As early as Wednesday, your Representative in Congress will vote on a hugely important "Debt Slavery" Bankruptcy Bill (S. 256) that could literally change your life. The bill was written by representatives of the credit card industry, which made $30 billion in profits in 2004--and is now gunning for more.
The legislation would make it much more difficult for people turning to bankruptcy as a last resort to actually discharge their credit card debts under Chapter 7, which pays off debts by liquidating assets, offering a fresh start financially. Instead, it would force people into Chapter 13 with a rigid 5-year repayment plan, even after liquidating all assets.
In DC, the banking lobby's line about frivolous debtors lacking personal responsibility plays well on both sides of the aisle. But, as Robert Scheer pointed out recently in a typically strong column, "for all of the whining about deadbeats ripping off the system, credit card companies' annual pretax profits have soared two-and-a-half times in the last decade, and last year was their most profitable in more than fifteen years."
These days, kids are multitasking like mad. Two weeks ago, the Washington Post described one high school junior talking on the phone, emailing, IM-ing, listening to Internet radio and writing a paper on her computer--all at the same time!
According to a recent report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, she's far from the only teenager with a flair for multitasking. Kids today are spending six and a half hours a day, seven days a week, with electronic media--and more than twice as much time on video games and computers than in 1999.
Let's face it: We live in a brave new world of blogging, with the iPodization of news, and kids plugged in everywhere. The Washington Post recently ran a separate story about how college students are using interactive mini blogsÂ¨ or "wikis" to create "freewheeling, collaborative" communities, trade ideas and link to each other's essays. Progressives use new technologies like BitTorrent--a filesharing program--that let them create websites like CommonBits.org that allow kids to watch clips from television news programs like the "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "Democracy Now."
Many of the most devout followers of the most famous of all victims of capital punishment, the Nazarene who was crucified on the Calvary cross, took a long time to recognize that state-sponsored execution is an affront to their history and their faith. For close to 1,500 years, the Catholic Church taught that the state had a right to punish criminals "by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty."
For centuries, that line in the Catechism of the Catholic Church was used by Catholic politicians--and others who sought a moral justification for their actions--to place a veneer of legitimacy on even the most cavalier executions of the young, the mentally handicapped and the innocent. Even as Pope John Paul II moved the church closer and closer to explicit opposition to the death penalty during his long tenure, the loophole in the Catechism remained.
Then, in 1997, Sister Helen Prejean, the American nun and death penalty abolitionist who authored the book Dead Man Walking, asked Pope John Paul II to close the loophole. Later that year, the Pope removed the reference to the death penalty from the Catechism and, when he visited the United States two years later, he denounced the death penalty as "cruel and unnecessary." Referencing moves by countries around the world to ban capital punishment, the Pope declared in St. Louis that, "A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil."