Additionally, it’s worth noting that Walsh’s failure to pay child support isn’t even his only failure to look out for the basic needs of his own family. As Marie Diamond noted for ThinkProgress a few months ago, “Walsh also rejected the congressional health insurance plan for his family on principle, much to the chagrin of his current wife, Helene, who had a preexisting condition and needed surgery while the couple was uninsured.”
Recently, a judge rebuked Walsh for failing to even show up to a court hearing about his missed child support payments, telling the Chicago-area lawmaker that he doesn’t deserve special treatment and that he’s “no different than anyone else.”
A similar lesson emerges from a classic experiment conducted by Franz de Waals and Sarah Brosnan. The primatologists trained brown capuchin monkeys to give them pebbles in exchange for cucumbers. Almost overnight, a capuchin economy developed, with hungry monkeys harvesting small stones. But the marketplace was disrupted when the scientists got mischievous: instead of giving every monkey a cucumber in exchange for pebbles, they started giving some monkeys a tasty grape instead. (Monkeys prefer grapes to cucumbers.) After witnessing this injustice, the monkeys earning cucumbers went on strike. Some started throwing their cucumbers at the scientists; the vast majority just stopped collecting pebbles. The capuchin economy ground to a halt. The monkeys were willing to forfeit cheap food simply to register their anger at the arbitrary pay scale.
This labor unrest among monkeys illuminates our innate sense of fairness. It’s not that the primates demanded equality – some capuchins collected many more pebbles than others, and that never created a problem – it’s that they couldn’t stand when the inequality was a result of injustice. Humans act the same way. When the rich do something to deserve their riches, nobody complains; that’s just the meritocracy at work. But when those at the bottom don’t understand the unequal distribution of wealth – when it seems as if the winners are getting rewarded for no reason – they get furious. They doubt the integrity of the system and become more sensitive to perceived inequities. They start camping out in parks. They reject the very premise of the game.
“You know, we have young people who are today occupying Wall Street, that there are some people out there that are making too much money. And if somebody were to ask me what’s the best advice that I could give them? It would be that money is probably the most highly overrated thing in the world from a standpoint of being happy with your life. It’s good to have some. Because I’ve been without and I’ve had some, and it’s better to have some.
But the fact is, uh, go find that passion in your life… what I’m saying here is that the vast majority of people don’t go do what they do in life with only the thought of ‘I’m gonna make some money.’”—
Rick Perry, speaking in Iowa on teachers, making money, and why the Occupy Wall Street folks just don’t have enough “passion.”
*Sigh*. Fucking hell.
Actually, you know what? That’s not true. I don’t hate the people freezing their asses off occupying Wall Street while Rick Perry sits in his ill-fitting suit of smug and remarks that money is overrated. It’s not about people having too much money. It’s about a significant amount of people not having any money in order to enrich those who already do.
Your pithy little admonishments to those at Occupy Wall Street to find their passion is completely and one hundred percent intellectually disingenuous. Many of those folks followed their passions, got a degree, and can’t find a goddamn job. They’re saddled with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt after being told by snide little bastards like yourself to pursue that piece of paper representing their passion and employment prospects. My passion doesn’t pay the rent, and the utility companies don’t take passion as currency.
Money is only irrelevant when you make a living wage and aren’t one missed paycheck from homelessness.
Fuck you with all the fucks I have left to give today.
A year-long NPR News investigation has found that nearly 700 Native American children in South Dakota are being removed from their homes every year. In South Dakota, Native American children make up less than 15 percent of the child population, yet they make up more than half of the children in foster care. Nearly 90 percent of them are in non-native homes or group homes, according to analysis of state records.
State officials say they’re doing what’s in the best interest of the children, but the NPR investigation found the state does have a financial incentive to remove kids form their home. Here’s why:
The state receives thousands of dollars from the federal government for every child it takes from a family, and in some cases the state gets even more money if the child is Native American. The result is that South Dakota is now removing children at a rate higher than the vast majority of other states in the country. …
Critics say foster care in South Dakota has become a powerhouse for private group home providers who bring in millions of dollars in state contracts to care for kids. Among them is Children’s Home Society, the state’s largest foster care provider, which has close ties with top government officials. It used to be run by South Dakota’s Gov. Dennis Daugard. An NPR investigation has found that Daugard was on the group’s payroll while he was lieutenant governor — and while the group received tens of millions of dollars in no-bid state contracts. It’s an unusual relationship highlighting the powerful role money and politics play in South Dakota’s foster care system.
Less than 12 percent of Native American children in South Dakota foster care had been physically or sexually abused in their homes, below the national average. The state says parents have “neglected” their children, but that’s a subjective term.
Declarations of American exceptionalism rest on the belief that the United States is a uniquely virtuous nation, one that loves peace, nurtures liberty, respects human rights, and embraces the rule of law. Americans like to think their country behaves much better than other states do, and certainly better than other great powers.
If only it were true. The United States may not have been as brutal as the worst states in world history, but a dispassionate look at the historical record belies most claims about America’s moral superiority.
For starters, the United States has been one of the most expansionist powers in modern history. It began as 13 small colonies clinging to the Eastern Seaboard, but eventually expanded across North America, seizing Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California from Mexico in 1846. Along the way, it eliminated most of the native population and confined the survivors to impoverished reservations. By the mid-19th century, it had pushed Britain out of the Pacific Northwest and consolidated its hegemony over the Western Hemisphere.
The United States has fought numerous wars since then — starting several of them — and its wartime conduct has hardly been a model of restraint. The 1899-1902 conquest of the Philippines killed some 200,000 to 400,000 Filipinos, most of them civilians, and the United States and its allies did not hesitate to dispatch some 305,000 German and 330,000 Japanese civilians through aerial bombing during World War II, mostly through deliberate campaigns against enemy cities. No wonder Gen. Curtis LeMay, who directed the bombing campaign against Japan, told an aide, “If the U.S. lost the war, we would be prosecuted as war criminals.” The United States dropped more than 6 million tons of bombs during the Indochina war, including tons of napalm and lethal defoliants like Agent Orange, and it is directly responsible for the deaths of many of the roughly 1 million civilians who died in that war.
The United States talks a good game on human rights and international law, but it has refused to sign most human rights treaties, is not a party to the International Criminal Court, and has been all too willing to cozy up to dictators — remember our friend Hosni Mubarak? — with abysmal human rights records. If that were not enough, the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the George W. Bush administration’s reliance on waterboarding, extraordinary rendition, and preventive detention should shake America’s belief that it consistently acts in a morally superior fashion. Obama’s decision to retain many of these policies suggests they were not a temporary aberration.
The United States never conquered a vast overseas empire or caused millions to die through tyrannical blunders like China’s Great Leap Forward or Stalin’s forced collectivization. And given the vast power at its disposal for much of the past century, Washington could certainly have done much worse. But the record is clear: U.S. leaders have done what they thought they had to do when confronted by external dangers, and they paid scant attention to moral principles along the way. The idea that the United States is uniquely virtuous may be comforting to Americans; too bad it’s not true.
That “abortion causes breast cancer” graph pisses me off for a number of reasons. For one, it’s pretty damn obvious that if you take any kind of straight-edge and line it up right, the spike of breast cancer cases in the ’70s starts in 1971 and ends in…
I absolutely adore that Wikileaks is on the verge of being shut down because funding is being blocked (remember that Assange hasn’t been formally charged with anything) and corporations are permitted to throw money at anything and everything in the name of “free speech” thanks to Citizens United. Donating to Wikileaks apparently doesn’t constitute as free speech, though, because our government told financial institutions to shut that speech down.
The USA Patriot Act became law ten years ago today. Bearing the awkward name, Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, it passed the US Senate by an overwhelming vote of 96-1, with only Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) in dissent, voicing deep concerns about the impact the new law would have on civil liberties and privacy rights.
During the debate over the Patriot Act, Senator Feingold observed that the “founders who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights exercised that vigilance even though they had recently fought and won the Revolutionary War. They did not live in comfortable and easy times of hypothetical enemies. They wrote a Constitution of limited powers and an explicit Bill of Rights to protect liberty in times of war, as well as in times of peace.”
He traced the dark periods in our nation’s history when civil liberties took a back seat to what appeared at the time to be the legitimate exigencies of war, including the Alien and Sedition Acts, the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the internment of Japanese-Americans, German-Americans, and Italian-Americans during World War II, the blacklisting of alleged communist sympathizers during the McCarthy era, and the surveillance and harassment of antiwar protesters, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during the Vietnam War.
Feingold pointedly quoted Justice Arthur Goldberg in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez (1963):
It is fundamental that the great powers of Congress to conduct war and to regulate the Nation’s foreign relations are subject to the constitutional requirements of due process. The imperative necessity for safeguarding these rights to procedural due process under the gravest of emergencies has existed throughout our constitutional history, for it is then, under the pressing exigencies of crisis, that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with fundamental constitutional guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit governmental action. ‘The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances…. In no other way can we transmit to posterity unimpaired the blessings of liberty, consecrated by the sacrifices of the Revolution.
Feingold observed that even within the single month since 9/11, there was “ample reason for concern” over “the potential loss of commitment to traditional civil liberties.”
“Even as America addresses the demanding security challenges before us, we must strive mightily also to guard our values and basic rights,” he said. “We must guard against racism and ethnic discrimination against people of Arab and South Asian origin and those who are Muslim.”
Feingold quoted the great jurist Judge Learned Hand, who said during World War II: “[T]he spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias….”
With tragic prescience, Feingold noted that, “There is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists.”
“But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. That would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.”
Feingold complained about how the Bush administration was “relentlessly” pushing the Patriot Act “without deliberation and debate.” As chair of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, Feingold expressed deep concern that the legislation, “did not strike the right balance between empowering law enforcement and protecting constitutional freedoms.”
Under one provision, Feingold warned that, “the government can apparently go on a fishing expedition and collect information on virtually anyone,” which he called “a truly breathtaking expansion of police power.”
He called the debate on a bill that “may have the most far-reaching consequences on the civil liberties of the American people in a generation,” a non-debate and not the finest hour for the United States Senate.
Seeing so clearly into the future, Feingold warned that it was immigrants from Arab, Muslim and South Asian countries who would bear the brunt of the Patriot Act. “In the wake of these terrible events, our government has been given vast new powers, and they may fall most heavily on a minority of our population who already feel particularly acutely the pain of this disaster.” And in turn, Feingold reminded us that Justice Louis Brandeis foresaw the future in a 1928 dissent, when he wrote:
The progress of science in furnishing the Government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wire-tapping. Ways may some day be developed by which the Government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home…. Can it be that the Constitution affords no protection against such invasions of individual security?
Feingold responded by insisting that we, “must maintain our vigilance to preserve our laws and our basic rights. You and I have a duty to analyze, to test, to weigh new laws that the zealous and often sincere advocates of security would suggest to us.” Acknowledging that, “protecting the safety of the American people is a solemn duty of the Congress,” Feingold urged that, “Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society. So let us preserve our heritage of basic rights. Let us practice that liberty. And let us fight to maintain that freedom that we call America.”
“So much talk in the media today, about where are the black fathers? The missing black fathers, the missing black husbands as though generations of black men have just kind of opted out of family life for no apparent reason. What’s missing from this debate, and this public discussion is often the recognition that black men didn’t just walk out on their families voluntarily in most cases. They’re often taken away in handcuffs and locked in cages years and sometimes decades of their lives and frequently for relatively minor non-violent or drug related offenses. And then once they’re released they’re saddled with criminal records that make it nearly impossible to find employment or housing to contribute meaningfully to a family. And this, the destruction of black family in the United States is highly linked to the emergence of mass incarceration. (The odds of a black child being raised by both parents were actually higher during slavery than they are today.) And that is due to in no small part to the mass incarceration of black men and their inability as a result of being branded felons to contribute meaningfully to a family unit. I think that the discussion where have all the black men gone has just done an incredible disservice to our public understanding around what has really gone on in the communities hardest hit by mass incarceration.”—Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow) on Counter Racist Evolving Engineer Radio Program (listen here)
The US government’s assault against innocent American citizens continues to get more aggressive and just plain strange, with new reports of harassment against honest owners of ordinary lemon trees. Health Freedom Alliance (HFA) reports that officials from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are now spying on people whom they suspect are in possession of ordinary lemon trees, and threatening them with excessive fines and even federal raids if they refuse to surrender the plants on demand.
Several years ago, Bridget Donovan, who has now been dubbed “The Lemon Tree Lady,” purchased a Meyer lemon tree from meyerlemontree.com. A resident of Wisconsin, Donovan purchased the tree legally and in full accordance with all federal and state laws regulating citrus transport, and had lovingly cultivated and cared for her indoor citrus plant for nearly three years.
Then, out of nowhere, Donovan received an unexpected letter from the USDA informing her that government officials were going to come and seize her tree and destroy it — and that she was not going to be compensated for her loss. The letter also threatened that if Donovan was found to be in possession of “regulated citrus” again, she could be fined up to $60,000.
Wtf? Surely they have got more important things to do than threaten people who are growing lemon trees?
Are you a gamer? Are you a game designer? Are you currently designing bullshit badges for users that don’t give a fuck, or worse, that they care so much they’re ignoring real life? In that case, I have a clarion call I hope you will hear.
Stop trying to make games better. They are fine. It’s life that is broken. Start fixing that.
Our schools are broken. They churn out people with little initiative who can’t find jobs anyway. The system is no longer levelling people up properly.
Rewards are being disproportionately placed in the wrong hands. Our smartest people go into banking because they receive massive compensation and no downside. They are the min-maxers, the munchkins of our world; they have found the loopholes and been led down the wrong path because of it.
Occupy Wall Street is full of people who want the game world to work better. But no one is fixing it because they’re too busy on their own personal World of Warcraft. This is bullshit and it’s killing us.
Our games are rigged in the wrong direction. This is so obvious is needs no further argument, so I will move on to people that are doing it correctly, and what further steps we can take to solve this.
Today’s wealthy conservatives feel like they are entitled to suck the rest of us dry. The people who are Occupying Wall Street aren’t parasites. They are regular Americans who have seen our political and economic systems used as a weapon…