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A Gullible TV exclusive Interview with the Israeli Prime Minister Nit-and-yahoo!

GTV: People were taken aback when after years of saying you were negotiating for a two state solution, you publicly stated you'd never allow a Palestinian stae to exist.

Nit: Oh, no.  They must have misheard me.  I have also said I want to negotiate.

GTV: But this video clearly has you saying you only want one state to exist.

Nit: Errrr.  Uh, apparently you're not familiar with my Zen Judaism approach.

GTV: Zen Judaism?

Nit: Yes.  As our prophet Elijah once said, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

GTV: How do you clap with one hand?

Nit: You don't!  You clap with two hands!  See?  When I say one state, I really mean two states.

GTV: Wouldn't it be simpler to just say two states?

Nit: Yes!  Exactly!  Precisely, why we say one state when we mean two states!

GTV: Some people think you're a politician who tells each audience whatever that audience wants to hear.

Nit: Oh, no!  Not at all!  I assure you I tell you that you should believe whatever I tell you, and I tell everyone else that they should believe whatever I tell them.

GTV: So, you would never try to deceive us?

Nit: I would no more try to deceive others than Jacob would deceive his own father Isaac!  That is my tradition.

GTV: Thank you for clearing that up.  So, when will we see a two state come into being?

Nit: Oh, it will take time.  If you did that now, those rag-heads would create a terrorist state.

GTV: Rag-heads?  Isn't that racist?

Nit: Not at all!  I look forward to a two state solution.

GTV: So what's stopping it?

Nit: Well, they still want to be rag-heads.

GTV: Why shouldn't they?

Nit: Why, of course, first they have to convert to Judaism for a few generations so we know they've given up their terrorist ways.

GTV: Convert to Judaism?

Nit: Of course, this IS Israel after all.

Discuss

Wed Mar 18, 2015 at 07:06 AM PDT

Full Sanctions on Israel Now

by workingwords

Now that Netanyahu has won the Israeli elections, it's time to decide what the US and the international community will do.

* During his campaign Netanyahu said he would never allow a Palestinian state.  Considering his policies over the years, it seems clear this means he's been lying to the international community that he was willing to negotiate.  Certainly, we can't trust anything he says.  (If he was merely lying to Israel's voters, that doesn't make him a good ally either.)

* His speech to Congress disrespected our country and the international community's negotiations with Iran.

* Even if he didn't tell the "47 traitors" to send the letter to Iran, his visit clearly prompted the letter.  His actions put negotiations at risk and made the situation worse.

* His speech to Congress was also a trick he used to circumvent Israel's election laws.  Israel limit's candidates' air time in the month before an election.  Netanyahu's stunt gave him extra air time as 'news".  All he had to do was schedule the speech two weeks earlier or later (or send someone who wasn't a candidate) to avoid the election rule conflict.  He chose to thumb his nose at the rules.

* Netanyahu's shrill campaign against Iran is also destabilizing.  Although Israel doesn't have international authorization to have nuclear weapons, experts believe Israel has a substantial nuclear arsenal.  (See these sources: Wikipedia , BBC news , and this opinion piece from the Washington Post )  It's at Wikipedia - clearly, Iran, Arab nations and any nuclear wannabes know this.  So, from their point of view, Israel is jumping up and down screaming, "We can have nukes without international approval but you can't have them under any circumstances!"  Although the US government and media tends to maintain total silence about it, Israel is a nuclear rogue state, and with it behaving this way that will destabilize international relations.  We need to address that.

* The time period in which experts believe Israel was preparing for its first nuclear weapons is around the time of the 1967 war.  It's been speculated that Arab states may have gotten wind of it and attacked because of that.  I'm not aware of any solid evidence of this, but it's worth considering that the Occupied Territories may be the result of an effort to stop Israel from becoming a nuclear rogue state.  (I don't mean to suggest the Arab states acted on altruistic motives, but this is not an evil motive either.)

We can't continue to actively or passively support this.

-- No military aid whatsoever to Israel

-- Restrict intelligence sharing with Israel

-- No financial aid to Israel

-- Trade restrictions which would apply to other nations under these conditions

-- Present UN resolutions to give full member status to Palestinians - Israel has said it will never negotiate it

-- Demand international nuclear inspection of Israel.  Impose the same sanction for refusal to cooperate as we would for Iran.  Ask international authorities to decide what - if any - nuclear arsenal Israel will be permitted

Discuss

I have a relative who was recently concerned that his Medicare premiums seemed to have jumped by about 50%.  It turned out that last year his income had exceeded a certain number which made him subject to surcharges.

I support progressive taxation brackets.  (Although conservatives [selectively] love Adam Smith and hate progressive taxation, in fact Adam Smith said it was reasonable for the rich to pay a higher tax rate than others pay.)  In that sense, I can't entirely oppose a higher premium rate based on higher income.  Especially, if it were the only way we could afford medical care for poorer Medicare patients, it would seem important to ask more from more affluent Medicare recipients.

However, this is another example of a double standard or biased inconsistency in our public policy.

Rich people who may or may not have ever worked have special low tax rates on non-work types of income such as capital gains and "qualified dividends."  Hedge fund big wigs have a kind of income analogous to merit bonuses called "carried interest" on which they have a special low tax rate.  Even if a rich person pays the same or higher effective income tax rate as a person with a regular job and average income, the rich guy doesn't have to add Social Security and Medicare taxes on top of that (or if the rich person does work and pay FICA, it's only on part of his income).  That's why a few years ago Warren Buffet found his effective tax rate was lower than that of his secretary.

Even if we had only one set of tax brackets for wages, capital gains, etc., there would still be an issue.  Why is it that there are several tax brackets between an income of $4,000 and an income of $400,000, but there are no higher brackets for $4 million or $40 million?

People who live in affluent suburbs may pay more dollars in real estate taxes than people in less affluent places - because they live in bigger houses with bigger yards and bigger price tags.  But the real estate tax RATE is often lower than in cities or less affluent towns.

There are various ways in which our governments have arranged to let people with higher incomes have lower tax rates than others pay.  And yet the government chooses to have Medicare recipients above a certain income pay higher premiums.  Why?  In the final analysis, it's because they worked for a living.  The idle rich didn't work and pay into Social Security, and don't receive Medicare when they reach 65.  The truly rich don't pay Medicare premiums, so these surcharges don't affect them.  Our government is willing to ask people with higher incomes to pay more, as long as it's done in a way that billionaires aren't being asked to pay more.

To the extent we view Medicare and its premiums as "insurance," it may be fair to ask whether private insurance companies impose surcharges for higher incomes when selling home, life or liability insurance.

Currently, we know that the wealthy and their politicians are trying to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  But the bias I'm discussing here isn't limited to those programs.  Those are "earned benefits" but there is something which might be considered to be earned in an even greater way.  We've seen scandals under both Pres. George W. Bush and Pres. Obama regarding the medical care for veterans.  There is no number of dollars which is considered to be too much for the budgets of the Pentagon, NSA and other spy agencies.  But the people who are actually sent to the battlefield are rarely rich.  They are people from modest incomes, so when they return with war injuries or war trauma their medical treatment is not the priority it should be.

If you work in the factory, office or battlefield, the government isn't so concerned about your welfare as it is about getting your money.  If you've never worked in any of the above, the government is more concerned about your welfare than it is about getting your money.

Discuss

The NY Times had an article on a troubling trend in medical care.  More Americans are finding it necessary to get money to pay medical bills by asking for donations on crowd-funding sites.  [There's also an older Times article about someone injured at the Boston Marathon bombing needing to ask for crowd-funding for medical bills.]  What this says about American politics and economics is profound and disturbing.

First, the article notes that American senior citizens who are covered by Medicare are having more trouble paying for their health care than seniors in other affluent nations.  The crowd-funding trend is not just a matter of who has employer-based health insurance, who can afford private insurance premiums, etc.  It's not just a question of business claiming that working-age Americans should be able to take care of their health care.  It's a question of every sector of the 99%.  It's about whether we take care of the people who worked for 40 or 50 years to keep our economy running and to raise the next generations.

Regardless of the above comments, what the Times describes is not primarily a Medicare or senior citizen problem.  It adds to what we already know about the short-comings of the Affordable Care Act (which clearly isn't named as well as it might be).  Other nations do a better job of providing health care without impoverishing the patients and their families.  If you want "affordable" or to help working people, we'd have something more like the Canadian system.  According to scientific studies discussed in Scientific American Canada provides comparable levels of medical care at a far lower per-capita cost.  But in 2009, Obama and Congressional leaders wouldn't even propose a Canadian-style health care system as their first bargaining chip in negotiations in order to compromise down to a somewhat less profit-oriented Affordable Care Act.

The Times article even tells us something about charity.  As income inequality grows, it becomes a greater sacrifice for working people to give to charity, but the wealthy could afford to give even more.  Yet, desperate patients and their families find themselves getting help from sources where working people give to the needy.  Traditional charitable organizations aren't keeping up with the needs of working Americans, so the desperate go to crowd-funding.  The rich are getting richer, paying special low tax rates on capital gains and other non-work income - and being stingy to people who need help paying doctor bills.  (Studies of charitable giving show that the stingiest income group is around $1 million to $10 million per year.  The super-rich give more as a percentage of income [but not as percentage of wealth] to non-profits - but only a small part goes to direct services for the needy.)

And speaking of the rich getting richer, at least some of those crowd-funding web sites take a slice of the donations for their owners.

Charitable giving is a kind thing, but it's not something people should have to depend on for medical care.

The spokespeople for the rich have been telling us we can't afford Social Security, Medicare and other social benefits.  There's one simple answer to that.  If we can't afford to provide health care and retirement to people who have worked for decades doing necessary work, then we can't afford to have idle rich people living in luxury and sitting on mountains of money.  We can't afford to have special tax rates for income that doesn't involve working (such as capital gains) which are lower than the tax rates for an equal number of dollars in wage / salary income.  We can't afford not to have a Canadian-style health care system which costs so much less.  We can't afford to let the wealthy spend unlimited amounts of money on elections in order to make our society less affordable for everyone else.  We can't afford to let the rich pay less than their fair share in both taxes and charity.

Discuss

There was an interesting article in the NY Times about NYC housing court.  The article centers on a lawsuit by the tenants in two buildings in Brooklyn.  Their first complaints of inadequate heat began in December 2013.  City inspectors have gone there and issued violations.  The tenants have a lawyer and have been pursuing their case in housing court during the past year.  There have been occasional court dates with limited opportunity for testimony, but the case is nowhere near completion.  The landlord's lawyer is actually asking the judge to rule that all the testimony which has taken place in the past year should only be treated as relevant to one "motion" requested in court and that testimony not be considered in any decisions on the case as a whole.  In other words, once the motions were eventually decided, testimony and evidence presentation to decide the actual case would have to start over from the beginning - stretching the case out for who knows how many more winters.

We're already talking about more than an entire winter with inadequate heat, and no end in sight for the case.  According to the NY Times, it's not unusual for housing court cases to drag on for long periods.  This is not a matter of one problematic judge and the cases assigned to him.  One factor is housing court has too few facilities, so each judge has huge numbers of cases, but that isn't all.

I found myself thinking about this.  NYC has a Democratic mayor (who's viewed as being especially progressive) and a Democratic City Council.  New York State has a Democratic governor and a large Democratic majority in one house of the state legislature.  Granted, the GOP has a small majority in the other house of the legislature.

I asked myself, how much have the tenants had to pay in lawyers fees and other legal expenses over the course of this case?  How much have they had to spend on other items (electric heaters and higher electric bills, etc.)?  What other financial losses have they experienced (one tenant was suspended from her job after taking time off for a 1-year-old daughter with repeated colds).  Will taking off from work for court appearances threaten other tenants' jobs?  How long will they be suffering with inadequate housing?  How long will they be living in limbo wondering how many more winters they will have to endure without action against the landlord?

Disclaimer: I'm not telling anyone to do the following.  Sooner or later, that baby girl is going to die of pneumonia or some other tenant is going to be pushed beyond endurance.  Somebody's going to hire a hitman.  It'll be cheaper than all the expenses the tenants have piling up now.  It'll clear things up a lot quicker (maybe years sooner) than housing court.  Maybe the rest of the tenants will end up better off.  Of course, New York taxpayers will end up spending a huge amount of money prosecuting that one tenant, and even more money for that tenant's room and board in prison.  (Perhaps, the jail cell will be better heated than his apartment?)

The question is: What are those Democratic elected officials doing to give tenants a better alternative than a hitman?  What are they doing to save taxpayers all that money?  What are they doing to maintain a fair rule of law, rather than legally crushing anyone who gives up on an unfair legal system?

Coincidentally, in the last few months I heard a news report saying Brooklyn had become rated as the nation's "least affordable" housing market.  It's not that NYC landlords as a whole are doing poorly.  It's not that anyone is forcing businesspeople to become landlords in buildings that don't make as much profit as they'd like.  Oddly enough, there are currently radio ads by the association of landlords with rent-regulated apartments.  The ads try to tell us the reason rents are so high is because the government regulates their rent increases.  I find myself talking back to the radio, "Let me see if I got this straight.  What you're telling me is, if the government lets you raise rents as high as you want, what you'll do is lower rents?"

Landlords are using twisted logic, lawyers, lobbyists and anything else they can to make the least affordable housing in the nation even less affordable.  What are all those Democrats doing?

Discuss

A recent email / petition from CREDO said:

General Mills’ Vanilla, Chocolate and Cinnamon Chex boxes all proudly display a label ... “no high fructose corn syrup.”

...These General Mills products all contain a super-concentrated sweetener that is made from high fructose corn syrup, and within the Big Ag industry is literally called “HFCS-90” or high fructose corn syrup-90.

But then the Corn Refiners Association changed the name to “fructose.”1 And now General Mills is not only disingenuously hiding their corn syrup behind this innocuous alias -- the company is bragging that it’s products don’t contain any!

The CREDO petition asks the company to stop printing that claim on its products.  We should also be asking: Isn't this illegal?  If not, why not?  What are our elected officials doing about it?

Can an industry group establish a standard for its members that the ingredient previously called "sugar" should be listed as "glucose" - and then can companies make statements that those products "do not contain sugar"?  Can an industry group decide to refer to alcohol as "joy juice" and then sell those products to minors because they "contain no alcohol"?

OK, those aren't perfect analogies.  The "high fructose corn syrup-90" is presumably not in all ways chemically identical to "high fructose corn syrup" - even if the differences aren't significant to anyone avoiding high fructose corn syrup.  A lawyer might therefore argue the statement is technically true, even if not very useful.  It still seems worthwhile to ask why we don't have legal standards which control the use of "technically true, but not useful" advertising which would tend to cause consumers to buy products they would otherwise avoid.

But the technicality of an insignificant-to-consumers distinction between these two ingredients can be objected to in another way, at least in this particular case.  The industry group has chosen to use the word "fructose" when the ingredient is high fructose corn syrop-90.  Fructose was an established term for a particular molecule long before the industry group made their decision.  Students studying chemistry and/or biology have been expected to identify the word fructose with one particular molecule for decades.  High fructose corn syrup-90 isn't identical to pure fructose molecules either.  So, the question here isn't just what lawyers say about distinguishing "high fructose corn syrup" and "high fructose corn syrup-90".

We're taught in school that a market economic system is good for us because competition drives companies to make products better and more in keeping with what consumers want.  If that is what our government wants the economy to do, then we need accurately-informed consumer choices to influence business improvements to their products.  When products are labelled and/or described in ways which are at best misleading, consumers don't know what they are buying, and as a result don't buy what they would have picked if not mislead.  Companies are manipulating consumers into buying what the companies want to make, rather than making what consumers really want to buy.  The rationale for the market economy falls apart.

If a teenager uses an older brother's ID to buy alcohol, we don't say the fault is all on the store for being fooled by deception.  The law wouldn't quibble over the fact the ID had the older brother's name and the older brother was actually old enough to buy alcohol.  We shouldn't let businesses fool consumers either.  It's not essential if the deception is intentional.  If you make the honest mistake of driving off with someone else's car which looks a lot like your car, it doesn't mean you get to keep his car.

Should a product that contains ham be able to say it "contains no pork," because ham has a different texture and flavor than pork chops and pork roasts?  Should a product be able to list "corn" as an ingredient if it is made using the stalk of a corn plant?  Should a product be able to say it contains grapes based on containing raisins?  If a product contains egg, can the list of ingredients say "chicken"?  Even if there are good arguments on both sides of these questions, we need rules for package and ad wording so consumers reading the package or ad can know which meaning or meanings are conveyed.  To some degree this is already done, but if what CREDO describes is happening it's not being done enough.  If the high fructose corn syrup / high fructose corn syrup-90 / fructose free-for-all is just an example of something accidentally falling through the cracks, are our government filling those cracks?

The government is our social organization for mediating disputes between citizens, and which does not have the direct vested interests of an industry group (which could lead the industry group to make choices not in the public interest).  It is the government's responsibility to take care of this.

Our politicians have three options.  They can continue to support a deceptive market economy which benefits the businesses, but doesn't give the benefits it should to the vast majority.  They can start legislating a framework requiring an honest market economy.  Or they can try to construct a system which lacks the problems of the market economy.

So far, we know which option our elected officials have chosen over the decades no matter which party has been dominant.

Discuss

For the record, while I understand the anger and frustration which sometimes erupt into rioting, I don't believe it's the most productive response to injustices.

That being said...   My wife has conservative relatives.  They sometimes post items from the right-wing propaganda mills on Facebook or such.  One recent posting expressed indignation at the reports of rioting and looting in Ferguson.  (I might add that the right-wing propaganda seemed to attribute the alleged physical struggle in the Trayvon Martin case to Michael Brown as justification for the shooting.)  The propaganda had a person saying something like, "Oh, I don't like such-and-such.  Why don't I go steal from stores and damage property?  Oh, wait.  We don't act like that in civilized societies."

There's an incredibly big heap of irony here.  While these propaganda mills may have origins elsewhere, in the US if the media or many other people want to put a label on strong conservative views or actions you'll probably hear the phrase "Tea Party."  And conservatives often refer to themselves as belonging to the Tea Party.  Is this because it's being suggested their views are as silly as the conversation at the Mad Hatter's tea party Alice attended?  Is it a reference to people who chat about the weather over cups of tea?  Of course not.  It refers to history's "Boston Tea Party" in the period leading up to the American War of Independence.

So, why's it called a Boston Tea Party and what happened there?  Well, the British had started putting a tax on tea sold in the 13 colonies, and the colonists didn't like that.  Let's be clear, nobody LIKES paying taxes.  But tea isn't what you'd call a necessity of life.  It's not as if an adviser told Marie Antoinette, "The poor can barely afford to buy bread."  And Marie replied, "Let's put a tax on bread!"

The colonists - or at least those who were affluent enough to spend money on tea - were upset about a new tax on what back then was a minor luxury.  Did they respond in a legal and polite manner?  Did they paint anti-tax graffiti on the tax collector's office?  Did they throw rotten eggs at the home of the British government's local representative?  Not quite.  They disguised themselves as Native Americans, sneaked onto a merchant ship which had a cargo of tea, and committed crimes of vandalism and property destruction.

Those are the acts which conservatives feel are so honorable and glorious that they name their political community after it.

On the other hand, in places such as Ferguson, we're not talking about a serious injustice like an increase in the price of a hot beverage.  Nothing more serious occurred there than the killing of an unarmed man.  The Killing in Ferguson was done by a police officer - someone authorized to use force when he believes it's necessary.  The tea tax was enacted by the existing government, which as we all know has no business passing laws or collecting revenue.  (You'll have to ask the Tea Party whether rioting would be more acceptable if they dressed as Native Americans.)  Obviously, there's just no comparison.  With no reason to be angry or morally outraged, the only possible explanation why some Ferguson residents violated a law is that they are inherently criminals who would have done the same thing regardless of events.  Right?

Are you SURE that's tea you're drinking?

  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  

Next time you're explaining to conservative relatives they should disassociate themselves from pro-hoodlum Tea Party people, there are other things you might point out.

There's nothing wrong with rebelling against a government that's better than most other governments.  That's exactly what Washington and Jefferson did.  England had a constitutional monarchy with a parliament, which was better than most countries.  The English court system was also better than what most nations had.  The 13 colonies were privileged as colonies of the time.  Each of the 13 colonies had their own statehouse legislature.  The powers of those state legislatures may have been limited compared to today, but for colonists to have any kind of self-governance back then was generous.  You could also point out that England changed into a modern democracy without a bloody revolution - so if Washington and Jefferson had been willing to wait a century the 13 colonies could have been part of England's modern democracy.

Meanwhile, what did Americans get in exchange for a bloody revolution rather than waiting?  The improved democracy in post-revolutionary America had slavery.  Voting was denied to women and slaves.  For a number of decades, various states maintained laws restricting the right to vote based on property ownership and religious affiliation (see Wikipedia  ).  It wasn't until the 1960's that federal law ended poll taxes - and the Constitution still doesn't forbid poll taxes.  (By the way Tea Party, it wasn't conservatives who campaigned against poll taxes.)

Don't get me wrong.  I'm NOT arguing against the War of Independence.  But an objective view shows us that English rule wasn't so bad by 1700's standards and the early US government wasn't so democratic by today's standards.  The gap between current reality and political goals doesn't have to be so vast to justify rebellion.  You don't have to be starting from the worst possible government and you don't have to set up the best possible government which will never have room for improvement.  And you don't have to sit around waiting for a century for bad things to go away by themselves.

Perhaps, conservatives would be justified in complaining that if Ferguson residents felt that injustices were so bad that it justified violence and destruction, those residents should be using those methods to create a more just government, rather than letting off steam in other ways.  I doubt you'll find that advise in a Tea Party statement.

Discuss

I belatedly watched an episode of John Oliver's show from early this Fall.  Oliver was on a tear about "civil forfeiture" and the like. [ See on YouTube  ]

This isn't something schools go out of their way to teach citizens, so in case you haven't seen this episode, let me explain.  Basically, civil forfeiture allows the police or other government forces to seize money or property which they believe has been, will be or is being used in illegal activities.  For instance, John Oliver told us about a driver who was pulled over by a policeman.  When the policeman found the driver had over $2000 in cash in the car, he quickly realized that nobody ever carries that much money for legal purposes.  Therefore, the policeman came to the only possible conclusion: the driver must have been driving to California to buy illegal drugs.  Since that would be a criminal activity, the policeman, of course, confiscated the money.

John Oliver, being the rabble-rouser that he is, presented such actions by the police as over-reaching and maybe even corrupt.  Oliver went further and informed us that the police can confiscate your money or property based on the premise there was / is / will be some illegal activity - and do not need to arrest you or present any evidence of illegal activity to a judge or jury.  Oliver continued and told us there is no "innocent until proven guilty" in these matters.  As a matter of fact, if you want your money or property back, you would have to present your case to prove you were innocent.

In his short-sightedness, John Oliver presented this as a violation of justice and an inherently wrong way for our government to operate.  A more rounded view of these procedures is that we are talking about a legal tool.  Tools can be used in good ways or bad ways.  It's not the tool's fault.

But what possible good use could this have, you ask.  I'm glad you brought up that point.  Well, I think it's pretty obvious.  It occurred to me while watching Oliver.

For six years, President Obama and the Democrats have been telling us that they'd really like to prosecute Wall Street and the bankers, but it's just SO hard to prove it in court that they were really knowingly acting in ways that were illegal.  Thank you, John Oliver!  Now President Obama and the Democrats know that all that silly nonsense about "innocent until proven guilty," arrests, criminal charges, judges, juries and the like just don't apply when it's obvious to most Americans that Wall Street is a bunch of crooks.

Since their crimes were committed in their corporate headquarters office buildings, the government can simply seize those buildings.  Since the billions of dollars sitting in their accounts were, are or will be used for illegal activities, the government can confiscate that money.  And since those executives took an active role in those crimes, all that money in their personal assets resulted from illegal activities.  Not to mention their fancy cars, yachts, second (third and fourth) homes, etc. are all subject to civil forfeiture!

Clearly, civil forfeiture is a fine and honorable practice when implemented as it should be.  In our democracy, where everyone is treated equally, and police who exceed their authority are always properly disciplined, I know that civil forfeiture will be applied in an unbiased manner and used in the manner I've described.

The Democrats, who side with regular Americans against big business, if they ever err in applying civil forfeiture, will err on the side of being over-zealous in seizing corporate assets while overlooking the average guy's activities.  Of that, we can be sure.

I can hardly wait until Monday when the seizures, no doubt, will be announced to the public.

Discuss

Last week, a NY policeman shot an unarmed man in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project.  The reporting of the case is worth adding to past experiences.

The NY Times headline read, "Officer’s Errant Shot Kills Unarmed Brooklyn Man."  Now, I'm not an English professor.  Perhaps, an English professor would tell me that headline doesn't explicitly mean it was an innocent mistake.  But for just about every other reader, that is how it would be interpreted.

The caption of the photo at the top of the article states, "...in this dim stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project, Officer Peter Liang accidentally killed Akai Gurley..."  The "dark hall" or "dark stairwell" was a standard part of the media coverage of the event.  As well as the description of it as an "accident" - not "an alleged accident" or something else indicating less than total certainty.

The Times article says that only 12 hours after the shooting the police commissioner "announced that the shooting was accidental and that the victim, Akai Gurley, had done nothing to provoke a confrontation with the officers."  It's not necessarily unreasonable after such a short amount of investigation for the commissioner to say it "seemed to be" an accident, but isn't it presumptuous for the Times to use those particular words to suggest there could be that much confidence in the case already?  (In fact, the Times mentions the investigation "continued," but doesn't question such a definitive pronouncement in that context.)

I couldn't help wondering how the media would have presented it if the roles had been reversed.  Suppose, it was late in the evening and Sam Jones had to leave his apartment to go to his third-shift job.  Suppose Sam was nervous:  It was night in a poor neighborhood.  He knew the stairwell would be dark.  There had been a shooting in a nearby lobby just a few days ago.  So, Sam took his licensed gun with him.  He nervously locks his apartment door hoping having his back turned away from the dark hall won't result in an attack.  He starts down the stairs, but hears someone coming up toward him.  In the darkness, he has no idea it's police.  One of the officers moves abruptly, making Sam more frightened.  Sam takes out his gun just in case.  In his fright, he holds the gun too tightly and the trigger is set off.  The bullet hits one of the policemen.

Would the media reports consistently tell you the stairwell was dark so Sam had no way to know it was police, but had every reason to be afraid?  Would the media consistently take Sam's claim it was an accident at face value, and treat him sympathetically as a blameless person?  Would the media make a special point of telling you it was a legal, licensed gun?  Would the media carry side-stories about the dangers that third-shift workers face going out at night?  Would there be side-stories about the lack of adequate measures to make sure housing projects are properly lit?  

The Times article describes the two policemen as being on a patrol - not responding to a report of a violent crime.  So, why was the gun out of the holster?  The Times refers to "a longtime police practice of officers drawing their weapons when patrolling stairwells in housing projects."  So, the policeman was not necessarily in a state of understandable fright, as I imagined a resident such as Sam might have been.  In that sense, it's not as simple an accident as it might have been.  The policeman may have been walking with his gun out and the safety off just because he was in a housing project - as if all project residents should do that all the time.  How would the media have handled it if Sam had accidentally shot someone while holding his gun in his hand, because Sam always held his gun in his hand every time he used the stairs?

The Times makes a point of telling us, in what did not seem to me to be a critical way, that the policeman had been on the job for less than 18 months.  If Sam had accidentally shot someone because he was very nervous - because he had only recently started living in a housing project - would the media present that as a reason we should be more understanding of his mistake?

The media has carried portrayals of the shooting being an accident resulting from trying to open the stairwell door while holding the gun.  If this is a reasonable result of doing those two things at once, then someone who's not in the media might ask whether it is inappropriate for a policeman to do the two together (at least when not rushing to the scene of a crime).  The Times reported that only one of the two policemen had his gun out, so it would have been possible for the policeman who wasn't holding a gun to open the door.  Perhaps, not taking a simple precaution such as that could be the basis for an involuntary manslaughter or "reckless endangerment" case.

While the Times gave various indicators in the 39 paragraphs of the article that the police described it as an accident and other descriptions suggestive of an accident, the Times never tells readers what a witness at the scene (Mr. Gurley's girlfriend) had to say about the events.  If his girlfriend had said it wasn't an accident, that would not prove it was true.  However, if his girlfriend told the media it had been an accident, that might be more credible than statements by the policemen involved in the shooting.  If the girlfriend told the media she didn't want to make a statement, it would have been worth noting that in the article.  The absence of any reference to a witness statement strikes me as odd.  If nothing else, it might mean the media may simply accept what the police say and see no need to mention independent witnesses (except perhaps if the witness insists on giving a very different account).

Late in the article, the Times quotes the police commissioner, "As in all cases, an officer would have to justify the circumstances that required him to or resulted in his unholstering his firearm.”  Yet, the article presents no claims by the police that any justification was presented.  However, the Times does not explicitly point out this conflict.

Even assuming everything happened exactly as the police say, even if that means we can already say no criminal indictment is appropriate, and even if we can't say for sure at this time disciplinary penalties are needed, based on the above police statements, how can it not be said a disciplinary hearing would be advisable?

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WASHINGTON, DC - Democrats For America* (DFA) announced a stunning new move by the White House.  A DFA email proclaimed, "President Obama just took a bold stand in favor of a free and open internet."  After only six months of heavy efforts by progressive groups and internet users, Pres. Obama made a public statement which was consistent with his past campaign promises of supporting net neutrality.

Obama was quoted as saying, "I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act..."

DFA described such reclassification as "the legal pathway to win" net neutrality.  Some experts speculate that with enough pressure, in another six months, Obama might make a public statement saying it would be a nice idea if the reclassification were actually used to maintain net neutrality.

"Let's take one step at a time," an administration spokesman said.  "Just because we're talking about changing the classification back to what it had been a few years ago doesn't mean we should rush into things."

The President's statement was so strong and imperative that DFA reports FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler "put out a statement on Monday that called for more time to discuss the issue."

We have plenty of time to discuss it .   I n t e r n e t    s l o w    l a n e s    h a v e    n o t    s  t  a  r  t  e  d     y   e   t   .

P  l  e  a  s  e     s   e   n   d      O    b    a    m    a       a       t    h    a    n    k       y     o     u     .

*A slight variation on the real name of the group

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WASHINGTON, DC - Facing the threat of significant losses in the midterm elections, the Democratic Party took a bold move in the final week of the campaign.  Across the country, voters were inspired by the new party slogan, "We're not as bad as most Republicans!"  After years of being dissatisfied by the actions of both major parties, millions were invigorated by this hopeful sign from the Democrats.

Exit polls showed how effective the new slogan was.  Large majorities said the economy was their number one factor in their voting choices.  70% told pollsters that they were barely treading water or worse off in their family finances.  As one voter told us, "We're barely better off than we'd be under the Republicans - and that's what the Democrats promised us.  It's great to vote for honest politicians for a change!"

"Income inequality will only grow half as fast under Democratic administrations," one especially bold candidate had proclaimed.  Volunteers flooded his campaign offices.

An unemployed worker expressed his hopes, "If you ignore the 'discouraged workers' and 'underemployed', Pres. Obama got the unemployment rate down to minor recession levels in only six years.  And thank goodness the stock market is at an all-time high!  I really worry at night about our billionaires and whether the Fed is doing enough for them."

A senior citizen enthused, "The cost of living increase in my Social Security benefits will cover at least half of the increases in my housing and food, maybe a bit more!"

The euphoria over the new slogan led to many organizations pointing out the good work done by Democrats in the last couple of years.  One women's rights activist noted, "Pres. Obama could have ruled that all right-wing, anti-woman companies be forbidden to include coverage for contraceptives in their employee health plans, but Obama chose to give right-wing businessmen the right to offer contraceptive coverage if they wished."

Advocates of alternatives to incarceration pointed to the work the administration has done to keep bankers and other businessmen out of jail.

A geeky-looking voter exclaimed, "The US dare not fall behind in technology, and Obama is doing a fine job in surveillance and drone technology!"

Another activist told us, "Signing petitions asking Democrats to do the rights thing is so much fun.  It's reassuring that the party isn't planning to take this from us by just doing the right thing on their own.  I also love those fake petitions Democrats circulate during campaign season to trick you into going to their donation sites."

Various Democratic officials found ways to follow the new approach.

"After the elections will be a fine time for the FCC to make its decision on net neutrality," a party spokesman suggested.  "When voters can't take us to task is when we pay most attention to what the majority wants."

In its efforts to be less bad than the GOP, NY Democrats also placed a proposition on the ballot regarding redistricting.  Deranged far-left conspiracy theorists such as the NY Times editors and the NY Civil Liberties Union claim it is a sham intended to simply give the illusion of fighting gerrymandering.  True "less bad" Democrats pointed out, "If we actually ended gerrymandering in New York, someone could make a real contrast between that and the gerrymandering that let the GOP have a majority in the House despite getting a minority of the popular vote.  That could make the Democrats look (gasp!) significantly different than the Republicans."

To help convince voters that the Democrats weren't that different from Republicans, five retiring Democratic Senators volunteered to refuse to use millions of dollars left over in their campaign accounts to help elect other Democrats.

Meanwhile, the wealthy were practically scared to death with visions that some Democrats - when speaking in front of progressive groups - might once again advocate making the rich pay their fair share.

There was some criticism of the new slogan.  George Lakoff suggested, "It would be better framing to say, 'We're a little better than most Republicans.'"

Discuss

I got an email from the Campaign for America's Future warning about efforts to scam the public on highway funding.  It says the scheme is to:

Let corporations bring home the profits that they’ve stashed overseas, and they’ll lend some of it to pay for highways. They dodge the taxes they would otherwise owe. We get to borrow money to pay for our roads.
US companies have been avoiding US taxes by keeping much of their money overseas.
Nearly three out of four Fortune 500 companies use overseas tax havens to avoid about $90 billion a year in taxes.
So, what Congress may soon be doing is letting big business bring these billions back into the US tax-free, then those businesses will charge us interest to borrow some of the money to maintain safe highways to save lives.

This really angers me.  It's not only the general idea, it's also my personal experience.

For a number of years, I worked in one state (which had a higher income tax rate) and lived in a neighboring state (which had a lower tax rate).  I did not do this to avoid paying my fair share of taxes.  When I got married, my wife had been living in a house with kids just across the state line.  I was living in an apartment which wasn't big enough for the family.  So, I moved into her house.  When it came time to file income taxes, I found I had to file in both states.  Since I was living in the state with a lower tax rate, it worked like this:  I paid what I owed in my state of residence.  Then I had to file a non-resident form for the state in which I worked - and pay that state what I would have paid if I lived there minus the amount I paid in my state of residence.  The end result was the total I paid to the two states was the amount that would be charged by the higher tax rate state.

For working people, the tax laws are designed in the "Heads I win, tails you lose" fashion.  For big business, it's "Heads business wins, tails working people lose".  It would be easy enough to use a similar tax system for business - pay taxes to the country with lower taxes, then pay the US the diffeence between that and the US tax rate.  Do that and there's not much benefit for corparations to keep their money elsewhere.  Then they might keep all their money here and pay all of their taxes here.  Then, we'd have all those extra billions in revenue and wouldn't have to take out loans to save lives.

Let's be clear.  What I've written here has nothing to do with raising the corparate tax rate.  It has nothing to do with changing corporate tax law to reduce how many deductions they can take.  Or anything like that.  It's just asking them to pay taxes on all of the income they take in which fits the current qualifications of being taxable income.  It just means applying the kinds of tax laws used within the US for working people who live and work in more than one place.  It's just asking that the majority of the population not be second class citizens, while the rich get to follow different rules.

The Campaign for America's Future isn't even asking for that.  They're not saying big business should have to pay the difference between US and foreign taxes if they leave the money overseas.  They're just saying if corporations bring all the money into the US, their tax bill shouldn't be zero.  Yet, even that is probably too much to ask of our elected officials.  I imagine you'll especially have trouble finding even a handful of Democrats who will say big business should have to follow rules similar to what I had to do.

[Note: While the above diary doesn't advocate a higher corporate tax rate, I see no reason why a corporation with $1 million of taxable income shouldn't pay the same tax rate as would be charged on $1 million of taxable salary income.  That is another story - another one which neither party has any interest in.]

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