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Archive for the ‘Legal Issues’ Category

According to the stories, Native Americans helped the first white settlers of America.  They taught the white settlers how to farm in America and introduced them to American products to help with their crop output.  Thus, the first harvest dinner, we now call Thanksgiving, the settlers invited the Native Americans to help celebrate.

Somehow after that first dinner, things went downhill between the white settlers and the Native Americans.  In the next two hundred years, white America waged what can only be described as a war of genocide against the Native Americans.

If we read our history, the first real transgression was the forced evacuation of Native Americans from their homelands in the East to Oklahoma Territory.  This was the narrative behind the “Trail of Tears” that Native Americans were forced to undertake.  Then, there were the “Indian Wars” against tribes that resisted whites taking their hunting grounds and land away from them.

Yet here we are over a hundred years removed, and Native Americans are still being held back both economically and socially.  There are a lot of reasons, but the main factor is the reservations or “tribal lands” that the majority of Native Americans still live on.

We have placed Native Americans in economic limbo by law.  Tribal lands are held in trust by the federal government, so tribes are unable to levy property taxes, and imposing income taxes is rarely feasible. Thus, unlike states and cities, reservations have a hard time funding basic government services.

Because of the federal title to most tribal lands, banks cannot use the same foreclosure policies they can elsewhere which dissuades them from offering mortgage lending on reservations.  Only about 1.5% of reservation Native Americans who have sufficient income to qualify for a mortgage have one.  Resulting in depriving them of the main engine for economic growth among the middle class.

A 1978 Supreme Court ruling said that tribes are legally barred from prosecuting non-Natives for crimes committed on reservations. This has helped produce crime rates, including the rape of Indian women—most often by whites, much higher than other ethnic groups—and rates of child sexual abuse that run as high as two and a half times the rates they do elsewhere.

The 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act tried fixing some of this, beginning to restore sentencing authority to tribal courts. But, as usual with Republican supported bills it did nothing to fund its implementation. According to the Act, in order to prosecute non-members, a tribal court must establish a detention facility and an experienced judiciary, and must provide public defender services. A truly functioning public defender’s office costs about $350,000 per year. Add in the other costs and you’re looking at upwards of a million dollars annually.  Since tribes can’t levy most taxes, this becomes a significant hurdle in complying with the Act.

The 2013 Violence Against Women Act went further, recognizing tribal criminal authority over non-Natives for the first time since 1978 for domestic violence.  It did not include crimes of child sex abuse, nor most other crimes.  It only is applied to reservations that can meet the Tribal Law and Order Act and other standards. To date, none of the reservations have met these standards.  When you consider that more than half of reservation residents are now non-Native, this presents a real problem.  The vast number of Congress who voted against this Act did so because they did not believe that non-Natives should be prosecuted in Tribal Courts.

There are also jurisdictional conflicts that impair prosecutions even of Indians by their own tribes. If an Indian batters his wife, for example, the tribe usually cannot compel the off-reservation hospital doctors who treated her injuries to testify, nor the white friend who witnessed the battery. If the man moves to a town just off the reservation, he can’t even be arrested by tribal police (unless cross-deputized—yet another complication).

All of these problems may want you to ask why the Federal Government doesn’t do more to provide judicial services on the reservations?  That would be a fair question since the Federal Government holds title to most reservation land.  But, you also have to remember that most budget-strapped U.S. attorneys rarely see political or career benefit in prosecuting crimes like rape or assault on sparsely populated reservations hundreds of miles from their offices.  As a result, more that half of all major crimes reported on the reservations go unprosecuted.

Because these flaws exist, the effect has been turning reservations into havens for non-Native sexual predators and other criminals. For example, mid-level non-Native drug dealers who aren’t large enough to attract federal prosecution can operate with relative impunity on many reservations, because neither tribal nor state law enforcement has authority to touch them.

These problems were not created by Native Americans.  They were created by the catch-22 that we have created, in which we deny them the ability to provide economic opportunity and justice, while failing to provide it ourselves.  When the allies won World War II, they worked to provide the losers with economic growth and opportunity.  We have failed to do the same for Native Americans even hundreds of years after the wars were over.

But, as the arguments against the Violence Against Women Act shows, there is still a lot of prejudice against Native Americans.  Why would anyone argue against Tribal Courts having the authority to prosecute non-Natives for rape or domestic violence against Native Women?  The only reasonable explanation is that these members of Congress have a bias against Native Americans.

The prejudice is shown again in the fight against the Washington Football Team changing its name.  Sorry, but I will never understand how using a racial slur for the name of a sports franchise can be interpreted in any way as “respecting” Native Americans as the owner claims.

We have had civil rights fights since our country was founded.  African-Americans and Latino Americans are almost always at the forefront of these fights, and that should be.  But, one “race” we seem to always forget about are the Native Americans.

These problems will not go away anytime soon.  When political parties use the “us v. them” meme for political gains, minorities are always “them”.  And, since Native Americans are rarely even thought about by white America, they suffer the most in the shadows of society.  That is not just a shame, it is criminal.

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On the eve of Thanksgiving, are we witnessing the Requiem For American Democracy?  I do not ask this question flippantly either.  It is something that we need to answer this holiday season, or we will certainly face the real possibility of our freedoms and liberties going the way of the dodo bird.

Two days ago, in Ferguson, MO. the county prosecutor made his announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not face any charges for the shooting death of Michael Brown.  This announcement, unfortunately, was totally anticipated by anyone who has been watching the tragedy playing out for nearly four months.

The also anticipated rioting happened within hours of the announcement.  Depending on what network you watch, these riots are either the result of a few “outsiders” who went to Ferguson to cause trouble, or it is the result of an entire race of people who do not believe in law and order.  I think you can guess which networks are saying what without even turning on the TV.

The riots in Ferguson are deplorable.  I have always believed that protests are the only way that ordinary people have to get their voices heard.  However, I have always deplored violence.  Violence, as they say, begets violence.  Additionally, in such circumstances, it is extremely hard to determine who is actually causing the violence.  For example, on the first night, I was watching and saw the police firing smoke bombs at protesters.  I don’t know why they were firing smoke bombs either.  It appeared that the protesters at that point were peaceful.

As the confrontation continued, violence became more of the norm and the situation escalated out of hand.  That is the problem with rioting.  You don’t know how it all starts.  Plus, you don’t know which tactics are helping or hurting the situation.  As Mayor Richard J. Dailey said during the 1968 Convention Riots in Chicago: “The police are not there to cause the riots.  They are there to preserve the riots.”

But, it isn’t the rioting in Ferguson that makes me ask the question.  There have been riots before, and I believe there will probably be riots in the future.  What makes me ask the question, is the way the county prosecutor handled it from the beginning.  A Grand Jury hearing is NOT a trial.  It is only used to keep control of the prosecutorial process.  In a Grand Jury, they are supposed to look at evidence to see if there is sufficient evidence to charge a person with a crime.

In normal Grand Jury hearings, the whole process is controlled by the prosecutor.  The prosecutor is using the Grand Jury to support his belief that a crime was committed and that there should be a public trial of the case.  Defendants, or the accused, are usually not present, and do not testify at the hearing.  Again, this is not a trial.  It is a secret hearing to protect the Jurors and allow them to make a fair judgement of whether or not there is sufficient evidence to press charges.

Unfortunately, in this case, the Grand Jury hearing was not a Grand Jury hearing.  It was basically a “secret trial” of the accused.  And, that is very troubling to me.  If you don’t believe it was a “secret trial” just listen to the noise from those who supported Wilson.  They are calling this decision an acquittal.  How can it be an acquittal if there was no trial?

The prosecutor said that he would release all of the transcripts of the hearing to prove his point.  I find that extremely dubious at best.  Let’s face facts.  Whenever a person reads anything, they add their personal biases in their readings.  Plus, you do not hear the voice inflections of the person testifying or the person asking the questions.  Verbal testimony at trials is critical because we can hear those inflections and see the body language of the people involved.

Those inflections and body language often allows us a visual to help determine if the person is telling the truth.  It also allows us to determine if the question is a “softball” intended to help the witness or a “hardball” intended to poke holes in their testimony.  Nor, are we able to tell which witnesses were treated as “friendly” or “hostile” which can make a lot of difference as well.  Simply reading the transcript will not give us those “signals” of truth or fabrication.

I know, for example, that anyone reading this article, will determine whether or not they agree with me based on their biases.  If someone is prone to “lean left” there is a real possibility they will agree with me.  If the reader is more prone to “lean right” I doubt this article will sway them.  And, that is fair enough.

As a result, we are still faced with the fact that this was a “secret trial” which the prosecutor did not want to go public.  Which makes me wonder why the prosecutor did not want to take the trial public.  I once lived in the area near Ferguson for three years.  I had a few police officers as friends.  Most were honest hard-working officers in the true pursuit of protecting the public.  Others were simply driven by their power over certain “classes” of people.  I suppose that is true everywhere.

By allowing the county prosecutor to hold his “secret trial” the Judicial System has another chink in its armor of being “equal” for all.  History also shows that “secret trials” are the beginning of the end of the democratic process.  By denying the family of the real victim in this case to have an open and public trial to determine the guilt or innocence of the shooter, the system has failed again.

It may have turned out that Darren Wilson would have been found not-guilty of any charges brought against him.  It is also possible that he would have been found guilty.  We shall never know because the county prosecutor did not want the real truth to come out in the open.  He wanted to control the narrative and the justice system in defense of a police officer.  This same prosecutor has taken four other similar cases of police officers shooting unarmed civilians to the Grand Jury.  In all of those cases, not one single charge against a police officer was handed down.

As we sit around the table this Thanksgiving we should be asking the real question.  Does this case signal a Requiem For American Democracy?  Some call this case justice.  Most call this case a charade.  If we continue to allow prosecutors to hold “secret trials” we will never know the truth.  “Secret trials” could be the real beginning of the end for our democratic way of life.

 

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In a recent poll, it was reported that 57 percent of the American People believe in Climate Change and that man has a hand in causing it.  That same poll indicated that the majority of the American People wants Congress to do something about cleaning up our carbon emissions.

Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell have said time and again that the Republicans only want to listen to the American People.  Congress has listened to the American People.  Not that they intend to act on the people’s wishes if they are in disagreement with the Republican agenda.

On Tuesday, while the Keystone XL Pipeline was going down to defeat in the Senate, Boehner and his Republican cronies were passing a law that would hamper the EPA in doing its mandated job of helping to clean up the environment and protecting public health.  The first law which was passed on Tuesday was framed by Republicans as a play for transparency.

H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those real troublesome scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.  Sounds reasonable, but…..

The part the Republicans like best is that the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work.  In other words, experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research – which was peer-reviewed.  The Republicans call that a conflict of interest.  But, the inclusion of industry “experts” is not a conflict of interest even though the industry experts are trying to block the EPA from instituting any regulations.

“In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”  The White House has vowed to veto this bill if it ever reaches the President’s desk saying it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

This is just the beginning.  There is another bill called “The Secret Science Reform Act” which would prohibit the EPA from proposing, finalizing or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.”  As the Huffington Post reports:

While the bill’s language would not require the EPA to wait until its research was verified by an outside source to make recommendations, opponents say the bill’s requirements are murky.

“The bill attacks the mainstays of scientific investigation,” wrote Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) in an email to The Huffington Post. “It would strip away the EPA’s authority to make any rules due to the stringency of the data disclosure requirements.

“The peer review process is the foundation of science inquiry in our society, and is a trusted evaluation of scientific evidence around the world,” he added. “This legislation attempts to dictate how the scientific method is employed,” he added. “The Secret Science Reform Act is an attempt by climate change deniers to stop the EPA from doing its job.”

The irony in all of this is that “industry studies” don’t seem to need the same “transparency” as government-funded studies.  Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) asked why we think it’s okay to question the industry’s motives, but are more willing to trust government-funded studies, insisting that research with industry ties is a good thing.

Eileen Silbergeld, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, testified that the committee was going after the wrong people. “We need more information, and specifically we need more information disclosure from industry,” Silbergeld added. “I call on them to tear down every wall that hides critically important information that is generated and held by industry.”  There is nothing in this bill that would require industry to “tear down that wall” in industry studies.

Opponents argue that the trio of bills in the House are an attempt by  Republicans to effectively block the EPA from adopting any new rules to protect public health. Or as Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, in an editorial for the Hill said these bills represent “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

So, as you can see, the Republicans have listened to the American People.  But, what the American People have failed to realize thus far, is when Boehner and McConnell talk about the American People, they really mean their corporate donors.  Not the American People.  They simply believe that the American People are just too stupid to have a real voice.

When they talk about “small government” what they are really saying is that the American People are small and insignificant so our opinions don’t count!

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The last twelve months have exposed a lot of problems in our society.  I am not talking about our political problems either.  In the last twelve months, we have seen certain people in our society get away with just about everything including vehicular homicide.

A drunk rich kid driving under the influence was involved in an accident that resulted in the death of someone.  His lawyer argued that he was suffering from a made-up infection called “affluenza” and was therefore not responsible for his actions.  The judge actually fell for this nonsense and he is spending no jail time for killing a human being while he was driving drunk.

At the end of last year when a football player (the star quarterback of the team) at a university had been accused of raping a student nothing was done about it.  Reports even stated that local police told the woman that her life would be hell if she went ahead with the charges because of whom she was accusing.

Then there was a rash of NFL players who were accused of domestic violence.  One of the players pled “no contest” to child abuse charges in order to avoid a trial that might have put him in jail.  The NFL announced that he would be suspended for the remainder the season.  He announced that he would immediately appeal the suspension since he has missed all of the season so far.  But, he has been paid for his time off.

A star NBA player was recently accused of child abuse but Florida decided not to do anything even though the doctor who examined the child stated that there was bruising on the child because he was beaten with the buckle end of a belt.  The player’s lawyer immediately accused the players estranged spouse of “making it all up” because of a very ugly custody battle.  In the meantime, the state of Georgia has announced it will look into the matter.

A New Jersey High School suspended the entire football season over allegations of abuse by some players on others.  Normally, this is called hazing.  But, the hazing went way beyond the lines of decency and some of the players are now facing criminal charges.  Yet, many in the community say the High School went too far, not the players.

Recently two more football players (both starters on the same team as the rape accusation) were reportedly involved in a traffic accident.  The accident resulted in the totaling of both vehicles involved, and reports indicate the accident was the fault of the football player.  Reportedly the player was driving on a suspended license and fled the scene on foot.  Instead of being charged with “hit and run” he was simply given two tickets and was never tested or even asked if he had used drugs or alcohol.

Bill Cosby has been accused by 14 women of being a serial rapist.  All of the women accused him of drugging them and raping them.  The first accusation came out about 20 years ago.  Again, nothing was done.  In one case, Mr. Cosby settled out of court so nothing else came of it.

The one thing all of these cases have in common is that the accused is a “personality” in public life.  Most of them are sports stars and one is a TV/Movie star.  In all cases, the victims involved are the ones who are being questioned about their “honesty”.  In the Cosby case, even Whoopi Goldberg said she has a lot of questions for the accuser.  Why doesn’t she have a lot of questions for Cosby instead?

In rape cases, victim blaming is a simple game that the accused plays all of the time.  Now, as we see, victim blaming is something that goes even beyond rape.  It has infected our justice system to a point where victims are becoming more and more afraid to come out with their story.

Or, in some cases we see where law enforcement is willing to turn a blind eye to the behavior just because the person being accused is some sort of celebrity.  You will probably tell me that this type of thing has been going on for years.  That may be true.  But, isn’t it time for it to stop?

Quite frankly, I never read the “entertainment” section of newspapers.  I really don’t care about the lives of celebrities.  I don’t care how rich people, movie stars, sports stars, or any other celebrity lives.  They can afford to live however they want.  But, I do care when they are involved in criminal activity and get away with it simply because they are celebrities.

I get even more irritated when people defend their behavior and put blame on the victims.  Or try to brush it off as “boys will be boys” stupidity.  The over-militarization of our police forces is a real problem that has led to tragedy across the nation.  However, the complicity of law enforcement in helping these celebrities get away with crimes is even more troublesome.

We have seen way too many times when law enforcement has turned a blind eye to celebrity misbehavior.  The victims have been hurt.  In some cases people have died.  Yet, they seem to get away with whatever they have been accused of doing.

With this kind of reaction whenever someone with a public name gets in trouble we have to ask ourselves just how balanced our justice system really is.  In some states if you are caught with a bag of marijuana you get at least 10 years in jail.  If you are a college football player who flees from the scene of an accident, you get “well that’s okay”.

If you are a star running back in the NFL and beat your then fiancé you get paid 5 million dollars to sit out a season and then cry foul when an actual suspension comes down for your behavior.  And, you get the union to back you up on the matter.

If you are a star quarterback on a college football team and get accused of rape, the police tell the victim that she will go through hell if she continues with the complaint.  Then, when there is a scheduled hearing to determine if you broke university conduct policy, you get the hearing put off until after the football season so you can continue to play.

If you are a star comedian who is accused of being a serial rapist over the last 20 years by as many as 14 women, your friends “have questions for the accuser” instead of you.  Forget the large number of women accusing you, they must all be liars.

I don’t know if everyone who has been involved in these cases are guilty or not.  I am not making an assumption of guilt.  I am questioning how these cases have been handled.  These cases show clearly that our judicial system may indeed be broken.  In most of them it clearly shows a lack of interest by law enforcement to fully investigate cases involving “celebrities”.

Cynics have claimed for years that guilt and innocence is determined more by how much money you have rather than the actual facts of the case.  When we continuously see these kinds of behavior towards celebrities, maybe the cynics are correct.  As a result maybe the Statue of Justice should not be blind folded and holding a scale, maybe she should have one eye open looking at the bag of money she is holding.

But then, we are all to blame for this mess.  If we continue to believe the accused simply because they are celebrities, nothing will change for the better.

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Laura Ingraham has said that we should repeal “birthright” citizenship.  She believes that millions of immigrants are simply coming to America to have their babies so those babies can become legal citizens and therefore “game” the system for welfare benefits.  Her answer to this “problem” is to take away citizenship rights upon birth.

Birthright citizenship simply states that if you are born within the territorial boundaries of the U.S. and your parents are not in the service of a foreign government (i.e., diplomats, soldiers, etc.), then you are a citizen of the United States. Your parents don’t have to be citizens, nor do they have to be legal residents.

This came about with the passage of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. It has enjoyed Supreme Court affirmation stretching all the way back to 1898.  If you’re born here, you’re afforded the same rights and privileges as anyone else, regardless of who your parents are.

But that is a huge problem for Conservatives like Ingraham.  See, they don’t want people who come here and have babies to have their children given the same rights as everyone else.  This may seem like a logical thing to do in many people’s minds.  And, a lot of people may be asking why a non-citizen who has a child in the U.S. automatically gains citizenship for that child.

But, there is a lot more to all of this than first meets the eye.  You all know that I rarely use the term “slippery slope”.  But, this is one time I think it is appropriate to do so.  The real thing that Ingraham wants to avoid is to let undocumented people have babies and then their babies automatically become citizens by simply being born here.  However, as usual, conservatives are not thinking this thing completely through.

They are using the phrase in the 14th Amendment that states:   “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  It is the “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” that they are arguing takes away the citizenship of someone who is born to non-citizens.  But, the Supreme Court and even the framers of the Amendment said it means that anyone working for a foreign government.  Meaning that people like diplomats are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, therefore, their children are not citizens.

Conservatives argue that phrase means if you are not a citizen, you are not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. and therefore your children born here are not citizens.  That is total nonsense.  Everyone in the U.S. who is not an employee of a foreign government is subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.

Their argument opens up way too many doors.  What about non-citizens who are legally living in the U.S. with a “green card.”  Are their children who are born in the U.S. citizens under the birthright clause?  Even though their parents are legally in the country, they are not citizens.  According to the conservatives argument, their children should not attain citizenship just by birth.

If they were to change the constitution, how far back do we go on this matter?  Many Europeans and other groups who immigrated to the country through at least the 1970s were not given “green cards”.  They were not forced to seek citizenship either.  I remember going to the Post Office to get my grandfather an “Alien Registration Card” to be submitted.  In those days, way back in the 1960s any non-citizen had to send in an alien registration card every January.  That was the “green card” of the day.

Then we have to answer the question concerning those who were born outside the country, even if their parents are citizens.  Should we grant citizenship to children born to parents who voluntarily left the country for work or other reasons?  What about people who come here under political asylum status?  Should their children be granted automatic citizenship?  Can we trust everyone who claims political asylum status as really being loyal to the U.S.?

What about the Native Americans?  They didn’t gain citizenship until the 1900s.  Should we strip their citizenship too?  Especially those who live on the reservations with their own tribal councils.  Hell, if we strip them of their citizenship, we can deport them too.  Forget the fact they were here first.  That is just how sticky this whole “repeal birthright citizenship” can get.

My grandfather never became a citizen.  I wonder if, in the eyes of conservatives, that makes my mother a non-citizen or half citizen.  If she is a half citizen, does that make me a three-quarter citizen?  How big of a percentage makes a “full” citizen?  If all of this percentage talk sounds familiar, it is.  It was tried once over a different issue in 1930s Germany.  We all know what the results of that were.

Of course, Ingraham and the other conservatives are really after something completely different.  What they want is to strip citizenship from children whose parents may have come here illegally so they can be deported with their parents.  As it stands, children who are citizens cannot be deported.  That is one of the major issues in the current fight about immigration reform.  The President wants illegal immigrants who have children born in the country, thereby citizens, not to be deported which breaks up families.

The conservatives want them all out regardless if the children are citizens by law.  Since they are citizens by law, the simple answer is to change the law so they are no longer citizens.  That seems to them to be the best way to keep America as homogenized as possible.  Hispanics are not the only group of people who have come here “illegally”, but they are the ones who are being targeted by conservatives like Ingraham.

Ingraham and her conservative wackos really do want a homogenized country without all those non-whites.  By stripping non-white people of their citizenship, it won’t be possible for them to vote in future elections.  And we all know how Republicans feel about non-white people voting in our elections.

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The House has passed legislation authorizing the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  The Senate is to take up the bill tomorrow.  There is every indication that it will also pass the Senate.  Some Democrats seem to think that if the bill passes, Mary Landau will save her Senate seat.  I don’t share their thought on that.  She is just too far behind to win the election.

The Republicans are trying to use the argument that the Keystone XL Pipeline will create 42,000 jobs.  They are banking on that number to sway the American people into supporting their push for it.  However, as usual, they are not telling you everything.

Here is a little background.  The Keystone XL pipeline is to transport Tar Sands Oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.  There it will be refined by American Oil Companies and then shipped overseas, mostly to China.  Tar Sands Oil is the dirtiest form of oil there is.  The carbon emissions from such oil is almost two to three times that of normal oil.

Additionally, since this oil is to be shipped overseas, there will be no savings at the pump for Americans when they go to fill up their tanks.  Plus, with the price oil dropping sharply recently, it has become almost too expensive to even refine this oil.  There are additional steps necessary to refine Tar Sands Oil than regular oil.

Finally, the route of the Keystone XL pipeline goes over the largest fresh water aquifer in the United States.  This aquifer is under several states in the Midwest.  Even though the proponents say the pipeline will use the most sophisticated oil leak detection systems, they will not say that the pipeline won’t leak.  As a matter of fact, the rest of their pipeline has had several leaks over the years.

The problem with this pipeline leaking is that it is possible for the oil to seep into the aquifer.  That would pollute drinking water for millions of people in the heartland of our country.  It will also pollute the water used to help grow our crops in times of low rainfall.  That means your food would be contaminated as well.

Then there are the people whose land the pipeline will cross who oppose the it.  They don’t want their land used to build this pipeline.  The agreements they are being forced to sign puts a lot of the responsibility for anything going wrong on them.  If they don’t sign the agreement, eminent domain will be used to take the land anyway.  That means our government is going to take private land away from people for the benefit of a foreign country.  How can the Republicans, who espouse to protect property owners, even remotely justify that?

If the pipeline leaks and it seeps into the aquifer, there is no current method of cleaning up the aquifer.  That means the water will be contaminated for generations if not forever.  The Republicans think the risk of polluting the largest aquifer in the U.S. is worth it because of the number of jobs they claim the project will produce.

Unfortunately for them, their numbers are definitely skewed.  Look, I don’t know how many temporary construction jobs will be created to build the pipeline.  By temporary I mean one to two years.  Their number of 42,000 may be right.  But, based on the information from the Canadian Oil company who wants this pipeline, the maximum number of permanent jobs to be created in the U.S is 30.  Before anyone starts yelling about those “new” jobs at the refineries, there won’t be any.  The U.S. oil refineries are already at maximum capacity.  No new jobs will be created at them with this pipeline.

I don’t think that number justifies the risks involved with the pipeline.  Especially when you consider that this oil will have no impact on our ability to save money by transporting it across our land.  As I said, it is all intended to be sent overseas.  Therefore, it will do nothing to reduce our gas prices or our heating oil prices.

In effect, what will really happen, is that we will be saddled with all of the risk and a Canadian oil company will gain all of the financial benefits.  I don’t have anything against Canadians.  But I don’t believe we should be their gutter for their dirty oil without getting any major benefits from it.

The Keystone XL pipeline has plenty of risks.  But, it really doesn’t give us any benefits.  Even capitalists who really look at the benefits to risk equation will clearly see that the risks outweigh the benefits.  That makes this project a bad deal.

If the Republicans really want to help the job market with real long-lasting jobs, they should pass the Transportation and Infrastructure Bill.  That bill will create millions of good paying jobs that will last at least 20 years.  And, we get all of the benefits from such a bill.  Our roads, rail system, dams, electrical grid, and much more will be upgraded and become safer for years to come.

Of course, Republicans don’t want to do that because it was introduced by President Obama.  Screw the millions of Americans who need the jobs such a bill would produce.  The Canadian Pipeline with no benefits, very few permanent jobs and all the risks to us is far more important to them than you are.  I wonder why?

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In the past six years, we have seen President Obama called everything from being a socialist, communist, fascist, and lawless.  The opposing side has continuously said they are only trying to pass legislation that the American People want.  Although they refuse to pass Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases, Raise the Minimum Wage, or Immigration Reform which are all supported by over 70 percent of the American People.

The favorite name calling of the right-wing is communist.  I have been called a communist more times than I care to count.  If I had a dollar for every time I was called a communist, my retirement would be a lot more comfortable than it is.  So, I thought I might take a look at who are the real communists in America today.

The first thing you must consider is what is the definition of a communist.  Everyone, especially those of us who lived through the cold war look at communism as the form of government in the Soviet Union and China.  That is what we were taught was communism.  But is that really communism?

Karl Marx wrote the book on communism.  However, in his view of a communist world, there are no governments.  He wrote about a utopian society where governments were no longer needed.  He based his view on the concept that people are naturally good and therefore society would naturally look after the less fortunate, the sick, the disabled, and the elderly.  No government was necessary for these actions, people would just embrace that it was the right thing to do.

I know that is an oversimplification of his writings, but I do believe that is the gist of his book.  What Marx failed to take into account is the opposite of good, which is evil.  For, you cannot have good without evil.  Natural law says there is an opposite to every trait.  That is what makes us human.  As a result, the communism espoused by Marx is a fantasy with no real possibility of actually coming true.  Still, that doesn’t mean that any steps we take in that direction is not a good step.

But, now we get the heart of the matter.  The Soviet Union was the first country to embrace communism.  But, in realty, the use of the word was just as much a fantasy as Marx’s world view.  Basically, communism was hijacked by Lenin who had no intention of creating a utopian society.  He only used the term to gain support for his own version of a dictatorship.

If it hadn’t been for WWI the Leninist form of communism may not have happened.  The Germans sent Lenin to Russia from exile, and gave him millions to start a revolution so they could get Russia out of the war and fight on just one front.  It worked, and Lenin soon pulled Russia out of the war.

Lenin’s form of communism was no better than any other form of dictatorial government.  Yes, he took property away from some of the rich but he didn’t give it to the peasants, he formed collective farms that the peasants were forced to work.  He also maintained the industrialists and their positions to run his now government seized industries.  As a result, the average Russian did not gain significantly in economic status.  There was never an intention to let the average Russian people grow economically.

After WWII, Mao followed Lenin’s philosophy and was able to overthrow the government of China.  There too, a dictatorship under the guise of communism was formed.  It was no more communist than Lenin’s Russia, but what the hell, it worked in Russia so it would work in China.  The funny thing is that the Chinese and the Russians never really liked each other.  Dictators never really do like each other.  At some point one of them will try to take over the other.

The government set wages that were a bit higher than before the revolution, but not significantly higher.  Yet, the bureaucrats and industry leaders lived in luxury.  If you want to talk about income inequality at its worse, you just need to look at Russia under Lenin’s communist regime.

Under Lenin and then Stalin, the dictatorial regime masquerading as communism became even stronger.  Purges of political opponents made sure these people stayed in power.  All the while they were consolidating their power, they were dictating policy that affected the people of Russia.

There was a lot of talk about redistributing wealth in these communist countries.  But what really happened was that the wealth was redistributed to the government bureaucrats and industrialists not the people.  Right after the fall of the Soviet Union, there sure were a lot of suddenly rich multi-millionaires in Russia.  Where did they suddenly get their wealth?

So, what does all of this have to do with America?  Since the right-wing does not want to let go of the cold war, we continuously hear about communists trying to bring down our country.  And, there are a lot of similarities going on in our country right now.

Under Leninist communism, industries received large government subsidies to maintain productivity.  Yes, they were supposedly “government-owned”, but the money still came from the government.  In our country today, many companies receive large government subsidies as well.  Companies like oil and gas companies and chemical companies receive large government subsidies at taxpayer expense.

Other companies like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Burger King, and other minimum wage employers receive billions of dollars in government subsidies in the form of government safety nets for their employees.  Things like food stamps and WIC and health care subsidies for their employees so they don’t have to pay a livable wage.

In Lenin’s Russia, industrialists and government bureaucrats paid little or no taxes.  Today, politicians are still trying to keep taxes very low for the rich and corporations.  One in four corporations in America today do not pay any corporate taxes.  Yet, many of them still receive government subsidies on top of not paying taxes.

Lenin’s Russia forced the people to practice a religion known as the state.  The state was the only thing that mattered.  Although they did not directly outlaw people from practicing their religion, it was very strongly discouraged.  Today we have people who are attempting to force everyone to believe in one form of religion.  If you disagree with them, they complain that you are waging war on their beliefs.

In these communist regimes, the state dictated every aspect of a normal life.  They forced people to follow a strict living style whether they believed in it or not.  Today, we have similar people trying to force a particular living style on everyone else.  They even have introduced legislation in some states that would make it legal to discriminate against anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.

As in all dictatorships, the number one goal of women was to have babies.  It is necessary to keep the population growing so more “workers” or “soldiers” are available to help the state.  We have similar beliefs running rampant today in our country.  Everything from denying equal pay for equal work to outlawing abortion and birth control are all aimed at keeping women in their place and having babies.

Non-Russian minorities were hugely discriminated against in the Soviet Union.  These minorities did not enjoy the same “rights” as Russians.  The Soviet Union was Russia’s empire after all.  Today we see civil rights under attack again in America.  Voter Suppression Laws and attempts to codify discrimination are just a couple of examples.

So, when you look at the name calling, especially the communist tagline, who are the real communists in American politics?  Is it the people who want to ensure equal treatment for our citizens or people who want to suppress the vote to minorities?

Is it the people who want to ensure equal protection under the law for everyone regardless of beliefs, or those who want to dictate which lifestyles are acceptable and be able to discriminate against anyone who doesn’t agree with their dictates?

Is it the people who want fair and equal pay for their labors, or those who fight against a livable wage and equal pay for equal work regardless of the sex of the worker?  Is it those who want to see everyone with health care, or those who believe that if you are poor you don’t deserve any health care and if you die, you die?

Is it the people who want to decrease the huge income inequality to help grow our economy, or those who want to make that inequality even bigger so the rich get richer at the expense of the labor force?  Is it the people who think that the poor, disabled and elderly should be protected by social safety nets, or those who believe they should be cut loose while increasing subsidies to large corporations?

If you want to see who could reasonably be called a communist based on the cold war definition of communism, you just have to look at the platforms of the two political parties.  I know whom I believe are the communists, you will have to make up your own mind.

 

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