Archive for the Domestic Category

“I have a dream” 50 years on

Posted in Domestic on August 28, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in the March on Washington. So there will be a lot of talk about race and the progress we’ve made. And those are things that we should certainly talk about because only through education can we make true progress.

I was not alive 50 years ago, so I did not hear the speech live. But I have read it many times and I have often tried to imagine what it must have been like to be there listening to Dr. King speak after all the other speakers, and just being surrounded by all those people. It must have been a momentous feeling.

I used to think I was born in the wrong era. I wanted to be able to protest in the streets against racism and the Vietnam War. I wanted to be at Kent State or running with the Weather Underground. And this will sound even more ridiculous but I even wanted to be a Black Panther. I have been a radical leftist since I was a teenager. And so when I would think about Dr. King and his speeches, I have often thought that he didn’t go far enough. He just wants us to sit-in, when we should be fighting back.

But as I get older, I think he did have the right message. Equality is simply that. No one is better than anyone else. No one should get any more than anyone else. We should all be treated the same.

And while many claim to want the same things as Dr. King, it has not been a steady march toward progress. We have had many fits and starts. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1965. And the first black president was elected in 2008. But the Supreme Court essentially defanged the Civil Rights Act earlier this year. And in between we have had the assassination of Malcolm X, Dr. King, Fred Hampton, and George Jackson, among others. And more recently we had the killings of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin.

Nowadays the police don’t turn their water cannons and dogs on protesters, and some will argue that we live in a post-racial society. But clearly we still have long way to go before we can say that the Dream of Dr. King has been reached.



Posted in Domestic, International on March 10, 2011 by Black Pumpkin

Not surprisingly, I have been thinking about revolutions.  Beginning with Tunisia and continuing throughout the Middle East and North Africa, we have seen a lot of political change.  Regimes have fallen, people are demanding more rights and elections.  It is really great to see the power of what people can do when they work together.

Also, it is interesting how the different revolutions are playing out in each country.  The revolts in Tunisia and Egypt have been relatively calm compared to the ones happening in Libya for example.  In Libya, the people have taken up arms and are now fighting against the army.  But in Egypt, the army just stood around for the most part.  Of course, if the army or even the police forces had wanted to they could have caused a lot of havoc by cracking down on the protests.  But for whatever reason (probably because they believed in what the protesters were doing) they just sat on the sidelines and allowed things to unfold.  It was quite something to see.

Unfortunately, in this country, we see people working together but still not getting what they want.  Of course, I am speaking about Wisconsin and the people’s fight to protect the collective bargaining rights of their unions.  The Democrats did what they could (they left the state) but the bill was still passed that took away the collective bargaining rights.  Hopefully they can use some form of direct democracy to get those rights back.

News Magazine by Circulation

Posted in Domestic with tags on August 13, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

Why is it that only one magazine of the top 10 (by circulation) is liberal in orientation?  And that magazine is not overtly liberal.  Of course, I am referring to Harper’s magazine.  One could argue that it is a liberal publication, and I would be hard pressed to argue against it, but it is not decidedly political regardless of orientation.  But two publications (National Review and Newsmax) that are decidedly conservative and another (The Economist) that is very pro-market are in that same top 10.

Here is the article from the Huffington Post.

I couldn’t agree more

Posted in Domestic with tags on July 27, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

E.J. Dionne Jr. tells it like it is.  And I couldn’t agree more.  He wrote a piece called “Enough right-wing propaganda.”  He is talking about the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, but it could be any of a number of issues where the right wing gets to set the agenda.  They say X and everybody jumps.  We need more context because the right is notorious for taking things out of context and lambasting it.  If we keep jumping every time they do it, then they will keep doing it.  Its time to say enough is enough.  And Dionne does exactly that.  Check it out.

It’s Cinco de Mayo! It’s time to think about drugs?

Posted in Domestic, Latin America with tags , , , on May 5, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

Today is Cinco de Mayo.  Most people will think of celebrating.  I think of the Mexican drug war.

Our neighbor to the south is in a war.  The Calderon government is using the military to fight drug cartels.  And innocent people are dying.  Just after coming into office, President Felipe Calderon used a surge strategy to try to stop the cartels.  He sent 50,000 troops to fight them.  Unfortunately, it isn’t working.  And a leaked report is showing just how bad it is.

Over 22,000 people have been killed in the Mexican drug war since Calderon took office.  He claims that most of these people are traffickers or gunmen of the cartels and perhaps he is right, but innocent people are dying in ever greater numbers and there seems to be no end in sight to the war itself.

While this situation seems intractable, I wonder about the roots of the problem.  Clearly this war is about drugs.  But what does that mean exactly?  Perhaps this is too simplistic, but I think of it as a simple economics equation: supply and demand.  The cartels make an incredible amount of money by supplying drugs (mostly to the US) to a demand that is seemingly insatiable.  The strategy that the Calderon government (as well as our own government) is to attack the source of the supply.  But what if we focused instead on the demand.

In a way our government already does focus on demand by trying to teach kids to “just say no” and other worthless missives.  But what if we really turned things on their head?  What if we legalized all drugs instead of using the same failed policies?

The reason that drugs are so expensive is that they are illegal.  If you could get a drug legally, this would open up a lot of different possibilities and therefore the price would come down and cartels would have much less of an incentive to use it to fund their operations.  Only if they were legal would we be able to control who made them, how pure they were or when or to whom they were sold.  Currently, we have many more questions than answers.  By bringing things out into the open, we would be able to keep track of all those things that we can only guess at now.

Obviously, we can’t just legalize everything and hope for the best.  We would need regulations and reasonable limits on who can purchase them and when they can be used.  For instance, it should still be illegal to drive a car under the influence of a drug (similar to prohibitions on driving while under the influence of alcohol).  In addition, we should have a realistic education program that taught the real dangers of using alcohol and drugs.  We don’t need to try to scare the shit out of people with horror stories, we need to teach them that certain drugs will have particular effects on their bodies.

If we are really serious about not only helping the citizens of this country with drug abuse problems but also helping to end the Mexican drug war, then legalization should be something that needs to be considered.

Kent State

Posted in Domestic with tags on May 4, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

Today (May 4) is the 40th anniversary of the murder of four students at Kent State.

The Confluence did an excellent write up of it and some of the reaction 40 years later.

Education by Pfizer

Posted in Domestic, WTF? with tags , , on April 1, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

Pfizer admitted that it paid 4500 doctors $35 million to help promote its products.  They are simply trying to “educate” the doctors to better help their patients.  Yes, of course, Pfizer is simply thinking about the patients.  This is certainly not about their bottom line.  Right!

I think it’s a simple conflict of interest and it should be illegal.  But the new health care bill “will require drug companies to publicise how much they pay doctors for consulting and speaking arrangements, as well as meals and other perks.”  That’s a step in the right direction but look how well disclosure has worked for our political system.  We know who is paying our representatives, but to say that it has no effect on them is laughably disingenuous or naive.

As long as we know who is bribing whom then all is well.  What a great system!