Uncommon Sense

April 4, 2023

Quit Your Whining!

The MAGA crowd is whining up a storm that Trump’s current legal problems are a “witch hunt,” unconstitutional, and illegal, oh and a weaponizing of the legal system.

They weren’t upset when Attorney General Barr ordered federal prosecutors to drop the federal investigation, right? “Move along, these are not the weaponizings you are looking for,” sayeth the Stormtrooper.

Trump insists that the case has no merit, that the charges are trumped up (no pun intended), and so on. If this were so, then he and they should be looking forward to their day in court and Trump’s acquittal on all charges, no?

Oh, but the system is rigged, they say. The judges are corrupt, they say. But this is just psychological projection. It is Republicans who corrupt courts and judges, not Democrats. And besides, getting railroaded in court just doesn’t happen to white people. Now if Trump were a person of color, he’d have an argument.

So, MAGAts, pop some popcorn, take a seat and enjoy the show. If you are so sure to win, there should be no problem, right? Well . . . maybe . . . Trump has stiffed so many lawyers he might have to look to lawyers from the third world to find someone to represent him, but he should be okay, no? So, stop sharpening your knives, and sighting in your AR-15s, you are only undermining Trump’s confidence in the charges being made up.

April 3, 2023

If You Are Going to Indict a Former President . . .

Filed under: Culture,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 8:49 am
Tags: , ,

While celebrating the indictment of ex-President Trump this last weekend I actually watched the TV news coverage of the event but quickly I got very, very tired of hearing talking heads moaning that if you are going to set an historical precedent by indicting a former president, then one of the “more serious investigations” underway (election manipulation, document mishandling, etc.) would be better to start with. Uh, no. They don’t understand. A president as immoral and sleazy as Mr. Trump should have the charges most egregious leveled first.

People also seem to be thinking that the crime was paying hush money to cover up sexual dalliances, but that is not the case. Such non-disclose contracts are done all of the time and, I believe, are legal even in New York. What was not legal was using campaign funds to pay the bribes. That is a federal as well as a state crime.

If you think it is a petty charge, consider that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and “fixer,” went to jail, in part because of campaign funds misuse for this self-same hush money payment, at the direction of Mr. Trump. And if you think that is still petty political stuff, please realize that former French President Nicolas Sarkozy just spent time in jail for the exact same crime.

So, these charges have all the best attributes: sleazy enough for a sleazy ex-president and serious enough to warrant jail time. But don’t worry; others have run for president from jail cells.

March 16, 2023

The SVB Madness

The “collapse” of the Silicon Valley Bank is typical of today’s economic issues: much ado about nothing. The basic story is that the SVB experienced a bank run, which turned into a panic, and federal regulators stepped in and froze the bank’s assets and business.

Ideally, since the “bank run,” aka depositors rushing to remove their funds because they think the bank was in trouble, was based upon gossip, with a little time for things to settle down should have calmed the tribes and allowed normal business to continue.

The “problem” gossiped about was that the SVB had invested in large quantities of federal government bonds and mortgage bonds, long term. Were interest rates to stay at the historic lows that they have been, these would have been good very good, almost no risk investments. Since the Federal Reserve Bank has decided to raise interest rates for no good reason, then those investments are going to realize much smaller gains than predicted. Basically, those bonds will sell, eventually at a profit, just smaller than predicted. The SVB will lose predicted profits, but the question is how much? And could SVB cover those lost gains. We haven’t heard yet, but I suspect that they could.

So, the “depositors,” many of who deposited millions of dollars, knowing full well that the FDIC account insurance only covers deposits up to $250,000, are now clamoring for the federal government to step in and cover their entire deposits.

Too bad, so sad, this is what the Republicans have always referred to as “vagaries of the market.” Do something stupid, and you pay a price. But that attitude was really the attitude of the Republicans of old. Today it is “socialism for the rich, social Darwinism for the non-rich.”

So, if the U.S. government steps up and “insures” the entire bank accounts of all depositors and pays those depositors off, it would then own the SVB. Its assets are not insubstantial and it may get most or all of its money back.

But the motive for guaranteeing those deposits seems to be “to restore confidence in the banking system.” Gosh, all of my friends could be in that position: millions on deposit and not insured—not! What would actually restore confidence would be for the chips to fall where they may and ordinary citizens would see that the government didn’t exist to just bail out the rich. What ordinary citizens think now is that banks are scum sucking, double dealing sons of bitches that will foreclose on your house at the drop of a hat but run for cover the minute rich people are involved.

Confidence in the banking system, my ass. Show me that it works as described and I will gain confidence. Until then, it is the same old shuck and jive from the plutocrats running the government for their benefit and we can go suck eggs, if we could afford them.

March 9, 2023

Shame, What’s That?

Fox (sic) News, caught red-handed lying about Donald Trump’s Big Lie (The election was stolen, the election was stolen!), apparently has been skillfully editing the footage from the Capitol’s security cameras provided it by Speaker McCarthy (indicating a New McCarthyism?) showing the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. capitol to be just a few tourists getting rambunctious.

When asked if they had no shame about continuing their program of lies, Fox (sic) News leaders said, “Shame, what’s that?”

March 2, 2023

Hey DeSantis, If You Can’t Take the Heat . . .

The GOP of Florida has introduced a bill to outlaw the Democratic Party in Florida and their Secretary of State is encouraging other states to do the same.

Now, the GOP is notoriously pro-business and their spiel for decades has been to glorify competition. Apparently the Florida GOP has noticed that every really big business is working hammer and tongs to establish a monopoly over their sector, and so to eliminate any competition. The logical conclusion, at least for Florida’s GOP, is one party rule in their politics.

Apparently they missed the lesson in civics class about that being un-American. Imagine, NFL football games, played by just one team, with no opposition. The team on the field would score on every possession. Then they would kick off.  and either recover the ball on the field and score again or, if the ball bounced into the end zone, the “other team” would get the ball on the 25 yard line and after four delay of game penalties would lose possession to the team on the field which would score again. Would anyone pay to watch such a debacle? Would anyone watch for free?

Even idiots know that having a loyal opposition makes one raise their game to new levels. This means that Florida’s GOP cannot even rise to the level of being considered idiots.

There is and old saying in war and politics “when your enemy is busy destroying themselves, don’t interrupt them.”

Carry on, Florida GOP, carry on.

Addendum It occurs to me that if they actually did delegitimize the Florida Democratic Party, all of the state’s former Democrats could then register as Republican and that state’s GOP would have the largest liberal wing of any red state. And former Democrats would be on ballots with an (R) after their name and people would vote for them unknowingly. These faux GOPers would then be able to sit in on all of their caucus meetings, maybe even be elected to positions prominent in their party. Oh, the horror!

Be careful what you ask for!

March 1, 2023

SCOTUS Tackles Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Program

As reported on the ArcaMax news site:

“The Supreme Court’s conservatives gave a sharply critical hearing Tuesday to President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive more than $400 billion in student loans, arguing that only Congress could approve such a large amount of federal spending.

“Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said he was skeptical of allowing the executive branch to create ‘a massive new program’ based on a vaguely worded old law.

“He was referring to a 2003 law adopted at the time of the Iraq War allowing the Education secretary to ‘modify or waive’ any student aid program ‘in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.’

“But before the justices can rule on Biden’s plan, they must first decide whether anyone has legal standing to challenge it in court. Typically that means some person or entity, including states, must show they are or will be harmed by a law or government action.

“Taxpayers do not have standing to sue to stop the government from spending money, and it’s not clear if anyone could show they will be hurt if the government forgives another person’s loan.”

Wait, Brett Cavanaugh “was skeptical of allowing the executive branch to create “a massive new program” based on a vaguely worded old law.” Did not Justice Thomas recently quote a 17th century precedent when axing Roe v. Wade? So, 2003 is now “old”? And “‘modify or waive’ any student aid program ‘in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency’” is vague? Seems clear to me; “modify or waive any student aid program” couldn’t be any clearer. Has he not heard of the War on Terror currently going on (. . . and on, and on, and on, . . .)?

Oh, so giving away billions in tax relief to billionaires is okay but giving anything to students doesn’t pass the sniff test?

February 15, 2023

Requiem for the American Dream—Must See TV

I watched this documentary last night on Amazon Prime (it is available on YouTube also). It was made in 2015 and I can’t see how I could have missed it. It involves a running commentary, actually taken over several years, by Noam Chomsky and the topic was how we got to where we are now, politically and economically.

Professor Chomsky has an encyclopedic knowledge of current affairs, history, and many other topics so he is able to put things together quite beautifully. (I am a fan, btw.)

If you have followed this blog for a long while you will hear topics I have addressed a fair number of times, the basic issue is not a battle royale between conservatives and liberals, as we have been led to believe, but between those who possess much wealth and the rest of us. This battle has been going on for as long as this country has existed and goes much further back into quite ancient history.

Here are some tastes: Bank regulation developed after the Great Depression and coming out of the New Deal meant there were no bank or market crashes of any note through the 1950’s and 1960’s. Now they have become a feature of our economy (guess why), so much so that business insurers are factoring in the taxpayer bailouts that will unfailingly accompany such a crash in their calculations.

Economists developed their theories based upon “informed consumers making rational choices” yet advertisers are operating to create “uniformed consumers making irrational choices” . . . and we are allowing our politicians to hire advertising and marketing consultants to run our political campaigns.

The masterminds on the side of the wealthy are attacking solidarity every chance they get. They do not want people to feel solidarity behind public schools, for example, they want us to feel it is “every man for himself.” The same is with race relations, women’s rights, etc. They certainly do not want labor unions empowered by solidarity to oppose anything rich businessmen want to do.

And to reinforce that this is not a conservative-liberal battle, Chomsky points out that both conservatives and liberals were adamantly against people of the common sort being involved in politics. Most were in favor of putting us back “in our place” to allow the wealthy to run the country properly. (They, both conservatives and liberals, actually allowed themselves to be quoted for publication saying such things, so you know they were feeling privileged, and probably paid, to do so.)

The most repeated comment was “When you allow the wealthy to become powerful, what did you expect to happen?”)

These are just a few of the many points made in this documentary.

If you are not up to speed as to what is really going on now, this is an excellent way to catch up, as it were. Highly, highly recommended. I will watch it again in a few days to catch what I missed.

February 6, 2023

I Am Amazed it Passed

Religious Freedom Day is a couple of weeks past, a day designed to celebrate, specifically, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom of 1777 more simply labeled Bill No. 82, “A Bill For establishing religious freedom.”

This bill, as amended and passed, begins:

Almighty God hath created the mind free, that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time. . . .

I can see why the Christian Nationalists are beavering away trying to eliminate any mention of this document from the celebrations of that day. This bill was penned by Thomas Jefferson and husbanded through the Virginia legislature by James Madison, the drafter of the First Amendment to the Constitution, you know the one proclaiming freedom of religion for the country.

The key point here that Christian Dominionists blithely step over is the claim of their religion that the Christian God gave people free will so they could choose whether or not at worship that god. Got that? The Christian group that wants to use secular governmental power to force this country into their mold of being a nation of Christians, is acting 180° against the divine plan of their god!

Gee, I wonder why the two-faced, despicable Christian Dominionists (Yes, you Ted Cruz!) don’t want you to read this document or celebrate its content? Could their goal of bathing in political power actually have nothing to do with their religion and everything to do with “being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible.”

February 2, 2023

Now Black Cops are Killing Young Black Men

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Race,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 12:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

One of the tasty topics on display currently is the Death by Cop of a young black man, Tyre Nichols, in Memphis. All of the cops in the execution squad were Black. Conservatives heads exploded, “See, see, just what we have been saying all along; it is not a race issue!”

But it is.

There has been a decades long campaign to demonize young Black men. Sending them to jail keeps them from voting, at least it had. And there was money to be made running jails, you know. And well, they are just nig . . . you know.

This demonization was so great, and focused on law enforcement, that even Black cops have come to despise young black men, no matter how squeaky clean they might appear. Think about Black cops who view themselves as “good guys,” yet who still suffer racial discrimination, think about the current situation. It is likely they are thinking: if all those young Black men were not forming gangs and dealing drugs, we wouldn’t face so much blow back. It is all their fault. They themselves fell victim to the propaganda of the “Dangerous Young Black Man.”

January 24, 2023

Modern Day Villains

We, as a society, consume a great many entertainments, many of which are visual: videos, shows, concerts, etc. In the “movies” many plots require some dramatic tension and a good guy-bad guy axis. Someone to root for, someone to root against. And the villains fall into somewhat nice categories: we have sociopaths and psychopaths, whose thinking is bizarre to us, but fascination, currently we have quite a few zombies who have no personality but pose an existential threat nonetheless. (Nobody tries to figure out why the zombies are doing what they do, they just run.) And the usual coterie of “bad guys” includes drug dealers, people who cheat on the spouses, etc. It is rare that a new bad guy, like Hannibal Lecter comes along.

By far the most common bad guy in today’s videos is . . . drum roll, please . . . corporations, evil corporations, not just corporations that run over you because they didn’t see you in their driveway. Corporations that are driven only to make profits and to Hell with any opposition to those efforts.

Here is Bernie Sanders chiming in on one such corporation (Cal-Maine Foods):

Bernie Sanders (Twitter)
Corporate greed is the producer of Egg-Land’s Best, Farmhouse Eggs & Land O’Lake Eggs, increasing its profits by 65% last quarter to a record-breaking $198 million while doubling the price of eggs & reporting no positive cases of avian flu. Yes. We need a windfall profits tax.
11:37 AM · Jan 15, 2023·

And these corporations haven’t exactly been subtle about their machinations: the CEOs of America’s largest companies got on their quarterly investor calls and chortled about the willingness of “consumers” to blame inflation for the prices they were jacking up . . . because they could.

Republicans stickered gas-pumps up and down the country with Joe Biden “I Did That” stickers, even as gas companies declared record profits and boasted to investors about how they were able to tap directly into drivers’ wallets under cover of inflation.

It doesn’t look like any other villain will knock corporations out of their #1 spot at all soon. They just can’t help themselves, reinforcing their “bad guy” image over and over and over.

As I had said often enough, the Achilles’ Heel of capitalism is that it places no restriction on greed.

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