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Getting what’s been stolen from us by raising the employer FICA tax

Time to Recover Productivity Gains Our Bosses Have Expropriated for Decades

 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, trying to change the subject from his own shabby performance as governor, has called for $1 trillion in cuts to Social Security and Medicare over 10 years, claiming it’s time for a “grownup discussion” of the alleged funding crisis facing both critically important programs.

Actually, his claim that the programs are too expensive is childish and misleading. Yes there is a projected shortfall in funds to cover benefits for a looming wave of Baby Boomers in retirement, starting in 2033, assuming nothing is done by Congress to raise revenues, but actually fixing that problem is easy.

Here’s one proposal for solving the shortfall in the Social Security Trust Fund that was set up in 1983 to pre-fund the surge in benefits expected as the Baby Boomer generation retires, but which, because of stagnant wages, longer life expectancy, and a decade of no economic growth is going to be depleted prematurely: just raise the payroll tax that employers have to contribute to Social Security.

Studies have shown that just raising the FICA tax, historically paid 50% by workers and 50% by employers, by 1% each, would eliminate the Trust Fund shortfall completely. That’s $10 more on a $1000 weekly paycheck, $3 more on a $300 paycheck -- a barely noticeable uptick in taxation to assure full benefits through one’s retired years.

This simple solution has been opposed, not so much by the public, but by corporate America, which doesn’t want to pay higher payroll taxes for its employees. Republicans, and some conservative Democrats who receive oodles of corporate campaign cash, listen to that kind of thing.

But the truth is corporate America has been doing just fine. It’s just the American worker who’s been suffering. In fact, the reason workers have been suffering is that they have been getting short-changed their bosses.
This guy, NJ Gov. Christy, wants to steal $1 billion of your Social Security and Medicare funding. The capitalists of America haThis guy, NJ Gov. Christy, wants to steal $1 billion of your Social Security and Medicare funding. The capitalists of America are way ahead of him -- they've been stealing your productivity gains for decades
 

Legacy of racism and colonialism targeted

Reparations Movements Meet To Make International Connections

 

Dignitaries from three continents gathered in New York City recently to sharpen their strategies for confronting some of the world’s most powerful nations over a subject that sizeable numbers of citizens support in the nearly two-dozen nations represented: reparations for the legacy of a history of slavery, colonialism and government-sanctioned segregation.

Those dignitaries, whose number included ambassadors and legislators, along with luminary activists and legal experts, participated in the three-day International Reparations Summit convened by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, a research, policy and advocacy organization based in the United States.

Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute, stated, “We are delighted that the Institute of the Black World can be a clearinghouse for ideas and strategies on how to pursue reparations for historical crimes and injustices against people of African descent in the U.S. and across the Americas.”

An action in 2013 reenergized reparations activities already operative in the U.S., throughout the Americas, in Africa and in Europe. That is when CARICOM, the organization of Caribbean nations, announced its plans to also mount actions against former European colonial countries for native the slave trade, colonialism and genocide against indigenous peoples. That was the first time that a collection of countries had agreed on taking coordinated action for reparations.

“We have a just cause. And we have a duty to right the wrongs done during the slave trade, slavery and colonialism,” CARICOM representative Dr. Douglas Slater said during the opening session of the Summit. “Today, racism continues to impede development of African peoples all over the world.”
Seeking reparations for centuries of genocide against Native Americans (l) and Black slaves (r)Seeking reparations for centuries of genocide against Native Americans (l) and Black slaves (r)
 

Cops, Cameras and Justice

A Hero With a Cell Phone Instead of a Gun

 
        This is “deeply troubling on many fronts.”
        - South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham
 
I’m a photographer, and the police shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, feels like a major watershed in the on-going struggle between cops and cameras. Like no other story, this one starkly shows the power of a camera in the hands of a courageous citizen at the right place and the right time. And the technology is getting more sophisticated, cheaper and smaller by the day.

Due to an official prejudice for police narratives, the case was headed to become another murky police shooting of a black man masticated in the media and criminal justice system into a free pass for police violence. A brave citizen with a cell phone camera changed that instantly. At that point the local police chief and the mayor of North Charleston agonized in public, as South Carolina politicians rushed to the cameras to show their disgust. A video image of the shamed officer wearing striped prison garb and handcuffs was publicly released to exhibit his fate.

..

[Clockwise from top left: Walter Scott; Officer Michael Slager; distressed Police Chief Eddie Driggers and North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey; Walter Scott's mother, Judy, and cellphone cameraman Feidin Santana being thanked by the Scott family.]

Walter Scott was shot to death over a broken taillight on his neighbor’s used Mercedes he was reportedly about to purchase. We’re learning from places like Ferguson, Missouri, and a report from Los Angeles, California, how minor traffic stops for African Americans too often lead to further, deepening arrest and jailing complications. It’s the application of Rudy Giuliani’s beloved “broken windows” policy to minor vehicular infractions. It's also called police harassment.

In such a petty, oppressive climate, Scott’s ultimately fatal decision to flee a white officer who had stopped him for a busted taillight was understandable. As the procedure is constructed to play out, Officer Slager had likely stopped Scott for the taillight as a pretext to go through his computer to look for more serious and outstanding infractions. It's a "gotcha" moment. In the dash-cam video, as Officer Slager walks to the driver's side window of the Mercedes, he gives the taillight a gentle, loving tap. Whether Scott owed child support or whatever, it seems he felt further complications like jail were a likelihood. Like anyone, Scott had a life that meant other commitments that day. As you watch the dash-cam video of Scott waiting in his car, you can imagine a host of things going through his mind. He apparently called his mother during those seconds before he decided to bolt from the car, leaving his driver’s license in the hands of Officer Slager.

New poem:

No hurry

 
 
It was after a sweat lodge,
early spring this was,
(l’ll never forget it)
when we raised the flap
the forest was covered in four inches of snow
that had fallen during the last two rounds,
and so it caught us all by surprise.
It was late and dark.
It had stopped falling and was just there
where it wasn’t before,
all luminous
as we emerged from the lodge.
 
That’s how nature is sometimes,
it’s like she’s saying,
 
Oh, you think you’ve figured me out?
We’ll see about that!

 
So we drove down to that lodge in spring
and we drove back home in winter.
And on the way home a mother moose
and her young one
got out in front of our car,
using our headlights
as their beacon to find their way to Tinmouth
where they finally veered off before the school.
I guess the mother didn’t want to deal
with all that snow in the woods
and she was on a mission;
for two miles we illuminated her way.
Not sure if her own shadow was a hole in the road,
she wove back and forth the whole time.
This slowed us down considerably,
down to maybe 4, 5 miles an hour.
But we were in no hurry.
Having just sweated with a bunch of friends
we were all prayed out,
feeling pretty good,
pretty human.
And we just weren’t in any hurry,
no hurry at all.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

Real-time photo evidence of a cop trying to plant evidence on his victim

Killer Cops like North Charleston’s Officer Slager Must Be Called to Account

 

The really damning evidence about the North Charleston police murder of a fleeing black man, Walter Scott, is not the image of him shooting Scott in the back, outrageous and murderous as that is (see screen grab image #1 from the phone video). It’s what happens in the video next, from about 1:02 minutes into the recording until 1.37 minutes.

Officer Slater shooting the fleeing, unarmed Scott in the back multiple times (screen grab #1)Officer Slater shooting the fleeing, unarmed Scott in the back multiple times (screen grab #1)
 

That’s when we see Officer Michael Thomas Slager, who had just handcuffed the clearly dead or dying Scott, suddenly stand up and start running (see screen grab image two) back to the place where he had fired the eight shots from.

Officer Slater races back to where he had stood when shooting, to retrieve evidence to plant on Scott's body (screen grab #2)Officer Slater races back to where he had stood when shooting, to retrieve evidence to plant on Scott's body (screen grab #2)
 

Big donations are great, but what we really want are lots of small ones

Most of Our Readers Don't Get It: Alternative Reporting is Not a Charity


Okay, I guess it's time for us to spell it out: We're two months into our first and only fund-raising drive, hoping to raise $20,000, which we could easily do if our regular readers all just gave $1 apiece. Instead, we have a small number of you readers who repeatedly give generous donations of $25-$300 (thank you!). The rest of you give exactly nothing, zip, nada, zilch.

The upshot is that we don't come close to raising the kind of money that would allow the members of this collective -- who put out the reports on this award-winning site for nothing, doing the reporting and writing in our spare time -- to cut back on our day jobs and actually devote serious time to alternative news reporting.

There's really no excuse. You all clearly want what we are producing, and value our reports (we know that because you keep coming back and reading what we write), and yet, by and large, you, our readers, are just taking it for free. It's bad enough that the vast majority of you evidently don't feel any solidarity at all to support our work with a few bucks (which can be sent via Paypal account, credit card, or by mail as a check or cash). But solidarity aside, just from the point of view of self-interest, we could provide so much more of the unique news we have been providing for almost four years if we had some serious money coming in to support us in that work.

So readers, hear our call! Suck it up, show some solidarity, support what we do, don't just take it, and send us what you can. We're hoping from $5 per reader, but even $1 would help, if you all did it.

It's easy: use the handy Paypal button above, or send cash or a check made out to Dave Lindorff/TCBH to POB 846, Ambler, PA 19002

Watch what happens if you all finally start coming through with that support!
If you haven't contributed yet, please try sending even $5 (we know we're worth at least that much).

And please spread the word about this site to friends and acquaintances using the envelope icon below. That doesn't even cost anything. Together we can do this!

NY Times covers up Washington’s monstrous evil

Hiding America’s War Crimes in Laos, While Reporting on the Grim Results

 

The NY Times on Monday ran a lengthy piece (“One Woman’s Mission to Free Laos from Millions of Unexploded Bombs”) on Channapha Khamvongas, a 42-year-old Laotian-American woman on a mission to get the US to help Laos clean up the countless unexploded anti-personnel “bombis” that it dropped, which are still killing peasants -- especially children -- half a century after the so-called “Secret War” by the US against Laos ended.

The article explained that Khamvongas, as a young adult in Virginia, had read a book by anti-war activist Fred Branfman, Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War (originally published in 1972 and reissued in 2013), which featured accounts and hand drawings by refugees from that war of the deadly US aerial attacks and bombings of their farms and villages. It was a book that sparked revulsion in the US over the saturation bombing of Southeast Asia’s smallest and least developed country -- a nation of under six million people.

While the Times article mentioned that the secret air war, launched by Lyndon Johnson against Laos in 1964 and continued by Richard Nixon through 1973, was “one of the most intensive air campaigns in the history of warfare,” and that it had made Laos, a country the size of Great Britain with a population of only a few million peasants, into “one of the most heavily bombed places on earth.” What it did not make clear was that this bombing and strafing campaign, which as Branfman’s research showed was so intense that US jets were even killing individual water buffalo, was so continuous that any Lao person, including children, who dared to venture out from underground shelters during the daytime, was targeted.

Instead, Times reporter Thomas Fuller simply parrots the official US line about the Laos air war, which was kept secret from the American public at the time, writing that the campaign’s “targets were North Vietnamese troops -- especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a large part of which passed through Laos -- as well as North Vietnam’s Laotian Communist allies,” the Pathet Lao.

This is a blatant falsehood (and in any event would still not have been justified, since Laos was never at war with the US).

A harvest of unexploded US bombis, Lao girl with unexploded US bombs, and bomb craters on the Plain of JarsA harvest of unexploded US bombis, Lao girl with unexploded US bombs, and bomb craters in rice paddies on Laos' Plain of Jars
 

Credit where credit's due...but only where it's due

How Can Obama Claim the Alternative to a Nuclear Deal with Iran is War?

 

A kudo to President Obama. But just one.

If he manages to pull off an agreement with Iran on limiting that country's nuclear fuel enrichment program in the fact of determined resistance from Republicans, Neocons, the Israel Lobby and the warmongers in both the GOP and his own Democratic Party, he will have finally earned at least some small portion of the gold in his Nobel Peace medallion.

We could reasonably ask why he thinks it's cool to negotiate with the "Axis of Evil" nation of Iran over the nuclear issue, but not with Russia over Ukraine. After all, Iran doesn't even have a nuclear weapon, and on the evidence, isn't trying to build one, so these negotiations aren't really even preventing a nuclear war; they're just calming the nerves of some trigger happy paranoids in Israel and Washington. But Russia does have nuclear weapons, and has made it clear that if the US pushes too hard at putting NATO weapons and forces near the Russian border, or if it tries to undo the annexation of Crimea, it will use them. Shouldn't that kind of thing call for cool-headed negotiation, instead of aggressive moves like sending offensive armaments to Kiev?

But then we have some other issues too.

If Obama really wants an agreement with Iran on limiting its nuclear fuel enrichment program, why is he being so hard-assed about ending the grinding sanctions that have been imposed on the country? I mean a deal's a deal. If one side gives you want you want, you have to give something in return. You can't say, okay you stop enriching uranium, dilute the stuff that you already enriched to 20%, back down to 3.5%, and shut down most of your centrifuges so you can't make much anymore. But we're not going to end sanctions until you have done this for a while so we know you mean it.

America's latest presidential "peace" laureate.America's latest presidential "peace" laureate.
 
 

17 years and still brutality and corrupt

Feds Rediscover Police Brutality In City of Brotherly Love...er...Beat City

 

The report slammed the Philadelphia Police Department for its historically flawed use of fatal force, directed primarily at non-whites, underscoring a repeated finding that Philadelphia’s Police Department has long owned one of the worst reputations of any police department in the United States.

The “persistence and regularity” of brutality and corruption in the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) indicate that “the city and its police force are failing to act to hold police accountable,” that report stated.

The almost total failure of officials in Philadelphia to hold errant police officers accountable, the report noted, solidifies a “culture of impunity” that leads to new generations of police officers learning quickly that “their leadership accepts corruption and excessive force.”

Those tough assessments of “shortcomings” within the Philadelphia Police Department are not contained in the damning report on deadly police practices in Philadelphia released on March 24th by the U.S. Justice Department. Rather, the harsh assessments of PPD failings, which would seem to merit prompt attention and reform, were in a report issued in 1998 by the organization Human Rights Watch.

The stark failure of authorities in Philadelphia –- successive police supervisors and City Hall officials, and three mayors –- to halt the police misconduct identified seventeen years ago by HRW makes the policing problems identified in the latest USJD report entitled the “Assessment of Deadly Force in the Philadelphia Police Department” all the more damning and appalling.
Philly's finest being cop, judge and gangbangers on an 18-year-old in 2012Philly's finest being cop, judge and gangbangers on an 18-year-old in 2012
 

This is the planet

 

A bear saves a crow from drowning.
A baboon and a dog and a deer frolic in a field.
A little girl feeds the crows
And receives gifts from them in exchange.

This is the planet we are living on,
Not that other one that we are beating up.

An Orca lifts up a kayak on its back.
A parrot feeds a puppy its kibble snack.
A raven slides down a snowy roof on a dog dish.

This is the planet we are living on.
Not that other one that we are selling off piecemeal.

A man on death row manages to prove his innocence
Days before his execution.
He leaves his own freedom party,
Walks to the end of the backyard,
Throws his arms around an apple tree
And weeps.

This is the planet we are living on.
Not the one that knows no love.

A deer raises her head to watch me skirting the field.
And as I climb the fence into the orchard
She lowers her head to graze.

This is the planet we live on.
Not the one that we have forgotten.
 
 
  --Gary Lindorff

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Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

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by Dr. Radut