Saturday, December 19, 2015

Rush Limbaugh Admits He Hates the Republican Party

It's true. On his syndicated show, of which I read a transcript, Rush attacked the Republican party for not impeaching Barack Obama, or at the very least stopping him from carrying out his program. Rush is a very persuasive talker, but he is uneducated about the law and politics. He makes it up as he goes along.

Rush criticized Paul Ryan for agreeing to a budget that includes several policies that Obama supports. Rush believes that the Congress should use any method they like, including ideas that may endanger the safety of the US, harm its allies, or damage its good faith and credit.

Let's get this straight: None of the tactics Rush supports are Constitutional within the broad meaning of the term. The Constitution assigns governmental power to three separate branches: Congress has the legislative power, the ability to design laws, debate them and pass bills to implement their policies. It does not have the power to enforce the laws or execute them. That power is assigned by the Constitution to the president. Any attempt by congress to circumvent this Constitutional design is, by definition, a violation of their oath of office, in which they, each and every one of them, swears to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

None of these politicians is particularly intellectual; many of them may not realize that by trying to subvert their oath they are helping to undermine the Constitutional authority that they swore to uphold. They will never be called to answer for this dereliction of duty,  for there are no criminal penalties for failing to keep an oath.

That fact does not make their actions less foolish or less loathsome.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Why don't Chinese fight for democracy?

This question was asked on Quora and received hundreds of comments in response. Here is my response to one person's opinion:

If you can't find criticism of the Chinese government on the internet, you haven't been looking very hard. Perhaps the internet in China is censored so well that none of the stories get through. I found a story right away from Human Rights Watch that details many of the protests and individuals who have been persecuted for their views. I will post just one paragraph from that article here.

From mid-2013, the Chinese government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have issued directives insisting on “correct” ideology among party members, university lecturers, students, researchers, and journalists. These documents warn against the perils of “universal values” and human rights, and assert the importance of a pro-government and pro-CCP stance. (Human Rights Watch. World Report: 2015. China.)

Your statement that "Majority of Chinese people don't care much about democracy" is impossible to verify objectively, since speaking out about lack of democracy could land you in prison in China. Take the case of Cao Shunli, who was imprisoned for trying to participate in the 2013 Human Rights Council in NYC. She died in prison after her jailers denied her medical treatment.

Democracy is not just a way to make free speech and freedom of association possible in a country. It is the only way. Many of the problems facing China involve a lack of concern for the environment, which leads to deaths from pollution. These kinds of problems can only be addressed by using freedom of the press (to publish stories critical of the government), freedom of speech (to let others know the truth about government policies), freedom of assembly (so that people may gather together and discuss alternative solutions), and freedom to elect the leaders of your choice instead of being forced to vote for the party's choice.

All of these freedoms are only available under a democracy. China will never be able to address its problems without them.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What Democracy?

Although Republicans assure us we live in a republic, not a democracy, since the people elect our representatives, we are still a democracy. If that is the case, why can't our representatives pass the laws we want?

A recent PPP poll asked wide-ranging questions about controversial issues and came up with the following results:

  • 71% of Americans polled favor raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour or higher.
  • 63% favor proposed EPA regulations that limit carbon pollution from power plants.
  • 85% favor getting a criminal background check for every gun purchaser.

Other public opinion polls have shown similar results. The American people support these three policies by overwhelming margins.

Why doesn't Congress or the states change the laws in accord with the wishes of the American people?

There is only one possible answer to this question and it's a very simple one: Our democracy is broken.

Results like these suggest we need to abandon our wars on drugs, abortion, and crime and replace that effort with a single movement, the movement to bring back democracy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

JEB! promises to grow the economy at 4% using the same tired Republican proposals.

The promises JEB! has made with his latest tax proposals amount to a great big hill of beans that means nothing. In the first place, lowering taxes to increase economic prosperity has been tried before, by Reagan, George Bush Sr., & George Bush Jr. Each time the result was the same. Reduced taxes led to reduced revenues which led to reinstating the taxes that had been cut. George W. Bush's taxes have not been entirely repealed, but the result of the initial tax reduction is painfully obvious to all: years of trillion dollar deficits in the federal budget.

JEB! clearly has some new ideas. He figures that he can push 15 million people who currently pay taxes into the non-taxpayer category. That means that more people should be willing to vote Republican, perhaps enough of them to make him the President.

JEB! thinks he can also cut the deduction that lets hedge fund managers treat their incomes as capital gains. But wait a minute. How is he going to get that one through the all-Republican congress?  which has sworn never to raise taxes, ANY taxes? Answer: He cannot. So add $6 billion annually to the amount that will have to be cut from other programs to pay the hedge fund managers, or $60 billion over the next ten years.

There's another big hole dug in the treasury by JEB!'s budget. It's a switch from taxing multinational companies for their world-wide income to taxing them only for their income in the US. As you might imagine, the big corporations are all in favor of this change. But economists estimate it will cost the US Treasury $13 billion a year in lost taxes, or $130 billion over the next 10 years.

Another tax reduction JEB! proposes is to cap all deductions at 2% of a tax filers income. This proposal also runs afoul of the Republican promise not to raise taxes because, for those guys, fewer deductions means higher taxes and thus a tax increase.

This whole tax plan is a lie, like most Republican plans. Even if all the provisions were passed, the government would still lose $1.2 trillion over 10 years. That means the Republican Congress will be looking to cut $150 billion from the federal budget every year--under a best case scenario. Under a more reasonable scenario, where the economy grows at 2% instead of the 4% JEB! is praying for, the government would lose $3.4 trillion over 10 years, or $340 billion a year. Add to this the cost of failing to raise taxes on hedge fund managers ($60 billion) and the underestimate of the cost of territorial corporate taxation ($130 billion), and the total amount the Republicans will have to cut from the federal budget every year will be...$360 billion.

That $360 billion will be coming out of our social security, Medicare, and Affordable Health Care payments. If you like the idea of getting less for medical care and social security, by all means vote for JEB! and the Republicans. If you think the wealthy and the corporate elite already have a big enough slice of the national pie, vote for the Democrats. Then, at least, you will have a chance to stop losing ground to the wealthy!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Judge rules Christians must obey the same laws as everyone else

Judge David Bunning of the Federal District Court of Eastern Kentucky has ordered Kim Davis, Clerk of Rowan County, to be held in jail for contempt of court. Even some Republicans--mostly the lawyers--are saying the judge did the right thing. 

Courts have very little power to enforce their rulings. They can issue warnings, they can assess fines, and they can jail those who disobey court orders. The judge warned this woman more than once. He probably assumed that any fine he assessed would be paid by right-wing Christian groups, not by her. So he had no choice but to put her in jail for contempt.

If this woman can get away with breaking the law because she says her god told her to do it, then everyone in the country can use that defense. The Christian right would like to substitute Mosaic law for the US Constitution and common law, no doubt. But a Federal judge can't permit them to do it.

The law operates on the basis of treating everyone equally. The motto above the US Supreme Court entrance reads, "Equal Justice Under Law". If the judge allows the defendant to use Christian law (or some form of it that was never written down or recognized in any court, as in this case), then he, or another judge, would have no choice but to permit defendants to be judged under Sharia law, or the laws of some other country of their choice. I can just see Justice Scalia's eyes rolling as he considers that possibility, strong defender of American jurisprudence that he is.

From the viewpoint of a fundamentalist Christian, this ruling probably makes no sense. But their position on whether or not they should be required to obey the same laws as everyone else is absolutely untenable.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

$52 trillion: That's how much denying climate change may cost the world

Charles Koch believes in the free market. His objections to government regulations are always the same: "They distort the free market". But what if the market itself is distorted? Economists call this "failure of the market".

One example of market failure is the dust bowl on the American Great Plains in the 1930s. Farmers pursued practices that destroyed the topsoil until it was blown away. This market failure happened because short-term profits (cash crops) kept farmers from using sustainable methods until the soil was ruined and people had to abandon their farms.

A similar market failure led to the collapse of the Sumerian civilization, which was based on advanced farming using irrigation. The civilization thrived until the soil became too salty to produce crops. Then the Sumerian civilizations failed, big-time.

Is this the destiny in store for us? Will our civilization, so large and impressive, be destroyed by market failure?

Climate change is the biggest failure of the market in the history of the world. It is the first one we know of that affects the entire planet. It is also the first market failure caused by polluting the atmosphere as opposed to being produced by destroying the ecosystem.

Scientists have studied the current climate change for the last 50 years. They have become aware of what is happening and why. Economists have only recently begun to study the possible effects of climate change. Since economists are well-versed in making predictions about the future, their predictions should be taken seriously, no matter how extreme they may sound to our ears. This is especially true when the economists in question work for citi, one of the Big Four banks of the US. Citi has just produced an extensive study of the economic effects of Climate Change. Their conclusions are eye-opening.

The report issued by citi economists measures the economic effects of ignoring climate change as opposed to doing something about it right away. The effects of ignoring it, as you might imagine, are horrendous. The report uses three scenarios of action. In one, the green path, the planet is able to keep the temperature from rising more than1.5 degrees Centigrade. In that case, the global GDP will be reduced by 0.7% or $20 trillion by 2060. In the worst-case scenario, the temperature will rise 4.5 degrees Centigrade and global GDP will be reduced by $72 trillion.

In brief, the citi report predicts that doing nothing would cost the world $52 trillion more than spending the money now to reduce our fossil fuel use and take other steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But here again, we may run into the problem of market failure, because the people who make money by producing CO2--primarily fossil fuel producing companies--will not be the ones who will have to pay for the mess they are creating. Instead, those who pay will be our children and grandchildren.

There will be a summit meeting in Paris in December to decide what actions to take globally to avert such a catastrophe. We will all need to take action.

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.

Thursday, August 27, 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.

Sunday, August 23, 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.

Saturday, August 22, 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.

Donald Trump Continues to Bloviate

Trump appears to have only a minimal understanding of politics. He doesn't understand, for instance, that John Bolton was one of the architects of the Iraq War. George W. Bush (another clueless wonder) made Bolton ambassador to the UN. Bolton didn't recognize the authority of the UN and tried to sabotage it every way he could. But Trump didn't understand that. You see, Trump thinks talking tough impresses other countries.

Trump says the Iraq War was pointless, and he is right about that, but his administration would start other pointless wars that would end up killing American soldiers for no purpose. Trump's promise to have a "tough" foreign policy, and his praise for Bolton's toughness, seem to indicate that he would let the neoconservative cabal convince him to invade Iraq and Syria.

Chuck Todd interviewed Donald Trump on MSNBC last Sunday. Todd, whom most pundits criticize as a lightweight, made Trump look like a schoolboy. Trump seemed unable to complete a sentence.

Trump and most of his supporters believe foreign policy as a kind of football game. In a football game, you pretend you are tough. You wear fierce animal emblems on your helmets. You talk tough to the opposing players, calling them sissies or worse. During the action of the game, you use all the underhanded tactics you know to harm or permanently injure the opposition.

And you cheat. You take the air out of the footballs to give yourself an advantage. You steal their plays. You punch opposing players when the referees turn their backs. You use your helmet as a battering ram and later whine that it was an accident, that the refs are unfairly picking on you. Naturally, if a ball hits the ground before you pick it up, you claim loudly that it didn't and dance around the field inciting the crowd to roar their disapproval. If you are successful with these sorts of tactics, the referees will be afraid to call close fouls against you. So you win by cheating.

The big difference between football tactics and foreign policy in the real world is that football is a game. You schedule a game every Sunday. It's great fun. Everyone goes home alive. In the real world, the same tactics used in football games result in real wars. People get killed. People flee their homes and become refugees. Bombs explode in cities and kill innocent civilians. 

That's why most real diplomats don't threaten to go to war every time there's a border dispute. It's also why a Trump presidency would be a disaster for the world. The Neocons see Trump as the second coming of G.W. Bush. Their hearts are filled with bloodlust.

Foreign affairs is a dangerous game. Let's hope Trump never gets a turn at bat.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New York Times Does Hatchet Job On Amazon

Over the weekend the New York Times published a hatchet job about the company culture at You can tell it's a hatchet job--meaning an article intended to unfairly and one-sidedly attack some one or thing--because the article goes on at length about the terrible employee morale at Amazon. For example, the article says:
The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses.
Now there's a revelation. The company encourages employees to fink on their fellows to get in tight with management. The problem here is that every company in the world has employees who rat on their fellows. Nothing new or different here.

A more serious charge is the following:
Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.
But this is the sort of thing that happens in many large corporations, including Apple and Microsoft. The fault lies not with the company, but the law. The law says employment is "at will", which means the company can fire you at any time for any reason.

The Times could have written an exposé of personnel practices in American corporations and shown how only unionization could protect the workers from these practices, since just having the CEO say he'll take care of it will not cut it. But this is not about personnel practices. This article is about how bad Amazon is, no matter how little the company differs from every other capitalist company.

The underlying reason for this hatchet job is the print media's anger, frustration, and hatred of digital media. Amazon happens to be the focal point. The anger felt by members of the print media against Amazon is real and unreasonable. I recently self-published my own book with a print-on-demand publisher who is affiliated with Amazon. I went to an independent bookstore in Washington, DC, and asked them if I could have a book-signing event at their store. They told me it was their policy not to hold book-signings for books published by Amazon.

"Wait a minute," I complained. "Your policy is not going to hurt Amazon, but it will hurt me and other authors like me who need a chance to bring their work before the public."

The management than assured me that if anyone ordered my book, they would be glad to fill that order. In other words, they were throwing a roadblock in my path to success, but if I ever, somehow managed to succeed, they would be glad to share my profit with me.

Thanks, guys. Your generosity is overwhelming.

But anger against Amazon is justifiable because people in the newspaper and bookselling industry are losing their livelihood with no possibility of recovery. The anger is not going to help, though. These jobs are going away and will never come back. These white-collar, salaried positions are not being moved to Singapore or China. They are vanishing. Automation is destroying them.

There is a hatchet job that could be done about that, but it's not one that the New York Times wants to write. It's a story about how capitalism is failing to provide jobs for the people that automation is making obsolete. This automation is making big profits for corporations like Amazon and its ilk, but it isn't doing much for newspapers like the Times, which has laid off hundreds of employees in recent years. (Question: How many of those layoffs harm the employees who were fired through no fault of their own?)

We need a serious examination of what this country is going to do right now to help people made redundant by automation. Tomorrow will be too late. Today is too late, already, frankly, as we have the spectacle of billionaires running the country for their own benefit without a single sincere concern for the people who must pay for their abundance.

Monday, August 17, 2015

What? Latinos are anti-immigration? Who Knew!

I am mystified how Donald Trump can claim, "Latinos love me." I never would have suspected that. I have a few latino friends, admittedly if they are my friends that makes them somewhat unusual. But in fact, the latinos I know are angry at Obama for not giving more consideration to immigrants who have been arrested, hassled, and deported relentlessly on his watch. These latinos are not fans of Obama. I am mystified how Donald Trump can claim, "Latinos love me."

But the Republicans? After all, the only alternative to Sanders, Clinton, or God knows who else, is Trump, Walker, or Jeb! Working class folk--and nearly all latinos are working class--see right through Trump. He is exactly the same as every boss they ever had. Smiling, jokey. But don't ask him for a raise. Yes, he's a big pal to latinos, but all the illegals need to leave the country, right away.

For a latino, the problem is this: Those illegals, they're family members. On family I know has one daughter born in this country while the other daughter and mother could face deportation under a Trump administration. Is the mother, or her American husband, going to vote for Trump and risk having a loved one exiled, perhaps for years?

The problem for Trump and the others trying to please the xenophobic Republican base is that up to half the "undocumented" immigrants are related to American citizens. The citizens are not pleased that their relatives may be deported at a moment's notice. They love those people. They would hate to say good-bye.

Furthermore, the latinos who have been American citizens, in many cases for generations, feel a kinship with those "undocumented immigrants" who have just arrived. They speak the same language, share the same customs, and even look a lot alike. Are those American citizen latinos going to stand by and watch Trump persecute their friends and neighbors? I think not.

I suspect that Trump's immigration plan will not win him a single latino vote, no matter how much he claims he likes latinos and they love him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nope, there's no bubble in bonds

A big headline this week is that there is a bubble in bonds. This comes from the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan, the man who presided over the tech stock bubble and the housing bubble and did nothing to prevent either of them. So his expertise in this area is questionable.

Greenspan's reason for announcing a bond-market bubble is also questionable. He says the return on investment for bonds is too low for the price of the bond itself. But the return rate on bonds is set by the government, which could raise the rate at any moment to whatever it likes, but refuses to do so because they are afraid of starting a recession. Likewise, investors in bonds are not concerned about the return on their investment. No, they are looking for a place to put their money where it will not decline in value.

China has just devalued its currency by 12% in 2 days. But all of its US bonds, held in dollars, have remained almost steady in value. So why is China investing in bonds? Because it's a good investment for them and they don't care what the return on investment is.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hillary Clinton is "Most qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced"

Sounds like 3 different views of the same thing: Qualified because of training at elite schools, knowledgeable because of education at elite institutions, experienced by doing the elite jobs her qualifications and education got her.

What she really has is the illusion that corporations are good for America when they are doing them harm. She has a flawed education because she doesn't trust science when it says that fossil fuel burning is destroying the planet. She has the self-delusion that because she has had these elite advantages she is actually capable of providing leadership. She's proven before that she does not.

Neocons beat the drums for War with Iran with fraudulent study

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Fox News all agree that Iran has increased its cyberattacks in the past 6 months. They all get their information from one source, however, and that source is unreliable. The source is a report--

written by Frederick Kagan and published by American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Kagan was one of the group of neocons who convinced George Bush to attack Iraq in 2001. Kagan also recommended the famous "surge" strategy that led to more victories in Iraq but no substantial progress. No territory was seized and held. No armies surrendered.

Now there is a group of militarists, including Kagan, who are trying to push the US into a war with Iran. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a long-time right-wing front group, has warned in its report,
Whatever the final outcome of the nuclear negotiations, we must expect that the threat of a cyberattack from Iran will continue to grow. We may have just enough time to get ready to meet that threat.
Kagan is on record as supporting putting American troops in Iraq to fight ISIS:
There is, in fact, no end in sight for this war now, especially if we allow Iraq to go down. A policy of retreat and abandonment remains as it has always been the fastest road to endless war.

The Israelis have declared it would be a short war, just a few bombs to shut down Iran's nuclear research facilities. If that is true, why doesn't Israel bomb the  facilities?

Maybe because it's not true. Maybe that unprovoked attack would lead to war between Israel and Iran, a war which Israel could not win and does not dare to undertake. Israel's military actions of late have come in limited engagements against Hamas, the governing party in Gaza. The Israeli army has more manpower, is better armed, and vastly superior in technical ability. Hamas has a few rocket launchers. Defeating Hamas in a brief sortie does not compare to the force necessary to win a war against Iraq.

Israel therefore needs to convince the US to take up the fight. Right now, the US and Iran and four other nations are negotiating an agreement to limit Iranian nuclear power, an agreement that would defuse the tensions in the Middle East considerably.

Supporters of this war against Iran--the neocons, Israel, and elements inside the US government intelligence community--would love to find another pretext to attack Iran. So they have ginned up the idea that Iran will replace its nuclear ability with a cyberwar capability. Kogan, the neocon, writes in his report that whatever happens, whether there is a disarmament treaty or no, Iran will continue developing its cyberwar capabilities.

So much is clear from the report. What the report bases this conclusion on is hardly believable. The cybersecurity company, Norse Corporation, says Iran step up its cyberattacks 115% between January 2015 and March 2015. As evidence for this hypothesis, Norse offers the fact that more attacks were made from Iranian IP addresses against its network of sensors.

Just to be clear on this, the Norse company claims the Iranians have conducted hundreds of cyberattacks against targets in the US. If that is true, what damage was done? What banks had their data compromised? What computer code was implanted in what sensitive networks?

The answer to these questions is, none. All the attacks, even if real, came against computers that Norse set up to look like banks, businesses, and research facilities, but none of them were actually banks, businesses, or research facilities. But computer experts dispute whether those attacks against fake targets were actually real.

All the newspaper reports, many of them from right-wing propaganda outlets like NewsMax and Breitbart News, simply repeat the dubious findings verbatim. NPR broadcast a brief segment that gave an entirely different picture of what might be happening, one that was not flattering to Norse Corporation.

Stuart CEO of Cylance, another cybersecurity company, says he has seen a drop in Iranian cyberattack activity over the past several months and he knows others that have seen the same thing. Jeffrey Carr, CEO of Taia Global is even more critical of the study. He says anyone can compromise computers anywhere in the world, conduct cyberattacks from those computers, and make it seem like the attacks are coming from any country in the world, in this case, Iran.

Carr continues by saying he believes there is a right-wing political motivation here because AEI is involved. He says the right-wing wants to paint Iran as a threat.

The right-wing chicken hawks got us to go to war based on a lie back in 2002. They're trying the same thing again. Let's hope they fail, this time.

Wages vs. productivity since 1973

 I question any argument against a higher minimum wage. The plain truth is that higher wages benefit workers, lower wages benefit employers. We're way off the scale right now, since we haven't kept pace with the minimum wage since the 1970s. The minimum wage in 1968 was $1.60, the equivalent of $10.34 in 2012 dollars. (minimum wage history)

The big picture is worse than that, however, because while productivity has increased drastically since the 1960s, wages have not. Productivity has increased 74% since 1973; hourly wages have increased only 9% during that time. Productivity has increased 8 times as fast as hourly wages. If the workers of this country kept the increase in the value of their labor, wages would be 74% higher than they were in 1973. Since the minimum wage was $10 per hour in 1973 (calculating using 2015 dollars), the minimum wage should now be $17.40 per hour. (productivity vs. wage statistics)

Why is that? Since the 1960s, productivity has skyrocketed due to the introduction of labor-saving devices: computers, calculators, spreadsheets, internet, mobile phones, databases, just to name a few. The increased productivity should have gone to the workers. Instead, the employers kept all the increases in productivity for themselves.

You could argue that equality of outcomes (equal wealth) is a socialistic idea. But the Capitalists used their economic and political leverage to squeeze every bit of profit from technological advances made over the last 40 years. That is truly class warfare.

White Terrorist Shoots Up Dallas

At about 4 am on Saturday morning, a huge, blue van stops in front of the Dallas police station and a white male, now identified as James Boulwer, gets out and starts firing a gun at the building, the cops, anything that moves. It's an armored van but the driver bought it on ebay.

Why is this an act of terrorism, and, just as important, why are the police saying it isn't one? and where did a guy who had a history of mental illness and violent behavior get an armored truck and a 

This is an act of terrorism, because 

(1) it is intended to frighten people in addition to showing what a stud the guy in the truck is. 
(2) because the guy was acting for a political reason, attacking the police, defenders of the state, and (3) because the guy showed no concern for innocent bystanders (If it was a military attack, he should have cared about that sort of thing.)
(4) in addition, besides opening fire with an assault weapon in the middle of a crowded city, he left a sack full of pipe bombs unattended where anyone could have stumbled against it (it's the middle of the night, remember). Police noticed the sack and used a bomb-seeking robot to investigate it. The bomb was rigged to explode on touch and it did. That is a terrorist act, because the guy did not care who he killed.

The reason for the attack was that the man held the police responsible for his losing custody of his child while his wife was in jail. Of course, the police were not responsible. The laws of the state of Texas were responsible. Boulware assaulted his mother and his uncle in 2013 during an unprovoked attack.

We know where Boulware got the van. He found it in Georgia, from an eBay ad, at a company that armor-plates vehicles but apparently doesn't care who buys them. I'm not saying there was anything illegal about the sale, I'm just saying that anyone can buy an armor-plated vehicle in this country. This is just as much a deadly weapon as an assault rifle, even worse, because it can be used to stand off a whole police department, as it was in this case. This kind of truck is used by police departments to transport suspects.

We don't know for certain where the guns came from, but in 2013, when the police picked up bulware on an assault charge, he had told friends he was going to get some weapons. He never got there, so it's possible that those weapons are the same as the ones used in this attack.

Why did Boulware start shooting at police?

In a televised video on CNN, Boulware's father said his son had reached his "breaking point" and gave his opinion that we all have a breaking point. I submit that, while we all may have a breaking point, we usually call a suicide hotline (or something similar) before we go out and start shooting at police. Boulware's father lamented, "Where does a white man go for help?" If he is mentally ill and prone to violence, he reaches for his guns and goes out to kill someone.

Mentally Ill Man Terrorizes Dallas: Boulware Was Completely Failed By the Government

When all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. In the national government, the hammer is the military. Congressmen, Senators, candidates for office, all agree that problems can be solved by sending in troops. In local government, the police are expected to solve all the problems.
Last Saturday morning, around 5 a.m., the problems of James Boulware were handled by the police in the usual way. The Dallas police shot Boulware to death using military-style combat weapons, including a 50 caliber sniper rifle that they used to penetrate the armor of Boulware's Ford van. The police also had highly sophisticated bomb-detection devices which they used to detonate a makeshift bomb near police headquarters and to search Boulware's van for explosives.
That was the end of the story, but it was not the beginning. All of Boulware's family knew of his problems, as did the family services judge, Kim Cooks, who had granted custody of Boulware's young son to the boy's grandmother earlier in the week. Judge Cooks claimed to have received multiple threats from Bulware. The man was scary, she said in a CNN video interview, and she believed he would eventually attack her.
According to a Dallas Morning News report, Boulware attacked his mother and uncle in 2013. At that time, he threatened a shooting spree at schools and was heading for a cache of weapons when he was arrested. He was later released without being tried. These may have been the weapons he used in the Dallas shooting.
In 2007 the state of Texas spent $550 per capita on police, courts, and prisons. This is the hammer it uses against mentally ill people like James Boulware. There are other tools they could use, social workers, psychiatrists, outreach workers. In 2015 the state of Texas spent $40.65 per capita on mental health services, less than a tenth as much as it spends on police.
James Boulware was a mental health problem, not a police problem, up until the time he started shooting at the Dallas police department on Saturday morning. Dallas apparently did not have the ability to deal with him. In a CNN interview after he learned of his son's death, Boulware's father put it succinctly and emotionally: "Where does a white male get help?"
The father implied that someone else, probably a black man, could have gotten help. The politicians do play that blame game. The father blamed liberals for making the laws. He implicitly blamed blacks for receiving help that should have been given to his son. Neither belief is correct. The father could have stated more accurately, "Where does anyone get help in Texas?"
The state of Texas has a completely inadequate mental health program, but they do have an expensive hammer, the police, and they solved their problem with James Boulware in the usual way, by shooting him to death.
Suspect Mug Shot from Dallas County Sheriff’s Office that matches name given to police – James BoulwareWoulwar

What a Difference a Pope Makes

Pope Francis will deliver an encyclical letter on Climate Change, among other things, on Thursday. His predecessor, Benedict, was considered the first "green" pope for making pronouncements like this:
“Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.” - See more at:
That's pretty generic, mild stuff that could be taken as supporting some actions to ameliorate climate change, or as a warning to stay out of the rain.

Contrast that warning with this, Pope Francis speaking about global warming. Note the use of the powerful words, "suicide", "tyrannical", and "it will destroy us":

 “I think a question that we are not asking ourselves is: isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature? Safeguard creation because, if we destroy it, it will destroy us. Never forget this.” See more at
Clearly this pope is demanding that we all take action to prevent climate change and other attacks on the environment that progressives have been warning us about for years. And he's telling us to do it now, in a way that let's us know he isn't accustomed to having his words ignored.

The reaction of Republican climate deniers has been immediate and almost word for word identical--honestly, do these guys go to the same web page or do they all get phone calls from the Koch brothers? Here's what James Imhofe, probably the most important climate change denier in America, telling the pope off:
"The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours"
The problem for Senator Imhofe is that his reason for being a climate change denier is not scientific, political, or even logical. It's religious.