Saturday, 22 November 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

This evening I want to talk about Bigger Thomas. I'm teaching a course this semester entitled "Race and Existence," in which I include the work of the ingenious African American novelist and essayist Richard Wright.

Wright created the character Bigger Thomas in his 1940 novel Native Son, which portrays how the racism and cruel criminal justice system of the United States gave birth to Bigger Thomas's personified brutality as its mirror image. Wright's famous introduction to the second edition concluded with a warning of Bigger Thomas being created wherever there are houses built on human degradation.

As we approach the self-immolation known as "The Sequester," I find myself thinking about a woman in West Africa, asking people, "Would you like to buy a pen?"

She was a middle-aged woman, wearing a bright-colored dress. Judging by wear and tear, it may have been the only dress she owned.

She was standing on the steps in front of a small department store, which was selling pens by the dozen. She repeated softly, in French, to passers-by, "Voulez-vous acheter une plume?" And she held up a pen.

When I wrote about MSNBC's documentary on Iraq war lies this week, I linked to an earlier blog post of mine that drew heavily on a House Judiciary Committee report on the same topic, as well as to Lawrence Wilkerson's recent debate with Norman Solomon on Democracy Now!

When Brad Friedman reposted my Hubris review, he suggested I ask Wilkerson for a response.  I did and here it is:

David,
 
Several misleading and even spurious bullets and headlines that make strong claims that are not supported in the surrounding narrative.  For example, no one ever DID warn Powell about Curveball, in fact quite the opposite. This particular source--billed as an Iraqi engineer who had defected--was George Tenet's--the DCI's--strongest weapon.  And incidentally, the title "Curveball" was never heard until well after the 5 Feb presentation.

This post may run through tax geekdom a bit, but it hopefully shows the relationship between federal and state tax policy, and how badly the battle has been waged by progressives over the years.

Over the past twelve years, significant changes have been made to the Federal estate tax code. Most of us know about the increase in the amount that can be passed free of federal estate tax, from One Million Dollars per person in 2001 to more than Five Million Dollars per person today. But there were other changes, among the most significant of which were (1) the elimination of the federal estate tax credit for state inheritance tax in favor of a deduction for state inheritance tax and (2) the reduction of the maximum federal estate tax rate from 50% to 40%.

I've had an article in draft for some time — "The 16 Deadlines Facing America" — that details each deadline, describes the dangers, and states why each faces an end-point rather than just a periodic fluctuation. (Example of periodic fluctuation: The price of GM stock goes up and down — sometimes the number is good, sometimes bad — but GM stock continues to be traded on the market. Example of an end-point: The market price of tradable tulip bulbs goes up to impossible heights, then crashes so badly that the interest in trading them completely disappears. The market for tradable tulip bulbs is dead forever.)

I've identified 16 of these game-over situations facing America today, situations from which there is the possibility of no recovery — not the certainty, but the possibility. As I was working on that article though, looking especially what it would take to reverse each trend, I realized it's really only one story writ 16 times on 16 separate canvasses.

Feb 25

We Know How to Live

By Christine Baniewicz, New Clear Vision | Op-Ed

Cinema 2 of the New Parkway Theatre in Oakland is deserted. I take a seat against the arm of a cushy brown couch on the third tier upfrom the floor. The place is lousy with sofas and retro red vinyl chairs. They're flung about the room, clustered around off beat end tables like so many hipsters in a beer garden.

Two more folks enter, separately. We smile thin greetings at one another before they choose their seats in distant corners according to that awkward geometry of strangers. A fourth patron glides in. I recognize him from solidarity demonstrations in the city. I wave him over.

A new bill by state Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer would restore due process in Montana and counter the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in December 2012, the NDAA codifies indefinite detention for those accused of supporting al-Qaeda and its "associated forces," a very broad term. Even American citizens could be held indefinitely in military custody without due process.

If passed, the bill would "prohibit state cooperation with federal officials regarding indefinite detention." LC 1810 would ban indefinite detention within the state of Montana. In addition, the state attorney general would be instructed to report any efforts made by federal agents to implement the NDAA. So far, the bill has garnered two cosponsors: state Rep. Mike Miller and Daniel Zolnikov. Both are Republicans, as is Schwaderer.

Feb 22

One Thousand Days Too Many

By Kevin Zeese, October2011.org | Op-Ed

Think of that, count it off . . . 1,000 days; that is how long Bradley Manning has been incarcerated without a trial.

Even though he has been incarcerated for nearly three years most Americans have no idea what he did, why he did it or how he has been mistreated coming from the commander-in-chief to the courtroom at Fort Meade.

The mass media has made sure to keep Americans ignorant about what is going on and why it is important. But many do see through the misinformation and are standing with Brad. We take action because like Brad, we want the truth to be told, the truth to be known and understood so we can improve the country.

One of the most hypocritical corporate PR campaigns in decades is advancing inside the beltway, attempting to convince the White House, Congress, and the American people that another cataclysmic economic crisis is around the corner that will destroy our economy unless urgent action is taken. Soon this astroturf supergroup may be coming to a state near you.

Move over David Koch and George Soros! The effort is being bankrolled by one of the wealthiest men in the nation. Peter G. Peterson made a fortune at the Blackstone Group on Wall Street. He conveniently cashed out with $2 billion shortly before the 2008 financial meltdown and now has pledged to spend $1 billion of that payout to convince Americans -- who overwhelmingly want to keep and strengthen Social Security and Medicare -- that these programs threaten our very existence as a nation.

The Board went to court today with our two fearless lawyers, Buck Davis and Cynthia Heenan. They only recently received the right to payment for representing us and we speak with them frequently, especially on Sundays. The Board members do not get paid and meet very often and are in constant communication with our community members and teachers. Students and teachers and parents bring problems they cannot address because of the Emergency Manager imposition, which has dismantled most of the avenues of the most simple issues and redress. Suspensions, teacher evaluations, seniority, all have been destabilized by the State's imposition of the little emergency manager.

The District has countless lawyers who work hours all day while we are at work and at meetings finding ways to defend their behavior, which is criminal in so many ways. Finding ways to keep the general public from following money ( refusal to share information about district expenditures, vis a vis People Soft, which itemizes every dime).

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

This evening I want to talk about Bigger Thomas. I'm teaching a course this semester entitled "Race and Existence," in which I include the work of the ingenious African American novelist and essayist Richard Wright.

Wright created the character Bigger Thomas in his 1940 novel Native Son, which portrays how the racism and cruel criminal justice system of the United States gave birth to Bigger Thomas's personified brutality as its mirror image. Wright's famous introduction to the second edition concluded with a warning of Bigger Thomas being created wherever there are houses built on human degradation.

As we approach the self-immolation known as "The Sequester," I find myself thinking about a woman in West Africa, asking people, "Would you like to buy a pen?"

She was a middle-aged woman, wearing a bright-colored dress. Judging by wear and tear, it may have been the only dress she owned.

She was standing on the steps in front of a small department store, which was selling pens by the dozen. She repeated softly, in French, to passers-by, "Voulez-vous acheter une plume?" And she held up a pen.

When I wrote about MSNBC's documentary on Iraq war lies this week, I linked to an earlier blog post of mine that drew heavily on a House Judiciary Committee report on the same topic, as well as to Lawrence Wilkerson's recent debate with Norman Solomon on Democracy Now!

When Brad Friedman reposted my Hubris review, he suggested I ask Wilkerson for a response.  I did and here it is:

David,
 
Several misleading and even spurious bullets and headlines that make strong claims that are not supported in the surrounding narrative.  For example, no one ever DID warn Powell about Curveball, in fact quite the opposite. This particular source--billed as an Iraqi engineer who had defected--was George Tenet's--the DCI's--strongest weapon.  And incidentally, the title "Curveball" was never heard until well after the 5 Feb presentation.

This post may run through tax geekdom a bit, but it hopefully shows the relationship between federal and state tax policy, and how badly the battle has been waged by progressives over the years.

Over the past twelve years, significant changes have been made to the Federal estate tax code. Most of us know about the increase in the amount that can be passed free of federal estate tax, from One Million Dollars per person in 2001 to more than Five Million Dollars per person today. But there were other changes, among the most significant of which were (1) the elimination of the federal estate tax credit for state inheritance tax in favor of a deduction for state inheritance tax and (2) the reduction of the maximum federal estate tax rate from 50% to 40%.

I've had an article in draft for some time — "The 16 Deadlines Facing America" — that details each deadline, describes the dangers, and states why each faces an end-point rather than just a periodic fluctuation. (Example of periodic fluctuation: The price of GM stock goes up and down — sometimes the number is good, sometimes bad — but GM stock continues to be traded on the market. Example of an end-point: The market price of tradable tulip bulbs goes up to impossible heights, then crashes so badly that the interest in trading them completely disappears. The market for tradable tulip bulbs is dead forever.)

I've identified 16 of these game-over situations facing America today, situations from which there is the possibility of no recovery — not the certainty, but the possibility. As I was working on that article though, looking especially what it would take to reverse each trend, I realized it's really only one story writ 16 times on 16 separate canvasses.

Feb 25

We Know How to Live

By Christine Baniewicz, New Clear Vision | Op-Ed

Cinema 2 of the New Parkway Theatre in Oakland is deserted. I take a seat against the arm of a cushy brown couch on the third tier upfrom the floor. The place is lousy with sofas and retro red vinyl chairs. They're flung about the room, clustered around off beat end tables like so many hipsters in a beer garden.

Two more folks enter, separately. We smile thin greetings at one another before they choose their seats in distant corners according to that awkward geometry of strangers. A fourth patron glides in. I recognize him from solidarity demonstrations in the city. I wave him over.

A new bill by state Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer would restore due process in Montana and counter the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in December 2012, the NDAA codifies indefinite detention for those accused of supporting al-Qaeda and its "associated forces," a very broad term. Even American citizens could be held indefinitely in military custody without due process.

If passed, the bill would "prohibit state cooperation with federal officials regarding indefinite detention." LC 1810 would ban indefinite detention within the state of Montana. In addition, the state attorney general would be instructed to report any efforts made by federal agents to implement the NDAA. So far, the bill has garnered two cosponsors: state Rep. Mike Miller and Daniel Zolnikov. Both are Republicans, as is Schwaderer.

Feb 22

One Thousand Days Too Many

By Kevin Zeese, October2011.org | Op-Ed

Think of that, count it off . . . 1,000 days; that is how long Bradley Manning has been incarcerated without a trial.

Even though he has been incarcerated for nearly three years most Americans have no idea what he did, why he did it or how he has been mistreated coming from the commander-in-chief to the courtroom at Fort Meade.

The mass media has made sure to keep Americans ignorant about what is going on and why it is important. But many do see through the misinformation and are standing with Brad. We take action because like Brad, we want the truth to be told, the truth to be known and understood so we can improve the country.

One of the most hypocritical corporate PR campaigns in decades is advancing inside the beltway, attempting to convince the White House, Congress, and the American people that another cataclysmic economic crisis is around the corner that will destroy our economy unless urgent action is taken. Soon this astroturf supergroup may be coming to a state near you.

Move over David Koch and George Soros! The effort is being bankrolled by one of the wealthiest men in the nation. Peter G. Peterson made a fortune at the Blackstone Group on Wall Street. He conveniently cashed out with $2 billion shortly before the 2008 financial meltdown and now has pledged to spend $1 billion of that payout to convince Americans -- who overwhelmingly want to keep and strengthen Social Security and Medicare -- that these programs threaten our very existence as a nation.

The Board went to court today with our two fearless lawyers, Buck Davis and Cynthia Heenan. They only recently received the right to payment for representing us and we speak with them frequently, especially on Sundays. The Board members do not get paid and meet very often and are in constant communication with our community members and teachers. Students and teachers and parents bring problems they cannot address because of the Emergency Manager imposition, which has dismantled most of the avenues of the most simple issues and redress. Suspensions, teacher evaluations, seniority, all have been destabilized by the State's imposition of the little emergency manager.

The District has countless lawyers who work hours all day while we are at work and at meetings finding ways to defend their behavior, which is criminal in so many ways. Finding ways to keep the general public from following money ( refusal to share information about district expenditures, vis a vis People Soft, which itemizes every dime).