Holiday bells are silent in the homes of America’s struggling working poor, even with gasoline

prices at their lowest levels in years.

These are people derided as moochers because their starvation wages force them to accept food

stamps to feed their children.

On the other side of town, inside gated communities where guards demand photo ID even from

Santa, CEOs’ Christmas plums are super-sugared with record-breaking corporate profits.

These are people somehow not derided as moochers, even though their million-dollar pay

packages are propped up by tax breaks.

The parable of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” springs to mind as Wall Street banks and

law firms hand out six- and seven-figure year end bonuses while Walmart and fast food workers

protest wages so low that their holiday meals are food pantry dregs. It is CEOs, not the working

poor, who deserve public scorn for their dependence on government handouts.

The Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies issued a report last

month that details the mooching of the nation’s top corporations and CEOs. It’s called “Fleecing

Uncle Sam.” The findings are pretty galling.

Of American’s 100 top-paid CEOs, 29 worked schemes that enabled them to collect more in

compensation than their corporations paid in income taxes. The average pay for these 29: $32

million. For one year. And corporations mangle tax the code to deduct that too.

Though their corporations reported combined pre-tax profits of $24 billion, they wrangled $238

million in tax refunds out of the federal government. That’s refunds – the government gave

money to highly profitable corporations.

That’s an effective tax rate of negative 1 percent.

That means middle class taxpayers helped cover the cost of million-dollar pay packages for

CEOs. Middle class taxpayers, whose median family income is $51,324 and whose federal income taxes are withdrawn directly from their checks before they see a cent of pay, support

CEOs who pull down $32 million a year.

That qualifies CEOs as first-class fleecers!

Their corporations pay nothing for essential government services that middle class taxpayers

provide. That includes patent protection, the Commerce Department’s sanctions against foreign

trade rule violations, and federal court dispute resolution.

Some corporations haven’t developed schemes enabling them to tax the federal government.

Instead, they pay, but not at that 35 percent rate they’re always whining about. Between 2008

and 2012, the average large corporation, according to Fleecing Uncle Sam, paid just 19.4


Individuals earning $50,000 a year pay 25 percent. Clearly, corporations are not paying a fair

share at 19 percent.

There’s this wacky theory that if governments excuse corporations from paying their share, then

they’ll expand and create jobs. It’s wacky because it’s fiction. Highly profitable corporations

aren’t expanding and creating jobs; they’re buying back their own stock.

A study by University of Massachusetts professor William Lazonick, president of the AcademicIndustry

Research Network, showed that between 2003 and 2012, S&P 500 corporations used 54

percent of their earnings – $2.4 trillion – to buy their own stock.

This isn’t creating jobs. This isn’t investing in a corporation’s future. This is adding to CEO

wealth. It works like this: Stock buybacks push up stock prices. Forty-two percent of

compensation for S&P 500 CEOs comes from stock options. Thus, as Lazonick points out, stock

increases equal CEO pay raises.

Corporations don’t expand just because untaxed profits are sitting around anyway. They expand

to meet demand. And corporate practices have deflated demand.

Part of the problem is that CEOs and top executives are taking an increasing portion while doling

out less to workers. As the New York Times reported in January, wages have fallen to a record

low as a share of gross domestic product, dropping to 43.5 percent last year. It was 50 percent in

1975. The decline means less demand.

But there’s more. Just last week, the New York Times noted two other trends that contribute to

weak demand. One is wage theft. The U.S. Department of Labor found that more than 300,000

workers in New York and California are victims of minimum wage violations each month,

costing them between $20 million and $29 million each week. If corporations didn’t cheat them

out of those earnings, their spending would generate greater demand. The other trend is insecure income. Millions of Americans are unsure week to week how much

money will be coming into their households. This occurs for many reasons, but among the most

prominent is the refusal of employers to provide workers with steady weekly hours and practices

like sending workers home when retail or restaurant traffic is light. A survey by the Federal

Reserve suggests the problem of unreliable income may have worsened as Wall Street has

strengthened. Families that can’t pay their bills reduce demand.

Instead of giving workers raises and steady hours, corporations have rewarded only those at the

top. The Fleecing Uncle Sam study found that companies that paid their CEOs more than they

paid in federal income taxes gave those CEOs fat raises. The average pay of these CEOs rose

from $16.7 million in 2010 to $32 million in 2013.

They’ve got trillions for CEOs and stock buy-backs, but nothing for workers or the federal


This isn’t an accident. It’s not some invisible hand of the market. It’s CEOs freeloading.

No ghosts are going to show up to convert these Scrooges into humans. Instead, the first step in

that process is recognizing that the moochers are the CEOs, not the hapless food stamp recipients

who desperately want steady, full-time, decently-paid work. The second step is to demand that

corporations pay their fair share of taxes and provide steady, full-time, decently-paid work.

Steve Anderson, the pastor of Arizona’s Faithful Word Baptist Church, has caused shock and revulsion for his recent claim that the AIDS crisis would end if gays were executed. However through it all, folks are missing a point that only us wonky individuals would bring up.

In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed Anderson’s church as an anti-gay hate group along with several other organizations. Of course much of the attention following this announcement had to do with the other groups SPLC listed, particularly the Family Research Council and the American Family Association.

In fact, it caused such a stir that FRC began a campaign entitled Start Debating, Stop Hating. Through this campaign, the group claimed that SPLC was trying to ‘silence’ Christian groups:

The surest sign one is losing a debate is to resort to character assassination. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal fundraising machine whose tactics have been condemned by observers across the political spectrum, is doing just that.

The group, which was once known for combating racial bigotry, is now attacking several groups that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views, including marriage as the union of a man and a woman. How does the SPLC attack? By labeling its opponents “hate groups.” No discussion. No consideration of the issues. No engagement. No debate!

FRC did not differentiate between itself and other organizations named as anti-gay hate groups. However the organization did run a full page ad in Politico. According to Talking Points Memo, several Republican leaders signed on to this ad:

The ad is undersigned by a number of leading Republican politicians, social conservative and mainstream alike: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Sen, Jim DeMint (R-SC), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and even Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

I should also point out that SPLC received considerable criticism from many circles for supposedly attacking “Christian groups.”

So what’s the point with me bringing all of this up? Certainly not to imply that FRC believes that gays should be executed.  However, it should be noted that FRC is tacitly silent about Anderson and his church right now, both of which the organization defended in 2010, as are the Republican leaders who supported FRC’s campaign back then.

And it should also be noted that Anderson’s recent homophobic spew only proves SPLC’s point about anti-gay hate groups who hide their vindictive nature behind “Judeo-Christian” beliefs. And also that SPLC was not trying to “silence Christians.”

I think certain parties owe SPLC a huge apology right now.

The Long Black Friday made sense a week ago in Ferguson, not just to young people but, surprisingly, to an older coalition of justice workers and Christians ministers who called for the cessation of shopping throughout the long Thanksgiving weekend.  This is scandalous to the corporations. “Black Friday” is this weekend that establishes the retail profits for the year, as in, the company “Goes into the black.”  But politically this is a savvy and long overdue move.  The proposal confronts a decades-long drift toward a trading in of shopping for freedom.

Now we see die-ins in Macy’s in New York after the Eric Garner grand jury decision. Disruptions of the hypnotized state of holiday browsing continue in Walmarts and Targets throughout the country. These decisions to concentrate on big retail happen instinctively.  They are crowd-sourced.  People know that the privatizing of our commons is a key to what has gone wrong in our country.  Congress is a corrupted commons.  Shopping over-runs our local park.

Our nation was founded with surging anger that filled the streets and squares, the places that are owned by all of us.  The project of neo-liberalism in recent decades pulls funds from the government agencies that maintenance such places and then turns these stages for celebration and sorrow, volunteered entertainment, mixing of strangers in the urban tradition – over to the control of local businesses, socialite ladies, wealthy “conservancies.” 

Gradually the old sites for gatherings of freedom-fighters, like Union Square in New York, have been smothered with police and big retail.  Union Square, the most important 1stAmendment site for a series of social movements that have shaped American life – from the first Labor Day parade to the huge peace marches after 9/11 – is shut-down as a public space.  It is run now by a group of 50 rich and super-rich in a glorified “Business Improvement District” or BID, with a private police force that I have seen boss around the real police.

The commons was destroyed and we were steered into the money-making environments of malls and chain stores.  In many cities, corporate retail is the only place where people can meet.  It is the “center of town.”  Once there, we are bombarded with the concentrated fire-power of corporate marketing.  Instead of trees and wrought iron and the sculpted stone of old buildings -  we suffer the seductions of super-models 50 feet tall sporting jewelry and underwear. 

The police and courts went along with this shift to private property.  Shopping rose to a religio-economic status above all else.  Our prosperity and freedom depended on it, according to a series of presidents from Ronald Reagon to Bill Clinton and finally to George Bush’s famous statement after 9/11:  “If you love your country you go out shopping.” 

Expressive politics has become impossible.   Either we are burdened with endless permits for gathering and amplified sound or we proceed in the fear that to exercise our basic freedoms puts us at risk of arrest.  In most cities it has become routine that large numbers of police rush to any gathering of citizens of any kind.  Respect for the police has fallen off in parallel to the disgust we have for politicians, as both professions seem to work for the rich and the corporations.  The United States Constitution does not seem to be their script.  The public’s freedom is no longer the goal.  The public is something to manage, to push into de-politicized consumption. 

The vacuum in public space has left police without any countervailing force.  The rough democracy of speeches and music, the speaker’s corners, were always important for civic pride.  There needs to be a balance of power with the police, or they will rule the streets absolutely.  Unaware of the rights or feelings of their constituents, police and courts now have the power to decree a citizen’s death, because of what can only be described as their cultural isolation from the lives of the people that they swear to protect.

It makes sense to take the corporations up on their pretend public space.  Force them to take the public role they are incapable of.  Then re-open again our own commons, which waits with its 1st Amendment protections.  Public space must be public again.  The police who walk that beat must work for all the people.

Tamir Rice was shot and killed by the Cleveland police for the "crime" of playing with a toy gun, and being black and male. Tamir was 12 years old. He is a child. Nonetheless, Tamir joins a long list of African-Americans, both younger than he, as well as much older, who have been killed every 28 hours by the police in the United States.

Gambling is ostensibly a habit of adults.

Tamir, like so many other black and brown children who are killed, arrested, and harassed by the police in the United States, lost to the odds in a life and death game where black men areat least 21 times more likely to be killed by the police than their white peers.

Young Mr. Rice joins a long list of black males who were killed for the crime of being black and alive and "suspicious": thus, they are made the "natural" targets of the police. Tamir was 12-years-old; he is now an adult from the moment he was "swatted" by a 911 caller, when the police decided to kill him without warning, refused to give him first aid assistance, and his dead body was added to the panoply of white on black victims of murderous violence by police.

Tamir was a child made into an adult when white racial paranoia and incompetence saw a 12-year-old with a toy gun as a grown man. Of course, 12-year-old white boys with toy--as well as real--guns are viewed as default angels, wrapped in and projecting white innocence. The chimera of whiteness as innocence persists even as these same white boys may be plotting to murder their schoolmates, neighbors, and parents by the dozens.

Once again, the White Gaze and white privilege are powerful intoxicants that numb the reasoning and thinking processes of too many of our white brothers and sisters.

Tamir is also a child made into an adult for the purposes of legitimating and rationalizing how 2 white police officers shot and killed him shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday.

He is part of a long chain of white on black murder by cops, lynching parties, pogroms, and state sponsored execution in the United States.

The social logic of infantalization, adultification, and niggerization ties this long and ugly history together.

Niggerization debases black humanity as something other and less than as viewed through the White Gaze: it is a state of existential terror, vulnerability, and being subject to random (white) violence.

Infantalization is the cultural logic that makes adults into children for the purposes of writing them out of the liberal democratic polity as full citizens. Infantalization is the Republican Party's rhetoric that black folks--as opposed to being sophisticated and rational political actors--are dumb, stupid, and stuck on a Democratic "plantation". Infantalization also drives the new Jim and Jane Crow in the form of voter demobilization, restrictive voting laws, and the Supreme Court's neutering of the Voting and Civil Rights Acts.

Adultification steals away the innocence and vulnerability of black and brown children. Race and childhood are social constructs. Historically, white racial logic has not allowed black and brown children the luxury of innocence or vulnerability. This has deemed that black parents give their children "the talk" about how not to be executed by the police.

In another era, the stealing of black childhood innocence took the form of learning the formal and informal codes of Jim and Jane Crow and the slave labor camp. The training and socialization of the schoolroom is a process through which black children are made into adults.

There, white children are "precocious" and "full of energy". Black children engaging in the same behavior are miscreants, trouble makers, and thugs in training who should be expelled, put in special education and remedial classes, or in jail.

How we who are black and American and have survived the triad assault from the forces of infantalization, niggerization, and adultification with our sanity intact is a testimony to the enduring power of The Black Freedom Struggle, as well as how we black folks are a hardheaded and determined group of people.

White supremacy and white privilege nurture moral rot and hypocrisy: one of history's great ironies is how White America has manifested all those failings along the color line while black and brown folks have maintained an even keel as they were assaulted by white madness.

As comedian Chris Rock recently explained in a much discussed interview:

“Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before...

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t.

The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people."”

The gun, and which groups possess the power to assert their will on others through gun violence, is central to the color line in America. The gun is at the heart of the Herrenvolk white democracy that Chris Rock so brilliantly exposes as ethically wanton and possessing debased values.

For example, if a white child was shot and murdered under the same circumstances as Tamir Rice the white racial frame would default to how this is a tragedy, one that is unfathomable and cannot be explained by appeals to normal logic. The police officers involved would shamed, defrocked, arrested, and run out of town.

America's historical and cultural script instead views the same scenario--where the key difference is the color of the person killed--as a puzzle with a simple solution. Tamir, or Michael, or Trayvon, or John Crawford, or Darrien Hunt, must have done something to incite and provoke their own murders by either white cops or white allied street vigilantes.

Here, blackness is a decision rule for how too many of our fellow white brothers and sisters reason backward to explain how the police (and others) are somehow right and just in shooting dead the Black Body. My use of the term "Black Body" here is intentional: white on black police violence is an attack on black people as individuals, but also on the black community, as well as against the power and symbolism of "blackness" in the white collective imagination.

Spectacular lynchings of African-Americans fulfilled this function in late 19th and early 20th century America. Stand Your Ground laws and murder by cop fulfill a similar role in the post civil rights era and the Age of Obama with its "post racial" fictions.

The gun is an object of worship for the White Right. They feed their own white babies and children to the gun god Moloch because the fetish object that is the gun has such a powerful pull over their emotions and thinking.

Individuals' political belief systems are complex and contradictory. Authoritarianism, conservatism, Right-wing partisanship, gun ownership, support for Stand Your Ground and concealed carry laws, and anti-black affect are highly correlated.

In the case of the Gun Right, does a love of guns--and the symbolism of the gun be it from a real or toy weapon--override anti-black racism and sentiment?

The Gun Right is the central phalanx of American movement conservatism. Conservatism and white supremacy are unitary in post civil rights era American politics. Consequently, macro level white supremacy and anti-black affect create the broad contours within with conservatives, and the White Right, more broadly, try to rationalize the killing of innocent and unarmed black people by white police and their allies in the United States.

To point. The "polite" white supremacist "news" and commentary site American Thinker has offered up a typical White Right-wing take on the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by the Cleveland police:

Where were Mom and Dad?

Are the parents' personal histories relevant? In cases like this, those in the mainstream media like to blame society, poverty, racism, Republicans, and, of course, the police. So fair is fair. If cops' addresses can be published in the New York Times and their lives put under a microscope, then the egg and sperm donors of the young Tamirs who end up getting killed are fair game. After all, Tamir wasn't carrying a book home from the library; he was carrying and aiming an Airsoft pistol with the orange tip removed.

Somebody thought it looked real enough to call 911, and the rest is just a tragedy all the way around.

Tamir's life from the beginning seemed to be pretty tragic...

Who watched over Tamir while all this was going on? Grandma, Uncle Sam, or both? If the cop used poor judgment, what about the parents? Maybe if the corrupt, money grubbing race-baiters spreading lies about white privilege and racist cops would shut up, the so-called mothers and fathers in the black community abandoning their kids to the streets would actually care about them before they end up dead.

Blaming Tamir Rice for his death, and then using such a tragedy to smear and defile the black community and black peoples' families, has been echoed by Right-wing trolls and bigots across the Internet.

Symbolic racism, and conservatism as white supremacy, dictate what is a tired and repetitive script.

Drilling down, how does the Gun Right, as seen on one of its websites, "Bearing Arms",discuss Tamir Rice within and relative to that framework?

The comments on Bearing Arms are a mix of disgust at the behavior of the police officers who killed Tamir Rice, musings about an American public that has "unreasonable" fears of guns, and racist talking points such as the following:

I watched the same video. This Kid was walking back and forth pulling the gun out and pointing it at people. The police received calls about "A Man with a Gun". The video supports that call. The problem BOB. Is NOT with police or the placement of their patrol car. NO BOB! The problem was the total lack of PARENTING and instruction from MOM and DAD! This child should have been told: 1.) NEVER point this gun at ANYONE! 2.) Respect others especially Police and Teachers. 3.) Don't try and scare or intimidate people with this Gun. If any of those three simple rules were taught, Tamir would still be alive today. So, go ahead, blame the cops. When we both know it is the PARENTS fault!

Authoritarianism also colors how the killing of Tamir Rice is understood:

Well, unfortunately is not the first case and it will not be the last, and I think the bigger question here is not how many other kids have to die, but how many parents will actually pay attention and educate their kids about toy guns or guns in general, and more importantly how many parents will teach their kids to have respect and follow the instructions given by a member of law enforcement. - Sometimes society understands too late, that the underlying reason is not a trigger happy cop whose life is on the line on a daily basis, but the lack of accountability as parents to forge their kids in the right path of becoming law abiding citizens.

America's addiction to killing black people is the nexus of violence and race.

Race and racial ideologies are central to American history, life, culture, politics, and present. They are not sideshows or outliers in the American story.

Of the several hundred comments about the killing of Tamir Rice at the site Bearing Arms, the fact that a black person would be treated differently than a white person by the police is mentioned by only one commenter.

One comment on a Right-wing gun website does not constitute a representative sample of white racial attitudes in the post civil rights era. In addition, gun obsessives are possessed by their fetish object. Thus, the gun (and their fear that someone will strip them of their magical object) creates a tunnel vision through which they view the world.

Conservatives are also prone to simple and binary thinking. Systematic thinking is very challenging and difficult for those on the Right. These factors make nuanced thinking that considers both individual level behavior and attributes within a larger systems of power a high barrier that contemporary American conservatives find hard to hurtle.

The inability/determined unwillingness of many white Americans to "see" racism and racial inequality is a recurring theme in the post civil rights era.

The colorblind racist comments on Bearing Arms are instructive because of what they reveal about how "race neutral" thinking blinds people to social realities. White people with guns are not going to be killed by the police or other authorities with the same haste and extreme prejudice as a black or brown person with a gun. A white person with a gun is a "patriot" or "open carry" enthusiast and "gun rights" activist. A black or a brown person with a gun is a "criminal", "thug", or "terrorist".

At sites such as Bearing Arms, and in post civil rights America, more broadly, racism and white supremacy are reinscribed and reinforced by racial erasure and the act of not discussing and acknowledging how white privilege and white supremacy impact life chances in a negative way for people of color--and also constitute a set of unearned advantages for whites.

In all, white racial "colorblindness"--be it from Right-wing symbolic racists or "Liberal" aversive racists--is far more dangerous than caricatures of the KKK or skinheads because it sustains institutional white racism and systemic inequality.

The essential David Theo Goldberg offers the following analysis of the problematic that is colorblind racism in the post civil rights era. It is incisive:

In the absence of race as a tool for identification, racisms - the perpetuated contemporary legacies of racially driven structures and their effects - float free of racial significance. They become literally meaningless even as especially vicious racist acts and expression proliferate all around us, as we have been witnessing. Race disappears, and racisms are "freed at last" of any constraint. Their perpetrators easily deny any racial intentionality, and charge their accusers with racial malice thus reversing the effective perpetration of "proper" racist expression to victims, their supporters and critics of more or less conventional racisms. The legacy of racism is deemed irrelevant to the present, with responsibility both for any occasional anomalous outbreak of racism - disconnected from any other - and persistent social disadvantage delimited to individual effort and its lack. Postraciality is the end of race, and in its wake the endless extension of unmarked and increasingly unremarked racisms.

Post Ferguson slogans such as "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" and "Black Lives Matter" are compelling.

But what of the larger existential questions in response to the killings of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Darrien Hunt, and so many others, such as "how come black people are killed by the police for doing the same things as white people?" "Would Tamir Rice or Michael Brown be alive if they were white?" "Are black and brown Americans entitled to the same rights, liberties, and freedoms as white Americans?"

Those are challenging questions that few are willing to ask because the simple answer, that this is first and foremost a society founded for the benefit and privilege of "whites" over others on the opposite side of the color line, may be too much to accept, and impossible to reconcile within a multicultural American neoliberal corporate "democracy", one that still circulates lies about equality of opportunity and meritocracy.

Slutty. Disrespectful. Social media traffic skyrocketed around remarks made by Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), for bashing the Obama girls’ appearance at the inane Turkey Pardon “ceremony.”

Many of my friends, a decidedly (usually) enlightened, progressive crowd, joined the social media stampede demanding Ms. Lauten’s head on the chopping block. 

Me, I was a tad less outraged, but dismayed nonetheless, not by the vitriol but by the energy and attention this almost-non-issue generated. 

Yeah, if you know me, you’ll know where I’m going with this. 

Last week we saw a slight bump in media coverage for what should be a major issue. The National Center for Family Homelessness released their America’s Youngest Outcasts report. Their conservative estimate is that our wealthy nation has something like 2.5 million kids experiencing homelessness. That’s 1 in 30, up from 1 in 45 just 3 years ago.

And I posted a clever and insightful Speakeasy blog taking issue with my respected colleagues at NCFH for what I believe is an underestimated number. I think we’ve got AT LEAST 3 million homeless kids in our value-distorted country. I’ve even put that claim on my license plate holder, hoping to either incite a public outrage or at least pique the interest of a curious member of the media.

Kids—the Obama girls issuing the typical-teen-looks as their dad, our president, follows the dumb-cluck turkey pardon tradition. In the meantime we’re ignoring millions of kids who will never see the outside, much less the inside, of the White House unless they’re sleeping in Lafayette Park across the street, a viable option for thousands of kids homeless in the DC area.

I confess to being annoyed at both the purveyors of the off-the-wall critique of the Sasha and Malia demeanor/wardrobe hoopla, and at participants of the incensed return volley.

My fantasy… Sasha and Malia holding their dad’s feet to the fire for not making homeless kids one of his top domestic issues. And the First Teens unleashing the outraged teen treatment at John Boehner and Mitch McConnell over this unaddressed and surging crisis. They could host a slumber party with these leaders of our country, showing My Own Four Walls, my HEAR US documentary featuring kids talking about what it's like to be homeless and what school means to them.

The stuffing in the turkey would be Elizabeth Lauten and her boss leading the charge to significantly diminish the number of our kids, with families and without, who have nowhere to call home. Now that would be a sincere display of atonement.


With all the hoopla over the recent report of the staggering increase of homeless children and youth, I’m taking it a step further. I want people to wrap their mind around the fact that over 3 million kiddos in our country have nowhere to go, so I got a custom license plate holder that says it.


The National Center on Family Homelessness just released their jaw-dropping America’s Youngest Outcasts: A Report on Family Homelessness.

Take that one word at a time.




What? This country discards children? They must deserve it, you might be thinking.

Uh, no. They’re kids. They deserve at least a basic place to live, and the other essentials, not to be discarded like trash in the gutter.  They’re kids, mostly with a parent or 2, who fit the definition of homelessness that makes sense to any person who uses their cognitive capacity.

It boils down to: They’ve lost housing due to hardship, and they have nowhere to go.

Hardship in these hard times is not hard to imagine, except if you’re our U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the beleaguered, mostly-dysfunctional housing provider for those opposite the 1%. HUD can't seem to count high enough to document homeless kids.

How many kids you ask?

Well, NCFH estimates at least 2.5 million kids have fallen into the abyss of homelessness this year. I take issue with that number—too low.

What are the causes?

From their report: 

Major causes of homelessness for children in the U.S. include: (1) the nation’s high poverty rate; (2) lack of affordable housing across the nation; (3) continuing impacts of the Great Recession; (4) racial disparities; (5) the challenges of single parenting; and (6) the ways in which traumatic experiences, especially domestic violence, precede and prolong homelessness for families.

None of that should come as a surprise for any thinking person. 

What’s the big deal?

Well, this number has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, but HUD didn't get the memo. They have a convoluted definition of homelessness that excludes millions of kids, with families and without, who have lost housing due to hardship and have nowhere to go.

The government miscounts lots of things, why is this different?

These are kids, damn it! We should at least be able to draw the line on our nasty attitude towards our neighbor when it comes to kids. Babies. Toddlers. Younger kids. Teens. Young adults. And being homeless as kids makes it more likely they’ll be homeless as adults. We shouldn’t be “growing” homelessness.

So, what’s the deal with the numbers?

The U.S. Department of Education, with a more realistic definition of homelessness, has a fairly solid census of homeless students, although everyone familiar with the homeless student count agrees that it’s probably way low. For the 2012-13 school year, the most recent data available, they reported 1,258,152 students identified as homeless. That number has increased an astounding 75% since the recession began.

The Outcasts report points out that HUD ignores 75% of homeless children, particularly those doubled up with others due to having nowhere to go. My organization, HEAR US Inc., recently produced a documentary on doubled up, Worn Out Welcome Mat, to give doubled up families and youth a chance to describe the hardships involved in bouncing place to place when you’ve got nowhere to live.

OK, OK, so we’ve got a bunch of homeless kids with nowhere to go. Now what?

A few things can be done, even if you’re lacking money to donate. For the sake of space in this post, I’ll refer you to my recent blog that lists some options.

Can I get one of those license plates?

I'd love for them to be attached to thousands of vehicles all across the U.S. Email me and I'll let you know how to get them. 

And I double-dog-dare someone to dispute the 3 mil. 

President Reagan gets a lot of deserved flack for his negligence in the early days of the AIDS crisis. Today, we learned that there needs to be some flack dispensed around because Reagan isn't the only person in his Administration who needs to be called to the carpet.

According to Right Wing Watch:
Anyone who is familiar with Gary Bauer's anti-gay extremism will not be surprised to learn that his bigotry goes way back. Just in time for World AIDS Day, we now know that when Bauer was working in the Reagan White House, he fought hard to keep gay people off the nation’s first AIDS commission.

Right Wing Watch published part of a memo he sent to Reagan regarding this:

 3. Millions of Americans try to raise their children to believe that homosexuality is immoral. In many states homosexual practices are illegal, including sodomy. For you to appoint a known homosexual to a Presidential Commission will give homosexuality a stamp of acceptability. It will drive a wedge between us and many of our socially conservative supporters. 

4. While it is true that homosexuals have been major victims of AIDS, they are also responsible for its spread. Recent students show the average gay man with AIDS has had over 150 different sexual partners in the previous 12 months. 

Bauer proposed instead appointing a relative of someone with AIDS, or a caregiver, or as a last resort, a “reformed” homosexual: “that is, someone not currently living a gay life style. We have identified several individuals that meet that criteria.”

 In the end, Reagan ignored Bauer’s pleadings and appointed Frank Lilly, an openly gay geneticist, to the Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic.

Right Wing Watch also goes on to say that Bauer undermined the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Reagan Administration by keeping then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop from gaining access to the Reagan and the cabinet after the president asked Koop to prepare a report on AIDS.

Bauer’s role as an anti-gay zealot in the Reagan White House was also revealed in "Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite" by D. Michael Lindsay.

As Kyle reported back in 2010, the book says Bauer interfered with the efforts of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop when he was tasked with drafting a report on AIDS for President Reagan:

 [In 1986] President Reagan asked the surgeon general to prepare a report on AIDS as the United States confirmed its ten-thousandth case. Leaders of the evangelical movement did not want Koop to write the report, nor did senior White House staffers who shared Koop's evangelical convictions. As Dr. Koop related to me, "Gary Bauer [Reagan's chief advisor on domestic policy] ... was my nemesis in Washington because he kept me from the president. He kept me from the cabinet and he set up a wall of enmity between me and most of the people that surrounded Reagan because he believed that anybody who had AIDS ought to die with it. That was God's punishment for them." 

It is also worth knowing that after leaving the Reagan Administration, Bauer became the first president of an anti-gay group we all know well - the Family Research Council. Under Bauer's leadership, the organization created an ugly catalogue of homophobic lies and cherry-picked science which eventually led it to be designated in 2010 as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Bauer is presently involved in the  Campaign for Working Families and Our American Values; two organization which supposedly works for "family values and faith."  Bauer is also looked upon as one of the leading voices of the conservative evangelical movement.

In my eyes, Bauer has taken his place amongst such notables as 'Bloody Mary' Tudor, Tomas de Torquemada, and others whose manic religious zeal and self-righteous mindset caused untold chaos to a host of innocents.

To some folks, maybe I am being a bit hyperbolic. Perhaps, but then again perhaps not.  I remember when HIV/AIDS came on the scene and began knocking down members of the lgbt community like a goddamn hurricane. I remember the ugly things people said about those affected by HIV/AIDS, such as when columnist Pat Buchanan said that nature was reaping retribution on the gay community.

And I remember, even though I was too young to take part in, the demand that Reagan address this issue. No one knows what would have happened had Reagan addressed the HIV/AIDS crisis sooner than he did. But it is rather nauseating and disturbing that there was someone in his cabinet who worked to undermine the fight against HIV/AIDS because he felt that those affected "deserved" what they got.

So what can be done with this knowledge of Bauer's "activities?" Just a simple word of mouth. Don't let it be forgotten. Tell the story. Repeat the story. Shine a spotlight on the story every chance you get. 

History will not be kind to Gary Bauer, so long as we have something to do with it.

If you have not yet read Darren Wilson's testimony to the Ferguson grand jury which decided that he would suffer no ill consequences for his decision to kill Michael Brown, please do so.

Wilson's description of the events on the day that he decided to shoot and kill an unarmed person cannot be adequately relayed to you by a second party.

The absurd, unfathomable, and fantastical story which Wilson spun out of the whole cloth in order to justify killing an unarmed black teenager combines the deepest and ugliest white supremacist stereotypes and fantasies about black folks' humanity such as the "negro fiend", "black beast", and "giant negro", with white racist paranoiac thinking, and dialogue from blaxploitation movies.

Darren Wilson's grand jury testimony purports to be an accurate description of his encounter with Michael Brown. In reality, it is closer to an amateurish summer stock theater production of the movie Birth of the Nation as performed by the KKK and/or Neo-Nazis.

After submitting a blank police report that provided no substantive information, Darren Wilson was trained by attorneys from the police union (a common procedure when police kill civilians), and had many weeks to prepare his grand jury testimony.

During that time, Wilson was privy to the narrative and witness testimony that he would be confronted by in court.

Wilson was also aided by a prosecutor who was not at all interested in finding sufficient probable cause to proceed with a proper trial for the latter's decision to kill Michael Brown.

Ultimately, Darren Wilson was either 1) coached to recite a profoundly racist and bizarre version of his encounter with Michael Brown; 2) is deeply mired in the White Gaze and White Racial Frame to such a degree that he actually believes the white supremacist fictions he told the grand jury; or 3) some combination of the above.

The American legal system is not separate and apart from the social norms, cultures, values, and beliefs which produced it. Rather, the legal system (as well as schools, prisons, hospitals, etc.) is a crystallization of American society and its hierarchies of power.

Social scientists and others have produced volumes of research which have repeatedly demonstrated how the American legal system reinforces, perpetuates, and reflects disparate racial outcomes and white supremacy. For example, their findings include how black Americans face racial bias and unfair treatment at every level of the criminal justice system from initial police encounters to sentencing and parole decisions. Juries are influenced by implicit racial bias. Juries are also less likely to find black witnesses "credible" or "believable". And perhaps most troubling, white jurors can be subconsciously primed by images of apes and gorillas--this deeply racist association between animals and African-Americans in turn makes white jurors more likely to give black defendants the death penalty.

The empirical evidence for white racial bias in the criminal justice system is the context which produced the Ferguson grand jury's decision in favor of Darren Wilson. White supremacy makes Wilson's testimony an "intelligible" and "legitimate" type of truth claim as understood by the jurors, and the broader white society that supports Wilson's killing of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

White supremacy and white racial paranoiac thinking makes Wilson's following statements about Michael Brown believable and valid--as opposed to utterances and transparent lies that most certainly do not surpass the legal standard of "reasonable doubt".

Wilson told the grand jury the following:

1. Brown possessed super human negro strength as he effortlessly crushed the weak white man's flesh with one hand. "And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan...Hulk Hogan, that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm."

2. Brown is so strong and possessed of giant negro powers that he could attack Wilson with one hand while using the other to give his compatriot Dorian Johnson the box of cigars.

3. Even though he was shot several times by Darren Wilson, Brown let out a bestial grown like a feral monster, seemingly impervious to the threat of bullets and harm, he then charged at the police officer:

"So when he stopped, I stopped. And then he starts to turn around, I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground. He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me."

"At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him.

And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way."

4. Brown apparently speaks like a blaxploitation movie character: "He grabs my gun, says, 'You are too much of a pussy to shoot me.'"

5. Brown, like other negroes, was irrational and crazed. Wilson was in a state of terror: "The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up."

6. Brown also has melanin powered super speed. Because blacks are apparently natural athletes with overdeveloped leg muscles, Brown ran away from Wilson so fast that he left a trail of dust at his feet in a manner akin to that of a Looney Tunes cartoon character: "When I look up after that, I see him start to run and I see a cloud of dust behind him."

7. Because Brown is a giant negro he towered over Wilson: "He then grabs my door again and shuts my door. At that time is when I saw him coming into my vehicle. His head was higher than the top of my car. And I see him ducking and as he is ducking, his hands are up and he is coming in my vehicle."

Darren Wilson's testimony to the grand jury mates a cultural script that views black people as inherently criminal with recent empirical research that demonstrates how white folks actually do believe that black people are "super human" and a mysterious type of Other.

Wilson's tale is also a reminder of how the near past of Jim and Jane Crow lives in the "post racial" present of the Age of Obama.

A black man is President of the United States of America.

But, a white cop can use language and white racial logic of 19th and early 20th century lynch law--with its fixation on "negro fiends", "imps of the inferno", and "noble" defenders of white society--to avoid going to trial for taking the life of an unarmed black teenager, while also being elevated to hero status (and financially enriched) by those sick and morally deranged white folks who want to live vicariously through the act of killing a black person.

Dred Scott is buried several miles away from where Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. Scott, in one of the most infamous United States Supreme Court decisions, was deemed to not have any rights that a white man is bound to respect. Almost 150 years later, Darren Wilson used the same white supremacist logic, and in doing so offered a version of events that would have been a perfect fit for a 19th century newspaper article about the lynching, disembowelment, and vivisection of a black victim of spectacular white violence.

"History is a moving train". Ferguson is a reminder of how those historical continuities of white supremacy as enacted through the American legal system (and other cultural and social institutions) are still killing and murdering black and brown folks with impunity in the present.

At the first Thanksgiving 383 years ago, Native Americans and Pilgrim immigrants gathered with mutual respect to share a bountiful harvest they’d produced together.

This Thanksgiving, though, there’s no respect or sharing in the homes of GOP nativists.

Suffering amnesia about their personal histories, nativist Republicans want to expel the 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants, the people who harvest America’s Thanksgiving vegetables and care for America’s toddlers and grannies. The GOP has threatened to sue, shut down the government and impeach President Obama to punish him for issuing an executive order giving fewer than half of the nation’s undocumented workers a limited ability to remain in the United States.

Americans would prefer if Congress fixed this problem. But Congress hasn’t. In the year and a half since the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, House leaders have refused to permit a vote on it. So now, President Obama, like all 10 presidents since 1956, Republican and Democrat,  has issued an executive order on immigration. The order says America will treat 5 million striving unauthorized immigrants with respect. 

Photo by Fibonacci Blue on Flickr.

Exactly one week before Thanksgiving, President Obama described his order to the American people. It broadens the “dreamer” program that provides temporary reprieves from deportation to unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children. It establishes temporary work authorization for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years and are parents of American citizens or servicemen. It directs the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to focus on deporting criminals and suspected terrorists and orders Homeland Security to help secure the border.

It disqualifies new undocumented immigrants. Anyone who has entered the United States recently or who enters now without authorization is excluded. The order is limited as well. It lasts only as long as Obama is president. The next executive could continue it. Or kill it.

If such a program had been in place 14 years ago, actress Diane Guerrero, who plays Maritza Ramos on the show Orange is the New Black, would have been spared separation from her parents and brother. Guerrero described her family’s deportation in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. She was just 14 when she arrived home from school to find lights on, dinner started but her family missing.

Born in the United States, Guerrero was a citizen. Her parents and brother were not. Neighbors broke the news to her that the INS had seized her family and would deport them to civil war-torn Colombia. In the op-ed, Guerrero pleaded for relief for families like hers. President Obama provided it. Thank goodness.

Immigrants like Guerrero’s family don’t enter the United States to take. Like everyone who has has arrived on America’s shores since that first Thanksgiving, these new émigrés work to give their children a better life. Some young undocumented workers today labor to give their parents in Mexico remittances that enable them to survive after NAFTA destroyed their ability to eke out a living from subsistence farms. Americans respect those family values.

Unauthorized immigrants are lured into the United States by the promise of jobs, whether it’s making hotel beds, washing cars or picking produce. Employers want their labor. Farmers who rely on the backbreaking work of unauthorized immigrants found themselves with produce rotting in the fields after some states passed anti-immigration laws in recent years.

As Americans bow their heads before passing the turkey platter this week, they should know that President Obama’s executive order is a blessing to native born citizens as well as immigrants. A study by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that immigration reform is good for the economy, while inaction is destructive.

The task force that produced the study, co-chaired by former governors from both parties, said immigration reform would be a powerful instrument of economic revitalization: “The results make clear that reform has the potential to significantly increase the number of young, working-age people in the economy. This influx of labor would spur economic growth, reduce federal deficits, help the housing sector and mitigate the effects of an aging population. By contrast, preventing unauthorized immigration without providing replacement labor would cause severe damage to the economy.”

In addition, reform means immigrants no longer need fear deportation for reporting violations such as wage theft, perilous working conditions and workplace violence. This protects native-born workers because employers who become accustomed to impunity for illegal exploitation of immigrants quickly attempt to abuse all workers.

While unauthorized immigrants have long prayed for reform, 57 percent of native born Americans now believe those entreaties should be answered. The number is higher – 74 percent– if reform includes a path to citizenship, fines, back taxes and background checks.

But a president’s power is limited, and Obama stopped short extending citizenship. That’s the responsibility of Congress. President Obama asked lawmakers to act: “Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.”

At a press conference held last week by groups supporting President Obama’s executive action, Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Vote Latino, told the story of one of those strangers.

During the holidays four years ago, she recounted, a young man who had just finished boot camp and was on his way to deployment in Iraq called her for help. He’d just learned that his father had been detained by the INS. On Christmas Eve, the soldier lost his father to deportation, and his family lost a breadwinner.

That is not how Native Americans treated the strangers who arrived on the shores of Plymouth. Those Native Americans broke bread with the immigrants