Monday, August 14, 2017

THE BROWN SHIRTS ARE COMING



   Twice during last year's presidential campaign, Donald Trump threatened to call his supporters into the streets, just before the nominating convention, then again just before election day. There would be, he declared, a violent response on the part of his supporters if he was cheated in any way. I think it useful, therefore, to point out that armed militia types were on the streets of Charlottesville over the weekend. I can say this with absolute assurance because photographs of these armed men and women are easily uncovered by a Google-Image search.

   Assault rifles, sniper rifles and shotguns. In this case, as in prior cases, the appearance of these militia types amounted to little more than posturing. Will that continue? If, perhaps, Trump's presidency is threatened? If, perhaps, he calls his supporters into the streets as he's already threatened to do?

   Never forget, Don the Con's every instinct is totalitarian.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

OUT OF THE CLOSET AT LAST

   Is there anyone out there who still denies that race is at the heart of the rise of the Republican Party in general, and Donald Trump in particular? Anyone?

   In a previous post, I included a list of white supremacists supporting Trump. I think it useful to re-post that list. First, however, let me provide a two-part working definition of white supremacist. One, the belief that race is a valid concept, which, in fact, it is not. Two, that one or more races is inherently superior to another race or races.

         A few days ago (during the campaign), I did a simple search for “white supremacists supporting Donald Trump.” I expected to uncover five or six fully-committed types, but found dozens instead. A short list follows, only enough to make the point, but it's important to remember that these individuals jumped onto the Trump bandwagon before he was nominated.


Rocky J. Suhayda: head of American Nazi Party: We have a wonderful OPPORTUNITY here, folks, that may never come again at the RIGHT time.”

Andrew Anglin: Runs the Daily Stormer: “The biggest story in the filthy kike media has been a few lines from Melania’s speech which these Jews claim she stole from Monkey Michelle.”

David Duke: the only white supremacist Donald Trump formally disavowed.

Alex Linder: National Alliance (Neo-Nazi group) “Only Trump can turn back the brown tide and white folks know this.”

Don Black: former KKK Grand Dragon: “Trump resonates with many of our people, of course….”

August Kreis III: former Aryan Nations Minister of Information and Propaganda: “I will always hate the Jew.  This government is run by an evil group of people, and please vote for Trump.”

Rachel Prendergast: national organizer for the Rights Party (KKK affiliated): “Trump is one example of the alternative-right candidate Knights Party members and candidates are looking for.”

John Ritzheimer: Anti-Islam strategist who participated in the Oregon Occupation: “We will level and demolish every mosque across this country.” Showed up at Trump rally with a bullhorn.

Gerald DeLemus: Chief of Security for Cliven Bundy: Co-Chair of Veterans for Trump in New Hampshire: “At least Donald Trump is offering a solution. I know who gets my vote.”

Michele Fiore: formally endorsed Trump: “I am not OK with terrorists. I am not OK with Syrian refugees. Just put a piece of brass in their oracular cavity and end their miserable life.”

James Edwards: founder of white supremacist website VDARE.com: “Our people just needed a viable candidate and they’ve identified Trump as that man.”

Brad Griffin: founder of white nationalist website Occidental Dissent: “The signal has gone out to join the Trump campaign and to openly organize in the mainstream….”

Mathew Heimbach: leader of Traditionalist Workers Party: “Hail, Emperor Trump. Hail, victory.”

Richard Spencer: head of the National Policy Institute: “Do you think it’s a coincidence that everybody like me loves Trump and supports him?”


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

GROW UP RANT



      So, maybe you think it can’t get worse? Maybe Trump’s Obamacare-repeal failure has you giddy and you’re looking forward to another victory over the Republican’s tax cut (please don’t call it tax reform) plan? Well, you need to stop looking at the trees, entrancing as they may be. Look at the forest, instead, specifically at the grove tucked behind that hill. We call that particular grove the Senate Judiciary Committee and it’s a busy, busy, busy place.

      Thus far, Don the Con has appointed 34 individuals – 27 men and 7 women – to positions on the Court of Appeals or the District Court. With 100 to go, he will, before he finishes his first term, have appointed 15% of the judges who sit on those courts.

      Let’s take a look at three of these appointees.

      Kevin Newsome, nominee for the 11th Circuit. In 2000, Newsome’s law review article likened Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott vs. Sandford. Decided in 1857, Judge Roger Taney’s opinion in Dred Scott included his belief, which became law when the decision was announced, that “a black man has no rights that a white man is bound to respect.” Newsome served for a time as Alabama’s Solicitor General, where he expressed his disappointment with a Supreme Court decision (Roper vs. Simpson) that made it unconstitutional to execute juveniles like George Stinney, who was electrocuted at age 14. Stinney deserved every volt, of course, because he murdered two little white girls. That no corroborating physical evidence existed was a mere technicality. Alabama, by the way, is one of only a few states that doesn’t provide free lawyers to its death-row prisoners. You wanna appeal? Read a law book.


      John Bush, nominee for the Court of Appeals: John Bush has an easily-accessed history. Under the pseudonym, G. Morris, he maintained a blog entitled Elephants in the Bluegrass. On October 7, 2008, G. Morris posted the following:

      “The government of Kenya is holding WND (World Net Daily) staff reporter Jerome Corsi in custody at immigration headquarters after police picked him up at his hotel just prior to a scheduled news conference in which he planned to announce the findings of his investigation into Barack Obama’s connections to that country.”

      Want more?

      “The two greatest tragedies in our country’s history – slavery and abortion – relied on similar reasoning and activist judges on the Supreme Court.”

     If this posting was about slavery, I’d explain that the right to own slaves was protected in our founding document, specifically by the three-fifths clause, the fugitive slave clause and a clause that secured the continuation of the international slave trade for a minimum of twenty years. But this posting is not about slavery or the Constitution. I move on.


      Amy Coney Barrett, nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals. Barrett clerked for Antonin Scalia and worked for a time at the law firm of Miller, Cassidy, Larocca & Lewin, which merged into Baker, Botts. From private practice, she migrated to Notre Dame’s law school. She is now a full professor.

      Barrett’s time in private practice was short, but in the main she represented white collar defendants on the hook for defrauding the government. She was also on the team that represented George Bush in Bush vs. Gore. Neither activity condemns her, of course. You’d hardly expect Donald Trump to appoint the lead counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. But there is one element of her background that should give us pause.

      As conservative overall as Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch, Barrett has taken her jurisprudence to a new extreme. Neither prior decisions (stare decisis) or even the law itself, as written, should take precedence over a judge’s religious beliefs. In an article entitled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” she condemned William Brennan (a fellow Catholic) for writing, “There isn’t any obligation of our faith superior” to the judicial oath. “We do not,” she added, “defend this position as the proper response for a Catholic judge to take with respect to abortion or the death penalty.”


      Handpicked by the Federalist Society and Heritage Action, the rest of Trump’s nominees all fit neatly into a circle of judges who view the post-Civil War period as the golden age of American jurisprudence. The Federalist Society is packed with similar thinkers. They will describe this era, if you should run into one at a cocktail party, as a time when the court defended liberty as the framers understood it. That may be true, but the liberty was only for the rich and powerful – as the rich and powerful were the only Americans represented at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Yes, the Field Court, named for Stephen Johnson Field, voided nearly all attempts to regulate the workplace, but liberty for individuals was hard to come by. Censorship of every kind prevailed, along with laws against blaspheming the Sabbath, public indecency, interracial marriage, sodomy, illegal assembly and the union shop. And then there’s vagrancy. Throughout this period, which lasted from the end of the Civil War until, at the earliest, the start of the New Deal, you could be imprisoned for not having a job. What kind of liberty is that?


      That, my friends, is the kind of liberty the Supreme Court had in mind when they defended the sacred right of corporations to back their speech with cold, hard cash. The more, the better.

Friday, August 4, 2017

THEY NEVER STOPPED RANT



     They’re not at it again. They never stopped.

     Many of us are familiar with the illegal voter purge in Florida that put George Bush in office, a criminal action on the part of his brother, Governor Jeb Bush, and Florida’s Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. Acting in concert, they purged 57,700 names from the voter rolls despite federal and state court orders to cease and desist. Among other atrocities, they obtained a database of Texas felons, ostensibly to identify felons who’d moved from Texas to Florida and remove them from voter rolls. Convicted felons were not allowed to vote under Florida law, but the law, in this case, was a mere fig leaf to cover the overall goal of eliminating Democratic voters. Felons were allowed to vote in Texas and no state can override the laws of another. The purge was illegal from day one.

      Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris had to know this because they were informed of the fact by a federal court. They forged ahead, nonetheless, all scruples conveniently suppressed.

      The State of Florida, in an effort to keep its fingerprints off the theft, contracted the actual work to a company named ChoicePoint, awarding the company a $2,317,700 no-bid contract. Later, dragged into a congressional hearing by Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, ChoicePoint admitted that when comparing names on the Texas list with Floridians, it did not use Social Security numbers, did not verify addresses, did not conduct a single interview and added a name to the purge if a comparison of two surnames provided a 90% match.

      Take a second to absorb the implications. Florida removes 57,700 voters from its registration files. George Bush wins Florida and the presidency by 537 votes. Bush appoints John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Bush engineers a tax cut that doubles the national debt. Bush lies us into a war in Iraq, fundamentally upsetting the balance of power between Shia and Sunni in the Arab world.

      Are we having fun yet?


      Voter ID laws have drawn a lot of attention over the past few years, but the stakes, in the case of voter ID requirements, are very small compared to what Republicans are trying to accomplish through voter registration purges.

      Kris Kobach is Secretary of the State of Kansas and Chairman of the Republican State Party. Like most Secretaries of State (like Katherine Harris), he supervises all elections in Kansas, including federal elections. At the same time, as if he didn’t have enough to do, Kobach is the co-chair of Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity and the driving force behind a consortium of Republican-dominated states, 27 in all, who participate in the Interstate Crosscheck System.

      Never heard of the Interstate Crosscheck System? You’re not alone.

      In North Carolina, the chief of the Board of Elections, using numbers generate by ICS, testified that 35,750 voters registered to vote in North Carolina were also registered in another state. How many prosecutions resulted from this revelation? None. But that didn’t stop the State of Virginia from purging 41,637 names from its voter rolls, using the same bogus identification techniques that Bush used in Florida, with no middle name match, no Social Security match and no personal interviews.

      More than 850,000 individuals residing in America bear the surname Garcia. If your last name is Washington, there an 89% likelihood that you’re African-American. This is how the game is played. The targeting of minorities by the Republican Party, acting in concert, is two-pronged: Voter ID laws that make it harder for minorities to vote and voter purges that remove minorities from voter rolls, often without notification. Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity, headed by Kris Kobach, is currently demanding voter-registration data from every State in the Union. Surely, its aim cannot be to prove that massive voter fraud exists. If it did, the Interstate Crosscheck System would have already produced thousands of arrests. No, Republicans mean to extend the sort of voter purges already happening in Republican-dominated states, using techniques developed by Jeb Bush in Florida, to the entire nation. I mean, why steal thirty or forty thousand votes when you can steal millions?


      Russia conducts regular elections, as do China and Turkey, but it doesn’t make them democratic. If Republicans have their way, the United States will soon join them. Welcome to the New World Order.

Monday, July 31, 2017

TAX REFORM MY ASS RANT



      The Republican effort to deprive 20 million Americans of health care having failed, the Grand Old Party is turning to what they’ve decided to call Tax Reform. I use caps here only to draw the reader’s attention to the basic fraud.  Republicans are actually proposing enormous tax cuts that will, inevitably, accrue to the richest and most powerful American families.

       So, what would these tax cuts look like? At present, the various proposals are sketchy, but they include some common elements.

      The corporate tax rate would be reduced from 35% to 20% (congressional plan) or 15% (Trump plan).

      The estate tax, only applicable to individuals with estates above 5.45 million dollars, less than 1% of all estates, would be eliminated.

      The alternative minimum tax, applicable only to those with so many deductions, through so many loopholes, they would otherwise pay little or no taxes, would be repealed.

      Taxes on business conducted overseas by American companies would be reduced to zero.

      The current high-end tax on income, now 39.5%, would drop to 33%.


      Rather than cite estimates of who gets the dough, I invite readers to re-scan the above items while asking themselves a simple question: Does this benefit me? If you answer in the negative, don’t fret. There’s a bone for the doggy. Standard deductions for individuals and married couples will double. That accounts for about 3% of the total. As for the rest? Hey, Bill Gates hasn’t had a tax cut in years. Give the poor guy a break.

      How to pay for this, or at least pay for enough to cover the bill’s private parts with a fig leaf? Well, the original plan called for the money saved by repealing the ACA - a claimed 250 billion through tax cuts and reduced Medicaid spending over ten years – to be applied to the Republican tax plan. That’s out the window now, which reduces Republican options to exactly one. Slash spending. Thus, Trump’s proposed budget includes savage cuts – ten-year cuts - to social spending programs.


      Medicaid and children’s health programs: 616 billion.

      Food stamps and block grants designated for needy families: 272 billion.

      Disability: 72 billion

      Federal employee retirement benefits: 63 billion

      Financial regulation (by changes to Dodd-Frank): 35 billion

      Aid to education: 9.2 billion

      Once again, I invite readers to examine the above list. How many of these items are likely to affect you or someone you know? How many on the first list? Who wins? Who loses?


      One final note. Trump’s tax cuts will add 7 trillion dollars to the deficit over the next decade, even with the budget cuts, most of which he won’t get. That’s 700 billion per year, considerably more than 100% of our current deficit. But have no fear. According to our leader, Don the Con, we can deduct 2 trillion from the bottom line because an inspired growth fairy will show up to expand the economy. This is the same growth fairy conjured up by Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush and George W. Bush. All three invoked the growth fairy’s holy name again and again, but she never responded and deficits ballooned, a fact that can be verified by a one-minute search for “federal deficit spending in constant dollars”.


      It’s sad, taken all in all, but the saddest part is still to be named. The deficits produced by the long-planned Republican tax cuts will, of course, add to the national debt, providing Republicans with cover when they propose ever more savage cuts to social spending. Before we go over that pesky fiscal cliff.

Friday, July 28, 2017

QUICK HIT #8



      The Mystery:

      Russia’s desire to repeal the Magnitsky Act and its sanctions has become pretty obvious, as it’s becoming more and more apparent that repeal of those sanctions is Putin’s price for helping Trump win the presidency. But if repeal is the aim, you’d think Putin would be trying to appease the United States and its allies, not antagonize them.

      Make no mistake, Putin and the Oligarchs are ripping their country off to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and they want to stash the loot outside the country. Why? Because they fear sharing the fate of Ukraine’s former, pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych fled his country in the face of a popular uprising, running, if not for his life, at least for his liberty. If there’s anything crooked oligarchs hate, its imprisonment by their victims.

       Yanukovych is currently residing in Russia. Perhaps he and Puttin have met from time to time, reminiscing on the good old days when they sucked the Ukrainian economy dry. But even if they haven’t, even if Yanukovych has fallen too far to be accorded a royal audience, Putin can’t help but think, “If it can happen next door, why not here?”

       Right now, despite a high poverty rate and falling wages, the Russian people continue to support Putin. That comes as no surprise, what with the murders of journalists and political competitors, the suppression of anti-Putin demonstrators, and state-control of almost all elements of the media. But the future is cloudier. The Russian economy, after nine quarters of recession is finally moving forward, but at an anemic rate, a mere .5%. And with the United States expected to become among the world’s largest exporters of oil by 2020, Russia’s economy isn’t likely to boom anytime in the near future. You have to sell a lot of caviar and vodka to compensate for $50 per barrel oil prices.

      For dictators the world over, moving a substantial portion of your loot into a safe harbor, in case you have to make a run for it, is a priority. Losing power is one thing, going broke another, serving years and years in an eastern-European jail still a third.

      Given the need to protect his ill-gotten gains, you'd think Putin would do everything he could to maintain prosperity and stability in the West. But Putin’s effort to destabilize the very countries he counts on to protect his money is virtually undisputed. Now these countries are biting back and biting hard. Russian oligarchs wake up these days to find their laundered money frozen, themselves banned from travel to the West and their pet banks unwilling to do business with Russian crooks.

       To my beloved wife, Putin’s actions are no mystery at all. Putin’s sense of his own greatness, in her opinion, far exceeds any rational measure of his abilities, just like Trump’s. We’re looking at grandiosity, pure and simple, and Vladimir Putin’s just another deluded psychopath who thinks he’s too smart to get caught. Jails around the world are full of people exactly like him.

      I’m not crazy about comparisons between Trump and Putin. That because I’m pretty sure that Trump, if he wasn’t born rich, would be driving a truck. Putin, on the other hand, made his way up the ladder, one claw-hold at a time. I have to think, what with all the pundits who talk about him playing three-dimensional chess to Trump’s checkers, that Putin’s too smart to destabilize the economies of countries that hold and protect his money. Then why….


       But that’s the mystery part, and if I had an answer that passes the stink test, it would’ve started this posting. As it is, I’m resisting the obvious, that Vladimir Putin, like Don the Con, is simply irrational. That one’s just a bit too frightening. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

QUICK HIT #7



      Jared Kushner gave his much-awaited public statement earlier this afternoon. If true in all its details, I’d have to say it looks pretty good for Jared. That’s one of those really-big ifs, however, and only time will tell. But one sentence did tickle at the edges of my bullshit-detector. Not the part about not colluding with the Russians, or knowing of anyone who colluded. Rather, following that disclaimer, Jared (or, more likely, his lawyers) wrote: “I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

    The word “relied” is a weasel word if there ever was one. For example, even though the mortgage on my house is entirely held by Citibank, I can always claim that I never relied on Citibank because I submitted mortgage applications to Chase and Wells Fargo. Kushner never denies taking money from Russia, whether through a bank or an oligarch. He simply claims not to have relied on Russian largesse.


     Not good enough, folks, and just now, reading through his statement again, I’d eagerly take an even-money bet that Russian money found its way into the Kushner business empire. Anybody out there want the other side?