Biden Ain’t Black and Blacks aren’t Fascists and Fools

Biden Ain’t Black

and Blacks aren’t Fascists and Fools

May 22nd 2020

Joe Biden got himself in hot water yesterday with one of his characteristic gaffes. He told a radio host, “[I]f you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

OK, it was tone deaf and more than a bit goofy. And old white guy trying to define “black” for African Americans is never going to go over well, and the best thing Biden could do is apologize and retract promptly and whole-heartedly. Yeah, he was annoyed at the questioner, but that’s no excuse.

And he did apologize, because while he blurts things out, he isn’t stupid. According to the Guardian, he said, “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” on a call with the US Black Chambers, an African-American business group, which was added to his public schedule. “I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.” Biden also said he would never “take the African American community for granted”.

He isn’t likely to lose many African-American votes over this, because about 95% of all African Americans know they would have to be out of their goddamned minds to support Trump and his racist party. But the Republicans will howl in their usual ersatz moral outrage. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina (R-Lawn Jockeys) huffed that “That is the most condescending and arrogant comment I’ve heard in a very long time.”

Really, Scotty? Try this one on for size, from David Drucker of the Washington Examiner last month: “President Trump earned a 19% job approval rating from black voters in the latest Fox News poll as the Trump reelection campaign works to double the 8% support he received from this cohort four years ago.”

Cohort? Really? Yes the word was used correctly, if unfortunately. In modern American usage, it has a rather unsavory connotation, suggesting criminality. Or at least disrepute. The use of the term dripped with condensation and arrogance. Scotty, do you think you can get permission from Trump to criticize that remark? I’m curious.

Republicans don’t like African-Americans, don’t respect them, and don’t care about them. It’s not a secret, and I’m surprised that as many as 19% of African-Americans would support Trump in any way, shape or form. Indeed, most non-Faux polls show his support around 5-8%. At this point, only fascists or fools support Trump, and the worst of his supporters support him precisely because he wants to remove African-Americans from the national equation.

Biden has a chance to learn a valuable lesson here. He may well have meant nothing more than to state a belief that African-Americans as a whole aren’t fascists or fools but by saying it the way he said, he has taken the support of African-Americans for granted, with a tone of “You have to vote for me because you don’t have any real choice in the matter.” It’s the same mistake that allowed Hillary to lose, if technically, to the worst candidate any major party has ever offered in American history.

It isn’t enough to inspire people to vote against Trump and his filthy party. Trump and the Republicans are doing a fine job of that. Biden has to give people something to vote FOR. If he campaigns with a tone of “You’re stuck with me, cheap dates” then people aren’t going to vote for Trump, but they are going to stay home and sit on their hands. He can’t blow off labor, the poor, scientists, intellectuals, minorities, women and the left and hope to beat Trump. Trump will get 55 million votes because America has a lot of fools and and relatively few, but very powerful fascists. Biden has to stand strong for policies that will directly affect the groups whose votes he needs to overcome the vicious cult of the Republican party. It isn’t enough that he supported the Voting Right Act over the past 25 years; Republicans have gutted that, and he has to promise to restore it. Obamacare can’t address the needs of the people in this era of plague—he must support universal health care. It isn’t enough to support minimum wage increases and Social Security: he has to fight for a guaranteed universal income that will give everyone home and food security, especially in these times.

If he can’t do that, then the Dems need to consider another candidate and call for an open convention. If he can, he’ll win.

But the Dems and Biden don’t fully understand that it’s not enough to weakly oppose the vicious authoritarianism of the GOP. They must be prepared to fight it, with every tool at their disposal. If the Dems can’t do that, people will turn off and just wait for the inevitable collapse and massive strife that GOP rule will bring.

Biden can’t say stupid shit like, “[I]f you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” He has to make people realize that if we don’t defeat Trumpism and defeat it thoroughly, then we ain’t nothing. It won’t matter if we were black, liberal, female, whatever; we’ll all be getting crushed in the wheels of Trump’s endless cruelty and malice.

If we can’t see the difference between Biden and Trump, then we ain’t human. But it’s up to Biden to make the difference between the two meaningful.

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Welcome to the shit-show — Like Armageddon, except Jesus is the clown from “It”

Welcome to the shit-show

Like Armageddon, except Jesus is the clown from “It”

March 24th 2020

Trump wants to end the coronavirus crisis by Easter. That’s always a nice time of year here in the northern latitudes—spring is finally really asserting itself over winter, all the trees are budding, grass is greening, daffodils are waiting to be crushed by the rogue April snow storm. Christians liked it so much they made it the most important day on their calendar.

Now, it’s one thing to offer hope in a time of crisis. Just this morning I told the fellow down at my local grocery story that I thought we might get a half-season of baseball this year, with opening day on the Fourth of July. I don’t have a shred of evidence to support that, aside from a historical tendency of plagues to fade out after about six months, and we’re now in month three. But it cheered the guy up a bit (being a store clerk right now isn’t much fun) and what the hell—I felt a little bit better by saying it, too.

But here’s the thing; I don’t have the power to order baseball to reopen on a specific date, and I wouldn’t even if I had that power. And if an epidemiologist heard me talking to the clerk, he might suggest that I was being a tad optimistic and suggest that baseball wait until summer solstice before making that sort of decision.

If I said baseball should open up for the season on April 12th, he would tell me I would get thousands of people killed, and I was being reckless even suggesting it.

There isn’t an epidemiologist in the country that thinks dropping social distancing and resuming business as usual in just 18 days would be anything short of catastrophic. If the United States is very, very lucky, we might be showing signs of flattening the curve by then. On our present course, which is still accelerating, by April 12th we may have 1.2 million cases, and between 10 and 20 thousand dead. Sorry to scare anyone, but those are the numbers. It’s bad, it’s going to get a lot worse.

That’s even if Americans do batten down and avoid social contact as much as possible from now on. Between lack of test to get an idea of where the disease is or how far it’s spread, and the deliberate refusal by Trumpkins to observe such precautions (many of them still believe it’s all a liberal Democratic plot to hurt Trump) those are the optimistic numbers, the ones that assume everyone will exercise caution and common sense, and in two weeks the curve may begin to flatten.

What I expect to see by April 12th is that things will be at the point where nearly everyone in the country at least knows someone who has caught the disease, and a significant number know someone who is dead or in a weeks-long struggle to live from the disease. By then, even some of the Trumpkins will realize that going back to work is tantamount to a death sentence, and that the only reason Trump is trying to order them back is because some of his billionaire friends are in danger of becoming millionaires. Not all of them—Trump worship is a cult, in its worst form as bad as Jonestown, and we all remember what happened there. Some Trumpkins will die for Trump, because it will SO annoy the libruls. There was even an image of two MAGAts licking a New York Subway turnstile, which they put on line as a way of “sticking it to the libs”.

Unfortunately, it’s a part of human nature. Today’s Gallup poll showed Trump’s approval rating at 49%, and his disapproval rating at 42%–the first time since he took office that his approval rating wasn’t underwater. When people are frightened, they flock to the safety of an authority figure. They want Big Daddy to save them from the vicious noseeums that are so threatening. This is well known, not just to elderly curmudgeons such as myself, but to any competent social psychologist.

Trump is what is known as a Charismatic Authority. Until now, he wasn’t a very good one, only able to command a relatively small fraction of the population through propaganda that he, and they, were targeted and victimized by others, such as liberals, blacks, Mexicans and Moslems. His crises had been all invented, and rather transparently so. Now that a real crisis has arisen, his power to manipulate has grown exponentially.

Charismatic authorities have always come out during crises: some, such as Winston Churchill or FDR, were benign. Others, such as Stalin, Mao, and Hitler, were not.

While Trump is not an intelligent or empathetic man, that does not mean he is not a crafty predator, and he has realized this crisis will work to his advantage. Charismatic authorities feed off crises. He’s already pressed during this one to have Congress give him a half a trillion dollars to spend as he sees fit, without having to account to anyone or even explain where the money went.

Oh, I’m sure he’ll donate it all to charity. That’s just the type of guy he is, right?

No, more than likely that money would make the Trump family an unmovable and insurmountable dictatorship that would afflict Americans for generations to come.

Crises are essential. Hitler, Mao and Stalin not only arose in times of crisis, but maintained states of crises throughout their bloody reigns. Hitler’s proved so catastrophic to his followers that his public adulation only began to fade in early 1945, when it was obvious that Germany was to be destroyed. Stalin and Mao had policies that killed millions, but upon their deaths, the unfeigned mourning and bereavement their respective lands was immense. Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, then serving a ten year term for Anti-Soviet Agitation, wrote of the utter tearful loss and desolation amongst the prisoners, many of whom were as capriciously imprisoned as he, upon the death of “Uncle Joe.” Charismatic leaders create crises upon which they thrive.

This may explain why Trump wants to reopen the country April 12th. Not just to support his business buddies, but to maximize the crisis. As long as he has scapegoats to shift blame for, he can cause the deaths of tens of millions of Americans—and it will work to his advantage.

Just as Pennywise benefited from the fear caused in Derry by missing children, Trump benefits from a plague that he didn’t cause and need only pretend to be fighting. It’s in his best interest for the disease to keep expanding.

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Bernin’ Up the Race — Sanders may be the nominee—what then?

Bernin’ Up the Race

Sanders may be the nominee—what then?

There was a poll that hit the news the other day, which claimed that 45% of Bernie supporters wouldn’t support any other Democrat who was nominated. The poll was misreported: 31% didn’t know who they would support if Bernie wasn’t the nominee, and 14% said they wouldn’t support anyone else.

Given the general level of mistrust the left has for Democratic party leaders, that is actually a pretty accommodating stance. Party leaders have been demanding that voters support their nominee, no matter who it is, and leftists know that if they make such a guarantee, party leaders will smugly assume they’ve got the leftists herded into a pen, and nominate whoever the hell they want. And they don’t have a great track record there—while none of their nominees in recent decades have been bad, few have been inspiring, and none have really mounted a full-throated advocacy for working people and the poor. So leftists are entirely justified in making no promises beforehand.

Ever notice that the question doesn’t get turned around? Few if any polls ask, “If Bernie is the nominee, will you still support the Democratic ticket?” It’s an interesting omission, especially since Bernie is the front runner right now. He won the Iowa debacle by a sliver, and he’ll probably win New Hampshire this week. His first real test will be in South Carolina. If he does well there—finishes first or second, say, then he will be the front runner.

The DLC will fight that, of course. They’re not supposed to, but money has had the same corrupting effect that it has on the Republicans; the difference is that they aren’t anywhere near as corrupt and ethically bankrupt. Wall Street and the Russian Mafia don’t own them outright the way they do the GOP, but they are sliding down that same path. Goldman Sachs does not want Bernie. Putin doesn’t want what he doubtlessly considers to be a clever Jew. Bernie does make the very best enemies, don’t you think?

How the Democratic leadership opposes Bernie, and the level of unfairness and viciousness voters see in that opposition will determine if the left fights for their choice or not.

Put it simply: if the party is in such a frenzy to keep the left away from power, and willing to behave like Republicans in order to defeat the left, then they have no reasonable expectation of enlisting the support of the left in November, and nor should they. You don’t win followers by spitting on them.

Parenthetically, it’s well-known that some 10% of Bernie supporters in 2016 wound up voting for Trump. I figure that was motivated by stupidity and / or spite, but a lot were seriously alienated by Democratic efforts to keep thumbs firmly on the scales against Sanders. I would hope that most of that 10% have figured out by now that that was one of the stupidest decisions they ever made, although I still come across some Trotskyite who declares that Hillary would have started World War III by now and Trump is better. Well, not all conservatives are stupid, and now we know that not all stupid people are conservatives.

Now, for 50 years, Sanders has referred to himself as a “democratic socialist.” In a nutshell, it means he supports a society where the people are sovereign, and that has a strong safety net, not just against need and want, but against the authoritarian depredations of corporations, the aristocracy, churches and fascists. Nothing Thomas Jefferson would have taken great issue with at the time the Constitution was written. (Jefferson suggested to Madison that the Constitution include a 100% estate tax, something far, far to the left of anything Sanders has ever proposed!). Much of the developed nations of Europe, along with Japan and Canada, have systems that fall under the umbrella of democratic socialism.

Sanders isn’t a wild-eyed radical even if he does sometimes look like Big Bird on bath salts in debate. Ninety percent of his platform can be found in any of Eisenhower’s campaign speeches.

Most of Sanders’ platform is as American as cliché pie. Jefferson wanted to tax the gentry in order to avoid the rise of an aristocratic class. Mason and Madison wanted public schools, from childhood through college. Eisenhower recognized the need to not make the country a cash cow for the military, and recognized the need for a strong safety net. Lincoln realized that people must get equal treatment under the law, and equal opportunity in life.

There’s nothing in Sanders’ platform that hasn’t been a part of the Democratic Party platform going back to 1936, and even some Republican platforms back when they were still respectable. If the Overton Window was where it was in 1960, Sanders would be considered a slightly-left-of-center moderate.

But that word “socialism” scares the piss out of people, since the American right has been vilifying it since about 1915. I was genuinely startled when a putatively educated libertarian told me he couldn’t support Sanders because “socialists killed millions of people.” I expect that from the MAGAts and the Q conspiracy-nut crowd. You know, the morons who think Hitler was a socialist because he was in the National Socialist Worker’s Party. Chris Matthews, an MSNBC commentator well past his sell-by date, made the startling statement the other night, “I believe if Castro and the reds had won the Cold War there would have been executions in Central Park and I might have been one of the ones getting executed. I don’t know who Bernie Sanders supports over these years, I don’t know what he means by socialism.” For fuck’s sake, Matthews has only been covering Sanders for 40 years. Didn’t he ever bother to ask? Or does he prefer to just red-bait?

So lesson #1 in supporting Sanders: He is not, and never has been a communist. Being Jewish, he probably takes a dim view of genocide. He doesn’t believe “everyone should get paid the same” or “the state must own industry” that many people, including a quite a few who should know better, say about socialism. He doesn’t believe everyone is entitled to a college degree; he knows many people could never earn such a degree. He’s a millionaire—barely, when you factor in the two homes he and his wife have. That doesn’t make him a hypocrite—in fact, it makes him the second poorest member of the Senate, a body disposed toward vast seas of hypocrisy and corruption.

Sanders does think everyone should have the same opportunity if they have the abilities, and for those that don’t, good training programs for necessary professions like maintenance and construction. He isn’t out to create a dystopian Vonnegutian fantasy land where everyone is equal; he just wants to make certain nobody is cheated, and everyone has a right, in the world’s richest land, to a comfortable life without hunger or want. To Amy Klobuchar, standing up for the poor and the dispossessed is bad, and she falsely called Sanders a ‘billionaire,’ in hopes of discrediting him.

One acquaintance of mine bemoaned the fact that Sanders uses the term “socialist” to describe himself, and wished he used something like “Rooseveltian.” Well, he’s been a democratic socialist all these years, and that bell has done rung, and they’s ain’t no unringing it. If he used it just once, fifty years ago, the Republicans would be harping on it endlessly to this day.

Surprisingly, though, I don’t think it much matters. No matter who the Democrats nominate, the Party of Trump will queue up to declare him or her a socialist, a communist, a genocidal maniac who wants to sell your daughters to large Negroes. (Yeah, that’s about how Trumpkins think. Don’t waste time promoting Sanders or any other Democrat to them. They are cultists, lost.) I know this because the Republicans have been doing this going back to the days of Joe McCarthy, where they cheerfully tried to smear General Eisenhower as a commie sympathizer.

It is independents and moderate Democrats that you have to persuade that not only is Sanders within the Democratic mainstream, but he’s the least likely to be corrupted by Wall Street, the evangelicals, or Russia. A century of propaganda have conditioned Americans to have a knee-jerk aversion to the word ‘socialist’ and even Democrats shiver when Sanders espouses the very policies that made the Democratic Party—and America—great.

So what policies does Sanders espouse?

Here’s a list, cribbed from his website, and paragraphs following “Note:” are my own thoughts:

  • Institute a moratorium on deportations until a thorough audit of past practices and policies is complete.
  • Reinstate and expand DACA and develop a humane policy for those seeking asylum.
  • Completely reshape and reform our immigration enforcement system, including breaking up ICE and CBP and redistributing their functions to their proper authorities.
  • Dismantle cruel and inhumane deportation programs and detention centers and reunite families who have been separated.
  • Live up to our ideals as a nation and welcome refugees and those seeking asylum, including those displaced by climate change.

Note: Immigration, as a percentage of the population of America, is the lowest it’s been since 1870. Crime rate amongst immigrants is lower. Poverty is lower. Stop listening to the haters on the right!

Create a Medicare for All, single-payer, national health insurance program to provide everyone in America with comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service.

  • No networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays, no surprise bills.
  • Medicare coverage will be expanded and improved to include: include dental, hearing, vision, and home- and community-based long-term care, in-patient and out-patient services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and maternity care, prescription drugs, and more.
  • Stop the pharmaceutical industry from ripping off the American people by making sure that no one in America pays over $200 a year for the medicine they need by capping what Americans pay for prescription drugs under Medicare for All.

Note: estimates on the tax increase needed to implement this range from $900 billion a year up to $4.5 trillion. However, the US will save at least 20% by eliminating overhead and the inefficiencies of competing insurance schemes.

Transform our energy system to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.

  • Ensure a just transition for communities and workers, including fossil fuel workers.
  • Ensure justice for frontline communities, especially under-resourced groups, communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly.
  • Save American families money with investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.
  • Commit to reducing emissions throughout the world, including providing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund, rejoining the Paris Agreement, and reasserting the United States’ leadership in the global fight against climate change.
  • Invest in conservation and public lands to heal our soils, forests, and prairie lands.
  • End the greed of the fossil fuel industry and hold them accountable.

Note: Solar already employs more than coal and nuclear combined. Continuing to transition to a safe, clean, efficient economy will create millions of jobs.

Guarantee tuition and debt-free public colleges, universities, HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions and trade-schools to all.

  • Cancel all student loan debt for the some 45 million Americans who owe about $1.6 trillion and place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward at 1.88 percent.
  • Invest $1.3 billion every year in private, non-profit historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
  • End equity gaps in higher education attainment. And ensure students are able to cover non-tuition costs of attending school by: expanding Pell Grants to cover non-tuition and fee costs, tripling funding for the Work-Study Program, and more.

Note: One need only look at the buffoons who graduate from elite colleges on the legacy program to know higher education in America is badly broken. The system doesn’t produce ‘very stable geniuses’; it merely produces silver-spoon whelps good only at preserving their class wealth and power.

Double union membership within Bernie’s first term.

  • Establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.”
  • Provide unions the ability to organize through a majority sign up process and enact “first contract” provisions to ensure companies cannot prevent a union from forming by denying a first contract.
  • Deny federal contracts to companies that pay poverty wages, outsource jobs overseas, engage in union busting, deny good benefits, and pay CEOs outrageous compensation packages
  • Eliminate “Right to Work for Less” laws and guarantee the right to unionize for workers historically excluded from labor protections, like farm workers and domestic workers.

Note: American workers receive the worst treatment of all workers in the developed world. The federal minimum wage is an utter disgrace, as are most state minimums. There’s no paid vacation minimum, no maternal leave minimum, and between the gig economy and “fire-at-will” laws, there is absolutely no job security. I personally know two people who were fired from their jobs after 29 years and 11 months, because the employer didn’t want to pay their pensions. Those employers would be in prison in most parts of the world for pulling a stunt like that. Instead, they support the GOP, which wants to wipe out Social Security. Speaking of which:

Expand Social Security benefits for all recipients and protect pensions.

  • Guarantee home and community based long-term care services.
  • Protect our most vulnerable seniors by quadrupling funding for the Older Americans Act and expanding other programs seniors rely on.
  • Expand and train the direct care workforce we need.

One in three private pension plans fail, usually through legalized corporate malfeasance. Administrative costs average 25-30% (Social Security is less than 1%). People in the world’s richest country shouldn’t have to work 30 years, only to face hunger and possible homelessness because corporate CEOs have taken it all. Productivity in the US has risen 280% since 1978; wages only 5% (both adjusted for inflation). So where did all those tens of trillions of dollars go? (Hint: they own the GOP, and are trying to buy up the Democrats).

David Brin, the SF/Futurist writer, maintains a list of 29 “consensus goals” that he says all Democrats share. ( https://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/07/debate-special-shall-we-let-them-divide.html ) They all surely command overwhelming support amongst Democrats, and all of this year’s candidates for President.

But here’s the thing: none of Sanders’ policies are alien to that list, and he shares all the items on that list. If we accept Brin’s list as a criteria for mainstream Democratic beliefs, then Sanders is comfortably in that range. Brin himself has remarked that he likes Sanders a lot, but doesn’t believe a “socialist” can be elected. On the other hand, Doctor, a democratic socialist who shares all of Brin’s beliefs might work…

In 2016, we were told a woman couldn’t win the presidency. She didn’t, but she did get three million more votes than her opponent. In 2008, we were told an African-American could win the presidency. One did. In 1960, we were told a Catholic couldn’t win the Presidency. One did. In 1860, we were told a moderate who wanted to stop the spread of slavery couldn’t win. One did. And the country, always, was the richer for it in the long run. Except 2016, where the actual winner didn’t win.

In the end, most Democrats will support the party’s candidate because if we don’t get rid of the Republicans, they will destroy America. It’s that simple. But if the nominee is Sanders, let’s rid ourselves of the silly nonsense that he’s the next Stalin who wants to throw everyone in Gulags. If you can’t support him, at least have sane reasons why you don’t. You don’t like his views on guns; he’s inconsistent on military spending, whatever. But if you oppose him because you misunderstand a label, then Trump and his evil henchmen will win.

 

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Game Over – Terrifying new study suggests we’ve passed the tipping point.

June 20th 2019

The Tundra is vast. Just the extent in Canada alone is one million square miles, or about 30% of Canada’s land area. World wide, the tundra covers 8.9 million square miles, a region the size of North America.

Like most things relating to the Arctic, the nature of tundra is more diverse than people imagine. Merriam-Webster defines tundra as “a level or rolling treeless plain that is characteristic of arctic and subarctic regions, consists of black mucky soil with a permanently frozen subsoil, and has a dominant vegetation of mosses, lichens, herbs, and dwarf shrubs; also : a similar region confined to mountainous areas above timberline.”

Permanently frozen subsoil, or permafrost, is a wildly inaccurate name. Much of the far north has been frozen for thousands of years; where the tundra fades to taiga, steppe or boreal forest to the south, the low end of ‘permafrost’–ground that has been frozen for more than two years—is fairly common.

Scientists have been concerned about the state of the tundra for some time. Temperatures on the Canadian tundra have risen by 5.3C (9.5F) since 1990. The treeline has been steadily moving northward as a result, and areas of permafrost intermittency have expanded and increased. In some parts of central Québec and northern British Columbia, permafrost has already vanished altogether.

Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks led a team to do a survey of the Canadian tundra on the southeastern shore of Prince Patrick Island by an abandoned military site on a cove with the touristy name of Mould Bay. At 76 north, there isn’t much between it and the north pole: Ellesmere Island, and that’s about it. Being in a somewhat sheltered spot, the weather isn’t as fierce as in much of the true north, but it still only enjoys three months a year of above-freezing temperatures, and average temps can reach -30F in the winter. So a foot below ground surface, permafrost is truly permanent.

Or so Romanovsky and his team thought. After all, that’s what they found on their previous visit, in the summer of 2016. Apparently Mould Bay wasn’t on the survey list this summer, but they spotted a break in the weather and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to land and take a look around.

What they found shocked them. Large areas of the permafrost around Mould Bay had melted, transforming the land from a flat icescape to a region of rolling hummocks, frost heaves, and countless little ponds and puddles. Submarine grasses had already secured a foothold in the watery microbiomes. Normally the latent cold in the ground prevented all but the most superficial thawing during the brief summers, but clearly that had changed. Indeed, the extent and depth of melting around Mould Bay was what was forecast for near the end of the century-2090. The team found it terrifying.

Tundra soil is largely organic plant matter, long dead but preserved by the permafrost. It is carbon rich, and not surprisingly, contains vast quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), all of which are potent greenhouse gases.

Mould Bay doesn’t represent all of the tundra any more than it does all of North America. But that wild amounts of melting are happening this far north and in a region that was still colder than most of the tundra is alarming. And we know frightening changes have been occurring over those millions of square miles; methane ‘volcanos’ in Siberia, bubbles of CO2 erupting in lakes in the north boreal, methane in tundra lakes (which burn fiercely when lit) and elevated levels of N2O throughout the taiga.

It may also explain the unexpected jump in world wide CO2 atmospheric concentrations, 414.2, a jump of 3.7ppm from 2018 and more than double the average increase in concentrations over the previous twenty years. That was an unpleasant surprise.

We need a lot more data from the tundra and taiga regions to know just how serious the situation is, and how immediate the disaster will be as a result.

We had already ensured that we have brought a climate emergency down upon our heads. No matter what we do, we’ve ensured a temperature increase of 2.5C worldwide, and 4.5C in the far north. This means major climate disruptions, crop failures, floods, droughts and megastorms. It means bioregional collapses, including in the oceans. Millions of people will be displaced, and large regional wars are likely. The death toll just from what we’ve already ensured will be in the millions, and perhaps worse than millions.

Widespread melting in the north could DOUBLE annual emissions, That would put us above 500ppm in less than 20 years, and temperatures would climb by at least 5C. At that point, it’s no longer a climate emergency; it’s a climate catastrophe. Widespread ecosystem collapse, a likely end to technological civilization, and a death toll in the billions.

Scientists are racing around the tundra regions trying to get some sort of overview of the millions of square miles. They already knew changes were happening far harder and faster there due to the phenomenon of polar amplification, but they weren’t prepared for something as dramatic as Mould Bay.

There’s a temptation to regard Mould Bay as an exception, even an extreme, even though it was in a part of the tundra believed least likely to melt in the near future. But we know changes is coming to the true north faster and more severe than previously imagined. We probably won’t find many places as bad as Mould Bay, at least not this summer.

But Mould Bay isn’t an extreme. It isn’t an exception.

It’s a harbinger.

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Class War – America is fighting a class war, and losing

February 10th 2019

Gabriel Zucman is an Assistant Professor in Economics at UC Berkeley. Don’t let the “assistant” throw you off; he is one of the leading analysts of global wealth inequality in his field, and has co-written nine texts with the renowned Thomas Piketty, in addition to a large volume of other works.

Emmanuel Saez is an Assistant Professor in Economics at UC Berkeley, has also authored dozens of papers on wealth inequality, including with both Zucman and Piketty. He advocates a high marginal income tax rate (70-90%) on incomes over ten million as a way of equalizing the huge disparity caused by runaway capitalism.

How bad is that disparity? Zucman released a working paper the other day in which he showed the richest 0.00025 percent of the American population now own more wealth than the 150 million adults in the bottom 60 percent.

The obscene increase in wealth for the 400 richest Americans came at the harshest expense of that bottom 60% of the country. Their share of the nation’s wealth dropped from 5.7% in 1987 (and that was one of the worst rates of inequality in the developed world) to just 2.1% now. They have less than half what they did 32 years ago, and it all went to those undeserving billionaires.

It’s perhaps not surprising that both economists are working as advisors for the Elizabeth Warren campaign. She sees wealth inequality and the subsequent twisting of the rules as the biggest threat to America. While she advocates for a high marginal income rate for the highest earners (77% on $10 million/year or more) she also proposes a 2% wealth tax on estates worth more than $10 million, 3% on estates worth more than a billion. Zucman and Saez estimate that such a plan would raise about $275 billion a year on average in its first ten years.

The pushback has been frantic and immediate. The Private Bank of JP Morgan snapped that such a plan was unconstitutional, overlooking the fact that wealth taxes were about the only form of taxation available to the federal government prior to 1917. Property tax is perhaps the best known example of a wealth tax. So is the estate tax.

Other flacs for the rich declared that the tax wasn’t feasible because it was so difficult for a rich person to know how much his assets were.

Um, No. Just No. You don’t get to be a billionaire without hiring some very smart people who know exactly where every dollar of those assets lie. And you have a raft of other very smart people who can ensure the highest possible return on investment for all that money.

The fact is the ultra-wealthy have stopped having any positive affect whatever on the general economy (and it’s always been questionable as to how beneficial they actually were) and have now become voracious and parasitic, a risk to their host. Even the ultra-wealthy who are uneasily aware of the destructive nature of their class, such as Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, can’t give back anything near what they take. Most simply take, and give one half of one percent of their income to charity to try and justify their presence. They spend more in the system of legalized bribery that is the American elections system than they do on actual Americans, and have bought a large portion of elected officials, zombie representatives who oppose high marginal tax rates, wealth taxes, universal health care, workers’ rights, environmental protections, public transportation, a strong social safety net, and anything else that might stand between them and a high appreciation of their already obscene wealth. And to hell with all the rest of us.

The disparity of wealth is already the highest its been in American history. It’s as high was it was in France in the 1780s, or Russia in the 1910s. That’s a very dangerous place for any society to be, especially when the rich overreach and make it nearly impossible for most people to make a decent living.

That’s when you start getting revolutions, and trust me, nobody wants that. No sane person who understands history. The satisfaction wrought by the guillotine is only transitory, and it takes a while for conditions to improve to where they were before the revolution. Even the “successful” revolution in America needed thirty years for the colonists to enjoy the standard of living they had before they broke away from England.

Polls show that between 70% and 85% of Americans approve of Warren’s plan. Similar numbers support similar plans by Bernie Sanders, or the one proposed by Ocasio-Cortez.

Tell everyone not to vote for any multi-millionaire candidates, or any candidate who receives “dark money” from PAC—they are not on your side, cannot be on your side. They work for the people who are trying to take everything from you.

The people are speaking loud and clear, It’s time for the ultra rich to listen, and consider options that they can live with.

The alternative, horrible as it is, is absolutely inevitable otherwise.

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70% — Go Suck Lemons!

January 27th 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lit a match under the collective arses of American plutocracy and their ‘umble servants in the right wing media last week by proposing a new top marginal income tax rate of 70% on income over ten million.

One assclown, purportedly one of Trump’s top economic people, got on TV to ‘explain’ that a little girl selling lemonade at a dollar a pop would have to turn around and give 70 cents to the government. Oh, the horror!

Well, the wealthy class hire the very best fools and liars to safeguard their interests, don’t they? Since right wing economists don’t know anything about the actual economy and prefer to scare folks instead, let’s explain what really happens to that little girl in the hellish socialist landscape of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In the real world, the one where kids set up lemonade stands, it’s usually a one-day thing. If it’s a warm day and the kid has a good location, she might sell 20 or even 30 cups of lemonade. She pockets all the money which she will proceed to blow on ALEX toys or, if she’s responsible, save toward a cruiser bike. Mom and Dad, who provided the stand, the lemonade, the cups and the water, are just happy to acquaint their kid with the notion of working to earn money. Unless the kid happens to be African-American and has some really vile neighbors who try to shop her for selling food without a permit (yes, this has happened) officialdom will take no notice. The IRS will not be coming around to seize her glitter and her plush toy unicorns.

So what are the circumstances under which the kid might have to shell out 70% on a cup of lemonade?

Well, none, actually.

In the real business world, she has to buy the lemons, sweeteners and cups, pay the water bill, amortize out the cost of the stand, pay various permits, plus social security and unemployment, and pay rent on the place she sets up her stand. After she’s done all that, she’s maybe making 30 cents on each lemonade sold. The overhead is all deductible, and she doesn’t have to pay taxes on that.

So if she was in the 70% bracket on income, she would be shelling out 70% of 30% on each dollar of revenue, or 21%. That’s still pretty steep, and she would have to cut back on the pink glitter fingernail polish. That seems an awfully cruel thing to do to a little girl.

But it turns out that even Republicans aren’t that malevolent. You see, under the present tax schedule (and AOC isn’t proposing any changes there at this time) she doesn’t pay any tax at all on the first $9,699 of her income from sales.

To make $9,699, she would have to sell 32,330 cups of lemonade. Assuming she takes Sundays off, that’s a bit over 100 cups a day. That would be quite an accomplishment, especially if she lives in, say, Milwaukee, where January sales might be less than brisk.

When she sells that 32,331st cup of lemonade, she’ll will owe income tax. The tax rate is 10%, so she would actually owe seven cents.

But there’s a personal deduction. $12,200 for a single taxpayer. There’s higher brackets for married and head of household, but we’re talking about a non-empancipated minor here.

So after she is sold 40,773 and one third cups of lemonade, she finally has a federal tax liability! Seven cents! Alert the bankruptcy lawyers!

Let’s suppose she made $520,000 from her lemonade stand. At this point, even Kramer would have trouble imagining that it’s just one little girl at one stand. She would be busier than the Deadwood whore house on payday!

So she’s opened new stands and hired people to run them. On the other hand, she’s enjoying economies of scale, so it’s likely she still makes 30 cents on each lemonade sold. Even if the money is coming in without her lifting a finger for most of it.

There’s all kinds of legal and otherwise tax dodges available for someone who is hitting the current top bracket of $510,000, as she has, but let’s suppose she’s very grateful to President Trump for giving her this incredible opportunity, and wants to pay every dime that she’s liable for on paper. Her federal tax burden would be $159,544. To get to that point, she will have sold 1,700,000 cups of lemonade. An enterprise that vast would be fully automatic, and it’s probably been six months since she even touched a lemon. She has people to do that for her. My god how the money rolls in! All she has to do is phone her head accountant once a week. And she’s paying a federal income tax of about nine and a third cents per cup. Mind you, she’s very patriotic and doesn’t want to take further tax relief, even though her account is telling her she can cut her tax liability in half through legal means.

So when does this hypothetical 70 cents per cup of lemonade kick in?

Well, it never does. She can sell up to two and a third million cups of lemonade per year and federal tax is about 9-10%. But when she sells that 2,333,334th cup, watch out! That’s when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pounces! That’s when the dread 70% marginal rate kicks in. For each cup beyond that, she will owe 21 cents. Not 70 cents. 21.

Keep in mind she already pulled in ten million bucks and is working a half-hour a week on her business if she’s conscientious. She got college covered, paid her parents’ mortgage, and a couple of new cars, and she still has plenty left over to buy the local plush unicorn toy store franchise. She can afford to pay twenty one cents per cup of lemonade sold!

Most economists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan. It’s not as steep as the 70% top marginal rate under Reagan (which started in the $190,000 range) or the 93% under Eisenhower, a time of unparalleled growth in America. Paul Krugman thinks the top rate should be 80%, and some economists have gone further, suggesting a tax of 100% on annual income over $100,000,000.

So when some weird right wing fruitcake solemnly declares that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is trying to turn America into Venezuela or Cuba, show them this, and ask them why they don’t mention other failed economic hellholes like Kansas or Wisconsin, which enjoy every low tax rates, even on lemonade.

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End Game – It’s us or him

December 21st 2018

Even by the vicious, arbitrary, capricious and sometimes insane standards of the Trump administration, the past 48 hours were beyond belief.

First, there was the Michael Flynn sentencing. Judge Emmett Sullivan was expected to give the seditious and disgraced General a slap on the wrist as a result of supposedly very valuable evidence provided to the special council’s office in relation to Trump and Russia. But Flynn, whose common sense is the equal of his sense of loyalty to his country, ran his mouth to the press, whining that the FBI fooled him into thinking it was OK to lie to them because he thought the 11 separate interviews they hauled him in for were just friendly chats. Koffee Klatches. They talked about the latest Vogue magazine, you know. Just more proof the FBI was evil. Sullivan’s patience snapped, and he let Flynn know just how big a pile of human shit he really is, delayed sentencing, and let it be known if he spread any more right wing bullshit, he would be treated as a near-traitor.

That happened just a day after California Congresswoman Jackie Spier penned an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle titled, “Did Putin Buy Donald Trump?” She didn’t actually use either the word “traitor” or “kompromat,” but the concepts were definitely intrinsic to her narrative.

So now even the mainstream press is starting to use the word “treason” in relation to Trump. It’s about time.

Trump made Spier’s case for her by suddenly and unilaterally announcing that all troops would be pulled out of Syria, a sudden action that betrayed the Kurds (again) and no doubt delighted Putin. Make no mistake: I’ve argued for pulling troops out of Syria right along, but I don’t for an instant believe that Trump went about it the way he did because he gave a shit about the troops, let alone the Syrians who are dying by the thousands. He did it because Putin wanted him to. And time is running out for him to do stuff like that.

This in turn caused Jim Mattis to quit in disgust. No flowery language about it being an honor and privilege to serve Trump; just a letter that boiled down to, “I can’t help you, get yourself a defense secretary who will do your bidding.” I used to joke about how it came to be that the only adult in the Trump administration, the sane thoughtful one, was known as “Mad Dog” but that Mad Dog might be one of the very few to leave that benighted administration with his reputation as an adult and an American still intact.

It is scary to contemplate Trump’s foreign policy now that his only remaining advisor is John Bolton.

Then Trump blew up the Continuing Resolution. This was a kick-the-can-down-the-road measure to keep the government running while the ludicrous impasse over the Wall continued. Nothing too unusual there: it’s been pretty much what passes for Republican governance since 1993. They love America but hate the United States, and don’t want to pay for anything other than a big military and an economy that consists mostly in the form of raping the workers. So they’ve been running government by extortion, whittling down any stake Americans might have in their own country.

Trump, apparently upset that such intellectual luminaries as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh no longer loved him, changed his mind after most of Congress had left for their indeterminable vacations, so the government will have a partial shutdown at least until January 10th. It will cost billions, and Trump should reflect on the fact that the Secret Service agents following him won’t be getting paychecks for Christmas.

Even the most stupid mob boss knows you gotta pay your muscle. But then, Trump is extraordinarily stupid.

The stock market is showing signs of a possible crash, having lost 4,000 points this past month. Investors are no longer confident we will survive Trump. That’s not a very comfortable thought.

Then there is the Whitaker thing. The swindler-turned-top-cop had a Department of Justice board of unknown parties say he was not required to recuse himself in the Mueller investigation, then they put out another statement an hour later saying he was supposed to recuse himself, and then an hour after that Whitaker said he was going to disregard the advice to recuse himself.

Kremlin watchers thought as of yesterday that Rosenstein was still overseeing the investigation, since Whitaker didn’t want to go to jail for obstruction, but was acting on the QT since if he did recuse himself, he would get the Jeff Sessions treatment. Now nobody knows that the hell is going on. In some ways, that’s the most terrifying development of all, since it smells like Trump is preparing to purge Mueller’s ass.

Finally, there was the Trump Foundation. A judge shut it down, effectively labeling it a criminal enterprise. I had to shake my head at the wonder of it all. Remember all those Republicans who prattled on endlessly about the Clinton Foundation because it took money (legally) from foreign concerns. For all the huffing, they couldn’t find any quid pro quo, unless you count the ridiculous conspiracy theory about the Canadian government selling uranium to Russia. (Would Trump hesitate to give Russia uranium if Putin asked him for it?). Are they apoplectic in rage over the open criminality of the Trump Foundation?

Hmm. Apparently not. Like cheating on wives or banging porn stars or blowing up the deficit or bombing kids in other countries, or screwing kids domestically, it’s only bad if Democrats are accused of it.

The people who worked directly for Trump aren’t the only ones who trashed their reputations; any Republican who whined endlessly about the Clinton/Obama “scandals” and is silent now can expect decades to pass before anyone wants to hear their thoughts on much of anything again.

Meanwhile, the country is now in deep crisis, and when Congress returns, it may have to put aside the budget and the wall and all that, and drive Trump from office.

It’s him or us.

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Parasites – America being bled dry

October 31st, 2018

Chuck Collins of the Guardian had an article today ( https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/31/us-wealthiest-families-dynasties-governed-by-rich ) that should surprise few and alarm many. Titled “The wealth of America’s three richest families grew by 6,000% since 1982,” the subhead is “Three US families have a combined wealth of $348.7bn.” If you’re curious, the three families are the Waltons of Walmart, the Mars candy family, and the Kochs.

Granted, they satisfied three great American lusts: cheap(ish) Chinese clothing, mediocre American candy, and fossil fuels. They spotted a need, and filled it. The American capitalist dream, writ large.

The like to say they are makers and not takers, the Ayn Rand litany used to justify unbridled greed. Most of them inherited their wealth, and have an army of managers, accountants and lawyers to support their ultra-privileged positions in society, and a similar army of propagandists and lobbyists to legally barricade their positions, a governmental and media fortress devoted to persuading the public that because they are fantastically rich, they are superior and thus deserve to be fantastically rich.

Government and the law are twisted to support them, protecting them from civil and criminal retribution for their increasingly rapacious actions.

“Tort reform” is a euphemism for altering the law to make it impossible for groups of people they have cheated and sickened to sue them. Tax reform took the hundreds of cheats, swindles, and illegals dodges Fred Trump and his wastrel children committed and made them all legal under present-day law.

Media amalgamation ensured that virtually everything in the way of news that Americans are exposed to are bland, corporate pablum, or raving neo-nazi right wing bullshit.

The article continues:

The top three wealthiest billionaires in the US – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – now have as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population combined.

This is possible because the bottom fifth of US households are underwater, with zero or negative net worth. And the next fifth has so few assets to fall back on that they live in fear of destitution.

Three individuals, according to the article, are wealthier than the bottom 50% of the American population—some 170 million other people—combined. Twenty percent of the population have zero or negative assets, and another twenty percent live paycheck to paycheck, two weeks from being broke. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have more money than all those people.

The article note that allowing for inflation, the wealth of the top 1% has increased sixty-fold since 1982, which coincidentally is when Reaganomics first kicked in.

Even Paul Volcker, no socialist, worried, “We’re developing into a plutocracy.” Much the way Stephen King is developing into a novelist.

The Founders feared the rise of an aristocracy as much as they feared the threats to a democratic government from the churches, corporations and authoritarians. To that end, they favored strong estate taxes (Jefferson proposed that the Constitution include a 100% estate tax on all real property!) and, while not willing to impose progressive income taxes, did worry about the potential for accumulation of wealth.

Since Reagan, estate taxes have all but vanished, and there has been a massive tax shift from corporations and the wealthy to the middle class. How vast? In 1952%, the median 40% of wage earners paid 4% of their income in federal taxes, about 20% of federal revenues. Corporations made up about half of federal revenues. Now, the middle class pay about 60% and corporations less than 25%, and in return for that large tax burden, they get a government spending trillions on a bloated and largely useless military, and scheming to steal the common funds used for old age pensions and what scant medical coverage they have. In the meanwhile, they are ‘entertained’ by propaganda outlets that moan endlessly about how good the penniless have it because they don’t have to pay taxes.

Even as we talk, the Republicans in Congress, in a great, grand finale of a “fuck you” gesture, are trying to eliminate most of the remaining taxes the wealthy and corporations have to pay, another three trillion dollars over a ten year period. But no worries: they plan to cover part of the cost by stealing your pension fund. And Republicans, in a grim, desperate hope that they can fool the people one last time and steal everything else they own, are campaigning on promises to protect insurance companies from out-and-out raping their customers with pre-existing conditions, and still promising to balance the budget (they’ve already more than doubled the annual deficit) and oh, yes, by spending a few billions to send an amazing 15,000 heavily armed American troops to protect shivering, frightened, craven American right wingers from a bedraggled group of families with grand parents and children, all on foot, some barefoot, who are walking towards America, still well over a thousand miles away. You have to be a particularly abject sort of coward to fall for this “threat,” and a particularly vicious, cynical and cruel despot to pretend it’s a threat.

It cannot continue. Regulated capitalist societies lead to unchecked aggregation of wealth and then implode, without exception. And the present aggregation of wealth in America is the greatest the world has ever seen. So the plutocrats are spending billions to persuade the American people that only by sacrificing themselves, their wealth, their livelihoods, and their standard of living, can they help the plutocrats avoid the very destruction the plutocrats are causing.

These parasites—and anyone who makes $100 billion is taking far more than they are giving—have to be checked, or they will destroy the host. You are the host, and you are being bled dry.

Bring back progessivity in taxes. Bring back a strong estate tax. Eliminate Citizens United and make campaign spending from a common fund. Make it easier for people to sue corporations that have cheated them or sickened them. Stop lionizing opulant filth like Donald Trump.

That, or die like a dog in the gutter, convulsed by the actions of a million fleas.

Or perhaps a half dozen fleas, each the size of a hyena.

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Unreality Show I’ll Take Door Number i for $100, Alex

October 12th 2018

Who would have thought, three years ago, that we would have a black entertainer meeting with the President in the Oval Office and arguing for the repeal of the 13th amendment?
Trump has achieved the trifecta of crazy: Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and now Kanye West. A pity Charlie Manson is dead: he could have visited and argued for lowering the age of consent to six.

This spectacle would have been grotesque and awkward under the best of circumstances, but it occurred almost to the minute that a major hurricane was devastating the Florida panhandle coast, completely leveling one town and inflicting major damage from Florida to North Carolina. Even as the Trump administration was arguing that 4C increase was inevitable, so we all might as well get used to it.

At least this time touring Melania Trump didn’t show up wearing a coat that proclaimed her lack of concern; she was off in Africa, wearing a British RA-style pith helmet, recreating “Call Me Bwimbo”. Oh, wait, that’s Bwana. Second look. No, it’s Bwimbo. The woman has a gift for wearing “Fuck You” as a fashion accessory. After getting some light criticism over that, she flounced off, calling herself the most bullied person in America. Easy solution, babe: file for divorce.

Was it really just 23 months ago that people were saying in hopeful tones that Republicans in Congress could keep Trump in line and blunting his more egregious impulses?

Nah. They saw Trump apparently getting away with the most blatant lies and viciousness, and decided they knew a winning approach when they saw it. Now they’re all lying their heads off. As the election nears, it’s a race to the bottom.

You see campaign ads all over the place swearing up and down that Republicans want to protect Medicare, and that Democrats are goddless commie Muslims who want to allow billions of Mexicans to come in and take over the country. They boast about how Trump saved the economy by maintaining employment and growth trends previously seen over the past six years under Obama, and carefully don’t mention the trillions in new debt for the latest tax giveaways to the rich (including the additional $3 trillion last week that the same Republicans who voted for it last week aren’t mentioning now), or the fact that despite the fact that they are fracking and drilling the living shit out of America and working to turn national parks into oil reserves, the price of gasoline is a dollar fifty above what it was last year.

It got so bad that NY Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a piece yesterday effectively calling the entire party liars. Such a column would never have seen the light of day a few years ago, but that was before the GOP went mad and abandoned all principle. At least the NY Times belatedly remembered they were a newspaper and what that meant.

Trump had an ‘op-ed’ in the disreputable USA Today that has to be read to be believed. The Washington Post stated that nearly every single sentence included a misstatement or flat-out lie.

In Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, is running for Governor, but as SS he retains the power to purge voter rolls. Which he is doing with a vengeance, some 26,000 names over the past few weeks, over such criteria as whether a middle initial is included on the written name but not in the signature. While African-Americans make up 32% of Georgia’s population (and a somewhat lower proportion of the voting population for obvious reasons) they make up 70% of the voters being purged. Oh, and the SS office isn’t bothering to tell the voters they have been purged. Let it be a surprise on election day. Similar, if less egregious stories abound in other states saddled with Republican rule.

Of course, Trump hates a free press, but isn’t above using the more whorish and lower segments of that press to attack the rest. The National Enquirer has been prostituting itself for him for years now, and Fox News is nothing more than the propaganda arm for the GOP. It’s a shameful thing to see in America, which once was proud of its free and independent press. Now the government has fascist whores pretending to be reporters to spread lies and stifle dissent.

It’s no surprise that news that Saudi Arabia lured a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul and proceeded to torture, murder and dismember him. It’s widely believed that it was ordered by the vile despot Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who seized power last year with the somewhat clandestine help from the Trump administration (Chief Wastrel Jared Kushner was on hand to oversee the coup and possibly offer friendly advice and hidden funding).

Trump’s reaction to this was muted, partly because he doesn’t mind seeing journalists being killed for doing their job and partly because his business interests are heavily intertwined with bin Salman’s. Even as most of the corporate world pull away from the swinish and vicious Sauds, Trump is going ahead with another arms deal so Saudi Arabia can massacre a few thousand more Yemanis.

Iran is a vile theocracy, but it’s only the third worst in the region, behind Israel and Saudi Arabia. Guess which of the three the US condemns solely?

Kavanaugh, perjurer, liar and partisan ratfucker, has already established a new precedent, becoming the first sitting justice in Supreme Court history to be under active investigation for violation of judicial practices and ethics, based on his sworn Senate testimony. He managed this odiferous distinction on just the second day on the court. It will get worse.

Trump is submitting written answers to Meuller’s investigative team, about his only remaining constitutional recourse. His lawyers knew he can’t go a minute without lying, so spoken testimony under oath would be a legal death trap, and this at least gives the lawyers time to write and finesse the answers, in the hope they can make Trump at least technically not liable for perjury. We’ll know soon enough if these lawyers, not the most brilliant legal team over assembled, can come up with anything that won’t result in immediate indictments.

OK, admit it: after all that, Kanye West sounds pretty sane, doesn’t he?

At least harmless, right? Right?

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Fascism Rising – Trump and Kavanaugh aren’t bugs; they’re features

September 23rd, 2018

One of the many sub-plots in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s brilliant Maniac involves the character Jed Milgrim (played by Billy Magnussen) a “colorful douche” who is a scion of a vicious, powerful, wealthy family, and who stands accused of a heinous sexual assault involving urination. It’s nearly impossible not to think of the Trump family while watching this, not only because of the nature of the crime, or the resemblance Magnussen bears to one of the Trump scions, but because of the calm assurance of the family that in order to protect their power, prestige and wealth, it is perfectly reasonable to commit perjury, blackmail and bribe people (including family members), and stand well above the law in pursuit of their own interests. They are used to dismissing people who they have wronged and who want to fight back as greedy little scuttlers, and resent a legal system that doesn’t just let them destroy such rabble.

The haughty, self-assured mien Magnussen wears is one we have seen far too often, not just in this White House (including many of its nominees from the world of wealth and privilege) but in the faces of the broadcasters on the right-wing media, and the people who trot out endless columns of right wing think tanks to assure us that “identity politics” and “takers” are only showing resentment of their betters, and Americans should not believe people who profess to stand for the people when America’s ultra-wealthy stand ready to defend the people from the people.

Congruent with this, I’m presently reading a book by Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains – The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. I’ll have a full review of the book upon completion of reading it,

America has always had a class of aggrieved plutocrats who believe their property rights trump the civil rights of all other Americans. This dates back to John C. Calhoun and his vigorous defense of America’s biggest economic phenomenon prior to the civil war: slavery. MacLean notes that slavery made North Carolina the richest and most powerful state in the union prior to 1860, and created more one percenters in Mississippi than in New York.

The power of this elite was held in check by the Civil War and various economic crashes, culminating in the Crash of ‘29 and the Depression, resulting in the New Deal.

MacLean explains how a libertarian economist of the 1950s, James McGill Buchanan, created a reality in which vast sums of money could be spent organizing the plutocrat class and using propaganda and control of the media to convince Americans that they were incapable of self-governance and should let the natural leaders of society (the “businessmen”) run things.

It was fascism, pure and simple, although that is a word they never, ever acknowledge and attack all who use it. Governance through corporation.

The biggest problem with fascism is the same that one sees with other unaccountable forms of governments, such as theocracies and monarchies: corruption sets in quickly, and the rot spreads until it finally kills its host.

But as long as there is power and money to be accumulated, corruption isn’t seen as a bug—it’s seen as a feature.

The fascists have taken over the GOP, with the nightmarish and Kafkaesque results that we see in the paper every day, of people grimly determined to fight unions, civil libertarian groups, workers in general, women, and any group that can organize, collectivize and perhaps challenge their power.

MacLean writes, “Is what we are dealing with merely a social movement of the right whose radical ideas must eventually face public scrutiny and rise or fall on their merits? Or is this the story of something quite different, something never before seen in American history? Could it be—and I use these words quite hesitantly and carefully—a fifth-column assault on American democratic governance?…Pushed by relatively small numbers of radical-right billionaires and millionaires who have become profoundly hostile to America’s modern system of government, an apparatus decades in the making, funded by those same billionaires and millionaires, has been working to undermine the normal governance of our democracy. Indeed, one such manifesto calls for a “hostile takeover” of Washington, D.C.”

As you watch this week as the Republicans cling like grim death to the Kavanaugh nomination, hoping to push this vile corporatist down our throats to consolidate their power they way they have with Thomas, and Gorsuch, and you wonder how they can possibly continue to support Trump, reflect on the fact that they are no longer just an American political party: they are a fifth column, enemies to the Constitution and determined to finish a slow coup they have been conducting against America for 40 years.

They know Trump is a bad president. Even without the corruption, the sheer scale of his incompetence and inability to lead would, in a normal party, be enough to impeach him. They see the weirdness and chaos as inconveniences; the fact that Trump is utterly corrupt is what makes him so valuable to them. They know he’s a thief, a crook, a swindler, and possibly a traitor. But so are they, even if they dress it up in self-serving rhetoric, and as for being traitors, they are much closer in spirit to the most corrupt plutocrat of all, Vladimir Putin, then they are to anything readers might recognize as American values. Treason is betrayal against those you owe fealty. By their lights, betraying America is not treason.

Perhaps the saddest element of this is the people they have roped in to support them. The racists. The Evangelicals. The Xenophobes. The growling, disaffected population that feel they deserve a place at the table and the fascists are more than happy to promise them that place.

They’ve always been useful idiots for demagogues. Nothing new there. What is new is what will follow.

Should the fascists win, they will discard these people like used condoms. Not only are their beliefs and impulses bad for business, but they can reorganize and pose a threat to their masters. And they cannot be trusted: they’ve already betrayed America. It would only be a matter of time before they revolt against Trump’s New Order.

And the worst of all is that they would become our allies in a common cause.

If you can vote in November, vote like your life depends on it. It does.

We can avoid having to fight a Fascist Fifth Column again.

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