Why Texas could be about to bring down the Voting Rights Act itself. [...]
Read The Full Article:
It’s taken a long time, but this horrendous crime is finally making news. ?Trayvon had a bag of Skittles,?? Fulton?s attorney, Ben Crump, told Lauer. ?(Zimmerman) had a nine millimeter gun. He was almost 80 pounds more weight than Trayvon Martin. This is a situation where when you?listen to those 911 tapes and the three witnesses, everyone in America is asking, when are they going to arrest Zimmerman for killing this kid in cold blood??? The 911 tape is chilling (see video), the second call is is reportedly from the man alleged to have gunned down Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman, being described as a “neighborhood watch volunteer,” is fortunate he’s not black. If he were he’d be in jail. Zimmerman’s father is focusing on the media in a one-page letter he sent the Orando-Sentinel. Reading Charles Blow is the first time I’d heard about this case. Trayvon had left the house he and his father were visiting to walk to the local 7-Eleven. On his way back, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, who was in a sport-utility vehicle. Zimmerman called the police because the boy looked ?real suspicious,? according to a 911 call released late Friday. The operator told Zimmerman that officers were being dispatched and not to pursue the boy. Zimmerman apparently pursued him anyway, at some point getting out of his car and confronting the boy. Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman had a 9 millimeter handgun. The two allegedly engaged in a physical altercation. There was yelling, and then a gunshot. What made Zimmerman leave his car with his hand gun to pursue a smaller, younger, un-armed black youth? There aren’t any individuals who own a firearm (myself included) that aren’t told at some point that pursuing someone in the manner Zimmerman did is wrong, illegal, not to mention ripe with felonious intent. You are taught that if someone is in your own home you can defend yourself, but if they flee and are outside you cannot. Zimmerman’s actions were clearly premeditated. There is no answer to date of what made Trayvon Martin look “real suspicious.” Think Progress has a run-down of all the reports on this tragedy. The unspeakable motivation of anyone to take a firearm on to the street to confront a citizen screams of a vigilante mentality that ignores respect for human rights, something that plagues our country to its core. This event also brings to mind the firearms brought to select Tea Party events, with media capturing pictures of people openly carrying pistols to rallies, holstered at their side. This post has been updated.
Read The Full Article:
It’s taken a long time, but this horrendous crime is finally making news.
?Trayvon had a bag of Skittles,?? Fulton?s attorney, Ben Crump, told Lauer. ?(Zimmerman) had a nine millimeter gun. He was almost 80 pounds more weight than Trayvon Martin. This is a situation where when you?listen to those 911 tapes and the three witnesses, everyone in America is asking, when are they going to arrest Zimmerman for killing this kid in cold blood???
The 911 tape is chilling (see video), the second call is is reportedly from the man alleged to have gunned down Trayvon Martin.
George Zimmerman, being described as a “neighborhood watch volunteer,” is fortunate he’s not black. If he were he’d be in jail.
Zimmerman’s father is focusing on the media in a one-page letter he sent the Orando-Sentinel.
Reading Charles Blow is the first time I’d heard about this case.
Trayvon had left the house he and his father were visiting to walk to the local 7-Eleven. On his way back, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, who was in a sport-utility vehicle. Zimmerman called the police because the boy looked ?real suspicious,? according to a 911 call released late Friday. The operator told Zimmerman that officers were being dispatched and not to pursue the boy.
Zimmerman apparently pursued him anyway, at some point getting out of his car and confronting the boy. Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman had a 9 millimeter handgun.
The two allegedly engaged in a physical altercation. There was yelling, and then a gunshot.
What made Zimmerman leave his car with his hand gun to pursue a smaller, younger, un-armed black youth?
There aren’t any individuals who own a firearm (myself included) that aren’t told at some point that pursuing someone in the manner Zimmerman did is wrong, illegal, not to mention ripe with felonious intent. You are taught that if someone is in your own home you can defend yourself, but if they flee and are outside you cannot.
Zimmerman’s actions were clearly premeditated.
There is no answer to date of what made Trayvon Martin look “real suspicious.”
Think Progress has a run-down of all the reports on this tragedy.
The unspeakable motivation of anyone to take a firearm on to the street to confront a citizen screams of a vigilante mentality that ignores respect for human rights, something that plagues our country to its core.
This event also brings to mind the firearms brought to select Tea Party events, with media capturing pictures of people openly carrying pistols to rallies, holstered at their side.
This post has been updated.
In this penultimate chapter of Anti-Dühring Engels takes on Dühring's notions of how the social product will be distributed under his "socialitarian" system: Anti-Dühring, Part Three, Chapter IV. The first thing to recall from the previous discussion on "production" is that Dühring finds nothing wrong with the mode of production under capitalism and the system of communes under which he organizes society will keep this mode of operation. The real evil to be overcome is in the mode of distribution. Little did Engels foresee that future "socialists" from the Marxist tradition would be playing around with such concepts for years to come (which he called "social alchemizing") under the rubric of "market socialism."
Dühring treats distribution independently of production. Once the social product has been produced, and this is accomplished by the necessary operative laws of capitalist production, the product can be distributed by an act of will so that "universal justice" is done. This can be done because in the commune everyone must labor and consume based on all forms of labor being considered as of equal value. This system will obtain both within the commune and between the communes. Furthermore, exchange value will linked to the value of the precious metals. This system will be an improvement over the "foggy notions" of thinkers such as Marx.
Let's see just how this "universal justice" actually is brought about. Following Engels, lets take a model commune of 100 workers working an eight hour day and making $100 worth of commodities each or a total of $10,000 worth of goodies. Say they work 250 days a year for a yearly product of $2,500,000. According to Dühring's system "universal justice" requires that each worker get paid the exact value of his labor which would be 250 times $100 or $25,000 a year. The commune pays out the entire value that it creates so, as Engels says, at the end of a year, or a hundred years, "the commune is no richer than at the beginning." There is no accumulation possible in this system. Individuals can accumulate wealth for a worker can always deprive himself and not spend all of his money in a given time period, but society cannot accumulate wealth for any economic expansion or to carry out any kind of social programs.
This is not the only problem with Dühring's commune. The fact that workers are all paid the same means a single worker will actually have more income for savings than a worker with a large family to take care of. Rich and poor will gradually reappear and eventually all the problems of a capitalist society. This tendency cannot be stopped by rules and regulations as Dühring's "universal justice" demands that the workers can dispose of their wages as they wish. And as money is the "social incarnation" of human labor and operates by the laws of capitalist economics in the commune as well as the surrounding world, all of Dühring's regulations to control it "are just as powerless against it as they are against the multiplication table or the chemical composition of water."
Dühring's system breaks down because he, not Marx and other socialists, is under the control of "foggy notions." Dühring just doesn't understand the basic operating conditions of the capitalist system. He wasn't the only one in Engel's day who claimed to be able to explain economics without really understanding what was going on-- the phenomenon is just as rampant today in the 21st century as it was in the 19th. Therefore at this point in his polemic against Dühring, Engels takes a timeout to give his readers a brief summary of Economics 101.
The capitalist economy is based on commodity production and the only value recognized by capitalism is the value of commodities, according to Engels. To say that any given commodity has a value is to say four things about it. 1. That it has a use value-- it serves some socially useful function. 2. That it has been privately produced [this is a simple model of capitalism, not a mixed economy or state capitalism]. 3. It is a product of individual labor but "unconsciously and involuntarily" it also is a social product containing human labor in general which is measured through exchange. 4. The value of the social labor contained in it is measured by some other commodity. Engels gives the example a clock having the same value as a certain quantity of cloth-- say "fifty shillings."
This only means that it took the same amount of socially necessary labor time to make the clock as to make the cloth. Since we don't live in a barter society a special commodity has developed which is used to measure the relative values of all the other commodities to each other-- this is money.
The term "relative" value is important. We cannot determine the "absolute value" of every commodity-- i.e., calculate the exact value of the labor power used to create it. This is because of the complexity of the capitalist system and the variations of the cost of labor and labor time from factory to factory and location to location. All these different factors average out over time and commodities begin to reflect their relative values, the relative rate of socially necessary labor time needed to create them, by having their worth expressed in terms of money. Prices are reflections of relative value not absolute value and can fluctuate wildly around the actual value of commodities-- but over time they come to reflect the actual values that underlie them but in a relative manner.
Engels gives an analogy from the chemistry of his day. He says that the absolute atomic weights of the elements were unknown so scientists used hydrogen as 1 and expressed the relative atomic weights of the other elements as multiples of hydrogen. This is analogous to elevating "gold [or whatever is used as money] to the level of the absolute commodity, the general equivalent of all other commodities" and using it to measure the relative value of human (social) labor contained in them.
The term "social labor" is important to understand. It is not raw individual labor that determines the value of a commodity. It is rather the amount of labor that in a given society is necessary to produce different commodities that gives them their values-- the socially necessary labor time. At least this is "value" as expressed in a capitalist society. In a communist society "value" will not be so expressed. A communist society will have a planned economy and workers will know the value of the labor power they will devote to the production of the products needed by society. "Money" will not be necessary to measure this value. Engels notes that "all that would be left, in a communist society, of the politico-economic concept of value" is the knowledge by the workers/planners "of the useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions concerning production."
The notion of "value" is the hallmark of a commodity based economy and, Engels says, it "contains the germ, not only of money, but also of all the more developed forms of the production and exchange of commodities." The fact that this exchange takes place by means of money, and considering the complexity of production (i.e., that in some fields more or less of the socially necessary labor may be involved) "admits of the possibility that the exchange may never take place altogether, or at least may not realize the correct value." This is especially true of the commodity labor-power which, as with all commodities, has its value determined by the socially necessary labor time it takes to produce it and can also be forced into service for longer periods of time than is socially necessary for its reproduction.
Once money has been invented within a primarily commodity producing society we will see its "first and most essential effect" which is the commodification of all aspects of society in which soon all social relations begin to be converted into money relations based on individual private interests. Engels mentions the dissolution of the common tillage system among Indian peasants and the same amongst the Russian peasants and their village communes. Inspired by Marx we might say "Privatize, Privatize, that is the Gospel and the Church!"
Now back to Dühring and his ilk. We cannot meaningfully talk about the "value of labor" and how to see that the worker gets his "full value" as Dühring does in discussing his system of communes. When you measure the value of commodities by the labor they contain you cannot then talk about the value of labor in the same way. Engels says it is the same with weight. We can measure the heaviness of commodities by their weight but we cannot talk about the heaviness of weight. What Dühring and others do is try to measure the "value" of labor by the products it makes (it should actually be measured by time) and then they think the function of socialism is to see to it that "the full proceeds of labour" are given to the workman. But this means the whole value of what the working class creates is returned to the workers in terms of each individual getting back all the value he has created.
This will of course leave nothing for the capitalists. What it overlooks is that "the most progressive function of society" is accumulation. This is why Marxists, by the way, tout the General Consumption Fund (GCF). The individual workers do not get back 100% of the value they have created. The "state" or whatever social arrangement that replaces it, takes a portion of the created value and puts into the GCF which then disperses it to society as a whole (rent and food subsidies, medical care, education, maintenance and replacement of machinery, etc.) The working class does get back the value it creates but collectively as well as individually. The Dühringean system would stagnate and fall apart-- it is economic nonsense.
Finally, Engels points out that the law of value is "the fundamental law" of commodity production and so of capitalism "the highest form" of commodity production. The law of value dictates that commodities created by equal social labor are equal to each other-- i.e., mutually exchangeable. In our day, as in Engels', the only way this law can operate under capitalism is "as a blindly operating law of nature inherent in things and relations and independent of the will or actions of the producers."
It is just this law that Dühring is appealing to when he dreams of creating communes where equal labor is exchanged for equal labor based on his "universal principle of justice." He thinks it possible to keep capitalist economic relations but to abolish the abuses that such relations lead to. In this he completely resembles Proudhon who also wanted to "abolish the real consequences of the law of value by means of fantastic ones."
Engels ends his chapter by comparing Dühring's search for a new society based on his notions of just distributions to Don Quixote's search for Mambrino's helmet which turns up only the old barber's basin.
Read The Full Article:
Click here to view this media
Actor George Clooney on Sunday said that President Barack Obama was likely to be re-elected, but cautioned liberals not to get cocky "because you will always lose."
In an interview with NBC's David Gregory, Clooney explained that the president has "always looked good to be re-elected."
"I happen to believe that Democrats are just very poor in general at explaining what it is when they accomplish something," the longtime activist remarked. "If I was a Republican, if Obama was a Republican, I would be selling all of the, you know, he saved the auto industry, he got Osama bin Laden, he passed the health care bill that nobody could pass. If that was a Republican issue, I would be able to sell his presidency as a very successful one. But Democrats are bad at that. We like to pick each other apart. That's our thing."
"The worst think you could do is in any way feel safe or cocky because you will always lose," he warned.
Clooney added that unlike his good friend Matt Damon, he was not disappointed in Obama "in the least."
"The issues that I believe in and the president that I voted for, I'm very proud of," the actor insisted.
What's even more important is that the under-employment rate is coming down as well. The numbers aren't earth shattering, but any improvement is positive news. Gallup:
The U.S. government will report its March unemployment rate on Friday, April 6. It will be based largely on mid-month reference week conditions. At 8.8%, Gallup's mid-March unadjusted unemployment rate is down by 0.3 points from 9.1% in February. This suggests that "real" unemployment decreased in March. Of course, Gallup's unadjusted rate in February was substantially higher than the government's unadjusted 8.7% rate.
The 0.3-percentage-point decline in mid-March moderates the 0.5-point increase Gallup found in February, but it still leaves the mid-month rate higher than the 8.6% in January. A year ago, Gallup recorded a similar decline in the March unemployment rate of 0.4 points, as it fell to 9.9% in March from 10.3% in February. The percentage of Americans working part time but wanting full-time work also declined in mid-March, to 9.8% from 10.0% in February. While the percentage of unemployed Americans is lower than it was a year ago, the percentage of Americans working part-time but seeking full-time work in mid-March is higher than the 9.2% of March 2011.Note that Gallup's unemployment numbers for last month are higher than the US government's numbers. The explanation is complicated, but you can click through to Gallup's explanation. In any case, both the USG and Gallup both show unemployment dropped, which is good news.
For two nights, it appears a dozen or so people have occupied Union Square in New York City. This morning there are people still in the park who slept there overnight. What is happening here carries the potential to renew the movement that has now been[...]
Read The Full Article:
In 2005 I was trying to explain why I was drawn to the Cindy Sheehan protest outside of the Bush "ranch"/stage set in Crawford, Texas. I told the story of the first time I ever went to jail.
I remember in 1966 I heard about the first big draft board rally in NYC. I was living a couple hours away and I was really just a kid. But I somehow managed to get into New York and I somehow managed to get to the front of the rally which started out as a protest by 10 people and ended up with tens of thousands. An agreement was reached between the police and the organizers that the 10 leaders would get arrested as a symbolic gesture of nonviolent protest and everyone else would sing a few folk songs and go home peacefully. Well, no one consulted me. As the police ushered the 10 under the barricades I attached myself to Dr. Spock (not the Vulcan, the baby doctor) and claimed I was his aide and he might have a heart attack and die if I wasn't with him. The cop who challenged me-- he knew the difference between 10 and 11-- looked puzzled but Spock laughed and agreed and in I went-- to jail. It was my first time, though not my last. But the first was the best. It was a cell filled with the coolest people in NY: Allen Ginsburg, Tuli Kupferberg, Ed Saunders, Benjamin Spock... Eventually the rest of the crowd got pissed off and everyone wanted to be arrested so the police started arresting everyone until there was no more capacity. And then they let everyone go. It was all kind of good-natured.
For most people, prison is punishment. For a few, it becomes a badge of honor.
One Member of Congress told me that every few years, he gets arrested. So that people can see whose side he's on.
Eugene Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for protesting against United States involvement in World War I. Debs ran for President from prison, and he received almost a million votes (3.4% of the total).
And on March 11, 1986, on his 21st birthday, you would have found Jesse Jackson, Jr. in jail, for protesting at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C., against apartheid in South Africa.
Both before and after that, if you wanted to find Jesse Jackson, Jr. at lunchtime on Thursdays, you wouldn't go looking for him in a diner or a fast-food joint. You'd find him at 444 N. Michigan Avenue, in Chicago, in front of the South African Consulate, protesting against apartheid. Week after week after week. The protests at the Consulate started in 1977, and they went on for more than a decade.
The protests ended only after Nelson Mandela was released from his 27 years of incarceration ? another badge of honor. On the day of his release, Mandela made a speech that was broadcast around the world. Mandela called for peace and reconciliation. On the stage with Mandela that day was Jesse Jackson, Jr.
For the past quarter-century, in one way or another, Jesse Jackson, Jr. has devoted himself to the causes of justice, equality and peace. He is the kind of Democrat that Democrats always ask for: tough, fearless, compassionate and unstoppable.
He faces a serious challenge in his primary on Tuesday, from a former Democratic Member of Congress.
He needs our help. He deserves our help. Let's help him.
Remember, we don't just need more Democrats. We need more Democrats, and better ones. We can't let one who is this good slip away.
Like Congressional districts across the country, Mr. Jackson?s territory morphed last year in a statewide remapping process and now includes parts of Ms. Halvorson?s previous district. The new boundaries may have created another vulnerability for Mr. Jackson, altering the racial makeup of his district enough-- from about 68 percent African-American to only 54 percent-- to raise questions about whether Ms. Halvorson has a chance to become the first white candidate to win the seat in three decades.
Ms. Halvorson, a former Illinois state legislator and one-term congresswoman who lost her seat in 2010, is also getting some unsolicited help from Campaign for Primary Accountability, an anti-incumbent ?super PAC? that helped defeat Representative Jean Schmidt of Ohio, who was widely thought to have a safe seat, in a Republican Party primary this month.
The group says that it is aiming at both Republicans and Democrats in races where ?there is high unfavorable ratings for the incumbent,? and that it plans to spend six figures against Mr. Jackson.
America produces 200 times as much oil as Germany, but our gas prices rise and fall in tandem (we pay far lower gas taxes). Source: Energy Information Administration and NY Times.
The public understands Obama isn’t to blame for high gasoline prices, as recent polls make clear. Even the Wall Street Journal and Cato Institute agree: ?It?s not Obama?s fault that crude oil prices have increased.?
But as the NY Times pointed out Sunday, facts don’t stop the GOP:
The issue of gas prices has not only been misunderstood but thoroughly distorted by relentless ideological spin from industry and its political allies, mainly Republican. Hardly a day goes by that some industry cheerleader somewhere ? be it Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana or Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma ? does not flay President Obama for driving up oil prices by denying the industry access to oil and gas deposits and imposing ruinous environmental rules. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said last week that Mr. Obama should be held ?fully responsible for what the American public is paying for gasoline.?
The Times put together some great charts using EIA data. They make clear 1) oil prices are set on a global market and 2) the strategy of “Drill, Baby, Drill” adopted by the GOP and President Obama has succeeded at increasing production and decreasing dependency on foreign oil — but it has unsurprisingly failed at affecting global markets.
In 2005, oil imports accounted for nearly 60 percent of America?s daily consumption. In 2010, for the first time in recent memory, imports were less than half of consumption, and last year, imports were only 45% ? 8.6 million barrels a day of the 19 million consumed. Source: EIA
This is no surprise to anyone who follows oil market analysis. In fact, back in 2009, the U.S. Energy Information Administration?s issued a report that examined the difference between full offshore drilling and continued restrictions. In 2020, there is no impact on gasoline prices. In 2030, US gasoline prices would be three cents a gallon lower. Woohoo!
The bottom line is clear, as the NY Times points out:
With developing countries like China and India demanding more petroleum, prices are likely to stay high. That?s reality ? no matter what the Republican spinners say. Only a rounded policy mix of greater fuel efficiency, steady production and the aggressive development of alternative fuels can protect American consumers against what could be even greater price shocks in the years ahead.
We’re not going to substantially change U.S. gasoline prices through more drilling and more domestic production. We can protect ourselves and our economy from rising prices and oil shocks — and, of course, catastrophic climate change — only by reducing oil consumption.
On Friday, federal Medicaid officials informed Texas that it could no longer receive federal funding for women’s health programs under Medicaid because Texas defied federal Medicaid law by refusing to allow clinics that provide abortion services access to the funds. Texas’ tenther Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) immediately fell back to his go to position whenever he doesn’t like anything the Obama Administration does — claiming that the administration’s action must violate the Tenth Amendment:
We don’t think that — whether it’s Planned Parenthood or one of their affiliates — that they should be getting our dollars to be used in their programs. And we see, whether it’s Planned Parenthood directly or whether it is one of their affiliates that is involved directly in the abortion business, ah, our legislature is pro-life, overwhelmingly voted to not allow Planned Parenthood to be receiving any of these dollars, and yet this administration, in clear violation of the Tenth Amendment of the United States — ah, they’re just playing politics.
Perry, of course, also believes that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, so his views on the Constitution aren’t exactly credible. Nevertheless, Perry’s claim that Texas has a right to openly defy federal law and still expect to receive all the federal funds he wants is particularly unfortunate.
As ThinkProgress previously explained, Medicaid is one of many federal programs where the federal government offers money up to the states in return for their agreement to comply with certain conditions. States may take the money and accept the conditions, or they may refuse the money outright. But they cannot take the money and then refuse to use it as the federal government instructs them to use it for the same reason that someone cannot take a job, refuse to comply with their own job description and then expect to continue to draw a salary.
One condition that Medicaid law places on the states is that the states must allow patients to freely choose their own health provider — even if that provider is affiliated with an organization the state doesn’t like. Texas doesn’t want its Medicaid beneficiaries to have this choice, which is Texas’ right, but Texas does not have the right to openly defy federal law and expect the federal government to pay for it.
Indeed, it should be obvious why Texas cannot have this right. If Texas can defy one part of Medicaid law, it can defy any part of Medicaid law. Under Rick Perry’s reading of the Tenth Amendment, there’s nothing preventing Texas from taking billions in Medicaid funds and then using them to build a luxurious new wing onto the governor’s mansion.
“Widespread and potentially catastrophic areal flooding and river flooding is expected this afternoon through Wednesday morning in Eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Western Louisiana, and Southwest Missouri, warns the National Weather Service in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in their latest flood watch for the region.” Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters reports. “Damaging winds, large hail, flash flooding, and few strong tornadoes are expected to affect the area late this afternoon. ” “The ongoing March heat wave in the Midwest is one of the most extreme heat events in U.S. history.” He adds: “While the blocking pattern responsible for the heat wave is natural, it is very unlikely that the intensity of the heat would have been so great unless we were in a warming climate.”