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Democrats Support Minimum Wage As a Way To Get Elected In Midterm Elections

1:55 am in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

Minimum wage will be a major issue the Democrats hope will give them victory in this year’s election as a recent New York Times article shows. They hope to remove any doubts within the minds of voters due to their botched attempt at a successful Obamacare rollout by emphasizing this pressing issue.

Democrat Donkey

Political expediency leads to Democratic support for a new minimum wage.

Throughout the U.S., the issue has drawn numerous protests by fast food workers, for instance, and even is one platform Socialist Alternative member and recently sworn-in Seattle City Council member, Kshama Sawant, campaigned upon. The difference, however, between Sawant and the Democrats is that the former focused on the $15 per hour increase, while Democrats are cautious and prefer it to be lower at around $10.10 per hour.

Democrats hope to get candidates to focus on the issue, while Republicans still talk about Obamacare ahead of the midterm elections. In the piece, there is clear indication this is the preferable option for Democratic victory in Congress:

‘The more Republicans obsess on repealing the Affordable Care Act and the more we focus on rebuilding the middle class with a minimum-wage increase, the more voters will support our candidates,’ said Representative Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In Nov. of last year, Gallup poll found 76 percent of Americans would support a minimum wage increase to $9 per hour, while 69 percent would do the same with the addition of it being inflation-proof.  At the same time, another Gallup poll found 50 percent of small-business owners disapprove of raising to the minimum wage and 60 percent state it would harm small-business.

The gamble taken upon the Democrats is not lost upon them and they acknowledge it will hurt some, while helping others. Indeed, the NYT article mentions some Democrats hadn’t made a decision yet due to their environment:

But in a sign that some moderate Democrats are uneasy about inflaming their local business communities, the imperiled Democratic Senate incumbents in Alaska and Arkansas, Mark Begich and Mark Pryor, have yet to embrace the ballot measures.

It must be noted the Obama administration and the rest of the Democrats prefer raising the minimum wage to $10.10, which seems to be their ideal level. Obama had previously mentioned he would raise it a meager $9 per hour, which doesn’t help considering the rhetoric coming out from numerous activists groups pushing for a much higher minimum wage.

Yet, the issue doesn’t seem to be one focused on the well-being of Americans. The entire NYT article focused upon how well the issue would work for the Democrats, rather than how well it will work for Americans. Gone are the days where Franklin Delano Roosevelt once remarked to a crowd at Madison Square Garden before the 1936 election:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

The “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering” group are all on the side of the Democrats, along with the Republicans, understanding that this will not place much of a dent in their profits. If it’s to calm the growing restlessness among the populace, then they will accept it.

If one Democratic politician made such a claim they welcome the hatred of the “enemies of peace,” then they would be crucified and excommunicated immediately. The reality is the rhetoric of any capitalist politician is one of accepting the status quo and fixing things through extremely slow and small methods.

We can easily understand what Obama thinks of the “enemies of peace,” considering he spoke at a Wall Street Journal CEO dinner last November. In fact, the entire speech is worth reading to contrast with Roosevelt’s attitude, but one of the most telling parts was this:

I mean, in most countries, you’ve got — you know, people call me a socialist sometimes, but, no, you’ve got to me real socialists. You’ll have a sense of what a — what a socialist is. (Laughter.) You know, the — I mean, I’m talking about lowering the corporate tax rate. My health care reform is based on the private marketplace. Stock market’s looking pretty good last time I checked, and, you know, it is true that I’m concerned about growing inequality in our system, but nobody questions the efficacy of market economies in terms of producing wealth and innovation and keeping us competitive.

We can investigate why the sudden attitude toward minimum wage increase has appeared with Karl Marx once remarking in The Communist Manifesto:

Read the rest of this entry →

The Forgotten Living Casualties of War

3:50 pm in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

I’m certain there have been an astounding number of articles on Syria from the time I write this in its draft to the time I release this article. However, from reading all of the great and not-so-great articles on Syria, I can’t help but think of the one of the casualties of war that walk around us today — veterans.

Right now, there are arguments being made whether or not Syria should be bombed as a result of alleged chemical weapon usage. My confusion is whether it would appropriate to finance another war when we already have a significant problem with veterans here at home who deserve as much attention as we give to the story on Syria, even more I would argue.

United States of America, Department of Veterans Affairs badge at Calverton National Cemetery main entrance

Department of Veterans Affairs

The United States has not had time to recover from its Iraq and Afghanistan War quagmires, yet is interested on whether or not to go to war in Syria. It’s ridiculous and continues to avoid individuals here at home that at least deserve our attention.

I can’t help but remember a letter that US veteran Daniel Somers wrote before he committed suicide. He touched the hearts of many who understood there was a continuing problem that needed to be address. Re-reading it right now, I am confused as to why these individuals shouldn’t get quality treatment for anything free of charge:

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

Additionally, Somers wrote that he was “made to participate” in “crimes against humanity.” He then added:

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Since 2001, more than 3,000 “active-duty troops” have committed suicide and, according to a 2012 Department of Veteran’s Affairs report, 8,000 veterans committed suicide last year. That means that there were 22 veterans who committed suicide every day. Still, the government advocates on behalf of war since the world has become a battlefield.

Despite the government’s aggressive action to help them, veterans still do not feel the government is helping them out. Even worse, as Huffington Post’s David Wood points out, suicide rates for military ranks are now going to past civilian rates, which is an unusual occurrence.

2013 survey of members in the organization known as the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found figures that further merits discussion on the issue. The studies features a few figures which I have highlighted:

80% of respondents believe the Congress does not listen enough to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
66% of respondents believe the President does not listen enough to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
16% of respondents are unemployed
45% of those unemployed have been so for more than one year
63% of respondents feel their veteran friends require care for their mental health
30% thought of taking their own lives
45% know someone who has
80% of respondents do not feel veterans are “getting the care they need for mental health injuries”

Tom Tarantino, a “chief policy officer” of IAVA, talked to USA Today reporter Gregg Zoroya about the study and its significance regarding mental health:

“The fact that so many of our members know someone that has tried to commit suicide or that had mental health issues really underscores the seriousness of this problem,”

When there are calls for action to be taken without reviewing the consequences of such a war, it would be more than a mistake. It would be just plain wrong to suggest it as evident through Slate Magazine reporter William Saletan’s recent piece for a strike in Syria:

Pain isn’t a feel-good policy. It doesn’t have the glamor of liberating Iraq or ending the oppression of Afghan girls. But it’s achievable. Its unintended consequences, like its ambitions, are relatively modest. And it’s essential to civilization. If your neighborhood doesn’t have armed police who are willing to kill, thugs will take over.

Aside from the paragraph (and article) having numerous errors, the idea that it is “essential” to any civilization brings up an interesting question. Why is this more essential than solving the aftermaths of war? As author Ernest Hemingway once placed it,

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, no matter how justified, is not a crime.

The crime here is we feel it is necessary to play a game of “cops and individuals who cross red lines” rather than focusing our efforts into questioning why we need another war for two sides that are failures to their own people.

When President Obama spoke on August 31st about action in Syria, he was cautious as to not act so gung-ho about military action with numerous events across the world working against his favor. Rather, he played it safe: Read the rest of this entry →

50 Years Later: Why Dreams Still Matter

9:43 am in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

Where do we go from here? First, we must massively assert our dignity and worth. We must stand up amidst a system that still oppresses us and develop an unassailable and majestic sense of values. – Doctor Martin Luther King Junior 

President Lyndon Johnson shakes hands with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., after handing him one of the pens used in signing the Civil Rights Act of July 2, 1964 at the White House in Washington.

Today, thousands from across the country (and perhaps the globe) will venture in Washington D.C. on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King´s ¨March on Washington¨ that had 250,000 people in attendance. One might ask themselves, if they are unaware of the significance of this event, why marching still matters. It is indeed a question that is relevant and should be discussed.

When King marched in the 1960s, he marched with the idea of changing society and breaking down barriers (originally racial, but it became structural as he lived on). With protests, speeches, organizing, and other bold acts, the spirit of the 1960s was not of legislative change, but of those in the streets that drive such acts to be done.

Fifty years later, such spirit lives on in our society as our problems persist in old and new fashions.

When the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (the removal which is necessary to rally against), which gives power to the federal government to crack down on states that make ¨tests or devices¨for voters, Chief Justice John Roberts stated that:

Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,

Yes, the United States has changed since 1963, but not in the way that Roberts envisions.When Martin Luther King Junior made this statement on the Lincoln Memorial, his words were as relevant as ever:

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

According to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement´s report, Operation Ghetto Storm, 313 black individuals were killed mostly by police in 2012 or one every 28 hours. Sixty six percent of those killed were between the age of 2 to 31. Moreover, only 13% of those killed were found by police to firing a weapon at them, appearing threatening was the main reason at 47%.

The entire case around Trayvon Martin and acquitting George Zimmerman without penalty is perhaps the best example (and alarming coincidental) that many will rally around today. It is a tragic case that cannot be given justice through words, but best exemplified by pictures of rallies that have happened before and will today.

But the racial discrimination does not end there. Yes, stop and frisk has been ruled ¨unconstitutional¨but the war is still not over. Remember, freedom is never given on a plate, it is fought for by the oppressed against the oppressor.

Take, for instance, calls for NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to be appointed as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. A known psychopath – who believes that stop and frisk worksspying on Muslims is okay, and thinks it is right to go after minorities to ¨instill fear¨ in them – should not be appointed nor be told be an ¨outstanding¨ candidate by a President that is as distrusting as Kelly is.

The reality is that the United States has changed since 1963 as a country into a more oppressed society where it is obvious that change is needed. As King placed it:

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.

Today is a moment that continues from 1963′s urgency. We are at a time where a myriad number of events go beyond the idea of racism that King would agree to act upon.

Wealth in the United States is at a point that rivals that of the Gilded Age where the rich in society do absolutely nothing while gaining significant wealth at the expense of the lower classes. Features of such inequality are a permanent feature of a system that allows a group to profit at the expense of the majority of the population. The top 1%, according to economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, have gained 121% since 2009!

And for those who are not among the rich, the thought of part-time is not a choice, but forced upon them. A 2013 Gallup poll showed one in five American workers working in part-time. With minimum wage so low, it is no wonder why workers in the fast-food industry, for instance, call for more strikes and a real change to their livelihoods. These are actions committed by individuals to preserve their lives and fight for their rights as people with problems that cannot be solved through charity.

For these few examples, it is no surprise that we see striking parallels of then and now. What is important is that we keep marching on as civil liberties are under the same attack as they were during King and, another pioneer, Malcolm X´s time.

Chelsea Manning has been sentenced to 35 years, while officials who have committed war crimes, lied to the public, killed Americans for their own riches are free in society to gain plenty and more. We now have a perfect example of believing our government protects our freedom, while, in reality, they attack the courage and bravery of a whistleblower who acted in good faith for the public. As King once remarked:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

We now know, because of Manning, myriad number of what governments around the world, especially the United States government, are doing against their people in the name of more power.

Edward Snowden, additionally, has shaken up the establishment so much so that the UK government, for instance, has been leaking documents to newspapers and detaining family members of journalists to almost charge them with terrorism. It is no surprise that much of what we see is a form of civil disobedience that the establishment always hated: whistleblowing. We must be reminded of the words by Malcolm X, a legendary and phenomenal human rights advocate in the 1960s:

I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda. I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I am for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.

Today, when we march, we invoke what King, X, all the others who were there had when the faced their struggles at the time. They had enough of the propaganda that said everything in America was great, that people should be obedient and never become a non-conformist.

With environment catastrophe, we are facing the same thing in our society. Scientists are doing their best to say that we should act now in order to stop it. They are right, we must act now as our future will be in grave crisis.

The Keystone XL pipeline, essentially a pipeline that goes through America while raising our gas prices, has ties that make it another bourgeois attempt to profit at the expense of us. Yet, we have failed to go against it as 67 percent of  Americans support the pipeline’s construction. Here are King’s words that make us ponder on what will happen if nothing is done:

If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

There is more that I have forgotten to speak about such as the numerous abortion laws introduced restricting rights of women (and it doesn’t end there for women), services helping those who are mentally ill getting worse with cuts, and having our food be as unhealthy and common than before.  Yet, it is indicative of what our system is and what we must do. As King once remarked, “there is something wrong with capitalism” and it is our job to address it.

And what do we expect from today? We expect people angry, people with energy, people that demand change. A President who ran on a platform of change should not be trusted with anything as his record shows how much he defends the status quo.

But we should be careful of what is happening down there too. When King marched in 1963, he was not as radical with his words as he was when spoke up against the Vietnam War years later. Indeed, Malcolm X stated that while it was a ¨grassroots¨movement and a “revolution” when he went, he felt it was hijacked by ¨national Negro leaders¨ to cool off the movement on behalf of the national government:

This is what they did with the march on Washington. They joined it… became part of it, took it over. And as they took it over, it lost its militancy. It ceased to be angry, it ceased to be hot, it ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march. It became a picnic, a circus. Nothing but a circus, with clowns and all. . .

We have much to learn from Malcolm as we do from King. We are not protesting in hope that Barack Obama and Congress gives the A-O.K. to change America, we are not protesting in hope that one good bill will make us feel better, we are protesting because it is time for change with or without those who want it.

Mistakes are being made among groups who emphasize only one issue or confusing what we need, as evident through the 40,000 environmentalists who marched earlier this year on Washington in hope that Obama will reject the Keystone XL pipeline. This is a waste of time and energy that could be geared to give people a real chance at having their voice heard.

It is important to act because as noted by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese there is a change happening in America and we need it to go against the current system we have in place. We are re-gaining our spirit from the 1960s in an important time of our lives. By sticking with both parties, we accept their failures and commit to inaction that we often fail to see.

Now, King and Malcolm are gone and we cannot continue to live in the past. We should not hope for a new King, a new Malcolm, a new leader to look up to. The reason is because we are the change we are expecting and it is time to act upon it.

Things are different now from then, but does that matter? We still have such feeling in our society that is shunned as the establishment tries to control our voice. We rallied together, with stark differences, in hope that we can make a dream happen for all of us.

It is important to say that dreams still matter. Indeed, those words that have inspired us through speeches, words, actions, photos and more can be defined in a few short sentences by poet Langston Hughes with the title “Harlem” (Alternatively “Lenox Avenue Mural”) :

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore-

And then run? 
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar over- 
like a syrupy sweet? 

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. 

Or does it explode?

Should we wait until our world explodes along with our dreams? From today’s rally, you will be sure to say there it won’t happen as we move forward. Read the rest of this entry →

The New Dirty Word: Whistleblower

12:53 am in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

During the Cold War, the dirty word at the time was “socialism.” The use of the word drew suspicious of anyone who was associated with it and made the populace suspicious of each other as dictated by their government officials. These days, socialism has been received more positively among the publicespecially the youth, so it is not as damaging as before.

However, the same cannot be said about the term “whistleblower” in this day and age as it has overtaken socialism. The scapegoats for the government and the media have turned to whistleblowers for their contributions for the public. The difference is that the media has not been successful in forcing propaganda down the throats of individuals on “whistleblowers” as a majority of people believe, for example, that Snowden is a whistleblower rather than a traitor.

This is significant as whistleblowing had been scrutinized and argued against on behalf of the establishment. They are a disaster for those in Washington and whenever disasters erupt, panic fills the elite and they decide to use their means for damage control. Author Rebecca Solnit references the term “elite panic” for it in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell, and references a quote by Caron Chess, a Rutgers University professor that helped coin the term with fellow professor Lee Clarke:

“The distinguishing thing about elite panic as compared to regular-people panic, is that what elites will panic about is the possibility that we will panic. It is simply, more prosaically more important when they panic because they’re in positions of influence, positions of power. They’re in positions where they can move resources around so they can keep information close to the vest.”

Whistleblowers strike fear in the elite as their legitimacy is put into question by the populace and, therefore, must react strategically before losing their hold. The Obama administration decided that the best course of action was to punish anyone who decides to be a whistleblower. Of course, this is indicative of an administration who decides to let a war criminal walk free, while putting someone who exposed war crimes on trial.

However, the argument doesn’t only mean whistleblowers against the government only, but of both government and big businesses.

Numerous states are passing or have passed anti-whistleblower laws or “ag-gag” laws that target anyone who speaks up on abuses at slaughterhouses or factories in the private industry. While such laws appeared in 1990 starting in Kansas, twelve states introduced bills to implement “ag-gag” laws last month. The rationale is simple:

States adopting ag-gag laws simply want to “silence whistleblowers,” according to Farm Forward, an Oregon-based group opposed to factory farms.

Take the case of Amy Meyer in Utah for example. After exposing the cruelty at the Smith Meatpacking Company with her cell phone on public grounds, she was arrested and had her charges dropped due to a vast media campaign. Utah, along with Iowa and Missouri, still has its “ag-gag” law in place however.

The extraordinary acts taken upon whistleblowers in both the public and private area would have been denounced by Barack Obama as evident through his ethics agenda on change.org (now unsurprisingly unavailable):

We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

What is significance is that the year Barack Obama first took office, two private sector whistleblowers came out to testify on behalf of the public against the illicit activities taking place in their industries.

Wendell Potter was “the head of corporate communications of CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance companies.” However, realizing that the industry he was in was profiting off the expense of other individuals, he deciding to leave the industry and work on behalf of the public. Currently, he works at Center for Media and Democracy against the PR that the health care industry that used to fight for.

John Kopchinski blew the whistle on Pfizer after they partook in illicit marketing for their drug Bextra, Zyvox, Lyrica and Geodon. He was later fired as he questioned the direction of such illegal activity, however, Pfizer had to pay a fine of $2.3 billion dollars as a result of a lawsuit because of Kopchinski’s testimony.

While they blew the whistle in private industries that emphasized profit, there is merit in having laws in place to defend federal whistleblowers where the revolving door between private industry and public service still exists.  However, Barack Obama does uphold his promise as his “Insider Threat Program”, for instance, goes against everything he ran upon. It it is idiotic to consider whistleblowers in the Hobbesian view, when the fact remains that whistleblowers are “watchdogs” that correct a government for its lack of justice in equity.

The federal government can show its real reaction to federal whistleblowers that Glenn Greenwald excellently pointed out: Read the rest of this entry →