30 March 2011

America the Beautiful

It's easy to forget about how well off we live in the United States.  Although our politics are increasingly divisive and partisan, our airwaves are filled with commercial propaganda, the wealthy have accumulated ostensibly ever amassing wads of cash, education, public transit and most other social programs besides medicaid are utterly under funded, our foreign policy dictates military action over diplomacy, and a host of other issues, we can write and say almost whatever we want about our presidents and our leaders.

The freedoms afforded to us in the Bill of Rights are incomparable.

In Belarus, Andrzej Poczobut, a reporter of Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland) has been arrested for the heinous crime of insulting the Belorussian president.

On Monday Mr. Poczobut was summoned to the prosecutor’s office in the Hrodna region.  He was issued an order of criminal proceedings against him for publishing articles in the newspaper and in his blog that violate Article 368 Part 1 of state law, "Insulting the President of Belarus."

In an interview with charter97.org, Mr. Poczobut wrote it is not clear so far, what was considered an insult of the Belarusian dictator; in the prosecutor’s office he was just told the titles of the articles allegedly containing “insults of and fabrications about Lukashenka”. Here are some quotes from the order on institution of criminal proceedings:

“In the period of 2010-2011 on the web at websites www.wyborcza.pl, belaruspartisan.org and poczobut.livejournal.com A. Poczobut posted texts created by him called “Time to tighten screws”, “Lukashenka has found a new target”, “Elections without choice in Belarus”, “Tell me “batska”, “That’s how Lukashenka ruled”, “Lukashenka: Yes, I’ve falsified the election”, “Freedom, Belarusian style. Confessed and released?”, “Pre-election populism a la Belarus”, “That’s how the Belarusian KGB intimidates” and a text without a title starting with “Thank you all…”, containing elements of public insult of the President of Belarus…”

According to the website, Poczobut says he understands that he is facing a prison term, but he is not going to flee the country.

“What are the reasons of opening the case N11025190007?  I think there are a few of them,” the journalist states.  “Firstly, personal reasons. My person provokes the warmest feelings from people in uniform. And secondly, international ones. It is a long time since the Union of Poles, where I am the chairman of the Main Council, was considered by “armed lackeys of Lukashenka” as potential hostages in bilateral Belarusian-Polish relations. Is Poland planning sanctions against our country? And we will smother Poles! This is so much the case, that such promises were made by diplomatic representatives of Belarus almost as plain-language messages. And thirdly, the reasons related to the web. Back on December 20 at his triumph press-conference on his new “elegant victory” Lukashenka promised “to bring discipline” to the web.  My dear mister Lukashenka, my dear victim of the crime, I am ready to answer for my words and deeds to the fullest extent of the law. And I hope that the time will come when the former president of Belarus A. Lukashenka would have to answer for the developments in Belarus in the last 16 years to the fullest extent of the law.”

Where I spend much time criticizing the US, I have to say that as as long as bloggers, media hawks, comedians, and journalists can openly insult our politicians, we have more freedom than Belarus.

By the way, Sarah Palin is an idiot; Pres. Obama is not an idiot but he may not know what he is doing.  There is a difference.  

Now that all of the compliments have been handed out, let's take a look at the some numbers from the US Census Bureau's poverty thresholds.  The poverty thresholds are the starting points for what is considered poverty level in the US.  So, a single person earning $11,161.00 per year or less is living in poverty in our fine country.

2009 Poverty Thresholds, Selected Family Types
Single Individual
Under 65 years
$ 11,161
65 years & older
$ 10,289
Single Parent
One child
$ 14,787
Two children
$ 17,285
Two Adults
No children
$ 14,366
One child
$ 17,268
Two children
$ 21,756
Three children
$ 25,603

To be single and considered to be living in poverty is the equivalent of about $30 a day for a single individual and $40 a day for a single parent with a child (the maximum levels to still be considered at poverty level).  In comparison, Apple pays their employees in China who assemble the iPad, and iPod products about $73 a week or $9 a day.

And on this day in history in 1981, John Hinckley, Jr, with Travis Bickle as his inspiration, tried to assassinate then president of the US Ronald Reagan.  Evidently Hinckley was totally mad.  In a letter to Jodie Foster, Hinckley wrote, " I will admit to you that the reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you.  I've got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake!  By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me.  This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel.  Jodie, I'm asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love."

Over and out.

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