Who is to blame for the Sandy Hook (and other mass killings)?

I’ve been seriously ill and haven’t fully digested this latest atrocity. But everyone is so sure the blame lays somewhere else.  Every one has an excuse as to why their money pot isn’t to blame.

Everyone is shamelessly trying to pimp this tragedy to increase their money pot or promote their cause/ideology.

Everyone is hoping there is one magic element that doesn’t affect their money pot that could be removed without any financial cost to them.

Look at the pointing fingers and shrieking predictable rhetoric.  All packaged and memorized rhetoric.

They used to call progressives “bleeding hearts”.  They said we wanted to blame society for evils performed by individuals.

No one wants to even ponder the enormity of an entire world civilization , with over seven billion people being on a completely cancerous path.  The enormity of the required change to save the planet, and our humanity, our very civilization, is beyond imagining.  Better to point fingers, lay blame, score those points with your followers.

Better not to look at the fingers pointing back at you when you are looking at blaming someone else.  Oh no, not I.  Oh no not something that is part of my cash stream.  It must be some one else.

So go home and pull up the latest action movie on Netflix or Pay-per-View.  Watch the few hours of mindless violence safe within the self assured smugness that: No it wasn’t me, my hands are clean, I only make or sell  ____ that material everyone seems to have to have.  Or I love my ultra violent movies and video games or  ______.  Don’t blame me, I did nothing wrong.

But the hard truth is that you and I are the most basic unit of society and we are on the great nihilistic brink.  We are in a state of fear and existential paralysis because we are afraid to see that we, and the society we have built, the cash streams we have created are our the problem.

Not a trick question:  Why are the deaths of the people of Sandy Hook a tragedy, but not the deaths of 40 members of a wedding party in Afghanistan, blown a part by a drone piloted by someone in an office in Arizona?

Unless you can start to see those as identical and understand the mindset of the computer operator who commits his/her murders from the safety of a desk in a nice air conditioned office then you will never find who is really to blame.

We are all to blame.

Australia – No schools crusade, kids just prefer a Christ-less Xmas

From Actup.org:   http://actup.org/news/australia-no-schools-crusade-kids-just-prefer-a-christ-less-xmas-chris-fotinopoulos/

Chris Fotinopoulos
Dec 18, 2012

“Christmas without God is essentially how kids understand Christmas these days. And we’re far more comfortable with [our daughter] participating in Christmas activities without religious education instructors meddling.”

That’s how the mother of a grade five pupil summed up her approach to Christmas activities in public schools. It got me thinking about the secularisation of Christmas — and whether, as the media sometimes likes to paint it, it’s a case of political correctness gone mad and holly wars in the playground.

The grade five pupil in question reported that all her classmates participated in Christmas activities with enthusiasm: “We love making Christmas cards for each other, and we especially love decorating the classroom Christmas tree.”

What kind of decoration did you and your classmates make? “Well, we made pencil cases, hand-sewn purses, cardboard-cut outs of our favourite pop stars, favourite song lyrics … one boy even dressed up the angel at the top of the tree in the colours of his footy team.” Doesn’t sound too Christmassy to me.

It occurred to me this is Christmas for her and many kids of her generation. This is how Christmas was celebrated at her kindergarten, her primary school, in the broader community and, more or less, at home. When I was in primary school, the end of the school year involved singing Christmas carols and constructing a nativity diorama. Not any more.

But based on my conversations with current teachers, parents and primary school students, I found little evidence of debate or controversy raging over whether Christ has a place in Christmas in our public schools.

Continue reading at:  http://actup.org/news/australia-no-schools-crusade-kids-just-prefer-a-christ-less-xmas-chris-fotinopoulos/

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Family Research Council Sued for Sexual Harassment and Discrimination by Former Official

From Little Green Footballs:    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/41354_Family_Research_Council_Sued_for_Sexual_Harassment_and_Discrimination_by_Former_Official

Dec 18, 2012

In order to make it appear as if they actually care what the womenfolk think, fanatical religious right groups like the Family Research Council like to create token positions for women within the company, with lofty sounding titles like “Director of Women’s and Reproductive Health.” Who could ever be opposed to that? What war on women?

So it’s kind of embarrassing, but also highly revealing, when the former Director of Women’s and Reproductive Health for the Family Research Council sues the organization for vindictively firing her when she filed a sexual harassment complaint against her sexist pig boss.

According to court documents first obtained and reported by journalist Evan Gahr, former FRC employee Moira Gaul, 42, filed a complaint in 2009 with the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission in which she accused her supervisor of gender discrimination. She claimed that her boss, the director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics at the time, referred to the use of birth control pills as “whoring around,” addressed emails to her with the words “hi cutie,” pressured her to attend parties, and referred to her as a “young, attractive woman.”

“His attitude toward me and other women was rude, belittling, and at times, angry,” she wrote in the complaint.

Continue reading at:  http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/41354_Family_Research_Council_Sued_for_Sexual_Harassment_and_Discrimination_by_Former_Official

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Westboro Baptist Church’s Tax-Exempt Status Challenged

From Truth-Dig:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/westboro_baptist_churchs_tax-exempt_status_challenged_20121218/

By Tracy Bloom
Dec 18, 2012

Despite its vitriolic activities and protests that are political in nature, the hate group Westboro Baptist Church has somehow managed to keep its IRS tax-exempt status. But after its publicly announced plans to picket the funerals of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment,” as church spokeswoman (and daughter of its pastor, Fred Phelps) Shirley Phelps-Roper tweeted, tens of thousands of people have signed petitions hoping to change that.

Three petitions have popped up on the White House’s We the People site to investigate and strip the bigoted organization of its tax-exempt status. All three have garnered the more than 25,000 signatures needed for the Obama administration to review them. A separate petition calling on the White House to legally classify the Topeka, Kan.-based WBC as a hate group has also reached the threshold for an official White House response, with more than 185,000 people signing it as of Tuesday morning.

Some of these petitions have been promoted online by the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous. The group targeted Westboro Baptist Church on Monday, hacking its website, taking over Phelps-Roper’s Twitter account and releasing personal information about the church’s members on the Internet.

Of the three tax petitions, the “Investigate the IRS Tax-Exempt Status of the Westboro Baptist Church” one has gotten the most people to sign it so far. It states:

“The Westboro Baptist Church is better-known for homophobic displays, suing people and picketing funerals than for providing Christian care to a community. Due to their harassment and politicking, their IRS tax-exempt status should be immediately investigated.”

Another petition asks the Obama administration to remove the group’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and make it retroactive. That one reads:

The WBC is not and should never have been considered a legitimate church for tax-exemption purposes, and this could be declared so either directly or with legislation affirming any or all of the following:

Continue reading at:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/westboro_baptist_churchs_tax-exempt_status_challenged_20121218/

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Atheists are better for politics than believers. Here’s why

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/14/atheists-better-for-politics-than-believers

As my term as British Humanist Association president comes to an end, a few words of advice to my successor, Jim Al-Khalili

The Guardian, Thursday 13 December 2012

‘If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so,” we implored, and many did. Over a quarter of the population registered as non-believers: more might have done were the census question unambiguous about whether it meant cultural background or personal belief. My term as president of the British Humanist Association ends this month, but gladly I hand over to Jim Al-Khalili, the distinguished professor of physics, writer, broadcaster and explainer of science. With atheism as the second largest block, he will be in a stronger position to see that unbelievers get a better hearing.

Rows over gay marriage and women bishops bewilder most people. With overwhelming popular support for both, how can abstruse theology and unpleasant prejudice cause such agitation at Westminster and in the rightwing press? Politics looks even more out of touch when obscure doctrine holds a disproportionate place in national life.

The religions still frighten politicians, because despite small numbers in the pews, synagogues and mosques, they are organised and vocal when most of the rest of society lacks community voice or influence. Labour was craven, endlessly wooing faith groups – David Blunkett wishing he could “bottle the magic” of faith schools.

With a third of state schools religious in this most secular country, Michael Gove not only swells their number but lets them discriminate as they please in admissions. As he is sending a bible to every English school, the BHA is fundraising to send out its own Young Atheist’s Handbook to school libraries. Government departments are outsourcing more services to faith groups in health, hospice, community and social care.

But of all the battles Jim Al-Khalili confronts, the most urgent is the right to die. Powerful religious forces block attempts to let the dying end their lives when they choose. Tony Nicklinson was the most public face of thousands in care homes and hospitals condemned to what he called “a living nightmare” by 26 bishops and other religious lords who say only God can dispose – the Bishop of Oxford decreed: “We are not autonomous beings.” The public supports the right to die, but many more will drag themselves off to a bleak Swiss clinic before the religions let us die in peace.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/14/atheists-better-for-politics-than-believers

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Obama Caving on Social Security

From The Progressive:     http://www.progressive.org/obama-caving-on-social-security

By Matthew Rothschild,
December 18, 2012

President Obama is bending over way too far to reach a budget deal with John Boehner and the Republicans.

By tentatively agreeing to changing the formula for calculating the Consumer Price Index for people on Social Security, Obama has, in fact, agreed to cut the benefits of seniors.

Because the new CPI index doesn’t go up as fast as the traditional measure.

As a result, every year, seniors will receive less than they otherwise would have from Social Security.

And it’s not like they’re getting rich on Social Security as it is. The average monthly check is $1,230 – that’s less than fifteen grand a year.

And now grandma and grandpa aren’t even going to be keeping up with the rate of inflation as traditionally calculated.

Forcing seniors to make do with less on Social Security is not something Obama campaigned on, and it’s not something we need Democrats for.

But there were plenty of warnings.

Obama’s first appointee to head the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag, was in favor of this proposal.

Continue reading at:  http://www.progressive.org/obama-caving-on-social-security

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End the Mansion Subsidy

From In These Times:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14307/homeownership_support_shouldnt_be_a_mansion_subsidy

If you can afford a million-dollar mortgage, you don’t need a tax break.

BY David Sirota
December 14, 2012

With Congress finally starting to have a serious conversation about our revenue crisis, there are obvious reasons to limit the amount of mortgage interest that Americans can deduct from their taxable income.

First and foremost, current law—which allows homeowners to deduct interest on mortgages up to $1 million—is extremely expensive for the country. As federal data show, it costs roughly $100 billion a year, making it the third largest expenditure woven into the tax code.

That huge outlay might be justified if the deduction was a widely-distributed, middle-class program. But with only about a third of all taxpayers earning enough to make it worthwhile to itemize their tax returns, just a quarter of all tax filers ever actually utilize the deduction. Add to this the fact that the deduction can be used for second homes, and the result is a write-off that mostly benefits the wealthy. In dollar-figure terms, it is a deduction that, according to the Tax Policy Center, saves $5460 for someone making more than $250,000 a year and only $91 for those making less than $40,000 a year.

As compelling as these budgetary facts are, though, the single best argument for change comes from an obvious—but taboo—truth. Put simply, even in the name of the national goal of homeownership, the tax code does not need to subsidize $1 million mortgages, because nobody requires that large a mortgage to afford an adequate home.

The typical rejoinder to this truism is an argument citing disparities in real estate markets. The idea is that there are geographic variations in the price of decent housing, and that while a $1 million mortgage might buy a mansion in Omaha or Toledo, it supposedly doesn’t buy enough in places like Manhattan and La Jolla. Therefore, the logic goes, the tax code should be fully subsidizing such outsized mortgages to make sure those living in posh enclaves aren’t left out of the homeownership drive.

Continue reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14307/homeownership_support_shouldnt_be_a_mansion_subsidy

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We don’t need a bad “grand bargain”

From The Progressive:   http://www.progressive.org/we-do-not-need-a-bad-grand-bargain

By Sarita Gupta,
December 18, 2012

In the 2012 elections, the American people voted for strengthening our economy and putting people back to work. “We’re all in this together” defeated “You’re on your own.” Or so we thought.

It seems that since Nov. 6, many politicians forgot that the people they represent used their voice at the polls to stand up for working families and the programs they rely on. Democratic lawmakers should resist any “grand bargain” on the budget that protects the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

There’s a palpable sense of urgency being manufactured inside the beltway to rush lawmakers into striking a budget deal, but a grand bargain is neither inevitable nor necessary.

The best way to solve America’s debt crisis is to fix our revenue crisis, and we can do that quickly by ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent and creating jobs to get our economy moving again.

Working families cannot afford any more cuts when wages are stagnant and poverty is increasing. Economic growth has been too slow, consumer demand is too weak, and average families are tightening their belts while corporate profits are soaring to historic highs.

By pursuing this bargain, Congress is having the wrong discussion about the wrong policy prescriptions at the wrong time. The truth is that the people hawking a “compromise” are wealthy corporate CEOs hiding behind the “Fix the Debt” campaign. A recent Institute for Policy Studies report found that 63 publicly held companies whose CEOs are pushing these bad deals stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if one of their proposals are approved. It’s time those corporations ante up and pay their fair share.

Continue reading at:  http://www.progressive.org/we-do-not-need-a-bad-grand-bargain

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Is Obama Throwing Seniors Off a Cliff?

From Alternet:    http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/obama-throwing-seniors-cliff

As part of a tax and spending deal, President Obama is reportedly willing to agree to significant cuts to Social Security benefits.

By Kathleen Geier
December 18, 2012

This morning brings news of a  possible deal  on the horizon, concerning the “fiscal cliff.” Obama would get the an extension of the Bush tax cuts for households with incomes under $400,000 (not $250,000, which was his goal), a two-year debt limit reprieve, the elimination of the sequester, and additional revenue and the extension of emergency unemployment benefits.

What he is willing to give up for this? Quite a lot, actually. It amounts to about half a trillion dollars in future cuts to social programs (the nature of these cuts have yet to be determined), and also significant cuts to Social Security benefits, in the form known as “chained CPI.” “Chained CPI” is an alternative way of calculating the cost of living which will lower benefit amounts.

I realize that compromises are going to be made on this deal which I, along with most Democrats, are not going to like, but I am not a fan of this deal. At all. Where do I begin?

First of all, the idea of all those large unspecified cuts in social programs makes me very uneasy. Secondly, the two-year debt reprieve, while it sounds like a good idea, is actually quite risky for the Democrats, as  Brian Beutler explains . And then there are those Social Security cuts.

In last night’s lukewarm  blog post  about the deal, Paul Krugman pointed out that at least the Social Security cuts “are not nearly as bad as raising the Medicare age.” That is true, but it is also faint praise. Basically, I’m with Delong, who says,“‘Chained-CPI’ is code for ‘let’s really impoverish some women in their 90s!’ It’s a bad policy.”

Indeed. Chained CPI would have  a disproportionately negative effect  on women, who receive less Social Security than men to begin with, and who also rely more heavily on Social Security as a source of retirement income than men do (because they are less likely to have savings or private pensions).

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/obama-throwing-seniors-cliff

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Kochs, ALEC Top Conservative Forces Behind Right-to-Work in Michigan

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13391-the-conservative-agenda-behind-right-to-work-in-michigan

By John Logan
Tuesday, 18 December 2012

On Tuesday, Michigan became the nation’s 24th state, and the most unionized state, to enact right-to-work legislation. Thousand of protesters failed to dissuade Republican governor Rick Snyder from signing a law that will likely weaken unions and lower wages, but do nothing to help the state’s economy. Along with anti-union legislation in other Midwestern States, however, it could transform the national political landscape.

For the past two years, the Governor had publicly stated that “divisive” right-to-work legislation was “not on his agenda.” Then, at the last minute, he endorsed the bill because it would protect “worker choice” on union membership and help to grow the Michigan economy – both highly questionable claims.  First, under federal law, neither unions nor employers can require employees to join unions in either the public or private sectors, so Snyder is professing to give employees a right that they already enjoy. The legal question here is whether nonmember employees in unionized workplaces should be required to pay an “agency fee” to the unions that are legally required to cover the cost of negotiating for them. Equally dubious are Snyder’s claims that right-to-work will boost the Michigan economy, as research indicates lower wages and poorer labor standards, not greater economic development, are the most likely results of the anti-union legislation.

So if right-to-work fails to advance employee choice or promote job creation, why did Snyder really throw his weight behind it?

Governor Snyder portrays himself as a pragmatist, rather than a right-wing ideologue, but in reality he has supported a sustained assault on unions. Early in his term, Snyder eliminated collective bargaining rights for almost 20,000 subsidized home-based childcare providers. In March 2012, he signed legislation prohibiting union representation for graduate assistants at Michigan public universities, and the following month he prohibited union dues for teachers and other school employees from being collected by payroll deduction. On labor issues, Snyder is a moderate only
when compared with more extreme Michigan Republicans.

The reason behind the governor’s flip-flop is that right-to-work is being championed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity, militant conservative groups funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers. Following the Republican election victories in 2010, ALEC has pushed hundreds of anti-union bills in states across the country. It has promoted right-to-work in 19 states and succeeded in passing the legislation in neighboring Indiana in 2011. Now that Snyder has become a right-to-work convert, even the Detroit Free Press, which had previously endorsed him for governor, has accused him of “drinking the Koch Brothers’ Kool-Aid.”

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13391-the-conservative-agenda-behind-right-to-work-in-michigan

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