Under Darkness

Rows of bodies of dead inmates fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. This photo shows less than half of the bodies of the several hundred inmates who died of starvation or were shot by Gestapo men. Germany, April 12, 1945. Myers. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-203456 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1121
Rows of bodies of dead inmates fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. This photo shows less than half of the bodies of the several hundred inmates who died of starvation or were shot by Gestapo men. Germany, April 12, 1945. Myers. (U.S. Army)

By konigludwig

They came without warning late one night in 1943 and took 7 year-old Rebekkah Dunst and her parents from their home. The next day my mother cried and cried. Her older brothers too. Rebekkah had been my mother’s best friend. My grandmother wept bitterly for the Dunst family. They had been close neighbors, good friends, kind, decent and gentle people. They had done nothing wrong. Nothing.

My mother and her brothers were warned by my grandmother not to be seen crying for the Dunst family in public. In Nazi Germany, to show empathy for Jews, foreigners, the disabled, homosexuals, or anyone else who didn’t represent the Nazi ideal of an ethnically pure and glorious Greater Germany revealed a moral weakness that was not to be tolerated nor excused. The slightest sign of nonconformity was dangerous. Germans were afraid. Everyone was afraid. Not just Jews.

My grandfather was a soldier in the German Wehrmacht. His family had lived in Germany since 1482. But that did not stop the Gestapo from ransacking my grandmother’s house, a German soldier’s home, on several occasions. My uncles were in the Hitler youth but that did not matter either.

They were looking for letters from my grandfather’s brother and sister, who had emigrated to Brazil when the Nazis first came to power in Germany. Even possessing a simple letter from someone whose loyalty to the Third Reich was suspect could be a death warrant.

And so here we are again. We have failed to learn the lessons of history. We have elected a president openly supported by Nazis and White Supremacists–a man who has refused to disavow their support–and who now finalizes plans to “relocate” millions of Hispanic immigrants and to forcibly register millions of Muslim-Americans. Suddenly, the American Right is no longer preoccupied with our constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Religion nor their abstract fears of imagined government concentration camps.

The majority of Germans didn’t vote for Hitler. But now, like then, a great nation has lost its moral compass, and the long established relations of the civilized world have been suddenly swept in a single night into an abyss of pure darkness.

Ⓒ 2016 by konigludwig

This is racism.

Let’s call this what it is.

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react as they watch the election results during Trump’s election night rally, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP/John Locher
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react as they watch the election results during Trump’s election night rally, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP/John Locher

By Casey Quinlan

Donald Trump won the presidency last night. Many voters were stunned, after the media overwhelmingly predicted a Clinton win and Trump began to look desperate, sending a lawyer to Nevada to demand information about when a line ended for early voting. Now, Americans are looking back at the past few months and trying to understand what happened.

In the days before the election, the Washington Post published a piece entitled, “What is this election missing? Empathy for Trump voters.” But a lot of people who have watched this election closely pointed out there has actually been a lot of outpouring of empathy for Trump voters.

Throughout the campaign, the media was on a perpetual quest to understand what attracted people to Trump’s message. Journalists considered economic disadvantage as a major factor for why Trump voters felt unheard — and interpreted Trump’s support as evidence that these people reject the establishment Republicans and Democrats who have left them behind.

That was the popular narrative for months. It appears that many members of the media wanted to consider anything but racism, as if it couldn’t possibly that be so straightforward. But it really is.

America’s demographics are changing, and they’re changing quickly. By 2055, there will no longer be a single racial or ethnic majority in the United States and 14 percent of the country will be foreign born, according to the Pew Research Center. Forty-three percent of Millennials are people of color.

Let’s be clear: This is scaring white voters. White people believe that they are more often the victims of racism than black people, according to a 2011 new study from researchers at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. The research also found that white voters perceived social progress for people of color to be much swifter than it actually is.

The authors wrote, “These data are the first to demonstrate that not only do whites think more progress has been made toward equality than do blacks, but whites also now believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality — at their expense.”

ThinkProgress

Orlando Is a Hate Crime, No Matter What Donald Trump Says

Trump proved he’s in the mainstream of the Republican Party, as GOP leaders lamented the massacre without mentioning gays or guns.

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Law enforcement line. (Photo by Carl Ballou)

By Joan Walsh

He’s a Muslim terrorist. He’s a homophobe, his father says. It’s a hate crime. He’s ISIS. He’s not ISIS. It’s a hate crime. He called 911 and declared his allegiance to ISIS. An ISIS media outlet has claimed his allegiance. It’s a hate crime.

So much chatter, so little truth: At least 50 people, enjoying their Saturday night at an Orlando gay bar, died at the hand of a homophobic gunman armed with more guns and ammunition than any American civilian should be allowed to own, and 53 more were wounded. Omar Sidiqqi Mateen apparently associated himself with ISIS in a 911 call during the crime, and had been identified by law enforcement for possible ISIS sympathies. Far more important, in our American context, he associated himself with assault weapons and violent homophobia, which ended as it had before.

It’s a hate crime.

I feel like I’ve written this piece before: another place of inclusion is invaded by a violent hater, and innocent people are dead. I wrote it when a Jewish Community Center was shot up by a white supremacist, I wrote it again almost exactly a year ago when a white supremacist shot up a black church, I’m writing it now as a homophobe who may have been an Islamic extremist shot up a gay bar. I sent my daughter to a Jewish Community Center preschool; I’ve been welcomed at black churches my whole life; I went to gay bars in high school and college. As a straight white Catholic woman, I’ve been given so much privilege and comfort in spaces that aren’t “mine.”

It made me think about Donald Trump, who’s an eccentric weirdo who used to be a tolerant New Yorker of uncertain politics, who relied on the tolerance of his home state and city to cast aside two wives and repeatedly reinvent himself. Now he’s reinvented himself as the champion of homophobes and Islamaphobes, and he’s cast his lot with the party of cruelty to the LGBT community and indifference to the victims of white supremacy.

The Nation

Signs of a Dying Society

FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period. It's but one sign of a deeply troubling decline. (Photo: PRCJ/file)
FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period. It’s but one sign of a deeply troubling decline. (Photo: PRCJ/file)

While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilified for revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his “Outstanding Contributions to Society.”

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay:

Wealthy conservatives are pushing a bill that would excuse corporate leaders from financial fraud, environmental pollution, and other crimes that America’s greatest criminals deem simply reckless or negligent. The Heritage Foundation attempts to rationalize, saying “someone who simply has an accident by being slightly careless can hardly be said to have acted with a ‘guilty mind.'”

One must wonder, then, what extremes of evil, in the minds of conservatives, led to criminal charges against people apparently aware of their actions: the Ohio woman who took coins from a fountain to buy food; the California man who broke into a church kitchen to find something to eat; and the 90-year-old Florida activist who boldly tried to feed the homeless.

Citizens for Tax Justice reports that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2 trillion in profits offshore to avoid taxes that would amount to over $600 billion. Our society desperately needs infrastructure repair, but 8 million potential jobs are being held hostage beyond our borders.

FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period.

Meanwhile, white-collar prosecutions have been reduced by over a third, and, as noted above, corporate leaders are steadily working toward 100% tolerance for their crimes.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 25 percent of adults experience mental illness in a given year, with almost half of the homeless population so inflicted. Yet from 1970 to 2002, the per capita number of public mental health hospital beds plummeted from over 200 per 100,000 to 20 per 100,000, and after the recession state cutbacks continued.

Read more at Common Dreams

The unbearable dumbness of American as*holery

Via the Daily Kos
Via the Daily Kos

By One Pissed Off Liberal in the Daily Kos

Fight dumbassery everywhere you see it. We’ve been way too tolerant.

Sure, it’s your right to say whatever you want no matter how stupid or hateful, but is it a good idea? Are you doing yourself or society any favors? It’s your perfect right to be an idiot but your idiocy, once loosed upon the general public, is another matter. You don’t have the moral right to make other people suffer because you’re stupid. Sometimes life is about more than what you have a right to do, but what you should or shouldn’t do within the context of civilized society – which I submit, we should be aiming for. Civilization seems a worthy goal at this point.

America should be ashamed of producing so many stupid people. Virtually every one of whom has or had the potential to shine, and it was just never realized because we as a society are neglectful, especially of the poor and working classes. We do not have universal education any more than we have universal health care. In many cases, the poor just have a pipeline to prison.

There are aspects of our society, such as the failure to provide high quality education and social support to all, that encourage a culture of dumbassery. Think Confederate flag. Think prophet cartoons. Think sheer ignorance and cultural insensitivity.

I think virtually every human has the innate capacity to rise above such cultural backwardness. I think they have Ferrari brains like everyone else, they just never learn to shift gears. No one teaches them. They spend their whole lives driving a Ferrari poorly and never get it out of first gear. In that state, they are susceptible to dumbassery.

Two people are dead and one wounded because a bunch of dumbass macho yahoos down in Texas (who could have been so much more) thought it’d be cute to have a ‘draw the prophet’ contest…to prove they weren’t afraid of Sharia law and shit.

Read it all at the Daily Kos

Nonviolence as Compliance

Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death, and so they appeal for order.

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By Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ….

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build “a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds.” Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city’s police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

Read more at The Atlantic

Poor People Need a Higher Wage, Not a Lesson in Morality

David Brooks’ rendition of poverty is as “representative” of people with low-incomes as corrupt corporate titans are of small entrepreneurs.

By Greg Kaufmann in The Nation

Baltimore, Maryland (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore, Maryland (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“The idea that poverty is a problem of persons—that it results from personal moral, cultural, or biological inadequacies—has dominated discussions of poverty for well over two hundred years and given us the enduring idea of the underserving poor.”

—Michael Katz, The Undeserving Poor

In a recent op-ed, New York Times columnist David Brooks called for a “moral revival,” one which requires “holding people responsible” so that we have “social repair.”

To illustrate the need for said revival—which he frames as a reassertion of social norms—Brooks offers what he describes as three “representative figures” of “high school-educated America”: a man whose mother was absent, Dad is in prison, attended seven elementary schools, and “ended up under house arrest”; a girl who was “one of five half-siblings from three relationships,” whose mom lost custody of the kids to an abuser, and whose dad left a woman because another guy had fathered their child; and, finally, a kid who “burned down a lady’s house when he was 13” and says, “I just love beating up somebody and making they nose bleed…and beating them to the ground.”

So goes the latest iteration of the “undeserving poor,” an age-old concept brilliantly excavated by the late historian Michael Katz in his book of the same title. Like the long lineage it stems from, Brooks’ rendition is as “representative” of people with low-incomes as corrupt corporate titans are of small entrepreneurs. Anecdotally, in my years working for Boys and Girls Clubs, reporting as a poverty correspondent for The Nation, and now editing TalkPoverty.org which regularly features posts from people living in poverty—Brooks’ “representative figures” remind me of exactly zero people I have met during this time. I’m not saying that these individuals don’t exist, but they have little to do with the policies or the morality we need to dramatically reduce poverty in America.

Read more at The Nation

Instead of Criminalizing Homelessness, Utah Is Doing the Opposite — And It’s Working

Utah

After Barbara Simons left her abusive husband and the house they lived in together six years ago, she had nowhere to go. She was without a job and her daughter, Jamie, was struggling with mental health issues. She ended up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and feared she’d become homeless.

Then she heard about a program run by the state that would pay for her and Jamie to get an apartment with no strings attached. The Housing First program started in 2005, and Simons says it might have saved her life.

“I don’t know if I’d be alive,” Simons told Mic by phone. “Or I’d be alive and living on the street. It just helped me get back on my feet. It showed that people cared about you.”

Even though Utah is one of the most conservative states in the nation, it has become a leader in progressive policies meant to help the homeless. By proving that a conservative state could solve its chronic homelessness problem for less money than traditional homelessness policies, Utah has become a model for towns, cities and states across the nation.

Read more at Policy.Mic

Majority of public assistance goes to working families, report finds

"20111110-OC-AMW-0050 - Flickr - USDAgov" by U.S. Department of Agriculture - 20111110-OC-AMW-0050. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. Government Food Stamps, 1941. Image via the United States Department of Agriculture (public domain).

State and federal public assistance programs pay $153 billion to low-wage workers who can’t make ends meet

The majority of American families on public assistance or Medicaid are headed by at least one full-time worker, according to a report released Monday by the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

Researchers who analyzed annual state and federal spending on public assistance programs — including food stamps, Medicaid, Temporary Aid to Needy Families and the earned income tax credit — found that more than 56 percent of that spending goes to working families.

In other words, employers, such fast-food restaurants, are paying their employees so little that they must rely on government assistance to make ends meet. In total, these employees seek an estimated $153 billion in public assistance each year, according to the report.

“When companies pay too little for workers to provide for their families, workers rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs,” Ken Jacobs, chair of the Center for Labor Research and Education and co-author of the report, said in a release. “This creates significant cost to the states.”

Read more at Al Jazeera America

Have Republicans Forgotten Who We Are?

How immigration will save America and Social Security too.

Immigrant children, Ellis Island, New York.
Immigrant children, Ellis Island, New York.

The Christian Science Monitor​ recently published a very interesting and informative article about the current debate in the United States Senate over the future of Social Security disability benefits.

Reallocating one year’s funding for Social Security retirement to disability would ensure that both programs remain fully funded until 2033. Although this has been done many times before, the current congressional Republican majority is opposed, preferring instead to begin cutting benefits for disabled Americans by as much as 20% next year. Republicans complain that Democrats are refusing to address the serious, looming fiscal crisis of the program.

But while Social Security certainly has future funding problems, they are not as daunting as Republicans wish to portray them. The Republican leadership’s motivation is purely ideological. They desire to destroy the Social Security program. And they want to begin by reducing payments to disabled Americans next year. The average disability recipient receives about $1250 a month in benefits. I’d like to see even one Republican Senator live on that budget, or cut their own pay by 20% next year.

Over one million veterans returned home injured from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them so severely injured that they may never work again. And many of these gravely injured soldiers returned home to waiting spouses and children. Republicans are now threatening to cut the disability benefits for those veterans and their families.

Interestingly, the prospectus for the future funding of Social Security programs is not as bleak as Republicans would like the American public to believe. And there is a very simple explanation for this that is directly related to the reason that Social Security is facing future deficits in the first place: population demographics.

More people are withdrawing benefits from the system than are paying into it. But American society is preparing to undergo a surprising demographic shift as an unexpected consequence of immigration. As increasing numbers of young immigrants join the American labor force in the coming decades–and as inevitable immigration reforms provide the necessary pathways to citizenship for young, undocumented immigrants–Social Security revenues will likely see a significant increase relative to program expenditures.

America has always been a nation of immigrants. It’s who we are. And immigration has always been a major source of strength for America and a boon to our economy. So why, in God’s name, are so many Americans opposed to it now? Perhaps it’s because they have forgotten, or maybe never understood at all, who we are as a people, and the vital role that immigration has always played in our nation’s history.

© 2015 by konigludwig