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Domestic Violence Offenders Thou Art Loosed by Tightened Purse Strings 

With many state and city governments facing the most severe financial crises since the Great Depression and the anticipated cuts in federal spending as a result of the ongoing debt-ceiling negotiations, the Topeka City Council voted to repeal its domestic violence law in an effort to cut costs. According to The Pew Center on the States, the federal government provides one out of every three dollars that state and local governments spend. Slashing federal spending impacts government on all levels; state and local government is responsible for providing many of the services that directly affect our daily lives.  

Congressional Republicans are so attached to being ideologically pure—cut spending no matter what—that they must sidestep the ramifications of their extremism. Witness Ron Paul's attempt to explain away the fact that his adherence to libertarianism would result in the death of a hypothetical person who opts out of paying for health insurance and later needs treatment for a catastrophic illness.   

Republicans should stop treating government as if it is nothing more than a testing ground for their ideological purity. Government austerity, in the form of deep budget cuts, has a real impact on the lives of real-life people. Ask the victims of the 18 incidences of domestic violence in Topeka since September. Their attackers were released without charge because there was no agency to prosecute the cases.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes provided excellent commentary (at 14:00) on the actions in Topeka and the broader costs of government austerity measures.


What Paul Ryan Means When He Says “Class Warfare” 

Republicans, like Paul Ryan, have said Warren Buffett’s call to have the super-rich pay the same tax rate as other Americans is class warfare. When Ryan says “class warfare” he’s not imagining angry proletariat mobs taking to the street or even the recent civil disobedience protests down on Wall Street. Ryan and his ilk are very concerned about big, bad government waging war against the super-wealthy.

But do the very wealthy need to be protected? In billionaire Warren Buffett’s New York Times op-ed, “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich,” he noted that last year he was taxed at 17.4 percent, while the other 20 people in his office—who make considerably less than he—were taxed at 33 to 41 percent. The wealthy pay a lower tax rate, but as so many people have pointed out—including Elizabeth Warren below—wealthy people’s thriving businesses have benefited greatly from an infrastructure, educated populace and services, like police and fire departments, that are all paid for with taxes.

I get that Ryan wants to protect his campaign donors, but if he wants to have all Americans pay for the services we all benefit from, he should support President Obama’s Buffett Rule, a tax plan that would require the super-rich—those earning more than $1 million a year—to pay their fair share. The plan makes sense, especially if there’s going to be the kind of “shared sacrifice” that so many politicians talk about.


Why Is This Death Important?

Lawrence Brewer (March 13, 1967-September 21, 2011)Ernest J. Gaines’ Lesson Before Dying tells us that in the face of an unjust conviction, our strength lies in facing the punishment with dignity. Troy Davis, convicted of the 1989 murder of undercover officer Marc MacPhail in Savannah, GA, was sentenced to death. Davis explored every avenue of appeal, resulting in three stays of execution and an historic decision by the Supreme Court paving the way for a hearing to prove his innocence. While his final appeal was being considered by the Court, Davis remained strapped to the gurney in the death chamber. Before dying at 11:08 p.m., Davis asserted his innocence. Witnesses described him as “defiant” to the end.

Several states west and nearly five hours earlier, Lawrence Brewer was executed in Texas. Brewer was also defiant to the end. He made no final statement. There were no final appeals. Brewer was one of three men convicted of the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper, TX. When arrested, Brewer and the others were found with Byrd’s blood on each of them.

The cases represent two sides of the debate about the death penalty. On the one hand we have the wrenching uncertainty of executing a potentially innocent man. On the other hand, we have evidence of a cold-hearted killer who may taste for more. A cogent argument for repealing the death penalty cannot be made or widely accepted until we can get behind clemency for someone like Brewer. On the day of John William King’s execution, how many will rally to spare his life? What is a fitting punishment for a just conviction?  


I Like Ike!

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)Somehow, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (also known as Ike) is always left off my mental list of U. S. presidents that did their part to make America and the world a better place. While listening to The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC this morning I realized that he was a pretty cool president. One of the guests on today’s show was Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer discussing his new book Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View. Through the course of the discussion of the Constitution and Breyer’s view of its interpretation, he brought up Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and “Little Rock Nine. The “Little Rock Nine” were a group of black students selected for their academic excellence to integrate all white Little Rock Central High School in the fall of 1957. When Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to stop the students from entering the school, Ike took control of the Arkansas National Guard and sent in the 101st Airborne Division of the U. S. Army to protect the students. Ike does NOT play. It’s also thanks to Ike that we have NASA and an Interstate Highway System, both of which have debatable merits but are impressive nonetheless. He also desegregated the Armed Forces and was born in the great state of Texas to boot! I’m seriously thinking about getting one of those “I Like Ike!” buttons on eBay.


9/11 Memorial

Image courtesy of Squared Design Lab

I didn’t know a New York without the World Trade Center; I grew up in the city using the Twin Towers as a navigational marker, helping to orient myself after emerging from the subway. When the planes flew into the buildings, none of us thought it would be possible that the buildings wouldn’t survive, it seemed inconceivable. For nine years it felt like a hole was in the downtown skyline of New York. I needed to use other buildings as a compass. It’s difficult for me now to go anywhere near Ground Zero and even more difficult to watch tourists take pictures of what once existed there. I know people flock there to view the 9/11 Memorial reflecting pools, which are inscribed with the names of the victims from both the 1993 and 2001 attacks. I don’t think I’m ready to see all those names yet. Just recently as I ascended from the subway, I instinctively looked around to see where north and south was and I caught sight of the almost complete 1 World Trade Center building. I know life goes on, there will always be change, yet, I miss looking at my Twin Towers.

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