more tragic consequences of war

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Here is a short 6 minute video report from Democracy Now! you can watch or read, showing U.S. soldiers in Iraq firing from a helicopter, during which they killed at least three unarmed persons, including two reporters and a father (with children in the back seat injured).

Families of Victims of 2007 US Helicopter Killing React to Leaked Video

I’ve also included link to a longer report on this incident, which includes an interview with a soldier in this unit (no present on that day of combat) that says this is simply how soldiers are trained, and if it’s a problem, it’s part of a much bigger problem.

“This Is How These Soldiers Were Trained to Act”–Veteran of Military Unit Involved in 2007 Baghdad Helicopter Shooting Says Incident Is Part of Much Larger Problem

If you have some time, take a look to watch or read these reports and see what you think.  What are we doing wrong?  What needs to change?  Is there something in the military culture, or maybe something even in our culture as a whole, that makes these kinds of things happen?

wealth disparity for women of color

Sunday 4 April 2010

A few weeks ago, I heard of a report that looked at the differences of wealth for white women and women of color.  The report is titled Lifting as we Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America’s Future and was conducted by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.  It  contained some very troubling facts.  Here are just a few, pulled from the Executive Summary (it should be noted that wealth here excludes vehicles)
(also, remember median means “middle” — half the women/people are above that vale, and half are below it):

  • Single black and Hispanic women have a median wealth of $100 and $120 respectively, which is approximately 1 percent of the wealth of their same-race male counterparts.  It is only a fraction of one-percent of the wealth of single white women.
  • Nearly half of all single black and Hispanic women have zero, or negative wealth (negative wealth occurs when the value of debts is greater than the value of assets).
  • Never-married women of color have a median wealth of zero.  In comparison, never married white women have a median wealth of $2,600, never married men of color $4,020, and never-married white men $16,310.
  • Divorced women of color have a median wealth of $4,200, which is 26% of the wealth of divorced men of color ($16,100), 8% of the wealth of divorced white women ($52,120), and 5% of the wealth of divorced white men ($80,000).
  • Black and Hispanic mothers with children under age 18 have a median wealth of zero.  Black and Hispanic fathers have a median wealth of $10,960 and $2,400, respectively.  White mothers have a median wealth of $7,970 and white fathers have $56,100.
  • Prior to age 50, women of color have virtually no wealth at all.

This is what systemic racism looks like.  Obviously there is disparity here, and it might be easy enough to claim that women of color don’t work hard enough or that they do or don’t do certain things to bring such statistics on themselves.  However, there are much greater and more powerful structural components to this problem that create this issue and allow such racism to continue.  Again, the Executive Summary puts things in context:

“The earnings of women of color are not converted to wealth as quickly because they are not linked with the “wealth escalator” — fringe benefits, favorable tax codes, and valuable government benefits.”

I would add that the opportunities of education and work are not equally afforded to women of color.  The report notes these statistics:

  • Women of color are more likely to work in service occupations — 28% of black and 31% of Latina women compared to 19% of white women and only 12% of white men.  These jobs are the least likely to provide wealth-enriching benefits such as retirement plans, paid sick days, and health insurance.
  • Women of color benefit less from tax advantages such as the home mortgage interest deduction because they are less likely to own homes.  Due to residential segregation, their homes typically have less value and appreciate less quickly.
  • Women of color depend more on Social Security because they lack other sources of retirement income.  In fact, Social Security is the only sources of retirement income for more than 25% of black women.  But women of color receive lower Social Security benefits because of their lower earnings and because they are less likely to receive benefits as wives of high-income beneficiaries.
  • Women of color are less likely to meet eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance since part-time workers (primarily women) are often ineligible for benefits.
  • Women of color have been hard hit by predatory lending practices.  Of low- and moderate-income borrowers, Hispanic women were almost one and a half times more likely and black women more than twice as likely to receive high-cost home loans as white women.
  • Many women of color who received subprime home loans could have qualified for conventional lower-cost mortgages.  Subprime home loans cost a borrower between $50,000 and $100,000 more than a comparable prime loan over the life of the loan.

Aside from the startling statistics, I wanted to share this as an example of institutionalized racism.  The word “racism” has been thrown around a lot lately, especially in relation to the health care bill.  Often when people say it, they are referring to personal acts perpetrated by individuals.  However, we need to recognize that U.S. society is structured in many ways to benefit whites and oppress people of color,  and we all (but especially us whites whom the structure already benefits) must work toward changing the system to create equality for all people

The personal bigotry may always remain, but the structures that perpetuate oppression and racism must go.

(See here a 20-minute discussion on the topic from Democracy Now! with guests Mariko Lin Chang, the chief author of the report, and C. Nicole Mason, Executive Director of the Women of Color Policy Network.)

health care reform bill: day 3

Wednesday 31 March 2010

Day 1’s post contained a lot of my thoughts on the new health care reform bill.
Day 2, I  linked to a NY Times article with multiple reactions from prominent politicians, historians, and others.

Here on day 3, I wanted to share some videos taken from a radio (and TV some places) program called Democracy Now! that I’ve connected with at different times.  It’s decidedly “progressive,” to be sure, but so is my position, so it works well c:  In addition to the effect of the bill in general, they particularly touch on my comment about the bill “further entrenching the for-profit healthcare system that rations care based on wealth,” as well as how we relate and care for those nearing death or with terminal illnesses.

The links contain video clips along with transcripts of the videos (faster to digest, but you have to read them), so feel free to pick and choose.

Tuesday, 23 March: Michael Moore: Healthcare Bill “A Victory for Capitalism” (27 minute video/audio)

Wednesday, 24 March: Palliative Care Pioneer Dr. Diane Meier on How People Struggle with Serious, Sometimes Terminal, Illness (19 minute video/audio)

Monday, 22 March: In Historic Vote, House Approves Landmark Healthcare Reform Bill (15 minute video/audio)

Friday, 26 March: Congress OKs Final Changes to Healthcare Overhaul (9 minute video/audio)

And from before the bill actually passed, Thursday, 18 March: Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader: A Discussion on Healthcare, Politics and Reform (complete video/audio 50 minutes, but Healthcare discussion only about half of that)

my protest

Wednesday 19 March 2008

As we mark today the 5th anniversary of the start of the current US war in/occupation of Iraq, (hopefully) a million or more will take to the streets around the country and the world as a protest to this war many call a quagmire. I’m all for taking it to the streets, and I think it’s a very valuable and necessary thing to do, but right now I wanted to take a portion of my lunch break to offer up my protest.

Did you hear of the “Winter Soldier” event held this past weekend? It brought together Iraq War veterans to speak about their experiences. The stories I listened to were heartbreaking, and I know the brought tears to many eyes. This story by Jon Michael Turner was perhaps the worst for me:

“On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed killed. This man was innocent. I don’t know his name. I called him ‘the fat man.’ He was walking back to his house, and I shot him in front of his friend and his father. The first round didn’t kill him, after I had hit him up here in his neck area. And afterwards he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend, who I was on post with, and I said, ‘Well, I can’t let that happen.’ So I took another shot and took him out. He was then carried away by the rest of his family. It took seven people to carry his body away. We were all congratulated after we had our first kills, and that happened to have been mine. My company commander personally congratulated me, as he did everyone else in our company. This is the same individual who had stated that whoever gets their first kill by stabbing them to death will get a four-day pass when we return from Iraq.” (More of his stories can be found here.)

Democracy Now! has been covering this story all this week (including Tuesday and Today), but as DN noted “Although Winter Soldier was held just outside the nation’s capital, it was almost entirely ignored by the American corporate media. A search on the Lexis database found that no major television network or cable news network even mentioned Winter Soldier over the weekend, neither did the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times or most other major newspapers in the country. The editors of the Washington Post chose to cover Winter Soldier but placed the article in the local section.” If we ever come to prosecute for war crimes in relation to this war, will we hold these sources as accomplices? And as John Michael Turner said, “… any time we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions would change drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the books.”

And while we’re talking about the media, what about Lynndie England chastising the media for their role in uncovering the Abu Ghraib prison scandal? In her words: “If the media hadn’t exposed the pictures to that extent then thousands of lives would have been saved.” There was definitely retaliation by insurgents after the photos were revealed, but does that mean they should have been hidden instead? That’s almost like blaming the fire department for the water damage they left in your house as they attempted to put out the fire instead of looking at the arsonist who actually set the blaze. Why do we so easily fail to look at the root causes of situations and instead blame intermediaries (i.e. we blame the homeless war veteran instead of the one who sent her or him to war in the first place)?

We must open our eyes to the world around us. We must examine the motives of all people — those we despise and those we hold dear. We must work to put people in leadership positions who will truly work for the betterment of ALL people, not just “the rich,” and not even just Americans. As H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama said, we are to contribute to others’ happiness, and he gives no distinction to nationality or other barriers. If we want a revolution — as another great peacemaker said — “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” (Ghandi) Let’s actually be that change.