Pakistan and The Violence Against Women

96a17fab-e51a-46e8-9b95-0b688f95f715-460x276I have been particularly troubled with the recent death of Farzana Parveen, a woman bludgeoned to death in Pakistan by her own family for marrying a man against the family’s wishes.

Now I’ve been hearing about this story all over the web/Twitter, NPR, cable news, and the print media outlets online and I just cannot grasp the fact that this still happens in any part of the World. And she’s not the only one.

When I hear of one incident, I hear another reported in Sudan, Iran, and what appears to be mainly the Muslim world, but I will not say that they only occur in these regions for I have no on-hand evidence to support it or to contradict it.

But more than just shocking me, it sickens me and I cannot get over the fact that latelythese actions still take place among family members. How can you bludgeon, beat to death, or stone a sister/mother/cousin/daughter? What kind of father/husband/brother/cousin are you? I do not to split hairs over evil acts here but it’s not like it’s a stranger.

I found a really powerful piece in The Guardian’s Observer section online by Shaista Aziz, an Observer commentator and stand-up comic, who knew one of the victims of so-called “honor” killings in Kashmir Pakistan. It also has some good stats and is an important read.










Fewer Americans Identifying as Conservative and 8 Polls on Economics Proving It’s Even Fewer Than Indicated

Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll was released this week with the results showing the gap between those identifying as conservative and those identifying as liberal is closing greatly.  In particular, the gap on economic issues shrank quite a bit, as reported by Al Jazeera:

With respect to economic issues, 42 percent identified as conservative, 34 percent said they were moderate and 21 percent identified as liberal. While conservative economic identification remains dominant, the 21 percent advantage over liberals is much lower than in 2010, when the conservative advantage was 36 percent.

The 21%, however, seems artificially small, especially when we consider views on many economic issues.  It seems clear that much of what is actually liberal policy is not recognized as such.  The example of the older gentleman at the town hall meeting angrily saying the government needs to keep its hands off of his Medicare comes to mind here.  Let’s take a look at some polling data to drive the point home.

Progressive Taxes on the Wealthy

61% believe the rich are taxed too little, a number that has rarely fallen below 60% in the past two decades.  This is a clear indication of two liberal perspectives.  One, a majority are supporting a progressive tax system over the idea of a flat tax, which is just another give away to the wealthy.  And two, a majority believe some taxes are not high enough, a position commonly demonized by the right.

Minimum Wage

Roughly 70% believe the minimum wage should be increased and should be increased along with the inflation rate.  Just like taxes on the wealthy, this is also an endorsement of two liberal perspectives.

Government Job Creation

Over 70% are in favor of the government spending more to create jobs in areas like infrastructure, something that is easy to believe people have taken for granted at this point (roads, bridges, clean water, etc.) despite falling on the liberal side of the fence.

Saving Social Security

Whether Social Security was considered a social or economic issue in the Gallup poll, I’m not sure.  And it goes without saying, it’s socialism and a liberal position itself, one that a large majority of Americans favor.  But it has some small long-term problems that can be fixed rather easily and this is where the liberal economic position wins again and wins by a lot.  The two most strongly supported ideas to keep Social Security stable pretty much for good are both liberal: raising the payroll tax or lifting the payroll tax cap (both 60+% in favor).

Free Trade

You have to dig slightly deeper on this issue to get the reality, which is heavy support for the more liberal side.  Taking a look at China, people might be okay with free trade but in a more conditional way.  Over 80% support getting tougher with China on trade which could easily be coupled with large majorities wanting the U.S. to push China harder on human rights and environmental issues.

Business Regulation

In this case, pluralities (not necessarily majorities, in the interest of fairness) favor regulation on business and believe the government should carry out this task.  In addition, a plurality believes regulation on the financial industry did not go far enough after the 2008 crisis.  While these might be just below majorities, the numbers are still well above the 21% of people in the Gallup poll identifying as liberal.

Deficit Cuts

In the debate on reducing the deficit, liberal thought wins again.  Large majorities favored keeping liberal programs like Social Security and Medicare (69% in favor) and spending on the poor (59%) as is while asking for cuts to a conservative favorite, military spending (51%).

Wall Street Bailouts

This one is a little tricky for a few reasons, but let me explain.  First off, the bailouts are a liberal action since conservative policy is (and initially was) to let them fail and let the economy crash into complete oblivion, which would have been catastrophic.  Second, most people aren’t going to pay too much attention to this area of regulation unless the excrement hits the fan, as it did in September of 2008.  Third, and related to the last point, public attention to economic issues in September 2008 had double from the year before so the attention at the time of the bailouts was certainly there.  And what did all that lead to: 57% in favor of the government stepping in to keep the market from getting worse and only 30% opposed.  The point here is when things go bad in the economy, the public looks to the government to stop the bleeding and is okay with a heavy government hand in the marketplace when necessary.

21% of the public identifying as economically liberal-minded certainly seems low according to all of these poll numbers.  We have to assume that number will likely grow as more people become aware of what is and what is not liberal economic policy and become less afraid to identify with it.

Kerry Calls Snowden A “Traitor”…Among Other Things

Edward Snowden Meets With German Green Party MP Hans-Christian Stroebele In MoscowThis morning when I was watching the Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd on MSNBC (a good program for mainstream politics), Todd interviewed Sec. of State John Kerry with questions about NSA-leaker Edward Snowden.

Kerry proceeded to call Snowden a “traitor” and said he “betrayed his country.” He then called on Snowden to “man up” and return to the United States to face the law. He said he should take his argument to the courts like Daniel Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers in the early 70’s, that is, if he were a “patriot.”

But what chance does he stand in the United States when pleading his case in a court of law?

According to this Guardian interview with Snowden adviser Ben Wizner, the chance of him returning to the United States to “man up” seems unlikely for the political landscape here would land him in an unfairly constructed trial with a draconian sentence if convicted.

But when I saw the interview this morning I thought of what of us who think that what Snowden did was a good thing? Am I and others sharing my opinion not patriots? I wouldn’t put the label of “hero” upon him in my own estimation, but I think he did the right thing and he should not, like Ellsberg, and unlike Manning, be convicted under the charges included in the outdated 1917 Espionage Act.

Also, remember that:

“NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams traveled to Moscow this week for an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor’s first-ever American television interview will air in an hour-long NBC News primetime special on Wednesday, May 28 at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central.

Watch it or DVR it!

Let’s Assume “Homosexual Impulses” Did Play a Role in UCSB Shooting…

In the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Isla Vista, Dr. Robi Ludwig suggested the killer may have been set off by “trying to fight against his homosexual impulses” during an interview on Fox News.  She has somewhat backed off the assertion and probably wishes she had chosen her words a little more wisely.  But, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume she is 100% correct.

If he were attempting to fight these “impulses”, our first question should be: why?  Why can’t he just embrace the feelings and be happy with what his brain is telling him?  What is it about the culture of the alleged freest country in the world that causes him to suppress natural, harmless, and legally acceptable impulses?  (Quickly getting to the legal part nationwide anyway.)

If Dr. Ludwig wanted the answer to that, she should realize a big part of the problem is the network in which her image was appearing, Fox News.  It’s not hard to see the hatred and bigotry, much of which is very open and not the least bit veiled, on Fox News regularly, such as the pushing of state anti-gay bills or the absurdity that ensued over the Micheal Sam celebratory kiss or any other incident in a slew of despicable acts you can find over at

It is, whether people want to admit that or not.

The fact that fighting homosexual impulses could even be plausibly given as a possible contributing factor to such a vicious act should speak volumes about the amount of bigotry that exists in the United States and it should be addressed accordingly.  It is even reminiscent of racists in the distant past claiming things about African-Americans like, “the same weak impulse control that leads to such high crime rates among young black males inevitably means more disruptive behavior in school.”  And by distant past I, of course, mean two months ago.  But you get the idea.

The underlying reality here is people just want to feel like they are special and better than others and they will find whatever ways they can to first differentiate themselves from other groups and then explain why they are better.  Whether it is race, sexual orientation, religion, or even simple geography, people want to find differences and say they are the better breed of human no matter how similar to others they actually are.  And it’s this arrogant need to feel special that gives rise to this widespread hatred.  It’s difficult and sometimes even hard work making yourself feel special by uplifting others.  The easy and cowardly way to do it is by making others feel terrible.

If Dr. Ludwig was in any way correct, the list of questions we should be asking is not just why the killer let culturally suppressed homosexual impulses take control of his behavior and led him to commit this awful act.  The question should also be why so many others let their (sometimes culturally accepted) bigoted impulses take control of their behavior and end up hurting so many.

Christians Are Rational When It Serves Their Worldview

degrasse_tyson_limbaugh-620x412A great piece at by constructs a great argument around the recent controversy stirred-up by religious fundamentalist against Neil deGrasse Tyson and his hit show “The Cosmos.”

It’s been the same thing since Darwin and his theory of evolution:

Religious conservatives have selectively adopted the legacy of liberal Enlightenment, from free speech to science, and jettisoned it when it does not suit their narrow ideological aims.

But McElwee puts forth a great analysis of this argument together with a lot of new points. Awesome read!

Read Here.





The Obvious Reason Tea Party Candidates are Losing: Too Similar to Establishment Republicans

According to an article in the Washington Post this week, the Tea Party will be making its “last stand” in the June 3rd Mississippi Senate primary.  It’s not really a last stand but the match-up between longtime Senator Thad Cochran and Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel is drawing a lot of attention and, more importantly, money from Tea Party groups looking to salvage what has been a poor showing thus far in 2014’s primary season.

But why, after some success in recent elections, has the Tea Party done so badly this time around.  The answer: the Republicans they haven’t already beaten in a primary are too similar to Tea Party candidates.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a closer look at four candidates and their issue positions taken directly from their websites: Cochran, McDaniel, Mitch McConnell, and his defeated opponent, Tea Partier Matt Bevin.


Cochran: “Thad continues to fight against Obamacare. He has voted to oppose, defund or repeal Obamacare’s overreach 102 times on the Senate.”  (Thanks for using the Senate’s time and taxpayers dollars so well…)

McDaniel: “Obamacare is a train wreck and must be repealed immediately. Chris was a leading opponent of Obamcare in Mississippi, volunteering his free time as lead counsel in a suit against Obamacare.”

McConnell: “Mitch McConnell has given over 100 speeches against Obamacare on the Senate floor.”  (See previous parenthetical message.)

Bevin: “Obamacare isn’t even fully implemented, and it is already a disaster…We need to defund Obamacare immediately and repeal Obamacare as quickly as legislatively possible.”

So, which ones are the establishment Republicans and which are the Tea Partiers?  Exactly.


Cochran: “In fact, he is one of three Senators in history to vote against every comprehensive immigration reform bill that sought to provide amnesty…Thad believes that the United States needs to improve its legal immigration policies and consistently enforce laws already on the books so that we remain globally competitive.

McDaniel: “Chris opposes amnesty and believes we most enforce the laws on the books.”

McConnell: “Mitch McConnell has voted to secure the border and has opposed amnesty.”

Bevin: “An effective plan that stops the failed cycle of amnesty would include immediate enforcement of all the laws on the books.”

McConnell doesn’t have an “enforce the laws on the books” under his issue position page.  What a lefty!!

They aren’t wearing different jerseys anymore.

Second Amendment

Cochran: “The National Rifle Association gives Thad an “A+” rating. Thad believes that the Second Amendment right of the American people to keep and bear arms is not negotiable.”

McDaniel: “Chris is a proud supporter of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and will oppose all efforts to undermine this crucial right.”

McConnell: “Mitch McConnell is ‘A’ rated by the NRA for his support of Second Amendment rights.”

Bevin: “Matt is a proud conceal carry gun owner and he believes the Second Amendment is the lynchpin of the Bill of Rights, as it was designed to protect all of the other Amendments.”

Bevin apparently would have proudly carried his gun to the Senate chamber and made sure he got his way (not really).  Because if there is one thing the Founding Fathers loved, it was ruling people using weapons.


Cochran: “Thad is pro-life and helped launch the Hyde Amendment to bar the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortions…The National Right to Life Committee strongly supports this legislation and gives Thad a 100% rating for voting to protect unborn children.”

McDaniel: “Chris is unabashedly pro-life and believes we have a responsibility to protect innocent unborn life.”

McConnell: “Since 1998, Mitch McConnell has a 100% pro-life rating by National Right to Life…co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act to ban federal funding for most abortions.”

Bevin: “Matt is pro-life and believes we have a duty to protect unborn human life…In the U.S. Senate, Matt will vote against any bill that contains federal funding or other material support for abortions.”

Remember folks, abortions in any case are unacceptable.  People getting killed through lax gun control laws, malnutrition overseas, or unnecessary wars is totally fine.

Gay Marriage

Cochran: “Thad also is a cosponsor of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would bar the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations based upon their faith-founded belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

McDaniel: “Chris believes marriage is between a man and a woman and will vote to protect traditional marriage.”

McConnell: Doesn’t appear on his issue page but he has clear record of opposition.

Bevin: “Matt supports marriage as traditionally defined between a man and a woman.”

Cochran’s is actually worded a little loosely (no pun intended) compared to the others but still pretty much the same.  (I lied. Pun intended.)

The list could go on but two key factors should be noted.  The first is the Tea Party was clearly successful in pushing the already right-of-center U.S. political elite (not the public) even further to the right in recent years and don’t have many areas where they can gain at this point.  They have knocked out the easy ones to beat and are having a tougher time with the ones they can’t paint as moderates.  While a similar list could be made with some Democrats in certain districts/states, the Tea party is trying to sell itself as a big change from the establishment when it really is not.

The second is the realization is now clearly hitting both the Republicans and Tea Partiers that their views are increasingly out-of-touch with younger generations and will one day be historically embarrassing.  And that’s true without even mentioning the harsh reality of climate change and the destructive views of the right concerning it.

While the Post is wrong that June 3rd will be the last stand of the Tea Party, they are correct in suggesting a decline is coming and its political power might be irrelevant sooner than we think.

Would Reparations be Good for America?

c08527e5aThere is a must read, extensive piece in The Atlantic‘s Features section entitled “The Case for Reparations” that everyone should read.

It gives as close to a complete history of racism against African-Americans in the U.S. (that can fit in a magazine format) as you can get with broad historical sweeps all the way down to personal biographies. It covers the times of 1669 to today, from slavery, to the end of reconstruction, to the government policies of the New Deal and the Eisenhower years, to Jim Crow, to redlining, and the current attacks on affirmative action.

This piece is essential.

Yet, I am always skeptical about any arguments regarding the allowance of reparations to African-Americans for I have a few questions, mainly: Who will pay? How much should we/whoever pay? Etc. But the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, proposes some ideas:

Scholars have long discussed methods by which America might make reparations to those on whose labor and exclusion the country was built. In the 1970s, the Yale Law professor Boris Bittker argued in The Case for Black Reparations that a rough price tag for reparations could be determined by multiplying the number of African Americans in the population by the difference in white and black per capita income. That number—$34 billion in 1973, when Bittker wrote his book—could be added to a reparations program each year for a decade or two. Today Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School professor, argues for something broader: a program of job training and public works that takes racial justice as its mission but includes the poor of all races.

But what he wants us to take away from his article is:

And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations-by which I meant the full collective biography and its consequences-is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely.

Coates points us to the story of the acceptance of reparations paid to the Israelis by West Germany for the crimes of the Holocaust for comparison. That did not always go well in terms of acceptance by all Israelis, but it might be a start if we to take the idea of reparations seriously.

Yet, I have one more question regarding the proposed reparations and that is what to do about the Native Americans. The murder, the genocide, the forced migrations, and the pandemic poverty within Indian reservations today, what should be done there? How should we right both wrongs and are reparations the answer to the White-Americans crimes against these two minorities?



NSA Surveillance On “Frontline”

indexI just spent the last three hours watching two great episodes of the PBS program “Frontline” that deal with the history of the NSA surveillance program.

The first episode is a two-hour piece on the creation and development of the program from the time of 9/11/2001,  to the inclusion that NSA actions still continue with Pres. Obama.  It includes interviews with everyone (sans Bush/Cheney) and gives a detailed account of the history of the program.

The second episode of one hour contains a brief introduction to Edward Snowden and then the complicity by major tech corporations with the NSA and the FBI regarding electronic surveillance.

Plus the website has many complimentary information and interviews that I have yet to look into but look interesting. It is important and compelling viewing.

See Here.

Economic Globalization and Impunity

When the Ukrainian crisis evolved into what we now know is the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russians, and beyond, something became apparent in others and my own mind: economic globalization allows nations to do whatever they want as long the ones who oppose them have significant economic ties with them.And the real problem is that everybody has and increasing amount of trade-ties with everyone else.

The annexation of Crimea is an international crime and when Russia took a hard-line regarding it, what was done? We promised stiff sanctions if such aggression continued but nothing materialized.


For when the U.S. looked to Western powers to backup their proposed sanctions against the Russian Federations nothing was done for Western Europe, and mainly Germany (the leader of the Euro-Zone), depends too much on Russian natural gas imports. Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin just had to hint at rising gas export prices or stopping them altogether and Western Europe folded.

Some Republicans, in some sort of delusion, proposed that we begin exporting American natural gas to Germany and other Euro-Zone nations to supplement Russian imports, but experts explained that such a plan would take decades.

So what happened to push back Russian interference in Eastern Ukraine was diplomacy and the situation has now been toned down with amassed Russian forces moving back from the Ukrainian/Russian border. But what if diplomacy did not work and sanctions were our only resort barring World War III?

In an increasingly economically globalizing world, sanctions may become innocuous in the future at the risk of imposing nations risking economic catastrophe in their own country.

I’m interested in hearing your opinion on this matter in terms of what can be added to my analysis and some way that economic globalization can become less of a hindrance to action against breakers of international law.



Countering the Right: Insidious Koch Brothers Attack on Detroit Bankruptcy Settlement

A prime example of the absurd economic inequality in the U.S. has reared its ugly head as the Koch brothers apparently got bored and have decided to throw money at the Detroit bankruptcy settlement in an effort to deceive the 99%.

Their first tactic of deception is to attack the “bailout”.  Just one issue with that: it’s not a bailout.  As noted by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the article:

This is a settlement. This not a bailout,” Snyder said. “And I want to be very, very clear about that.” (Emphasis added)

The easy way to confirm that statement as true would be to simply realize it was an officially filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy and not a legislative decision to provide stimulus-type money to the city.

But that isn’t the really despicable attack by the Koch brothers group.  Take a look at their page at (disgracefully named, as usual).  You’ll see this nugget of info:

Per capita state revenue sharing payments are over 3x what other cities receive.  In 2010, Detroit received $335 per capita in revenue sharing payments compared to $96, the average amount per capita all other cities over 50,000 in Michigan received.

Clearly, those greedy people in Detroit just upped their piece of the Michigan pie in the years leading up to this bankruptcy until they were all happy, fat cats.

Except they didn’t:

Between 2000 and 2010, inflation adjusted state revenues per capita declined by 13.7 percent in Detroit, while in Buffalo they increased by 45 percent.  In the recession period alone (2007 to 2010), state aid to Detroit went down by 8.2 percent, but went up by 7.2 percent in Buffalo.  Thus a big difference between these two structurally similar cities is the economic and fiscal environment and fiscal choices made at the state level.  Had New York treated Buffalo in the same way fiscally as Michigan dealt with Detroit, Buffalo, which is already teetering on the edge of fiscal crisis, might have been forced to declare bankruptcy as well. (Emphasis added)

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The per capita spending is still three times higher and some might be angry by this.  Unless they realized why.

Detroit’s poverty rate is a whopping 38.1%, according to the Census Bureau, more than double the Michigan state rate of 16.3%.  Add on the fact that Detroit is Michigan’s largest city by a lot (more than three times the size of second place) and the picture starts to come together.  But just to drive the point home, let’s give an example to further explain the disparity.

Suppose you have two cities in a state and both have a population of ten people.  City A has one person (10%) living below the poverty line.  City B has three people (30%) living below the poverty line.  If the state spends $100 per person in various ways on people below the poverty line (education, unemployment insurance, food stamps, etc.), then City B would be receiving three times more ($300) from the state than City A ($100).

The reason for Michigan’s spending on Detroit is not very difficult to figure out.

The reason the people of Michigan might fall for the Koch brothers heinous attack on the city’s bankruptcy settlement is also easy to figure out: brainwashing.