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Comment of the Day: Don the Con’s Staff Doesn’t Want Immigration

2018-01-16

ClearEye

is a trusted commenter Princeton 7 hours ago

Per the Washington Post, Trump was ready to meet with Durbin and Graham on the bipartisan agreement they had negotiated at noon last Thursday, after an agreeable phone call that morning. http://wapo.st/2FGzwOb

His staff (John Kelly, Stephen Miller) got wind of it and arranged to have immigration hard liners from the House and Senate at the meeting, blowing up the deal. Trump was reminded to use his hateful language in the meeting, did so, and later that evening bragged to friends that he had done so.

They didn’t try to spin the meeting as the controversy over s***hole escalated, since everybody from the White House was at a party in Georgetown. By the weekend, they started to lie about what was said and attacked the integrity of Senator Durbin, who has been described as the most trustworthy member of the U.S. Senate. Trump is now trying to blame Democrats, which will surely play well with his base.

Republicans control the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. They got their new SCOTUS Justice Gorsuch through extraordinary bad faith and are rapidly filling the federal judiciary with judges intended to reverse decades of progress. Their policies are antithetical to the future of the United States and the will of our people.

We will have a reckoning. If we are lucky, it will start with the election of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate on November 6 this year. If that does not happen, the damage done will metastasize for decades.

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Comment of the Day: LBJ and Racism

2018-01-15

Dormant plum trees in orchard.

Somehow Don the Con denied using the word “shithole” in a bipartisan meeting to discuss immigration policy.  He did not deny wishing that more Norwegians would immigrate here.  He denied saying “Take them out” about Haitian immigrants, but forgot to deny that he said “they all have AIDS” at a previous meeting.  In general, Don the Con’s immigration policy, as he expressed it at the meeting, was to exclude people from majority black nations and people from south of the US border, and encourage people from places like Norway.  They all had a laugh about that, over in Norway, but there were no takers on his offer to come to the US.  Don’s behavior and use of the word “shithole”, even if the Republicans there didn’t hear it, has set back negotiations on immigration policy and destroyed what was left of US credibility in the world.  Even equivocators now find it hard to deny that Don is a racist, and that all his policies are tainted by racism– which was the point of the Charles Blow op-ed to which this comment was attached.

In this comment, Socrates gives us a history lesson:

Socrates

is a trusted commenter Downtown Verona. NJ 14 hours ago

“I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it,” said LBJ to his young aide Bill Moyers in 1960.

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

And four years later, after LBJ signed The Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, LBJ was euphoric, but late that very night the same aide Moyers found him in a melancholy mood as he lay in bed reading the early edition of The Washington Post with headlines celebrating the day, and Moyers asked him what was troubling him.

“I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come,” said LBJ.

Here we sit 50-plus years later – certainly a much better and more evolved country – but still deeply cursed by LBJ’s prescience and the wretched fumes of white privilege, white supremacy and the radical rich right-wing that foments racism for political power and economic pillaging and plundering.

Trump perfectly personifies the conjoining of Republican evil – psychopathic greed hiding strategically behind the wall of psychopathic racism, fear and loathing that has served its 0.1% Randian overlords grotesquely well since 1968 to divide, conquer and shatter America into a shoddy, fake democracy of rural rubes cheering for 18th century coal as rest of the world ramps up on solar, wind, a better education and better job skills.

https://goo.gl/YpJ7pf

Grand Old Poison 2017

The Injustice of Wealth Inequality and the Abandonment of the American Worker

2018-01-14

People come in a wide variety of shapes: beautiful and not-so-beautiful.  There are dramatic differences in charm, as well as beauty.  Some people are gorgeous, and could charm the skin off a snake.  Most people are shabby-looking and unprepossessing in a mumbling sort of way.

Likewise with wealth: a few people have staggering quantities of dough, but most couldn’t scrape together a sandwich.  It seems natural (to many) that there would be staggering surpluses in the bank accounts of a few people compared to the persistent deficits in the accounts of those of the common herd.

The causes of such wealth inequality are potentially many.  Inherited wealth, inventing a patentable product, leading a corporation from bankruptcy to prosperity, those are some simple apparent causes.

What is the cause, in most cases?  Most important in a capitalist economy is the rental of capital (money) or real estate to others who pay for the privilege of using one’s assets, that is, using an already-owned item to produce money without labor.  Having inherited wealth makes this process easier.  Over the long term, this effortless accumulation of capital becomes boundlessly large.

The process of rental, when it produces more money than can be conveniently spent, will add money to the base capital every year, building upon itself automatically without the intervention of the owner, who cannot labor any longer because people clamor to do his work for him.  This process is known as “compounding.”

Rich people think they are better than poor people: scientific surveys have shown this is the predominant attitude of most rich people.  This perception is not true.  Rich people are simply the beneficiaries of the logic of capitalism: having money makes money.

On an unregulated field of business, larger companies naturally grow and smaller companies are subject to the vagaries of chance in their usually fruitless attempts to become big companies.  The example of Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, with about $104 billion in net assets, makes people want to buy that lottery ticket.  Jeff Bezos started his professional career on Wall Street in the computer science field, not with known large assets from his inheritance (although his mother’s parents apparently had a 25,000 acre ranch in Texas), built his wealth with his own efforts, then founded Amazon, which built the majority of his fortune.

The founder of an originally small company, Amazon, initially built his business with 18-hour days and intense concentration on expansion and service.  He also had a large element of good luck in his early choices.  Once his company became large enough, however, it began to benefit simply from the fact that it was big.  It became available for all needs, advertised to people that its advertising department selected as potential users, and delivered reliably and promptly.  The effect of ubiquity of availability is apparent to users of cell phones: Verizon, ATT, and Sprint dominate all markets throughout the US.  Another, more astonishing, ubiquity effect: the Windows operating system is available on almost all new personal computers and has captured 86.4% of the desktop computers in the world  (from statista.com, which offers a free basic account and a $49 a month premium account)– making the original licenser of the software (not the ones who wrote it) very, very, very rich.

To condense it into one sentence: the more money you have, the less likely you are to have earned it.  By “earn” I mean literally struggled, concentrated, worked hard, and devoted full time to something for a long time.  Large amounts of money naturally get larger without any human intervention.

So, from a truly Calvinist point of view, money accumulated in the capitalist manner is unjustly obtained and therefore sinful.  This sentence was meant for the Evangelical Christians among you, who feel that poor people deserve their fate.  Many people are poor, not because of a lack of “earning”, but because they have been unjustly treated by others: exploited, shortchanged, and otherwise cheated.  Simply because their parents or grandparents lived through a life that did not allow them to pass on their “earnings” to their children, many of these people are given a bad start to life, starting with inadequate nutrition and insufficient vitamin intake and continuing with incompetent schooling, then going on to an unstable job market that prioritizes skills learned in schools better than those that the people have attended and, throughout life, exploited by capital markets such as Quicken Payday Loans and constantly nibbled by Avon, Facebook, and Lotto.

Scientific studies have shown that feeling poor (whether you just feel poor or are actually, really, poor) interferes with your decision-making ability; in particular, it makes you more likely to do things like buy Lottery tickets.   The stress of being poor is destructive to one’s mood and outlook on life.  On the other hand, having large amounts of money (more than most other people, for example) does not do anything to improve your mood beyond a certain point.  Studies have shown that most people would be maximally happy if they were given only $15,000– giving them more doesn’t make them happier.  Thus, the man who still works 18 hour days after he has made a pile finds his work less and less rewarding, the more he makes.

Jeff Bezos understood this very early, and decided to use his pile as quickly and wisely as possible.  Under this compulsion, he started a company called Blue Origin, the results of which so far are a manned capsule capable of flying multiple passengers to the edge of space; this capsule has numerous large windows.  His companies have developed rockets that are capable of shooting this capsule a hundred miles up, and then landing softly to be re-used.  Uncrewed testing of this capsule is already in progress.  Plans for capsules that can fly to the moon and beyond are in active development.  These projects are completely private and under his sole control; NASA is making plans to use his rockets and capsules in cooperation with another private rocket company.

Mr. Bezos is doing the best thing possible one could do with one’s money: providing jobs to as many people as possible.  However, his attitudes and opinions do not match those of most rich people; the average rich person puts his money into investments and simply compounds it, spending whatever he or she likes on luxuries.  An extreme example of this attitude is now a person who will not be named in this article.

In order to reduce the effects of capitalism, which are essentially unjust, it is useful for governments to impose progressive taxation on rich people and to distribute the monies obtained to poor people through jobs and transportation (to and from work) and assistance with doctors, medicine, housing, food, and clothing.  When money is pumped into the economy in this way it supports basic infrastructure and spending on necessary goods moves money back into the system rapidly.  Thus, the benefits of progressive taxation are twofold: first, the money obtained and disbursed by the government stimulates the economy immediately; second, part of the money can be earmarked for building infrastructure.

Most importantly, progressive taxation promotes basic fairness, which is a critical perception that affirms or denies a positive attitude towards “the system” in general.  Scientific studies have shown that the perception of fairness is a trait that underlies a person’s willingness to cooperate with others.  Even primates like chimpanzees have a strong perception of fairness which motivates their choices.  We want people to cooperate in order to make the system run smoothly, whether it is a government or a factory, and in order to do this, people must perceive it as fair.

When a person is confronted with another who has clearly aggregated an unfair proportion of the spoils, so to speak, there is a reaction which we will call disgust, and the person is less willing to interact with the other.

To apply this reasoning to today’s America is to perceive the true problems that we are facing.  First, there is a basic unfairness in the way Americans are treated by large companies, who are unrestrained in their ability to disrupt a person’s life.  Many people who depended on their jobs for survival were left unemployed with no recourse when large companies shifted their factories, first from New England and the Northeast to the South (in pursuit of cheaper, more compliant workers who were not unionized), and then out of the country altogether.  These companies continue to shift their operations in search of cheaper employees and have wound up in places like Vietnam, the Philippines, and other distant impoverished countries.  Meanwhile, the people of America who lost their jobs were offered no meaningful new employment.  What they could find paid less and was less reliable.  These people (and there are probably 50 million of them, just guessing) are angry at their impoverishment, not by war or natural disaster, but by the economic choices of the companies who deserted them.  They have been unfairly treated.

Who is responsible?  The companies that left their employees in the lurch.  Who could have averted these personal disasters?  The federal government, in the end, could have forced the companies to find their employees new jobs, even if that required retraining them, or it could have developed the replacement jobs itself and charged the employer or the taxpayer.  Some efforts were made in this direction, but they were grossly inadequate and delayed.

Today the economy is moving along; for the last eight years, mainly under the previous president, the economy has expanded and jobs have increased every month.  Now unemployment among able workers is so low that disabled workers and marginal people like parolees are being considered for hire.  It would seem that things have come out alright.  New problems loom on the horizon, like automation, that may create new stresses on employment but certainly will increase productivity.

One symptom of the unfairness of our capitalist system is the distribution of gains resulting from increased productivity.  The increases are due to better machines, more efficient processes, better chemicals, and just plain innovations.  However, the gains in money terms are not being distributed to the workers whose productivity has increased; statistics show that, for the last forty years, the profits from increased productivity have flowed to owners and stockholders and wages have remained stagnant.

All of these problems with capitalism can be controlled with strong government, but a powerful government brings its own problems.  A good example is the government of China, an extremely powerful one that tries to control what its people see and hear, and which has been marred by corruption and personal oppression.

Even a strong government is under threat when it is confronted by today’s powerful multinational corporations.  One of the top ten companies in the world, with annual revenues of over $200 billion each and assets to match, can be a formidable counterparty to even the US government.  Therein lies the worst threat faced by governments today: the growth of capitalist corporations.

(Photo of “money shark” figurine courtesy of Pixabay and Alexas Fotos)

Don the Con Opens Coast to Offshore Drilling– Except for the Part Off Mar-a-Lago

2018-01-13

 

We were all saddened to see the headlines: “Trump administration opens 90% of US coastline to off-shore drilling.”   There’s a catch: Don the Con, through his boy Ryan Zinke (Secretary of the Interior), has exempted Florida from the re-opening.  Florida includes Don’s favorite home-away-from-home, Mar-a-Lago, where he can play golf all day and binge-watch Fox News all night.  The stated excuse for exempting Florida, that it is dependent on its “pristine” coastlines to support its tourist trade, and that this needs extra protection, actually applies to the entire West Coast, not to mention all of the Eastern Sea-Board; come to think of it, this reasoning applies to the whole coast on all three sides of the country, even to the Great Lakes.

This change in long-term planning comes at a time when most scientists agree that transitioning away from the wholesale use of fossil fuels for energy and battery-powered cars are just getting their feet under their legs.  No-one believes that our energy future depends on the type of exploration that lead to the Deep Water Horizon disaster: remotely on the sea-bed thousands of feet underwater, down tens of thousands of feet through solid rock, into reservoirs that are so hot and highly pressurized by depth that they can hardly be stopped up again once they are opened.

It’s not worth it, with other, easier to reach deposits scattered everywhere over the world and new technologies able to pinpoint exactly where they are.  Experience shows, however, that giant companies will make the effort and take the risk to go after anything that pencils out at a potential profit.  Government exists partly to put a rein onto profit-making enterprises, a moral restraint if you will.  In the Constitution, that function would have to fall under the clause in the Preamble that states that government is ordained, in part, to “… establish justice …”  We will have to stretch the concept of justice a little here, but preventing or punishing dangerous and exploitative behavior by corporations is surely something a just people would want to do.

This is a sore point with Republicans.  They don’t like regulations or regulatory agencies.  They think that the market will somehow take care of this.  They seem to forget that people were regularly poisoned by foods, drugs, and liquors that were manufactured in the US and sold all over the country before the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906 (“the most consequential regulatory act in US history” (Encyclopedia.com)).

The Oil Pollution Act, passed in 1990 under George HW Bush (“Old Boy” George), stiffened previous legislation that empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent and respond to oil spills; it also ordained a tax on oil that was to accumulate in a trust fund to help pay for clean-ups.  That same year, the Pollution Prevention Act established a national policy that would have “pollution prevented or reduced at the source wherever possible” (Google).  This policy makes the very idea of drilling for oil offshore contradictory because of its obvious risks.  These are Republican acts, passed under Republican administrations twenty-eight years ago.

None of that matters to Republicans now.  They have abandoned their previous “conservative” stance and stare decisis for a radical ripping-out of the roots of our government and a return to the 1880s and 1890’s: a “Golden Age” when capitalists were building their empires and supposedly free white people toiled in filthy factories 12 hours a day while supposedly liberated black people cowered under the lash of the KKK.

 

Comment of the Day: A Blistering Attack on Republicanism

2018-01-12

The party of morality, of rectitude, of decency, of patriotism and love of country, the righteous sons and daughters of “conservatism,” that wholesome and fragrant air that drifts across the nation, from sea to shining sea, carrying with it our so-called innate goodness, our God-blessed bounty, is nothing more than a cheap storefront for the worst kind of hypocrisy and menace.

(I love that sentence!  “… nothing more than a cheap storefront… “)

Red Sox

Crete, IL From Roxbury, MA 18 hours ago

The party of morality, of rectitude, of decency, of patriotism and love of country, the righteous sons and daughters of “conservatism,” that wholesome and fragrant air that drifts across the nation, from sea to shining sea, carrying with it our so-called innate goodness, our God-blessed bounty, is nothing more than a cheap storefront for the worst kind of hypocrisy and menace.

This is no longer about raking Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and the Bush presidents across the coals. It’s no longer pointing the finger of blame at Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay and Dick Armey. It’s no longer about shaming the legacies of Lee Atwater and Pat Buchanan and Karl Rove and Grover Norquist. Nor, even, is it about Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, the current House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader. It’s clearly about the movement among the Republican Party that has sold away its soul to the wealthy donors and the Koch Brothers and the hard-right “think tanks” that dream up the worst for America’s most vulnerable citizens.

And, lest anyone think that it begins and ends with racial animosity, although that evil is certainly a major component of the party’s philosophy, Republicans want to consign every American who is not wealthy into a tiny corral where they can fend for themselves. A place where there is no government but the rule of the rich. A place where there is no succor for ill health. A place where children go to either grow into adulthood stunted or die.

It’s all right with the GOP.

(I’ve noticed Red Sox comments at New York Times stories before and they are usually pretty good.  This one is a gem.  “… a tiny corral where they can fend for themselves… “)

(Free image courtesy of Pixabay.)

US Senate Currently Under CyberAttack by Fancy Bear

2018-01-12

The Associated Press has reported that the US Senate is under cyberattack from the same Russian military intelligence unit, nicknamed Fancy Bear, that has attacked French and British political leaders over the last two years.  The attack consists of a mimic of the official Senate email system that gathers emails from the targets– US Senators and their staff.  Two days ago, the same unit published emails hacked from the Olympic Doping Committee in an attempt to discredit the agency just before the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.  Trend Micro published a report detailing the hacking charges, which is the source of this AP story.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– our country is under cyberattack from Russia, the same country which declared a cold war on us in 1919, after we sent troops to try to crush the Russian Revolution.  

Quote of the Day: Hugo Black on the First Amendment

2018-01-12

 

Has anyone said it better than Justice Hugo Black? “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

(Lifted from a comment by Charles Carroll of San Francisco on a New York Times article last Wednesday about Don the Con’s threat : “We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts”… As another commenter noted, libel law is primarily a state matter, and Don the Con has little say in it.)  Here’s another comment that I found helpful:

Mandy Roth

Philadelphia, PA 1 day ago

A brief primer on libel and slander laws, just for you, Mr. Trump, since you seem to have decided not to consult your eminent legal team on this issue. Libel and slander laws are developed and enforced under “common law”: cases are decided in the first instance by state courts based on their interpretation of legal precedence in that state. Only upon multiple appeals, as permitted by the successively higher courts, do such cases reach federal courts, and even then, decisions rendered by a federal court are based entirely on the doctrines of common law and legal precedence, as established by prior federal as well as state case law. Trump has virtually NO power to change libel or slander laws. He once again demonstrates his ignorance and naivete in continuing to beat this drum like the recalcitrant child that he is.

And the final nail in the coffin for Don the Con’s aspirations:

Dave Scott

Ohio 1 day ago

Aside from the absurdity of the Defamer-in-Chief complaining about how hard it is win libel suits, the standard that makes it hard to win suits involving public figure plaintiffs like Trump came from a Supreme Court balancing of First Amendment rights vs libel law protections. For that reason, I very much doubt Congress could alter that standard.

(Once again, the cartoon comes from Pixabay; we are featuring their cartoons today.)