The Big Story: Taxes

by TKOEd • Friday, Nov 30, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Ms. Thole, like many in Belleville, is also convinced that governments could avoid raising taxes by adopting more frugal habits.

“There’s some days we stay home and we eat peanut butter,” she said.

What would she like governments to cut?

“I really like it when they cut the weeds along the highway,” she said. “I like it when there’s good roads to drive on. The schools, I don’t know, I don’t want to pull back from the schools. I don’t have the answer of where to pull back.

“I want the state parks to stay open. I want, I want, I want. I want Big Bird. I think it’s beautiful. What don’t I want? I don’t know.”

The above is a perfect example of how many people view taxes in America. They believe that government is spending too much. On what? They don’t know, but they’re sure it’s something. A bunch of things even. Just not any of the things that they like or want or need. People who drive think we spend too much on public transit, people who take public transit think we spend too much on roads (we do, but I digress). Frequently, people think too little money is being on spent on them. “Where’s all this money going?” they say to themselves. The answer is, everywhere. Our local, state, and federal governments do much more than most people comprehend, and it costs much more than they think. Would Ms. Thole want more holistic, and sensible crime policy if she knew that corrections is the 2nd largest state expenditure after Medicaid?:

one out of every 15 state dollars is spent on corrections in this country. Not coincidentally, one in 31 American adults are adrift in this bloated corrections matrix, stretching resources razor thin. Now swing the recession sledgehammer, and you have a nationwide crisis requiring states to come up with creative solutions to meet enormous budget deficits.

There’s something we could cut. Because you know, drug addicts should get treatment not go to jail. Especially when treatment is a far cheaper option (PDF):

…the average cost of placing a participant in DTAP, including the costs of residential treatment, vocational training an support services was $32,974—half the average cost of $64,338 if the participant had been sent to serve the average term of imprisonment for participants, 25 months.

Sometimes my mind is boggled by this stuff, just about everyone wants more services, but many don’t expect to pay more for those services. Nowhere else do you find that attitude except when it comes to the government. No one would walk into a spa for a massage, and then expect to a facial as well for the same price, but everyone wants better schools, and lower property taxes.

Then we have the people who think poor folks are ballin’ out:

Mr. Siemens does have a concern about fairness. He believes that lower-income households are not paying enough in taxes.

“By any measure, the wealthy are still paying a disproportionate amount of their income in taxes,” he said. “Is that fair or not fair? I don’t know, but I have an issue with the dramatic reduction of taxes at the low end because I think everybody needs some skin in the game.”

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The share of Americans who think lower-income households pay too little in taxes increased to 24 percent in 2012 from 8 percent in 1992, according to Gallup.

What a “skin in the game” is going to make poor people do, I don’t know. But clearly those poor people have it good so to make things more “fair”, they should pay more. Because, “some skin” will make you do stuff (*wink*) or something. Meanwhile, Mr. Siemens’ state doesn’t have a progressive tax rate. Which means that the poor are more than paying their fair share in state taxes:

…Illinois, like most states, takes a larger share of income from those who make less. Illinois households earning less than $25,000 a year on average paid 14.3 percent of income in state and local taxes in 2010, while those earning more than $200,000 paid 9.4 percent

We have a couple of people in this article who represent a powerful sentiment across large swaths of America: The idea that rich people work harder than less well off folks, and that’s why they’re rich. Now hard work is 9/10 a prerequisite for wealth, but I’d say it’s a prerequisite for poverty as well. Growing up, I knew many, many people who lived below the federal poverty line (which @ 23 grand for a family of 4 is extremely low). None of them were headed by people who didn’t work. The working poor exist, and education seems like the key to higher wages, and ability to lift oneself out of poverty. Meanwhile California is spending almost a year of room & board at Harvard on incarcerating people for the same length of time. All the while cutting back on their own awesome public colleges & universities. This is perverse. This is a America. Where we lock up drug users, and states like S.C. increase prison spending by %500 only to see recidivism rates increase.But I guess things will get better by admiring the rich, and making poor people pay more.

 

 

 

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The Big Story: David Durk, The NYPD & Corruption

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012 • no responses - be the first

R.I.P. David Durk.

Frank Serpico. David Durk. One of those names you almost certainly know. One man was played by someone who now a big time movie star. The other man had a minor character loosely based on him with a different name in the same film. David Durk doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page.

Frank Serpico is alive. David Durk is dead. This is not an obit to Mr. Durk though, the NY Times has done a far better job than I ever could.

We probably never hear of Frank Serpico if not for David Durk. Their stories are intertwined, and you can run a direct line from Serpico/Durk to Adrian Schoolcraft, a man who’s technically still a cop, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he’s been treated. The stories of these three men, all great cops, should serve as an inspiration to all current, and future police officers. Instead the NYPD attempts to push them into the dustbin of history, and tries to minimize their achievements, and their (corroborated) accusations.

The NYPD has a corruption problem. Their PR guy will tell you that things are 10 times better than they were when Serpico was a cop. Does it even matter though? How much of that is through their own efforts, and how much of that is the decline of mob influence in NYC? The NYPD seems so eager to pat itself on the back instead of acknowledging that they have a shit ton of work to do. Abner Louima, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham. You know the names. You know what happened. And I’m telling you that the way the city, and the NYPD handled the findings of the Knapp Commission, which never happens if not for the persistence, and the insistence of Serpico & Durk, is why we have today’s NYPD. A police force of quotas, harassment, and racism.

…the fallout was minimal. Dozens of officers were prosecuted, but no senior police or city officials were charged.

A few people were cast out, and they called it a day. Ray Kelly was a police officer during those days. I wonder if he’s ever been asked about that era. Was he on the take? He sure does like to minimize police misconduct. How can we expect the NYPD to do their job in a fair, honest, and transparent way when they’ve never tackled the ghosts of the 60s & 70s? How many corrupt cops went on to become senior officers? How many are in the top brass today? We’ll probably never know. What we do know that is that the “blue wall” is as strong as ever. Adrian Schoolcraft’s apt was invaded by cops, and he was tossed in a mental ward by those same cops. Unlawful imprisonment anyone? Of course we’ve seen no criminal charges against any of the officers involved in these Gestapo tactics. I now feel vindicated every time I cross the street to avoid walking next to or crossing paths with a cop. If they can do this shit to another cop bet money they can, and HAVE done it a civilian.

I’ve always said that the police should be held to a higher standard than the average person, but this country seems to completely disagree with me. All over America cops are held to lower standards. Shoot a Black man in the back while he’s face down being handcuffed by another cop? Say you were scared, and you were reaching for your, far lighter, Taser. No one will even ask why you were reaching for your Taser in the 1st place. After the judge gives you double credit for time served you’ll end up serving a year in prison total. Now try, and imagine an average white man who’s not a police officer using any or all of that as an excuse. Now do it for the average Black man. I can’t see either of them getting just a year. Add some “fear”, and make ‘em both cops & it’s likely that they’re acquitted, and continue to be police officers.

All a cop has to do is say they were scared, and they’ll have people lining up to defend them. “You don’t know what it’s like to be a cop.” “Their job is dangerous.” There are around 800,000 law enforcement officers in the U.S. (including state & federal officers). In 2010 160 of them were murdered. That’s a rate of .0002. In 2005 about 57,600 cops were assaulted. A rate of .072. Out of that number, about 15,800 were injured. A rate of .0197. My intent is not to minimize police shootings, and assaults, but show that this fear that cops regularly invoke, usually after they’ve shot another unarmed person, is unsubstantiated by the stats. Most cops probably don’t know another officer who’s even been assaulted let alone killed. So what are they so afraid of? The answer seems to be be Black & Latino men. Since we’re the ones that usually end up on the wrong end of a cops glock.

Despite all the talk about “community policing” Ray Kelly has been very confrontational when confronted with just about any criticism of the NYPD. This unwillingness to criticize the self is at the heart the NYPD’s problems, especially with regard to Blacks, and Latinos. When it comes to unwarranted defensiveness, only self-aggrandizing millionaires, and billionaires are in competition. 16 officers get arraigned for ticket fixing, 100s show up in protest. It’s someone else’s fault. They were “just following orders.” Guess what? I believe them. I believe they were just following orders when they stopped, and frisked 685,724 people (87% of them Black & Latino) last year. I also believe that they were just following orders when they stop and frisked 25% less people in the 2nd quarter of this year than last. This brings me back to Ray Kelly, and other cops who were “on the job” during the years the NYPD was nearly completely overrun by corruption. Where are many of these men now? David Durk said during a formal lecture at the police academy he was told to always carry a SASE with him in case he got a bribe. That way he could immediately mail it to himself without fear it would be found later. This is what they were telling recruits! But I’m supposed to believe that the overwhelming majority of corrupt cops who never got any  disciplinary action just suddenly became good cops? Maybe for a little while, ’til the cameras & the reporters & investigators went away, but not for long. Until society stops treating cops as above the law, and infallible we will continue to see corruption, racism & violence flowing from the NYPD.

In 1970 Frank Serpico said:

the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers.

That’s still the case. Just like in the 60′s, and 70′s today’s cops are “just following orders.”

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The Big Story: Get Out The Vote

by TKOEd • Friday, Nov 2, 2012 • no responses - be the first

The election is close. Very close. Let’s do a run down of what we currently believe will be the closest states on election day:

The above chart is clipped from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com. The number furthest to the left is the average of the numbers to the right which are themselves either straight up averages of polls or averages with some sort of weighting system built in.

The biggest thing I noticed was the Florida average. Romney is only up by .6 points. Everything we’ve heard has pretty much said that FL was Romney’s to lose. This throws that thinking out. I lived in Missouri in 2008. It’s the only time I’ve ever lived in a state that was contested in a presidential election. It was amazing to me. Maybe that’s because I don’t watch much teevee. I was at the the Obama rally that drew 100,000 people:

Old St Louis courthouse?

On election day that year I went to an Obama field office, and volunteered to knock on doors. It was kind of difficult. Not because people weren’t nice, they were, but I just never randomly knocked on anyone’s door before. Whatever difficulty I felt though was overwhelmed by the amazing feelings I had. The feeling of civic duty was there, but most of all it was the feeling of trying to help a man who I wholeheartedly believed, and still believe, in. Not to mention he would be the 1st non-white man to be POTUS in the history of this country.

Get Out The Vote. GOTV. That’s what I was trying to do that day. This weekend we need to GOTV for this man again. The alternative is a man who inspires no one, and even those who support him see Romney as the snake oil salesman he really is:

Romney’s shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate.

Emphasis mine. That’s David Brooks today in an op-ed where he’s actually endorsing Romney for President of the United States of America. The op-ed is titled “The Upside of Opportunism.” I shit you not. Can we let this man become president? NO! Can we let a man who cares not for the right of women to control their bodies sit in the Oval Office day in, and day out? NO! Can we let a man who wants to put even more money in the pockets of rich folks become POTUS? FUCK NO! So if you live in Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina or Iowa (cue Dean Scream!) we need boots on the ground. We need you to go knock on doors. We need you to be poll watchers. We need you. Our country needs you. People’s lives are at stake.

Health care is probably the most important issue in this election, because what the political press nor candidates themselves will tell you is that the president actually holds very little sway over the national economy. And as I’ve alluded to, health care is absolutely life, and death. Country to popular belief, just going to the emergency room is not health care. Not in any real sense of course. As anyone (like me) who’s actually had to use the ER as a family “doctor” will tell you, the ER sucks as health care if you’re not potentially close to death.

So we have a choice. It’s the same choice I had in 2008. Sit on my ass or Get Out The Vote. I chose the latter. I’m imploring you to do the same this year. The candidates have not talked about or only mentioned in passing many of the issues that are close to my heart, but I know who’s closest to what I believe in. I know who will actually work for the most vulnerable if pushed, and given the chance. That man is Barack Obama.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, because even if you’re not in one of the states above, we can make calls. If you do, get down to an Obama field office, and volunteer. At the very least go out, and vote. Our work will make all the difference in the election.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

The Big Story: Romney’s Racism

by TKOEd • Friday, Oct 26, 2012 • no responses - be the first

“We’re taking back America” ~ Mitt Romney

Did I miss something? Was America stolen? If so, who stole it? Wait, I know. It must have been that Black guy (from the southside of Chicago no less) in the big White House in D.C. You know, the one with the militant wife. He’s shifty on the basketball court. He’s probably shifty off of it too.

Mitt Romney’s co-chair, John Sununu, is a man who has blown quite a few dog whistles in this campaign. Now he’s recycling one from the 2008 presidential elections: Colin Powell is going to vote for Obama because they’re both Black. Should I assume that Sununu is supporting Romney because they’re both white? Is he “proud” of Romney because he’s running for president, and he’s white?  Should I assume that the 57% of white men who voted against Obama in 2008 did so because he’s Black, and McCain is white? A Democrat hasn’t won the white vote since 1964. That was the year Lyndon Johnson won in a landslide against Goldwater. Interestingly enough, the Civil Rights Act passed that year. I wonder if that had anything to do with whites voting GOP for nearly half a decade? Nah, no way (#straightface).

Personally, I’m interested in any of Sununu’s apologies or retractions of his racist bullshit. I am interested in the fact that Romney has never rebuked any of Sununu’s remarks publicly. Instead Sununu continues to be on the frontlines for Romney’s campaign. Constantly sent to talk to the media. So I have to assume that, at worst, Romney agrees with his co-chair’s bigoted pronouncements or, at best, sees a political advantage to these kinds of statements. For some reason I’m very inclined to believe it’s the latter. Maybe it’s because Romney believes Black people just want free stuff from the government.

Lately, Romney wants the American public to see him as a moderate. But as I watched clips from his speech yesterday, and I heard that “taking back” line, and knew he was going to send out racist dog whistles right up to & on the day of the election. This is who Romney has decided he’s going to be. This is who the modern day GOP is. Blacks want free shit, Obama stole America, and Negroes vote for Obama because he’s Black.

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The Big Story: Last Night’s Presidential Debate

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Oct 23, 2012 • no responses - be the first

I don’t know about you, but Obama took Romney to college. Stern, but cool, Professor Barack was on full display last night. Obama was downright snarky in a lot of his responses, and sought to cast Romney as a liar, and totally clueless:

On a whole range of issues, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map.”

“There have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that you’d do the same things we did, but you’d say them louder and somehow that that would make a difference.”

“You mention the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets,” Obama said during the final presidential debate. “We have these things called aircraft carriers and planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. It’s not a game of battleship where we’re counting ships, it’s ‘What are our capabilities?’”

“Well, Governor Romney’s right, you are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas…”

“When I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fundraisers, I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum…”

This was a presidential sonning. Time, and again Romeny brought up the economy, smartly, but to me it was also because he didn’t really want any part of a FP debate in which he was totally outgunned. Unless you’re a senator on a committee that deals with FP, you’re basically up shit creek when going against the POTUS on that ground. Romney, who’s shown very little interest in FP at all, was no different.

We’re headed down the home stretch is this year’s campaigns, it could be a doozy, but I think Obama’s going to win it in the end. Last night was a definitely good for his chances as most post-debate polls showed Obama winning easily. Probably won’t mean much to the polls, but another good performance by the Prez was definitely a must. I thought he was much better than he was in the 2nd debate. As much as I relished his snark, and full blown clowning of Romney, I was definitely concerned he might come off churlish. Doesn’t seem like most folks thought that. Now it’s all about GOTV operations, and if you were paying attention in ’08, you know that Obama might have the best in the business. Obama is already off to a great start in Nevada. Early voting will be huge again this year, but the race is still very close. I’m crossing my fingers ‘til I someone on MSNBC calling it for Obama on election night.

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