The Ten Biggest Lies in America

You’ve heard all of them.

This is not a conspiracy theory. I don’t think “the government”, “mainstream media”, and “corporate America” have teamed up against us. I do know that spreading these lies benefits many agencies, companies, banks, organizations, and people. Sometimes, they work together, sometimes independently.

Many people who spread these lies believe them. They don’t know any better because the republicans who control our schools work hard to produce politically, economically, and socially ignorant citizens. Those citizens get jobs in business, industry, government, and the media. And many of them vote.

First, let’s define our term.   Fallacies and lies are different. It’s a fallacy that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a “jury of our peers” when we are charged with a crime. It does not. It guarantees an impartial jury. The legend of the welfare queen is a blatant lie.

We can distinguish between fallacies and lies by examining their surroundings. A fallacy can be widely-held, but it does no real damage, and no one profits from it. A lie travels widely, causes harm, and benefits those who spread it.

So here are the lies, listed in increasing order of significance.

10.    Our Constitution requires a small, limited government, and permits us to overthrow that government at will

It does not.   Any constitution’s purpose is to establish and define the government. Of course they’re limited, but that doesn’t mean they’re small. The Pacific Ocean, Milky Way, and Bill Gates’ fortune are all very large. But they are limited.

The founders clearly stated their six purposes in the Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to

  • form a more perfect Union,
  • establish Justice,
  • insure domestic Tranquility,
  • provide for the common defense,
  • promote the general Welfare, and
  • secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,

 

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those are big things. They don’t lend themselves to small government.

The Constitution doesn’t contain a single word permitting armed overthrow of the United States government. In fact, it specifically forbids it in two places.

  • Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 gives Congress the power to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions
  • Article III, Section 3, Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

 

Read the Constitution.

9.   Congress Does Little Work for Excessive Pay

Members of Congress work more hours in every week than most Americans ever thought of working. Whether you like them or not, they do show up for work. Yet politically ignorant Americans think that the members aren’t working if they’re not on the voting floors every minute. That is not the way Congress works.

Working Hours
A professional football player has a full-time job. Yet the players spend only a fraction of their work time on the playing field – about four hours a week. Otherwise, they watch game films; have practices, team meetings, medical treatments, public appearances, and more. All of that comprises their work week. Movie actors appear in a film for about two hours. In order to create those two hours, they read and approve scripts, negotiate contracts, train and research for their roles, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and then make public appearances to promote their movies. Even when they’re not on the game-day playing field or the screen, they’re still working.

Congress works that way, too. You’ve seen news reports of Congressional committee hearings, town hall meetings, interviews, and fundraising events. Members read and develop legislation, reams of letters, reports, and briefings. They meet with constituents, lobbyists, bureaucrats, each other, and their staffs. Sometimes, they even meet with the president. Their phones never stop ringing. And they are assaulted all day, every day, everywhere they go, by people who only want “one minute” of their time.  That’s where they are when the House and Senate chambers are empty.

When they do break, it’s usually around a federal holiday, and can last from a few days to a week or more. But even then, they’re still working. While on “break”, they meet with constituents in their home districts – in their offices and in town hall meetings. They have staff meetings, phone meetings, and all of the same things they do in Washington.

In even-numbered years, like this one, every House member and one-third of the Senators face re-election campaigns. That adds even more to their schedules, with campaign and fundraising events.

This year, the August recess extends into September because it’s a presidential election year, and both parties will hold their national conventions during the recess.

Salaries and Pensions
Since 1992, the 27th Amendment to our Constitution adjusts congressional salaries automatically according to the Consumer Price Index, unless Congress votes not to implement it.  People gripe about their pay because Congress can raise their own salaries. But if it were up to the voters, today’s members would still be making the same $6.00 a day that they earned in 1790. Congress has not accepted its raise since 2009.

Members of Congress do participate in Social Security and do not collect their full paychecks for life after serving only a single term in Congress. They have exactly the same pension as all other federal employees. That’s right. VA hospital nurses, national park rangers, and your mail carrier have the same pension as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. And they all do pay into that pension. Like most pensions, it’s financed through a combination of employee and employer contributions. Also like private pension plans, benefits are calculated through a formula that considers both length of service and age at retirement.

According to a 2007 Congressional Research Service report:

“Under both CSRS and FERS, Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.”

Pay and Perquisites of Members of Congress, Including A History of House and Senate Salaries

8.   Nothing is more important than business.

Business should never be regulated.
Laws and regulations are the rules by which society operates. Without rules, we have chaos. America’s founding philosophy is that rules are essential and that no one is above the law.

 Can you imagine the National Football League permitting two teams, with 22 players and a football, to play a game with no referees or rules at all? Like it or not, nearly every aspect of our lives has rules. Yet capitalists think they should be exempt.

Some economists claim that any regulation stifles the “free market”. That’s true, just as speed limits stifle speeders, and seat belts stifle death. And it’s a good thing. We’ve seen what happens when we don’t regulate business:

  • Slavery, sweatshops, and child labor with no workplace health or safety requirements
  • Long and short-term environmental disasters
  • Poverty, homelessness, unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, predatory loans, and outright fraud caused by financial institutions

Corporate and business leaders have caused enough poverty, pain, and destruction.
Can you imagine what they could do if we eliminated all regulations?

Government should operate like a business.
The purpose of business is to make a profit. The purpose of government is to provide services for the public. While government should be efficient and economical, profit should never be its motive. The states of Kansas and Michigan, especially Flint, are perfect examples of what happens when government is run like a business.

Trickle-down economics will save our economy.
The Laffer Curve and trickle-down economics is the notion that large tax cuts for corporations and extremely wealthy people will cause them to create jobs, and those benefits would “trickle down” to working families. It was soundly discredited decades ago.  We’ve been cutting those taxes for 35 years now, and it hasn’t happened yet.  Exactly when is this miracle going to start?

Cheneybush brought us the largest tax cuts in history.  According to AmericanProgress.org, its job growth record from 2001 to 2007 was the worst since the Great Depression and those cuts cost us more than seven million jobs from 2007 to 2009.

Republicans have been cutting taxes for 35 years.  If tax cuts created jobs, we would all have five great jobs by now.   They don’t believe any of this stuff.  But they sure want you to fall for it. They insist that tax cuts generate revenue.  Actually, the cheneybush tax cuts added $1.7 trillion to the national debt.  According to U.S Treasury reports, those cuts generated only one dollar for each ten dollars cut.  They are directly responsible for our current economic situation.

The only way to create jobs is to create demand for goods and services. We do that by creating a massive infrastructure program, increasing wages, and increasing public assistance benefits. It’s a very simple concept. When people have money, they spend it. And the businesses that provide those goods and services spend their revenue on more goods and services. That spending creates jobs. It’s the trickle-UP effect.

7.   Labor Unions Have Outlived Their Usefulness

Some say that unions were necessary a century ago, but are now obsolete. Actually, labor unions benefit every working person in America every day, whether they belong to a union or not. You can trace the rise and fall of the American middle class with the rise and fall of labor union membership. They brought you the eight-hour day, and the five-day week. They gave you weekends. We take these things for granted, but none of them existed before the rise of the unions.

Corporatists celebrate when business owners stick together to support their interests, but are outraged when employees want to bargain collectively with their employer for wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Chambers of commerce, business owners’ associations, and trade associations. actively promote business interests to the government and the public. Yet they refuse to acknowledge workers’ rights and often break the law to break the unions. Economics courses and business schools teach that workers’ labor is a product to be bought, sold, and treated no better than livestock. Unions represent the common interests of their members – and all workers – to the business owners, the government, and the public.

According to the AFL-CIO:
Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren’t union members. On average, union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts.
Unionized workers are 60 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.
More than 79 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but less than half of nonunion workers do. Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce—where workers have a say in improving their jobs.
Unions help bring workers out of poverty and into the middle class. In fact, in states where workers don’t have union rights, workers’ incomes are lower.

Working conditions are vital to any union contract. Our labor unions fought for every workplace health and safety measure that you enjoy today. And employers fought against every one of them, including workers’ compensation benefits.

Today, our unions still fight to keep these benefits while organized business tries to destroy them – and all working families. Republithugs and their corporate bosses want to return to the good old days without health and safety protection, but with unrestricted child labor, sweatshops, and robber barons. Unions created the middle class. If you want to keep it, then support our unions.

If unions want to survive, they must educate their own members. We know our schools won’t do it.

Labor Unions: Myths and Facts

6.  The Unemployment Rate

While changing numbers can show a trend in rising or falling unemployment, the rate itself is always wrong. In June, 1984, Ronald Reagan’s White House instructed the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to change the way it measures the unemployment rate.

We used to count everyone looking for work as unemployed.  Then BLS declared that ONLY people who are actively collecting unemployment checks would be counted.  That’s right.  If your benefits have expired, you are not counted as unemployed, no matter how hard you’re looking for work.

This stunt cut the reported unemployment rate in half overnight.       But no one found work because of it. And the BLS still uses this method to calculate the unemployment rate, 32 years later.

Self-employed people, independent contractors, elected officials voted out of office, teachers and school employees on summer break, and those working “under the table” cannot collect benefits, and are never counted. Children under age 16, retired, unemployable disabled, incarcerated, those just entering the workforce, and people not looking for work are not counted.

People who want full-time jobs, but can’t find them, and those working at jobs below their skill and education levels, are under-employed. But the BLS counts them as fully employed.

 

When discussing the subject, Republicans wave a hand in the air and mumble something vague about people who “left the work force”.  You know as well as I that unless you somehow acquire independent wealth, you never leave the work force.  You always have to work, somehow, somewhere, in order to survive.

But that doesn’t matter, as long as the numbers look good.

How the Government Measures Unemployment

5.   Most Cops are Good Cops

There is no such thing as a good cop.

Every cop who stops a car for a bogus excuse, and then searches the car without cause or a warrant, is a bad cop. And every cop who sees it and doesn’t report it is a bad cop.

Every cop who plants marijuana on kids when called to a house for a teenage drinking party, is a bad cop. And every cop who sees it and doesn’t report it is a bad cop.

Every cop who beats, molests, rapes, harasses, shoots, or threatens an innocent civilian for his own entertainment is a bad cop. And every cop who sees it and doesn’t report it is a bad cop.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 780,000 cops in the U.S. in 2012. If most of them are “good cops”, then at least 390,001 of those “good cops” would be condemning these atrocities. Where are they? Why aren’t they as outraged as the rest of us? Why haven’t we heard from them? How many “good cops” are there now?

The Fraternal Order of Police is the largest police union in the U.S. According to the FOP website, the union represents 325,000 cops. FOP national president Chuck Canterbury released a statement on the prosecution of the six Baltimore cops who killed Freddie Gray. Part of that statement says: “We can only hope and pray that these officers are afforded due process and that the judicial proceedings going forward will be open and fair.” Why doesn’t he think that Freddie Gray deserved due process and fair proceedings?

This is not a police training issue. This is a hiring issue. At the very least, we must DEMAND that our cops not be criminals. Nothing will change until we demand that our petty local officials stop hiring jackasses, bullies, crybabies, and sociopaths to be cops.

But we must stand up and say this in public. When you hire defective people to be cops, you get defective cops. It’s not rocket science. You can’t train the jackass out of people.

The cops will keep getting away with murder as long as you let them get away with it.

There is no such thing as a good cop.

4.   We can eliminate abortions by making them illegal.

No, we can’t. Bribery of public officials is illegal. But it happens.
There will be abortions as long as there are pregnant women.

If you want the smallest possible number of abortions, then you FUND and provide REAL sex education, contraceptive education, birth control, and support services for poor women.
The right to life doesn’t end at the cervix.

  • Women who can’t get sex education and birth control CAN get abortions.
  • Rich women will travel to places where abortion is legal, safe, and available.
  • Poor women will use coat hangers. Or vacuum cleaner hoses. Or they will douche with bleach. Ammonia. Drain cleaner. Or gasoline. Whatever works.
  • That is how poor women get abortions.
  • That is how they die.

Republicans want to kill poor people.
Stop helping them.

3.   The Welfare Queen

Many Americans believe that the “welfare rolls” overflow with lazy parasites, exploiting public generosity. Actually, the average monthly participation in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF, or basic “welfare”) was only 3,030,871 in 2015. That’s an average of 965 people for each of the 3,141 counties in the United States each month. The 718,252 adult recipients compose slightly more than two-tenths of one percent of the U.S. population at any given time. *

They claim that “welfare queens” give birth to many children just to get more money. In fact, the average family size is less than 2 ½ people. That’s usually one mother and one or two children. There were 2,312,619 children in those families in the average month. *

TANF and SNAP (Food Stamp) rolls are very fluid. Most families collect benefits for only a few months at a time. They move in and out of poverty as their circumstances change. Most adult SNAP recipients do work, and nearly all adult TANF recipients have a work history. All states require able-bodied adult recipients to work, search for work, or be enrolled in job training courses in order to obtain benefits.

That brings us to my favorite myth – that families collect welfare benefits for their entire lives, and for multiple generations. That is not, and has never been, true. Families headed by able-bodied adults can collect TANF benefits for only 60 months –a total of five years – in their lifetimes. Yes, really.

Nationwide, only about two percent of TANF families reach that limit and lose their benefits each year. *

Applicants must verify every single piece of information on the TANF application. They must produce identification, Social Security cards for every household member, rent receipts, utility bills, bank records, employment records, and every other record you can imagine.

Every segment of society includes some drug addicts and criminals. But they are far fewer in our social service system than anywhere else. To date, 15 states have instituted drug testing for TANF and SNAP participants. Every one of them has found that testing costs far more than it saves. But so many of our neighbors delight in pronouncing that anyone who needs help is morally inferior.

Illegal immigrants do not receive TANF or SNAP. In fact, most legal immigrants can’t get it until they reside in the U.S. for at least five years. 98.6 percent of recipients are American citizens.

In federal fiscal year 2009, the states spent a total of $13,022,958,260 of federal funds on cash, childcare, and transportation assistance to TANF recipients. That’s a whopping $7,541.68 per family – for the entire year – or $628.47 per month.

According to White House reports, in 2012, a taxpayer who earned $50,000 per year paid $43.78 per year in taxes to support SNAP and TANF. That taxpayer paid more than $4,000 per year to support corporate welfare programs.   Yeah. You know. Sports stadiums for billionaires who own teams.   But we don’t drug test them.

Public assistance programs benefit the US economy because they put cash into people’s hands. People use that cash to pay rent and utilities, and to buy food, clothing, toiletries, and other necessities that would ordinarily go without. And that creates jobs for the businesses that produce those goods and services. Although no retailer is required to participate in SNAP, more than 246,000 stores, farmers’ markets, direct marketing farmers, homeless meal providers, treatment centers, and group homes accepted SNAP in 2012. They wouldn’t participate if they weren’t making a profit.

No state is required to participate in these programs, but they all do because they know it benefits their own economies. They enable low-income people to rise from poverty and maintain their health so that they can participate in school and work.

People who believe in or profit from these myths propose punishments for anyone who dares to ask for help. They want to require drug tests and sterilization, forbid them from voting, and control how they spend their money. And most of them have the audacity to call themselves “christian”.

*   US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance

TANF Cash Benefits Have Fallen by More Than 20 Percent in Most States and Continue to Erode

Food Stamp Program: Myths, Facts, and History The Food Stamp Program Benefits the US Economy and Creates Jobs

Welfare in America: Myths and Facts Everything you think you know about welfare is wrong.

2.   America Values Education

If that was true, the other lies wouldn’t exist, because Americans would know how to change those situations. Countless studies show that American kids lag far behind the rest of the world in reading, math, and science. And no one even bothers to research their knowledge of social studies or the arts.

We fund our schools through the one method that ensures their inequality – property taxes. By declaring that rich people will have rich schools, and poor people will have poor schools, we guarantee inferior education for the poor. And education always tops the list when we must cut expenses.

But money is not the only problem. Radical conservatives are America’s Boko Haram. We claim to value education, and then we insert roadblock after roadblock to obstruct school success. We create useless programs with fancy names. We let Texas, of all places, control the content of history books. And those books contain lies. We don’t teach grammar, spelling, math, or reading properly. We refuse to teach anything that makes anyone uncomfortable. We baby our kids. They live down to our expectations. Yet we can’t figure out why they don’t learn.

We push all students to enter traditional four-year college programs, even though they aren’t a good fit for everyone. And then we demand that our kids spend the rest of their lives repaying those exorbitant loans at immoral interest rates. We demean every other type of education – trade school, union apprenticeships, community colleges, military training, etc. Yet those options consistently provide good quality education and training that leads to good jobs and productive lives.

And people can’t fix these problems, because they don’t know how, because the schools don’t teach them how.

  1. Lobbying is a Corrupt Activity and Should Be Illegal

 

Lobbying is not what the politicians and media tell you it is.

“Giving buckets of money to legislators” is not lobbying. Lobbying is the act of trying to convince elected officials to support or oppose legislation and policies that you care about. Lobbying is the ONLY thing that can restore our democracy. Our schools are supposed to teach this stuff, but they don’t want you to know that YOU have the power to influence your government. Every victory that occurs is the direct result of lobbying. Nothing moves in government unless someone pushes it. Legislators listen to corporate lobbyists BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES DOING THE TALKING. If you want your representatives to listen to you, then START TALKING TO THEM.

If the 99% would do more lobbying, the 1% would have less power.

 

LOBBYING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN VOTING.
Everyone can do it. And it doesn’t cost a dime.

 

PLEASE talk to the people in your life, especially the young people of voting age.
Teach them how to protect themselves. Each one teach one.

 

Learn when, where, why, and how to lobby.

 

 

And More
There are plenty of other lies – Executive orders are unconstitutional, our troops fight for our freedom, atheism is a religion, only teenagers work minimum wage jobs, Republicans want to abolish the U.S. Postal Service, widespread gun use makes us safe, and more. Popular topics come and go, but radical conservatives will always try to obstruct social justice.

 

Why Does This Matter?

A lot of people benefit from spreading these lies. They’ve convinced most Americans that:

  • Congress doesn’t want or need to hear from them.
  • If we stifle business in any way, all of our jobs will disappear.
  • You have no recourse but to submit to their will.
  • There’s nothing wrong with the economy; if you’re unemployed, there’s something wrong with you.
  • If a cop kills you, it’s your own fault.
  • They don’t have to pay taxes, but you do.
  • They have the right to interfere in your private life at any time, in any way, they please.
  • Anyone who asks for help is a lazy, stupid, immoral criminal.
  • We all have the right to berate, chastise, and denigrate those who do ask for help.
  • They want us to hate and fear education and educated people.
  • And they tell us that the very thing that can change all of these conditions is corrupt and must be banned.

 

Corporations make $trillions$ by selling guns, ammunition, drug testing equipment, prison space, and more. They save $trillions$ more by not paying taxes and living wages, by operating irresponsibly, and because too few of us fight back. We all suffer because our country, our home, is much less than what it can be, much less than we deserve, much less than what our founders intended.

 

What Happens Next?

We fight back. Think about how these lies affect you and your family. Stop watching stupid stuff on TV. Share this information with everyone. Learn how to lobby. Vote. Attend school board meetings and city council meetings. Read. Learn. Speak up.   Teach your kids.

 

Read Community Matters to learn how your government works, how it’s supposed to work, and how to influence it.

 

Contact Pat to get email notice of all new Community Matters articles.

Mitt Romney on Food Stamps?

And Other Random Thoughts

Mitt Romney has said that he’s not concerned about “the very poor”, because they have the safety net. The TANF (cash welfare) benefit for a three-person household in Massachusetts is $618 per month. The average SNAP (food stamps) benefit is $264 for that family each month.
I sent an email to Mitt Romney’s campaign, daring him to prove to us all just how easy “the poor people” have it by living on a welfare and food stamp budget for a month. I don’t expect him to have the guts to do it, but it sure will be fun watching him squirm out of it.

Send him a message. Spread this around. Let’s see how much pressure we can bring.

Read More …
http://voices.yahoo.com/mitt-romney-food-stamps-10926652.html?cat=3

 

Bachmann, Cain Would Defy U.S. Law Prohibiting Torture

During Saturday’s Republican presidential debate, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain supported waterboarding suspected terrorists. Cain even said that he doesn’t “consider” waterboarding to be torture. Sorry, Herman. I can “consider” he sky to be red. That doesn’t make it so.

Americans debated the value of torture for a decade. Since our “war on terror” began after September 11 2001, we’ve debated torture’s definition, whether Americans have tortured prisoners, whether it’s justified, and whether we should prosecute the people who authorized and committed it. The debate focused primarily on waterboarding.

According to the Washington Post, former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and others routinely ordered American personnel to waterboard suspected terrorist prisoners. President Barack Obama stopped the practice on his third day in office in 2009.

The U.S. Constitution’s Article VI states that the Constitution and all treaties made under it are the supreme law of the nation. In 1990, the U.S. Senate ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. That treaty defines and forbids torture. It requires every nation to prevent torture and to investigate and prosecute all allegations of torture in any territory under its command, promptly and thoroughly. There are no exceptions. War, public emergency, value of the information received, and the orders of superior officers do not justify torture.

The Constitution says that the treaty is our law. The treaty forbids torture and requires us to prosecute. Therefore, even if it produces useable information, torture is illegal, no matter how many people say otherwise. The U.S. government has no excuse and no choice. Waterboarding has been classified as torture since the Spanish Inquisition more than 500 years ago.         

Justice is often inconvenient, costly, time-consuming, and messy. It is always necessary. Either we enforce the law or we don’t. Even John McCain said, “It’s not about what kind of people they are. It’s about what kind of people we are.” Torture is a crime. The people who order, commit, and excuse it are criminals.

Why is it that those who claim to love the Constitution eversomuch can’t be bothered to READ IT?

For More Information:
Cain, Bachmann Say They Would Support Waterboarding
The Bush Administration Made Waterboarding Almost Routine
Executive Order 13491: Ensuring Lawful Interrogations
United States Constitution
United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Amnesty International: Terror and Torture

Occupy Pittsburgh. This is Your Movement

On Saturday, millions of people in more than a thousand cities in dozens of countries on six continents marched in peaceful protest of global financial corruption and economic injustice. Think about that. It’s never happened before. Even the multiple social movements in the 1960s didn’t organize a global event like this on a single day. Woodstock in 1969 and Hands Across America in 1986 weren’t this big.

More than 3,500 people gathered at Pittsburgh’s historic Freedom Corner to Occupy Pittsburgh. After an invigorating rally, they marched through Downtown, stopping at the headquarters of several local banks and corporations, and ending with another rally in Market Square. 

We were all ages, races, occupations, and lifestyles. Babies in strollers, little kids, soccer moms, employed, unemployed, self-employed, retired, students, LGBTQ, straight, veterans, young, old, rich, poor, religious, atheists, union leaders, union members, straight-laced, outrageous, aging hippies, second generation progressives, new hippies, middle class folks from the suburbs, anarchists, capitalists, elected officials, friends, families, and strangers marched together in self defense. I talked to a family from Ithaca New York who drove to Pittsburgh just for the event.

If you fit into any of those categories, this movement is about you.

Nathan Kilduff, a University of Pittsburgh student, said he skipped Pitt’s homecoming football game to Occupy because “Our generation has to handle these problems.”

The event was lively, friendly, happy, and peaceful. People helped each other. I got handshakes, high fives, and hugs from total strangers. The Pittsburgh police were remarkably helpful and calm. Uniformed officers stood on the fringes of the square, but not within the crowd. There was not a single tense or violent incident, and no arrests.

No, it’s not an “organized” movement of the corporate, top-down, authoritarian variety. But it’s not at all chaotic. I saw several TV news cameras early in the march, but they vanished quickly, as they always do. I didn’t see a single reporter interviewing participants. Yet the corporate media talking heads will continue to pretend that it confuses them.

We stand for the virtues and values that are missing from most of our public institutions. We stand for empathy, helpfulness, fairness, tolerance, caring, courage, respect, loyalty, responsibility, honesty, cooperation and opportunity. We stand against corporate and government greed and corruption. If any of those qualities are important to you, then this movement is about you.

The atmosphere was festive, but the messages were sincere and serious, as declared in the chants, signs, and T-shirts:

  • We are the 99 percent.
  • Separation of Bank and State.
  • OBAMA – Wish you were here!
  • Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.
  • End racist police brutality.
  • Stop the war on the working class.
  • Wall Street is in it to make a killing. I just want to make a living.
  • Free market = private gains, socialized losses.
  • Keep it Made in America.
  • Human needs, not corporate greed.
  • For sale – Our future.
  • The whole world is marching.
  • End corporate welfare.
  • You may say I’m a dreamer. I’m not the only one.
  • Well-behaved women rarely make history.
  • It’s about time.
  • My future is f***ed.
  • The people, united, will never be defeated.
  • Stop corporate funding of elections. Campaign finance reform.
  • When the poor get hungry, we’ll eat the rich.
  • Bring the troops home.
  • Health care not wealth care.
  • Abandon the bought Congress.
  • Don’t frack with Pittsburgh.
  • This is what democracy looks like.

And my favorite,

“I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one of them”.

 

 

 

 

 

As the rally permit expired and the crowd dwindled, a drum circle arose, filling the square with rhythm and dance. Eventually, the drummers formed a line and led the demonstrators up Forbes Avenue to Grant Street, ending at Mellon Green across the street from the William Penn Hotel.  They’ll be there, with permission, for the foreseeable future.

Anyone can attend a one-day event like this, but it takes a special kind of dedication and stamina to endure a long-term encampment. They’re occupying Pittsburgh to fight for your life, as well as their own, so stop in and visit. Take some food, blankets, magazines, medical supplies, or whatever you can spare. Show your support for their commitment. Take your kids and teach them about selflessness. You’ll be safe and you’ll be welcome.

No significant social change has ever happened anywhere in the world without public protest and demonstration. The world’s massive problems require us to launch a massive movement. This is just the beginning. The whole world is watching. If you want peace, work for justice.

WE ARE ONE

For More Information

Occupy Pittsburgh
Occupy Together
Public Demonstrations Do Bring Change
Al-Jazeera Occupy reports

Who Should Provide Social Services?

During the debt ceiling “negotiations”, republithugs demanded cuts in federal social services to low-income, unemployed, uneducated, disabled, and elderly Americans. As usual, President Neville Chamberlain appeased the bullies. Now we’re waiting for the Congressional Superthug Committee to tell us who among us will suffer the most. While we wait, we’ll debate whether government or private agencies should provide those services.

There will always be some people who just can’t support themselves. Yes, it is our duty as a civilized society to help them. First, let’s look at who gets to be poor in the United States.

  • People who are so physically or mentally disabled that they can’t hold a job,
  • Those who are capable of learning, but for one reason or another are uneducated – functionally or financially illiterate,
  • People who are just not capable of learning how to do complicated jobs that pay well,
  • Those who have incredibly bad luck. Yes, they do exist; I’ve known many. One thing after another keeps happening to them, interfering with their ability to get and keep a job,
  • People with drug, alcohol, and mental health problems.

Thanks to the cheneybush recession, now we can add the un- and under-employed to their numbers. The Republicans can’t wait to punish those people for being poor.

In 2009, the federal poverty threshold was $22,050 in annual income for a four-person family. 43.6 million people, 14.3 percent of our population, lived in poverty that year. That’s the most people ever in the 51 years that the Census Bureau has kept such records. These are the most recent figures available.

In July 2011, about 13,914,000 Americans collected unemployment compensation. That’s roughly 9.1 percent of the workforce. Actual unemployment figures were much higher. We don’t know how high because the government only counts people who collect benefits, thanks to Ronald Reagan’s handlers. Apparently, the rest of you can go to hell. Tens of millions more of our family, friends, and neighbors are under-employed. They don’t count either.

In May, 45,753,078 people in 21,581,234 households received average SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits of $133.80 per person and $283.65 per household.  That’s a program record. An average of 4,375,022 people, 1.4 percent of the population, received TANF, or “welfare”, benefits each month in 2010.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the 1,046,719 public charities in the U.S. spend more than $1 trillion annually providing food, clothing, shelter, health care, childcare, elder care, legal, financial, advocacy, mentoring, counseling, artistic and cultural, education, transportation, utilities, consumer protection, safety, and other services to countless people every year, often on an emergency basis.

The federal Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs provide services in those categories through dozens of programs, some of which date back to the Great Depression.

Who in their right mind would consider gutting these services just when we need them the most? Your friendly neighborhood republithug, that’s who. We are smack in the middle of one of the worst recessions in history. Anyone who’s unemployed can tell you that a record bad economy creates a record demand for social services. Yet Republicans insist on cutting social services from state and federal budgets.

Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said that government should not provide any service if a Google search would yield the name of a private company that does the same thing. So there you have it, folks. Pawlenty wants Google rankings to set public policy for the United States of America. These people have no earthly clue what they’re babbling about.

The Republicans contend that all poor people are lazy, drug-addicted criminals who would prosper if only they would “get a job”. They demand that people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and then they steal the boots. They ship the jobs overseas, decimate public education, revoke collective bargaining rights, and install roadblock, after roadblock, after roadblock to prevent people from improving their own lives. They make sure that our schools turn our students into financially, politically, and economically illiterate citizens who can’t survive without services, and then they remove the services.

Our public social service system needs a major overhaul, but we do still need it. We need both public and private social programs.

Government has the capacity to fund and manage the large programs that we need in times of recession, high poverty, and high unemployment. It can deliver services on a national scale by distributing resources where we need them the most. The government can maintain consistent criteria, policies, and procedures for its programs, but those programs can’t meet everyone’s needs.

Private charities play an important role in our society and our economy. While they can’t possibly handle the enormous need for social services, even in a good economy, they are much better at catching the people who fall through the cracks in the government safety net. Because they are small and private, they are much more flexible and can respond quickly to unusual situations and abrupt changes than government agencies, which often require an act of Congress. And we all know how long that takes.

Republicans like to claim that private charities can do a better job than public agencies. That just isn’t true. I’ve worked with both public and private social service agencies for nearly 30 years. Public and private agencies do not duplicate each other’s work. They don’t provide the same services. They don’t use the same eligibility criteria. They don’t compete with each other. In my experience, government and private service providers usually work very well together, referring clients back and forth, solving problems, and cooperating on many projects. If the government were to shut down a significant portion of public social services, the private charity system would collapse. America’s charities couldn’t possibly handle the added burden.

I love recessions. Every time we have one, the great American middle class gets an education. People who never thought it possible find themselves in dire straits and depending upon the programs that their tax dollars have paid for. Then they learn how the system really works. And the programs are always there for them. They don’t have to depend upon the kindness of strangers. Government programs are stable, while private agencies often come and go like television series.

If we do allow massive social service cuts, the great American middle class will get another hard lesson. We are all welfare recipients.

Wealthy people, who are primarily Republican, think they don’t have a duty to pay taxes and like to call themselves “job creators”. Well guys, if you really want to cut social services, then quit sitting on your lazy hands and your trillion dollar reserves. Stop outsourcing overseas and create some damn jobs. Hire some unemployed people. Teach politics, civics, economics, and personal finance in our schools. Then the demand for services will decrease on its own.

For More Information

Welfare in America: Myths and Facts

We Are All Welfare Recipients

Watch Out, America. They’re Coming for You Next

Who Should Pay Taxes?

Get Your Message to Your Legislators

 

Brentwood Officials Are Still Covering Up Police Crimes

 In 1995, black motorist Jonny Gammage was killed at a traffic stop involving five Brentwood, Baldwin, and Whitehall police officers in Pittsburgh, PA. Brentwood officer John Vojtas played a major role but was acquitted of manslaughter charges. There was a large uproar in Brentwood, divided on both sides of the issue. Brentwood’s public officials were typically aloof. Sixteen years have passed; Vojtas is now a sergeant. Nothing else has changed.

 At about 3:00 am on Sunday morning, July 17, I heard some loud voices outside. The voices continued for several minutes, so I looked out the window. I saw two Brentwood police cars in the middle of the street in front of my house. I went outside and sat on my porch in the dark.

 Two officers, one whose name I don’t know and Sgt. Vojtas, had stopped two young men–one white, one black–about 18 years old. They were handcuffed. The officer was taking information and completing paperwork while Sgt. Vojtas lectured them on vandalizing other people’s property. The young men were accused of breaking a car windshield. He also explained a definition of conspiracy to them. After a few more minutes, Vojtas walked a bit away and made a call on his cell phone.

 About two minutes later, a civilian car drove up to the scene. A very large man in civilian clothes got out of the car and walked up to the group. The officer put the white man into his police car and drove away. Then the large man put his face directly into the black man’s face and shouted, “Do you know who I am?” When the young man said “No” the man said, “My name is Officer Mulholland and I am going to beat the f*** out of you.” Mulholland’s father was one of the five officers involved in Gammage’s death.

 Mulholland continued to berate and scream obscenities at the young man, telling him “I am going to kick your f***ing a**.” Then Vojtas put the young man into his police car and both cars drove away.

Now, I do believe in catching criminals. I also believe in the justice system. We have courts for a reason. These men should be charged with whatever crimes are relevant and they should go to trial and face the consequences. But the cops do not get to decide what those consequences are. I was frantic, thinking about what might be happening to that young man.

I called 911 to report the crimes that I had witnessed–TERRORISTIC THREATS AND CONSPIRACY. The 911 operator told me that the only thing they could do was to connect me to Brentwood’s Officer-in-Charge. That would be Sgt. Vojtas, since the police chief was off duty. How convenient. I asked them to ask Vojtas to call me.

Vojtas called me at home at 5:00 am. When I told him I wanted to report some crimes I had witnessed, he asked, “What do you mean?” I told him that I had seen and heard the entire event. I said that I would contact the young man’s family in the morning, offer to testify for him, and that I HOPE the young man didn’t “fall down” and get hurt while in Brentwood police custody. Then I hung up on him.

For those of you unfamiliar with Brentwood, I heard the man tell police his first name and the street where he lives. In Brentwood, that’s enough to find someone. I got a message to his mother. She said her son had been charged and released by the police and was at home, uninjured. He hadn’t told her about the Mulholland-Vojtas threats and conspiracy. She thanked us for letting her know.

I reported this incident to the Brentwood Borough Council at its meeting on July 26. The mayor, borough manager, and police chief were also present. There was dead silence when I finished speaking. There was not a single question or comment. They didn’t even give me the courtesy of the usual bs “We’ll look into it” lie that they give to everyone else who brings a problem to their attention.

Then Brentwood Police Chief Robert Butelli stood up and lied directly to them. He said that the young men were “running around punching out car windowS”. I don’t know what planet Butelli’s from, but here on Earth, you’ll break your hands if you try to “punch out” multiple car windows. The men’s hands were not broken.

A South Hills Record reporter was in the audience. She took many notes, but the paper didn’t cover the story. WHY NOT?

I’ve told this story to a lot of people, and no one was surprised. This is the way Brentwood cops behave when they think there are no witnesses. At least one cop drives around in the middle of the night without headlights, deliberately trying to cause accidents so that he can get overtime pay by going to court. It happened to my son, with my car, in March. I wrote to Butelli, Mayor Ken Lockhart, and the entire council about it. They all ignored me.

The cops routinely harass teenagers in Brentwood’s public park, on the streets, and in local stores. They won’t let children sit in the park unless they’re with an adult or involved in an “organized activity”. IT’S A BLEEPING PUBLIC PARK.

Some people have made excuses for the cops, claiming that they were doing a “tough love” or “scared straight” routine on the men. I’d like to see how those people would react if their own children were involved. Since when is it policy to call an off-duty officer to the scene of an incident in the middle of the night to threaten a suspect in handcuffs? Who authorized this? Seriously. I want to know.

I am a citizen. I am a taxpayer. This IS my business. I am sick and tired of paying Brentwood cops to commit crimes.

Now, this is a message TO BRENTWOOD BOROUGH COUNCIL MEMBERS AND THE MAYOR:

You people are a joke. I wrote this article at a fifth-grade reading level so that even you can understand it.

Are you going to control your employees, or are you just going to tell them to be more careful so they don’t get caught again?

There’s more to being a public official than just showing up for meetings. Every one of you took an oath. Gee. Maybe you might like to uphold that oath. Get down from your high horse once in a while. Talk to people. Talk to some kids in the park, or walking Brownsville Road. Talk to your own kids and your grandkids. Yeah, YOU, Mr. Mayor. Ask them how the police treat them.

By the way, you know those write-in votes for “None of the Above” in every municipal election? That’s me.

Your cops are out of control. It’s your job to control them, although everyone in town knows you won’t actually do anything about it. But now that it’s on the public record, it will help the case of anyone who needs to sue the Borough–and each of you personally–for similar crimes in the future.

There are only two possible explanations for this behavior. Either you don’t give a damn or the police are acting on your orders. Which is it, guys?

As Judy Barrett’s family’s attorney told you several years ago, you need to control your cops before someone gets killed. AGAIN.

For More Information:

How to Prevent Police Misconduct

Attend a Brentwood Borough Council meeting and ask them why they let the cops get away with this.

4th Tuesday of each month. 7:30 pm. Brentwood Borough Building. 3624 Brownsville Road.

 

America’s Liberal Roots, Shunning, and Other Random Thoughts

John Boehner is right in forcing President Obama to justify U.S. military involvement in Libya, as per the 1973 War Powers Act. However, we all know that he would never do it if Obama was a Republican.

Herman Cain is just one more tired example of a dimwit Republican. He’s been saying that he would require Muslims to take a loyalty oath to work in the administration if he were elected president. This violates not only the First Amendment, but also the Constitution’s Article VI, Clause 3: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Why are so many who claim to worship the Constitution eversomuch just too lazy to read it?

America’s political roots are decidedly liberal. Committing treason, seceding from the British Empire, acknowledging the inherent equality of all MEN, and fighting a revolution for independence were very liberal, radical actions. It is highly unlikely that such liberal founders would write an ultra-conservative document.

The First Amendment’s establishment clause creates the separation of church and state.

I’m very disappointed in Rep. Anthony Weiner for putting himself into such a position. I wish him well and I hope he gets his life back on track. We need people with his ideals in Congress. But I can’t imagine what makes so many men think that any woman wants to get messages like those.

I’m also disappointed in Obama for not closing Guantanamo, not prosecuting the cheneybushers for war crimes, not appointing Elizabeth Warren to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, renewing the “patriot” act, and appeasing the republithugs at every opportunity. Will I vote for him again? You bet.

For 30 years, presidents and Congresses bought Alan Greenspan’s delusion that corporate executives will behave in something resembling a moral fashion, and thus don’t need to be regulated. This inspired our leaders to abdicate their constitutional duty to regulate commerce, leading to massive greed, corruption, and recession. Greenspan personally caused more damage to America and Americans than any other human being.

The Amish have a tradition of shunning community members who break their rules. I thought the practice was barbaric, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps we should explore this option for conduct unbecoming a human being. I nominate Greenspan for the first spot.

The politically illiterate complain about “big government” controlling everything because they think it really does.

A section of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History honors the heroism, bravery, sacrifice, and camaraderie of US military throughout the centuries and the world. Their Iraq war display appears in the same section with the September 11 display. The description says: “Because of concern about Saddam Hussein’s regime, in March 2003 the United States and its allies launched preemptive strikes in Iraq.” They actually have the audacity to post that lie on the wall. The U.S. went into Iraq because littledick cheney wants more money. And he got it. It’s despicable that so many died for so little.

Your parents, teachers, and counselors lied to you. There is no permanent record that follows you throughout your life. No one knows or cares how many times you had detention in high school. Grow up.

Republithugs have created voter ID laws to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. The United States does not have a problem with unauthorized voting, or people voting multiple times, or illegal immigrants voting. It’s hard enough to get people to vote at all. This is about the republithugs trying, yet again, to SUPPRESS the vote. They’re trying to scare poor people and uneducated people into staying home. THINK ABOUT THIS, PEOPLE. Who benefits from low voter turnout, and keeping these folks away from the polls?

The republithugs claim that Congressional bills are not available for reading. They are liars. You can read every Congressional action at the Library of Congress site since 1996.

I don’t mind an honest difference of opinion, or a different philosophy of life. I do mind it when people flat out lie and make stuff up.

Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Sloganeering signage has probably put more dents in fenders than in voter opinion.  (From a Larry Evans email, 10/26/10)

America doesn’t just happen. The founders did not create a nation to have its citizens abandon it. America doesn’t work unless we all pay attention to it.

Why does the boss deserve to make 500 times more pay than the workers do?

Think back to when you were a kid. Remember the one in the crowd who always whiiiiiiiiined “It’s not fair!” when stuff didn’t go his way. That kid is now a Republican.

Employers can legally refuse to hire people who have red hair, or beards, or who wear blue shirts.  Yes, it is discrimination.  It is also legal. The only illegal forms of discrimination involve race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age over 40, and disability.

Judging by the way that most people write these days, they should sue their third grade English teachers for malpractice.

Children who are babied grow up to be idiots, or victims, or worse.

The American Medical Association should expel from its membership any “doctor” who works for a health insurance company.  It’s a conflict of interest and a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.  Doctors are supposed to provide health care.  Health insurance companies prevent people from getting health care.  I don’t care how many medical schools you went to.  If you work for a health insurance company, you are not a doctor.

Real life is not like your TV.  Stuff takes time.

WE ARE ONE

For more information

Read the U.S. Constitution

Read a newspaper. Yes, really. Go to a store. Buy a newspaper. Read it.