D E C E M B E R   2 0 1 7

Thursday, December 28, 2017:   The Unfettered Propagation of Lies
As we close out 2017, I leave you with these questions. Why should Breitbart, The Drudge Report, Fox News or any other extreme right propaganda machine be allowed to publish false information for the express purpose of angering their audience and pushing them away from those with whom they disagree? At what point does the right to free speech undermine our democracy rather than strengthen it?

Saturday, December 23, 2017:   What You Gonna Do When The Well Runs Dry?
Or worse, when it is so polluted you can't drink it or bath in it. When your rivers and streams are a threat to your existence. Well that is coming my friends.

The following are excerpts from a NYT December 22, 2017 article titled "E.P.A. Officials, Disheartened by Agency's Direction, Are Leaving in Droves."

More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency by 3,200 positions or about 20 percent of the agency's work force.

The departures reflect poor morale and a sense of grievance at the agency, which has been criticized by President Trump and top Republicans. That unease is likely to deepen following revelations that Republican campaign operatives (a.k.a. the Republican Gestapo) were using the Freedom of Information Act to request copies of emails from E.P.A. officials suspected of opposing Mr. Trump and his agenda.

Within the agency, science in particular is taking a hard hit. More than 27 percent of those who left this year were scientists, including 34 biologists and microbiologists; 19 chemists; 81 environmental engineers and environmental scientists; and more than a dozen toxicologists, life scientists and geologists. Employees say the exodus has left the agency depleted of decades of knowledge about protecting the nation's air and water.

Scientists, for the most part, are also not being replaced. Of the 129 people hired this year at the E.P.A., just seven are scientists. Another 15 are student trainee scientists. Political appointees, however, are on the rise. The office of Scott Pruitt, the agency administrator, was the only unit that saw more hires than departures this year.

At the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, responsible for regulating toxic chemicals and pesticides, 54 people left and seven were hired. And in the office that ensures safe drinking water, one person was hired, while 26 departed.

By contrast, Mr. Pruitt's office hired 73 people to replace the 53 who left.

Anyone who thinks corporate America gives a shit about the average schmuck and our environment needs to wake up and take a deep breath while they can. Oh, and buy stock in companies that make gas masks and water filters - the one percenters are...

Monday, December 18, 2017:   Rules, Laws, and Standards of Behavior
We make rules and laws and have standards of behavior for a reason. They are the basis of an ordered and civil society. Without them, there is chaos. But even with rules, laws, and standards of behavior, there are other elements that are critical to maintaining order. First, the members of a society have to be willing to follow the rules, laws and standards that have been established and second there has to be some means of enforcement should individuals choose to ignore them. Further, any enforcement and/or punishment for a violation has to be timely.

That being said, it appears that the Republicans don't believe that the rules or laws or standards apply to them. They openly state that they are willing to violate all the core elements of a civilized society in order to maintain power and economic inequality and that strategy has paid off.

Honestly, our democracy and our constitutional system will not survive if this continues. In 1787, Gouverneur Morris said it well. "The rich will strive to establish their dominion and enslave the rest. They always did. They always will." Morris predicted that the rich would take advantage of people's "passions" and "make these the instruments for oppressing them." In today's world, Republicans exploit the single-issue voter by pandering to whatever their issue happens to be whether it is guns, abortion, misogyny, racism, nationalism, immigration, or some other social phobia. Using this tactic, they have managed to assemble a hodgepodge bunch of political zombies who they commonly refer to as their base. In the mean time, they are literally dismantling American democracy right from under their base and the rest of us.

Alexander Hamilton stated it clearly. "Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number of them have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people: commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017:   The Bully Keeps Looking For A War
Now that the idiot in chief has the entire United States military arsenal at his disposal, he continues to try and start a war. It isn't enough that we have military personnel engaged in conflicts all over the world, he has to have is own war. So he continues to poke several bears in the hope that one of them will give him an excuse to send Americans in to battle. Let's look at the most recent examples.

Despite repeated attempts, he hasn't been able to goad Kim Jong-un into open conflict. The most recent escalation was the deployment of American stealth bombers to South Korea. A US 7th Air Force official said the top-of-the-line F-22s are being joined by Air Force and Marine Corps F-35s in the largest concentration of fifth-generation fighter jets ever in South Korea. US Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican hawk who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CBS News that North Korea's advancing military technology makes the possibility of pre-emptive war more likely. But alas, it is yet to be.

So what does the Donald due? I mean his trigger finger gets itchier by the day. Well, why not screw up the Middle East a bit more. Let's see, the Israeli/Palestine thing is powder keg, so why not just throw some gasoline on it and see if someone lights a match. So he breaks with 70 years of policy, and signs a document recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's Capital. Like his failure to sign the climate accord, this sets us apart from the rest of the world. John O. Brennan, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said in a statement that Mr. Trump's action was "reckless" and would "damage U.S. interests in the Middle East for years to come and will make the region more volatile." But wait, when the Palestinians react, it will give the Trumpster an excuse to throw our military might at the Gaza. I mean, what good is the Sixth Fleet if it just cruises around the Mediterranean.

Friday, December 1, 2017:   Washington's 2017 Christmas Gift - Tax Reform At Its Worst
This year's Christmas message from the Republicans in Washington and the dufus in charge is that we all are going to benefit from the abomination of a tax bill being pushed through congress. Their pitch is equivalent to someone with syphilis telling you that you're about to experience the best sex ever. The long term consequences of what they are proposing will be devastating.

Yes, there may be some minor short term tax benefits for some in the middle class, but it raises the marginal tax rate on the poorest and the benefits for the middle class have a sunset provision that takes them away 2025. Further, it has been broadened into a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

What is certain is that the super rich and corporations will reap a windfall most of which will be permanent. Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements when in fact the only thing that flows down is their shit and a bill for the $1.5 Trillion deficit.

What we do know is that the plan to reduce taxes will create a budget deficit of 1.5 Trillion. The lie that is being told is that the deficit will be eliminated by growth in the economy. This is the same sad story that the Republicans have been trying to sell for years and it is bullshit. Let's look at some of the facts.

  • We are currently a full employment economy, which means there is little or no capacity to significantly increase GDP. While productivity has continued improve, none of the associated profits have flowed to the worker nor will they in the future.

  • Corporations are already more profitable and sitting on more cash than anytime in their history. Despite all their cash and a tight labor market, they have consistently refused to raise wages. The primary reason they can get away with this is the demise of unions. The workforce has no leverage to drive up wages. The effort by likes of the Kochs and the DeVoss to undermine collective bargaining has succeeded.

  • We are a consumer economy. Growth in our economy happens when Joe Smuck gets a buck and spends it. When the rich get an extra dollar, they don't spend it, they put it in the bank. Money flowing to the rich only makes them richer. It doesn't do a thing to grow our economy.
So what will happen if the current tax bill passes. Well, first the deficit will happen and all of us who are not in the .1% will have to make up for the lack of revenue. If the Republicans remain in power, they will start fixing the problem by cutting those programs that benefit the masses: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment and any and all programs that benefit the most vulnerable in our country. Second, they will raise taxes on the vast middle class by changing the rules for exemptions and deductions, increasing the marginal tax rates, and moving the income points where the marginal tax rates are applied. But alas, the rich will remain unscathed as the repeal of the estate tax and the reduction in corporate taxes will remain in place.

And then there is the all the other crap that is being strapped to the back of this "tax" bill. According to a November 29, 2017, article in the New York Times By Peter S. Goodman and Patricia Cohen, "Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic."

You may like the few bucks you will have next year, but I'll bet you don't want the economic STD that is price you will have to pay for the short term boost in your net income. This kind irresponsible tax policy could easily destroy our economy and the future for several generations.

Copyright J. R. Avery
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