Thursday, October 27, 2011

Couldn't resist posting this one. And it's absolutely true. Sobriety will take years off your appearance but, alas, it works both ways...

The Death Penalty's De Facto Abolition?

Published: October 14, 2011 The New York Times

A new Gallup poll reports that support for the death penalty is at its lowest level since 1972. In fact, though, the decline, from a high of 80 percent in 1994 to 61 percent now, masks both Americans’ ambivalence about capital punishment and the country’s de facto abolition of the penalty in most places.

When Gallup gave people a choice a year ago between sentencing a murderer to death or life without parole, an option in each of the 34 states that have the death penalty, only 49 percent chose capital punishment.That striking difference suggests that more Americans are recognizing that killing a prisoner is not the only way to make sure he is never released, that the death penalty cannot be made to comply with the Constitution and that it is in every way indefensible. But there are other numbers that tell a more compelling story about the national discomfort with executions.

From their annual high points since the penalty was reinstated 35 years ago, the number executed has dropped by half, and the number sentenced to death has dropped by almost two-thirds. Sixteen states don’t allow the penalty, and eight of the states that do have not carried out an execution in 12 years or more.

There is more.Only one-seventh of the nation’s 3,147 counties have carried out an execution since 1976. Counties with one-eighth of the American population produce two-thirds of the sentences. As a result, the death penalty is the embodiment of arbitrariness. Texas, for example, in the past generation, has executed five times as many people as Virginia, the next closest state. But the penalty is used heavily in just four of Texas’s 254 counties.Opposition to capital punishment has built from the ground up. It is evident in the greater part of America’s counties where people realize that, in addition to being barbaric, capricious and prohibitively expensive, the death penalty does not reflect their values.

Occupy Movements are quite a measured and even timid response to this crisis

Thirty Years of Unleashed Greed

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Posted on Oct 26, 2011
AP / Jay Finneburgh

Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, 24, lies bleeding in Oakland, Calif., after being struck by a projectile apparently fired by police. He suffered a skull fracture while marching with other demonstrators attempting to re-establish a presence near a protest camp disbanded by authorities, said Dottie Guy of the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

By Robert Scheer

It is class warfare. But it was begun not by the tear-gassed, rain-soaked protesters asserting their constitutionally guaranteed right of peaceful assembly but rather the financial overlords who control all of the major levers of power in what passes for our democracy. It is they who subverted the American ideal of a nation of stakeholders in control of their economic and political destiny.

Between 1979 and 2007, as the Congressional Budget Office reported this week, the average real income of the top 1 percent grew by an astounding 275 percent. And that is after payment of the taxes that the superrich and their Republican apologists find so onerous.

Those three decades of rampant upper-crust greed unleashed by the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s will be well marked by future historians recording the death of the American dream. In that decisive historical period the middle class began to evaporate and the nation’s income gap increased to alarming proportions. “As a result of that uneven growth,” the CBO explained, “the distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979: The share of income accruing to higher-income households increased, whereas the share accruing to other households declined. ... The share of after-tax household income for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income more than doubled. ...”

That was before the 2008 meltdown that ushered in the massive increase in unemployment and housing foreclosures that further eroded the standard of living of the vast majority of Americans while the superrich rewarded themselves with immense bonuses. To stress the role of the financial industry in this march to greater income inequality as the Occupy Wall Street movement has done is not a matter of ideology or rhetoric, but, as the CBO report details, a matter of discernible fact.

The CBO noted that in comparing top earners, “The [income] share of financial professionals almost doubled from 1979 to 2005” and that “employees in the financial and legal professions made up a larger share of the highest earners than people in those other groups.”

No wonder, since it was the bankers and the lawyers serving them who managed to end the sensible government regulations that contained their greed. The undermining of those regulations began during the Reagan presidency, and so it is not surprising that, as the CBO reports, “the compensation differential between the financial sector and the rest of the economy appears inexplicably large from 1990 onward.” Citing a major study on the subject, the CBO added, “The authors believe that deregulation and corporate finance activities linked to initial public offerings and credit risks are the primary causes of the higher compensation differential.”

So much for the claim that excessive government regulation has discouraged business activity. The CBO report also denies the charge that taxes on the wealthy have placed an undue burden on the economy, documenting that federal revenue sources have become more regressive and that the tax burden on the wealthy has declined since 1979.

In the face of the evidence that class inequality had been rising sharply in the United States even before the banking-induced recession, it would seem that the Occupy Wall Street protests are a quite measured and even timid response to the crisis.

Actually, the rallying cry of that movement was originally enunciated not by the protesters in the streets, but by one of the nation’s most respected economists. Last April, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz wrote an article in Vanity Fair titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” that should be required reading for those well-paid pundits who question the logic and motives of the Wall Street protesters. “Americans have been watching protests [abroad] against repressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few,” Stiglitz wrote. “Yet, in our democracy, 1% of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.”

Maybe justice will prevail despite the suffering that the 1 percent has inflicted on the foreclosed and the jobless. But to date those who have seized 40 percent of the nation’s wealth still control the big guns in this war of classes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LARB News!!

Announcing the debut of LARB ePubs:

Now available on the Amazon Kindle store for $4.99:

A compilation of some of the best of the first six months of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Featured articles:

Ben Ehrenreich on “the death of the book.”
David Shields on the thin line between life and art.
Geoff Nicholson on Buster Keaton, the Human Mop.
Laurie Winer reads the novels of Glenn Beck (so you don't have to).
Joshua Clover on economic prediction and the financial crisis.
Louise Steinman on Jacob Glatstein’s The Glatstein Chronicles.
Lisa Jane Persky on literary tattoos.
Jean Stein talks to Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern about life with Larry Flynt.

Please buy one, and tell your friends; this is a great way to support the LARB!


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