EXTINCTION LEVEL EVENT

May 2, 2016

There’s a sharp, brilliant essay in “New York” magazine outlining how deep and serious a threat Turmpism is to American democracy as flawed and unfair as it’s become.  A brutal torture-loving dictatorship would not make “American Great Again.”  The writer warns Democrats, Bernie and Hillaryites alike to understand how deep and grave the dangers are of a demagogue ruling America through fear, torture and threats.  Not to mention what would happen to the economy once Trump started trade wars around the globe.  And then there’s his incipient alliance with Putin, perhaps the world champion of current political corruption.

COAL COMFORT

April 13, 2016

Peabody is taking the bankruptcy way out…of its leveraged debt.  Guess this means they will also be one of the many U.S. corporations that pay no income tax.  A new study shows that two-thirds of U.S. corporations pay zero income tax, so much for the argument that they need to buy a Virgin Islands or Ireland company to stay away from America’s “exorbitant” corporate taxation.  One-fifth of the large and profitable corporations still paid zero income tax.   Regiments of lawyers and accountants can protect almost unlimited amounts of money from tax collectors.  That’s how the taxes laws work here.

Senator Sanders had requested the report from the Government Accountability Office.  Why is this set of facts not a standards part of political coverage every year?  Because most of the businesses covering news and most of the companies buying advertising or donating to public broadcasting are the same ones dodging taxes, using loopholes, offshoring profits and using every possible loophole and some even bribing their way onto foreign shores where their money cannot be touched by Uncle Sam.  So much for patriotism.

So just add this to Mitt Romney’s offshore wealth, the Panama Papers, the oil industry’s record of global bribery to get contracts and the scam of “non-profits” running healthcare facilities and thus paying fat salaries to the bosses and no taxes to government at any level.

Welcome to the U.S.A.   Unlimited Scams in America.

But we’re not alone.  Switzerland apparently still leads the league in hiding wealth and 60% of the money in those banks “belongs” to shell companies…nobody knowing who the real owners are…much less how the money was obtained, earned, stolen or extorted.

BTW: when I lived and worked in England for four years there was never any tax deadline or tax forms (no April 15th deadline)…there was with-holding from each paycheck, period.  Yet I still had to file tax forms back in my homeland, every April 15th.

 

MONEY, MEDIA AND MEANNESS

April 12, 2016

There’s a posting on HuffPost that describes how the right-wing fear media businesses and the spineless Republican politicians combined to form today’s toxic hate circus that is passing bathroom safety laws, anti-therapy rules (in Tennessee) and fomenting gunners to take over a wildlife refuge. And it has produced a Republican Presidential primary season where Senator Tea Party Ted becomes the party’s favored choice from two evils. The piece clearly outlines how years of spewing hate and paranoia gets you a core of hateful and paranoid voters and legislators.   The one thing this piece doesn’t deal with is the cynical manipulation of gerrymandering to guarantee Republican dominance in many states where all the Democrats are pushed into a few districts so their votes are worth less.  Dems winning in some areas with 85% of the vote while Republicans have a larger number of districts where they can win with 55% thus throwing away many Dem votes.  In the last election the Republicans won a vast majority of House seats despite having two million fewer popular votes…all by rigging the districting system.

GREED, SECRECY AND PANAMA

April 6, 2016

The past week has once again shown how easy it is for those with money or the right (wrong?) connections to hide their money from governments and the public…even if the hider is a prominent political figure.

Today Iceland’s Prime Minister resigned after it was revealed he and his wife had off-shored significant wealth while he was constantly assuring Iceland’s voters that they should leave their money onshore…despite Icelandic banks’ collapse during recent economic recession.

There are already known connections to public figures from London to Moscow…so more folks will be unhappy as disclosures and investigations go forward.

There are American connections, some are known money-crooks with financial crimes on their resumes already.

Panama is not the only center of money-laundering and hidden assets.  Down in storied Monaco where many pro tennis players claim to “live,” there are no income taxes, many empty apartments claimed as “home” and one company called Unaoil.  In the leaks from there we see that major banks and corporations have been taking part in widespread corruption and bribery. Naturally much of that involves oil and mining…duh.

Even the Monaco government, never noted from assiduous enforcement of financial regs, has raided the Unaoil offices…we shall see if this is to cover their ass, or to actually uncover the corruption centered there.

DEMAGOGUES, DEMOCRACY AND VIOLENCE

March 27, 2016

There are some things that we can see by looking at history since the invention of the printing press, evolution of guns and the use of propaganda.  The more angry and ignorant the population the easier it is for a demagogue to incite popular violence.  We have seen this from Czarist pogroms to ethnic cleansing in Armenia, Northern Ireland, former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and across the Middle East and North Africa right now.  Just today bombers killed dozens of Christians at an Easter gathering in largely Muslim Lahore, Pakistan.  Slaughter by terrorist xenophobes is now a daily occurrence in our distraught world.  While ISIS may be losing its land war it can continue to murder random victims in mass attacks wherever its suicidal agents are planted.

Just as in the 1930 when the Depression coupled with the rise of fascist regimes, we live in a time when demagogues will use fear and xenophobia to spread violence and enhance their own power.  Putin makes war in Syria and Ukraine.  Saudi Arabia bombs in Yemen. Anybody and everybody bombs in Syria.  Bombers bomb wherever those outside the Shia or Sunni enclaves (depending on bombers’ affiliations) can be gathered.  It is no wonder that Putin and Trump are part of a small mutual admiration society.  No wonder that North Korea, Turkey, Cuba, Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Honduras, South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, China, Somalia, Libya and numerous other violent or lawless areas have become so dangerous for journalists and ordinary people.  Arrest, disappearance, murder, kidnapping–any time any place.  What we have are the frayed edges of what was once touted as a blanket of global civilization after the end of the Cold War. What we are witnessing is the brutal throes of a set of patriarchal systems all collapsing under the pressure of a world economy, instant communication including religious and sexual images not approved by the powers that be.  The old patriarchal beliefs whether Muslim, Catholic, Mother Russia, Chinese or Korean Communist or some other authoritarian nationalism are all under assault.  And those who have ruled and plundered and been heedless for generations are now facing the collapse of their power and maybe their money.  A planet not dependent on oil threatens governments and the rich from Houston to Moscow, from Venezuela to Nigeria, from Canada to Kuwait.  Iran to its enemy Saudi Arabia.  All change toward the virtual economy, sustainable energy and women as full human beings will be fought against, with violence always the last resort of the tyrant, the bully, the macho male.  Not since King Cotton forced a Civil War over slavery has the world economy faced such disruption with such violent political consequences.  This time it is billions of women in traditional, male ruled societies that are going to be freed and many of the tradition-bound men will fight this change.  ISIS is not alone is trying to stop the future.

While humans should be most concerned about keeping the planet habitable for us and other creatures, too much of our fear, anger and hatred is focused one another, on killing those who disagree with our religion or politics.  Trumpism is just an American manifestation of this malaise.  It is likely that the lingering symptoms of PTSD, Post-Trump Stress Disorder will be more and more violence from angry white males who have been made economically marginal by the modern world economy.  And somehow it is so appropriate that there is a move afoot to bring weapons onto the floor of the Republican Convention this summer…time for a shoot-out at the Not-OK Corral…and we’ll see it all live on TV.

Meanwhile, the Secret Service is in charge of security at both major party Presidential nominating conventions.  Can the NRA actually push around the Secret Service?  We shall see.  Expect lawsuits over the gun issue as elephants gather in Ohio.

TRUMP, A GREAT ARGUMENT FOR DICTATORSHIP

March 15, 2016

That’s how the Chinese “communist” government sees it. Trump is just an Americanized Mussolini and proof that democracy is outta control and dangerous.

Not since Nixon has a Republican politician been so good for the Chinese government’s propaganda machinery.

TRUMP’S TORTURED ‘THINKING’

March 7, 2016

Donald Trump is worried we are at a disadvantage…and he’s gonna fix that on the way to making America great again.  It’d horrible enough that we pay higher wages than Vietnam or Bengledesh.  Hard on business.  It’s awful that China manipulates their currency. Hard on Wall Street.   Putin wrestles bears while our President speaks in measured sentences and never really threatens anybody.  Bad for our world image among would-be bear wrestlers. And there’s just not a high enough wall between us and Texas…’er, I mean, Mexico.  Trump will fix that on the way to making us great again.

And today he showed how serious he is about that return to greatness. He wants us to use torture so we are not at a disadvantage. There’s North Korea…and Isis…and Boko Haram…and both sides in the South Sudan civil war…and the Mexican drug cartels…and lots of other nasty folks out there torturing away while we politely question bad guys when we happen to stumble across them, or they escape our drones.  We gotta get into this torture competition…and win.  To be great you gotta be tough and maybe a little perverse and even mean sometimes.  Look how great Trump is.

While we’re at it, let’s confer with some of the right-wing Constitutional originalists, but seems to me we could get going with the scalping.  Nobody in the U.S. Army in 19th Century had any problems with that did they?  We could think of repealing the Amendment that does away with slavery, give us a way to put those folks at Guantanamo back to work and get ’em off welfare.  And weren’t we one-time league leaders in witch burning?  Worked, too, no damn witches left in Concord or Amherst.  And dunking stools?  Stocks?

We should call on our good allies for some assistance.  Bet the Saudis could give us the recipe for proper public stonings.  Talks about those right there in the Old Testament,  could make the evangelicals real proud to be ‘Mericans.  Make us even greater.  Floggings go back to our British ancestors, those of us with English-sounding last names.  We could whip up support for public floggings, especially in those schools that lag behind in test scores.  Surely the British Navy went soft when it stopped flogging.  Look at it now.

And there’s that greatest of all American traditions: hanging.  Good for the hemp industry, surely.  Don’t smoke that hemp, weave into sturdy ropes.

Now that we have a clear path to greatness in the torture and sadism realm, we gotta handle the problems with family life to be truly great.  Whippings will help some. Too many two-job families, surely the answer there is to man up…bring back polygamy…there we could get some help from the Saudis again, and a few of our own home-grown Mormons.  Trump can certainly handle more than one wife at a time, a man his size.  Keep wife #2 or #3 at home to do the chores.  Good for full employment and get the birth rate up so we can be truly great once more.

 

TRUMPED UP

March 7, 2016

For those of us with an interest in the collisions and road rage of American politics, this is the fascination of the abomination.  That’s a concept Edgar Allen Poe first used to describe certain kinds of perverse human behavior. Not since we Americans locked up thousand of our fellows for the crime of being ethnic Japanese has this country seen such a heinous behavior by those who lead or want to lead.

An egomaniacal shyster with a degree in real estate manipulation and a self-endowment that makes him immune to donors.  A mostly-white underclass and bitter electorate looking for revenge and simple answers.  A whole swath of the Confederacy and social reactionaries who can’t wait to wipe out any and everything done by a…gasp…black President.  A Republican Party that has for decades subtly signaled its racism, its nativism, its Christianity as superior (or only) religion, its hatred of federal government that does anything beyond war, its disgust at educated elites who are tolerant and world traveled.  The GOP had flirted with this before.  Goldwater,  Nixon’s plumbers and his enemies list, Reagan’s smooth but racist appeal to white southerners and condemnation of mythical welfare queens, Pat Buchanan’s bitter views of fellow Americans, Rush Limbaugh with his screeds against Feminazis and all manner of non-conservatives trying to undermine his America, even Mitt and his 47%ers who clearly are seen by him as sub-American.

Well, the Repubs now have a man in Trump who trumpets all those prejudices and superstitions with no sugar-coating, no pretense to honesty or fair play…he and his supporters are angry, bitter and vengeful.  They don’t need video of those New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9-11, they see the images in their mind and take it on faith.  Well, maybe Trump is pretending because he just wants power and adoration of the mob.  But his followers want revenge. They know the government and the “others” are out to get them.

Here’s a nice summary on one recent DailyKos blog: “Donald Trump’s movement was a surprise. The Republican Party viewed Trump as joke, and they know he is not a real conservative. The Republican Party believed its own rhetoric. They believed that rank-and-file Republicans really believed in the conservative orthodoxy.

“The reality is that the Republican Party is a combination of low-tax plutocrats, evangelical extremists, insular racists, confused welfare recipients, gun toting zealots, secessionists, and a large swath of good people.

“When one queries Republicans, there is one common thread: They believe there are people out there who are trying to take away something that they’ve earned. The ‘something’ they have earned could be something material, something spiritual, or an unearned but deserved privilege. Donald Trump’s words spoke to all the fears and wants of the low-information, racist, and opportunist sects of the Republican party.”

 

Will these fine, white, angry Americans eventually turn on and dismember some dissenting person in the Trumpian audience?  I wouldn’t have the guts to carry an anti-Trump sign into a Trump revival meeting.

Take back America.  (Get rid of the Muslim, the black, the poor, the Buddhist, the intellectual, the liberal, the unchristian.)  Make America great again. (back to 1952 before abortion, before “gay” was anything more than slightly joyful, before birth control, before Chapter 9 let women play sports, before environmentalists started such things as outlawing DDT and complaining about water pollution, before corporations had anything to fear from regulators.)

So in this 2016 electoral season we are being treated to a televise and tweeted campaign of demagoguery by a man and his minions who like nothing better than a Trumpian authoritarian state.  Woe be to Paul Ryan is he doesn’t fall in line.  Not to mention anybody who dares to picket outside the Trump White House.  Would he extend his torture doctrine to even domestic dissenters?  Nobody has even dared ask for fear they will go on the Trump enemies list.  This year will show us how close post-World War II America can get to authoritarian government.  We are told the under-40 generations in America are more tolerant and liberal…they have seen the hollowness of materialism, greed, racism, planet exploitation and mindless media.  Sadly it’ll be good for the world as my generation dies off, taking Trumpism with us.

 

SCALIATOSIS

February 16, 2016

A legalistic fever has passed from the body politic.  Yet the recovery period from the strong influence of the late Justice Scalia will be prolonged and may never be effected.  If we get a Republican President next the court will continue to tilt toward 18th Century idealism over 21st Century changes.

Justice Scalia was adamant that the Supreme Court in all cases should construe modern laws and jurisprudence to adhere to the ideas and language put into the Constitution…anything beyond that was judicial meddling or legislative or executive over-reach.  Stick with what the founding fathers and a couple dozen amendments give us, no more, nor less.

Had somebody brought the properly worded lawsuit it is likely that Justice Scalia could have found the space program, birth control, Internet, TV, radio, newspapers, cars, airplanes, nuclear warheads, genetic engineering, and prescription drugs all illegal or at least outside the realm of government concern.

And there are those direct orders in the Old Testament about killing adulterers.  Why does our Supreme Court let those sinners slide by if we are a truly Christian nation as some claim?  Bible less important than the secular Constitution?  For shame.

Leviticus 20:10 – And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man’s wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 22:22 – If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, [both] the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.   [modern Israel is a violent place but even they have decided against capital punishment for adultery]

Now naturally Scalia’s replacement–or not–will provide us with a year of political bickering and anger in Washington D.C.  It is already far more interesting than the 2016 Presidential campaign.

First, there are many controversial and widely affective cases to be decided.  Four to four splits in the Supreme Court mean lower court rulings stand, even when they are contradictory.  So we could well have some of the states under one law, others under the exact opposite.  But then the Republicans pretend to love states’ rights, so we could be back to a de facto Confederacy.  It is worth noting that conservatives do not like states’ rights when a state like California takes it upon itself to tighten controls on air pollution or limit carbon emissions.  Suddenly that is only suited for federal regulation, the same federal regulation they rail against.

Today President Obama pointed out the Republican call for delay in replacing Scalia is being made totally outside the Constitution and its wording. What would Scalia do?

To make this all bizarrely more fascinating that a merely deadlocked Supreme Court, the wing-nuts are now talking murder. That’s right, there was no medical autopsy. His doctor who happened to be on the scene said it was natural causes.  A hearing was held BY PHONE.  What an invitation to conspiracy, huh?  So the right-wing which eschews science when it comes to climate suddenly wants science when one of its favorite people dies at age 79?  Would they believe any coroner short of St. Peter?

Further irony in Scalia’s death.  He was in sparsely populated rural county of Texas where there is little taxation and few public officials.  Isn’t that what we Republicans all aspire to?  So when some wealthy tourist dies in some remote luxury resort there is no public official with medical training on the public dole who can just drive for hours to look at some old guy who died.  You want less government, you get less public service.  Duh. live with it, dude.  If he had died near a city in a Blue State there would have been full medical team to do an autopsy that the right-wing wouldn’t believe anyway.

Maybe Isis had Scalia killed so Obama can open the U.S. borders to all those Isis terrorists lined up in Windsor, Canada, and sinful Tijuana.

Let us not forget that Justice Scalia was one of the five men who elected George W. Bush to his first term as President by telling Florida to stop a vote recount that might have given the White House to Al Gore.

 

HOW THE .O1% LIVE

January 30, 2016

Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) and long-time billionaire has demonstrated another reason why concentrated wealth is dangerous.  This goes beyond mere fairness, morality, the ignominy of being poor or starving to death…the rich can and do do much more damage to the one planet we must all share, for better, or usually for worse.  I’d far rather see Trump, ISIS, the NRA, the Bundy Gang, Volkswagen and professional football on another planet, leaving us in relative peace.  But for now we got one planet and that’s npot changing anytime real soon.

Read this: wealthier than many nations billionaire has a yacht that destroys a corral reef. Oh well, who needs a healthy ocean, right? Another glass of ’68 Burgundy anyone?