Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Countries where women's health care providers are turned into informants against them

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak: Drop the "feticide" charge against Purvi Patel
Natasha Chart Campaign Director
RH Reality Check
December 17, 2014
See Petition

This Friday, December 19th, an Indiana trial court will hold a hearing on criminal charges brought against Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman who says that she suffered a stillbirth. Prosecutors have charged Ms. Patel with two contradictory charges. They claim that she gave birth to a newborn and then neglected the infant, charging Ms. Patel with “neglect of a dependent.” Simultaneously, they claim that she intentionally terminated her pregnancy, charging her with the crime of “feticide.” Both crimes are felonies that are punishable by between six and 20 years in prison.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak must not use Indiana’s feticide law to punish pregnant women who have abortions or experience stillbirths, and should immediately drop the "feticide" charge against Purvi Patel.

Neglecting to provide care for a newborn is a serious offense, morally and legally. Yet the contradictory charges make clear that the prosecutors are not themselves convinced that this is what happened. Instead the State of Indiana seeks to use the prosecution of Ms. Patel to establish legal precedent for using the state’s feticide law to lock up women who have abortions or experience stillbirths Indiana's feticide law was passed with the state legislature's claim that it was for the protection of pregnant women. If this charge is allowed to stand, it will be clear that it was never anything more than an attempt by the State of Indiana to criminalize women who have abortions or are unable to carry a pregnancy to term. Criminalizing abortion is dangerous for women and ruinous for their families.

Indiana must not go the way of El Salvador and other countries where abortion is criminalized. In these countries, where women's health care providers are turned into informants against them, pregnant women are avoiding medical care for fear that any problem in pregnancy will be reported to law enforcement. Mothers are not only going to jail for having abortions, but also for suffering miscarriages and stillbirths...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Study: American Households Hit 43-Year Low In Net Worth

Study: American Households Hit 43-Year Low In Net Worth
November 30, 2012

WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – The median net worth of American households has dropped to a 43-year low as the lower and middle classes appear poorer and less stable than they have been since 1969.

According to a recent study by New York University economics professor Edward N. Wolff, median net worth is at the decades-low figure of $57,000 (in 2010 dollars). And as the numbers in his study reflect, the situation only appears worse when all the statistics are taken as a whole.

[Chart of changes between 1983 and 2010:]

According to Wolff, between 1983 and 2010, the percentage of households with less than $10,000 in assets (using constant 1995 dollars) rose from 29.7 percent to 37.1 percent. The “less than $10,000″ figure includes the numerous households that have no assets at all, or “negative assets,” which is otherwise known as “debt.”

Over that same period of time, the wealthiest 1 percent of American households increased their average wealth by 71 percent.

As noted by Daily Finance, from 1983 to 2010 the share of total wealth held by the richest 10 percent of American households increased from 68.2 percent to 76.7 percent. Meanwhile, all the rest of Americans lost financial ground.

An August Pew Research Center study found that many in the middle-class are divided on how they believe his gap widened.

Fully 85 percent of self-described middle-class adults say it is more difficult now than it was a decade ago for middle-class people to maintain their standard of living. Of those who feel this way, 62 percent say “a lot” of the blame lies with Congress, while 54 percent say the same about banks and financial institutions, 47 percent about large corporations, 44 percent about the Bush administration, 39 percent about foreign competition and 34 percent about the Obama administration.

Just 8 percent put “a lot” of blame on the middle class itself.

“This downbeat take on their economic situation comes at the end of a decade in which, for the first time since the end of World War II, mean family incomes declined for Americans in all income tiers,” the Pew Report stated. “But the middle-income tier—defined in this Pew Research analysis as all adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median —is the only one that also shrunk in size, a trend that has continued over the past four decades.”

Wolff’s focus on total wealth not only measures how much money a household brings in, but also the amount it accumulates. This latter number is very significant — economically secure households are generally more comfortable spending their disposable income, and are less likely to become a drag on the social safety net.

Stark Infographic of Too-Big-to-Fail Banks Represents 1% Consolidation in America
David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour)
Daily Kos
Fri May 30, 2014

The four banks listed in the infographic below – CitiGroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo – have received nearly $93 billion in taxpayer funds ($92,849,517,353 to be exact) since the bailouts began in 2008.

While they make up a small percentage of the 940 bailout recipients which have, to date, received $611 billion dollars from American taxpayers, they represent a significant chunk of those funds. More importantly, their acquisition trajectories represent the consolidation of major banking institutions in America which have made them "too-big-to-fail," or so we've been told.

Click on the infographic above to enlarge.

The graphic above is not a statistical representation, as it does not display the relative sizes of those banks acquired, nor does it indicate which banks disappeared as a result of forced acquisitions. However, it does visually represent how banking institutions in this country are capable of not just dictating regulatory practices with their undeniable influence and size, but are able to get away with holding the country hostage after those criminal and unethical activities which brought our nation's economy to its knees and is serving to widen growing inequalities in America.

Regarding that latter point, income inequality is higher than its been since 1928, which is partly responsible for a crushing wealth gap in which the bottom 60 percent of Americans own only 3.5 percent of the country's wealth. We have a shrinking middle class with disappearing disposable incomes and an increasing number of Americans with no disposable incomes to speak of. Over 46 million Americans are below the poverty line, many of whom are employed but finding that "hard work is just not enough" anymore.

This is at a time in which behemoth financial institutions are getting larger, consolidating more and more wealth, and being not just financially protected by that consolidation – vacuuming up taxpayer funds from a drowning citizenry – but being legally protected as well.

In 2013, Eric Holder admitted that global financial institutions in the U.S. and abroad have become so large as to be above the law. This truth came into stark focus when the British bank HSBC, which does significant business in America, was neither shut down in the U.S. nor pursued with criminal charges after it admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels.

This and other criminal activities by those in the banking industry and on Wall Street prompted Elizabeth Warren to say two days ago:

A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank breaks the law ... and no one even gets arrested.

Yes, they are shielded from the law. However, they have also been responsible for writing (or underwriting) our regulatory and financial laws which have propped up banks such as BoA, which has illegally defrauded its customers, and whose subprime lender, Countrywide, engaged in widespread mortgage fraud with BoA's knowledge.

Which brings us back to the beginning. The richest in our country continue to consolidate and grow their wealth as an increasing number of Americans slide into poverty or out of the middle class. And the consolidation of financial institutions into behemoth entities don't just symbolize what is happening, they are organically at the root of the problem.

If America has truly become an oligarchy, then the infographic above could be considered one of its banners. It is a banner which will continue to wave, I fear, until we hit a breaking point.

Where that point is, I do not know, nor do I know what the popular response will be when it is reached. However, one thing is certain: our current course will not be able to sustain itself without this country falling apart.

Perhaps that's what it will take.


David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media

Aug 07, 2013 15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media
by akadjian
Daily Kos


When was the last time you saw a front page headline about gerrymandering?

Before the 2010 election, conservatives launched a plan to win control of state legislatures before the census. The idea was to be in power when national congressional districts were redrawn in order to fix them so Republicans would win a majority of districts.

The Redistricting Majority Project was hugely successful. In 2012, Barack Obama was elected President by nearly 3.5 million votes. In Congressional races, Democrats drew nearly 1.4 million more votes than Republicans yet Republicans won control of the House 234 seats to 201 seats.

How is this possible?

By pumping $30 million into state races to win the legislatures, Republicans redrew state maps in states such as Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Florida and Ohio to place all of the Democrats into just a few districts. In this manner, Democrats win heavily in a couple districts and lose the rest.

In North Carolina, the statewide vote was 51 percent Democrat and 49 percent Republican yet 9 Republicans won and only 4 Democrats.

Where is your coverage of this vote stealing, "liberal media"? You're willing to cover voter ID laws, why can't you cover real vote stealing?...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

John Roberts court opens the gates for even more money to influence elections

This is no April Fool’s joke. Today, in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court in “McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission,” went beyond “Citizen’s United” to strike down overall limits on how much an individual may contribute in one election cycle to innumerable federal candidates and to party committees. Overturning 40 years of national policy and 38 years of judicial precedent, the Court’s decision allows federal officeholders to solicit and individual donors to pour as much as $3.6 million directly into federal campaigns every election cycle – buying unparalleled personal influence in Washington and drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens. (It gives me no satisfaction that I testified against John Roberts at his confirmation hearing years ago.) This is the most brazen invitation to oligarchy in Supreme Court history. In my view, we must amend the Constitution to establish once and for all that (1) money is not speech under the First Amendment, (2) corporations are not people, and (3) we the people have the right to set limits on how much money individuals and corporations can spend on elections. You with me?

California Senate suspends 3 Democratic lawmakers

"If you reward bad behavior, you will get more of it," Anderson said.

California Senate suspends 3 Democratic lawmakers
Associated Press
March 28, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Senate voted Friday to suspend three lawmakers caught up in separate criminal cases after the latest one to be hauled into court refused to step down, the most serious house-cleaning action the chamber has taken in more than a century.

Friday's 28-1 vote in the 40-member chamber came amid one of the most severe ethical crises in modern times for the Legislature in the nation's most populous state. Later in the day, Gov. Jerry Brown also called on the three lawmakers to resign.

The Senate leadership said that before Friday, the chamber had never suspended a lawmaker in the institution's 164-year history, but it has taken the more serious step of expelling lawmakers, the last time in 1905. The Assembly speaker's office said that chamber has never suspended or expelled a lawmaker.

The resolution prevents Democratic Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee, who face federal corruption charges, and Democratic Sen. Rod Wright, who is awaiting sentencing in a voter fraud case, from exercising any power of their office until the criminal cases against them have been resolved. Even so, they will continue receiving their $95,291 annual salaries.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento acknowledged the public criticism of the chamber, but he defended his leadership and the integrity of the 37 senators who have not run afoul of the law. Nevertheless, he said he has been shocked by having 7 percent of the chamber face felony charges this year, which will be his last as leader.

"One is an anomaly, two is a coincidence. Three? That's not what this Senate is about," Steinberg said to lawmakers before the vote.

Yee, who had championed gun-control legislation and bills targeting violent video games sold to minors, is the latest of the three senators to be charged. The San Francisco Democrat was charged in a federal criminal complaint this week with accepting bribes and coordinating an international gun-running operation.

Yee's attorney, Paul F. DeMeester, issued a statement immediately after the Senate vote saying suspension was "the right step for now" because it acknowledges the presumption of innocence. Representatives for Calderon and Wright said they would have no comment on the suspension vote.

Later Friday, in a statement issued by the Democratic governor's office, Brown weighed in for the first time since Yee's arrest.

"Given the extraordinary circumstances of these cases — and today's unprecedented suspensions — the best way to restore public confidence is for these Senators to resign," Brown said.

Steinberg noted that the Senate already has "intensive" ethics training for its lawmakers and staff.

"But there are some things, members, that you just can't teach," he said. "I know of no ethics class that teaches about the illegality or the danger of gun-running or other such sordid activities."

Steinberg also announced an unprecedented step of cancelling a Senate floor session in April for a mandatory ethics review, saying it is time for the Senate to "take a deeper look at our culture."

Senate officials will go office-by-office to emphasize ethical conduct and to ask staffers to come forward if they are aware of any unethical or potentially criminal activity by lawmakers or Senate staffers.

The lone lawmaker to vote against the resolution, SR38, was Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine. One senator was present but did not vote, and nine were absent, including all three senators who were suspended. One seat is vacant.

Anderson argued that all three should be expelled outright and said it was wrong that they should continue receiving their salaries when facing such serious charges.

"If you reward bad behavior, you will get more of it," Anderson said.

Calderon and Wright previously took leaves of absence, which also let them keep their pay. The California Constitution says lawmakers can lose their pay only if they are expelled or resign.

The suspensions drop Senate Democrats below the two-thirds majority they won in the last election, a supermajority that allowed them to act in all matters without needing support from Republicans.

The vote comes just days after federal authorities arrested Yee as part of a broader corruption probe centered on San Francisco's Chinatown district.

Yee was arrested and released on bond Wednesday following a series of raids in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. He is accused of accepting more than $42,000 to provide introductions, influence legislation and for introducing an undercover FBI agent to an arms trafficker, according to an FBI affidavit that says Yee was also known as "Uncle Leland."

Investigators said Yee discussed helping the agent get weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines to help pay off campaign debts.

Wright was convicted of voter fraud and perjury and faces sentencing in May. Calderon faces federal charges for allegedly accepting $100,000 in bribes for friends and family in exchange for pushing certain bills.

Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, who is expected to succeed Steinberg as Senate leader later this year, defended the chamber's reputation and noted that none of the bills Calderon pushed as a favor to those who were giving him cash passed the Senate.

That shows that the legislative system actually worked, he said.

"This is the best legislative institution in the country, hands down," de Leon said. "And we're going to get past it."

The only similar situation faced by the Legislature in recent memory is the so-called "Shrimpscam" investigation in 1985, in which federal agents went undercover and posed as representatives of a phony shrimp-processing company. Five lawmakers resigned and went to prison for taking bribes in the FBI sting operation.

The Senate last expelled lawmakers in 1905, when four senators were ousted for malfeasance involving bribery. Only one other senator has been expelled. In 1850 during the first legislative session after California gained statehood, a senator violated Senate rules by failing to show up for sessions for more than 10 days, according to Steinberg's office.

The 80-member Assembly has never expelled a member and considered doing so only once, officials said. That was in 1899, when an expulsion vote failed against Howard E. Wright, who represented Alameda County. Wright had been indicted on bribery charges but was not convicted.

___ Associated Press writer Tom Verdin contributed to this report.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

CBS Chair and CEO Leslie Moonves is the highest paid American; Tom Perkins Apologizes on Bloomberg TV

"...[David Simon] is no longer the highest paid American. The title now goes to CBS Chair and CEO Leslie Moonves, who’s getting a salary of $60 million, and will always be remembered by us as the man who said of rampant political spending, 'Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS.'"

Advice to Perkins: Time to Shut Up!
January 30, 2014
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
Moyers and Company

There’s a rule of thumb in cyberspace etiquette known as Godwin’s Law, named after Mike Godwin, the Internet lawyer and activist who first came up with it. A variation of that law boils down to this: He who first compares the other side to Nazis loses, and the conversation is at an end. Unless you’re billionaire Tom Perkins, who seems dedicated to digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself.

By now you’re probably heard about Perkins’s infamous letter to The Wall Street Journal (whose editorial page is the rich man’s Pravda of class warfare) in which he wrote, “I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich…’ This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”

It’s astonishing how ignorant (not to mention crude and cruel) the very rich can be. Surely, one of his well-paid retainers could have reminded Mr. Perkins that Kristallnacht was the opening salvo in Hitler’s extermination of the Jews, the “night of broken glass” in 1938 Germany and Austria when nearly a hundred Jews were murdered, 30,000 were sent to concentration camps, and synagogues and Jewish-owned business were looted and destroyed, many of them burned to the ground. If Perkins thought his puny point survived the outrageous exaggeration, he was sadly mistaken.

Nonetheless, after a stunned world responded, venture capitalist Perkins went on Bloomberg TV to apologize for using the word “Kristallnacht” but not for the sentiment of his letter. “I don’t regret the message at all,” he said. “Anytime the majority starts to demonize the minority, no matter what it is, it’s wrong and dangerous and no good comes from it.”

Perkins also said that he has family “living in trailer parks,” but bragged like some cackling James Bond villain that he owns “an airplane that flies underwater” and a wristwatch that “could buy a six-pack of Rolexes.” That watch, on prominent display during the Bloomberg interview, is a Richard Mille, a charming little timepiece that can retail for more than $300,000. At that price, a watch shouldn’t just tell you the time, it should allow you to travel through it, perhaps back to the Gilded Age or Versailles in 1789, just as the tumbrils rolled in. Here in the office, our $85 Timex and Seiko watches have crossed their hands over their faces in shame.

That Richard Mille watch triggered TV producer David Simon’s comment on Moyers & Company (full show airing next week) that it should be sold and used to open drug treatment centers in Baltimore, the city where Simon was a crime reporter and which served as the backdrop and central character of his classic HBO series The Wire. You can watch the complete excerpt here:

By the way, the other David Simon to whom ours refers is no longer the highest paid American. The title now goes to CBS Chair and CEO Leslie Moonves, who’s getting a salary of $60 million, and will always be remembered by us as the man who said of rampant political spending, “Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS.”