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The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year.

Radio Address of George W. Bush, September 28, 2002

Something critical is being lost in the torrent of pixels being spilled by the media as Jeb Bush wriggles haplessly, like some prehistoric insect trapped in amber, struggling to explain away, recast or rationalize his brother's hideous legacy. Many of us with functional memories concluded long ago that Jeb's brother deliberately lied us into a pointless war, one that resulted in pointless maiming and pointless deaths of our own soldiers and perhaps a million Iraqi civilians, and the equally pointless rise of a nihilistic cult of deluded savages we know as ISIS.

And although many Americans, for various reasons, don't want to face up to it, that is the truth. There may be be a "competing narrative," there may be political "spin," but there really can only be one truth, and Jeb Bush and the secretive Billionaires who hope to install him as the country's next President know that truth happens to be very, very inconvenient for him when the country has not yet forgotten what happened the last time a Bush occupied that office. When Jeb said he'd rely on his trusted brother for foreign policy advice, well, that just made things worse.

There is, however, an even more heinous aspect to what Jeb's "trusted brother" did, and it shouldn't be allowed to escape down the memory hole. We've been lied into wars before, with similar disastrous results.  But George W. Bush did something far worse than lie us into a war: he did it in a breathtakingly cynical and malevolent way--in effect, by holding a gun to every Americans' head and threatening to pull the trigger. He did it by holding us--all of us--hostage to a twisted ideology that demanded the war, waving the gun at calculated intervals in our face, the way any terrorist would.  And he told us flat out, over and over again, that if we didn't do what he said, we'd all be killed.

Paul Waldman, writing for The Week, puts his finger on why what Bush did was much worse than mere lying:

What the Bush administration launched in 2002 and 2003 may have been the most comprehensive, sophisticated, and misleading campaign of government propaganda in American history. Spend too much time in the weeds, and you risk missing the hysterical tenor of the whole campaign.
Waldman has little patience for the suggestion that the "intelligence" was "misread" or "misinterpreted." For those who experienced it, the barrage of timed propaganda that supported the "selling" of the Iraq war was no mere lie, no drummed up "incident," but a deliberate, methodical and relentless campaign.  In this campaign, intelligence was not used to ascertain facts, but to fashion propaganda to sell the war, the "script" of which, as then-White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan later wrote, "had been finalized with great care" to convince the public that the war was "inevitable and necessary." Waldman recounts the purposeful planning and execution of the deception inflicted on the American public and follows it with an irresistible and damning conclusion:
In 2008, the Center for Public Integrity completed a project in which they went over the public statements by eight top Bush administration officials on the topic of Iraq, and found that no fewer than 935 were false, including 260 statements by President Bush himself. But the theory on which the White House operated was that whether or not you could fool all of the people some of the time, you could certainly scare them out of their wits. That's what was truly diabolical about their campaign.

And in this we can see the base, criminal and yes, diabolical nature of what Bush did. By magnifying the imaginary threat allegedly posed by Saddam Hussein, Bush managed to terrify segments of the American public who he and Cheney knew full well were already traumatized and shell-shocked after the horror of 9/11. By repeatedly raising the specter of "poison gas," the radioactive "mushroom cloud," and the "weapons of mass destruction" he instilled Americans with a virulent fear, fear of the evil unknown. And all the while he knew--they all knew--that it was a baldfaced lie:

[E]ach and every time the message was the same: If we didn't wage war, Iraq was going to attack the United States homeland with its enormous arsenal of ghastly weapons, and who knows how many Americans would perish. When you actually spell it out like that it sounds almost comical, but that was the Bush administration's assertion, repeated hundreds upon hundreds of time to a public still skittish in the wake of September 11. (Remember, the campaign for the war began less than a year after the September 11 attacks.)

Sometimes this message was imparted with specific false claims, sometimes with dark insinuation, and sometimes with speculation about the horrors to come ("We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," said Bush and others when asked about the thinness of much of their evidence). Yet the conclusion was always the same: The only alternative to invading Iraq was waiting around to be killed.  

By playing incessantly to their fears, Bush also succeeded in turning Americans against each other--anyone who raised his or her voice to question the threat became part of the threat in the eyes of their fellow Americans.  After all, if you're terrified of something, and you know by God the threat is real, someone next to you telling you not to worry, or worse, ignore the danger, becomes as bad as the enemy.

This is what Bush (and Cheney) knowingly did to the American people. He counted on their fear, not just Americans' fear of Hussein, but of each other. Iraq became a "life or death" decision. It didn't matter to him that their fear was generated completely by lies--all he needed was the fear.  It was a classic exercise in propaganda and, terror inflicted on a vulnerable and scarred American public, the implicit threat always looming, hammered home day after day to get the war he and his cronies desperately wanted. And all of it deliberate:

This is one of the many sins for which Bush and those who supported him ought to spend a lifetime atoning. He looked out at the American public and decided that the way to get what he wanted was to terrify them. If he could convince them that any day now their children would die a horrible death, that they and everything they knew would be turned to radioactive ash, and that the only chance of averting this fate was to say yes to him, then he could have his war. Lies were of no less value than truth, so long as they both created enough fear.
This is the true horror of what George W. Bush did.  It was no mere "lie." It was something far more despicable, that cuts to the core of whatever humanity or basic human decency he and his family claim to possess.

Surely the Business Roundtable can do better than this. Or maybe not:

Top House Republicans believe the business community is blowing its chance to clinch a trade deal.

Unlike unions, they say, Big Business advocates aren’t flooding Capitol phone lines. They’re not winning over skeptical Republicans. And they haven’t made much headway with business-friendly Democrats who are considering voting for the package, either.

The issue is whether both the upper and lower chambers of Congress will grant President Obama Trade Promotion Authority ("Fast Track"). Passage of the TPA would allow the President to bring up the mammoth and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement for an "up-or-down" vote by Congress without allowing any Amendments to it. The fight over TPA is really a "proxy fight over ultimate approval of the TPP." Accordingly, passing TPA is an essential precursor towards inflicting the sight-unseen TPP on the American people without leaving them any recourse to stop it:
Passage of TPA is seen by the administration as essential to securing an acceptable deal in the ongoing TPP talks, because the assumption is that the other countries participating in the negotiations will be hesitant to make their best offers if they think the U.S. Congress will be allowed to tinker with the deal after it has been struck by negotiators.
The Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce are pushing back indignantly against GOP criticism, claiming they've spent more than $1 million dollars on TV ads and even more on Internet and radio.  But for some reason their money just isn't making much of an impression:
David Stewart, a top aide to Speaker John Boehner, voiced the frustration of Boehner’s office during a meeting Friday with officials from business lobby groups, telling them their effort is falling short. During the meeting at the offices of the Business Roundtable, Stewart said unions are outworking the business groups on calls to GOP lawmakers’ offices.

“The lobbying effort on the Hill has been abysmal,” one senior GOP aide said. “Calls and letters into member offices are running 10 to 1 against TPA. This is an uphill fight already given the lack of trust in the president and the general unpopularity of TPA, and the current lobbying effort has not made it any easier. If TPA passes in the House it will be despite the downtown coalition and the president, not because of them.”

Of course, if the Republican Party actually represented the interests of ordinary, run-of-the-mill American families rather than coddled Corporate CEO's making seven and eight-figure salaries, you might conclude that an opposition rate of 10 to 1 by their constituents would maybe suggest they might want to re-think this trade pact and the wisdom of relinquishing their Constitutional authority, rather than sending their leader to whine to the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce.

But wait, there's more!

Another GOP aide said the ratio of opposing calls to those in favor of the trade agreement is even more worrisome, 25 to 1 or worse.
My math skills are old and rusty, but assuming these staffers aren't simply lying what that means to me is that for every 10 people who care enough to call their Congressman and say the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a swell idea, 250 people care enough to call and tell them it's a horrible mistake. What that means is that CEO's of Monsanto and Nike and Glaxo Smith-Kline and Qualcomm can't muster up a few officers and directors to make a few calls poolside or from their corporate jets and at least create the appearance that this trade deal is something Americans want.  It means they can't even cajole some lower-tier contract employees to sit in a sweaty conference room and astro-turf a few Congressman into pretending this is something that has any popular support at all.

The Politico article suggests that between 170-180 Republican House members are currently expected to support TPA, no matter how many calls they get from their constituents opposing it. The legislation needs about three dozen Democrats to pass.

No Democrat should vote for this. None. Zero. Nada.

Pope Francis has warned “the powerful of the Earth” they will answer to God if they fail to protect the environment to ensure the world can feed its population.
He's not kidding, either:
"We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat. But we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgment one day," he said. "And there it will be revealed if they really tried to provide for him in every person, and if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food."
The Pope's closest advisors concur:
On Tuesday, one of Francis' key advisers, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, said he was stunned by the complaints he had heard during a trip to the United States over a papal document that hasn't even been published yet. He accused those fueling it of an ideology "that is very strongly linked to a vision of capitalism that doesn't want to renounce damaging the environment for the sake of profits."

Francis has said global warming is "mostly" man-made and that humanity has a moral duty to stop it.

The Pope's comments precede the eagerly anticipated papal encyclical on Climate Change which many believe will anger Climate Change "Deniers" (as well as certain U.S. churches that operate as de facto PACs for the Republican Party).
An encyclical is a statement of fundamental principles designed to guide Catholic teaching on a subject. It is issued in the form of a letter from the pope to bishops around the world...[.]

The pope is due to address the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development in September and the international community will seek to reach a universal agreement on climate change at a summit in Paris in December.

Climate change sceptics have warned Francis not to take sides in the debate but all the signs so far are that he sees the problem as man-made and as one which can be alleviated by political action.

Here is a small list of those whom Pope Francis implies risk being cast into Hell at the time of the Last Judgment:

Charles and David Koch
James Inhofe
Marco Rubio
The entire Fox News organization
Rick Scott
Rick Perry
Rick Santorum
Mike Pence
Ted Cruz

Some Groups who risk eternal damnation include the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Institute, and a whole host of Exxon-funded climate skeptics.

Recent research on Hell suggests that it is not a particularly pleasant place:

Punishment in Hell typically corresponds to sins committed during life. Sometimes these distinctions are specific, with damned souls suffering for each sin committed (see for example Plato's myth of Er or Dante's The Divine Comedy), but sometimes they are general, with condemned sinners relegated to one or more chamber of Hell or to a level of suffering.
In many religious cultures, including Christianity and Islam, Hell is traditionally depicted as fiery and painful, inflicting guilt and suffering.[4][specify] Despite these common depictions of Hell as a place of fire, some other traditions portray Hell as cold. Buddhist - and particularly Tibetan Buddhist - descriptions of hell feature an equal number of hot and cold hells. Among Christian descriptions Dante's Inferno portrays the innermost (9th) circle of Hell as a frozen lake of blood and guilt.
* *

For future planning purposes, Deniers should understand that the basic layout of Hell is multi-tiered, according to several sources.  Islam, for example, suggests Hell resembles a condominium complex of sorts, which might appeal to the more affluent of those condemned:

Heaven and Hell are each divided into seven different levels, with occupants assigned to each depending on their actions—good or bad—perpetrated during their lifetimes. The gate of Hell is guarded by Maalik who is the leader of the angels assigned as the guards of hell also known as Zabaaniyah. While hell is usually described as hot, there is one pit (Zamhareer) characterized in Islamic tradition as unbearably cold, with blizzards, ice, and snow.[65]

Hypocrisy, shirk (polytheism) are particularly grievous sins and the lowest pit of Hell (Hawiyah), is intended for hypocrites.

Hinduism explains that Hell is divided by degrees of punishment:
It is believed that people who commit sins go to Hell and have to go through punishments in accordance with the sins they committed. The god Yamarāja, who is also the god of death, presides over Hell. Detailed accounts of all the sins committed by an individual are kept by Chitragupta, who is the record keeper in Yama's court. Chitragupta reads out the sins committed and Yama orders appropriate punishments to be given to individuals. These punishments include dipping in boiling oil, burning in fire, torture using various weapons, etc. in various Hells.
The Christian tradition is in general agreement that Hell is not a favored vacation spot:
According to Theodore Stylianopoulos, "many Orthodox saints and writers assume the general view of hell as a place of punishment, even by means of material instruments such as fire, whether of the soul after death or both soul and body after the resurrection".[50] Saint John Chrysostom pictured hell as associated with "unquenchable" fire and "various kinds of torments and torrents of punishment".[51]
Denialists who claim to be Christians can't say they weren't warned about this:
Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. ...whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.

—Matthew 25:41–43 (NIV)
Clearly, the information has been out there for quite some time.

                                  rick scott photo: Rick Scott Full.jpg
                            Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida

We all know that elections have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are temporary, easily reversed. The right moves out, the left moves in, and vice versa. It all seems to even out over time even though in reality the tide may have significantly shifted as our lives meekly take their course, navigating through our country's political histrionics.

Sometimes, however, the consequences are devastating and irreversible.  Most often that's when an extreme ideology takes over and tries to force the rest of the society to bend to its will, in the face of all reason and rationality.  The ideology becomes paramount, its infliction becomes imperative, and the people become an afterthought. That is what is happening right now in Florida, a state saddled with the wrong governor at exactly the wrong time.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is skeptical of man-made climate change and has put aside the task of preparing for sea level rise, an Associated Press review of thousands of emails and documents pertaining to the state's preparations for rising seas found.

Despite warnings from water experts and climate scientists about risks to cities and drinking water, skepticism over sea level projections and climate change science has hampered planning efforts at all levels of government, the records showed. Florida's environmental agencies under Scott have been downsized and retooled, making them less effective at coordinating sea level rise planning in the state, the documents showed.

St. Augustine, Florida, America's oldest city, is submerging. It's not a mystery what's causing it, it's happening throughout the state, and local officials are very much aware that it isn't going to magically stop:
St. Augustine is one of many chronically flooded communities along Florida's 1,200-mile coastline, and officials in these diverse places share a common concern: They're afraid their buildings and economies will be further inundated by rising seas in just a couple of decades. The effects are a daily reality in much of Florida. Drinking water wells are fouled by seawater. Higher tides and storm surges make for more frequent road flooding from Jacksonville to Key West, and they're overburdening aging flood-control systems.
Municipalities on the Florida coast desperately need coordination and real assistance from Tallahassee. They cannot cope with this problem individually, or on an ad hoc basis. They have neither the money nor the resources for the type of flood control technology that will be necessary to keep their communities from drowning.  And yet because his loyalties are apparently much more attuned to the climate denialist agenda of his political donors--who don't have to cope with flooded roads and fouled drinking water from wherever it is they live--this governor doesn't seem to care at all. That's not governance. It's more an attitude suitable to a dictator in a place like North Korea rather than the country's third most populous state with an economy primarily sustained by tourism.
While South Florida water officials have led the charge in addressing sea level rise concerns in their area, their attempt to organize a statewide plan was met with indifference, documents show. The Scott administration has organized just a few conference calls to coordinate local efforts, records show. Those came only after Florida's water district managers asked DEP for help.
The AP investigation also revealed that more than half of the funding for what Scott calls his "five-year plan" (a phrase itself reminiscient of dictators past) to provide "basic guidance" to coastal communities on how to combat sea-level rise has been spent on staff time and travel. The remaining funds have been sucked up by contracted-out "research" into the existence of a problem that is staring the state directly in the face:
In one grant-funded study, Florida State University researchers asked local leaders about sea rise. Some officials complained to researchers about the "poisonous political atmosphere" over climate change hampering progress. The AP obtained the report in a public records request.

"In some cases, especially at the local level, planners are constrained by perceptions among elected officials that there is a lack of reliable scientific information to support the existence of sea level rise," report authors summarized.

The well-publicized revelations of Scott barring state employees from discussing climate change is borne out by the AP's investigation:
For example, an April 28, 2014, email approving a DEP scientist's request to participate in a National Geographic story came with a warning: "Approved. Make no claims as to cause ... stay with the research you are doing, of course," the DEP manager, Pamela Phillips, warned.
The article describes the "culture of fear" caused by Scott among agencies and officials whose jobs are to assist municipalities in mitigating what most describe as a "slow moving emergency." It describes local engineers desperately attempting to research solutions on the internet rather than seek assistance from the government they pay taxes to. Meanwhile, acutely affected parts of the state not cowed by Scott or his energy-company cronies are taking more drastic, if only symbolic measures:
South Miami passed a resolution calling for South Florida to secede from the more conservative northern half of the state so it could deal with climate change itself.

Insurance giant Swiss Re has estimated that the economy in southeast Florida could sustain $33 billion in damage from rising seas and other climate-related damage in 2030, according to the Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force.

These numbers and projected losses speak to a cataclysm to the state's economy as the beaches and towns that drive it slowly sink under ever rising tides. To do nothing in the face of a looming disaster is not climate denialism, it's climate nihilism. Let's be clear: Scott doesn't have to become a raging climate activist to help the citizens of his state--he doesn't even have to acknowledge the reality that the rising seas that will soon be washing away the Florida Coast are the result of human activity. But to deliberately do nothing at all suggests a pathology that no one in the state ought to admire or respect. All it means is that whatever is motivating him, Rick Scott simply doesn't care about Florida or its people.

                                   bill clinton photo: Bill Clinton BillClinton.jpg

The President has issued a statement on the Trade Deal currently pending "fast track" authority in Congress.

Last fall, I pledged that I would not submit NAFTA to Congress until my administration addressed shortfalls in the areas of environmental protection, worker rights, and import surges. Early this morning we fulfilled that promise. Today I pledge my strongest commitment to a major effort this fall to secure NAFTA's passage.

With the completion of the side accords, we have turned NAFTA into a pathbreaking trade agreement. NAFTA is strongly in the interest of the United States. This agreement helps our workers, our environment, our businesses, and our consumers.

With these agreements on environmental quality and labor standards, the North American Free Trade Agreement has become a fair trade agreement as well.

NAFTA will create thousands of high paying American jobs by unlocking access to Mexico, a growing market of 90 million people that thirst for American products and services. The old rules marked by high trade barriers and preferences for companies manufacturing in Mexico have been pushed aside. In their place NAFTA establishes a level playing field, low tariffs, and a tough mechanism for resolving environmental and labor problems.

NAFTA is part of my broad economic strategy to gear the American economy for a changing world, to channel change for the benefit of working men and women. I look forward to working with the Congress and the American people to make NAFTA a reality.

Noted Economist and self-styled "free trader", Paul Krugman, has lent his support:
It is as hopeless to try to argue with many of NAFTA's opponents as it would have been to try to convince William Jennings Bryan's followers that free silver was not the answer to farmers' problems....

The truth about NAFTA may be summarized in five propositions:

NAFTA will have no effect on the number of jobs in the United States;

NAFTA will not hurt and may help the environment;

• NAFTA will, however, produce only a small gain in overall U.S. real income;

• NAFTA will also probably lead to a slight fall in the real wages of unskilled U.S. workers;

Republicans and Multinational corporations are strongly on board. Many Democrats, however, remain opposed to the deal:
There is a growing belief in Washington that the trade agreement will just win in Congress, but also some surprise that President Clinton should have made it a make-or-break issue for his presidency. The President's offer will be resented by the unions and other core Democratic supporters.

Most of President Clinton's support comes from Republicans, some 120 of whom (two-thirds of their total) are expected to vote for the accord. To win, he needs to get an additional 100 out of 258 House Democrats and, since the Gore- Perot debate three days ago, he says he has picked up another 27 votes.

Fast forward nineteen years:
NAFTA affected U.S. workers in four principal ways. First, it caused the loss of some 700,000 jobs as production moved to Mexico. Most of these losses came in California, Texas, Michigan, and other states where manufacturing is concentrated. To be sure, there were some job gains along the border in service and retail sectors resulting from increased trucking activity, but these gains are small in relation to the loses, and are in lower paying occupations. The vast majority of workers who lost jobs from NAFTA suffered a permanent loss of income.

Second, NAFTA strengthened the ability of U.S. employers to force workers to accept lower wages and benefits. As soon as NAFTA became law, corporate managers began telling their workers that their companies intended to move to Mexico unless the workers lowered the cost of their labor. In the midst of collective bargaining negotiations with unions, some companies would even start loading machinery into trucks that they said were bound for Mexico. The same threats were used to fight union organizing efforts. The message was: “If you vote in a union, we will move south of the border.” With NAFTA, corporations also could more easily blackmail local governments into giving them tax reductions and other subsidies.

Third, the destructive effect of NAFTA on the Mexican agricultural and small business sectors dislocated several million Mexican workers and their families, and was a major cause in the dramatic increase in undocumented workers flowing into the U.S. labor market. This put further downward pressure on U.S. wages, especially in the already lower paying market for less skilled labor.

Fourth, and ultimately most important, NAFTA was the template for rules of the emerging global economy, in which the benefits would flow to capital and the costs to labor. The U.S. governing class—in alliance with the financial elites of its trading partners—applied NAFTA’s principles to the World Trade Organization, to the policies of the World Bank and IMF, and to the deal under which employers of China’s huge supply of low-wage workers were allowed access to U.S. markets in exchange for allowing American multinational corporations the right to invest there.


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This 4 minute video is well worth taking the time to watch, from today's New York Times:

Imagine strangers crossing the street to avoid you, imagine the police arbitrarily stopping you, imagine knowing people fear you because of the color of your skin. Many of this country’s young black men and boys don’t have to imagine.

In this Op-Doc video, “A Conversation about Growing Up Black,”we ask African-American boys and young men to tell us candidly about the daily challenges they face because of these realities. They speak openly about what it means to be a young black man in a racially charged world and explain how they feel when their parents try to shelter and prepare them for a world that is too often unfair and biased.

The video is sad and inspirational at the same time. As you can see from the comments section to the NY Times website, however, it seems that whenever hard truths are pointed out about white racism, particularly if those doing the pointing are black, certain white people feel almost compelled to line up and take exception, provide "context," or "differentiate" those truths from their own "understanding" of black experience:
These kids and young adults do not represent African-American youth accurately; at least the youth I've gotten to know here in the Bronx over the past five years of working with them daily. Police brutality is wrong; racism is wrong. But directly or indirectly blaming white people for the plight of black youth will get us nowhere.


It's no secret that blacs commiot 64% of all the violent crime in America. There are 2 million gang members and the prison population is full of black criminals there not because of minor drug offenses.

Blacks dominate 2 sections of my local newspaper: Sports and Local for crime. When we fcee this fact maybe we can have an honest dialog.

(spelling from the original)


My takeaway from this video: we are creating a culture of victimization around black male youth that is unhealthy; that is, any experience they have is seen through the lens of racisim. For example, one youth in the doc characterizes as racist that the media references the criminal record of a black man in (I assume, it's not clear from the video) after being shot by police. Well, mention of previous criminal record is pretty common in such instances regardless of the race of the individual. Unfortunately, these young men are not being taught critical thinking.
As obtuse, ugly and clueless as these responses are, they do teach us something about the enduring nature of racism. It is not simply a belief system encouraged by their environment one lives in. The reflexively defensive reactions to the relatively simple and straightforward truths articulated by these children and young men demonstrate that racism is a core part of many Americans' being, something that must be defended even if it means surrendering to willful blindness and sophistry.  Racism is so utterly crucial for them to sustain, but so fraught with such social implications that people will find any rationale to implicitly justify it without having to actually acknowledge its existence.  To deny their racism is to deny an unquestionable component of their "humanity."

Understanding this, it is not hard to understand the success of the Republican Party, which continually stokes the flames of racism to perpetuate its hold on power, even as its adherents repeatedly and demonstrably vote against their own self-interests. Nothing, not even their own physical, social, economic well-being, can compete with the overriding imperative and satisfaction of feeling superior (as the first young man in the interview puts it) in one's race over someone else's.


If there's one good thing about social media, it's illuminating how much hatred there is in the Republican Party for ordinary Americans, particularly those who question or challenge Republican policies.

You may have already heard the story about Chloe Hough, the Topeka, Kansas waitress who, on her last day on the job, had the "pleasure" of waiting on her state's Republican Governor Sam Brownback at Boss Hawg's restaurant.

In late March, Brownback signed a new school financing law that replaces the complex school funding formula with flexible block grants for the next two years. The bill reduces funding that districts had expected for the current school year.

Before Hough took the tab to the governor — which rang in at $52.16 — she put an X in the line where he would leave a tip. And to the left of that she wrote, “Tip the schools.”

Ms. Hough posted the image of the Governor's tab, with her writing on it, to her Facebook page, whereupon it immediately went viral: “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a tip,” she said. “I was trying to make a point.”

In typical Republican fashion, rather than address her concerns about education policy in Kansas, Clay Barker, the Executive Director of the Kansas State Republican Committee, decided to viciously attack Ms. Hough. In a post on KNS TV's Facebook page, Barker summed up the feelings of the Kansas Republican Party towards this woman working for tips at less than minimum wage:

So you are publicizing her arrogant stupidity and utter ignorance. Typical liberal KS media,” he wrote.

Barker later continued, telling The Topeka Capital-Journal by email:

“And yes it is perfectly in line with the party’s role — we get to say what everyone is thinking."

The incredible arrogance and contempt toward his constituent displayed by this Republican spokesman was not lost on many who replied to his commentary:
She's ignorant for speaking out against a ruthless tyrant?

9 · May 3 at 11:35am
 How is she ignorant?

3 · May 3 at 11:54am

 KS liberal? Hahaha.

8 · May 3 at 12:25pm

A little redundant there, Clayton. Could you elaborate on why you believe this woman to be ignorant?

3 · May 3 at 12:28pm
I don't think Mr. Barker is going to answer you. He lists being the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party and a general counsel for them as well on his FB page. I doubt he understands the concerns of the Kansas people that send their children to public schools.

14 · May 3 at 12:48pm · Edited
Her message is a good one

2 · May 3 at 12:53pm

3 · May 3 at 1:00pm

Clayton, you are in idiot.

2 · May 3 at 1:52pm

 she is not "stupid" for posting on the internet. That it went viral was not her doing. She was on a position to make a statement, and I'm glad that she did.

6 · May 3 at 1:57pm · Edited

[C}ongratulations on further perpetuating the stereotype that kansas is full of ignorant uneducated morons and being from georgia i can back that up, you mention kansas in any conversation and theres a 9 out of 10 chance someone would say they'd rather die then step foot in that hell hole...

May 3 at 5:06pm

So does the GOP in Kansas not want to hear their constituent opinions?

3 · May 3 at 6:21pm
Yes, there ARE a few Liberals like me in Kansas...

Brownback and the Republican Party gutted Kansas' public schools by $44 million this year alone. Their policies have impacted Hough personally, with her younger, special needs sister, losing educators to Brownback's budget cuts.  The Topeka High School Hough attended has been particularly hard hit:
Those are the students slated to be hit hardest by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s public education cuts, which he has imposed to help fill the massive revenue shortfalls created by his income tax cuts for the wealthy. Under a block-grant funding scheme Brownback signed into law this winter, Topeka High’s school district is slated to lose $3.6 million in funding this year and over the next two years after that, jeopardizing a wide array of academic and extracurricular offerings; for Topeka High students, athletics programs, arts education, and foreign language courses could be on the chopping block. Other districts have cut short their school years; others still warn they may not have enough toilet paper to last out the school year.
Clayton Barker simply articulated how much the Republican Party cares about Ms. Hough's concerns, Kansas schools, or anyone else suffering from the GOP's disastrous economic policies.

Which is, to say, not at all.

At one commenter's request, this is Governor Brownback's contact information:  

Office of the Governor

Capitol, 300 SW 10th Ave., Ste. 241S                                    
Topeka, KS 66612-1590

Toll Free: 877-KSWORKS (877-579-6757)

Email here.


Headlines like this really say it all:

Republicans push Barack Obama to rally Democrats for TPP vote
Yes, the same Party whose economic philosophy led to the meltdown of the economy in 2007-2008 and created the staggering levels of wealth disparity we see today is frantically urging President Obama to drum up more Democratic votes for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the mammoth trade deal hatched in secret among the world's largest corporations for the purpose of maximizing their shareholder value and profits. Covering 40 percent of the global economy, the TPP represents one of those exceedingly rare occasions during his entire Presidency when top Republicans have actively encouraged the President on any policy matter.

Robert Reich explains why that is, in terms which are depressingly familiar:

In fact, it’s just more trickle-down economics.

The biggest beneficiaries would be giant American-based global corporations, along with their executives and major shareholders.

Those giant corporations initiated the deal in the first place, their lobbyists helped craft it behind closed doors, and they’re the ones who have been pushing hard for it in Congress – dangling campaign contributions in front of congressional supporters and threatening to cut off funding to opponents.

Two weeks ago the Economic Policy Institute concluded the TPP was unlikely to be a good deal for American workers. Calling arguments in its favor "economically incoherent," the EPI wondered aloud as to why we would want to enter into such an agreement.  Reich cites the EPI's work and finds that the arguments in favor of the agreement are hollow and disingenuous.
The arguments in favor of the deal aren’t credible. The notion that the Trans Pacific Partnership will spark American exports doesn’t hold because the deal does nothing to prevent other nations from manipulating their currencies in order to boost their own exports.
This point is elaborated at length in the EPI analysis, as is the effect of the secret agreement on wages and inequality:
As regards wages and inequality, if the TPP leads to a reshuffling of domestic production toward exportable sectors that are capital-intensive and away from importable sectors that are labor-intensive, then it will exacerbate inequality. If it does not lead to such a reshuffling, then wage effects will be modest, but this begs the question of why would we bother to sign a trade agreement that did not lead to such a reshuffling of production? That is, after all, the entire point of trying to expand trade opportunities, and is the source of estimated net national gains from trade. Assurances that the TPP will be all gain, no pain are deeply disingenuous in this regard.
This is of, course, on top of the provisions requiring a "cost-benefit" analysis to be incorporated into labor, health, safety and environmental regulations, itself a hallmark of Republican -style regulation from the time of Ronald Reagan:
It would require that when the potential cost of a new health, safety, environment, or labor protection is weighed against its potential benefits, the cost of reimbursing corporations for lost profits is added in.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch has expressed "bafflement" at Democratic Opposition to the TPP, raising the ominous specter of a resurgent China:
“We’ve lost so much prestige in this world that the Chinese are really taking advantage of it,” he said.
Reich suggests that this argument deliberately ignores the self-interest of corporations and the fact that they no longer possess any national loyalty, particularly with the prospects of a billion-consumer market dangling in front of them:
Does anyone seriously believe American-based corporations will put the interest of the United States above the interests of their own shareholders when it comes to doing whatever China demands to gain access to that lucrative market?

Big American-based corporations have been cozying up to China for years – giving China whatever American technology China wants, letting China “partner” with them in designing new generations of technology, and allowing China to censor their software and digital platforms – all in exchange for a crack at Chinese consumers.

Republicans are demonstrable abject failures on all matters economic. Ultimately the fact that top Republicans are for it should be the best argument against the TPP. As Reich puts it:
What we should have learned by now about trickle-down economics is that nothing trickles down.

If the Trans Pacific Partnership is enacted, big corporations, Wall Street, and their top executives and shareholders will make out like bandits. Who will the bandits be stealing from? The rest of us.

From "The Worst Trade Deal You've Never Heard Of:"


                              private jet photo: Private aircraft-luxury_hcVK2_48.jpg

No, the odds are you're really not going to get very rich, or even moderately rich, although you'll probably go to your deathbed telling yourself you will.

The chasm between what ordinary Americans make in income and what the top 1-2% are making is wider than at any time in the last 80 years, with the caustic effects of that disparity rapidly separating us into a two-tier society right before our eyes. Education, once the great leveler of our society since the time of the GI Bill, is now a divisive scythe, combining with the extraordinary social and employment benefits of staggering wealth passed from generation to generation, and cementing in stone the reign of a perpetual, modern-day aristocracy. While the vast majority of Americans consigned to statistical "median" incomes struggle to keep up with the costs of education, housing, child care and health care, a small but not insignificant contingent of the uber-wealthy possessing wealth far beyond most of our capacity to imagine methodically rigs the tools of government to preserve its status and serve its interests.

But for all of the stark evidence in front of us, of Presidential candidates prostrating themselves before venal and ruthless Billionaires or Wall Street bankers, of one half of the entire country's political spectrum practically acknowledging that it exists only to serve the very rich, Americans don't rebel. They shrug their shoulders and accept their lot, confident that one day they too will reach that shining city on the hill.  Then they go back to toiling in their stagnant-wage jobs while the things they took for granted, like a one-income household, affordable college education, a secure retirement, fade into a dim memory. They go back to their glowing electrical gadgets in their purses and pockets and convince themselves they are wealthier than they really are.  And they continue to elect politicians who perpetuate that mythology, or they find excuses not to vote at all.

Recently, studies by two independent research teams (each led by an author of this article) found that Americans across the economic spectrum did indeed severely misjudge the amount of upward mobility in society. The data also confirmed the psychological utility of this mistake: Overestimating upward mobility was self-serving for rich and poor people alike. For those who saw themselves as rich and successful, it helped justify their wealth. For the poor, it provided hope for a brighter economic future.
Americans' childlike faith in the "American Dream" is drilled into them in political speeches, in popular culture, movies and television, and through social relationships. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is just a symptom of the overarching, biologically-rooted imperative to succeed, to prove oneself worthy in the eyes of our peers. The American Dream is the narrative we've created to sustain that.

As highlighted in the New York Times article linked above, research from Cornell University confirms the enduring misperceptions Americans have about their own ability to get ahead. From the abstract of "Building A More Mobile America, One Quintile At A Time:

"A core tenet of the American ethos is that there is considerable economic mobility. Americans seem willing to accept vast financial inequalities as long as they believe that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. We examined whether people’s beliefs about the amount of economic mobility in the contemporary United States conform to reality."
The short answer is that Americans are largely clueless about economic mobility.  Respondents in the Cornell survey were asked to predict the economic mobility of random individuals assigned to a particular income "quintile." The results, when compared to real-world US data on economic mobility, showed that Americans consistently overestimate people's ability to advance economically out of poverty, or indeed out of any economic strata to a higher "bracket."

More research done under the same leadership at the University of Illinois illustrates why it is so hard to overcome this willful blindness: it is rooted in our own deeply-held self-image. In that study, aptly titled "Americans Overestimate Social Class Mobility,"

[P]articipants were asked to estimate the ease of moving up the economic ladder. This time, however, they were also asked to estimate upward mobility for people who were similar to them “in terms of goals, abilities, talents and motivations.” In this case, respondents were even more likely to overestimate upward mobility. We believe unduly in our own capacity to move up the economic ladder, and these beliefs increase our mobility overestimates more generally.
The Illinois study should be required reading for Americans who want to understand why income inequality matters. The authors first establish that for the vast majority of Americans the dream of social mobility is an illusion fostered by the culture, an illusion now directly at odds with reality:
The United States is faced with record levels of income inequality and one of the lowest rates of actual social mobility among industrial nations (Burkhauser et al., 2009, Fiske and Markus, 2012 and Piketty and Saez, 2001).  
* *
Americans place significant hope on the American Dream—the promise that individuals, from any sector of society, have an equal opportunity to become better educated, earn more money, and obtain whatever job they desire. These beliefs in social class mobility are widespread, frequently referred to during political speeches (Obama, 2014), evoked in contemporary popular fiction and cinema (Fitzgerald, 1925), and are a core right referred to in historical government documents (i.e., the Bill of Rights).

The disconnect between actual economic conditions on the one hand and beliefs in the American Dream on the other suggests that Americans may be unaware of the actual levels of social class mobility in society.

* *
These data suggest that Americans are unaware of the actual economic structure of society and of how changes in individual economic conditions shape their own life outcomes,
One cause of Americans' self-delusion about their mobility is the constant reassurance  by society's institutions to make us believe that the system works fairly for all:  
Americans benefit from overestimates of social class mobility because they bolster widely held American ideals of meritocracy and equality of opportunity (Durkheim, 1933, Fiske and Markus, 2012 and Weber, 1930). Thus, overestimates of class mobility satisfy the need to believe that the societal status of the self and others is determined fairly and justly.
The study specifically finds that wealthier individuals tend to bathe themselves in a narrative that they are deserving of their own success:
Specifically, the motivation to believe that one's elevated position in society is both fairly achieved and possible for all Americans will lead individuals from relatively upper-class backgrounds to make larger overestimates of social class mobility.
One of the more significant findings is that political liberals are far more skeptical of class mobility than conservatives. The article attributes this disparity to the conservative philosophy that regards all social mobility as "merit-based."  The shorthand for this assumption is not explored in the article, but it would seem to dovetail with conservatives feelings' about the innate worth of certain races of people.  It also shows why income inequality will never really resonate with  Republicans or conservatives. Their perception of "merit" by definition includes themselves as the "meritorious" ones. So they can't help but believe that "hard work" inevitably leads to wealth, because to face the reality--that attainment of substantial wealth is most often based on social status with a fair helping of luck--would require admitting that their own self-image may be a lie.

The upshot of all of this is that enacting policies to solve a problem Americans are psychologically unprepared to recognize will be a constant uphill battle, even as Americans continue to allow themselves to be herded like cattle to the guillotine of economic stagnation.  Much like organized Labor has been steadily whittled away, the "American Dream" continues to suffer the death of a thousand cuts, all of them nearly imperceptible. It's only looking back over time when one realizes what has been lost. And all the while, new generations keep arriving, staring back at us, bewildered at our concerns. For them, this is sadly the norm, the way things have always been:

Taken together, these sets of studies suggest that belief in the American dream is woefully misguided when compared with objective reality. Addressing the rising economic gap between rich and poor in society, it seems, will require us to contend not only with economic and political issues, but also with biases of our psychology.

                      morgan freeman photo: Morgan Freeman 2884_2.jpg

The iconic Morgan Freeman has with three little words done us all a huge service.

Morgan Freeman had strong words for the media on Baltimore coverage, and called networks out for zooming in on places like Baltimore only when they see fire.

“F–k the media,”
he told the Daily Beast in an interview published Thursday, and complained about the big three cable networks’ bias.

Some folks may not know that Freeman provides the voice-over for the TSA warnings at Alabama's Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport. There's nothing quite like listening to Morgan Freeman gently but firmly remind you not to leave unattended bags lying around and never offer to carry something for a stranger onto a plane: "Thank you and have a nice flight."

But in an interview with The Daily Beast, Freeman laid into the media's riot-chasing coverage of not only the events in Baltimore last week, but of Ferguson, Missouri as well:

Freeman says the Baltimore coverage, while fairly biased in its focus on the rioting, has been an improvement over the very one-sided coverage of the Ferguson protests in the wake of Michael Brown’s death. “Now, they’re getting more of the whole picture. Ferguson? No. Baltimore seems to be coming up with a different scenario in the background,” says Freeman. “People are saying, ‘You were not all there when we were just talking and trying to make a point, but if we set something on fire, all of a sudden you’re all here. Why is that? What’s the difference?’ And some young reporters are listening. That sort of observation is very useful.”
Of course this point was not lost on readers of this site, but it may well have been lost on the rest of the country who woke up last week to yet another media frenzy over disadvantaged African-Americans facing off with police in the street.  For better or for worse Hollywood celebrities command the attention, if not always the respect, of a large segment of the American public. When you switch on your tablet in the mornings it is usually not political news that greets you on the Google or the Yahoo or the Facebook, but some type of celebrity shenanigans or utterance. We should be delighted when the two overlap on an issue as timely as the sensationalistic, wrongheaded and biased coverage of the problems of racial and economic disparity in this country. Because the media--the cable TV networks chasing fires and gunshots without once examining the cause of the desperation and poverty, the newspapers acting as stenographers for the police and politicians-- have no one to blame but themselves for the public's growing disgust. When people like Morgan Freeman articulate that disgust, it helps change the conversation in a useful way.

Freeman also commented on the usefulness of living in a world with smartphones and instant video recording capabilities;

“The other thing is that technology lets us see behind the scenes a little bit better,” he continues. “Police have a standard reaction to shooting somebody. I fear for my life and I fear for my safety. Now, at least you can see, ‘Hey, his hands were up in the air! What part of your safety were you afraid of? The guy was running away, what part of your safety was in danger?’ There was one situation I saw where a cop told a guy to get out of the car, said, ‘Show me your driver’s license,’ and the guy reached back into the car and the cop shot him!”

“Anyway, off the media,” he says, waving his hands in the air and chuckling. “F-ck the media.”

And while Freeman may have simply been signaling his desire to seque into a different topic,  his remarks to the Beast dovetail closely with an interview he gave to Newsweek yesterday, in which the 77 year old actor pulls no punches while discussing his new film, 5 Flights Up, which focuses on wild media speculation that ensues after a Muslim man is stopped in his truck on a New York City bridge. While Freeman says some of the media's behavior portrayed in the film is reminiscent of that displayed in Baltimore, there are differences as well:
The movie has a subplot in which New York is thrown into chaos over a suspected terrorist attack, which Freeman said does not share similarities to recent real-life events.

“That unrest [in Baltimore] has nothing to do with terrorism at all, except the terrorism we suffer from the police,” the 77-year-old star said. “And the fact that now that’s out in the open.” Freeman referred to the case of Amadou Diallo, the Guinea immigrant who in 1999 was killed by four New York City plainclothes officers who mistook his wallet for a gun. “Forty-one times he was shot. That was the beginning of our understanding of how dangerous police are.”

Freeman, nominated for an Academy Award in everyone in the Universe's favorite film, The Shawshank Redemption, and winning the Oscar in every Republican's favorite director, Clint Eastwood's, Million Dollar Baby, is also a prominent supporter of President Obama. There is no more recognizable voice in America, certainly none better suited than his to articulate a new American Sensibility in the simple words of: "F*ck the media."

At least until they start doing a better job.

On 12 September 1977, Stephen Bantu Biko died in a prison cell in Pretoria. The announcement of Biko's death by the South African government the next day sparked international and national protest. Steve Biko was not the only person to die in detention at the hands of the South African security police; yet, because of Biko's prominence as a charismatic leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, his case captured the attention of many South Africans and people throughout the world.

Biko's death in detention illustrates the brutality of the security police during apartheid and the state's hand in covering up torture and abuse of political detainees. Biko's case also demonstrates the collaboration of non-governmental institutions with apartheid and, furthermore, that not all South Africans accepted or were satisfied with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.


Reports are just now coming in what appears to be the death of an African-American male while in police custody.  This evidently occurred some time ago. The name of the deceased has not yet been released, with reports simply referring to him as "B" (presumably standing for the first letter of the accused's surname). It should be noted from the outset that the death is not being treated as "suspicious" nor is there any suggestion of police misconduct involved.  The facts are these:

"B", 30, was travelling with a friend, Pete Jones (also African-American), when they were detained for questioning by police in what is described as a "routine" traffic stop.  A comprehensive description of the incident is being reported here and at News24 here.

At the roadblock the police asked [B.] and Jones to step out and open the [trunk]. Jones, who was driving, followed their orders but struggled to open the [trunk].
According to reports, the police's suspicions were raised by Jones' unusual behavior:
Jones tried to make light of his struggle with the [trunk] and invited one of the policemen to have a try.
It was also reported that "B" and Jones were not from the immediate area and would not provide a satisfactory account of what they were doing in this locality. Nor, when asked, would Jones identify "B" to the officer, further raising suspicions that "B" might have a criminal record. This prompted police to arrest "B" and Jones. Police reported "B" resisted arrest and became violent shortly after being taken into custody.
On the morning of September 6, what would be described by the policeman as a "scuffle" erupted between the policeman and [B.]
After being initially subdued and remanded to police custody, police reported that "B" intentionally tried to injure himself, apparently by means of a hunger strike. The Police have only noted that "B" was transported for further medical attention:
... for medical attention following a seven-day hunger strike.
According to the authorities, "B"'s condition rapidly deteriorated during this transport. Medical professionals apparently were called in to save his life, to no avail:
Several hours later he was given an intravenous drip by a newly qualified doctor who had no information about him other than that he was refusing to eat.
Thus far there have been no further statements from the authorities about his death:
An inquest into his death is not to be held for several months, according to the authorities.
It should be emphasized that to the extent the circumstances are known at this time both the the public and government officials seem to support the police's version of events and there appears to be no suggestion of racism or bias on the part of the police. Political observers familiar with the jurisdiction describe the racial tensions in the area as essentially non-existent:
“They have eliminated the segregation that we once had...the type of thing where hotels and restaurants and places of entertainment and so forth were segregated — that has all been eliminated.”
There is also significant community support for police action to combat civil unrest and the threat of violence. For example:
Sixty-nine percent were in favour to deploy military to end a strike and 72% held the opinion that the police should fire on demonstrators who threw stones at them.

UPDATE: 12:20 PM.

Local News outlets are now reporting on certain discrepancies between the official police record and the condition of the deceased as reported by the Medical Examiner:

District surgeons employed by the government, Doctors Benjamin Tucker and Ivor Lang, examined ["B"] on September 7. ["B'] was weak, spoke unclearly, and had external injuries on his face and head...
It also appears that "B" was transported a considerable distance in the back of a police vehicle and may have been injured during the trip.  

Update: 12:50 pm (EST):

The ME report on "B"s death was released this morning:

The cause of his death was not disputed: complications resulting from a brain injury. ["B" ] suffered at least three brain lesions occasioned by the application of force to his head; the injury was suffered between the night of 6 September and 07:30 on 7 September.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN explained the definition of "brain hemorrhage" and the various ways this could occur.

Update: 12:55 pm (EST)

The Washington Post has now published a story which corroborates the police assertion that "B" may have been intentionally trying to injure himself.  Other media outlets have picked up the story as well.

A prisoner sharing a police transport van with "B" told investigators that he could hear "B" “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.
Additionally, Fox News commentator Bo Diehl has suggested that "B" may have injured himself while high on drugs.  Other media outlets are attempting to verify this assertion, which has been picked up and spread through social media. The New York Times implicitly criticizes the Post's "sensationalistic" coverage in an Op-Ed by its Public Editor. Wolf Blitzer profiles the "drug controversy" on an extended version of "The Situation Room."

UPDATE: 2:45 pm (EST)

The Police have just released a report indicating there was "no evidence" that "B" received any injuries during his arrest.

The medical examiner found "B"'s catastrophic injury was caused when he was slammed into back of the police transport van and apparently broke his neck. Law enforcement sources also said [he] sustained a head injury that matches a bolt in the back of the police van, the affiliate reported.
Various media outlets are saying this corroborates earlier reports by the WAPO suggesting that "B" purposely injured himself while in transport. This new report will be released on the AP wire to hundreds of local affiliates and disseminated widely on the Internet.With the aid of state-of-the-art graphics,  Erin Burnett explains the interior of a police van while carrying a tape measure.

Jones has also issued a statement:

During the height of my interrogation there wasn’t a spot on my body that wasn’t either swollen, bruised or sensitive. At times, I struggled to find a comfortable sleeping position, resorting to sleeping in a kneeling position with my forehead resting on the floor.
Minutes after the release of Jones' statement, Fox News aired an interview with one of the police officers involved in the arrest, in which he claimed to have been "badly beaten" by both "B" and Jones.  The officer declined to be named for the record, citing personal safety concerns, which we will, of course, honor:
According to the well-placed source, [The Officer] was coming off another case in the neighborhood ... when he ordered "B" and his friend (Jones)to stop walking in the middle of the road because they were obstructing traffic. However, the confrontation quickly escalated into physical violence, the source said.

“They ignored him and the officer started to get out of the car to tell them to move," the source said. "They shoved him right back in, that’s when "B" leans in and starts beating Officer [Name Deleted]in the head and the face."

The Officer claims to have sustained serious residual injuries, a claim he reiterated on Sean Hannity's televison broadcast later that evening.

Since making the statement, Jones has also come under attack, with many media outlets pointing out his past criminal record. A video, purportedly of Jones has gone viral which suggests he is anything but the "Gentle Giant" described in earlier news reports. It should be noted that confirmation of the authenticity of that video has yet to be verified.

Update: 5 pm, EST:

Diane Sawyer will conduct an exclusive interview with the police officer allegedly involved in the arrest of "B" and Jones, during which the officer will purportedly reveal scars from injuries he sustained in the attack.  The video will be aired on ABC news and will be available on YouTube later in the evening.

Update: 5:15 PM:

Right-wing websites have tentatively identified "B" as one Steven Biko, and this has been confirmed by the authorities.  Fox News' Geraldo Rivera will air a report tonight detailing Mr. Biko's many prior arrests. Fox also begins wall-to-wall coverage of Bike's "left-wing political views."

Since identifying Biko, the Police have issued another statement clarifying the timeline of events:

Since 5 September Mr. Biko refused his meals and threatened to go on a hunger strike. He had been regularly supplied with meals and water, but refused to partake thereof.

On 7 September a district surgeon was called in because Mr. Biko appeared unwell. The district surgeon certified that he could find nothing wrong with Mr. Biko.

The following morning he was again examined by a doctor and kept at the hospital for observation. On Sunday morning, 11 September, Mr. Biko was removed from the prison hospital to Walmer police station on the recommendation of the district surgeon. He still had not eaten on Sunday afternoon and again appeared unwell. After consultation with the district surgeon it was decided to transfer him....

On 12 September Mr. Biko was again examined by a district surgeon in Pretoria and received medical treatment. He died on Sunday night.

This statement is carried with minimal comment by every major media news outlet and newspaper with an AP feed.

Update: Two weeks later.

A Grand Jury has unanimously declined to indict anyone for the death of Steven Biko.  

Updated: Six Months Later( Interview with Police Chief Kruger on Fox News):

Sean Hannity: Now that a Grand Jury has voted not to indict any members of your department for the death of Steven Biko, you must feel vindicated. You've been through a terrible ordeal, hounded by liberal columnists and pundits, vilified by left-wingers on social media. Some liberals in Congress have even suggested the jury's decision was improper. What would you like to say to them?

Kruger: Sir, I just want to tell the congress and I want to tell the Press. I expect nothing from them [the press].

I know. Sir, I know because I have it in documents, that they are going for us.

They will search for nooks and crannies. Whether they will find them, I don't know. We are also only people.

But from my point of view, on the facts that I have, it looks to me as if what had to be done was done.

... I say to you as Minister, that I cannot see how we could have acted differently.

 (Cheers and applause.)


Thirty-five years ago, babies born in the U.S. had an infant mortality rate equal to Germany. Today, American babies die at twice the rate of those in Germany.

Thirty-five years ago, the U.S. ranked 13th in life expectancy for girls among the 34 recognized industrial societies. Today we are ranked 29th out of those same 34 countries.

We have the highest teenage birth rate among the industrialized world.

One out of every four children in this country lives with a single parent, the highest rate by far in the industrialized world.

Our incarceration rate is triple what it was four decades ago, with an incarceration rate five times that of other wealthy democracies.

Economists from the University of Chicago, MIT and the University of Southern California conducted research to find out why our children die at a rate exponentially higher than European kids. Their conclusion? Staggering rates of income disparity, all stemming directly from the 1980's, the Era of Ronald Reagan and the beginning of the resurgence of the conservative movement.

"On nearly all indicators of mortality, survival and life expectancy, the United States ranks at or near the bottom among high-income countries,” says a report on the nation’s health by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.

What’s most shocking about these statistics is not how unhealthy they show Americans to be, compared with citizens of countries that spend much less on health care and have much less sophisticated medical technology. What is most perplexing is how stunningly fast the United States has lost ground.

The statistics above are taken from this article by Eduardo Porter in today's New York Times. As Porter states, "Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way."  But as his analysis shows, it wasn't just lower wages caused by globalization and technological advancement that led to this dismal state of affairs (although those certainly played a part), but the unique failure of our U.S. government to respond to these developments:
[B]laming globalization and technological progress for the stagnation of the middle class and the precipitous decline in our collective health is too easy. Jobs were lost and wages got stuck in many developed countries.

What set the United States apart — what made the damage inflicted upon American society so intense — was the nature of its response. Government support for Americans in the bottom half turned out to be too meager to hold society together.

From the time most of us have even had a political memory we have had to listen to conservative ideology spewed at us, telling us that the U.S. was living in a "welfare state," that "handouts" to the poor were sapping our productivity and harming the "spirit" of the country. That if we only unleashed the power of Big Business through fostering "entrepreneurship" while cutting programs designed to support the rest of us, the nation would "regain" its stature and create vast sums of wealth for all of our citizens, with corporate profits leading us back to a mythical promised land.  That shrinking government programs while cutting taxes for the richest would put wealth back into all our pockets and improve the quality of our lives. This was the dominant narrative in the 1980's, it was swallowed nearly whole and regurgitated by Bill Clinton in the 1990's, and reached its apotheosis in the 2000's prior to the Economic Crash presided over by George W. Bush and the same tax-cutting, supply-side ilk who sold it to us from the start, often in the guise of "deficit reduction." It is the same narrative that continues to paralyze our government's ability to respond to our citizens needs, now mutated into what we know as the "Tea Party."

Now this narrative has borne itself out to be nothing but a staggering lie. The reality is that beyond a meager Social Security and Medicare for the aged, both creations of Democratic Administrations, and with the constant demonization and derogation of Labor and Unions, there was not much at all to break the fall of ordinary Americans when trends like globalization appeared over the horizon:

A more compelling explanation is that when globalization struck at the jobs on which 20th-century America had built its middle class, the United States discovered that it did not, in fact, have much of a welfare state to speak of. The threadbare safety net tore under the strain.

Call it a failure of solidarity. American institutions, built from hostility toward collective solutions, couldn’t hold society together when the economic underpinning of full employment at a decent wage gave in.

"Hostility toward collective solutions" is polite terminology for "greed."

In searching for solutions, Porter weighs the benefits of education, but rightly concludes that the way education is structured in this country today it actually exacerbates inequality. One need only to examine the income levels of those victimized by the latest collapse of for-profit colleges, left clutching their near-worthless degrees, to understand why. He also points to attempts by Senator Elizabeth Warren and others to generate enthusiasm for lifting the payroll cap on Social Security to expand benefits for the elderly. But caring for the elderly is ultimately not our biggest problem. Ultimately the changes necessary to reverse the criminal damage already wreaked on us by the American Right and its malignant, self-serving ideology must be solved at the ballot box.

The challenge America faces is not simply a matter of equity. The bloated incarceration rates and rock-bottom life expectancy, the unraveling families and the stagnant college graduation rates amount to an existential threat to the nation’s future.

That is, perhaps, the best reason for hope. The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics, is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it.

So this election is not just "our time." It may be the only time.
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