Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grey Lies Rule the World has been posted

Neat song.

Rough version that needs polishing, but that won't be possible for a while. So enjoy!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Three Days Left

And I am hiking.

You can follow my Colorado Trail twitters here.

Anyone want to hang out or anything, let me know. I'll be gone after that.

Going away dinner is going to be at mt Fiji Japanese hibachi grill on Sunday night. They have a 2 for one deal. It is like $25 for two people. Not including Saki though. Anyways, hit me up if you want to come. I'll be making reservations in the next day or so.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's turning ugly

From the inbox...

It's turning ugly
Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:06 AM
"Bertha Lewis, ACORN"
Add sender to Contacts

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Dear Christian,

Right-wing extremists are attacking ACORN again. Last time, they tried to get to Barack Obama by spreading lies about ACORN. Now, they're using the same cowardly strategy and scare tactics to stop health care reform.

Worst of all, it's starting to work -- and it's turning ugly fast. Congressional townhall meetings have erupted into shouting matches thanks to right-wing disrupters. Some have even turned violent. At least one opponent of health care reform posted a message on the popular website Twitter urging the public to use firearms if they encounter ACORN members at a community health care discussion. He wrote, "If ACORN/SEIU attends these meetings for disruptive purposes, and you have a license to carry....carry."

So it's no wonder that opponents are actively spreading lies through email and talk radio in an effort to juice up the angry mobs and derail reform. We need you to contact your Congressperson and Senators and tell them: 1) we won't be intimidated by the scare tactics of an angry, shrill minority and 2) we need adequate health care reform now!

Here are three health care reform lies -- and the truth:

Lie #1: The health care bill includes payoffs to ACORN and unions and ACORN will be enrolling people into the "public option."

The truth:
In reality, provisions of the bill allow for anyone to provide input into community care options. This includes homeowners, religious leaders, neighborhood groups, and others. There are no payoffs. There is no money exchanged in any way. In the ongoing effort to demonize ACORN, every instance of the word "community" has become associated with our efforts.

Lie #2: Congress is going to destroy private insurance and you will only get government-run health care.

The truth:
Reform creates a "public option" and the public option expands choice. The public option -- really a nationwide plan with a broad network of providers -- will compete with private insurers to do what competition is supposed to do: increase quality and decrease costs. You keep your coverage and doctors, if you want to, while choice extends to millions of the uninsured.

Lie #3: Health care reform will lead to rationing.

The truth:
Reform will expand choice for quality health insurance coverage -- while covering more people. But right now, health care is already rationed in some of the most inhumane ways imaginable: denial based on "pre-existing" conditions, recission processes triggered when you make a claim, different coverage based on your gender and, of course, the yearly and lifetime limits on coverage from many plans. The current system is controlled by corporations and their decisions about: whether you get coverage, who your doctor is, and what procedures and medicine are covered are driven by profit motives, not health care decisions. A big part of reform is to stop that.

We are ACORN, and you know these kinds of lies and attacks don't stop us. It just makes us work harder. And we've been fighting for health care reform with everything we've got for over a year now. In 15 states, ACORN members have been mobilizing thousands of community residents, getting dozens of congressional leaders to sign on in support of basic principles for health care reform.

But we're up against the combined power of the insurance lobby, the drug makers lobby, and the for-profit hospitals, among others. And these guys are fighting dirty, doing everything they can to intimidate Congress and stop reform.

The threats of violence show how opponents of change will stop at little to keep the status quo. That's why we need you to tell Congress not to be intimidated by the lies and threats and stand up for adequate health coverage for all Americans.

The truth is that we are on the brink of historic reform of America's inadequate health care system. The next few weeks will determine whether the people or the corporations win this fight. We need to make sure that Congress hears from real grassroots people, not corporate-funded Astroturf, so we can win adequate health care for all Americans. Can you tell Congress to stand up to the lies and intimidation and support common-sense health care reform?

We need you to take action today!

In solidarity and strength,

Bertha Lewis
ACORN CEO and Chief Organizer

ACORN is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, with over 400,000 member families organized into neighborhood chapters in 100 cities across the country. Since 1970 ACORN has taken action and won victories on issues of concern to our members. Our priorities include: better housing for first time homebuyers and tenants, living wages for low-wage workers, more investment in our communities from banks and governments, and better public schools. ACORN is an acronym, and each letter should be capitalized. ACORN stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I took a personality test that said I was an "INFP" type personality. That's the second test I've taken that's come to the same conclusion. These are little bits of analysis I found online that are attributed to that type:

"You are idealistic, loyal to your values and to people who are important to you. You want an external life that is congruent with your values. You are curious, quick to see possibilities, and can be a catalyst for implementing ideas. You seek to understand people and to help them fulfill their potential. You are adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened. Famous people with your same INFP personality include: Mary the Blessed Virgin, Hellen Keller, William Shakespeare, John F. Kennedy Jr., Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Julia Roberts."

"Highly creative, artistic and spiritual, they can produce wonderful works of art, music and literature. INFPs are natural artists. They will find great satisfaction if they encourage and develop their artistic abilities. That doesn't mean that an INFP has to be a famous writer or painter in order to be content. Simply the act of "creating" will be a fulfilling source of renewal and refreshment to the INFP. An INFP should allow himself or herself some artistic outlet, because it will add enrichment and positive energy to their life."

"INFPs never seem to lose their sense of wonder. One might say they see life through rose-colored glasses. It's as though they live at the edge of a looking-glassworld where mundane objects come to life, where flora and fauna take on near-human qualities."

"Their job must be fun, although not racous, and it must be meaningful to them. They need a strong purpose in their work. They want to be recognized and valued, without undue attention given to them. They may become embarrassed when make the center of attention. As a result, they may undersell their strengths in order to avoid being singled out and made to feel conspicuous. They would rather have their worth be noticed gradually over time."

Other sites with longer descriptions:

* * *

INFPs present a calm, pleasant face to the world. They appear to be tranquil and peaceful to others, with simple desires. In fact, the INFP internally feels his or her life intensely. In the relationship arena, this causes them to have a very deep capacity for love and caring which is not frequently found with such intensity in the other types. The INFP does not devote their intense feelings towards just anyone, and are relatively reserved about expressing their inner-most feelings. They reserve their deepest love and caring for a select few who are closest to them. INFPs are generally laid-back, supportive and nurturing in their close relationships. With Introverted Feeling dominating their personality, they're very sensitive and in-tune with people's feelings, and feel genuine concern and caring for others. Slow to trust others and cautious in the beginning of a relationship, an INFP will be fiercely loyal once they are committed. With their strong inner core of values, they are intense individuals who value depth and authenticity in their relationships, and hold those who understand and accept the INFP's perspectives in especially high regard. INFPs are usually adaptable and congenial, unless one of their ruling principles has been violated, in which case they stop adapting and become staunch defenders of their values. They will be uncharacteristically harsh and rigid in such a situation.

INFP Strengths

Most INFPs will exhibit the following strengths with regards to relationship issues:

* Warmly concerned and caring towards others
* Sensitive and perceptive about what others are feeling
* Loyal and committed - they want lifelong relationships
* Deep capacity for love and caring
* Driven to meet other's needs
* Strive for "win-win" situations
* Nurturing, supportive and encouraging
* Likely to recognize and appreciate other's need for space
* Able to express themselves well
* Flexible and diverse

INFP Weaknesses

Most INFPs will exhibit the following weaknesses with regards to relationship issues:

* May tend to be shy and reserved
* Don't like to have their "space" invaded
* Extreme dislike of conflict
* Extreme dislike of criticism
* Strong need to receive praise and positive affirmation
* May react very emotionally to stressful situations
* Have difficulty leaving a bad relationship
* Have difficulty scolding or punishing others
* Tend to be reserved about expressing their feelings
* Perfectionistic tendancies may cause them to not give themselves enough credit
* Tendency to blame themselves for problems, and hold everything on their own shoulders

INFPs in Love

INFPs feels tremendous loyalty and commitment to their relationships. With the Feeling preference dominating their personality, harmony and warm feelings are central to the INFP's being. They feel a need to be in a committed, loving relationship. If they are not involved in such a relationship, the INFP will be either actively searching for one, or creating one in their own minds.

INFPs tendency to be idealistic and romantically-minded may cause them to fantasize frequently about a "more perfect" relationship or situation. They may also romanticize their mates into having qualities which they do not actually possess. Most INFPs have a problem with reconciling their highly idealistic and romantic views of life with the reality of their own lives, and so they are constantly somewhat unsettled with themselves and with their close personal relationships. However, the INFP's deeply-felt, sincere love for their mates and their intense dislike of conflict keeps the INFP loyal to their relationships, in spite of their troubles achieving peace of mind.

Unlike other types who tend to hold their mates up on a pedastal, the INFP's tendency to do so does not really turn into a negative thing in the relationship. INFPs hold tightly to their ideals, and work hard at constantly seeing their mates up on that pedastal. The frequent INFP result is a strongly affirming, proud and affectionate attitude towards their mates which stands the test of time.

INFPs are not naturally interested in administrative matters such as bill-paying and house-cleaning, but they can be very good at performing these tasks when they must. They can be really good money managers when they apply themselves.

Romantically, the INFP is likely to be initially slow to open up to their mates. Once their trust has been earned, the INFP will view romantic intimacy as an opportunity for expressing their deep-seated love and affection. They value giving and receiving love and sweet words. With their tendency to enjoy serving others, they may value their mates satisfaction above their own.

One real problem area for the INFP is their intensive dislike of conflict and criticism. The INFP is quick to find a personal angle in any critical comment, whether or not anything personal was intended. They will tend to take any sort of criticism as a personal attack on their character, and will usually become irrational and emotional in such situations. This can be a real problem for INFPs who are involved with persons who have Thinking and Judging preferences. "TJ"s relate to others with a objective, decisive attitude that frequently shows an opinion on the topic of conversation. If the opinion is negative, the TJ's attitude may be threatening to the INFP, who will tend to respond emotionally to the negativity and be vaguely but emphatically convinced that the negativity is somehow the INFP's fault.

For INFPs with extremely dominant Feeling preferences who have not developed their Intuitive sides sufficiently to gather good data for their decision making processes, their dislike of conflict and criticism can foretell doom and gloom for intimate relationships. These INFPs will react with extreme emotional distress to conflict situations, and will not know what to do about it. Since they will have no basis for determining what action to take, they will do whatever they can to get rid of the conflict - which frequently means lashing out irrationally at others, or using guilt manipulation to get their mates to give them the positive support that they crave. This kind of behavior does not bode well for healthy, long-term relationships. Individuals who recognize this tendency in themselves should work on their ability to take criticism objectively rather than personally. They should also try to remember that conflict situations are not always their fault, and they're definitely not the end of the world. Conflict is a fact of life, and facing it and addressing it immediately avoids having to deal with it in the future, after it has become a much larger problem.

INFPs are very aware of their own space, and the space of others. They value their personal space, and the freedom to do their own thing. They will cherish the mate who sees the INFP for who they are, and respects their unique style and perspectives. The INFP is not likely to be overly jealous or possessive, and is likely to respect their mate's privacy and independence. In fact, the INFP is likely to not only respect their mate's perspectives and goals, but to support them with loyal firmness.

In general, INFPs are warmly affirming and loving partners who make the health of their relationships central in their lives. Although cautious in the beginning, they become firmly loyal to their committed relationships, which are likely to last a lifetime. They take their relationships very seriously, and will put forth a great deal of effort into making them work.

* * *

Contributions to the team of an INFP

In a team environment, the INFP can contribute by:

* promoting insight and common understanding amongst the team
* contributing well thought out and innovative ideas
* generating team spirit though sensitive listening and a quiet enthusiasm
* focusing on areas of agreement and building on others' proposals
* where there are areas of disagreement, exploring a wide range of options to see if a point of agreement can be found

The potential ways in which an INFP can irritate others include:

* being idealistic
* appearing out of touch, perhaps not fully recognising current realities, and disregarding those they find unacceptable
* being stubborn over issues the group did not anticipate being a problem
* spending too much time thinking
* avoiding conflict and not giving forthright criticism when it is needed
* focusing so much on interpersonal issues that cost and other impersonal considerations are not adequately discussed

Recognising Stress

As stress increases, 'learned behaviour' tends to give way to the natural style, so the INFP will behave more according to type when under greater stress. For example, in a crisis, the INFP might:

* concentrate only on what the INFP sees as important
* work alone if possible
* contribute creative ideas, but overlook current realities
* fail to consider the cost implications

Under extreme stress, fatigue or illness, the INFP's shadow may appear - a negative form of ESTJ. Example characteristics are:

* being very critical and find fault with almost everything
* doing things to excess - e.g.: eating, drinking or exercising
* becoming bossy or domineering and ignoring others' feelings
* being pedantic about unimportant details

The shadow is part of the unconscious that is often visible to others, onto whom the shadow is projected. The INFP may therefore readily see these faults in others without recognising it in him/her self.

* * *

What makes an INFP tick?

The Dominant function is the judging one of Feeling. Characteristics associated with this function include:

* Makes decisions on the basis of personal values
* Is appreciative and accepting of people - enjoying company and seeking harmony
* Assesses the impact of decisions on others, being sympathetic or compassionate
* Takes a personal approach

The judging Feeling function is introverted. That is, Feeling is used primarily to govern the inner world of thoughts and emotions. The INFP will therefore:

* develop an inner emotional life that is often unseen to others, but is experienced as intense
* retain a strong sense of values, which are often not expressed
* emotionally accept or reject various aspects of life - for example, deciding whether praise or criticism received is valid and, at extreme, ignoring whatever is unacceptable
* feel appreciation towards others, but not express it

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Health Care Choice is Complete BS

I recently had the displeasure of encountering a flock of rich libertarians in activist mode. These people think they are god's gift to the world... And they were there to oppose any incremental advancement in health care that would make it more accessible to more people. They were smug, very smug. They talked "at" you, not "to" you, and they talked very fast, and were for the most part yuppies who rarely smiled.

The part that bothered me the most about this certain flavor of pot smoking Republicanism in action is the incessant prattling on about "Choice" in health care. We get to "choose" our own doctors, and therefore, it is OK that a majority of bankruptcies today occur because people can't afford to pay their health care bills.

When you have a medical emergency, and you call 9-11, do you *choose* which phone operator you respond to? Do you get to pick from one ambulance crew over another? Do you even *choose* which hospital they take you to?

When you're howling in pain do you *choose* which crazy painkillers they inject in your arm? How about later, while you're lying there in your morphine induced bliss, do you *choose* the name of the doctor who is going to cut you open and take your appendix out?

You don't choose any of this. It would be as absurd for that to happen as it would be for you to get to think about it and *choose* which neighboring city's fire department is the "best" one to invite over, while your house is burning down in the mean time. And if, heaven forbid, I come home to see someone breaking into my house, I want the CLOSEST policeman possible to come over as fast as he can. I don't *choose* which officer I want to send over.

There actually used to be many competing, all-volunteer fire departments in a lot of cities, who provided the only fire services. They were shut down and replaced by the modern system because of their amateurism and inefficiency.

If you are sick with a mysterious sore throat in a city you haven't been to before, how does health care "choice" work? Well, it doesn't. You go into a gas station and you ask, "Where is the nearest hospital or minor emergency clinic", and you go to where they tell you. When they write you a prescription at the hospital you ask, "where the the nearest pharmacy I can get this filled at?" and you go where they tell you.

If you need to see a specialist how do you *choose* it? You probably go to google and type "dentist", "urologist", "dermatologist", or whatever it is you need and the city you live in. Then you go to where ever it tells you.

All this talk about "choice" is total crap. It's a FETISH invented by people with too much money and no lives for whom the only thing that fills their void at all is to go out and buy stuff. If you ask them if the same principle they are trying to apply to health care should also apply to the fire department or the police they look at you with blank, vacant looks.

What about other emergency services? How about the military? I don't see any of these "pro-choice" republicans out there complaining about how those god damned government trained and hired nuclear missile silo workers are lazy and incompetent, or how aircraft carrier radar crews and A-10 pilots do a bad job because they're employed by the government.

One of them had a sign that said "If you like the post office, you'll love public option". What the hell is that supposed to mean? I LOVE the post office. I have been using it for years. You can drop a letter anywhere in the country in any of those blue boxes and it will arrive anywhere else in the country GUARANTEED. Every single day a post office worker comes right to your house and brings you the mail. It's so reliable no one ever worries about paying their bills or sending out pay checks through it. I might also ad that the United States' Postal Service is cheaper than private companies UPS and Fedex, and that at the post office near me, at 16th and Marion streets, I've never had to wait in line more than 5 minutes. They even come up with some pretty creative stamp designs.

I've NEVER waited at ANY private hospital or doctors office shorter than I've waited at the USPS post office.

The scare campaign by these people is total crap. The bottom line is that they are rich and they are terrified that some of the taxes levied on their yachts and mansions and expensive cars and rock climbing equipment and Whole Foods purchases is going to help some poor, out of work schmuck like myself get a doctor's appointment or prescription filled. They same people seem to exhibit far less militancy upon realizing that their taxes also go to fighting endless wars, shipping weapons to friendly dictatorships that repress their own people, paying hush money to Governors' and Congressman's mistresses, keeping us the most heavily incarcerated country on the planet, or whatever else dumb program it is the government spends money on (space shuttle missions, while American kids go hungry at night?)

Single payer is the only solution to the health care crisis. If you need help, call the police, and have them come and help you. If your house is on fire, call the fire department and have them put it out. If you are lost in the mountains, call the sherrif's department and have them coordinate a search and rescue. If you are sick, go to a hospital, see a doctor, and get some medicine.

It's that easy for Congressmen. They all have single payer. And they want to keep it from us.

Insurance companies are the PROBLEM. They are middle men raising the prices on everything and their bureaucracy, lobbyists, and advertising empires take up a significant percentage of every dollar we spend on health care. In the United States we pay more money to cover less people than any other country that has adopted a "socialistic", health-care-for-all type program.

The struggle continues...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This is the Best Article About Afghanistan I have Read in the Past Eight Years

Too long to post here. Read the whole thing. I don't care that it is long. You have got to read it. And then you have got to tell me what you think about it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I am sick and need help making this dinner happen

It is a really strange being sick that is going on here.

On the drive to the Green River trip I noticed an extremely faint disturbance in the back of my throat. As one of my favorite sayings continues to be, "Always Get Caught With Your Pants Up (- Jon V Pleskie)", I stopped in Glenwood Springs for some Halls and Dayquil just in case it didn't go away.

It didn't go away.

I noticed it building the first few steps of that gradual, eventually exponential curve that most notable sore throats in my life have been characterized by. By day 4 it was bothering me and by day 5 it was hindering my ability to function to the fullest of my capacities.

I located and went to the hospital in Moab. The rapid strep test was negative and two days later when I called back the 2 day strep culture was also negative. The doctor had written me a prescription for Penicillin just in case it was strep but he told me not to get it filled unless that was the case. The literature I was given told me most sore throats are caused by viruses, which antibiotics do not affect. I haven't filled the prescription because I don't want to spend money on it and taking antibiotics if they are not totally necessary is not good as it builds your germs' immunity to antibiotics.

I got as far as vail pass on the way home and pulled over at the rest area to rest a bit. I parked in the 1 hour parking area and got out the sleeping bag and the war clothes and crawled into them. When I woke up it was sunset... I started driving back home again and I noticed the sunset was coming from the wrong direction. Apparently I had slept the whole night there.

Today would be the close of day 4 of this mysterious sore throat being a major problem. My ears also hurt a bit and I've had a headache. I thought maybe it was dehydration in the desert when I had a headache- though I didn't really believe that because I was drinking tons of water. The same headache remains, perhaps worse. And I am certianly drinking tons- water and hot tea and those "airborne" things.

There are no other cold symptoms, no congestion, or coughing.

I'm just really tired.

During the nights I alternate between feeling warm and comfortable, even a bit too hot, and feeling cold. I got the extra sleeping bag- comforter out last night to use in addition to the 3 light summer blankets for the first time since it was put away this spring.

Been sleeping at least 12 hours every night. Strange lethargy. My judgment in minor tasks does not seem to be operating at a 100% level.

The problem now, is that this place is a mess, and I need help making dinner. The music equipment, still in its cases from the shows, is on much of the floor space in the living room. The river equipment is on a lot of the rest of the living room and the car seat / couch. The long distance hiking equipment occupies much of the kitchen. There is an extra table there i set up to help prep with and there are trail mix ingredients and salamis and chocolate bars and zip lock bags lying all over the place.

I also spilled some granola on the floor that I had put into my yogurt tonight, and it appears the zip lock bag I used to thaw meat over the past 24 hours has a hole in it and there is a trail of blood dripping from the bottom of the refrigerator and onto the floor. I sprayed that spray bleach cleaning stuff on it but it dried before I remembered to wipe it up with a paper towel.

The kitchen counter isn't a lost cause but there are lots of things on it, like the glass bowl and the serving cup I was using to prep pancake mix. The cutting board is in the sink but it needs to be washed.

The best thing right now, I think, would be for me to lie in that bed, with those blankets, and huddle around a warm drink. It's going to be a chore to make this dinner. I was going to do either meat with rice, or meat with noodles, but best right now for me would probably be meat soup with "better than bullion" stuff, LOTS of the celery, put in at about 20 minutes so it is nice and soft, and lots of elbow noodles, with some split peas and just a few lentils. It's easy to kill a soup by over powering it with lentils or other grains like barley so that might just be the hardest part of all. There are also some onions in the dry box and it would be nice to have some soft, diced onions in there too. I suggest one small potato as well but I don't have a small potato. You also have to be careful with the elbows and put them in last cause if they are too mushy your soup is screwed.

I do not have a girlfriend at this point in my life. If I had one, I would probably ask her to help me with this. That has happened in the past and been really nice. Like when you can say, "_____, I have this sudden, sickly craving for fruit juice, and I need like, 3 different kinds of fruit juice, and at least 1 of them needs to be one of those odwalla things that cost like $3.50 but say they are good for you and they taste really fresh and health." And they just go and do that without asking any questions. If they really like you you can even throw up on their carpet and they won't hate you for it.

I even have two different flavors of ice cream and ice cream cones to put them in. This would be a great, cool, sickly summer even to have someone come over and help build for me and herself ice cream cones which I could then eat one of.

If there is anyone out there who would like to help make this dream of mine a reality while I lay here in my stupor, it would be really awesome if you were to give me a call right now. Even my joints ache... god damn what the hell is this thing?

The Destruction of the Black Middle Class

From Recession to Depression

August 5, 2009


To judge from most of the commentary on the Gates-Crowley affair, you would think that a "black elite" has gotten dangerously out of hand. First Gates (Cambridge, Yale, Harvard) showed insufficient deference to Crowley, then Obama (Occidental, Harvard) piled on to accuse the police of having acted "stupidly." Was this "the end of white America" which the Atlantic had warned of in its January/February cover story? Or had the injuries of class - working class in Crowley's case - finally trumped the grievances of race?

Left out of the ensuing tangle of commentary on race and class has been the increasing impoverishment-or, we should say, re-impoverishment--of African Americans as a group. In fact, the most salient and lasting effect of the current recession may turn out to be the decimation of the black middle class. According to a study by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, 33 percent of the black middle class was already in danger of falling out of the middle class at the start of the recession. Gates and Obama, along with Oprah and Cosby, will no doubt remain in place, but millions of the black equivalents of Officer Crowley - from factory workers to bank tellers and white collar managers - are sliding down toward destitution.

For African Americans - and to a large extent, Latinos - the recession is over. It occurred between 2000 and 2007, as black employment decreased by 2.4 percent and incomes declined by 2.9 percent. During the seven-year long black recession, one third of black children lived in poverty and black unemployment-even among college graduates-- consistently ran at about twice the level of white unemployment. That was the black recession. What's happening now is a depression.

Black unemployment is now at 14.7 percent, compared to 8.7 for whites. In New York City, black unemployment has been rising four times as fast as that of whites. Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, estimates that 40 percent of African Americans will have experienced unemployment or underemployment by 2010, and this will increase child poverty from one-third of African-American children to slightly over half. No one can entirely explain the extraordinary rate of job loss among African Americans, though factors may include the relative concentration of blacks in the hard-hit retail and manufacturing sectors, as well as the lesser seniority of blacks in better-paying, white collar, positions.

But one thing is certain: The longstanding racial "wealth gap" makes African Americans particularly vulnerable to poverty when job loss strikes. In 1998, the net worth of white households on average was $100,700 higher than that of African-Americans. By 2007, this gap had increased to $142,600. The Survey of Consumer Finances, which is supported by the Federal Reserve Board, collects this data every three years -- and every time it has been collected, the racial wealth gap has widened. To put it another way: in 2004, for every dollar of wealth held by the typical white family, the African American family had only one 12 cents. In 2007, it had exactly a dime. So when an African American breadwinner loses a job, there are usually no savings to fall back on, no well-heeled parents to hit up, no retirement accounts to raid.

All this comes on top of the highly racially skewed subprime mortgage calamity. After decades of being denied mortgages on racial grounds, African Americans made a tempting market for bubble-crazed lenders like Countrywide, with the result that high income blacks were almost twice as likely as low income white to receive high interest subprime loans. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, Latinos will end up losing between $75 billion and $98 billion in home-value wealth from subprime loans, while blacks will lose between $71 billion and $92 billion. United for a Fair Economy has called this family net-worth catastrophe the "greatest loss of wealth for people of color in modern U.S. history."

Yet in the depths of this African American depression, some commentators, black as well as white, are still obsessing about the supposed cultural deficiencies of the black community. In a December op-ed in the Washington Post, Kay Hymowitz blamed black economic woes on the fact that 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers, not noticing that the white two-parent family has actually declined at a faster rate than the black two-parent family. The share of black children living in a single parent home increased by 155 percent between 1960 to 2006, while the share of white children living in single parent homes increased by a staggering 229 percent.

Just last month on NPR, commentator Juan Williams dismissed the NAACP by saying that more up-to-date and relevant groups focus on "people who have taken advantage of integration and opportunities for education, employment, versus those who seem caught in generational cycles of poverty," which he went on to characterize by drug use and crime. The fact that there is an ongoing recession disproportionately affecting the African American middle class - and brought on by Wall Street greed rather than "ghetto" values - seems to have eluded him.

We don't need any more moralizing or glib analyses of class and race that could have just as well been made in the 70s. The recession is changing everything. It's redrawing the class contours of America in ways that will leave us more polarized than ever, and, yes, profoundly hurting the erstwhile white middle and working classes. But the depression being experienced by people of color threatens to do something on an entirely different scale, and that is to eliminate the black middle class.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the president of United Professionals and author, most recently, of "This Land Is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation."

Dedrick Muhammad is the senior organizer and research associate for the Inequality and Common Good Project of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. -

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pushing South Asia Toward the Brink


Origionally published here by Foreign Policy in Focus. READ IT ON THE ORIGIONAL SITE for good embedded links.

By Zia Mian | July 27, 2009

The contradictions and confusions in U.S. policy in South Asia were on full display during Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's recent visit to India. U.S. support for India, which centers on making money, selling weapons, and turning a blind eye to the country's nuclear weapons, is fatally at odds with U.S. policy and concerns about Pakistan.

By enabling an India-Pakistan arms race, rather than focusing on resolving the conflict and helping them make peace, the United States is driving Pakistan toward the very collapse it fears.

America's New India

In an op-ed in The Times of India just before the start of her visit, Clinton laid out U.S. interests in India. The first item on Clinton's list was "the 300 million members of India's burgeoning middle class," that she identified as "a vast new market and opportunity."

The emerging Indian middle class is large — for comparison, the current total U.S. population is also about 300 million — and greedy for a more American lifestyle. But the focus on India as fundamentally a market for U.S. goods and services, and a source of cheap labor for U.S. corporations, marks a remarkable shift. The United States and other western countries have traditionally seen India as the home of the desperately poor, deserving charity and needing development. But no more. Clinton's article made no mention of India's poor, which the World Bank recently estimated as including over 450 million people living on less than $1.25 a day.

India is also seen as a new emerging power of the 21st century, one that can be an ally of the United States and help it balance and contain the rise of China. Under the Bush Administration, in 2004, the U.S. and India signed an agreement called the "Next Steps in Strategic Partnership." To make India a fitting strategic partner, a senior State Department official later explained the U.S."goal is to help India become a major world power in the 21st century," and left no doubt what this meant, saying "we understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."

India is seeking both to modernize and expand its military forces. It has dramatically increased its military budget, up over 34% alone this year. India now has the 10th-highest military spending in the world. It's becoming a major market for U.S. arms sales. U.S. weapons makers Lockheed Martin and Boeing have already racked up deals worth billions of dollars. But the real bonanza is still to come. India is said to be planning to spend as much $55 billion on weapons over the next five years.

But the big news of the Clinton visit was the announcement of an India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue. This will include an annual formal meeting of key officials, co-chaired by the secretary of State and India's external affairs minister, and including on the U.S. side the secretaries of Agriculture, Trade, Energy, Education, Finance, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and others. But given the difference in the power and range of interests of the two states, this will be no dialogue of equals. The process is intended to align Indian interests and policies in a wide range of areas with those of the United States.

Nuclear India

In her press conference with India's minister of external affairs, Clinton said, "We discussed our common vision of a world without nuclear weapons and the practical steps that our countries can take to strengthen the goal of nonproliferation." But there was no mention here of India's nuclear buildup, or of the United States asking India to slow down or to end its program. In fact, one would never guess from Clinton's remarks that India even had a nuclear weapons program. She seemed interested only in the prospect of U.S. sales of nuclear reactors to India worth $10 billion or more.

India is one of perhaps only three countries still making material for new nuclear weapons. The others are Pakistan and Israel (with North Korea threatening to resume production). India is building a fast-breeder reactor that is expected to begin operation in 2010 and is outside International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. It could increase three- to five-fold India's current capacity to make plutonium for nuclear weapons.

India seeks to become a major nuclear power. On July 26, it launched its first nuclear–powered submarine. India plans to deploy several of these submarines. Last year, it carried out its first successful underwater launch of a 700 kilometer-range ballistic missile, Sagarika, intended for the submarine. India joins the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China in the club of those owning such nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered submarines. Israel is believed to have nuclear-armed cruise missiles on diesel powered submarines.

India is also developing an array of land-based missiles. In May 2008, it tested the 3,500 kilometer-range Agni-III missile, which was subsequently reported to have been approved for deployment with the army, and is working on a missile with a range of over 5,000 kilometer. In November 2008, India also tested a 600 kilometer-range silo-based missile, Shourya. In 2009, India carried out several tests of its cruise missile, Brahmos, which the army and navy are inducting into service.

The U.S. silence on India's nuclear weapons and missile programs is all the more telling, given that it was the Clinton administration that proposed United Nations Security Council resolution 1172. In 1998, this unanimous Security Council resolution called on India and Pakistan to "immediately stop their nuclear weapon development programs, to refrain from the deployment of nuclear weapons, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons." The Bush administration ignored it. It seems the Obama administration will too.

Pakistan v. India

Pakistan was noticeable for its near absence from Clinton's agenda in India. It came up only in the context of the need to fight terrorism. Forgotten was the brute fact that India and Pakistan are straining harder than ever in their nuclear and conventional arms race. A Pakistani diplomat responded to the Clinton visit to India by telling The Washington Post that "What Hillary is doing there is probably again going to start an arms race." This race drives Pakistan toward collapse, the very thing the United States fears.

Pakistan is buying U.S. weapons as fast as it can, some paid for with U.S. military aid, with arms sales agreements worth over $6 billion since 2001, including for new F-16 jet-fighters. China, an old ally, is also supplying the country with jet fighters and other weapons. Pakistan is also boosting its nuclear program. It's building two new reactors to make plutonium for nuclear weapons. It continues to test both ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to carry nuclear weapons.

The principal U.S. concern about Pakistan, aside from the country falling apart and its nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Islamists, is the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the border areas of Pakistan. It has been telling Pakistan to focus its military forces and strategic concerns on this battle, which requires moving more soldiers away from the border with India. The generals who command Pakistan's army were bound to resist such a redeployment. They worry about the new U.S.-India strategic relationship, and what it may mean for them when the war on the Taliban is over and the United States no longer needs Pakistan.

The Pakistani army, which rules the country even when civilians are in office, will not easily shift its view of India. The army and those who lead it see the threat from India as their very reason for being. The army has grown in size, influence, and power, to the point where it dwarfs all other institutions in society and would lose much if there was peace with India. But there is a personal dimension as well. The partition of the subcontinent 62 years ago that created Pakistan is in the living memory of many who make decisions in Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf, who was chief of army staff before he seized power in 1999 and ruled for nine years, was born in India before partition. General Musharraf, along with the current chief of army staff, General Kayani, and others in Pakistan's high command, fought as young officers in the 1971 war against India. The war ended with Pakistan itself partitioned, as East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh, with India's help, and 90,000 Pakistani soldiers captured by India as prisoners of war.

As Graham Usher notes in the new issue of the Middle East Report, before becoming president, Barack Obama seemed to understand that resolving the conflict between India and Pakistan was critical to dealing with the problems in Afghanistan and with the Taliban. In 2007, Obama claimed "I will encourage dialogue between Pakistan and India to work toward resolving their dispute over Kashmir and between Afghanistan and Pakistan to resolve their historic differences and develop the Pashtun border region. If Pakistan can look toward the east with greater confidence, it will be less likely to believe that its interests are best advanced through cooperation with the Taliban." There is little evidence that this view has yet informed U.S. policy.

The Reality of Pakistan

In their rush to make money and to preserve American power in the world by crafting an alliance with India, U.S. policymakers seem to have averted their eyes from the reality that stares them in the face in Pakistan. In March 2009, the Director of National Intelligence summed up the situation in Pakistan:

The government is losing authority in parts of the North-West Frontier Province and has less control of its semi-autonomous tribal areas: even in the more developed parts of the country, mounting economic hardships and frustration over poor governance have given rise to greater radicalization…Economic hardships are intense, and the country is now facing a major balance of payments challenge. Islamabad needs to make painful reforms to improve overall macroeconomic stability. Pakistan's law-and-order situation is dismal, affecting even Pakistani elites, and violence between various sectarian, ethnic, and political groups threatens to escalate. Pakistan's population is growing rapidly at a rate of about 2 percent a year, and roughly half of the country's 172 million residents are illiterate, under the age of 20, and live near or below the poverty line.

Things have worsened since then. The Taliban is now seeking to escape U.S. drone attacks and major assaults by the Pakistan army in the Tribal Areas by taking refuge in the cities. There are already no-go areas in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, where the Taliban controls the streets. Meanwhile electricity riots have exploded in cities across the country, with mobs attacking public buildings, blocking highways, and damaging trains and buses. Each day seems to bring news of some new failure of the state to provide basic social services.

The Obama administration believes that an increase in U.S. aid to Pakistan can help solve the problem. The Kerry-Lugar bill (the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act) approved by the Senate in June would triple economic aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year for five years. But as the Congressional Research Service noted in its recent report on Pakistan, the United States has given Pakistan about $16.5 billion in "direct, overt U.S. aid" up to 2007. More of the same offers little hope for change.

A basic reordering of U.S. priorities in South Asia is long overdue. The first principle of U.S. policy in the region should be to do no more harm. This means it has to stop feeding the fire between India and Pakistan. Only an end to the South Asian arms race can begin to undo the structures of fear, hostility, and violence that have sustained the conflict in the subcontinent for so long. The search for peace may then have at least a chance of success.

Zia Mian is a physicist with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus.