Tuesday, February 13, 2018

We're Not As We Appear

"If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." -- Malcolm X

(Video warning: Adult language)

 We're Not As We Appear
by C. A. Matthews

"The stock market isn't for the rest of us, " says Lee Camp in his opening monologue (above) where he tells us what the Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.) really means for ordinary Americans. 

Whether the stock market or worker productivity goes up or down, the vast majority of us are still scrambling to make a living, keep a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, and once-in-a-blue-moon see a medical professional without filing for bankruptcy. Why do Americans think their country is "great" or was ever "great" if so much suffering exists for so many of its people? 

"The stock market is life blind. It's also death blind. It's misery and starvation and destruction blind. It doesn't see people or happiness or art or beauty. It sees only profit," says Lee. "It is a cancer on our system of values."

"But," you reply, "The Kardashians just bought a new Maserati, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon owns 95% of the world's governments, and I found Pikachu in Pokemon Go..."  Those things make us great, all right. 

The country of Bhutan doesn't measure Gross Domestic Product. It measures Gross Domestic Happiness. They focus on the welfare of their people and how content and taken care of they are. Why doesn't America do the same? Wouldn't we rank up there on the G.D.H. scale with Bhutan?

We're not as we appear, are we? So, why are we pretending to be otherwise?
In this month where we celebrate "Black History"--as if it's a separate thing from the rest of our nation's history--here's an example of how things aren't as they first appear.  Nicole Persley assumed she was "white" growing up, but guess what? Her grandfather was African-American, and she never knew it. Wow!  (Read: They considered themselves white, but DNA tests told a more complex story.)

Only in a country where the color of your skin determines where and how well and how long you may live is this nugget a news story. Only in a country where we practice "apartheid history" does this story jump out at the page at you. Doesn't the fact this story exists at all tell you something about race relations in twenty-first America?

On a related note, Black History has been ignored and "whitewashed" even when it comes to prehistory around the world. (Read: Cheddar Man: First modern Briton had 'dark to black' skin, DNA search reveals.) It appears that without DNA testing people of color are given less than their due in the realm of making history as early explorer and leaders. A recent unveiling of a bust of what Queen Neferiti might have looked like shows she was a green-eyed, white chick instead of an Egyptian royal. Funny that. (Read: Mummy of Queen Neferiti Brought to Life with Controversial Fair Skin with 3-D Scan.)

We are not as we appear. Sometimes we don't even hide the fact that we're racist, elitist slobs in our interpretations of the facts, do we?

Going beyond race, which is often a code word for what we're really wanting to discriminate against, we find in America that class does matter--even while we pretend we have no class system. (Read: Fueled by Broken Social Contract, Study Finds Inequality and Despair Driving US Life Expectancy Down.) 

To put it simply, being poor kills. Being stressed out about being poor, becoming poor, dealing with poverty and fearing poverty kills. In the US, poverty affects all racial/ethnic groups, but it does affect persons of color, women, children, the disabled and elderly at a larger percentage of their total number. Yet we pretend to be a wealthy and prosperous nation, and we export movies and television programming full of successful and fabulously wealthy individuals as if this is the norm. (It's probably one reason why so many refugees are eager to come here, only to be disappointed when they arrive.)

Who are we trying to fool? Ourselves or the rest of the planet? They're not buying it anyways. They've seen the results. They know 65% of Americans' bankruptcies are due to overwhelming medical debt. They don't go bankrupt when they get a cancer diagnosis or suffer a car accident. (They don't have to wait until they win the lottery to see a doctor like this American did, only to find out it was too late.) It's simply something that would never occur to people in other countries. And now the statistics show they live longer than us, too. Perhaps their "G.D.H." index is higher than ours?

We're not as we appear. We need to stop pretending. We need to work on our perception of reality and then work on changing our ways to make them one and the same. For the better, that is. Then, in another two-hundred-forty years or so, maybe we can drop the "apartheid history" and celebrate all Americans' contributions to our story in the same textbook--as equals.


The Place in the Middle
by Selina Rosen

There has to be something between corporations being allowed to leak enough lead into a water system to cause mental retardation in children and labeling every single thing as causing cancer.

Surely there is something between people being raped and told they can put out or leave their job, and "They said or did something that made me a little uncomfortable so I want them blacklisted or, better yet, arrested."

A place between being a slave to the corporations and being so rich you don't care about anything but having even more.

Something between keeping drug dealers, criminals and terrorists out of our country and building a multi-billion dollar wall.

The rich always--and will always--use the politics of divide and conquer for no other reason than to keep us working for them and lining their pockets.

The rich will take a stick and stir up different ethnic, religious and cultural roups till everyone is fighting and no one trusts anyone else. The rich can then do whatever they want and no one will notice.

What should we be most worried about right now? Global warming--and if we can do anything at all to fix what's broken. But the corporations don't want you to pay any attention to that because, if you do, it might cut into their profits. So, instead they are going to add fuel to the fire of hate till everyone is fighting with their neighbor over bullsh*t so they can win. They don't care what it does to humanity or the planet.

Don't let them win. Don't be part of the hate. There is no place in an informed society for racists, sexists or homophobes, but maybe make sure someone really is one of those things before you attack them for something they said. Ask them what they meant. Don't just assume they were being evil. 

Let's go back to the place in the middle. Rebuild our middle class. Quit thinking only in terms of black and white and start to explore the gray. Learn to not give in, but to be willing to compromise.
BIO: Selina is Editor-in-Chief of Yard Dog Press and an author.

All might not be what it appears on the surface--take action!

  Take Action with the Sierra Club 

Ohio state bills want to smear fracking waste fluids all over Ohio's roads for deicer.

Take action!

State bills want to smear fracking waste fluids all over Ohio's roads for deicer. Act now to stop it.

Ohio lawmakers are working on yet another scheme to benefit the oil and gas industry at our expense with Ohio House Bill 393 and Senate Bill 165. These bills would allow oil and gas waste, including fracking fluids, to be sold as a "commodity." This means hazardous waste could be sold in stores and spread on our roads as a deicer by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

Oil and gas waste is dangerous. Spreading it on roads and highways exposes Ohio communities and waterways to carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals.

Tell your Representatives to vote NO on House Bill 393 and Senate Bill 165.

ODOT has been using processed oil and gas waste as a road deicer for years. Yet, no state agency has fully evaluated the effect this practice has on our health. Instead of protecting Ohioans, this bill takes away requirements for local government approval. The bill would even forbid Ohio's Department of Natural Resources from ever making any rules to protect the environment and public health from these chemical concoctions.

Oil and gas waste put Ohio's public health, safety, and the environment at risk. Please act now to protect Ohio from fracking waste.

Yours in protecting Ohio's health and environment,

Cheryl Johncox,
Sierra Club
Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign

P.S. After you take this action, help spread to your friends and followers on social media.

From Bernie Sanders:

I am writing you about an issue of grave consequence that affects the lives of millions of Americans and greatly impacts our democracy - namely the continued federal prohibition on marijuana and the need for reform of our criminal justice system.

As you know, a number of states (including my state of Vermont) have decriminalized or legalized the possession, use and sale of marijuana in recent years. Under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department took no action against these states or the people in those states. However, the Trump Administration has taken a very different stance with Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening to prosecute. That would be a huge mistake and move us in exactly the wrong direction.

Here's why:

Millions of Americans have had their lives impacted by the federal prohibition on marijuana - arrests, convictions and even jail time. Even when people don't go to jail, the criminal record they receive makes it harder for them to find a job, get housing or go to college. Is this a widespread problem? It sure is. In 2016 alone, over half a million people were arrested for marijuana possession.

These harmful impacts are felt far more acutely in communities of color and poor communities because enforcement of marijuana laws is much stricter there than in more affluent, white communities. Incredibly, African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana even though marijuana usage rates are basically the same across racial lines.

Of course, marijuana prohibition is part of a larger failed war on drugs that has led to the great national crisis of mass incarceration. Some 1.5 million people were arrested for a drug related offense in 2016 - over 80 percent of which were for possession alone. We need to stop criminalizing addiction. We need to stop criminalizing recreational marijuana use.

The criminal justice system is not the answer to drug abuse. Addiction is a health problem and we should start treating it that way. While communities all across the country lack adequate resources for treatment or prevention, we are spending approximately $50 billion a year on the war on drugs. That's absurd. We need to get our priorities right.

And that starts with making our voices heard:

This so-called war on drugs has led us to have over 2 million people in prison - disproportionately poor and from communities of color. Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world - higher even than authoritarian countries like China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

Further, what is not often discussed is how the war on drugs and mass incarceration is impacting the essence of our democracy. People with felony convictions cannot vote in many states. Today, for that reason alone, over 6 million Americans are denied access to the ballot.

Uneven enforcement and the fact that people of color receive longer sentences for the same offenses than white defendants means more felony convictions in those communities. And that means - surprise, surprise - fewer voters.

In other words, the war on drugs is robbing those minority and lower income communities of their political power. In Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee over 20 percent of voting age African Americans are disenfranchised because of felony convictions. It's not too hard to figure out what's going on here. The communities most impacted by these policies are systematically stripped of their ability in our democratic system to politically fight back.

Why hasn't something been done to fix this problem? You know the reason. The sad truth is that some politicians benefit from people not being able to vote. All too often these are the same politicians who are trying to disenfranchise voters in other ways, such as restrictive voter ID laws or extreme gerrymandering.

This has got to change.

We need the highest voter turnout in the world, not the highest incarceration rate. We need to provide treatment for people with substance abuse problems, not lock them up.

As a first step, we need to remove marijuana from Category 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act where it is currently ranked alongside drugs like heroin. In fact, marijuana is classified more harshly than cocaine. That doesn't make any sense.

Let's have states decide the issue of marijuana for themselves like they do with alcohol. More and more states are moving in the direction of decriminalization. Let them make those decisions without federal interference.

Let's invest in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

Let's reform our criminal laws and take other steps to dismantle mass incarceration. Among other steps forward we need to ban private prisons and create new federal policing standards.

Let's restore the voting rights of all Americans.

If you share my goal of making these important reforms please sign this petition:

In Solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

It's a dangerous time to fight back against the fossil fuel industry. Last year, over 50 bills were filed in state legislatures across the U.S. aimed at criminalizing protest. Two oil industry-sponsored bills were just filed this session, in Iowa and Ohio, that single out and target pipeline activists. Your state could be next!
Dakota Access Pipeline Protest
Just days ago, a subcommittee of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee advanced legislation that would criminalize peaceful protesting of oil and gas pipelines. If convicted, activists could be sentenced up to 25 years in prison and face up to $100,000 in fines for protesting at the site. A similar bill in Ohio seeks to stop activists from using drones to monitor the progress of pipeline construction.

We need to push back against these egregious bills designed to prevent people from speaking out against pipelines, and we want to know if you'll join us. Governors are accountable to their constituents, and if we show how many people oppose these dangerous new laws, they’ll think twice about caving to oil industry pressure. Will you let your Governor know that s/he should veto such legislation should it make it to his/her desk?

This isn't the only attempt to squash your civil liberties. Energy Transfer Partners, the group behind constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, has filed a baseless $900 million dollar civil lawsuit against Greenpeace [1], and other environmental organizations, in an effort to punish activists for exercising their constitutionally protected right to free speech.

These worrying trends mean that everything from tweeting to gathering together with other people to discuss your views about fossil fuels could be at risk. The oil industry is attacking our fundamental rights to speech and assembly.

We have to fight to make sure legislative efforts to criminalize protest are stopped for good. Iowa and Ohio are merely a part of a broader program led by corporations that feel emboldened by the Trump Administration and are eager to protect their profits at the expense of our communities and environment.

These new bills are being lobbied for by the oil industry, including companies like Energy Transfer Partners, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — which has taken funds from ETP, Koch and API in recent years — is enlisting lawmakers to push these bills in other states too. If we don't stop this now, we could see our right to free speech further eroded across the U.S.

Today the full Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee will gather to debate the bill, and we must double down in our resistance. Let your Governor know right now that the chilling of speech could mean the warming of the planet.

Thanks for all you do,

Travis Nichols
Media Director, Greenpeace USA (and proud Iowan)

[1] http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-etps-lawsuit-against-greenpeace/


From the AFL-CIO:

We’re facing a pivotal moment in our fight for justice. This month, the Supreme Court will hear Janus v. AFSCME Council 31—a case brought by corporate elites to further rig the rules against working people. We need your voice to be heard against these wealthy special interests. 

Sign the petition to tell the Supreme Court: Protect working people’s voice on the job!
Fifty years ago this month, some 1,300 African American sanitation workers faced a pivotal moment when the tragic deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker helped spark the historic Memphis sanitation strike. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. soon joined the AFSCME members in demanding recognition of their union, basic safety standards and a decent wage. 

Undercutting our right to organize exacerbates the racial wage gap and starves the unions that give communities of color a voice against corporate interests. 

Corporate CEOs have been waiting for their chance to stop collective power, and the case to be heard in the Supreme Court is a direct threat to the rights and freedoms that working people have fought—and even died—for. That’s why working people will mobilize on Feb. 24 to defend our freedom to join together in union as the case is heard by the Supreme Court. But before we rally, we need you to make your voice heard:

Sign the petition to tell the Supreme Court: Stop dangerous “right to work” laws that take away our freedom!
Corporate lobbyists, extreme legislators and greedy CEOs want to weaken working people’s collective power by denying our right to join in union. They are asking the Supreme Court to strip our freedom to speak out together for fair treatment, better wages and safe working conditions. 

Before the end of the week, we need 20,000 people to speak out. Add your name now: Tell the Supreme Court to defend working people’s rights to join together.
In Solidarity,
Richard Trumka
President, AFL-CIO 

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