Monday, August 31, 2015

JEB! fortune built on bribes and payoffs--all legal, of course!

It's all legal because We, the 99 percent, have not yet caught on to how politicians have been robbing us blind. Instead, due to misdirection by conservative front groups, we focus on their salaries. Politicians don't get wealthy from drawing salaries while in office. Geb!'s salary as governor of Florida was never higher than $130,000. While that may seem like a hulluva lot to the 99%, it's just chickenfeed to one-percenters like the Bush family.

When Jeb! was the Governor of Florida, his net worth was $1.3 million. A lot to you and me but not to Jeb!'s family. In 2016,9 years after leaving office, Jeb!'s wealth is estimated at $10 million. The year that he left office, 2007, he earned $27 million. What could that money be but payoffs for favors he had done while in office? No, please, tell me what else it could be. Right now I'm going by the Sherlock Holmes rule:
When you have exhausted all the possibilities, whatever is left, no matter how implausible, must be the truth.
During his tenure in office, Jeb! funneled more than $1.3 billion to international brokerage houses in return receiving more than $5 million in campaign contributions for his brother and other Republicans:

Blackstone Group$99,000.00$150,000,000.00
Carlyle Group$69,000.00$275,000,000.00
Deutsche Bank$200,000.00$45,000,000.00
Freeman Spogli$743,000.00$50,000,000.00
Goldman Sachs$1,500,000.00$150,000,000.00
Hicks Muse$189,000.00$25,000,000.00
JPMorgan Chase$64,000.00$100,000,000.00
Lehman Brothers$499,000.00$175,000,000.00
Morgan Stanley$1,100,000.00$150,000,000.00
Prudential Financial$406,000.00$100,000,000.00
Source: International Business Times.

In the case of Lehman Brothers, the investment company that nearly tanked the entire US economy in 2008, it's not at all implausible that Jeb! received a payoff. During his term as Governor, Jeb! funneled $500,000 in campaign donations from Lehman Brothers employees into various Republican campaigns. In return, Jeb! took $175 million from the state of Florida's workers' pension funds and handed it to Lehman Brothers to invest (as they jokingly called it). After Jeb! left office,  Lehman Brothers hired him at a salary of $1.7 million. Sounds like a payoff to me.

Bush's appointees in Florida kept on giving money to Lehman Brothers for questionable purchases, including over $1.3 billion "invested" in mortgage derivatives. By 2008, that money had vanished as Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and it turned out that all those mortgage derivatives were worthless. But Lehman Brothers brokers got their commissions and didn't have to stand trial for misrepresenting the value of their "investments".

So Jeb! and his pals transferred $1.3 billion from Florida State Employees pension funds to Lehman Brothers. Not just a bad investment, that money was gone. While Jeb! was working for Lehman.

What has this got to do with you? Check this out. In an interview with the Washington Post, Jeb! claimed he would propose that politicians would have to wait 6 years before going to work for lobbyists. Fascinating proposal, since Jeb! himself didn't wait 6 months after leaving office to get paid off by Lehman Brothers.

It's definitely a case of "do as I say, not as I do".

If Jeb! is elected president, he will no doubt try to do the same thing with the Social Security accounts, currently worth $2.6 trillion. If international brokers paid $5 million to get their hands on $1.3 trillion in Florida Employees' retirement accounts, how much will they pay to get Social Security?

Republicans will tell you that retirement funds can earn more if they are invested in Wall Street. That's a bald-faced lie. Just ask the Florida public employees whose accounts were looted by Jeb!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Marco Rubio: Get ready for a return to the Cold War

In 1946, after World War II had ended, the US was faced with a choice: It could disarm and join other nations in seeking to maintain peace through negotiations and treaties and international organizations like the United Nations. Or, it could continue adding more weapons to its arsenal, make ever larger bombs, fight more wars in far-flung places, and scare the bejezus out of everyone in the world.

As we now know, the US chose the second course of action and took a series of aggressive postures all over the world that led to animosity, fear, and war. That period of world history is known as the Cold War, an era in which the major military powers stared each other down while trying to seize territory and influence from each other. The Cold War was characterized by intense regional warfare in Korea, Vietnam, Israel, and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, and at the same time, the rest of the world was taking the first course, building the United Nations, developing international treaties to avoid war and, especially, to avoid committing crimes against humanity. The US was in the forefront of this movement in the aftermath of WWII, when Eleanor Roosevelt lent her considerable influence to the UN and the Geneva Accords on human rights. But later presidents--Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower--decided to treat Russia and China as enemies and developed a policy of "containment".

This policy of containment and use of force to deter enemies is exactly what Marco Rubio prescribes as a foreign policy--not surprisingly, since his advisors were also advisors to George W. Bush. So Rubio tells us that
physical strength and an active foreign policy to back it up are a means of preserving peace, not promoting conflict.
Rubio thus makes clear that he did not learn anything from the disastrous wars of G. W. Bush. If physical strength and an active foreign policy are a means of preserving peace, why did Bush's presidency take over a generally peaceful world from his predecessor and turn it into two major wars that continued during his entire administration? The answer is, of course, that Marco Rubio and the neoconservatives who advise him are completely wrong, that his policy will lead to war, not peace, and trying to intimidate nations is a good way to consolidate the power of despots who rule them.

Worse than simply advocating a foreign policy of belligerence against one country, Rubio proposes to attack (either physically or diplomatically) three powerful nations at the same time: Iran, Russia, and China. This policy, if carried out, would undoubtedly complete the destruction of the American economy begun so calamitously under G. W. Bush.

Rubio seems in love with the idea of a powerful US dominating the world's nations and dictating the terms of peace. The world has become too large for that, however. The techniques of asymmetric warfare are too well-known. The rebels in Afghanistan successfully fended off the Russian army. The Communist forces in Vietnam threw off the yoke of colonial oppression and sent the better-equipped and better-trained American forces back home.

Rubio and his neo-con advisors criticize Obama for being too risk-averse. They do not explain, however, how the US could prevent Russia from prevailing in the Ukraine, or prevent China from dominating the South China Sea. Rubio seems to believe the simple posting of military force in opposition would convince the Russians to abandon Ukraine or the Chinese to give up their designs on Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The problem that Rubio faces is not that his plan would fail, but that it would lead inevitably to hostilities between the US and countries whose assistance we will need to meet the challenges of global climate change and growing shortages of water and agricultural land. In an era when nature has provided mankind with a challenge we may not survive, we need to abandon our territorial ambitions and lust for wealth in the name of a greater good, the survival of the planet. Rubio and his pals ignore this fact. Their election to power would bring disaster, not just to the US, but to the whole world and all its inhabitants.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Are we ready for King Koch?

Charles Koch is laughing at us. He thinks democracy is a crock. The free market should make all decisions about the future, he says. It's only coincidental that he funds dozens of conservative think tanks and corporate front groups that are trying to bend the nation to his will. Thanks to the Supreme Court and their Citizen's United ruling, Koch can pretend he is enthusiastic about the free market while he is actually undermining it.

Koch is trying to set himself up as the one person who makes decisions about economic policy and foreign affairs in this country. He's going to spend $100 million in 2016 to keep control of the House and Senate. There's a word for someone who make all the decisions for a country. King. All hail King Charles I!

Without mentioning global warming King Charles told a recent interviewer at Politico that he opposes all renewable energy sources, not because he makes money by burning coal and oil in the atmosphere, but because these renewable, "green", sources are not competitive. They need subsidies to be competitive with already existing sources of energies.

King Charles takes us all for fools. That's why he's laughing at us. You see, he knows that every single industry in the US today began with a federal subsidy. What about railways, without which King Charles could not ship his coal to China where it pollutes the air and promotes lung cancer and other diseases of the lungs?

The railway industry in the US was heavily subsidized by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Lincoln was looking for a way to get silver and gold back East to pay for Union arms.
So Lincoln arranged to give a subsidy to the Union Railroad of ten square miles of land and $48,000 for every mile of track they laid. The land became invaluable as soon as the railroad was built to carry produce back from the West to Eastern agricultural markets. So King Charles is currently benefitting from government subsidies to the railroads. But that's not all.

Koch also receives an oil depletion allowance to finance exploration for oil, and other benefits as well that amount to $5 billion each year delivered from US taxpayers to the oil industry.  Koch receives this check from the federal government, presumably cashes it, but claims he's against all such subsidies. Yes, he's against them, but he's happy to take the check. I'm sorry, but if you don't like living on the federal dole, why don't you try finding a business that doesn't force you to do that?

Koch has been lobbying for various things to help his business, though he's not saying what they are. This makes it difficult to argue with the man, because most of what he does is hidden from the public. One thing that's almost certain he has been lobbying for is the Keystone Pipeline XL. Koch stands to make a lot of money from his interests in tar sands oil.

Fossil fuel companies also receive a subsidy because the US does not charge them enough for leases on federal lands. The federal government could make $500 million more if it charged the same for oil leases as some of the states.

King Charles can't have it both ways. He can't profit enormously from government the way it is today and also claim he wants to do away with it. No one is that stupid. But King Charles thinks we are.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Just How Far Behind The Times Is Congress?

The Department of Justice still insists on enforcing the drug laws that classify Marijuana as a Schedule I drug. A Schedule I drug has no medical use. Yet the National Institute of Health has just verified a study showing that marijuana may help cure aggressive cancers of the brain. I kid you not. In addition, pot is being used to treat glaucoma, pain, insomnia, nausea, depression, asthma, and PTSD, to name a few. Evidence is mounting that marijuana is a natural panacea for a whole host of ills that humans are heir to.

The National Institute of Health has admitted this. They are a branch of the federal government, of which another branch, the Justice Department keeps enforcing a drug law that is demonstrably based on falsehood.

The research on the effects of marijuana on cancers of the brain was done in Great Britain because the classification of marijuana as a schedule I drug means that little or no research can be done on it in this country. The law was passed in 1970. Evidently the elders at that time were so panicked by the sight of young people having fun dressed in brightly colored clothes, listening to loud music, and smoking marijuana that they decided to put an end to the fun immediately. The loud music is still with us, and the colorful clothing. In addition, people have put brightly colored tatoos on their skin. But the marijuana is still illegal, even more so due to mandatory sentencing and three strike laws. You can serve up to 30 years (!) in prison for selling marijuana.

All these years that the feds (and states) have been putting people in prison for holding small amounts of marijuana, the evidence about the relative harmlessness of the plant has been adding up, as have the numerous medical uses to which it can be put. The US Congress passed the law declaring marijuana in 1970. We've known about various medical uses to which it can be put the entire 45 years, but around 2000 the number of positive uses have begun to proliferate. In face, if we only count the number of diseases, conditions, and complaints that marijuana has been used to treat, it turns out that marijuana is a kind of miracle drug. It treats a number of conditions for which drugs have been developed, but it does it, for the most part, without side effects.

The greatest proof that marijuana is good for people's health is that millions of people have been using it for all these years. They risk arrest and prison and they keep using it. It doesn't just make people high. There are many legal substances that make people high. It actually helps them self-medicate. What is Congress waiting for? The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana should not be listed as a schedule I drug, because thousands of people are using it to treat various medical conditions. But Congress sits on its ass and does nothing to set this situation right. And only they can do it.

If I were an ordinary critic, I would just say, we should pass some sort of amendment that says a law's reason for existence must be valid. That could solve a lot of other problems, too. There are laws, called tort reform laws, that prevent plaintiffs from suing corporations for various reasons, not because it's a good thing to let corporations get away with crimes, but because the corporations have lobbied Congress to pass laws that let them get away with it. Those laws are clearly invalid in many cases, since corporations are getting away with harmful activities all the time. Since congress has passed such laws, there is nothing to stop corporations from doing it.

Another law that has no basis in reality in the copyright law. This law originally said its intent was
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
That sounds fine. But who holds copyrights today, authors and inventors? No. Corporations do. And what is the limited time that copyrights last these days? We're not exactly sure, because Congress keeps extending that time. Right now, the time is the author's life plus 70 years. There is no conceivable way this copyright law secures for limited Times "to Authors and Inventors" the right to profit from their creations. The law benefits corporations, not authors or inventors. Lobbyists have convinced Congress to extend the length of copyrights to over 120 years when the copyright is held by corporations.  Since the basis of this law makes no logical sense, it should be terminated by the proposed anti-stupidity amendment. In this case, Congress does not just ignore the stupidity of the law, it actually makes things worse by voting, again and again, to extend the terms of copyrights.

It might be easier to get a congress that can tell when laws are stupid. But I'm not holding my breath. We need to find a way to pass laws that benefit all the people, not just a select few. Democracy is supposed to work that way. I'm having a hard time believing that right now.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Supporting Netanyahu Instead of Obama? and These Guys Call Themselves Democrats!

An Op-Ed piece appeared in Politico this week claiming that Senators Schumer and Menendez would save the Democratic party from disaster by defeating the non-proliferation treaty with Iran. As is typical with these right-wing memes, the authors claim to be Democrats, but don't let that fool you. They are no more Democrats than Joe Lieberman, who endorsed John McCain for President in 2008. The problem is that the party has moved away from the old, war-mongering party that it was during the Vietnam War.

Pat Caddell is one of the writers. He was a pollster for Jimmy Carter, which may give you an idea of how much out of touch he is with the current Democratic party. Caddell calls environmentalism a conspiracy against capitalism. Caddell claims the polls show that most Democrats are against the treaty, so Obama should just give up and prepare for war. The other pseudo-Democrat is Douglas Schoen, who opposed the Affordable Care Act and advised Obama not to run for re-election in 2012. These two claim that Democrats will save their party by voting against a treaty that Obama, Clinton, and Kerry have worked for years to conclude.

Caddell and Schoen are Fox News Democrats, people that Fox News trots out before the cameras whenever they want someone who is not a Republican to parrot Republican propaganda. They are also Politico Democrats, continuing that online news magazine's tradition of pretending to be neutral while publishing the least credible and most conservative op-eds.

Fox News, meet Politico. Caddell and Schoen, stop pretending to be Democrats and admit that you're merely political opportunists who will work for whoever pays the bills.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Fourteenth Amendment Guarantees Birthright Citizenship To All

Since Donald Trump is totally unaware of anything he doesn't learn from tv, he cannot know that his immigration plan is pure racism. The tip-off comes from right-wing websites and Ann Coulter, who have this strange idea that the Fourteenth Amendment does not guarantee US citizenship to anyone born in the US. They cite Judge Richard Posner as the most authoritative holder of this view. (It's amazing how all these websites and right-wing pundits use exactly the same language and arguments, isn't it?)

The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees:

Citizenship under the 14th Amendment includes those born in the United States to parents who are not U.S. citizens. This was clearly established over 100 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Fourteenth Amendment states it clearly:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

Someone reading this Amendment should logically conclude that anyone born in the US, regardless of the nationality of his parents, is a US citizen. But Trump's lawyer friends say that, no, the Congress that passed the 14th Amendment intended it to apply to slaves and their children, not to the children of immigrants. Because, they say, the Congress in 1868 didn't have an immigration problem.

As with almost everything to do with racists and their beliefs, this opinion presents a false idea of history. That's how they operate. In fact, immigration was a huge issue in 1868, much bigger than slavery in the North and West. There was no concern about illegal immigrants in 1868 because immigration was uncontrolled. Whoever wanted to emigrate to the US was welcome. Even the Chinese--who were widely regarded as an inferior race--were allowed to freely immigrate because their labor was necessary for the completion of the transcontinental railroad. 
Between 1880 and 1920, 20 million people immigrated to the US. All of their children enjoyed birthright citizenship.

Why should we change the law now, if it has worked so well in the past? There is only one answer. Many people who declare that the Fourteenth Amendment doesn't mean what it says are avowed racists who believe that Latinos are incapable of governing themselves.

The first court test of the 14th Amendment was US v. Wong Kim Ark (1898). The Supreme Court ruled that Wong was a citizen of the US by virtue of his birth in San Francisco and could not be prevented from entering the country. Since that time, numerous court rulings have upheld this ruling and concurred that the 14th Amendment does, indeed, make all children born in the US American Citizens, regardless of who their parents are. In the early days, the acceptance of birthright citizenship was essential, since about 15% of the population came from other countries and their children were only citizens by virtue of their being born here.

Judge Posner states his viewpoint in Oforji v. Ashcroft, 354 F.3d at 621 (2003). Posner concludes that the courts cannot outlaw birthright citizenship, but the Congress may, simply by passing a law. Posner unaccountably gives as one of his arguments against birthright citizenship that the 

Federation for American Immigration Reform [FAIR] estimates that 165,000 babies are born each year in the United States to illegal immigrants and others who come here to give birth so their children will be American citizens
This figure is pure fiction. concludes that, while it is true that there are millions of immigrants who have children in the US, Mexicans come to the US to work, not to have babies

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Federation for American Reform (FAIR) is a hate group whose sole purpose is to severely limit immigration into the United States. Its members include avowed racists and eugenicists like FAIR founder and Board Member John Tanton, who wrote
I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that."
— John Tanton, letter to eugenicist and ecology professor Garrett Hardin (now deceased), Dec. 10, 1993

and FAIR President Dan Stein, who claimed that the 1965 immigration act 

was a great way to retaliate against Anglo-Saxon dominance and hubris, and the immigration laws from the 1920s were just this symbol of that, and it's a form of revengism, or revenge, that these forces continue to push the immigration policy that they know full well are [sic] creating chaos and will continue to create chaos down the line. 
These are not just the views of racial supremacists, although they are that. These are the views of eugenicists, people who believe that inferior people should be eliminated to make way for superior ones. They view Latinos as both inferior and expendable, since they want to maintain an Anglo-Saxon majority by any means possible.

Judge Posner should have known the racist basis of FAIR and he should have realized that statistics provided by them could not legitimately be relied on. Did he intend to incorporate the racist, eugenicist views of that group into the legal record? If not, he should apologize for his actions. If he did, then all of his judgments should be reviewed for racist bias and expunged from the record if necessary.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hell yes, "anchor baby" is offensive to Latinos!

Jeb Bush probably tanked his presidential hopes by copying Donald Trump's use of the term "anchor baby" to describe a child born to immigrants in the US. Trump went on to describe how he would kick all immigrants out of the country. All. Right away.

"What about the children? Do you think families should be separated?"

"Well, no, " Trump replied. "But they all have to leave."

Donald Trump raises cognitive dissonance to a higher level. That's where you say one thing while you believe the opposite to be true. Trump changes what he says depending on the mood he's in. Maybe this should be called "emotional dissonance".

Trump doesn't have any chance to become President, despite those polls, because his unfavorable ratings--these are people who just plain don't like him--are over 50%. You have to win at least 51% of the vote, generally speaking, if you want to win the election.

But Jeb! has been considered the establishment choice for several months now, despite low poll numbers--$100 million in attack ads should take care of that. One reason the Republican party likes him so much is because he appeals to Latinos. His wife is a Latino. That's why his use of offensive racial slurs is so surprising, and also so harmful to his candidacy. The Republican establishment likes him because they think he can win the key swing state of Florida, but if he keeps on offending Latinos, they could go looking for someone who doesn't.