama administration is attempting to destroy oil states that won’t accept US domination of their foreign and social policies.

Western leaders need to proceed in a sober, cautious fashion.”

Such a crude conspiracy theory is not supported by evidence. Two major factors led to the sharp decline in prices. One was a significant change in both global supply and demand trends. The past decade of high oil prices brought a surge of new sources on line, including the emergence of robust shale oil production in the United States. That development peaked in 2013 and early 2014, just as several rapidly expanding economies, especially those of China and India, experienced a marked slowing of their growth. Conditions were ripe for an oversupply of oil and a resulting price correction.

The other key factor was a Middle East struggle for political power between Saudi Arabia and its allies on one …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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4 Ways American Corporations Supported Slavery and Horrific Racial Oppression

January 19, 2015 in Blogs

By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet

Many of the modern-day practices of our free-market capitalist system are at least partly responsible for the oppression of black people in America.

America is gradually, but unrelentingly, destroying part of itself. The facts to support this are well-documented, told in many ways from past to present. 

The most egregious example of Americide is our country's treatment of African-Americans. Almost everyone agrees about the evils of slavery, once dismissed simply as a Peculiar Institution. But a debate goes on about reparations, with passionate arguments on both sides, ranging from a demand for a Reparations Superfund for jobs and education, to a claim that blacks actually benefited from slavery because of the years of 'reparations' received through poverty programs. 

Reparations opponents insist that there is no clear modern connection to the era of slavery. But there is a connection, and it's exhibited in the many profitable corporations — manufacturers, banks, insurance, railroad — that had their roots in slavery. Reparations haven't been paid, or, if they have been extended in the form of poverty programs, they haven't worked. Standards of living for blacks have worsened relative to whites in the past half-century. Many of the modern-day practices of our free-market capitalist system are at least partly responsible for this. 

1. American Corporations Are Partly Responsible for the Sale of Human Beings 

Horace Greeley, Editor of the New York Tribune and an abolitionist, described a slave auction: “The negroes were examined with as little consideration as if they had been brutes indeed; the buyers pulling their mouths open to see their teeth, pinching their limbs to find how muscular they were, walking them up and down to detect any signs of lameness, making them stoop and bend in different ways that they might be certain there was no concealed rupture or wound..” 

The slaves on the auction block, 500 of them, stood nervously waiting as the buyers lit cigars and studied their log books, scanning the list of 'chattel' available to them, preparing to start the bidding. The facial expression of each slave stepping on the auction block was the same — anguish about an unknown future, despair at …read more


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It’s Time for a Revolution: Bankrupt Policies, Historic Losses Call for New Generation of Leaders

January 19, 2015 in Blogs

By Bill Curry,

It's always “Groundhog Day” for Democratic leaders who can't adjust, can't organize and can't win. Let's dump them.

As a wise man once said, never underestimate the capacity of an entire social order to commit suicide. The Democratic Party’s old order is doing it now. It may seem strange but make no mistake, the Democrats’ leaders are already unconscious. If they don’t wake up soon, they’ll go the way of the Whigs. If progressives don’t wake up now, they’ll go with them.

I’ve argued that progressive political movements died at the hands of their leaders; that their death is what caused the political collapse we errantly term “partisan gridlock”; that progressives need a timeout from electoral politics; and that both Democrats and progressives are best served by a return to a more arms-length relationship.

Progressives have long cohabited with Democrats. The relationship, while abusive, is hard for them to quit. Starting over is always scary, and building movements is hard even in good times, so the temptation is strong to keep on doing what they’re doing. Besides, how can you tell the Democrats are really dead? You can’t call in a coroner or poke them with a stick. It’s simple, really. All you have to do is look.

Life is change and these Democrats never change. It’s like watching “Groundhog Day” but without laughs, a love interest or a learning curve. Democrats in Congress ran the same race in 2014 they ran in 1994, lost badly, and then reelected all their leaders. Obama handled the budget this year the same way he does every year, with the same result. Hillary Clinton is poised to run the same awful race in 2016 she ran in 2008.

In 2014 Democrats were supposed to hold a populist revival. Aside from a few tinny sounding ads, they didn’t. Tied to the tracks with a giant locomotive barreling down on them, they couldn’t bring themselves to cut their Wall Street ties and dodge otherwise certain death. Now, after six years of blown chances, they say they’re ready to act as our tribunes and ask us once again to commingle …read more