Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pastor Rick Warren -- Ignorance in 140 characters (or less)

St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans  -  DBE, 2009

by Michael Stafford
July 28, 2011

On June 25 a well-known political figure, Pastor Rick Warren, tweeted and subsequently deleted, the following words: "HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero. So they're happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay taxes."

With this tweet, Pastor Warren displays a stunning misconception about taxation in America and echoes themes prevalent in the political right that differ sharply from those espoused in the Bible.

Factually, Warren's tweet is manifestly wrong about taxation in America. While it is true that almost half of America does not pay federal income taxes, these individuals contribute to the government's coffers in other ways. For example, those that are employed — the vast majority — contribute payroll deductions and withholdings. Many pay state and local wage or income taxes, property and sales taxes. So it is dishonest to say that half the country pays "zero" taxes.

More broadly though, Warren ignores a salient question that ought to be of major concern to the Church in America today. Namely, what does it say about our society when nearly half of all American's do not earn enough to pay federal income tax? Shouldn't this spark a discussion about social justice and income inequality in America? About why so many of us are just getting by, living paycheck to paycheck? About why so many American's don't earn enough to feed, clothe, and house their families? And about the proper role of government, if any, in addressing these concerns?

Sadly, the factually challenged ideology that Pastor Warren echoes is also one that begrudges government spending that benefits the poor, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations in our society. Lurking behind this worldview is a tendency to see the poor as somehow responsible for their misfortunes, as shirkers, as lazy, as leeches. They are an impediment to producers and winners like Warren. And clearly, the government should not be asking the wealthy to shoulder any more of the burden today!

Of course, the worldview exemplified by Pastor Warren's tweet bears little resemblance to the preaching of Jesus Christ as reflected in the New Testament. It is instead the product of a skewed theology emphasizing personal righteousness at the expense of the common good and concerns about justice. This is problematic, because justice is the beating heart of Christianity. Without it, the focus on personal righteousness quickly becomes conceit — a conceit that we are somehow special, or set apart in God's eyes. A conceit that we are better then our less fortunate brothers and sisters. A conceit that our own economic success is attributable to God's favor. The result of all this, from a public policy standpoint, is an emphasis on selfishness and a lack of concern for government's role in advancing the common good.

Sadly, we have erected two false idols. One idol is named "The Market;" the other idol is named "The Self." Warren appears to be enthralled with both.

As the late Pope John Paul II taught, "[t]here are needs and common goods that cannot be satisfied by the market system. It is the task of the state and of all society to defend them. An idolatry of the market alone cannot do all that should be done." Providing a social safety net, and programs that benefit the poor and most vulnerable members of our society is one way in which the state "defends" and advances the common good.

As the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishop's noted in its pastoral letter Economic Justice for All in 1986: "The needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of workers over the maximization of profits; the preservation of the environment over uncontrolled industrial expansion." Christians should not begrudge programs or policies that attempt to effectuate this mandate; they ought to embrace them.

Pastor Warren is wrong to see the poor as pitted against the wealthy, or to frame a discussion of taxes in such a misleading manner. Instead, this is an opportunity for Christians to remind everyone that poverty does damage to the entire community, to all of us. We are all diminished when injustice prevails or when the poor are stigmatized, abandoned, or ignored.

In the end, government has critical moral and ethical functions — these are public matters, and not merely the province of markets or private action. And with so many American families hurting, the last thing any wealthy Christians should do is bemoan that they may have to bear some share of the burden.


____________________________________________
Michael Stafford is a former Republican Party official and author of "An Upward Calling." Email: anupwardcalling@yahoo.com.

"Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. 

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion;

When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing;

When you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors;

When you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you;

When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed." 

~Francisco D'Anconia*

*In the book, Atlas Shrugged, the Strikers are people of the mind who go on strike because they do not appreciate being exploited by the Looters and demonized by a society who depends on them for its very existence. The leader of the Strikers is John Galt. Other Strikers include: Hugh Akston, Francisco d'Anconia, Ragnar Danneskj√∂ld, Richard Halley, and the Brakeman. Characters who join the Strikers in the course of the book include: Dagny Taggart, Ellis Wyatt, Hank Rearden, Dick McNamara, and Owen Kellogg. (source:  DemocraticUnderground.com)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Congressman John Fleming strikes again! Chapter 2.

Fleming:  anti-Louisiana representative
Our delusional non-Representative John Phlegming voted FOR an additional $10.6 million CUT in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts from the FY 2012 Interior Appropriations bill. (View source here.)

Thankfully, the U.S. House of Representatives successfully voted DOWN the amendment proposed by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).

Why is this important, especially for the State of Louisiana?

"In June 2001, ArtsMarket Inc. released a study at the request of the Louisiana Division of Arts, The House that Art Built: Economic Impact of the Arts in Louisiana, that confirmed the tremendous economic benefits that flowed to the local and state economies as a result of a string of arts-related activities and spending. The study, a survey of both Louisiana residents and arts organizations about their arts-related activities, examined the overall economic impact of the entire non-profit arts industry in Louisiana. The source of funding for this most recent study was the federal National Endowment for the Arts’ Basic State Agreement/Challenge America Program.

As with the example of the other state case studies on economic impact, even though it is close to five years from it release date, it is fair to conclude that a more recent study would corroborate the trends more than apparent in the 2001 report: the state of Louisiana benefits immensely from a large and diverse group of arts presenting and producing organizations. 

Here, in bullet form, are the major results of this study:

Total Impact:
» Arts in Louisiana had a total economic impact of $934 million;

» Arts organizations and non-profit organizations sponsoring arts activities had a direct effect $202 million, with a total impact of $315 million;

» Arts participants who spend offsite in concert with arts event attendance had a direct effect of $410 million, with a total impact of $619 million;

» Spending offsite by arts participants in Louisiana averaged $48 per person in food and beverage spending, $143 for hotels and $78 for shopping.

Revenue:
» Louisiana’s non-profit arts activities generated $195 million in revenue;

» Individuals, corporations, foundations and endowments contributed $89 million (41 percent) of total revenue;

» Federal, state and local government investment in the arts of $55 million resulted in $150 million in government tax revenue. Of this:
  • $63 million was state and local taxes
  • $87 million was federal taxes

» Total government investment of $55 million resulted in $150 million in taxes, 2.7 times as much as invested;

» Every dollar in state support leveraged $7 in earned and contributed revenue;

» Ninety percent of all money spent on arts programming remained in Louisiana.

Jobs and Wages:
» Arts in Louisiana created 18,220 jobs in the non-profit arts sector;

» 14,447 jobs were sustained by spending offsite at arts events;

» Arts in Louisiana generated over $65 million in employment and wages, salaries and benefits for 12,000 Louisiana residents in the non-profit arts sector;

» More than $59 million was paid to artists.

Residents:
» Arts events in Louisiana garnered over 23 million attendees;

» Forty-six percent of Louisiana residents attended arts events;

» More than 31 percent attended visual and performing arts events;

» More than 17 percent of attendees traveled over 50 miles to attend arts events;

» Thirty percent of the residents surveyed indicated that they would attend events in other states if they were not available in Louisiana;

» 3.5 million students of all ages are reached by 12,235 art education opportunities;

» 85,000 individuals volunteered for the arts.

Outreach:
» More than 54,000 arts events are sponsored by Louisiana’s non-profit organizations;

» The Louisiana Division of the Arts supported more than 700 arts projects throughout the state in fiscal year 2000 but had to decline more than 500 due to lack of funds." ~Source: Americans for the Arts, 2002
_____________________________________________

Please, tell Dr. Phlegming how you feel about his LACK OF SUPPORT for his own constituents!

I just sent him the following email via Advocate for the Arts:


"As an artist living and working in our State of Louisiana, I realize how important arts, culture and the humanities are to our struggling economy. 

Obviously, you DON'T realize this because you voted to cut additional funding to the NEA.

Thank you for letting your constituents know, once again, how you feel about our well-being and the fiscal well-being of our state. Your vote against arts funding will be another easy-to-remember reason to vote AGAINST you!

Praying for your defeat, Debbie Buchanan Engle"

Friday, July 29, 2011

"The Asterisk Song"

Lyrics by Debbie Buchanan Engle
Music by Alan Dyson


July 29, 2011

Photo: Debbie Buchanan Engle (2011)



















"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son."

ASTERISKExcept for the gays, the Jews, the Muslims, and welfare mothers.


Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor, and thy enemy, too."

ASTERISK:  Except for the blacks, the prisoners, and those pesky panhandlers.


"Blessed are the meek and the humble."

ASTERISK:  Except for the homeless, the unbathed, and the drivers of economy cars.


"Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

ASTERISK:  Especially the preachers, the judges, and those nasty elected officials.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Growing Demand for Prostitution

"The men who buy sex are your neighbors and colleagues. A new study reveals how the burgeoning demand for porn and prostitutes is warping personal relationships and endangering women and girls."

"Eye Candy" by Debbie Buchanan Engle

"...buying sex is so pervasive that Farley’s team had a shockingly difficult time locating men who really don’t do it. The use of pornography, phone sex, lap dances, and other services has become so widespread that the researchers were forced to loosen their definition in order to assemble a 100-person control group.

“We had big, big trouble finding nonusers,” Farley says. “We finally had to settle on a definition of non-sex-buyers as men who have not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, have not used pornography more than one time in the last month, and have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute.”

Read the article here: The Growing Demand for Prostitution - Newsweek

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Greed is Not a Virtue

"Profit-centered market fundamentalism has become a national religion." ~David Korten



Money as Religion, photo by Goldemberg Fonseca de Almeida
Photo by Goldemberg Fonseca de Almeida.
We humans are living out an epic morality play. For millennia humanity’s most celebrated spiritual teachers have taught that society works best and we all enjoy our greatest joy and fulfillment when we share, cooperate, and are honest in our dealings with one another.

But for the past few decades, this truth has been aggressively challenged by a faith called market fundamentalism—an immoral and counter-factual economic ideology that has assumed the status of a modern state religion. Its believers worship the God of money. Stock exchanges and global banks are their temples.

They proclaim that everyone does best when we each seek to maximize our individual financial gain without regard to the consequences for others.

In the eyes of a market fundamentalist, to sacrifice profit for some presumed social or environmental good is immoral. The result is a public culture that proclaims greed is a virtue and sharing is a sin.
 
In the eyes of a market fundamentalist, to sacrifice profit for some presumed social or environmental good is immoral.

Having established control of the institutions of the economy, media, education, government, and even religion, market fundamentalists initiated a global social experiment to test their theory. The results are now in.

The prophets of the older faith traditions were right. Our common future depends on rediscovering their truth and redefining our public culture and governing institutions accordingly.

The following are some of the more visible elements of Wall Street’s global campaign of moral perversion.
  • It uses control of media outlets, advertising, and politicians to shape and spread a global culture of individualistic greed, material self-indulgence, ruthless competition, and moral irresponsibility.
  • Through the pursuit and celebration of financial gain at any cost, it provides role models for immoral behavior.
  • It undermines democracy and the legitimacy of government by buying politicians to do its bidding.
  • It uses student loan programs to get the best and brightest youth mired in debts they can repay only by selling themselves to jobs that serve Wall Street interests.
  • It buys up and monopolizes control of the world’s land and water resources in anticipation of extracting monopoly profits by charging what the market will bear as scarcity increases.
  • It uses its financial power and creative accounting skills to manipulate markets and obscure market signals, as when helping governments hide their debt or helping corporate CEOs hide their insider bets against the future of their own companies.
  • It buys the deeply discounted debt obligations of hapless underwater homeowners and countries on the open market and then demands full value payment from governments or philanthropists who step in to lend a helping hand to the afflicted.
  • It puts in place global rules requiring that if a government introduces regulations that prevent a foreign corporation from harming or killing people with its toxic products or discharges, the country’s government must compensate the corporation for the profits it estimates it will lose.
The seven life-serving virtues of humility, sharing, love, compassion, self-control, moderation, and passion are considered sins against the market.

By capitalism’s perverse moral logic, if a person sells toxic assets by knowingly misrepresenting them as sound, the fault lies not with the misrepresentation of the seller, but rather with the lack of due diligence on the part of the overly trusting borrower. When the assets prove worthless and threaten both the solvency of both the seller and the borrower, the logic says the party responsible for the misrepresentation has a moral obligation to demand redress from the government, “Buy my toxic assets at face value and make me whole so that I return to my trade in toxic assets, or I will be forced to stop lending and crash the economy.”

Rather than turning again to increased global competition to mend our failing economy, we must instead steer our focus toward cooperation and equality.

Step back to take in the big picture, and it turns out Wall Street market fundamentalists have proclaimed the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth to be virtues. In turn they have proclaimed the seven life-serving virtues of humility, sharing, love, compassion, self-control, moderation, and passion to be sins against the market.

There is a widespread sense that with Wall Street’s apparent recovery, the window of opportunity for serious structural change has passed. Such a judgment, however, is premature. Far from closing, the window of opportunity for serious change continues to widen as public awareness of Wall Street corruption grows and true and appropriate moral outrage builds.

Most psychologically healthy adults recognize in their heart of hearts the moral perversion of the old economy, but may fear to speak up because so many experts—including even some religious leaders—continuously assure us in so many words that greed is good, even that God wants us to be financially rich and financial wealth is a mark of God’s favor.

If all who share a mature moral consciousness find the courage to speak the simple truth that greed is driving us to collective self-destruction and cooperation is essential to our common salvation, we can put the perversion behind us and secure the future of our children.

~This is the fourteenth of a series of blogs based on excerpts adapted from the 2nd edition of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. I wrote Agenda to spur a national conversation on economic policy issues and options that are otherwise largely ignored. This blog series is intended to contribute to that conversation. —DK

David Korten author pic
David Korten (livingeconomiesforum.org) is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine and co-chair of the New Economy Working Group. This Agenda for a New Economy blog series is co-sponsored by CSRwire.com and YesMagazine.org based on excerpts from Agenda for a New Economy, 2nd edition.

How the Left and Right Can Unite

"If we’d stop tearing each other apart, we might see an opportunity to win back our democracy from the rich and powerful." ~ David Korten
posted Jun 21, 2011



Banksy in Boston, photo by Chris Devers

Photo by Chris Devers
A work by the street artist Banksy, in Boston's Chinatown.
From the beginning of history, Empire’s rulers have maintained their power by sowing fear, mutual suspicion, and division to prevent those who bear the burdens of their rule from uniting against them.

Currently, on the political right, anger is directed against government. On the political left, it is directed against Wall Street corporations.

Each blames the other for America’s decline and the economic distress of working families, thus diverting attention from the deeper truth.

Corporate money, perks, and the revolving door between Congress and lobbying firms have corrupted the political process. As a consequence, Wall Street and Washington are both running out of control and united in the pursuit of agendas that grow the power and privilege of the few at the expense of the many.

Whether the blame lies more with Wall Street or with Washington is largely beside the point. The bottom line is a Wall Street–Washington axis that has stolen our money and country, denies us our rights, undermines national security, and threatens the future of all our children, irrespective of political orientation.
Wall Street and Washington are both running out of control, united in the pursuit of agendas that grow the power and privilege of the few at the expense of the many.

Two events following the 2008 financial meltdown so focused attention on the power and dysfunction of the Wall Street-Washington axis that the establishment propaganda machine that keeps us divided came near losing control. They demonstrate the potential for a broad popular transpartisan political alliance.

One was the government bailout of Wall Street. Virtually no one outside of Wall Street was happy about government taking money from struggling taxpayers in order to give it to Wall Street bankers so they could reward themselves bonuses for crashing the economy.

The other was the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission that gave corporations carte blanche to buy elections. Follow-up polls reported that the Supreme Court’s decision was opposed by 80 percent of Americans, including 76, 81, and 85 percent of Republicans, Independents and Democrats, respectively—a truly extraordinary consensus in this time of political division.


I come from deeply conservative roots and distrust any concentration of unaccountable power. As the author of When Corporations Rule the World, my view of the unconscionable abuse of corporate power is on public record. I also recognize the profound truth of Paul Hawken’s observation in The Ecology of Commerce that it is big business that creates the need for big government to constrain the excesses and clean up the messes. What we now have, however, is big government aligned with big business to facilitate the excesses and reward those who create the messes. It is a disastrous arrangement against which the vast majority of conservatives and liberals should be united.

Conservatives are correct on a key point liberals tend to overlook: the federal government is too big and intrusive. The Patriot Act, which passed with a large bipartisan majority, is an abomination against democracy and foundational American ideals. We do have a public spending problem. The public debt owed to foreign nations and Wall Street bankers is unsustainable and a threat to national security.

Taxing the poor to pay for subsidies to powerful corporations and squandering our national treasure on unwinnable wars that have no point other than to fuel corporate profits is unconscionable. Health insurance programs designed to benefit insurance and pharmaceutical companies need to be restructured to reduce costs and improve services.

We spend too much on safety net programs that would not be necessary if we rolled back ill-conceived trade agreements that facilitate outsourcing and the global bidding down of wages and benefits and required corporations to pay employees a living wage with basic benefits. It is absurd to tolerate the Federal Reserve giving Wall Street banks virtually free money to loan back to U.S. taxpayers at a market interest rate.
If those on each side of America’s deep political divide could see the merit in the arguments of those on the other, we might come together as a powerful citizen alliance.

There is good reason for outrage against both big business and big government. We must respond, however, from a place of love, national unity, and sense of possibility rather than a place of fear, anger, and division.

When consumed with anger, our reptilian brain takes control. Our capacity for nuanced critical thought is diminished and we easily succumb to manipulation by propagandists and advertisers. Note the ease with which Wall Street billionaires feed and manipulate the anger of Tea Party members to mobilize them in support of campaigns that support Wall Street interests at the expense of their own.

If those on each side of America’s deep political divide could see the merit in the arguments of those on the other, we might come together as a powerful citizen alliance. We could break up concentrations of corporate power, get money out of politics, end senseless wars, achieve an equitable distribution of wealth, downsize government, and hold politicians accountable to an authentic popular will. That is an agenda that principled conservatives and liberals should all be able to get behind.

This is the twenty-fifth of a series of blogs based on excerpts adapted from the 2nd edition of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. I wrote Agenda to spur a national conversation on economic policy issues and options that are otherwise largely ignored. This blog series is intended to contribute to that conversation. —DK


David Korten author picDavid Korten (livingeconomiesforum.org) is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine and co-chair of the New Economy Working Group. This Agenda for a New Economy blog series is co-sponsored by CSRwire.com and yesmagazine.org based on excerpts from Agenda for a New Economy, 2nd edition.

Six Ways To Get America Out From Under The Thumb Of Wall Street

How is it that our nation is awash in money, but too broke to provide jobs and services? David Korten introduces a landmark new report, "How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule."

The dominant story of the current political debate is that the government is broke. We can’t afford to pay for public services, put people to work, or service the public debt. Yet as a nation, we are awash in money. A defective system of money, banking, and finance just puts it in the wrong places.

Raising taxes on the rich and implementing financial reforms are essential elements of the solution to our seemingly intractable fiscal and economic crisis. Yet proposals currently on the table fall far short of the need.

A newly released report of the New Economy Working Group, coordinated by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, goes beyond the current debate  to call for a deep restructuring of the institutions to which we as a society give the power to create and allocate money. How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule spells out the steps required to rebuild a system of community-based and accountable institutions devoted to financing productive activities that create good jobs for Americans and generate real community wealth.

Despite the financial crash of 2008, the financial assets of America’s billionaires and the idle cash of the most profitable corporations are now at historic highs. Their biggest challenge is figuring out where to park all their cash.Over the past 30 years, virtually all the benefit of U.S. economic growth has gone to the richest 1 percent of Americans. Effective tax rates for the very rich are at historic lows and many of the most profitable corporations pay no taxes at all.

Corporations are using their stores of cash primarily to buy back their own stock, acquire control of other companies, invest in off-shoring yet more American jobs, and pay generous dividends to shareholders and outsized bonuses to management.Unfortunately, most of those who hold the cash and the corporations they control have lost interest in long-term investments that build and expand strong enterprises. The substantial majority of trades in financial markets are made by high-speed computers in securities held for fractions of a second. Business pundits still refer to this trading as investment. It bears no resemblance, however, to the investment required to put people to work rebuilding a strong America.

It was not always so.

In response to the Great Depression, our country enacted financial reforms that put in place a system of money, banking, and investment based on community banks, mutual savings and loans, and credit unions. These institutions provided financial services to local Main Street economies that employed Americans to produce and trade real goods and services in response to community needs and opportunities.

This system, which Wall Street interests dismiss as quaint and antiquated, financed the U.S. victory in World War II, the creation of a strong American middle class, an unprecedented period of economic stability and prosperity, and the investments that made America the world’s undisputed industrial and technological leader.

The consequences include the erosion of the middle class, an extreme concentration of wealth and power, a costly financial collapse, persistent high unemployment, housing foreclosures, collapsing environmental systems, the hollowing out of U.S. industrial, technological, and research capacity, huge public and international trade deficits, and the corruption of our political institutions.In the 1970’s Wall Street interests began pushing a deregulation agenda that led to a transfer of financial power from Main Street to Wall Street.

Wall Street’s mega-banks lost interest in real investment and developed a new business model. They now specialize in charging excessive fees and usurious interest rates, providing leverage to speculators, speculating for their own accounts, luring the unwary into mortgages they cannot afford, bundling junk mortgages to sell them as triple-A securities, betting against the clients to whom they sell the overrated securities, extracting subsidies and bailouts from government, laundering money from drug and arms traders, and offshoring their profits to avoid taxes.

Wall Street profited at every step and declared its experiment with deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy a great success. It now argues for extending the same measures even further.

How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule spells out details of a six-part policy agenda to rebuild a sensible system of community-based and accountable financial services institutions.
  1. Break up the mega-banks and implement tax and regulatory policies that favor community financial institutions, with a preference for those organized as cooperatives or as for-profits owned by nonprofit foundations.
  2. Establish state-owned partnership banks in each of the 50 states, patterned after the Bank of North Dakota. These would serve as depositories for state financial assets to use in partnership with community financial institutions to fund local farms and businesses.
  3. Restructure the Federal Reserve to function under strict standards of transparency and public scrutiny, with General Accounting Office audits and Congressional oversight.
  4. Direct all new money created by the Federal Reserve to a Federal Recovery and Reconstruction Bank rather than the current practice of directing it as a subsidy to Wall Street banks. The FRRB would have a mandate to fund essential green infrastructure projects as designated by Congress.
  5. Rewrite international trade and investment rules to support national ownership, economic self-reliance, and economic self-determination.
  6. Implement appropriate regulatory and fiscal measures to secure the integrity of financial markets and the money/banking system.
How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule is the product of extended discussions among representatives of a diverse group of organizations committed to deepening and reframing the conversation on financial reform to focus attention on the serious financial system restructuring required to build a strong new American economy adequate to the social and environmental challenges of the 21st century. It may be freely shared, reproduced and distributed with appropriate citations.

Click here to read the report.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Health law may include birth control

A nonpartisan Institute of Medicine panel recommended Tuesday that contraception and a handful of other services related to women’s health be considered preventative and must be covered by insurance companies without charging co-payments. Screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer and diabetes tests during pregnancy were among the non-binding suggestions sent to the Department of Health and Human Services.


“We are one step closer to saying goodbye to an era when simply being a woman is treated as a pre-existing condition,” Ms. Mikulski said. “We are saying hello to an era where decisions about preventative care and screenings are made by a woman and her doctor — not by an insurance company.”

See full article here: Health law may include birth control - Washington Times

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Do's and Don'ts of Photography

Self-Portrait - Debbie Buchanan Engle (2007)

From:  The Education of a Photographer by Charles H. Traub, Steven Heller, and Adam B. Bell

The Do’s
  • Do something old in a new way
  • Do something new in an old way
  • Do something new in a new way, Whatever works… works
  • Do it sharp, if you can’t, call it art
  • Do it in the computer — if it can be done there
  • Do fifty of them — you will definitely get a show
  • Do it big, if you cant do it big, do it red
  • If all else fails turn it upside down, if it looks good it might work
  • Do Bend your knees
  • If you don’t know what to do, look up or down — but continue looking
  • Do celebrities — if you do a lot of them, you’ll get a book
  • Connect with others — network
  • Edit it yourself
  • Design it yourself
  • Publish it yourself
  • Edit, When in doubt shoot more
  • Edit again
  • Read Darwin, Marx, Joyce, Freud, Einstein, Benjamin, McLuhan, and Barth
  • See Citizen Kane ten times
  • Look at everything — stare
  • Construct your images from the edge inward
  • If it’s the “real world,” do it in color
  • If it can be done digitally — do it
  • Be self centered, self involved, and generally entitled and always pushing — and damned to hell for doing it
  • Break all rules, except the chairman’s
The Don’ts
  • Don’t do it about yourself — or your friend — or your family
  • Don’t dare photograph yourself nude
  • Don’t look at old family albums
  • Don’t hand color it
  • Don’t write on it
  • Don’t use alternative process — if it ain’t straight do it in the computer
  • Don’t gild the lily — AKA less is more
  • Don’t go to video when you don’t know what else to do
  • Don’t photograph indigent people, particularly in foreign lands
  • Don’t whine, just produce

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dr. Cornel West: "The challenge artists face today is whether to be an underground, unheard genius, or to dilute their art for the marketplace."

Injustice: A Film About Greed & Corruption in America's Lawsuit Industry


 
The class action lawsuit, born from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was skillfully managed by a small group of trial attorneys who manipulated legal rules, procedures and even their own clients – to become an international enterprise that rivals the scope and profits of Fortune 500 corporations.

InJustice, takes a shockingly candid look-under-the-hood of the American legal machine. The film takes the viewer on an epic journey through the dark corridors of lawsuit scams and abuses, including: asbestos and silicosis litigation, the Fen-Phen diet scandal, the bizarre truth behind the mega-million dollar tobacco settlements, Main Street America to Wall Street, and the shakedown operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

In this original exposé, Single Malt Media takes a unique approach to examining the scope and magnitude of lawsuit abuse, its personal and societal costs and the billions in profits the lawsuit industry leverages, many times without ever going to trial. InJustice blows the lid off the growing phenomenon of how some plaintiffs, who are never injured by an accident or a faulty product, steal resources from those who have been legitimately hurt or damaged.

Motivated through personal experience, awarding-winning producer Brian Kelly decided to make a movie about the U.S. legal system. His own dealings with trial attorneys were so laborious and tiresome that it triggered his movie-maker instincts and led to this documentary.

Single Malt Media takes a very unique approach to story-telling – using the experiences, attitudes and voices of the victims and trial attorneys. InJustice is a story largely told by lawyers in their own words about what is wrong with America’s lawsuit system and who’s to blame.

The story-telling in the film is distinctive – using the experiences, attitudes and voices of the victims and trial attorneys. InJustice is a narrative largely told by lawyers in their own words about what is wrong with America’s lawsuit system and who’s to blame.
Website

Monday, July 4, 2011

The problem with Donating Art - and the Solution

by Maria Brophy

The folks that put on these fundraisers are not malicious people. They just don’t understand how selling donated art at low prices hurts the art community.” 
Lori Woodward - Fine Artist

There are many great charities in the world, and they need your art!  But there can be problems with donating art to charities.

The good news is, together we can help charities to get better quality artwork by encouraging them to create a new way of working with artist donations.

THE PROBLEM CHARITIES HAVE BY NOT SHARING REVENUE WITH THE ARTISTS

You’ll go broke giving to every charity that asks.  I know we used to give to anyone who called.  It was flattering at first. Then, as years went on, I found many, many problems with giving blindly and not asking for anything in return.

For one, we were losing money we couldn’t afford to.  We already had our personal charities that we donated money to.

For another, it was taking a lot of our time and energy.  And some of the people we were giving to sadly did not appreciate it.

And lastly, we found that we weren’t wanting to give the best artwork, but rather tempted to give the items that didn’t sell.

Drew (the author's husband, and artist) and I attended a Surf Industry Ball a few summers ago.  It’s a black tie event held yearly at the beautiful St. Regis Resort.  They hold a charity auction, both silent and live.  Many people who attend are wealthy and have no problem bidding on $10,000-$100,000 items.

You would think an event such as this would attract quality artwork.  But in the silent auction, there were amateur pieces.  There were also a few pieces of art from successful artists that appeared as though they
 took art that wasn’t selling in their studio and donated it to get rid of it.

Auctioning low quality art at a black tie event does not work.  But I also know, first hand, that this event does not share in the revenue with the artist donating the work.

And that’s a problem.  If the charity is not making it worthwhile financially to donate art, they are not going to attract quality art.

HOW MANY CHARITABLE DONATIONS SHOULD YOU MAKE?

Choose 2 or 3 charities that you care about and give to them.  By focusing on just a few charities, you can actually make a difference with your donations.  After your chosen few, give only to organizations that share in the revenues of the sales.  Never donate anything if it will hurt you financially.

Every day I receive 3 to 4 e-mails and calls from people, friends and clients who ask for a donation.  This is the downside to having a lot of friends and doing too much networking!

The requests range from the local High School grad night event to very prestigious events and everything in between.

Always, the charities are excellent organizations which are doing wonderful things.  It’s hard to turn these people away, particularly if the person is a friend or client.

But if I gave to even half of the requests, I’d have to shut my business down and get a real job, God forbid!
Usually for the small stuff, like the High School, I’ll donate art prints that are just sitting in the studio.  It’s not a problem to do that.

But for the black-tie events, we would not want to donate anything but top quality artwork.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  If you donate artwork that’s less quality compared to what you are proud of, than you will detract new collectors and you’ll make a bad name for yourself.

But on the other hand, when donating your best work, you’ll need to be compensated.

Together, we can convince the charities out there that it’s in their best interest to make it enticing for artists to donate their best works.

CHALLENGES WITH CHARITABLE REQUESTS THAT WE CAN HELP TO CHANGE:
  • Many charities do not give the artist a portion of the proceeds.
  • The expenses out of pocket for art supplies, canvas and frames:  Many charities ask for Drew’s painted surfboards.  The surfboard itself costs us $400 – $600 depending on the quality and size.  And then there’s the art supplies and time to paint it.
  • IRS Does not Value Artist’s Time: We are not able to write off the amount of time it takes to paint.  The IRS only allows you to write off your materials, which artists do anyway.  You are often better off writing a check for the charity rather than giving them art (unless they split the revenue).
  • Nothing to Gain: Other than feeling good about your contribution, there is little to gain.  There is no marketing value to these events, unless your name and art is printed on all of their brochures and advertising (this rarely happens).
  • Art can auction for less than it’s worth:  Occasionally the paintings we have contributed have auctioned off for less than our collectors pay.  This hurts the artist, the collectors and the value of the art.
THERE IS A SOLUTION!

A few years ago we instituted guidelines for charities.  I wrote about it on Drew Brophy’s blog back in September – you can read that here.

And thanks to Lori Woodard’s point of view written in her article titled FUNDRAISERS THAT DO IT RIGHT on Fine Art Views Blog last week, I’ve been inspired to fine-tune how I handle the requests.  I’ve tidied up a form letter that I now am sending to every request for a donation.   There is a copy at the bottom of this post.

TOGETHER, ARTISTS CAN HELP CREATE A WIN-WIN FOR CHARITIES, ARTISTS AND COLLECTORS

Artists, let’s all get on the same page here and help educate the fundraisers and charities that need our help.  If we encourage them to, charities will make it easier for artists to donate their top quality art.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  Feel free to copy and use my form letter below:
 _____________________________

CHARITABLE DONATION GUIDELINES

Thank you for the opportunity to donate art to your organization.  I would be honored to have my artwork and my name associated with yours.

Due to the extremely heavy volume of requests from many important charities, I’ve developed guidelines that enable me to donate artwork at less than retail cost.

These requirements also help us reduce losses since current U.S. tax laws are unfavorable to artist donations.  (There is little to no write-off for artwork.)

Please consider that by offering these terms for all artist donations, your organization will:  Attract top quality, high value artwork; and over time, will become known as the go-to-organization for unique and valuable art.

My donation guidelines are:
  • The organization agrees to split the proceeds from the sale or auction 50/50 (50% to the artist and 50% to the organization).  I ask for payment within 5 business days of the sale.  The name, address, phone and e-mail of the buyer will be provided to me for my “collector’s club” records.
  • A minimum or a reserve price will be set and will be designated by me.  (This is required to honor the value of the artwork for our existing collectors and our partner galleries.)
  • In the event the artwork does not sell, it will be returned by the organization to me within 9 business days.
If these guidelines are agreeable to you, please sign below and return this form via e-mail to youremailaddress@whatever.com.

We agree to the above terms:


Name______________________  

Title_______________________

Date ___________________

900 Anti-Woman Laws to Appease Conservative Extremists

 
When does a legal right become theoretical instead of real? If you want to know the answer, take a look at what’s happening to reproductive rights. 

States across the country are denying women what they need to protect their health and plan their families. And they’re often doing so in the name of religion and God. The laws, which we review below, should concern any American who cares about women’s reproductive health.

Antichoice laws on the rise

More than 900 antiabortion laws have been introduced since the midterm elections last November, and more than 60 have been passed. For instance, in Kansas a new licensing law for abortion clinics mandates what size and temperature clinic rooms must be, requires that staff dressing rooms have toilets, that clinics stock particular medical equipment and supplies, and that they be connected to nearby hospitals.

Antichoice legislators came up with 36 pages of regulations, which one doctor called “bizarre” and “out of date with modern medicine.”

Right now there are only three abortion clinics in the state of Kansas. Soon there may be none.

South Dakota enacted an antiabortion law with requirements so onerous they essentially deny a woman her legal right to an abortion. The bill mandates a waiting period of 72 hours before a woman can have an abortion and requires two separate visits to a doctor. It also requires that a woman get counseling at a “crisis pregnancy center,” a place explicitly created to oppose abortion. On top of these obstacles, South Dakota spreads across nearly 755,000 square miles and has only one abortion clinic. A doctor is flown in from out of state once a week to see patients.

Indiana recently defunded Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the state. The new law makes any organization that performs abortion ineligible for state funds. Lack of clarity in the state’s antiabortion law is affecting hospitals, too. Since its enactment, doctors in hospitals have stopped terminating pregnancies that pose a high risk to the health and life of a woman for fear of losing Medicaid patients.

According to Elizabeth Ferries-Rowe, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Wishard Memorial hospitals, the law has “tied the hands of physicians attempting to provide medically appropriate, evidence-based care.”

Dr. Ferries-Rowe gives this example: A woman loses her amniotic fluid at 16 weeks of pregnancy. If her pregnancy isn’t quickly terminated, she risks serious infection that can damage her organs and cause brain damage or death.

Given Indiana’s law, however, doctors would not be able to terminate her pregnancy.

Twenty-week bans: An extremist trend

Among the most dangerous laws are those that restrict or ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. So far, six states—Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—have passed 20-week laws, and more are likely to follow. Only about 1.5 percent of all abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but those that do are often medically necessary.

Danielle and Robb Deaver felt the consequences of Nebraska’s law last fall. As reported by The New York Times, Danielle was 22 weeks pregnant when her water prematurely broke. Before passage of the law, it would’ve been routine for a doctor to induce labor to prevent serious infection. At 22 weeks the fetus is not viable outside the womb.

But the Nebraska law defines “inducing labor” as “abortion” if the goal is not to save the fetus. Danielle’s doctor and hospital lawyers determined that the procedure she needed would be illegal under the new law, so nothing was done. Danielle eventually did go into labor. The baby died within 15 minutes, and she developed an infection that required antibiotics.

What happened to Danielle Deaver could happen to women in other states that passed bills restricting abortion after 20 weeks.

Antichoice activists promoting the 20-week ban have a clear, determined strategy. Their alleged reason for the law is that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, though doctors strongly dispute such a notion. Their real strategy is to invalidate Roe v. Wade without actually having to overrule it. They hope that one of the state laws will be challenged, make its way to the Supreme Court, and be upheld. Linda Theis, a former president of Ohio Right to Life, believes her state’s so-called “heartbeat bill” offers the Supreme Court “an engraved invitation to overturn Roe.”

Once a threshold of fetal pain at 20 weeks is established, they believe it is only a matter of time before they can “prove” that fetuses can feel pain at 12 weeks, or four weeks, or three days. Indeed, the Ohio Assembly just passed legislation that would prohibit abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which happens at six to seven weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

After the bill was passed, Janet Folger Porter, former legislative director of Ohio Right to Life, said, “For every battle-weary pro-lifer who didn’t see how children were going to be protected in our lifetime, come see what God is doing in Ohio.”

Attacking access to contraception

But it’s not just abortion that the radical right is attacking. Family planning is also under the gun.

Arguments that we need to cut the budget and prevent pregnancies by defunding programs like Planned Parenthood are wrong on both counts. Only a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s work is abortion services. Most of it involves prenatal care, family planning, PAP smears, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and more. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health research and policy group, every dollar spent on family planning saves the government $4 in childbearing and child care costs for low-income women. What’s more, a bill in Louisiana to defund Planned Parenthood is clearly part of a larger campaign against women, since Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana don’t provide abortions at all. And common sense tells us that cutting funding for family planning increases unwanted pregnancies—and abortion.

Fighting back against extremism

It’s important to take a reality check amid such extreme attacks. Abortion is a common medical procedure. Nearly one in three women will have had an abortion by age 45. And virtually all (99 percent) sexually active women have used contraception at some point in their lives, including Catholic women (98 percent).

Unfortunately, such realities don’t fit right-wing rhetoric that equates moral complexity with sin, demonizes abortion and the women who have them, and claims a monopoly on conscience, family, and God.

But it may be that reality is catching up with the zealots endangering women’s health and lives. When conservatives in Congress threatened to defund all Planned Parenthood clinics as part of a budget-cutting deal, the public rose up, President Barack Obama stood his ground, and the provision was dropped.

The types of reproductive health services Planned Parenthood provides enjoy strong public support. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a solid majority of Americans support access to contraception, and 6 in 10 believe abortion should be both legal and available.

People of faith are among these majorities. That’s because they understand what it means to wrestle with moral issues and to rely on prayer and conscience for guidance in matters of deep importance.

Many mainline Protestant churches and Jewish faith traditions formally support women’s moral decision making when it comes to abortion. But even women from faith traditions that oppose abortion have unwanted pregnancies that they prayerfully decide to end. In fact, the Guttmacher Institute recently reported that the majority of women who have abortions are religious.

That’s why it should be no surprise that reproductive rights and justice groups are working with faith communities to reclaim moral language on sexual and reproductive health and be vocal advocates on behalf of women.

We must also call out extremists who are using religion for their own narrow ideological ends. Until now they have been counting on the fact that they are more fervent in their cause even though their numbers are smaller. But their junk science and extremist agenda have triggered fervor in the rest of us to stand up for women’s health and moral decision making. The truth is that most Americans do not live on the extremes of the abortion debate but in the complicated middle, where abortion is more than a slogan or bumper sticker.

It is neither compassionate nor morally justified for politicians to intrude into the most intimate matters of conscience and the heart. And it is deeply wrong to do so in the name of religion. There is a better way.

Rabbi Dennis Ross has a suggestion that is compassionate and morally sound. “Once a woman weighs all her options, (adoption, carrying to term, abortion) and comes to her conclusion,” he says, “we should make sure she has the best medical care and the support that she deems right for her.”