Tuesday, December 12, 2017

COTW: The Burden of Empire

While the handmaidens of war "debate" a conference bill on a massive tax gift to the wealthy, take a look a how the US spends more than a third of the funds it collects from taxpayers:


It is this incredible cost of empire that is repeatedly justified as a job producer.  Economists dispute this claim of reactionaries, pointing out that other government spending, such as infrastructure replacement and education create jobs more efficiently. Economist John Keynes advocated government deficit spending to create more aggregate demand in times of crisis, but he never advocated military spending as a means.  In a famous letter to FDR in 1933, he wrote:   

In the past orthodox finance has regarded a war as the only legitimate excuse for creating employment by governmental expenditure. You, Mr. President, having cast off such fetters, are free to engage in the interests of peace and prosperity the technique which hitherto has only been allowed to serve the purposes of war and destruction.  

Conservatives assailed FDR's deficit spending for social and economic recovery as "communistic" or "socialistic".  Today's ideological decedents use the same disparaging terminology to denounce efforts to pass progressive social programs such as expanded Medicare to replace a for-profit system that is brokenYet they have a curious mental lacuna concerning more deficit spending for an ever-increasing military establishment.  Their derangement is no doubt caused by greed.

What the weaponized version of deficit spending does is further enrich a cadre of profiteering weapons manufacturers that endlessly feed off the Pentagon cash cow at the expense of the rest of the nation.  The F-35 fighter jet is the avatar of Pentagon boondoggles. It will cost $400 billion to complete the acquisition program through 2038, requiring an average annual expenditure of $12.4 billion according to GAO, and the product is beset with technical failures and performance shortcomings. For this price the country could provide its citizen's with Medicare for all.  If peak demand for oil is approaching as experts claim, the end of 'Merica's petrochemical empire is at hand.  How can such flagrant expenditure for weapons of war be morally justified by a supposedly democratic, peace-loving nation?  NOT.

Friday, December 08, 2017

'Toontime: Rolling Downhill

credit: Adam Zygus, Buffalo News
Yes, friends, the Donald is on a roll--in his own mind.  The tax cut is blatantly unfair regardless of what reactionary apologists say.  The Big Ears Monument is a long, long overdue recompense for the white man's destruction of Native American culture and territorial rights.  And the poor may always be with us, but we do not have to seek our own moral justification by starting another war.  Calvin was rejected by "social gospel" Protestantism; the Catholic Church has always been the succor of the poor and disposed even when other Christian churches were not.

It was capitalist tycoons, the same people who now support the Donald, who conflated capitalistic super-patriotism with Christianity in order to combat what they saw as the "virus of collectivism" embodied by Roosevelt's New Deal programs. H.W. Prentis, head of the National Association of Manufacturers said in speech at the time, "The only antidote is a revival of American patriotism and religious faith.”  This corruption of the Christian ethic was spread across the country by fundamentalist preachers like Congregationalist minister Rev. James W. Fifield Jr. who preached capitalism to one of the first mega-churches in the US.  His congregation numbered four thousand, and his "Spiritual Mobilization" program counted 17,000 participating ministers.  This organization to preach the gospel of wealth was of course funded by money from oil tycoons, General Motors, and other patrons from across the corporate world.  According to this perversion, government is the embodiment of evil, and regulation of business violates the Ten Commandments.  When the "Red Scare" created the demagogue McCarthy, it was simple for the preachers of the emerging "Gospel of Prosperity" to insert godless communism and heathen communists in the blank as the devil of the moment.  Fifield chose Norman Vincent Peale to replace him as leader of the movement in 1947.  Trump attended Peale's Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. Trump referred to Peale as one of the most inspirational speakers he has ever heard.

All of this was preface to what is now called the "religious right",  and to which the feckless robber baron occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue panders.  One of Trump's favorite stump lines is, "we worship God, not government."  As usual the line resonates with religious conservatives, but little do they know the real meaning of that line is, "we worship Capitalism, not Jesus Christ."  The itinerant preacher of Galilee would simply shake his head in total disbelief, and perhaps say as he did to Simon Peter, "Get behind me, Satan".

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Yeti Is No More

Yeti, the infamous Himalayan biped of legend, has been debunked. So say geneticists who published their research in the Proceedings of Royal Society B. An international team of scientists analyzed 24 samples of hair, bone, feces and skin. The reality is that samples of DNA supposedly taken from the Yeti are from the Asian brown bear, most likely a Himalayan subspecies. The legend of Yeti, or Abominable Snowman as it became known in the west, has persisted for centuries; it was even worshiped as the god of the hunt by pre-Buddist peoples inhabiting the Tibetan Plateau. The lore captured western imagination in the 1950s when European mountaineers began their famous assents of Himalayan peaks. Suspected bits and pieces of the Yeti including alleged footprints [photo] and sightings were collected over the years, but there was never any documented proof of its existence.

The scientists led by Tianying Lan of the University at Buffalo in New York, write in their report, “we unambiguously show that this sample is from a bear that groups with extant Himalayan brown bear.”  One studied 'Yeti' hair sample held by a museum actually belongs to a dog.  The team goes on to say, “This study represents the most rigorous analysis to date of samples suspected to derive from anomalous or mythical ‘hominid’-like creatures, strongly suggesting the biological basis of the yeti legend as local brown and black bears,”  This is he second genetic study of alleged Yeti samples, the first completed in 2014.  That investigation also concluded study samples belonged to a bear.  Chalk another myth lodged in man's archaic collective unconscious exploded by science.  Next stop on the train to rubbish: 'Merica's analogue, Bigfoot.

Following the Money

It was only a matter of time before Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller got around to subpoenaing the personal financial records of THE TRUMP.  Undoubtedly he has been aided by inside information by others in the TRUMP WORLD already charged with crimes, including money laundering.  Deutsche Bank, Germany's largest bank, has turned over documents concerning certain money and credit transactions made by the rouge billionaire, and now El Presidente.  The bank has lent millions to the TRUMP ORGANIZATION, one of the few to extend credit after a string of TRUMP bankruptcies during the 1990s.

Investigators are apparently interested in confirming information that Deutsche Bank sold TRUMP'S loans to VEB or other Russian banks (Gazprom Bank, VTB Group, Sberbank) now under economic sanction by the United States.  Holding TRUMP debt coming due would give the Russian oligopolists leverage over TRUMP, especially if the banks in question are state controlled.  According to an official disclosure document issued in June, the TRUMP ORGANIZATION has debts of $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, the US operating unit.  The debts in reality are probably much larger.

Rueters reports that Paul Manafort's client profile are among the documents handed over.  Manafort was TRUMP's campaign chairman; he nor his wife have accounts at Deutsche Bank.  In October Manafort pleaded guilty to charges that included conspiracy to launder money.   The inference that one can reasonably draw from these circumstances is that the TRUMP ORGANIZATION, a TRUMP family business represented by Manafort, engaged in transactions with prohibited Russian financial institutions in response to pressure from them on loan repayments.  (All capitals for TRUMP because he is YUGE)  At some point later in the investigation, perhaps after subpoenaing senior advisor Jared Kushner for his testimony, Mueller will have set the stage for requesting testimony under oath from THE DONALD himself. US PERSON's advice:  DUCK!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Trump to Shrink Monument

Playing off his tax gift triumph in the Senate, Trump will announce that he will shrink the newly designated Bears Ear National Monument by as much as 90%.  The Monument is the result of over ten years of efforts by a coalition of environmentalists to protect landscapes held sacred by Native Americans.  The move will certainly trigger lawsuits by tribes, such as the Navajo Nation, who were instrumental in its creation.  The suits will bring before conservative justices the entire concept of natural preservation in America, the Beautiful.  The battle may result in millions of protected land being opened up to development, a prospect that excites commercial exploiters of all sorts.  Trump ordered his sycophant at Interior, Ryan Zinke, to review 27 monuments designated since 1996, since he considered the designations to be "egregious use of government power".  Zinke recommended that the boundaries of some the monuments be changed since it is not clear that the President has the authority to withdraw designations completely. {24.08.27}

Bears Ears connects the Navajo Nation to Canyonlands National Park
The issue of designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906 touches upon a sensitive intersection of intergovernmental relations.  The Act limits designations to the "smallest area possible" to protect desired features the law is meant to protect.  Conservatives still think in terms of limited federal authority enshrined in the 10th Amendment and colloquially termed "states' rights".  They see the monument designations as a unlawful federal land grab, closing commercially valuable land to development.  The federal government, on behalf of all the people, controls two-thirds of the land in Utah.  Utah receives anlarge sum of federal subsidies as a result of this ownership.  Currently new mineral exploration is prohibited within Bears Ears, but cattle grazing is still allowed.

Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, told reporters that the United States government had already taken “millions of acres of my people’s land.”
“We have suffered enough,” he said.  Protestors stood at the Utah state capitol with signs, saying "Keep your tiny hands off our Monument"  Too bad Trump's ego is not as small as his hands. Trump is expected to make the reduction announcement this week when he visits Utah.  He is also expected to cut the size of Staircase-Escalante NM by 50%.  Trump is not the first president to reduce the size of a monument.  President Wilson cut Olympic National Monument, and President Roosevelt reduced the size of Grand Canyon National Monument.  Both are now national parks.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

"Toontime: Trickle On Trump

credit: Wolverton

Bernie Sanders got it right: the Repugnant tax plan is a moral abomination.  US Person says "Repugnant" tax plan because the only thing the Trumpster knows about it is that if passed it will give him and fellow plutocrats a huge tax break. There is no social equity in it, and creates a gaping trilion and half more of federal deficit. His smash and grab government is just about run out of time, December 8th to be exact.  Shutting the federal government has become a routine political ploy of the Grinchs on the hill.  The 'toons today are en point.