Interfaith call to re-institute historic laws against usury

I saw this on Facebook on the group Interfaith worker Justice which I thought was worth sharing here:

Wall Street and City of London bank chiefs will be targeted this week at the launch of a new transatlantic campaign to reinstate historic usury laws restricting the interest rates charged by loan sharks and credit card companies. Hundreds of campaigners will demand a meeting with Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir Philip Hampton outside the firm’s Liverpool Street headquarters on Wednesday.

Organised in the UK by London Citizens – an alliance of church groups, unions and voluntary organisations – the campaign accuses banks of propelling hundreds of thousands of people into unsustainable debt by charging excessive interest rates. Initially, campaigners will target banks bailed out by the taxpayer. To read more, see the two articles below.

Vote NO on MAPS for Millionaires

Facebook: Just Say No Way to MAPS for Millionaires! (if you want to see something creepy, be sure and look at the mail piece by former mayor Kirk Humphreys in which he practically says, “Jesus would want you to vote for the sales tax.” YIKES! I myself, think that Jesus wouldn’t be down with raising taxes on diapers and groceries to fund an NBA team myself.

The Moore American: Ford Center proposal a bad idea, op-ed by M. Scott Carter

Since I’m not a registered voter in OKC anymore (only a resident on some weekends, now that I’ve moved my home to the farm), I can’t vote against this. Unfortunately, if passed I’ll have to pay the tax when I buy stuff in OKC, so I’m encouraging folks who can vote to vote no.

I’m all for raising taxes for the common good. OKC desperately needs the following things in my opinion:

  • Mass Transit – longer operating hours for the buses, and working towards having light rail
  • Bike Routes – We need to have a coordinated system of bike routes throughout all of OKC, with special attention to problem intersections and places where it is difficult to safely travel from point A to point B
  • Parks and green spaces – We need lots more quantity and quality. Many cities of a similar size to OKC in are region are much better in this area. I’m thinking Austin, Tulsa, etc.
  • Schools – Just visit your neighborhood OKC public school, and you’ll know what I mean. The system needs major improvement!

And there’s lots more I can think of — community gardens, burying the utility wires so we don’t have bad outages with every ice storm, building more swimming pools and community centers, improving services for the disabled, improving our libraries, heck even things like free public wifi.

The projects I mentioned above are things I would be ok with a tax increase for. Revamping a practically brand-new coliseum to attract an NBA team is not something on my list. Besides, OKC had record attendance when the Hornets were in OKC after Katrina, and that was without a major stadium revamping! I don’t get it. Folks are going to attend the games in droves whether we have the super-blooper jumbotron or not. If the owner of the Sonics is that much into trying extort communities out of their money, then I don’t see why OKC should be the suckers and buy into the boondoggle. Seattle was right in refusing to give into blackmail. OKC should do the same.

I also object to this project because sales taxes are the worst of taxation. Here’s a good article that discusses the effects of Sales taxes on the poor…

Seattle Post-Intelligencer/AP: State tax system hurts poor, data find — Washington reported to have one of most regressive structures

List of charitiable agencies providing low cost/free medical services

RedStater: FREE or Low Cost Healthcare In OKC Area

It’s a good list and I appreciate Redstater for posting it.

I do disagree though with his allegation that liberal bloggists won’t post the information because it doesn’t help their political agenda. That is pretty absurd. I agree with Redstater that it is tremendous that these agencies are out there, but I also know that the need is so huge that these agencies can barely put a dent in the problem.

I can personally testify to this because a couple of years back I sought the help of some of these agencies, as I was very sick and needed to see a doctor, but also very broke. While I did find one clinic that could see me, the clinic wouldn’t have been able to see me for several weeks. I couldn’t wait that long. Thankfully I had family that I could contact to borrow money from to see the doctor, but if I didn’t have family I would have been stuck showing up the ER and hoping for the best.

I’m 100% supportive of agencies providing these services, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that the need of the poor for affordable healthcare is actually being met, because it isn’t.

Ron Paul on racism

This is a continuation of my discussion of Ron Paul (a mostly Libertarian running for President as a Republican) from a leftist political perspective. To see my last post on this topic, click here.

CNN: Ron Paul ’90s newsletters rant against blacks, gays (also see CNN: Excerpts from the Ron Paul discussed in the article)

Wikipedia: Ron Paul Report newsletter controvery Paul Statement on The New Republic Article Regarding Old Newsletters

The New Republic blog: Who wrote Ron Paul’s newsletters

I’m not sure I believe Ron Paul, but if you assume the best of his intentions and trust his honesty in this matter, he still let some pretty atrocious stuff go out in a newsletter bearing his name; I think this calls his ability to serve as President into serious question.

But since race is on the table now, I thought though it might be worthwhile to see what Ron Paul does say on the issue of race… What Really Divides Us? — by Rep. Ron Paul, MD

The overwhelming media response to recent remarks by Senator Trent Lott shows that the nation remains incredibly sensitive about matters of race, despite the outward progress of the last 40 years. A nation that once prided itself on a sense of rugged individualism has become uncomfortably obsessed with racial group identities.

In the aftermath of the Lott debacle, we must not allow the term “states’ rights” to be smeared and distorted into code words for segregationist policies or racism. States’ rights simply means the individual states should retain authority over all matters not expressly delegated to the federal government in Article I of the Constitution. Most of the worst excesses of big government can be traced to a disregard for states’ rights, which means a disregard for the Ninth and Tenth amendments. The real reason liberals hate the concept of states’ right has nothing to do with racism, but rather reflects a hostility toward anything that would act as a limit on the power of the federal government.

Yet it is the federal government more than anything else that divides us along race, class, religion, and gender lines. The federal government, through its taxes, restrictive regulations, corporate subsidies, racial set-asides, and welfare programs, plays far too large a role in determining who succeeds and who fails in our society. This government “benevolence” crowds out genuine goodwill between men by institutionalizing group thinking, thus making each group suspicious that others are receiving more of the government loot. Americans know that factors other than merit in the free market often play a part in the success of some, and this leads to resentment and hostility between us.

Still, the left argues that stringent federal laws are needed to combat racism, always implying of course that southern states are full of bigoted rednecks who would oppress minorities if not for the watchful eye of Washington. They ignore, however, the incredible divisiveness created by their collectivist big-government policies.

The Volkh Report: Ron Paul, Racism and Federalism

The inescapable truth here is that combatting government-imposed racial discrimination often requires federal intrusion on the autonomy of state and local governments. Recognizing this is in no way inconsistent with libertarianism, a political philosophy in which the allocation of power between different levels of government is a purely instrumental value. It does, however, seem to be a blind spot for Ron Paul and his campaign.

UPDATE: It is only fair to note that, to my knowledge, Ron Paul is the sole candidate in either party to denounce the harm done to inner city African-Americans by the War on Drugs, the federal government policy that has probably done more damage to minority communities than any other over the last several decades. I don’t think that the War on Drugs is inherently racist, but it certainly has been prosecuted with almost criminal indifference to the welfare of low-income minorities.

Ron Paul’s basic argument on the issue of racism — that collectivism is the real problem, and that government efforts to stop racism, only make it worse — is interesting, but also wrong.

I, like many Americans, admire the ideal of rugged individualism. However, part of a belief in this ideal is that of “do no harm.” Or to say it another way (and paraphrase Thoreau), we do not have a proactive duty to stop the unjust actions of others, but we do have a duty to at the very least not contribute to that injustice.

If pure individualism (which Ron Paul prescribes as the antidote to the evils of collectiveism) is the answer, it must begin with personal responsibility, and this is in many ways impossible to do if one truly embraces living in our modern society.

For instance, many of us are the recipients of “white privilege” in some fashion. Maybe we didn’t get any big inheritance from our parents, but we did likely get more of an advantage in life than people of color do. The odds are that white people have more of a cushion of inherited wealth or at least the possibility of economic support from our families (a better discussion on this can be found Book review of The Hidden Cost of Being African American, by Michael Hout). The reality is that the “game” of our capitalistic economic system depends on capital and capital was never fairly distributed, and as a result racism still exists. The only way that this can change is if weath is redistributed. I would prefer that we take Thoreau’s approach (and that of the anarchist Catholic Worker movement), but I do think one way or another, wealth has to be redistributed.

Ron Paul and other believers in the capitalist system have not come to grips with one key issue — how can the free market system be truly fair, when the initial start-up capital is unfairly distributed? Most Black Americans have as their ancestors people who were once slaves, and in later generations folks who were oppressed and not allowed to even compete at all in the system. So, is it fair now for folks like Ron Paul to ignore this issue and just tell the victims of racism to essentially “suck it up” and fight harder for their share of the pie.

That ain’t right. The reality is that the free market system stands firmly on the foundation of oppression. It’s roots go down deep in that oppression and because that is its reality, it itself continues to foster oppression.

Eliminating collectivism is a panacea.  Racism was going strong during the hyper-capitalistic era of the slave trade, so obviously capitalism will not in and of itself cure racism.

I think a better answer is voluntary socialism, cooperativism, and just good ol’ fashioned basic human kindness. The enemy of the poor is not governmental intrusion (or at least that isn’t the big issue). The enemy of the poor is our free market system itself. We must smash the capitalistic system of oppression to smithereens and rebuild something better, and more loving and more beautiful.

I also think that if we really want to eliminate racism, we must look at how different races are played against each other. Back in the day, poor white folks were kept under the control of rich white people, by way of letting poor white folks think they were superior to black folks. And black folks were kept under control by having “house slaves” feel superior to “field slaves.” As long as poor folks feel better than somebody, they won’t rise up and join together in fighting their common oppressors.

The reality is that the common enemy of poor people of all colors is the rich. The capitalist system keeps us all too busy competing with each other to even recognize the crappy way we are being kept down, so it serves the purposes of the rich. The working class folks have to wake up and realize that we are played like fools and being sold a crappy set of circumstances— work your ass off and someday you’ll be rewarded. Meanwhile the rich keep getting richer by virtue of their capital “working” for them. Who is winning here? It ain’t the working man, I’ll tell you that.

Such good news!

  • I still am awed by the fact that the WTO talks have broken down. We should be dancing in the streets and making toasts and beating on drums in celebration, but no the world goes on.

    I may be making too much of this but I can’t help but feel like this is a glimmer of hope that says that God has not given up on this world and those who live here, and that maybe this world can be a better place with God’s help and the goodwill of our brothers and sisters in the cause of peace and justice around the world.

    One of the most compelling accounts I’ve found thus far on what has gone down in Cancun at the WTO meetings is on UTNE. Here is one excerpt that I especially want to share from the 9/14-9/15 dispatch from Cancun:

      At the end, Antonia gives a report on what happened inside. The Kenyans were part of a ‘Green Room’ — one of the small ‘informal’ meetings where the real decisions of the ministerial are laid out, where the big, powerful countries represent themselves and the developing countries might have one representative for dozens. Kenya was representing not just themselves but the whole group of African, Caribbean, and Pacific nations and the African Union. The developing countries wanted agricultural agreements to limit the subsidies for U.S. and European crops that keep prices artificially low and allow the dumping of grain in their countries that destroys the livelihood of their farmers. The U.S. and E.U. wanted to put investments on the table, to craft a new version of the old Multilateral Agreement on Investments that civil society defeated back in the ’90s. When it became clear to the Kenyans that the U.S. and E.U. were saying they would have to accept the investment agreement if they wanted to talk about agriculture, they walked out. When they announced their decision, they were joined by South Korea and India. At least two of the delegates were now referring to the WTO in the past tense,

      “And the delegates from Brazil and Swaziland both said that if it weren’t for the actions inside and outside, they wouldn’t have been able to stand strong,” Antonia finishes. An electric shock of joy pulses through the room, and we all burst into cheers. That was our strategy — the hope we held throughout all the work and planning, that if there was clear, strong public opposition to the WTO in the streets and in the forums and in the conferences themselves, the disaffected delegates of the developing world would be empowered and supported to rebel. And they did.

    In reading this, I am also struck with the courage of Kenya’s government to be willing to be the point man for this opperation. To be willing to stand up to the first world and say “no this ain’t right and we aren’t going along with it” is not an easy stand to take, especially when your nation suffers with tremendous levels of poverty (with an average 2002 GDP per capita of $1,020 as estimated by the US government) and could potentially suffer from reduced aid from the Western world as a result.

    I would encourage anyone reading this to take a moment and send an email/letter/fax to the Kenyan Embassy in Washington, D.C. to let them know that you appreciate that nation’s courageous stand for the world’s poor.

  • Granma International (Cuba): 5th WTO ministerial meeting ends without agreement — The intransigence of the rich over the crucial issue of subsidies comes face to face with the strong position of the underdeveloped countries. G-22 emerges strengthened

  • The power of the people!

  • Here is a press release from Oxfam International

      14 September 2003

      Cancun talks collapse as poor countries stand firm
      The Cancun conference has collapsed after all night talks failed to resolve deadlock between rich and poor countries. The EU and the US tried to push the developing countries into agreement, but they held firm and refused to accept a bad deal.

      Oxfam’s Phil Twyford said: “World trade negotiations will never be the same again. This meeting has failed and the rich countries are to blame. But the new power of developing countries, backed by campaigners around the world, has made Cancun a turning point.

      “In the past, rich countries made deals behind closed doors without listening to the rest of the world. They tried it again in Cancun. But developing countries refused to sign a deal that would fail the world’s poorest people.”

    This really does say it all.

    One thing that does worry me greatly though about this is that most of the nations that refused to sign onto this deal were those of the Caribean, Africa, and the Pacifc rim. What is notable in that list is the one giant omission… Latin America. I haven’t heard yet how the nations of Latin America would have voted (except that the UTNE reader story I quoted earlier said that the Brazilian delegation decided to support Kenya’s walkout after seeing the protests both in Cancun and elsewhere). If this omission is accurate (that most of the Latin American countries would have gone with the plan put out by the US, EU, etc.) then we got some work to do between now and November to prepare for the meeting of the FTAA (Free Trade Association of the Americas) in Miami in November.

    The good news is that I think this can be won, especially if the citizenery of the nations of Latin America begin to speak out and even take to the streets in peaceful opposition to this plan to extend NAFTA to all of Latin America.

  • For more information on global trade issues check out:

  • Victory for the People!

  • Cancum IMC: Developing Countries Pull Out, WTO Talks Collapse

    This is tremendous news! It is in my eyes one of the first victories in the movement to free the world from the tyrany of corporate globalism as enforced by so-called “free trade.” This one event will have effects world-wide, even here in Oklahoma.Here are some more stories on the Cancun protests and today’s victory (what shocks me though is how little coverage this WTO meeting is getting. There is no story on this on the front page of the Washington Post, MSNBC, or CNN right now… this is ridulous. This is arguably one of the most significant stories of the year and it is getting buried. It looks to me that the media is doing exactly what their bosses are telling them to do…bury this story so they won’t be embarrassed by the courage of the WTO delegates from the third world who refused to be patronized and exploited)

  • BBC: Mixed feelings over Cancun collapse — Rich countries have expressed their regret at the failure of the Cancun global trade talks, with many calling for reform at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
  • NY Times: Poorer Countries Pull Out of Talks Over World Trade
  • NY Times: Farming Is Korean’s Life and He Ends It in Despair
      . . . But in rural communities like this one in southern South Korea, Mr. Lee, a three-time member of the provincial assembly, was seen as a heroic figure, a defender of debt-ridden farmers struggling to maintain an age-old agrarian tradition in a fast-developing country where manufacturing is king.”Mr. Lee committed suicide to save the farmers,” said An Sung Hyun, 65, a neighbor. “He sacrificed himself for farmers like me.”

      That sentiment is echoed in a new banner that greets drivers as they enter Jangsu. “The late Lee Kyung Hae, patriot and hero, we will follow your goal,” it reads. “We strongly oppose W.T.O. globalization.” . . .

  • The Guardian (UK): Blow to world economy as trade talks collapse