From Professor/economist/commentator/writer Robert Reich and his Facebook page today: I’m writing to you today to announce the death of the Republican Party. It is no longer a living, vital, animate organization. It has been replaced by warring tribes of rightwing zealots – evangelicals opposed to abortion, gay marriage, and science; libertarians opposed to any government constraint on private behavior; market fundamentalists convinced the “free market” can do no wrong; corporate and Wall Street titans seeking bailouts, corporate welfare, tax cuts, and deregulation; right-wing billionaires wanting more of the nation’s wealth than they own already; and white working-class Trumpoids who love Donald and hate Muslims, blacks, and Mexicans.
Each tribe has its own organization, its own sources of campaign funding, its own ideology, and its own candidates. What’s left is a lifeless shell called the Republican Party, but the Grand Old Party inside the shell is no more.
I, for one, regrets its passing. Our nation needs political parties to connect up different groups of Americans and to sift through prospective candidates. Without a Republican Party, there’s nothing standing between us and a bunch of liars, bigots, egomaniacs, and creeps who decide on their own to seek the Republican nomination president.
What I resent most about the groups Professor Reich mentions above are the "...right-wing billionaires wanting more of the nation’s wealth than they own already..."
They're the worst. As I've written before, on people like the Koch brothers: born millionaires, now billionaires. And they want more.
What concerns me most, as we see the Republican Party self-destruct before our very eyes, is the political and power vacuum it will surely create.
We wouldn't want what comes after to be worse than the mess the Republican Party is and has been since around the end of our Civil War.
Here in the US, in the last several decades, we have had at least three different instances of where people had huge amounts of money--hundreds of millions and maybe billions---of dollars sitting around. And people being people and business being business, they saw it sitting there and it just killed them. They knew SOMETHING had to be done with it, would be done with it and by gosh, they could get a piece or chunk of it and who would that hurt, after all?
Well, the fact is, it hurt Americans and soon, with all the Baby Boomers about to retire, it's going to hurt America. And it's going to hurt mightily.
Here are three of the most famous pots of money.
This is an old story and well-known.
We had all these people, Americans, many of them the biggest generation to ever come along in our nation's history, contributing to this Social Security fund since FDR got it going and what could Congress do but take and spend it? After all, there's more where that came from, right?
So the robbing of and from the Social Security fund is still going on, unabated and I don't think most Americans are even aware.
Next up? The 2nd big pile of money that was sitting around?
And actually, it's piles. There were pensions all over this country---public, private, all kinds. And it was just far too tempting to too many people.
Millions of Americans had pensions. They had been funded mostly by business and by the people themselves, contributing to them through their work, their companies. Once again, it was just far too much temptation for people and businesses to ignore.
Who's to say what the fees and charges for holding and protecting and investing these funds were going to be?
Why the very companies taking in all the big money, of course.
These 3 are really untold tales of just what has happened in America in the last 50 years or so to retirement savings. Government had no rules, really, for what could or could not be done to or with them so who's to say what could or would happen to them?
And the answer is, in the place of Social Security, Congress was to say---they spent it.
And in the case of pensions, both private and public, and mutual funds, again, no rules so whoever is in control of them could do whatever with them they wanted. After all, with "campaign contributions", they could keep the regulators--read: Congress---from passing any legislation that would put any restraints on them. And to this day there are no real rules on what can and can't, should or shouldn't be done with people's hard-earned and saved retirement funds.
It's great to be rich, isn't it?
So now, all these millions of Baby Boomers are going to retire and they're going to be sitting on and falling back on either not much or nothing at all.
This was decidedly not how this was supposed to play out and it's certainly not good for either these people or, worst, the nation and our nation's short-term future.
And keep in mind, this is coming from the very vaulted private sector, too.
A bit from the article:
Basic income is having a moment. First Finland announced it would launch an ambitious experiment to see if it would work to give everyone in a given area is given a set amount of cash every year from the government, no strings attached. Now the Silicon Valley seed investment firm Y Combinator has announced it wants to fund a basic income experiment in the US.
YC's president, Sam Altman, announced on the YC blog that the company wants to hire a researcher to "work full-time on this project for 5 years," and supervise an experiment wherein Y Combinator will "give a basic income to a group of people in the US for a 5 year period, though we’re flexible on that and all aspects of the project."
Y Combinator — a startup incubator that counts Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit among its alumni — seems mostly interested in basic income as a response to technological unemployment. In the future, the reasoning goes, enough work will be automated that demand for all but the highest skilled labor will collapse, leaving a small group of programmers and capitalists with all the coconuts and most people with nothing.
I'm skeptical this is ever going to happen (Matt Yglesias makes a good case against the hypothesis here), but basic income is one way to make sure everyone survives structural employment changes in the future.
"I’m fairly confident that at some point in the future, as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs and massive new wealth gets created, we’re going to see some version of [a basic income] at a national scale," Altman writes.
As for me, I, too am skeptical. I'm skeptical humans would be so smart---or fair and just---to set up such a system.
But there's always hope.
Note: The article is a fascinating one, telling about different past and current attempts and experiments at what does and does not work with this and the possible ramifications. To me, it's well worth the read.
This put me damn near in tears; read this encounter with police that professor Steve Locke went through, and it will explain everything you need to know about being black in 21st century America. If you don't get it from this then really, I'm wasting my time trying to explain it.
This is what I wore to work today.
On my way to get a burrito before work, I was detained by the police.
I noticed the police car in the public lot behind Centre Street. As I was walking away from my car, the cruiser followed me. I walked down Centre Street and was about to cross over to the burrito place and the officer got out of the car.
“Hey my man,” he said.
He unsnapped the holster of his gun.
I took my hands out of my pockets.
“Yes?” I said.
“Where you coming from?”
How’d you get here?”
He was next to me now. Two other police cars pulled up. I was standing in from of the bank across the street from the burrito place. I was going to get lunch before I taught my 1:30 class. There were cops all around me.
I said nothing. I looked at the officer who addressed me. He was white, stocky, bearded.
“You weren’t over there, were you?” He pointed down Centre Street toward Hyde Square.
“No. I came from Dedham.”
“What’s your address?”
I told him.
“We had someone matching your description just try to break into a woman’s house.”
A second police officer stood next to me; white, tall, bearded. Two police cruisers passed and would continue to circle the block for the 35 minutes I was standing across the street from the burrito place.
“You fit the description,” the officer said. “Black male, knit hat, puffy coat. Do you have identification.”
“It’s in my wallet. May I reach into my pocket and get my wallet?”
I handed him my license. I told him it did not have my current address. He walked over to a police car. The other cop, taller, wearing sunglasses, told me that I fit the description of someone who broke into a woman’s house. Right down to the knit cap.
Barbara Sullivan made a knit cap for me. She knitted it in pinks and browns and blues and oranges and lime green. No one has a hat like this. It doesn’t fit any description that anyone would have. I looked at the second cop. I clasped my hands in front of me to stop them from shaking.
“For the record,” I said to the second cop, “I’m not a criminal. I’m a college professor.” I was wearing my faculty ID around my neck, clearly visible with my photo.
“You fit the description so we just have to check it out.” The first cop returned and handed me my license.
“We have the victim and we need her to take a look at you to see if you are the person.”
It was at this moment that I knew that I was probably going to die. I am not being dramatic when I say this. I was not going to get into a police car. I was not going to present myself to some victim. I was not going let someone tell the cops that I was not guilty when I already told them that I had nothing to do with any robbery. I was not going to let them take me anywhere because if they did, the chance I was going to be accused of something I did not do rose exponentially. I knew this in my heart. I was not going anywhere with these cops and I was not going to let some white woman decide whether or not I was a criminal, especially after I told them that I was not a criminal. This meant that
I was going to resist arrest. This meant that I was not going to let the police put their hands on me.
If you are wondering why people don’t go with the police, I hope this explains it for you.
Something weird happens when you are on the street being detained by the police. People look at you like you are a criminal. The police are detaining you so clearly you must have done something, otherwise they wouldn’t have you. No one made eye contact with me. I was hoping that someone I knew would walk down the street or come out of one of the shops or get off the 39 bus or come out of JP Licks and say to these cops, “That’s Steve Locke. What the FUCK are you detaining him for?”
The cops decided that they would bring the victim to come view me on the street. The asked me to wait. I said nothing. I stood still.
“Thanks for cooperating,” the second cop said. “This is probably nothing, but it’s our job and you do fit the description. 5′ 11″, black male. One-hundred-and-sixty pounds, but you’re a little more than that. Knit hat.”
A little more than 160. Thanks for that, I thought.
An older white woman walked behind me and up to the second cop. She turned and looked at me and then back at him. “You guys sure are busy today.”
I noticed a black woman further down the block. She was small and concerned. She was watching what was going on. I focused on her red coat. I slowed my breathing. I looked at her from time to time.
I thought: Don’t leave, sister. Please don’t leave.
The first cop said, “Where do you teach?”
“Massachusetts College of Art and Design.” I tugged at the lanyard that had my ID.
“How long you been teaching there?”
We stood in silence for about 10 more minutes.
An unmarked police car pulled up. The first cop went over to talk to the driver. The driver kept looking at me as the cop spoke to him. I looked directly at the driver. He got out of the car.
“I’m Detective Cardoza. I appreciate your cooperation.”
I said nothing.
“I’m sure these officers told you what is going on?”
“Where are you coming from?”
“From my home in Dedham.”
“How did you get here?”
“Where is your car?”
“It’s in the lot behind Bukhara.” I pointed up Centre Street.
“Okay,” the detective said. “We’re going to let you go. Do you have a car key you can show me?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m going to reach into my pocket and pull out my car key.”
I showed him the key to my car.
The cops thanked me for my cooperation. I nodded and turned to go.
“Sorry for screwing up your lunch break,” the second cop said.
I walked back toward my car, away from the burrito place. I saw the woman in red.
“Thank you,” I said to her. “Thank you for staying.”
“Are you ok?” She said. Her small beautiful face was lined with concern.
“Not really. I’m really shook up. And I have to get to work.”
“I knew something was wrong. I was watching the whole thing. The way they are treating us now, you have to watch them. ”
“I’m so grateful you were there. I kept thinking to myself, ‘Don’t leave, sister.’ May I give you a hug?”
“Yes,” she said. She held me as I shook. “Are you sure you are ok?”
“No I’m not. I’m going to have a good cry in my car. I have to go teach.”
“You’re at MassArt. My friend is at MassArt.”
“What’s your name?” She told me. I realized we were Facebook friends. I told her this.
“I’ll check in with you on Facebook,” she said.
I put my head down and walked to my car.
My colleague was in our shared office and she was able to calm me down. I had about 45 minutes until my class began and I had to teach. I forgot the lesson I had planned. I forget the schedule. I couldn’t think about how to do my job. I thought about the fact my word counted for nothing, they didn’t believe that I wasn’t a criminal. They had to find out. My word was not enough for them. My ID was not enough for them. My handmade one-of-a-kind knit hat was an object of suspicion. My Ralph Lauren quilted blazer was only a “puffy coat.” That white woman could just walk up to a cop and talk about me like I was an object for regard. I wanted to go back and spit in their faces. The cops were probably deeply satisfied with how they handled the interaction, how they didn’t escalate the situation, how they were respectful and polite.
I imagined sitting in the back of a police car while a white woman decides if I am a criminal or not. If I looked guilty being detained by the cops imagine how vile I become sitting in a cruiser? I knew I could not let that happen to me. I knew if that were to happen, I would be dead.
Nothing I am, nothing I do, nothing I have means anything because I fit the description.
I had to confess to my students that I was a bit out of it today and I asked them to bear with me. I had to teach.
After class I was supposed to go to the openings for First Friday. I went home."
I hadn't heard this story but one CIA whistleblower, Jeffrey Sterling, "...an American lawyer and former CIA employee who was arrested, charged, and convicted of violating the Espionage Act for revealing details about Operation Merlin to journalist James Risen."
Jeffrey Alexander Sterling was being investigated during the Bush administration. In 2010 he was indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917, one of the few people in US history whose alleged contact with a journalist was punished under espionage law.
In May 2015, Sterling was sentenced to 3½ years in prison.
So one more time, our government is found doing things illegal---against our own laws---as with Edward Snowden, it seems, someone blows the whistle, so to speak, and they end up in jail, no one else.
And check this out. According to the Wikipedia entry on Mr. Sterling:
Sterling was convicted of espionage charges on January 26, 2015. Sentencing was originally scheduled for April 24, but after learning of the sentence of no more than two years’ probation plus a fine given one day earlier to David Petraeus for the felony of providing classified information to an unauthorized person, Sterling's lawyers submitted a plea that Sterling "not receive a different form of justice" than Petraeus, asking for a similarly lenient sentence instead of the 19 to 24 years imprisonment sought by the federal prosecutors.
So the white General "provides classified information to an unauthorized person" and gets probation.
In a split decision, the Kansas Court of Appeals on Friday held that the state Constitution, like the federal one, protected a woman’s right to an abortion and affirmed a lower court order blocking enforcement of a restrictive 2015 law.
The ruling resulted from a 7-to-7 vote by the appeals court.
That, as I said, it the good news. Now, the bad. It's likely still not fully settled.
In a tie, the lower-court ruling is upheld, but the split suggested that the interpretation of abortion rights under the state Constitution is far from settled and is likely to be considered by the state Supreme Court.
Given how the Right Wing and Republicans seem to want to fight this issue until it's illegal in the nation, it will, no doubt, come up again. And again.
But for now, anyway, intelligence and common sense ruled.
It's a rare, happy day in the Sunflower state.
Meanwhile, there is this, from the more national front:
I keep finding, by pure chance, more and yet more indications, at least weekly, of Right Wing and Republican Party splintering. So much so that even the word "splintering" doesn't seem strong enough to describe it. They seem to be nothing but attacking one another and tearing the party apart.
I just ran across a few examples today, again, by pure chance. All came from the site Mediaitetoday.Here's the first.
Here's the very Right Wing, very conservative, very Republican-supporting National Review attacking Donald Trump, really, and the people who support him, even though he's the frontrunner in the polls. How fantastic is that? Well, at least for the rest of us, anyway.
Here's the second internal attack within the Party I saw today:
Fox's Watters: NationalReviewWriters 'Putting PureConservatism Over the Country'
Get that. Nearly unbelievable. Right Wing, ultra-conservative, Republican supporting Fox, attacking the, again, very Right Wing and Conservative and Republican Party supporting National Review, of all things, for being too conservative and, as it says, "putting pure Conservatism over..." the interests "...of the country."
Again, a staunch Right Winger, Pat Buchanan, attacking a long time, staunch Right Wing media source for daring to criticize Donald Trump, one of the two, if not the most popular candidates for the presidency this year, in polling.
And of course they're correct. I can't even imagine Donald Trump as president. Who knows what horrors and gaffs would come from the man?
This is phenomenal, really. The Democratic Party and anyone not supporting the Republicans couldn't write or ask for anything better for this group. It's clear they are, for all practical purposes, self-destructing.
CBS News put out the latest ranking by the National Center for Health Statisitcs showing the top 20 states with the heaviest, worst numbers of gun deaths.
Missouri came in at number 12 out of the 50 states.
Death by firearm per 100,000 population: 14.4 No permit required for a purchase of a firearm.
Bad, yes, but at least we're not in the "bottom ten."
Neighboring Oklahoma, no. 8, Arkansas 5.
The top/worst 5 states are all Right Wing, Republican states, largely, no shock and poor--literally, poor--Mississippi and Louisiana are numbers 3 and 2, respectively. Sarah Palin's Alaska comes in at the top/worst spot, number 1.
The current rout in oil prices has obvious implications for the giant oil firms and all the ancillary businesses — equipment suppliers, drill-rig operators, shipping companies, caterers, and so on — that depend on them for their existence. It also threatens a profound shift in the geopolitical fortunes of the major energy-producing countries. Many of them, including Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela, are already experiencing economic and political turmoil as a result. (Think of this, for instance, as a boon for the terrorist group Boko Haram as Nigeria shudders under the weight of those falling prices.) The longer such price levels persist, the more devastating the consequences are likely to be.
If anything like or near these "worst case scenarios" take place, governments and corporations the world over may HAVE to give and require a minimum payout to their citizens, just to keep the economic world spinning.
Here's a perfect example and it's from a current article.