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Snyder-Man

January 27, 2016

rick-snyder-michigan-governor-apologies-for-contaminated-water

Snyder-Man, Snyder-Man

Does whatever a con man can,

Builds up PACs in the dark,

Poisons Flint, we’re his mark.

Look out!

Here comes the Snyder-Man.

 

Is he mean?

Listen, bud,

He puts lead in children’s blood.

Did he know ’bout the lead?

He says no, call the feds.

Hey there!

There goes the Snyder-Man.

 

On the news at night

Tries to shift all the blame.

In a state of fright

He’s just always so lame.

 

Snyder-Man, Snyder-Man

Emergency Manager Snyder-Man

Wealth and power

He’s amassed.

Michigan he has trashed.

 

To him, life’s just a great big shell game.

Poison’s a really big shame.

Arrest the Snyder-Man.

 

 

 

 

Crybaby Cops

December 21, 2014

The murder of 2 NYPD officers is unfortunate, but the reaction of police chief Ray Kelly is deplorable. Kelly blames mayor Bill DeBlasio for the officers’ deaths. It may be that the shooter, who was apparently insane, was slightly encouraged by criticism of police. Apparently Kelly thinks that we must never criticize him and his fellow officers, no matter what they do.

I’m not going to attempt to prove in this posting that American police are out of control. Not to think so probably requires one to think that there is a media conspiracy to ruin the reputation of police. Maybe I’ll tackle that in another post, but I think that it is fair to say that American police officers have scored a lot of bad karma.

Here I want to consider the way in which police have succeeded in presenting themselves as heroes and deconstruct that presentation.
First of all, police work is not very dangerous. I remember that in the early 1970s factory work was more dangerous than police work. I won’t document that because it’s old news.

On the other hand, police work doesn’t even rank among the 10 most dangerous occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 “National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.” The census included, from most to less dangerous jobs, logger, fisherman, pilot, roofer, refuse collectors (I think that they in particular should parade in pretty uniforms and play “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes when one of them is buried), miners, truck drivers, farmers/ranchers, electric power line workers, and construction workers. I couldn’t find police officers in the report.

Police officers profit from the fact that people love violence and revere those who wield it in a good cause. A look at popular entertainments should clue us in about that. Chris Hedges has written War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. The invasion of Iraq shows how easy it to get people to approve violence.

Although police have the task of dealing with violent people, police are well prepared to protect themselves. They have weapons, training, a legal system which is reluctant to punish them, and the reflex of people to idealize them. That they complain about being hurt on the job belies their image as heroes. Harry Truman had it right: “If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen.”  If they ignore that advice, cops like Ray Kelly are just crybabies.

In Snoops We Trust?

June 13, 2013

Former CIA employee Ed Snowden has run afoul of our corporate masters by leaking to the Guardian the fact that the National Security Agency has received from Verizon 3-month’s worth of numbers, time, and duration of calls.

Larry Klayman, former chair of Judicial Watch, has brought suit in the District of Columbia Federal District Court against Pres. Obama and other govt actors for this violation of the 4th Amendment prohibition of unlawful searches and seizures. Sen. Rand Paul, who is surprisingly more often right than the proverbial broken clock, is requesting the help of telecom companies to mobilize citizens in a class-action suit on the same violation.

The reaction of the military-industrial-security-police complex is predictable. On today’s NPR Talk of the Nation, former CIA director Jas. Woolsey’s comments added up to “Snowden is arrogant and needs to be jailed, and we should all trust the national security establishment.”

Former CIA director Michael Hayden’s assurances that civil liberties are protected while terrorists are foiled are even more comic. Hayden scrapped ThinThread, an effective CIA-designed surveillance program with protections of privacy, for Trailblazer, a corporate product in which he had a financial interest. Since Trailblazer ultimately failed, our surveillance capability before 9-11 was critically weakened. It’s criminally ironic that Hayden is now a media guru on terrorism, while the govt employees who exposed his incompetence and corruption have lost their jobs and narrowly escaped prosecution.

Woolsey suggested that more surveillance of telecom would have prevented the 9-11 attacks. If so, Hayden effectively sabotaged that. The film 9-11: Press for Truth, on the other hand, suggests that the Bush administration had all the information needed to predict a large terrorist attack within the U. S. in late summer 2001, but for unexplained reasons, chose only to protect key govt officials.

Woolsey’s criticism of Snowden as arrogant in blowing the whistle on the NSA’s latest domestic spying seems to be classic psychological projection. Woolsey says, “Trust us; we know better than you.” That’s a tall order given the bungling, or worse, by his colleagues which led to 9-11 and the campaign of deception which led to our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gun Control, Corporate Control

June 13, 2013

I suppose that I would support increased gun control if not for the police state which has been growing in America, especially since 2001. Most recently the National Security Agency revealed that it has been recording the phone numbers and length of Verizon calls. Sen. Rand Paul, despite his many faults, is almost the only member of Congress to object to this violation of the 4th Amendment.

A worse violation of the Constitution by Pres. Obama, who is Pres. Dubya “with a human face,” was Obama’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2011, which authorizes the arrest of anyone, anywhere, at anytime, and their imprisonment for the duration of the “War on Terror.” Ask Muslim kids in Guantanamo when the war will end. The worst violation is the admitted killing of 4 American citizens, for whom the due process mandated by the 5th Amendment consisted of being chosen for execution by the Pres. and his advisors.

With execution by Presidential decree, how is the United States not a dictatorship, especially because the drones which are used to kill Americans overseas already operate in the U. S. “homeland?” Other indications of the slide toward fascism are the prosecution of govt whistleblowers and protection of the criminals whom they accuse, the paramilitary lockdown of Boston following the the Marathon bombing, and the Monsanto Protection Act.

While some opponents of gun control are industry shills like the National Rifle Association and right-wing lunatics like Geo. Noori, the trend toward a police state makes me think that having lots of civilians with guns is a good thing.

Thom Hartmann, usually on-target, says that civilians with small arms could not successfully resist the U. S. military machine. Hartmann should consider how Hezbullah frustrated Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, and how Iraq and Afghanistan have turned into tar babies for the U. S. military machine.

Liberals understand the 2nd Amendment as primarily designed to foster state militias so that a permanent national army would be unnecessary and restricted by the states’ military power. The Founders’ plan has failed. We have a permanent national army, which is a threat to our freedom. The state militias are now the National Guard, which indicates that they are now just an appendage of the national military machine.

It may be important that the 2nd Amendment says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” If the Founders meant that guns would be the property of the state govts rather than of individuals, it would have been clearer to say “the right of the states to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

To paraphrase Thoreau, “Show me a free state, and I’ll give up my gun.” America is not a free state, but a nascent dictatorship by multinational monopolies. If Americans can’t preserve their freedom peacefully, private citizens will need lots of guns. We don’t need to control guns as much as we need to control the corporations who control the govt.

Immigration Deformed

June 13, 2013

I think of myself as a leftist, but I part company with leftists on immigration reform. I recently asked a professor of German history about my daughter spending time in Germany. I was surprised to learn that she would not be allowed to work there. I was naive. Germans quite reasonably give Germans preference in employment.

Mexico is another interesting country in terms of immigration. Mexico has a lot of problems. Americans should take most of the blame for the drug trade because, on the one hand we are the biggest customers, and on the other hand we insist on draconian punishments for drug use and trafficking. We can also take a lot of blame for unemployment in Mexico. NAFTA not only puts Americans out of work, but also Mexicans. Some Mexican farmers put out of business by American farmers who dumped subsidized produce in Mexico have ended up working for the American farmers who crushed them.

However, the rulers of Mexico prefer not to deal with Mexican problems because doing so would reduce their wealth and power. I seem to recall another country which works that way. Mexican oligarchs have a less painful way of dealing with national problems. Exporting distressed citizens to America reduces the pressure for reform in Mexico and props up the Mexican economy by the “remittances” which emigrants send back to Mexico.

A hypocrisy of the Mexican govt is to whine about how badly America treats illegal immigrants, while carefully restricting immigration from Central America to Mexico.
It would be inhumane to deport the 11 million illegal residents of the U. S., and the Obama administration’s increase in deportations is as useless an exercise in political theater as was the Bush administration’s fences and electronic surveillance.

The United States govt is not yet as corrupt as the Mexican, but we’re getting there. That’s why the real solution to illegal immigration will not be effected. The real solution is severely to punish the employers of illegal immigrants. That will not happen because the GOP and to a slightly lesser extent the Dem. party are dominated by business interests. Our 2-tiered “justice” system will put illegal immigrants into concentration camps, where health problems and rape are ignored, but I haven’t heard of any employers punished for replacing Americans with illegal immigrants.

The GOP, as usual, is a little worse than the Dems. By opposing legalization of illegals the GOP can appeal to its racist base and keep immigrants in legal limbo, where they can be most grossly exploited by employers.

Some people will admit that illegal immigration lowers wages for unskilled workers. What may be a surprise is that legal immigration, in the form of the H1B visa, puts skilled Americans out of work. In particular, the tech industry, led by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, is lobbying hard for an unlimited number of H1B visas. Supposedly this is because, as with illegal immigrants in the agricultural and hospitality businesses, Americans cannot be found to do the work. Apparently the thousands of unemployed American engineers and computer pros cannot do the work which Microsoft and Facebook need.

NOT! As illegal immigrants have partly replaced Americans in meat-packing and construction, H1B visa holders are preferred to Americans because immigrants can be paid less.

The Daily Kos posted an astounding video, “How Not to Hire an American,” on 18 June 2007. In it Cohen & Grigsy, P.C., instruct HR workers about how to avoid hiring Americans so that the employer can get green cards for immigrants. This is the not-very-well-hidden agenda of the Silicon Valley lobbyists. American engineers and other high-tech workers can be replaced by immigrants who can be paid less.

What this adds up to is 2 immigration reforms.
First is an idea which most amazingly comes from the Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, usually a source of amazing nonsense. He wants no guest workers if unemployment tops 5%. I would also limit H1B visas, now 600,000, to 6000. If Einstein applied, he would get in. He had a Nobel Prize, after all.
Second, very severe penalties, from billion-dollar fines up to revocation of corporate charter and 25 years in jail for CEOs and board chairs, would be exacted from businesses which employ illegal immigrants. Despite problems in practice, E-Verify is a good idea.

Severe punishment of employers and very rare work visas would mean very few jobs for immigrants. Immigrants are not stupid. If there are not jobs, immigration will slow to a trickle. Richard Wolff, Prof. of Economics at UMass-Amherst, says that immigration is one of four reasons why wages in America have stagnated for 30 years. Decrease the inundation of immigration, correct the other abuses of workers by bosses, and wages will rise. Correcting other abuses, principally free trade, which is the twin of open borders, will be another post.

Did Jesus Exist?

June 13, 2013

There are 3 main reasons for regarding Jesus of Nazareth as a historical rather than mythological figure.

First, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus mentions him.

The account at Jewish Antiquities 18.3.3 is too favorable to Jesus to have been written in its present form by Josephus, who was not a Christian. On the other hand, Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1 says, “But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus [Roman governor] was now dead, and Albinus [Festus’ successor] was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.” There is nothing in this passage which a non-Christian could not write. Therefore, there is no reason to doubt it.

Second, St. Paul indicates that Jesus’ brothers were living at the time of writing (1 Corinthians 9:5), and that he had met one of them (Galatians 1:19) This is hard to explain if Jesus himself were a myth.

Third, other Christian writings, especially the 4 Gospels, contain 5 details unlikely to have been fabricated by Christians, since they conflict with Christian interests.
1. Jesus was Jewish. St. Paul devotes 3 chapters (Romans 9-11) to the problem that most Jews do not accept Jesus as Messiah. John 1:11 says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Here again is the embarrassment that Jesus’ own nation rejected him. Thus it is unlikely that Jesus’ Jewish birth is a fiction.
2. Jesus grew up in Galilee. 3 times in the Gospel of John (1:46, 7:41f, 52) Jesus’ Galilean upbringing is used to question his Messianic office. The implausibility of the infancy narratives in Matthew 1:1-2:23, and in Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-39, 3:23-38 also suggest that Jesus’ was born in Galilee. For example, Matthew nowhere suggests that Joseph and Mary did not live in Bethlehem (1:18-2:23) prior to Mary’s pregnancy, but Luke makes clear that they lived in Nazareth. (1:26, 2:4) The tradition of the census of Augustus does not square with other historical sources, and it is incredible that the Romans would expect everyone to return to their ancestral homes.
3. Jesus was baptized by John, who baptized for forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3) But Jesus was sinless according to Christians. (2 Corinthians 5:2) The evangelists’ embarrassment with this is shown by the fact that Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:21 comes after John is imprisoned (3:21, hinting that Jesus was not baptized by John?). Likwise, when Jesus asks John for baptism in Matthew 3:13, John first refuses and says that John needs to be baptized by Jesus. (3:14) Although Jesus comes to John on the Jordan river in the gospel of John 1:29,35, Jesus is never baptized. Matthew, Luke, and John’s embarrassment at Jesus’ baptism makes it unlikely that Jesus’ baptism is a fiction.
4. Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God in parables. Outside of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, neither the Kingdom of God nor parables is mentioned much in the New Testament. That this tradition is not found much in Paul, the Johannine books, or the rest of the New Testament suggests that it comes from Jesus himself rather than the church.
5. Jesus was crucified by the Romans. Paul calls this a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. (1 Corinthians 1:23) The development of the passion narrative shows a tendency to shift blame from the Romans to the Jews. In Mark 15:1-15 Pilate wishes to free Jesus but acquiesces to the Jews. In Luke 23:7-15 Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, the ruler of Galilee, who sends him back to Pilate, which Pilate interprets as an acquittal. In Matthew 27:19 Pilate’s wife urges that Jesus be freed, Pilate fears a riot and washes his hands of Jesus’ innocent blood, which the crowd calls down on itself. In John 19:15 Pilate asks whether he should crucify Jesus, the King of the Jews. The chief priests answer, “We have no king but Caesar.” It is historically implausible, first,that a Roman governor would try to release a man called “king” without imperial authorization, and second, that the Jewish priests would say that Caesar, rather than God, is their king. The way in which the unwillingness of Pilate and the insistence of the Jews grew from the oldest to the newest gospel shows the discomfort of Christians with the fact that the Romans imposed on Jesus their worst punishment. Therefore, the Christians did not invent the story.

The conclusion to which we are driven is that Christians did not invent that Jesus was Jewish, grew up in Galilee, was baptized by John, taught about the Kingdom of God in parables, and was crucified by the Romans. These traditions, which the Christians did not invent, pose the question from where they did come. The most reasonable answer is that they are historical facts about a real person. Add to this the mention of Jesus by Josephus and Paul’s mention of Jesus’ brothers, and it is likely that Jesus was real person who was crucified by Pontius Pilate around 30 A.D.

National Debt and the 2 Santa Clauses

June 13, 2013

In 1964, after the unprecedented landslide which deprived Barry Goldwater of the Presidency, Jude Winniski hatched a strategy to regain power for the GOP and its business sponsors.  Democrats since the New Deal had been able to play Santa Claus by luring voters with various government benefits, Social Security, Medicare, the GI Bill, etc.  Republicans found themselves in the losing position of trying to take back these popular programs.

Winniski proposed that the GOP also play Santa Claus.  Under the rubric of “supply side economics,” the GOP would now spend like Democrats and outbid them by simultaneously lowering taxes.  This marketing coup gained 2 terms and sainthood for Ronald Reagan.  Voters have forgotten that Reagan actually raised taxes for most people while lowering them for corporations and their rich owners.  Reaganomics, denounced as “voodoo economics” by the elder Bush but mostly continued by him for political reasons, produced an unprecedented deficit.     

When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin convinced him that taxes must be raised and spending lowered to fight the deficit.  This Clinton did, finishing his 2nd term with a huge surplus, but suffering politically with a GOP take-over of Congress in 1995, and with impeachment in 1998-1999.   

Geo. W. Bush took office in 2001.  His 2 terms continued the cut-tax-and-spend policy of Jude Winniski.  2 wars, a Medicare gift to the pharmaceutical industry, and tax cuts for the rich at 1929 levels left an unprecedented deficit.  Deregulation of the banking industry led to a global recession, if not depression.   

This was the situation which Barack Obama inherited in 2009.  The nominal majorities which Democrats had in both houses of Congress were weakened by ConservaDems, principally Senators Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.  Obama also failed to deliver the change he promised by including Wall Street insiders like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner in his administration and by playing nice with the Republicans, who were dedicated to his destruction.  The result was Obama’s misunderstood and weak health reform and underfunded and underestimated economic stimulus. 

Obama’s failures in his first term, the flood of corporate money freed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and the Tea Party, birthed by corporate money and fed by racism, as well as by genuine distress over the recession, gave the GOP control of the House of Representatives in 2011.  This has made it almost impossible for Obama to do anything positive. Most notably, the U.S. credit rating fell for the first time in history because the GOP House of Representatives refused to raise the debt ceiling.  It remains to be seen if Obama will be replaced by outsourcer and job killer Willard Romney. 

So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  In fact, thanks to Jude Winniski, there are 2.