Capitalism (2)

Edited from my 3/2 Facebook post

I was trained in econ, finance and business, and I lean towards economic conservatism. However: if there were no government regulation, we’d have to take every burglar to court for redress, every fraudulent business, every adulterated or dangerously mislabeled meds manufacturer, every cheat, crook and swindler … the courts would be swamped, but only with claimants able to pay for the mushrooming army of litigating attorneys.

The system we have now needs reform, but it’s still cheaper, more impartially administered, and accessible. Everybody supports the government, but few can afford redress through the courts every time we’re wronged or harmed. Think about that for a while.

I don’t understand how political “conservatives” rant and rail against “repressive government over-regulation” of corporations and businesses, as if you can’t just go and dig up the Grand Canyon looking for uranium and minerals, or manufacture a drug that kills people, — yet they press for more and more regulation controlling how you and I can pray, marry, make love, read a book, go to the movies, or vote.

Meanwhile, the 1% get richer, and the rest of us get poorer. I can certainly understand why the Swedes and Norwegians love their robust, healthy, happy “socialist” economies. I can understand how they’re happy with the economic, social and standard of health and living conditions for all. We can certainly understand how barbaric early laws sanctioned between business and worker gave rise to experiments with socialism. They became popular, and we’re starting to live in those  desperate times too..

I could successfully argue that the capitalist system of economics could work better, but we don’t have that now, and really never did. The notion that you and I need to live under one enforced system of common laws proscribing violations of the rights of others, but that businesses don’t, is truly insane.

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Modern Capitalism In a Nutshell

I don’t understand all the fuss about the new President-Elect who refuses to relinquish personal control over his corporate empire. Critics call it a “conflict of interest.” This shows a basic lack of understanding of the finer points of “evolved” modern capitalism.

  • You can’t make money off of other people’s money. They have to consent to give it to you.
  • If they won’t give it to you, con them out of it.
  • If they won’t be conned, pass laws so you can legally just take it from them.

There are corporate exceptions, of course. They stand out like shining beacons on a rocky, stormy shore.

What happened?

Modern “Capitalism” scarcely resembles that “laissez-faire” Capitalism originally envisioned by Adam Smith and early followers, who saw value as the product of labor, not money and influence. They saw economic prosperity as the result of free trade within the same fabric of existing laws and courts that we live under, not as an end-run around them. Most of those pioneer economists would undoubtedly have been horrified to see what we have done in their name.

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Prime Minister Abe at Pearl Harbor

I listened to Abe’s entire speech tonight. It was a sincere moving tribute to the men who died in the attack while defending our country, to their bravery in defending Pearl, to the families left behind, and recognition and gratitude to a country big enough and morally strong enough to help the defeated build democracies from the ashes. There was nothing hollow, insincere or contrived about it. Neither nation has ever “apologized” inasmuch as “I’m sorry” or “We messed up” is a shallow, trite slap in the face to the many millions who died so horribly in that war. I have no use for people who carp “He didn’t apologize,” obviously having neither heard nor comprehended what Abe, and then President Obama, actually said. Words are inadequate. What counts is not what we said but what we did, and Japan and America have proved exactly that.

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Conservatism to Totalitarianism

From Moyers: “Ultraconservative powwow –> “The leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party has signed what he called a cooperation agreement with Russia’s ruling party and recently met with Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the designated national security adviser to President-elect Donald J. Trump of the United States,” Alison Smale reports for The New York Times.”

Interesting how the new “conservatives” are increasingly sidling up to the totalitarian regimes, yes?

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” ~~ “Animal Farm.” George Orwell (1945)

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Liar’s Poker

Barack Obama got us out of the Great Recession. He increased jobs, got the economy on track, defended civil rights for all Americans, and reportedly became the most admired President in US history.

Republicans didn’t like that; they wanted change. They voted in a candidate who ran on a platform of equal-opportunity hate for the full laundry list of target groups, promising to un-do all the achievements of the Obama administration.

That man won, and the world sees him now installing officials who are fiercely dedicated to do even more than the president-elect promised.

Most Republicans say they didn’t and still don’t believe he would actually do that, while Democrats took him at his word and treated his candidacy and platform accordingly.

So now we have the result that those who voted for the president-elect are the ones who believed he was a liar, and those “thin-skinned” others who voted against him are the ones who believed him.

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Election Hindsight 2016

from my Facebook post …

Hindsight is always a cheap currency, but I think I should have seen this coming. It came to me while packing boxes of surplus household goods for donation to charity; go figure.

The new American “REDS” – populism, authoritarianism, threats to the established Constitution, promises of arrests and purges, and pogroms against minorities – what’s not to like here? Republicans will rush to assure us that nothing of the kind is going to happen, and let’s hope they’re right. But it’s a resurgent American phenomenon, which we have not seen since the McCarthy era. It bears watching, with sharp hawk eyes, by those of us on the left and right who still care what happens. Give us strength to get through this.

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Trump One Last Time

Let’s talk about Donald Trump one last time.

Maybe you’re undecided. Maybe you don’t care for the Trump demeanor and attitude, or some of what he says about others. Perhaps the programs he’s come up with aren’t quite your cup of tea. Perhaps you read the 2016 Republican Party Platform and found it too draconian for your taste. You told yourself, “He won’t be able to do that; it’s just words.”

Perhaps you “hate Hillary.” Perhaps you say “I never voted Republican in my life and I don’t plan to start now.” Never mind that this is no longer the Grand Old Party or “The Big Tent.” You thought you were supporting Republican ideals all these last twenty or so years, but you weren’t. They no longer exist.

You might say with some honesty that you don’t hate women, you don’t hate people because of their skin color or religion, you don’t hate gays or immigrants per se … because you’re not a hater.

You might say that just because the KKK supports Trump, A Trump vote doesn’t necessarily support racism. Wrong. If you voted for racism, you support it. Racists are never innocents. There’s just no way around that fact.

A vote for Trump IS support for racism and all the other “-isms” he promises America.

Anyone who votes for Trump is deliberately supporting a radical change in our national attitudes toward democracy, freedom and equality, no matter what they say, no matter what alibis and rationalizations they offer.

If you should still be thinking of voting for Trump, I beg you to consider this:

Our parents taught us to never bring shame upon the family name. If you vote for Trump, friends and family who knew better may have a hard time forgiving you. If at some future turn of events in a Trump presidency, you regret your decision, it’s too late.

It’d only be fair to ask: if you did it once, how do we know you wouldn’t ever do it again?

~~ If you liked this article, please feel free copy and paste it into email or social media with credit and page URL.

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On Guns and Hydrogen bombs

More hot topics: my challenge to Facebook readers

Some months ago I offered a challenge on these hallowed pages: we have a right to own a rifle or a pistol. So why doesn’t the Second also afford us the right to own a rotary cannon or a hydrogen bomb? How do you draw the line? What is the principle?

No one responded. Anyone’s first response would be, “Alex, that’s just common sense. No individual should own a hydrogen bomb.” But that doesn’t tell us how we can KNOW that, how we can draw the line. Is an M-1 semi-auto rifle OK? A Ruger? An H&K? Everyone says the AR-15 is suitable for “self defense.”. What about 50 caliber machine guns? What about fully functional M-61 tanks? What is the line between personal self-defense and battlefield atomic warhead mortars? What is the principle? If we don’t like where this seems to be leading, i.e. that there IS a line, all the more reason we should think about it.

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The Sanders Legacy

I probably spend too much time on Facebook. I also put huge blocks of my retirement hours into Perl projects, and yes, I’m still writing my book. Readers rarely respond to posts here, in part because the anti-spam interface makes it a pain. On my Facebook page, a good post will usually get a few “Likes,” sometimes maybe a dozen. I got 53 “Likes” on a New York Times post on another issue. This one on Bernie is well on the way., so I thought I’d get off my butt and share it. The rather snide NYT article is “What Is Sanders’ Endgame?” and you can read it there. My reply follows.

“At the end of the day, is his ethos greater than his ego?” There was no call for this small-minded NYT conclusion. Sanders has been a game-changer from the beginning. He forced [almost] all the other candidates of both parties to either address or pay lip service to important national issues they’d rather ignore. If he cashed in his chips tonight and retired to a remote cabin to contemplate his long decades serving the public, he has already made more of a difference than many presidents-elect. Bernie has raised our expectations.

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“Perfect In Every Way”

We hear these politicians whining “Obama’s trying to change America.” Tell us then, would this suggest America is already perfect in every way? If there’s any room for improvement however small, do they have a proposal for that? If they do, isn’t that ‘trying to change America?” More to the point, isn’t this why we elect them in the first place – to do their jobs?

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Gun-Free Zones

I got into a social media thread where some folks vented their outrage by the recent news that the University of California Berkeley declared itself a gun-free zone, effective immediately. My reply:

You’re always welcome in my home, but it isn’t a gun-free zone for me, only for you – because I own it and you are free to go elsewhere if you don’t like the house rules.

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Respect the Office

I had lunch with a very old friend earlier this week. He is an old-school (1960’s) conservative. I mentioned how the media, including a channel he watches, savages the President with smears and lies. His answer surprised me. He said: “I don’t care WHAT party a person is from, the President of the United States is OUR PRESIDENT and he should be treated with respect, dammit!”

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The Release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

As widely reported, in the Washington Post and elsewhere, a number of Republicans went on record today as saying, in so many words, that we should have kept the five Taliban detainees and let our American sergeant rot in hell, because it was a bad trade. You and I should take careful note of just how much they value young American lives. Your son or daughter, under different circumstances, could have been held hostage there.

Irrespective of partisan politics, any way you cut it, there is no logical way out of the conclusion that they value their five prisoners more than one American life. That’s an inescapable, irrefutable fact, no matter what else they throw at this contrived controversy.

As for the tired old charge that these five Guantanamo detainees, who were never charged with anything, will “come back” to kill Americans, we are leaving Afghanistan anyway. If the Republicans think five more Taliban are going to tilt the balance, their water is runnier than they’re admitting.

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McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission

“In another blow to our already minimal campaign finance regulations, the Supreme Court struck down aggregate contribution limits in McCutcheon.” ~~ Bill Moyers

We can all sleep safer at night now, knowing that the Roberts Supreme Court, in its majesty, has determined that the right to free speech quantified in your $25 political contribution is exactly equal to the Koch Brothers’ $1 billion contribution.

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The Crimean Affair

I say, the Crimeans made their own bed; let them lie in it.

At this writing, it appears official that the Russian Duma has accepted the Crimean vote to again become part of Russia, and Vladimir Putin has just signed that annexation into law. The West will wail and wring its collective hands, asserting (correctly) that this was a violation of the Ukrainian constitution.

But, wait a minute. All of Ukraine was part of the USSR until its 1989 break-up. It still consists of three separate regions and ethnic groups: Crimea, predominantly Russian-speaking, Russian Orthodox and identifying as “Russian,” Eastern Ukraine, the same, and Western Ukraine (Kiev), predominantly bilingual (Ukrainian being the primary language) and predominantly Roman Catholic and pro-West.

Crimea also has a sizable Tatar minority of Muslims, said to be around 15%, who were treated brutally by Russia and largely expelled from Crimea under the old USSR. Crimea has changed hands many times since the 1100’s, but identifying as “Russian” is nothing new.

Ukraine, on the other hand, was a shotgun marriage of different regions by the USSR. Since their notoriously corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych fled for his life, Ukraine’s provisional government has been in a shambles. It is ill-equipped at the moment to deal with what, from its perspective, is a grave national crisis.

Continue reading

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McCain on Ukraine

I caught Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) on the Charlie Rose show today. As an ex-military man, McCain seems to understand Comrade Putin’s designs on Crimea quite well enough. On the domestic front, though, he joins the U.S. right-wing hue and cry that the Obama Administration is just sitting on its hands doing nothing, whereas every good ex-military officer know that tough retaliatory action is the only thing Putin understands.

Like so many in our minority party, McCain sees things through a special filter. This filter passes all the colors of the spectrum except Blue. It also picks up artifacts in the spectrum that won’t show in any bandpass filter, because they don’t exist.

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Your Questions on Ukraine – Daily KOS

Link:

Why did Obama let this happen, and other questions on Ukraine

  1. Why did U.S. President Barack Obama let this happen?That’s the question everyone in Washington, DC is asking. It’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask—if you are incapable of seeing beyond the very dark hole into which you’ve placed your entire head.

A clever (and tongue in cheek) 6-point review of the Ukraine situation. From the Daily KOS. George W. Bush, out of Ukraine NOW!

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“We have decided … to support the government.”

“We have decided, not without some internal strife, to support the government.” ~~ Silvio Berlusconi, Italian PM Oct 3, 2013, a week before John Boehner broke the U.S. House logjam and ended the partial government shutdown.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta won a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday (2 October) after Silvio Berlusconi, facing revolt in his own centre-right party, backtracked on threats to bring down the government. ~~ euractive.com October 3

House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday that the House “absolutely” will take up the new Senate budget plan — even if he has to rely on mostly Democrats to pass it — and that he expects the partial government shutdown to end by Thursday.

Boehner made the comments in an interview with Cincinnati radio station WLW-AM.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” he said. ~~ Foxnews.com, October 16

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The OSS and Ho Chi Minh

“Some will be shocked to find out that the United States and Ho Chi Minh, our nemesis for much of the Vietnam War, were once allies. Indeed, during the last year of World War II, American spies in Indochina found themselves working closely with Ho Chi Minh” – excerpt from the article link. See it in COMMENTARY.

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COMRADE PUTIN EN DER TAR-BABY

COMRADE PUTIN EN DER TAR-BABY (with apologies to Joel Chandler Harris): “En den Brer Fox, he look kinder sly, he does, en den he says to Brer Rabbit, he do, lookit here Rabbit, you don no way know how to hit dat dere Tar-Baby. See here Brer Rabbit, efn only you let ME show you how!”
Works for me!

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The Irony of It All: the Snowden Affair

Early this morning I was reading yet another news report on the celebrated and infamous Mr. Snowden, this one on the BBC web site, Edward Snowden documents show NSA broke privacy rules.

No real surprises there, but the following lines of text caught my eye. It caused a flashback to the different world of my youth in the 1950’s and 1960’s:

Mr Snowden, a former NSA contractor, has leaked top secret documents to the US and British media.

He has been given asylum in Russia.

If you’re too young to remember the Cold War years, the salvos of political diatribe hurled back and forth across the continents, the Spy vs. Spy cartoons in MAD Magazine, and the strong and justifiable condemnation of the pervasively brutal authoritarian state then called the Soviet Union, the irony of this all might take longer to sink in.

No matter what else we may think of this Mr. Snowden, he challenged the legality of our national security apparatus, and the authority of the United States of America to clandestinely and indiscriminately intrude into the private affairs of every ordinary American Citizen, without warrant or explicit legal consent.

Not to mention: our hacking into the very most private affairs of Downing Street, Whitehall, Brussels, Prague, Paris, Bonn, or anywhere else in the world.

Thus Mr. Snowden found refuge in Russia, still largely run by the vestiges of the old Soviet KGB apparatus, and there, for a time at least, it would seem, he has been provided refuge and shelter from the wrath of an authoritarian security apparatus, and from lifetime incarceration in some American prison camp.

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