Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Analysis of the Problem

Here is an excerpt from a recent paper I did on establishing a movement to fight poverty. This is the fact portion of the paper, and I find the research within extremely sobering. It’s… Terrifying that this is how we treat our people. These are the sobering, straight numbers.
Analysis of the Problem
            In 2010, the official poverty rate was 15.1 percent, which is up from 14.3 percent in 2009. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points, and it has increased every year for the last three years (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). The 2010 poverty rate translates to about 46.2 million people, up from 43.6 million people in 2009. The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest poverty rate in the United States since 1993, but the amount of people in poverty is the highest reported amount in fifty-two years since measurements were first taken in 1959 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau (2011), 16.4 million children lived below poverty levels in 2010, and 6.3 million of those children were under the age of six. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, 2011), about 14.5 percent of all households in the United States experienced food security during 2010. This means that at least once during the year the family reported three or more instances where they “were, at times, uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food for all household members because they had insufficient money and other resources for food” (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2011).
The number of people without health insurance in 2010 was 16.3 percent, or 49.9 million people. 9.8 percent of all children in the United States (7.3 million) were without health insurance. However, children in poverty were much more likely to not be insured. 15.4 percent of children in poverty were not insured. The uninsured rate was also higher among people with lower incomes. 26.9 percent of people making less than $25,000 had no health insurance, whereas only 8.0 percent of individuals making more than $75,000 had no health insurance. Of those uninsured, 14 percent, or 14.7 million, worked full time, year round during 2010. The uninsured rate for non-workers was 28.5 percent.
Public perception of poverty has become a heated issue lately, especially involving the conservative right-wing Republican party. This party’s perception can be aligned with the Republican Presidential candidate front runner Mitt Romney’s comments regarding those in poverty. Romney stated “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it” (Wolf, 2012). It should be noted that Romney’s net worth lies between roughly $150 and $200 million (Riley, 2012). Another point to consider is his mention of the “safety net” for the poor. While there are indeed programs in place to assist the poor, as stated earlier, Census figures show that there are still millions of households that cannot afford proper health care, and the most recent report from the USDA reveals millions of households in America that cannot attain food security throughout the year. Every single candidate still running for the Republican nomination for President has stated multiple times that they will repeal an incoming measure that allows equal access to health insurance for every American (BBC News, 2011).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Newt Gingrich Calls President Obama's Comments On The Trayvon Martin Case "Disgraceful"

             Newt Gingrich just doesn’t get it.  The GOP Presidential hopeful recently stated in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he thought it was “disgraceful” the comments President Obama said about the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, Florida.  President Obama recently said that if he had a son he would have looked like Trayvon and urged Florida authorities to properly investigate the matter calling it a “tragedy.”  This at a time when Fox News’ Geraldo River wants to blame Trayvon’s hooded sweatshirt not the shooter, George Zimmerman, for the death.

            Why is the right so afraid to acknowledge racism still exists in this country?  While Gingrich is correct in saying it would have been none the less a tragedy had Trayvon been Hispanic, Asian, or White, both Gingrich and Rivera are missing the point.  Trayvon was seen by an overzealous cop wannabe as suspicious because the wannabe, Zimmerman, saw a black man walking through his gated community as suspicious.  Perhaps young Mr. Zimmerman was looking for anything he could find suspicious justify making one more call to the police in hopes they embrace him as one of their own.  Perhaps it was the race issue that led Mr. Zimmerman to kill.  I tend to think it could be a combination of the two. 

            By now it should be clear to anyone who has heard the 911 call that Zimmerman made to the police prior to confronting Trayvon.  In that recording Zimmerman is heard reporting Trayvon’s actions to the dispatcher on the line.  At one point Zimmerman seems to utter under his breath, seemingly in disgust, the words “f**king coons.”  I believe these words, not the presence of a mysterious hooded man walking home, are the key that explains why Trayvon was accosted and shot by Zimmerman.  That is, unless Zimmerman can demonstrate that Sanford has been overrun by the species Procyon Lotor (raccoon) and that he personally has some reason to feel such angst towards the masked critters that he would interrupt an important call to 911 to utter that angst.  It is important to remember that Zimmerman was not a cop and had no authority to confront or detain Trayvon even if Trayvon had been up to no good.

            No Newt, it does appear that race is a factor here and that is why people, including our president, are up in arms about this killing.  While you are right that the killing of any youth is a tragedy, this killing in particular reveals old wounds that are obviously not healed.  It is yet another sad chapter in the history of race relations in America.  You see, I cannot count the number of times in my law enforcement career that I’ve been called to an affluent predominantly white neighborhood to check out a suspicious person.  All too often the only factor the caller can give me that they believe makes the person suspicious is that they are black.  Seldom do I see anything about the person that warrants a stop and I usually drive away uttering “stupid redneck” under my breath in much the same manner that Zimmerman uttered “f**king coons.”  These calls make me so angry that I have vowed that one Christmas I will return to one of these neighborhoods with a bus full of African Americans for some caroling...Any volunteers?
          Race relations in this country will never improve until we stop teaching our kids to be afraid of other people.  Seldom will you find anyone in those gated white communities that has actually been victimized by an African American.  In fact, most criminals, statistically speaking, victimize people within their own race.  The fact that so many Americans feel threatened by the presence of a black man in their neighborhood therefore is not typically a result of personal experiences but instead a result of learned behavior.  We can break this cycle of racism and fear by acknowledging what has happened in Sanford, Florida and shedding light on the role race played in this death. Together, we can learn from this tragedy and work towards a society where the color of a person’s skin is no more relevant than the color of their eyes or hair.

Friday, March 23, 2012

SSG Robert Bales And The Afghanistan Slaughter: Have Veterans Earned The Right To More Of An Opinion?

SSG Robert Bales accused of 17 counts of murder

As a veteran it angers me when I hear other veterans try and quell the opinions of those who may not agree with them on political issues by sarcastically asking if they have ever served.  It equally irks me when other veterans think that those who have not served have no right to an opinion on the atrocities committed by SSG Robert Bales in Afghanistan.  Regardless of the reasons for this slaughter our nation has received as self induced black eye.  This matter affects all Americans as well as the citizens of our NATO allied nations. 

Military service, while noble and honorable, does not entitle me or anyone else to more of an opinion than anyone else.  There is a reason why our founding fathers ensured there would be civilian control of the military.  It is because otherwise the military would feel themselves somehow superior to the civilian population and those who “serve” would in turn quit serving the nation with the nation instead serving the military.

While we must always take care of our veterans an honor those who would willingly risk their lives to protect our way of life our military must remember that it represents our nation as well as our allies.  The military must always remember that as representatives of the people the opinions of the populace must and do matter.  Ours is a force of citizen soldiers who are of the people, not knighted aristocrats who battle for glory and spoils and who lord their glory over simple peasants at home.  Every American, Frenchman, Canadian, Briton, Dutchman, Dane, German, Australian, Spaniard, Italian, Turk or any other citizen of the many nations that have contributed to ISAF has the right to voice their opinion on the issue of Robert Bales.  That is this veteran and humble civil servants opinion anyway.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Letter to Congress: Do the Right Thing

I have composed a letter that I will send to each of my representatives in Congress regarding Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke and her testimony to Congress. I urge you to either write your own, or feel free to copy this and send it to your own representative. To contact your representative in the House, click HERE. To contact your Senator, click HERE. Ask them to denounce Limbaugh and his hate-filled comments regarding a woman who stood up for her beliefs.

Dear Representative,

The last few weeks have been rife with controversy regarding women’s rights concerning certain health care benefits. After women were denied their voice in the primary assembly, Democratic Representatives held a special assembly to discuss this issue. During this hearing, a Georgetown Law student named Sandra Fluke testified in favor of allowing health care coverage of contraceptives, regardless of the moral or religious stance of the institution providing the care.

Ms. Fluke’s testimony has received criticism from popular radio voice Rush Limbaugh. These comment by Mr. Limbaugh are slanderous and misogynistic at best. While I am certain you have heard of the ongoing controversy, I would like to share his exact words with you, and then make a request.

"What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute."

"So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

"Oh! Does she have more boyfriends? They’re lined up around the block."

Despite numerous corporations pulling support from Mr. Limbaugh after his inflamatory statements, many lawmakers have remained silent on this issue. I am asking you, as a Congressman and public figure, to publicly denounce Mr. Limbaugh for his hateful declarations regarding Ms. Fluke. Whether you agree with him on the issue or not, behavior such as his displayed on a national scale should never go without censure.

Imagine if this was your child, your mother, or your sister. Imagine if this was your wife or your best friend. Would you stand idly by as someone declared to a national audience that her belief “makes her a slut?” Would you stand for someone to demand that she and her friends post videos of them having sex online, so he could watch? Wouldn’t you defend her if someone speculated that she had boyfriends “lined up around the block?”

Whether you agree with Ms. Fluke on this issue or not is not the issue. The issue is that a public radio host, one that carries some sway in the political arena, has crossed the line. The issue is that this is unexcusable. Nobody deserves to be treated such. Nobody deserves to be drug through the public eye, portrayed as a “slut” or a “prostitute” or a “whore.” I’m asking you to take the moral high road, to take a stand and tell Mr. Limbaugh that you will not abide by his baseless accusations against Ms. Fluke, or women in general. I’m asking you to condemn him for his hate-laced statements. I’m asking you to do the right thing.

Mr. Limbaugh’s comments were far above what any human being deserves. In this day and age, where we work side by side with our wives, mothers, and daughters, it should go without saying that we respect them as women. Mr. Limbaugh obviously does not share this sentiment. In fact, he has done nothing but attack Ms. Fluke’s dignity.

Please do the right thing, and tell Mr. Limbaugh publicly that Congress will not stand for his comments, and that regardless of their positions on the contraception issue, that they stand for women’s dignity and against misogyny and hatred. It’s not about where you stand on the issue, it’s about a woman being shamed publicly for what she believes is right, and regardless of her stance or your beliefs should this be tolerated. Please do the right thing.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Ron Paul Won't Help

Before I say this, let me quick say that I don't put a lot of stock in Ron Paul. He's practically irrelevant in the GOP nomination race, and every time he decides to open his mouth, the crazier he sounds.
Utility workers try to restore electricity to a tornado-damaged section of town on March 2, 2012 in Harrisburg, Illinois. The Mar. 2 storm killed at least six people in Harrisburg.
Mr. Paul, the Texan libertarian said on CNN's State of the Union last night that victims of the recent outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwest and the South should not receive federal assistance in repairing their lives. Mr. Paul stated:
"There is no such thing as federal money... Federal money is just what they steal from the states and steal from you and me... The people who live in tornado alley, just as I live in hurricane alley, they should have insurance."
"To say that any accident that happens in the country, send in FEMA, send in the money, the government has all this money—it is totally out of control and it's not efficient."
Can you believe this!? How does this man still have a following? How arrogant is Mr. Paul in thinking that not only do most of these people not have insurance, but that using a governmental agency that specializes in aiding victims of natural disasters is inefficient? If you read between the lines, he's practically berating the victims for being in the way of the tornadoes! It's like telling a woman she deserved to be raped because her shirt was too low-cut.

These tornadoes have ripped through the United States, dealing billions of dollars in damage, and (so far) claiming over two dozen lives. The arrogance of Ron Paul in telling these people that it's too inefficient to assist them in their greatest need is nearly unspeakable. These victims have experience one of the most frightening events they could imagine: the wrath of nature, and Ron Paul is telling them to suck it up and get on with their lives.

Mr. Paul, tell the families mourning the loss of loved ones that you won't help. Tell the children who no longer have a roof over their heads that helping them is "not efficient." Tell the communities that have lost everything that their government doesn't care enough to help them.

All I can say is: Thank God that's not how this country works, and thank God you aren't in charge.

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