Extensive cell phone use can triple brain cancer risk


By L.J. Devon,

(NaturalNews) Questions continue to arise about cell phones and their contribution to certain cancers. Even the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has raised some concern about extensive cell phone use. The NCI explains that cell phones emit radio frequency energy in the form of non-ionizing radiation. In other words, a cell phone basically lets off radio waves which are absorbed by the nearest tissues of the body. If a person carries a phone in their pocket all day long, energy can be absorbed into the person’s side and midsection.

How does this energy affect the cells over time?

Does this constant exposure disrupt cellular processes, especially when held up to the brain?

While the NCI says that a cell phone’s non-ionizing radiation has not been proven for carcinogenic activity, other studies may prove otherwise.

More than 15 hours of cell phone use per month may triple brain cancer risk

French scientists are now reporting on a new cohort study showing how extensive cell phone use can increase one’s risk of brain cancer. The study, included in the newest issue of the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that brain cancer risks tripled in individuals who use their phones for more than 15 hours per month.

This study coincides with a report in 2011 from the International Agency for Research on Cancer showing how mobile phones let off radio frequency fields that are capable of possessing carcinogenic activity in some people.

In this new French study, glioma and meningioma brain tumors occurred three times more often than normal in patients who used their cell phones extensively in their careers and day-to-day activities.

“Our study is part of that trend, but the results have to be confirmed,” said Isabelle Baldi, of the University of Bordeaux in southwestern France, who took part in the study.

Naysayers of the study believe that the results cannot be confirmed and do not include an accurate picture of phone use in real life, including factors such as smoking. Furthermore, a relationship between cell phone use and cancer is never established in the cohort study. Also, as phone technology evolves, different levels of radioactivity are emitted by different phones, making cancer connections nearly impossible to make.

The study even acknowledged this: “The rapid evolution of technology has led to a considerable increase in the use of mobile phones and a parallel decrease of [radiowave intensity] emitted by the phones.”

“It is difficult to define a level of risk, if any, especially as mobile phone technology is constantly evolving.”

Tumor rates three times higher for those with careers that demand extensive cell phone use

In the cohort study, several different groups of people were followed over time as cell phone use was averaged among the groups. In the study, 253 cases of glioma and 194 cases of meningioma were investigated in between 2004 and 2006. Patients’ lifestyles were compared with 892 healthy (control) individuals from the general population. The researchers examined cell phone use of all individuals in a two- to ten-year period, with an average observation period of five years. After analyzing cancer incidence data, the researchers found striking results.

On average, glioma and meningioma patients used their cell phones more extensively for career and lifestyle purposes. Those in sales used their phone the most, which likely contributed to the higher prevalence of brain cancer.

Risk highest for cell phone use before age 20

The findings correlate with a Swedish cohort study between 1997 and 2003 that showed increased risk for glioma with cumulative cell phone use. Questionnaires investigating cell phone use from 1,251 brain cancer patients and 2,438 healthy controls showed an increased risk for glioma for patients who first used cell phones before the age of 20. Possibly, highest risk of brain cancer from cell phone use is based on both extended use (over 15 hours a week) and from use beginning at an early age.

Being Poor Can Also Affect the Type of Cancer You Get

76ffd45c4By Alison Ritchie,

We know that being poor can make you sick. New research provides more evidence of this dismal link specifically for cancer: Living in poverty, it seems, is associated with a higher risk of contracting the kind of tumors that will kill you.

That’s the conclusion of scientists who’ve investigated almost 3 million malignant tumors diagnosed in 16 states as well as the Los Angeles area – what they assert is the “most comprehensive assessment of the relationship between SES (socioeconomic status) and cancer incidence for the United States.” Overall, they found no correlation between how poor or rich you are and how likely you are to get cancer. But drilling down into the census tracts with higher poverty rates, they noticed a prevalence of cancers with low incidence and high mortality rates. Wealthier neighborhoods were marked by cancers of high incidence, but low mortality rates. As the lead researcher, Francis Boscoe at the New York State Cancer Registry, explains: “When it comes to cancer, the poor are more likely to die of the disease while the affluent are more likely to die with the disease.”

Out of 39 types of cancer, 14 showed a positive association with poverty, the researchers said in their study (which was partly supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Poor neighborhoods were more likely to see cancers of the larynx, cervix, liver, and penis, as well as Kaposi sarcoma. They were also tied to an uptick in cancers related to tobacco use and human papillomavirus. Richer areas, meanwhile, suffered more from melanoma and other skin afflictions, and cancers of the thyroid and testes.

What’s to account for these differences? Though race might play a part in the grand scheme of cancer, it’s not applicable to what the researchers measured in this experiment. “The SES effects we report are independent of race, as race was adjusted for in the analysis,” they say. Rather, there could be behavioral and economic things at play here, such as substance use and access to medical care, according to the study:

In general, cancer sites associated with behavioral risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol and intravenous drug use, sexual transmission, and poor diet tend to be associated with higher poverty. In contrast, cancer sites associated with overdiagnosis are associated with lower poverty, notably skin, thyroid, and prostate. Overdiagnosis refers to the clinical detection of asymptomatic tumors, often through advanced medical technology, that would otherwise remain undetected and uncounted.

For a breakdown of the cancers that are diagnosed in poor and rich neighborhoods, have a look at this graph the researchers made for four poverty levels using data from the 2005-2009 American Community Survey. The afflictions that strike in higher-poverty areas are located toward the right, and cancers discovered more in richer ‘hoods are shown toward left:

Higher prices associated with hospital ownership of practices, study finds

By Alison Ritchie,

Hospitals across the country have been purchasing practices at a rapid pace, but a new study shows that increased hospital ownership may lead to higher prices for patients.

The study, called “Vertical Integration: Hospital Ownership Of Physician Practices Is Associated With Higher Prices And Spending,” was published in the May issue of Health Affairs. Researchers from Stanford University analyzed about 2.1 million hospital claims from patients in private, fee-for-service health plans between 2001 and 2007.

“Taken together, our results provide a mixed, although somewhat negative picture of vertical integration from the perspective of the privately insured,” the authors wrote. “Our most definitive finding is that hospital ownership of physician practices leads to higher prices and higher levels of hospital spending.”

Provisions of the Affordable Care Act incentivize hospitals and practices to form Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) by offering bonus Medicare payments, and the authors acknowledge that in some ways, vertical integration may be beneficial to patients. “There is almost universal agreement that greater coordination of care, especially between physicians and hospitals, would be in patients’ best interests,” the authors wrote.

But the authors also raised another concern.

“According to economic theory, vertical integration has the potential to increase the market power of providers, especially hospitals, and to encourage physicians to supply inappropriate treatments by facilitating hospitals’ payments of kickbacks that would be illegal if they were made formally,” the authors wrote.

Caroline Steinberg, the American Hospital Association’s vice president of trends analysis, told Kaiser Health News that the goal is not to boost prices. “Hospital are integrating with physicians because it is a necessary way to engage physicians in innovative payment methods such as bundling payments for one service such as hip replacements and ACOs,” she said.

The study did not examine impact of hospital consolidation on the quality of care or patient health outcomes, which the authors say is “an important topic for future research.”

GOP Candidates Are Seeing Obamacare In A Different Light

By Cynthia Tucker,

In an interview with a reporter last month, Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) “accidentally” made complimentary remarks about the Affordable Care Act, routinely known as Obamacare. (His campaign aides claim he misunderstood the question.) Some analysts say those remarks were among the missteps that have left the senator in danger of defeat as he faces a primary runoff against a Tea Party upstart, Chris McDaniel.

It’s possible that Cochran was confused when he told The Washington Post that the ACA “is an example of an important effort by the federal government to help make health care available, accessible and affordable.” It’s also possible that he committed the standard political gaffe as commentator Michael Kinsley defined it years ago: “… when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”

Either way, Cochran’s comments are a reminder of a pronounced shift among Republican politicians discussing Obamacare on the campaign trail. Few of them are delivering feisty denunciations and declarations of repeal, as they did just a few months ago. Even in deeply conservative states, Republicans are muting their rhetoric, acknowledging positive tenets of the ACA and engaging in equivocation – or, in some cases, fabrication – to cover their tracks.

That’s because the political terrain has shifted beneath their feet. In practice, as its proponents have long predicted, the ACA has helped millions of people to obtain health care they would not have been able to afford otherwise. Surely it’s no surprise that few voters want to give up benefits they have just begun to enjoy.

That has meant some less-than-artful dodging by such indefatigable partisan warriors as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In keeping with the GOP script, McConnell has been adamant about repealing the ACA.

But in his home state of Kentucky, Kynect, the state-run exchange that connects residents to Obamacare, is wildly popular, having signed up more than 400,000 people for health insurance. So McConnell takes advantage of voters’ confusion – many don’t understand that Kynect is Obamacare – to suggest he supports the exchange but not that foul law that made it possible. Indeed, he has gone so far as to declare that they are unconnected – a laughable lie, even in the warped reality of a political campaign.

Several other prominent Republicans have found themselves in a similar bind, as many facets of the law prove politically popular. Voters still don’t like “Obamacare,” but they like many of its provisions, including those that outlaw bans on patients who have pre-existing conditions.

Voters also support the provision that prevents lifetime caps on insurance payments – something that benefits those with serious, chronic illnesses – and the one that allows parents to keep their children insured until they are 26 years old. Indeed, the only provision that remains broadly unpopular is the mandate that requires every adult to buy health insurance (a necessary feature of the law, and one that many Republicans, including Mitt Romney, once believed in).

Perhaps the most dramatic shift among GOP pols has concerned Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The Supreme Court’s ruling affirming the ACA made the Medicaid expansion optional for states, and most Republican governors resisted it. That was foolish and shortsighted, since the federal government pays the overwhelming portion of the additional cost. Those governors – and their GOP colleagues in Congress – were willing to trade better health for some of their poorest residents for the chance to poke Obama in the eye.

But now some of them are seeing the error of that calculation. For one thing, it’s hard to own up to a willingness to shaft the working poor. For another, some rural hospitals can’t afford to stay open unless they receive additional Medicaid funds. Those hard facts have forced GOP Senate candidates such as Michigan’s Terri Lynn Land to back away from their diehard opposition to Obamacare.

And, as more Americans benefit, the resistance will grow weaker still. That was the historical cycle with Medicare – which the GOP establishment fought long and hard – and Obamacare will likely follow that path to broad acceptance.

The Tea Party Is Falling Fast in Its Battle with the GOP Establishment

tea_party_flag_rtr_img_1By Brittney Cooper,

The Tea Party—the collective name for a wide range of right-wing activist groups, well-funded Washington-based organizations and local radicals—is not doing well in 2014, and that portends ill for would-be 2016 presidential candidates in the Republican Party who intend to rely on Tea Party support against more establishment-backed candidates. Still, in the GOP’s base, the Tea Party is the most passionate, fired-up (Benghazi! IRS! Obamacare!) part of the party, giving it an outsized influence—especially in Republican primary contests.

But it’s precisely in those contests where, in 2014, the Tea Party is losing big.

Figuring out how strong is the amorphous entity called “the Tea Party” is not easy. One can’t join it officially, for the most part, and paradoxically (for pollsters) some people who support the Tea Party ideologically and in their voting patterns may not consider themselves members or supporters when asked by a pollster. According to a recent Gallup poll, 41 percent of Republicans consider themselves “supporters” of the Tea Party—but that’s down sharply from 61 percent in 2010. (Nationally, among all voters, support for the Tea Party stands at 22 percent, down from a high of 32 percent in 2010.) And, according to Gallup, Tea Party types are far more focused on the traditionally low turnout primary elections in 2014 and on the general election later this year, with 52 percent of Tea Partiers saying that they are “enthusiastic” about 2014, compared to just 35 percent of “all other Republicans.” So, in theory at least, the Tea Party is poised to have a big influence on this year’s GOP vote.

So far, however, anti-establishment Tea Party candidates haven’t won a single major statewide race in GOP primaries, including their big loss in North Carolina to a more traditionally minded, establishment-backed right-winger last week.

Various other polls, including NBC News/Marist, New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution have all shown evidence of Tea Party weakness and the strength of the Chamber of Commerce–oriented, Karl Rove–backed, Wall Street–linked GOP establishment. The AJC poll showed, in particular, that the Tea Party isn’t likely to win in Georgia, where the Democrats might have a shot at picking up a Senate seat, especially in the Republican candidate is a Tea Partier. The Washington Post, reporting on the polls, says that they “confirm an emerging trend of the 2014 primary season: the Republican establishment has the upper hand over the tea party.” And the Post adds that where the Tea Party has strength, it’s in states that don’t really matter in a presidential contest: Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

Perhaps as a result of its frustration, the Tea Party is bitterly attacking the Republican establishment and even its own erstwhile allies, such as FreedomWorks, which has traditionally been considered one of the Washington-based focal points of the Tea Party itself. As The New York Times reports today, when FreedomWorks shifted its support from one candidate to another in Nebraska’s Senate primary—held today—a group of fifty-two Tea Party activists lambasted Freedom Works:

We are not million-dollar Washington, DC special interest groups with strong ties to Capitol Hill. We are simply Nebraskans who are fed up. We were not consulted, polled or contacted by these Washington, DC groups.

The Times provides a series of missteps and hilarious errors by far-right conservatives in race after race, contributing to the alienation of local activists.

And The Washington Post reported this week on the Tea Party’s conflict with Representative Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader. “Just a few miles from his family home, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) felt the wrath of the tea party Saturday, when activists in his congressional district booed and heckled the second-most powerful House Republican.”

In today’s vote, the Tea Party is counting on Nebraska to hand them their first significant win in 2014, where their candidate, Ben Sasse, president of Midland University, has a lead in the polls. Reports Fox News:

Sasse enjoys support from the Club for Growth, Tea Party Patriots and other major conservative organizations, as well as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, and Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee, who have recently joined him on the campaign trail.

But there are two other candidates in the Nebraska race, including Sid Dinsdale, a dark-horse banker who’s making a late push.

The Christian Science Monitor provides a list of the potential top ten Tea Party candidates who’ve competed in 2014. The places where the Tea Partiers have the best shot, though often as underdogs, include Mississippi, where a Tea Party type is challenging long-time Republican Senator Thad Cochran in a June 3 vote. In states like Kentucky, where the Tea Party candidate is pitted against Mitch McConnell, the challenge is more quixotic.

But even in Nebraska, where the Tea Party might pull off a victory, it is in disarray, according to U.S. News and World Report. One local Tea Party activist told the reporter, “The Tea Party is unraveling.” Adds the magazine:

The five-way Republican Senate primary has revealed an unusual test case for the conservative wing of the Republican party. What happens when the top candidates in the race are all conservative enough to win a fraction of support from the tea party, but one is anointed the choice of outside groups from the Beltway?

In Nebraska, the traditional labels of “establishment” and “tea party” are blurring so much that some Nebraska GOP voters are dubious as to why the national conservative groups felt the need to get involved in the race at all. Some voters in the state say the race is a perfect example of how the national tea party has lost touch with the grass roots supporters who helped them rise to power. In recent months, media reports have shown many groups are spending more money on their infrastructure than on candidate who can further their causes in Congress.

As a result of all the confusion, it isn’t clear whether or not a Sasse win in Nebraska will be seen as a Tea Party win, since Tea Party factions (including FreedomWorks) are on all sides.


Charter School Pirates of Privilege Plunder Public Schools



It bears repeating again and again that the concept of charter schools is a scam and – more significantly – a betrayal of society’s obligation to provide communities filled with economic opportunities to all.

A recent article in the Huffington Post – “Big Profits in Not-for-Profit Charter Schools” – lays out one of the most basic complaints about charter schools: The primary parties they enrich are the administrators and nonprofits that run them, along with the for-profit consultants who provide services to allegedly “improve” public education. The article notes that some charter school administrators make “very heady profits”:

Currently, there are approximately 2.5 million students enrolled in publicly funded charter schools in the United States. These charter schools are operated by both profit-making companies and “not for profit” organizations. In New York City every charter school is operated by what is known as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In New York State, only 16 out of 209 charter schools are operated by for-profit companies. In other states, particularly Michigan, Florida, and Arizona, for-profit companies dominate the charter school movement. In Michigan, about 65% of the charter schools are run by for-profit educational management organizations

However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.

According to my calculations and The New York Times, other non-profit charter school administrators also make some very heady profits. The head of the Harlem Village Academies earns $499,000 to manage schools with 1,355 students or $369 per student. The head of the Bronx Preparatory School earns $338,000 to manage schools with 651 students or over $500 per student. The head of the Our World Charterearns $200,000 to manage schools with a total of 738 students or $271 per student. The local head of the KIPP Charter Network earns $235,000 to manage schools with 2,796 or $84 per student. By comparison, the chief educational officer ofTexas is paid $214,999 to manage a system with almost 5 million public school students.

As most readers of BuzzFlash and Truthout are aware by now – if you follow the school privatization debate – many large foundations play large roles in bankrolling big salaries and resources that dwarf the capabilities of underfunded public schools. This includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, of course, and a host of neoliberal and right wing philanthropists who think that they are improving education by privatizing it and even further neglecting the students in real need of educational attention.

Charter schools are a triple winner for the agenda of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s apostles, whose goal is to essentially stigmatize public education. This allows them to enrich the already-wealthy individuals who oversee the charter schools and movement; break the back of teachers’ unions; and eviscerate perhaps the most basic role of society in a democracy: providing enriching and effective education to all students.

Although some studies show charter schools performing better – perhaps because they often cherry-pick their students – many analyses indicate charter schools, in general (despite their enhanced philanthropic resources), perform no better or worse than schools teaching comparable students. In short, the whole supercilious, patronizing notion that the “best and the brightest” in society must come to the rescue, with their haughty assertion of superior knowledge about how to educate young people, is nothing more than a self-profiting sham.

The charter school movement is inextricably bound up with economic inequality in the United States. After all, it is rare to see any move toward charter schools in well-off or even middle-class suburbs. What the charter school movement is about is blaming large swaths of urban areas for being economically abandoned due to an alleged failure of the public school systems. It is not phrased that way by Duncan, who grew up in Hyde Park near President Obama’s home and attended Harvard, but that is the heart of the issue.

Systemic changes to economic inequality (impacting destitute minority communities in the cities – and poor rural white communities that do not even enter the national charter school agenda) for the most part, are not on the table. That suits the ruling elite just fine. They have no desire or sense of obligation to alter an economic system that has produced urban plantations of poverty that are patrolled by a police state. Yet, they blame teachers’ unions for producing students who are allegedly unemployable in communities where there is no significant number of jobs (other than illicit ones, which give the police a reason to occupy the communities).

Charter schools do provide us with a lesson in education, but not the intended one. It is incontestable that in the United States, school districts with greater economic resources and families with higher incomes have higher graduation rates and fewer dropouts.

We have learned a lot about charter schools over the past few years.

The most salient educational lesson we have absorbed is that the rich have found a new way to make money off of the poor – and leave the most needy even further behind.

‘Case for Reparations’ Explains How America Must Come to Terms With Its History

Bill Moyers and Ta-Nehisi Coates during Coates' May 21, 2014, appearance on Moyers & Company

Bill Moyers and Ta-Nehisi Coates during Coates’ May 21, 2014, appearance on Moyers & Company

By Peniel E. Joseph

Social media is buzzing over Ta-Nehisi Coates’ remarkable essay, “The Case for Reparations,” recently published in The Atlantic, and his appearance on legendary journalist Bill Moyers’ Moyers & Company, in which Coates distills the ways in which American history has distorted our understanding of contemporary race relations.

White supremacy, he reminds us, is as integral to the American story as guns and apple pie. And in his piece, he dismantles many of the myths and lies about American history and our democratic system, including tales, invoked by presidents and civil rights leaders alike, that the black community can be saved simply by hard work and exemplary behavior. “By erecting a slave society,” Coates observes, “America created the economic foundation for its great experiment in democracy.”

Deep reporting on the life of Clyde Ross, who escaped one kind of bondage in Mississippi, only to become victim of predatory lending practices in Chicago during the 1950s, offers a glimpse into institutional obstacles confronting blacks during and after the high tide of racial segregation.

The debate over reparations predates the modern civil rights movement, and can be traced to enslaved Africans who, at times successfully, petitioned for freedom and pensions from British and American courts. In the Civil War’s aftermath, former bondswoman Callie House launched a heroic, albeit unfulfilled, quest to gain government pensions for former slaves.

The promise of “40 acres and a mule,” Coates argues, proved illusory for black folks, and “having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices.”

“They were terrorized.”

The case for reparations rests not simply on past injury during slavery, or the century of Jim Crow that followed it. The reparations debate is fundamentally shaped by the relationship between American democracy and white supremacy in our contemporary age. Our nation’s racist culture grew out of democracy’s intimate relationship with racial slavery and economic exploitation.

As Coates powerfully illuminates, the narrative of black history is not simply one of dogged triumph over racial violence, poverty and misery. A more nuanced and honest accounting of American history reveals the ways in which, at every turn, black life has been, and remains, subjugated by institutional, political and legal barriers that have not only prevented black advancement but robbed blacks of wealth, land, wages and citizenship.

And the saga continues in unabated residential segregation, predatory lending practices and a national obsession to deny the very existence of racial discrimination.

Since the civil rights movement’s heroic period, black scholars, activists and politicians have tackled the reparations debate from various angles, as historian Blair L.M. Kelley notes. Coates acknowledges this, but makes a case for Rep. John Conyers’ long-standing bill that would sponsor a congressional study of reparations as a starting point.

Although such a bill stands no chance of passing in our current political climate, it serves as an important marker for discussion. Black oppression in America is unique and unprecedented, both in the length of historic bondage and subsequent servitude. Thus, it requires unique solutions, something that reparations acknowledge.

In a very real sense, the history so cogently outlined contains very few surprises for scholars and students of African-American history.

But in the Obama age, where the fact of a black first family frequently muffles the national conversation on race and democracy, Americans need a primer on why race matters now more than ever. This includes young black folk, who are at times confused or ambivalent about the way in which the seemingly distant past (to them, the 1980s, let alone the 1960s or the 1860s) connects to their contemporary lives.

A candid discussion of reparations will ultimately force us to “imagine a new country,” observes Coates, in a note of hard-earned optimism in an otherwise unfailingly sober historical and political assessment of race in 21st-century America.

This “new” America requires coming to terms with the old. For many whites, and not just a few blacks, this means abandoning comforting myths about racial progress and upward mobility that hard facts disprove. Denial, that long-cherished American practice, is no longer an attractive option either. Coming to terms with America’s tortured and ongoing racial history means unmasking the roots of contemporary inequalities that make the era of Jim Crow less a memory of some distant past than an earlier manifestation of our current predicament.

And the most important impact of “The Case for Reparations” may be pedagogical: by reminding all Americans, irrespective of race, of the ways in which segregation, violence and inequality remain an as enduring part of our national legacy as heroic dreams of freedom, democracy and citizenship.

Dinesh D’Souza Loses Dismissal Motion, Will Be Tried For Campaign Finance Violations


Conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza failed to win dismissal of his federal charges for using straw donors to exceed campaign donation limits yesterday. D’Souza’s attorney argued that the recent McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court rendered the law unconstitutionally vague. Judge Berman also nixed D’Souza’s desired fishing expedition for evidence that he is a victim of political payback.

The judge also denied a request by D’Souza, a prominent critic of President Barack Obama, to seek the production of evidence that would support his claim the prosecution was in retaliation for his political activities.

“The court concludes the defendant has respectfully submitted no evidence he was selectively prosecuted,” Berman said.

It is true that D’Souza’s contributions would have been legal post-McCutcheon, which points to just how quickly we can all expect billionaire donors to exceed even the new, more generous limits set by the Roberts Court. Far from making American politics better, all this money will serve to make the current system even less democratic that it already is.

This system forces candidates to spend much of their time raising money from the wealthy and from business. Even if no direct quid pro quos are involved, candidates may simply absorb the views of the better-off by osmosis.

The danger is of a vicious cycle in which politicians adopt policies that favour the better-off; this gives the wealthy more money with which to lobby politicians, which leads to more favourable legislation and so on. The surge in inequality over the last 30 years could perhaps be attributed, in part, to this process.

Short of a constitutional amendment, there are not many ways to prevent a dystopian future where all but the richest Americans are shut out of the political process. One of them is to enforce the remaining limits with high-profile convictions to deter other people from breaking the laws.

D’Souza’s trial begins next Tuesday, and we will of course stay on top of the story.

White guy killer syndrome: Elliot Rodger’s deadly, privileged rage

Elliot Rodger

Elliot Rodger

By Brittney Cooper,

Welp. Another young white guy has decided that his disillusionment with his life should become somebody else’s problem. On Saturday, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger (who, as many commenters have pointed out, had a white father and mother of Asian descent) went on a killing spree on the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara, murdering his three roommates, shooting women outside a sorority house, and hitting people with his car as he attempted to get away from police.

How many times must troubled young white men engage in these terroristic acts that make public space unsafe for everyone before we admit that white male privilege kills? While Mark Cuban is busy crossing the street at any sign of a black male in a hoodie, or clutching his wallet a bit tighter at the sign of a tatted-up white guy, he may find a bullet whizzing by his head from a young, clean-cut white man, child of a Hollywood film director, upset that he does not have a certain level of clout and status with the ladies.

The idea that it is young black men or working-class white men (which is partially what I think Cuban’s invocation of tattoos attempts to encode) who make public space dangerous is belied by the fact that the problems of urban violence, which disproportionately involve young men of color, largely happen on residential terrain. Black men are not rolling onto college campuses and into movie theaters on a regular basis to shoot large numbers of people. Usually, the young men who do that are white, male, heterosexual and middle-class.

And make no mistake: From my standpoint as an armchair therapist — having read transcripts of Rodger’s videos — his anger is about his failure to be able to access all the markers of white male heterosexual middle-class privilege. He goes on and on about his status as a virgin, his inability to find a date since middle school, his anger and resentment about being rejected by blond, sorority women. In fact, he claims he will “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see.” As Jessica Valenti so thoroughly demonstrates: “misogyny kills.” I am struck by the extent to which Rodger believed he was entitled to have what he deemed the prettiest girls, he was entitled to women’s bodies, and when society denied him these “entitlements” he thought it should become the public’s problem. He thought that his happiness was worth the slaughter of multiple people.

This sense of heterosexual white male entitlement to a world that grants all one’s wishes, and this destructive murderous anger that attends the ostensible denial of these wishes, is at the emotional core of white supremacy. Elliot Rodger was a late bloomer, which while socially inconvenient and embarrassing, is neither uncommon nor a problem. But because we don’t have a fundamentally honest societal conversation happening about white male privilege, rooted as it is in sexism and racism, we can’t even observe one of the most basic truths here: What Rodger perceived as a denial was at the very worst a delay. Our society is fundamentally premised on making sure that straight, middle-class (upper class in Rodger’s case) white men have access to power, money and women.

And while we have no problem from President Obama, down to Paul Ryan, down to the preacher in the pulpit talking about pathological black masculinity, we seem wholly uninterested in talking about pathological white masculinity, which continues to assert itself in the most dangerous and deadly of ways.

In this regard, the rage at the core of Rodger’s horrific acts is not unlike the kind of middle-class, heterosexual, white male rage that drives much of social policy in this country. In the era of Barack Obama, we have endured a mass temper tantrum from white men that includes a mind-boggling war on women, with an unprecedented rollback of the gains of the women’s rights movement, and an attempt to decimate whole communities of color, which are disproportionately poor, through school privatization, mass incarceration (which began long before the Obama era) and the gutting of the social safety net.

I’m not calling these guys mass murderers. Of that I want to be clear. But I am saying that we cannot understand Elliot Rodger’s clear mental health issues and view of himself as the supremely forsaken victim here outside a context of racism, white supremacy and patriarchy. I’m also saying that white male privilege might be considered a mental health issue, because it allows these dudes to move through the world believing that their happiness, pleasure and well-being matters more than the death and suffering of others.

This is madness.

But it is neither singular, nor anomalous. Every few years, the American public has to watch in horror as some white kid goes on a rampage, killing everything from babies to old people. Yet, neither the press nor the law will understand such perpetrators as monsters or terrorists. Few will have a conversation about white male pathology and the ways that systems of whiteness and patriarchy continue to produce white men who think like this.

What is even more infuriating about this tragedy is that it could have been prevented. Rodger had been posting strange YouTube videos of himself talking about killing people over the last several weeks, so much so that his family was reportedly disturbed enough to call the police and have them come do a welfare check. But “officers concluded that he was ‘polite, courteous,’” and downplayed any difficulties.

In the manifesto he released he said he was relieved that officers did not push the matter further because they would have found his weapons.

Can I go ahead and scream yet? A black or brown man would have been violently hauled into a jail and locked up at the first sign of such machinations. His property rights would have been thoroughly violated, and no matter how “polite” and “courteous” he might have been with officers, no reports would have reflected such language.

These coded terms mean that these officers were incapable of seeing this clearly troubled young white man as a threat. How many mass killings must it take to recognize that white male entitlement is potentially deadly? How many YouTube videos must one post outlining an attempt to do harm before it is taken seriously?

As yet another community attempts to make sense of this tragedy, to put itself back together again after this needless, senseless path of destruction that Elliot Rodger has wrought, I’m reminded of something my dad says: “These are funerals we didn’t have to have.” But as long as America refuses to deal with its white male privilege problem we will continue to have them.

Covert US Military Training Goes to Africa

As an example of a U.S.-trained military officer gone bad, Gen. Manuel Noriega is escorted onto a U.S. Air Force aircraft by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency after his arrest on Jan. 1, 1990.

As an example of a U.S.-trained military officer gone bad, Gen. Manuel Noriega is escorted onto a U.S. Air Force aircraft by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency after his arrest on Jan. 1, 1990.

By William R. Polk,

With everyone’s attention focused on the European elections or President Barack Obama’s speech at West Point or the Ukraine, a story by Eric Schmitt in The New York Times on Tuesday may not have caught your attention. I believe, however, that it provides an insight into some of the major problems of American foreign policy.

What Mr. Schmitt reports is that the U.S. has set up covert programs to train and equip native teams patterned on their instructors, the U.S. Army Delta Force, in several African countries. The program was advocated by Michael A. Sheehan who formerly was in charge of special operations planning in the Department of Defense and is now, according to Mr. Schmitt, holder of the “distinguished chair at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.”

Mr. Schmitt quotes him as saying, “Training indigenous forces to go after threats in their own country is what we need to be doing.” So far allocated to this effort, Mr. Schmitt writes, is $70 million, and the initial efforts will be in Libya, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.

How to do this, according to the senior U.S. officer in Africa, Major General Patrick J. Donahue II, is complex: “You have to make sure of who you’re training. It can’t be the standard, ‘Has the guy been a terrorist or some sort of criminal?’ but also, what are his allegiances? Is he true to the country or is he still bound to his militia?”

So let me comment on these remarks, on the ideas behind the program, its justification and the history of such efforts. I begin with a few bits of history. (Disclosure: I am in the final stages of a book that aims to tell the whole history, but the whole history is of course much too long for this note.)

Without much of the rhetoric of Mr. Sheehan and General Donahue and on a broader scale, we have undertaken similar programs in a number of countries over the last half century. Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Guatemala, Egypt, Iraq, Thailand, Chad, Angola to name just a few. The results do not add up to a success almost anywhere.

Perhaps the worst (at least for America’s reputation) were Chad where the man we trained, equipped and supported, Hissène Habré, is reported to have killed about 40,000 of his fellow citizens. In Indonesia, General Suharto, with our blessing and with the special forces we also had trained and equipped, initially killed about 60,000 and ultimately caused the deaths of perhaps 200,000. In Mexico, the casualties have been smaller, but the graduates of our Special Forces program have become the most powerful drug cartel. They virtually hold the country at ransom.

Even when casualties were not the result, the military forces we helped to create and usually paid for carried out the more subtle mission of destroying public institutions. If our intention is to create stability, the promotion of a powerful military force is often not the way to do it. This is because the result of such emphasis on the military often renders it the only mobile, coherent and centrally directed organization in societies lacking in the balancing forces of an independent judiciary, reasonably open elections, a tradition of civil government and a more or less free press.

Our program in pre-1958 Iraq and in pre-1979 Iran certainly played a crucial role in the extension of authoritarian rule in those countries and in their violent reactions against us.

General Donahue suggests that we need to distinguish among the native soldiers we train and empower those who are “true to the country.” But how? We supported Hissène Habré so long that we must have known every detail of his life. He is now on trial as war criminal. General Suharto has never been charged (nor have those Americans who gave him a “green light”) for his brutal invasion of East Timor. Both probably believed that they met General Donahue’s definition of patriotism.

And in Mali, our carefully trained officers of the Special Forces answered what they thought was both patriotic and religious duty by joining the insurgency against the government we (and we thought they) supported. We have a poor record of defining other peoples’ patriotism.

And, in the interest of more urgent objectives, we have been willing to support and fund almost anyone as long as we think he might be of value. General Manuel Noriega, our man in Panama, went on to spend 22 years in an American prison after we invaded his country and fought the soldiers we had trained.

Indeed, we have a poor record of even knowing who the people we train are. After the Turkish army carried out one of its coups in the 1960s, when I was the member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East, I asked the appropriate branch of the Defense Department who were the new leaders, all of whom had been trained in America, often several times during the years. The answer was that no one knew. Even in army records, they were just Americanized nicknames.

And, more generally, our sensitivity to the aspirations, hopes and fears of other people is notoriously crude or totally lacking. Growing out of the Cold War, we thought of many of them as simply our proxies or our enemies.

Thus, we found Chad not as a place with a certain population but just as a piece of the Libyan puzzle, and today we think of Mali in the same way. Now we are talking to training “carefully selected” Syrian insurgents to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Do we have any sense of what they will overthrow him for?

Beyond these, what might be considered “tactical” issues are “strategic,” legal and even moral considerations. I leave aside the legal and moral issues — such as what justification we have to determine the fate of other peoples — as they do not seem very persuasive among our leaders.

But just focus on the long-term or even middle-term results of the new policy: the most obvious is that we meddle in and take some responsibility for the politics of an array of countries in which we have little direct interest. And often with the obvious danger of a deeper, more expensive and more painful result. We are close to this commitment in Syria.

Less obvious is that our activities, no matter how carefully differentiated, will be seen to add up to an overall policy of militarism, support of oppressive dictatorships, and opposition to popular forces. They also meld into a policy of opposition to the religion of over a billion people, Islam. And they do so at great expense to our expressed desires to enable people everywhere, including at home, to live healthier, safer and decent lives.

I end with a prediction: in practically every country where Mr. Sheehan’s and General Donahue’s program is employed, it will later be seen to have led to a military coup d’etat.

Feds say drug testing for food stamps violates law


By Andy Miller,

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has officially warned the state that drug testing of applicants for food stamps would violate federal law.

House Bill 772, approved on the final day of the 2014 Georgia legislative session, and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, requires drug testing of some applicants for food stamps and welfare. It would require people applying for this government assistance to be tested if they raise “reasonable suspicion’’ of illegal drug use.

In a letter dated Tuesday, a USDA official told Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton that Food and Nutrition Service policy “prohibits states from mandating drug testing of [food stamp] applicants and recipients.”

In a second letter, also dated Tuesday, Food and Nutrition Service regional administrator Robin Bailey informed Horton that the problem of Georgia’s food stamp backlog has been resolved.

Last month, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services said it had cleared its backlog of thousands of food stamp cases and was waiting to find out whether it would lose millions in federal funding. DFCS had until May 14 to finish processing more than 30,000 backlogged cases, WABE reported.

Almost 2 million Georgians receive food stamps.

Drug debate rekindled

Tuesday was not the first time the feds have disputed the legality of the Georgia drug-testing effort.

Earlier this year, shortly after the measure passed, GHN reported on an email from Robert Caskey of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the food stamp program) to Georgia officials.

Caskey’s email, citing federal law, said “no state agency shall impose any other standards of eligibility” beyond the provisions of the federal Food and Nutrition Act, which does not require drug testing. “The addition of a drug testing provision of any type is prohibited in the SNAP program,’’ it added.

The drug-testing measure triggered fiery opposition from Democrats and consumer advocates while it was being debated. Its sponsor, Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia), told GHN in March that he had heard during the session that the feds doubted the legality of the bill, but that he strongly believed otherwise.

When contacted Tuesday about the federal letter, Morris reaffirmed his stand that the drug-testing rule is good public policy. “It’s a good bill for the taxpayers of Georgia and we should fight for it,” he told GHN. “We are not willing to subsidize drug use with our taxpayer dollars.”

Morris added, “The USDA [officials] are not elected by the people. The Legislature is. The governor is. . . . We believe [the law] will stand.”

Whether there will be a legal showdown over the law is unclear. The Department of Human Services said Tuesday that it had just received the USDA letter on the drug-testing issue and is “taking it under advisement.”

Gov. Deal, in a statement issued through spokesman Brian Robinson, said, “We’ve forwarded those [federal] concerns to the attorney general for further review.”

Shelley Senterfitt, an Atlanta attorney who testified against HB 772, praised the USDA on Tuesday for its formal position against the new law.

Drug testing of SNAP applicants “would create an additional barrier to accessing food stamps,’’ Senterfitt told GHN. “The applicant would have to pay for a drug test,’’ she said. “And if you test negative, you don’t get your money back.’’

The testing of food stamp and welfare applicants, she said, uses “the faulty assumption that there is a higher rate of illegal drug use among low-income people. We’re targeting poor people using what I think are unfounded stereotypes.”

Morris told lawmakers earlier this year that he proposed his legislation after a federal court ruled against a Florida law to drug-test welfare applicants. Georgia had modeled its own welfare law after Florida’s. The law that was overturned had a blanket provision for testing, so Morris drew his proposal more narrowly, calling for testing only under certain criteria.

These criteria would include an applicant’s demeanor, missed appointments and a history of arrests or other issues with law enforcement, according to the bill.

Morris said Tuesday that the bill allows the Department of Human Services sufficient leeway in determining “reasonable suspicion” of illegal drug use. Critics have said that standard is too vague and subjective.

Breaking the backlog

Georgia’s food stamp backlog resulted from staffing shortages and glitches with a call center already inundated with hundreds of calls daily, WABE reported. Food stamp recipients complained of hours-long call waiting periods to renew their claims, calls that sometimes went unanswered.

In March, the USDA ordered the state to clear its backlog and implement a corrective action plan by month’s end or risk losing $75 million, the public broadcast station reported.

The letter from Bailey said the state “has made strides in providing service to those households that experienced delays in receiving their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.”

Federal officials will continue to monitor compliance with processing requirements, Bailey said. More work needs to be done on improving the state’s call center, the letter added.

Horton, the Human Services commissioner, issued a statement saying that “the USDA’s decision today to release Georgia from an official warning is a testament to the work of our staff, who were agile in implementing new strategies that significantly improved the food stamp application and renewal processes. DHS staff have worked overtime, sacrificing time with their own families, to eliminate the previous backlog so that Georgians could receive the benefits that they need in a timely manner.”

Gov. Deal, in his statement, said, “Since the food stamp backlog developed, I’ve said these problems are unacceptable. I prioritized this issue, I worked with the department to find a solution, and I’m committed to delivering reliable customer service to all Georgians who interact with state agencies.

“I think the lifting of the department’s probationary status reflects the focus, determination and hard work that state workers have put into clearing out the backlog,’’ Deal said.

The Moral Right To Father…By ZainBeyondWords

Zain Jacobs

Zain Jacobs

By Zain Jacobs,

On the heels of the “only a man can raise a man” phenomenon in the African-American community, a call for fathers to play a multi-dimensional role in the development of their daughters emerges. Reports of nearly 80% African-American youth residing in mostly single-female headed households often link to poverty related social ills such as academic failure, promiscuity, substance abuse and violence. This startling reality substantiates the compelling need to restore effective fathering of African-American females.

Father’s Day is primetime for African-Americans to call out “deadbeats” and other “sperm donors” and to recognize the so-called few “real fathers out there” who step up to the plate and take responsibility for their children. We have reduced the sacred role of father to “baby daddy” without realizing how this stereotypical label can globally brand our young daughters as “unworthy” and “unwanted” throughout their adulthood. No other race of people makes such a public exploit of denounced fathers and dysfunctional parenting and family infrastructure at this time of honoring fathers. It reveals the cyclical pain that flows from generation to generation and has now escalated from blame game to extreme gender conflicts. The aftermath is a community of underdeveloped adults, who are too detached to commit to marriage and who lack the self-mastery to refrain from irresponsible procreating and subsequent child rearing.

Since only a small percentage of children are products of rape, we can assume that the majority of their fathers were consciously, chosen. Therefore, it is only fitting to acknowledge what role women play in the fathering of their children or lack of. Many women raised with little or no father involvement, struggle to recognize effective fathers, which often, results in poor choices of sex partners and or fathers of their own daughters. They also lack the ability to establish, maintain and terminate relationships in a healthy way, which negatively influences the socio-emotional development of their daughters.

As a daughter of divorced parents, I can say that my mother never denied my father his right to parent and I implore mothers to allow willing fathers to consistently, execute their roles in the holistic development of your daughters. Too many are suffering because mothers do not distinguish their healing process from their daughters’ developmental needs. Yes, some men cheat, yes some are lazy, but for the most part, they did not make these transformations upon the termination of your relationship with them. Therefore, mothers, you have to own this and stop creating typical barriers that keep fathers from fulfilling their essential paternal roles.

Understandably, fundamentals such as education, clothes, food, shelter, health and childcare are non-negotiable provisions all parents should make for their children. However, fathering should not be limited to these pragmatic provisions or more simply put, “the check”. As cultural curators, many African-American mothers have followed this modern Euro concept and taken on this mal-adaptive sub-standard for African-American fathers. Some mothers further exacerbate these circumstances, by exposing their daughters to an unnecessary troop of men, sometimes for financial stability other times, to humiliate their daughters’ father. Unhealed mothers transfer their pain through obvious attempts to sabotage father-daughter relationships reflective of their unhealthy need for revenge. Mothers, stop blocking the phone calls and obstructing scheduled or unscheduled visitations because “the check” didn’t come or he has moved on with another woman. If he didn’t have to pay to lay with you, why should he have to pay to nurture his daughter? If he didn’t marry you prior to sex, what makes you think he will marry you after you use your child as a pawn? Your need for revenge or vindication should never, supersede your daughters’ need of a consistent father.

Our impressionable vulnerable young females need their fathers to model appropriate male female interaction as well as to nurture and protect them. Mothers you do not have the moral right to selectively, determine when your daughter should have a functional father especially based on your inability to manage relationships. You do not have the moral right to deprive a willing fathers’ access to academic progress reports and other aspects of your daughters’ social development. Daughters should not have to suffer the consequence of mothers masking single-parent deficiencies by delaying or conveniently deciding, which child crisis fathers can partake in. One of the worst feelings a daughter can have is the misconception that her father did not make every attempt to be there for her—that he didn’t move heaven and earth to be a part of her day to day experiences.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of this parenting tragedy is the constant barrage of derogatory references made to daughters about their fathers. Just because she is a female child, does not mean her father is not half of who she is. Yes, half of your daughters’ genetic composition is the man you chose to father her. Know that when you berate your daughters’ father, you are denigrating her perception of half of her existence. Mothers, are you truly willing to build or sustain your image, deprecating fathers at the expense of your daughters’ self-worth? When you extraneously inject complications into his attempts at fathering, you decrease her self-worth and increase her misguided need to find it in other males, including your new boyfriends or husbands. Your daughter will not remember “the check” or his other women, but what she will remember is that you chose him, whether he was or was not consistently there and why.

Zain Beyond Words, is an author, educator, and founder of the Luminous Lotus Love rites of passage mentoring experience for females, who is currently conducting workshops for African-American fathers to establish, restore and maintain relationships with their daughters. For more information contact info@zainbeyondwords.com

This Is Why Bernie Sanders Is Pissed

esq-sanders-illo-0214-zVG9Xj-xlgBy Charles P. Pierce,

Vermont’s Bernie Sanders presided over the hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday at which Eric Shinseki got roasted over a slow flame. Sanders was in fine form, thundering away, not merely at Shinseki, and not merely at the likely criminals who fudged reports and shredded documents to cover their own incompetence, but at the way this country has treated veterans in general, especially those returning from the wars launched by the Avignon Presidency.

Cranking up the ol’ Wayback machine, this put me in mind of a day back in February, when I was at a press conference in the Capitol, and Sanders had to come out and explain that a carefull crafted piece of legislation regarding veterans benefits had been sunk as part of the ongoing Republican strategy of stalling everything until the country collapses and they can all become Lords Of The Rubble. (I’m paraphrasing a bit.) He was not happy that day, either.

Only two Republicans were willing to vote with Sanders, and the bill died a procedural death. The final straw was an attempt by Republican legislators to hang an amendment onto the bill calling for increased sanctions on Iran. There was also some cheap bullshit thrown around about the budget, most notably by Senator Jefferson Davis Beauregard Sessions of Alabama. There also was, spectacularly, some debate time taken up by, believe it or not, Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI!

There was a lot of talk yesterday about how bipartisan the outrage is at the blossoming VA scandal, and how bipartisan the agreement is that we have to do better by the people we send to make war in places around the world. In February, the Republicans had a chance to put up or shut up. They shut up. They should continue to do so.

Seattle Is Right





By raising its minimum wage to $15, Seattle is leading a long-overdue movement toward a living wage. Most minimum wage workers aren’t teenagers these days. They’re major breadwinners who need a higher minimum wage in order to keep their families out of poverty.

Across America, the ranks of the working poor are growing. While low-paying industries such as retail and food preparation accounted for 22 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, they’ve generated 44 percent of the jobs added since then, according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project. Last February, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 would lift 900,000 people out of poverty.

Seattle estimates almost a fourth of its workers now earn below $15 an hour. That translates into about $31,000 a year for a full-time worker. In a high-cost city like Seattle, that’s barely enough to support a family.

The gains from a higher minimum wage extend beyond those who receive it. More money in the pockets of low-wage workers means more sales, especially in the locales they live in – which in turn creates faster growth and more jobs. A major reason the current economic recovery is anemic is that so many Americans lack the purchasing power to get the economy moving again.

With a higher minimum wage, moreover, we’d all end up paying less for Medicaid, food stamps and other assistance the working poor now need in order to have a minimally decent standard of living.

Some worry about job losses accompanying a higher minimum wage. I wouldn’t advise any place to raise its minimum wage immediately from the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour to $15. That would be too big a leap all at once. Employers – especially small ones – need time to adapt.

But this isn’t what Seattle is doing. It’s raising its minimum from $9.32 (Washington State’s current statewide minimum) to $15 incrementally over several years. Large employers (with over 500 workers) that don’t offer employer-sponsored health insurance have three years to comply; those that offer health insurance have four; smaller employers, up to seven. (That may be too long a phase-in.)

My guess is Seattle’s businesses will adapt without any net loss of employment. Seattle’s employers will also have more employees to choose from – as the $15 minimum attracts into the labor force some people who otherwise haven’t been interested. That means they’ll end up with workers who are highly reliable and likely to stay longer, resulting in real savings.

Research by Michael Reich (no relation) and Arindrajit Dube confirms these results. They examined employment in several hundred pairs of adjacent counties lying on opposite sides of state borders, each with different minimum wages, and found no statistically significant increase in unemployment in the higher-minimum counties, even after four years. (Other researchers who found contrary results failed to control for counties where unemployment was already growing before the minimum wage was increased.) They also found that employee turnover was lower where the minimum was higher.

Not every city or state can meet the bar Seattle has just set. But many can – and should.

Harry Reid: GOP ‘double-speak’ on veterans affairs

Senate Democrats Address Press After Weekly Policy LuncheonBy BURGESS EVERETT,

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of prioritizing the wealthy over the health of military veterans, arguing that “every senator” should support Democrats’ plan to boost medical care access for veterans, no matter the price tag.

Reid on Monday slammed Republicans for rejecting a veterans bill written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in February. Reid accused the GOP of “double-speak” by criticizing the Veterans Affairs Department but denying the agency the funding it needs. He bashed Republicans for spending billions on Iraq paid for by “the taxpayers’ of America’s credit card” while failing to invest in care for those returning from overseas conflicts.

Reid’s remarks set up a potentially difficult negotiation with Senate Republicans on passing a quick fix to the health care woes at the Department of Veterans Affairs. On Monday, the GOP announced it will introduce its own proposal later this week.

In slamming Republicans, Reid is daring fiscal conservatives to oppose Democrats’ new VA health care legislation over cost concerns.

“Taking care of our nation’s wounded veterans does cost money. But it is money well spent,” Reid said. “The lives and well-being of the brave men and women who fight to protect our way of life is part of the cost of our democracy. Instead Republicans focus on the monetary costs only, the dollar bills. Because any money going to our veterans is one less dollar going to billionaires and corporations and unnecessary tax cuts.”

The Senate will begin considering new legislation from Sanders on Thursday in his Veterans Affairs Committee, hoping to quickly bring his bill to a floor vote in a matter of days. Sanders’ legislation would authorize 27 new VA health centers, address nurse and doctor staffing shortages and increase veterans’ options to get health care at community clinics.

GOP Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are set to unveil their own, “more narrowly focused” VA health care legislation on Tuesday, McCain said.

Sanders’ legislation has not yet been written — which means its costs remain a mystery until the Congressional Budget Office is able to analyze the bill text. But the sweeping bill is almost sure to require new spending of some sort as Sanders seeks to both hold bad actors in the VA accountable and fix the underlying technological staffing and funding woes that have crippled the agency’s ability to offer quick appointments.

McCain told reporters that his caucus will likely not focus solely on the cost of Democrats’ proposal, but said that Republicans believe the problem at the VA is less about resources and more about poor management.

“It has to be a reasonable cost,” he said. “Money is not the most important issue here, but it is an issue.”

Freedom Summer II




I spent several days in New York last week with students from around the country who were preparing to head into the heartland to help organize Walmart workers for better jobs and wages. (Full familial disclosure: My son Adam is one of the leaders.)

Almost exactly fifty years ago a similar group headed to Mississippi to register African-Americans to vote, in what came to be known as Freedom Summer.

Call this Freedom Summer II.

The current struggle of low-wage workers across America echoes the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Today, as then, a group of Americans is denied the dignity of decent wages and working conditions. Today, just as then, powerful forces are threatening and intimidating vulnerable people for exercising their legal rights. Today, just like fifty years ago, people who have been treated as voiceless and disposable are standing up and demanding change.

Although Walmart is no Bull Connor, it’s the poster child for keeping low-wage workers down. America’s largest employer, with 1.4 million workers, refuses to provide most of them with an income they can live on. The vast majority earns under $25,000 a year, with an average hourly wage of about $8.80.

You and I and other taxpayers shell out for these workers’ Medicaid and food stamps because they and their families can’t stay afloat on what Walmart pays. (I’ve often thought Walmart and other big employers should have to pay a tax equal to the public assistance their workers receive because the companies don’t pay them enough to stay out of poverty.)

Walmart won’t even allow workers to organize for better jobs and wages. In January, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint accusing it of unlawfully threatening or retaliating against workers who have taken part in strikes and protests.

The firm says it can’t afford to give its workers a raise or better hours and working conditions. Baloney. Walmart is America’s biggest retailer. Its policies are pulling every other major retailer into the same race to the bottom. If Walmart halted the race, the race would stop.

Don’t worry about its investors. Its largest is the Walton family, whose combined wealth is greater than the combined wealth of the bottom 42 percent of the entire American population.

This week, Walmart employees will go on strike in dozens of cities. A group of “Walmart Moms” is also marching for better hours and better treatment of pregnant women employees. And an employee group has sent a letter and voting guide to shareholders asking that they vote against Rob Walton’s re-election as chair.

Walmart isn’t the only place where low-wage workers are on the move. Two weeks ago, 2,000 protesters gathered at McDonald’s corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago to demand a hike in the minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. More than 100 were arrested.

Giant fast-food companies have the largest gap between the pay of CEOs and workers of any industry, with a CEO-to-worker compensation ratio of more than 1,000-to-one.

Meanwhile, across America, low-wage workers are demanding – and in many cases getting – increases in the minimum wage. Despite Washington’s gridlock, seven states have raised their own minimums so far this year. A number of cities have also voted in minimum-wage increases.

On Monday, Seattle’s city council approved a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour, the highest in the nation, to take effect over the next few years.

The movement of low-wage workers for decent pay and working conditions is partly a reflection of America’s emerging low-wage economy. While low-wage industries such as retail and restaurant accounted for 22 percent of the jobs lost in the Great Recession, they’ve generated 44 percent of the jobs added since then, according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project.

But the movement is also a moral struggle for decency and respect, and full participation in our economy and society. In these ways, it’s the civil rights struggle of our time.

It took guts to take on the power structure of Mississippi a half-century ago. It takes guts to take on the power structure of giant companies like Walmart and McDonalds now.

But confronting such powerful bastions is a vital step toward fundamental social change. Freedom Summer II is just the start.

That Old-Time Inequality Denial

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

By Paul Krugman

Brad DeLong links to the now extensive list of pieces debunking the FT’s attempted debunking of Thomas Piketty, and pronounces himself puzzled:

I still do not understand what Chris Giles of the Financial Times thinks he is doing here…

OK, I don’t know what Giles thought he was doing – but I do know what he was actually doing, and it’s the same old same old. Ever since it became obvious that inequality was rising – way back in the 1980s – there has been a fairly substantial industry on the right of inequality denial. This denial didn’t rely on any one argument, nor did it involve consistent objections. Instead, it involved throwing many different arguments against the wall, hoping that something would stick. Inequality isn’t rising; it is rising, but it’s offset by social mobility; it’s cancelled by greater aid to the poor (which we’re trying to destroy, but never mind that); anyway, inequality is good. All these arguments have been made at the same time; none of them ever gets abandoned in the face of evidence – they just keep coming back.

Look at my old article from 1992: every single bogus argument I identified there is still being made today. And we know perfectly well why: it’s all about defending the 1 percent from the threat of higher taxes and other actions that might limit top incomes.

What’s new in the latest round is the venue. Traditionally, inequality denial has been carried out on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and like-minded venues. Seeing it expand to the Financial Times is something new, and is a sign that the FT may be suffering from creeping Murdochization.

Why Do Whites Fight to Control Our Majority Black School System in Sumter County?

When Whites were the majority board members in the Sumter County school system, the Black community saw six AYP (Average Yearly Progress) schools reduced to only one. Black students make up the majority in the system. The White majority school board removed Dr Franklin Perry, a very capable school superintendent, who had produced 6 AYP schools. Led by Dr. Michael Busman, the then board chairman during the loss of the six AYP schools, the Whites brought in an elderly White superintendent who destroyed the system. The question before the Black community is why Michael Busman, Rick Barnes, and James Reid fought so hard this past election against Black candidates to be elected to run a majority Black system. The Black community views the $36 million school budget and the creation of charter schools for the hard fight by the three men.

Many of us who follow public school politics think that these Whites want to control the money. A $36 million budget is the strong attraction and not the best interest of a majority Black student body. We have seen what happened when Busman handpicked Dr. Dennis McMahon of South Carolina who happened to be a friend of his mother. The Sumter County school system dropped to near the bottom in Georgia’s ranking.

When the majority Black board was elected four years ago, the three Whites on the board went into guerilla warfare. Led by Busman, they first went to SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) an extremely racist organization that accredits schools. SACS listened to weak accusations by the three Whites and began threatening to pull the school’s accreditation and put Sumter schools on probation.

That was not enough; they enlisted the Sumter County District Attorney, Plez Hardin, to convene a Grand Jury to investigate the majority Black school board members on frivolous charges that were designed as scare tactics.

The three Whites along with many other racist Whites behind the scenes managed to get the State School Board of GA involved. A hearing was held in Atlanta to strip Sumter County of the school’s accreditation.

The straw that “broke the camel’s back” was to have local GA State Representative, Mike Cheokas to introduce a House Bill that would change the local districts from nine to seven. This local bill could pass if local State Senators sign on. One White Senator signed and shockingly the other Black State Senator, Freddie Powell Sims, signed as well. She signed the Bill even after promising the Black community that she would not do it.

The aggressive attacks on the majority Black Sumter County School board members were a tragic defeat for the Black students. Electing Busman who has a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) to lead our school system is criminal and sends the wrong example to our students. Busman was voted in the new at-large position to serve four years beginning January, 2015.

We suspect that the charter school advocates are eager for Busman and the other white board members to take control again so that they can control the school’s purse and segregate the system at taxpayers’ expense.

We can’t stress how urgent it is for Blacks in Sumter County to please register and vote to take back control of the school system. Parents must become more involved in their child’s education by registering and voting to elect people who really care about our children. We must vote out these White hustlers whose reason to serve on the school board has nothing to do with quality education for a Black majority school system.

Prominent Americus Citizen Passed


Mr Eddie Leon Bryant, Jr.

Mr Eddie Leon Bryant, Jr.

By Staff Reports,

Mr. Eddie Leon Bryant, Jr. was born in Harlem, Manhattan County, New York to the parents of the late Mr. Eddie Leon Bryant and the late Mrs. Vivian Green Bryant. He received his education in the public schools of Sumter County. He was a 1962 graduate of Sumter High School, he continued his education at Albany State College, where he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha. At a young age, he joined the Campbell Chapel AME Church and served faithfully. Later he moved his membership to Zion Hope Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. George F. Monts, Jr. He was a true entrepreneur, having owned His & Hers Flower Shop and Bryant Package Store & Lounge among others. He is preceded in death by a brother, Mr. Louis Andrew.

He leaves to cherish his memories, his wife, Mrs. Joyce Arnett Bryant, Americus, GA; one son, Mr. Christopher Bryant, Americus, GA; a god-son, Mr. Taquavis Mathis, Americus, GA; two sisters, Ms. Gwendolyn Andrew, New York, NY and Mrs. Janice (Steven) Hawks, Newark, NJ; his mother-in-law, Ms. Bernicestine Mansfield, Americus, GA; two aunts, Ms. Sara Monts and Mrs. Frances (Eugene) Griffin, Americus, GA; three uncles, Mr. Calvin (Brenda) Mansfield, Americus, GA, Mr. Robert Mansfield, Jr., Savannah, GA and Mr. Calvin Maye, New York; sisters and brothers-in-law, Mrs. Barbara (William) Perry, Newport News, VA, Ms. Lucinda Barnes, Rochester, NY, Mrs. Pamela (Ricky) Ingram, Ms. Jacqueline Arnett Storey and Ms. Trina Felton, Mr. James Arnett, Mr. William Arnett all of Americus, GA, Mr. Gregory Arnett, Shellman, GA and Mr. Doug (Delina) Williams, Jr., Killeen, TX; and a host of other relatives and many friends also survive.

Mike Coley and Roland in July 22, 2014 Runoff


Sylvia Roland

Sylvia Roland


Michael Coley, Sr.

Michael Coley, Sr.

By Staff Reports,

Michael Coley, Sr is a veteran school board member who served from 1996 to 2005. He was replaced by the late Ferrell Wilson. He is a minister who is Pastor at United Holiness in Montezuma, GA. He is a 1973 graduate of Plains High School and a 1975 graduate of South Georgia Technical

College. He received a Bachelor of Science in business management and an Associates Degree in business administration at Macon State

He served in the U.S. Navy 1975-1981. He was employed at Robins Air Force Base for 31 years. He retired with 37 years of federal service 1975 to 2012.

He is a native of Plains, GA and is married to Linda Coley with three children and four grandchildren.

Sylvia Roland is a retired educator who is from Arkansas. She taught at Americus High South Campus. She was a school improvement specialist. She attended public schools in Arkansas and she sent her children to public schools.

Whites Elected to Govern Black Majority Schools in Sumter County

Dr Michael Busman Charged with DUI

Dr Michael Busman
Charged with DUI


James "Jim" Reid, Jr President of Reid Brothers Irrigation and Equipment Co. LLC

James “Jim” Reid, Jr
President of Reid Brothers Irrigation and Equipment Co. LLC


Rick Barnes Lake Blackshear businessman

Rick Barnes
Lake Blackshear businessman

By Staff Reports,

Local physician Dr. Michael Busman was elected to lead the school board for four years in the new atlarge district. Busman has been an embarrassment to our community as he has been charged with “Driving under the Influence of Alcohol” (DUI) and reported to the Medical Board for alleged drug use. He was voted in by many Whites who don’t have children in the Sumter County system. The Black community has concluded the reasons why Whites are desperate to control a majority Black system: control of the $36 million in the school budget and to create a segregated charter school.

Two other White men were elected along with Busman. Rick Barnes, a resident of Lake Blackshear who runs a business at the lake, claims, “I want to bring some of the community back into our school system”. “I wonder who is he referring to because the system in over 90% Black,” says Matt Wright, local NAACP president. “The other concern I have is why Mr. Barnes didn’t help the majority White school board when they were in control for two terms? Why should we think that Barnes will have the best interest of our students this time,” Wright concludes.

Another White man elected on May 20, 2014 is James (Jim) Reid, President of Reid Brothers Irrigation and Equipment Co. “He claims he wants to minimize the educational tax burden on Sumter County property owners.” As a business man he will pull the typical Republican type con game on local public school education, by cutting taxes and bringing the school’s ranking from 10% on the bottom to 10% on the top in GA,” says Dr. John Marshall, former NAACP president. “It is so hard to believe that this White businessman is more concerned about the Black school system than his fellow White taxpayers,” Marshall declares.

“Black parents who have the majority of students in the Sumter County school system need to register and vote and elect people who care about our schools,” say Rev. Wright

“Nobody would elect a board member who has been charged with a DUI but people who could care less about our majority Black students in the system. Obviously, the Whites in Sumter County voted to elect Busman and put this menace on our children. I wondered if Whites would have voted for Busman if the public school system was majority White,” Marshall concludes.