An example of a positive campaign ad

August 28, 2015

What about ‘black-on-black’ crime?

August 27, 2015

Whenever there is an outcry about an unarmed black person being killed by a white person or by a police officer, there are those who downplay its significance by pointing out two facts.

  1. More black people are killed by other black people than are killed by white people or killed by police.
  2. More white people are killed by black criminals than black people are killed by white criminals.

So why the outcry over the relatively small number of innocent black people killed by police?

My answer is that, of course, we the people should be concerned about all violent crime, no matter what the race of the perpetrator and no matter what the race of the victim.  All lives do matter.

race.cardBut we should be more concerned about crime that goes unpunished.  And we should be most concerned about unjustified killings by people in authority, because that tears at the fabric of society.

There are two reasons to focus on police killings of unarmed black people.  One is that these tragedies occur against a background of abuse of black people.  The other is that, in general, police are not unaccountable for their exercise of deadly force.

I can see how police officers in certain circumstances might mistakenly think they are in mortal peril, and take an innocent life.  What’s troublesome is the apparent lack of remorse for taking innocent life, especially when it is the life of a black person.

Eric Garner, a harmless black man accused of illegally selling individual cigarettes, was choked to death by New York City police while saying “I can’t breathe.”  New York City police held a demonstration saying, mockingly, “I can breathe.”  I are willing to believe this callousness is not universal.  But it is certainly not limited to NYC police.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anchor babies, birth tourism and China

August 27, 2015

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the States wherein they reside.
              ==14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Yes, it’s true, as Donald Trump said, that there is such a thing as “anchor babies” or, to use a more polite term, “birth tourism,” and it also is true, as Jeb Bush said, that most come from China and other Asian countries, not Mexico.

anchorbabies-300x201Here’s how it works.  Chinese travel agencies arrange, for a fee, for Chinese couples to legally visit the United States and for the mother to give birth in a U.S. hospital.  Under the 14th Amendment, those children are U.S. citizens.  Under current U.S. law, those children, when they reach the age of 21, may apply for green cards for their parents to immigrate to the United States and eventually become U.S. citizens.

An unauthorized immigrant couple could do the same thing, but I don’t have any information on whether any or how many actually do.  The possibility exists even if they didn’t originally intend to have the “anchor baby”.

These practices may not be a serious practical problem, at least not as yet, but they don’t sit well with me.  They are a distortion of the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment and of U.S. immigration law.

The Fourteenth Amendment was enacted in 1868 so as to guarantee citizenship rights for newly-freed slaves and to reverse the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that African-Americans had no rights under the Constitution.  The question of children of authorized immigrants did not arise, because the United States had no restrictions on immigration until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Wong Kim Ark, who was born around 1871 to Chinese parents legally in the United States, was a U.S. citizen and could not be barred from re-entering the United States after a trip abroad.

One solution would be to repeal or amend the Fourteenth Amendment.  This would be a difficult thing to do and also potentially dangerous unless the new amendment is worded very carefully.  I wouldn’t want to give the federal government the power to deprive me and those I care about of our citizenship.

It might be possible to pass a law or file a lawsuit to clarify the meaning of “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  The original Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to Indian tribes or to the children of foreign diplomats because they were not subject to U.S. law.  You could make an argument that unauthorized immigrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. law, either.

This of course would not apply to Chinese and other “birth tourism” for legally authorized visitors to the United States.

Another possible approach would be to change U.S. immigration law as it applies to family reunification.  My understanding is that it was intended to apply to relatives of U.S. citizens who were stranded in refugee camps, not everyday citizens of foreign countries who think they can do better in the USA.   It would be a shame to stop this, but it is a practical way of eliminating “anchor babies” and “birth tourism”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Immigration and the American Indians

August 26, 2015

immigrationcartoonA council of Native American leaders has offered partial amnesty to the estimated 220 million illegal white immigrants living in the United States.

At a meeting of the Native Peoples Council (NPC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico … , Native American leaders considered several proposals on the future of this continent’s large, unauthorized European population.  The elders ultimately decided to extend a pathway to citizenship for those without criminal backgrounds.

indianimmigration“We are prepared to offer White people the option of staying on this continent legally and applying for citizenship,” explains Chief Wamsutta of the Wampanoag nation. “In return, they must pay any outstanding taxes and give back the land stolen from our ancestors.

“Any white person with a criminal record, however, will be deported in the next 90 days back to their ancestral homeland.  Rush Limbaugh will be going to Germany.  Justin Bieber will depart for Canada.  And the entire cast of Jersey Shore will be returning to Italy.”  [snip]

ponce.de.leonProgressive native groups welcomed the council’s decision today as a step forward toward normalizing relations with the White community.  However, many conservative Native Americans are upset about the plan, claiming that amnesty will only serve to reward lawbreakers.

“Why can’t we just deport all of the Whites back to Europe?” asks Ité Omáǧažu of the Lakota people.  “They’re just a drain on our economy anyway.  They came over here to steal our resources because they’re too lazy to develop their own back home.

“I can’t believe we’re just going to let them pay a fine.  They should get to the back of the line like everybody else — behind the Mexicans.”

via The Daily Currant.

Read the rest of this entry »

The stock market in 100-year perspective

August 26, 2015

 DowJones1914-2014-Constant-e1440525772683Source: American Enterprise Institute

The Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 industrial stocks was at 54.6 at the end of 1914.  By the end of 2014, it was at 17,823.

But adjusted for changes in the Consumer Price Index, the gain is much more moderate—about 2.7 percent a year. The average dividend yield on DJIA stocks was about 4.1 percent.  So the total average annual gain was 6.8 percent.

What the chart shows is that there have been long periods when stock prices declined or were static.  You can’t count on stocks always going up.  The 1920s and 1990s booms were not necessarily typical.

I’m not smart enough or stupid enough to predict how the stock market will go, but you’d have to be very optimistic to think the boom will continue.

I don’t think the recent rise in stock prices reflects the real economy.  I think it is a result of the Federal Reserve Board holding down bank interest rates, so that savers are driven to buy stocks in order to get a yield on their money.

Many CEOs are buying back the companies’ stocks, thereby driving up the price, instead of investing in expanding their businesses, which would benefit the nation as a whole.

This is another example of Stein’s Law:  If something cannot go on forever, someday it will stop.   The recent stock price boom could not go on forever.

LINKS

The stock market in 100-year perspective by Alex J. Pollock for the American Enterprise Institute.

Wall Street Panic by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

Quick Thoughts on the Stock Market and the Economy by Dean Baker for Beat the Press.

Smoke and Mirrors of Corporate Buybacks Behind the Market Crash, an interview of Michael Hudson for the Real News Network.

∞∞∞

Update 8/27/2015.  I made some changes in wording that didn’t change the meaning of this post.

The passing scene – August 26, 2015

August 26, 2015

Coal Dethroned by Laura Gottesdiener for TomDispatch.

In Appalachia, the coal industry is in collapse, but the mountains aren’t coming back.

Donald Trump – Man of War by David Cay Johnston for the National Memo.  (Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow)

21 Questions for Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston for the National Memo.

Donald Trump’s history includes business ties with known Mafia figures and employment of illegal immigrants from Poland.

The Secret History of Jaywalking: The Disturbing Reason It Was Outlawed – And Why We Should Lift the Ban by Ravi Mangla on AlterNet.

Should Prison Sentences Be Based on Crimes That Haven’t Been Committed Yet? by Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Ben Casselman and Dana Goldstein for FiveThirtyEight.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

What #BlackLivesMatter is asking for

August 25, 2015

blog_campaign_zero

A section of #BlackLivesMatter called Campaign Zero has come up with a 10-point program to improve policing, following criticisms that #BlackLivesMatter was merely a protest movement that lacked a positive program.

Campaign Zero translated its 10 general principles into detailed policy demands on local, state and federal governments.  BLM members should not longer be at a loss for words when asked what they really want.

Most of these principles should be self-explanatory.  You can get details by clicking on the icons on the Campaign Zero site.

“Broken windows” policing is based on the theory that minor crime and disorder should not be tolerated because it creates an atmosphere in which major crime seems more normal.

“Policing for profit” refers to practice of local governments using fines, fees and asset forfeitures as a source of revenue.

“Fair union contracts” refers to provisions in police union contracts which give police officers extra-Constitutional protections when accused of misconduct, such as cooling-off periods before being asked to testify.

Campaign Zero also has tracked the positions of the presidential candidates relevant to these issues.

The three major Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have all taken positions relevant to most of these 10 points.  Interestingly, the one point on which all three have been silent so far is the police union contracts.

Among Republicans, the only candidate who has taken a relevant position is Rand Paul, who opposes asset foreiture.

I think the Campaign Zero platform is a practical program for protecting the civil liberties not just of African-Americans, but, as a collateral benefit, the civil liberties of all Americans.

Read the rest of this entry »

An important message about education

August 25, 2015

huck4

The political scene – August 25, 2015

August 25, 2015

The Do-Something-Else Principle by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

The simple-minded populism that controls the GOP by Paul Waldman for The Washington Post.

teaparty.GOP.USA.worldDoug Muder and Paul Waldman wrote about how the leading Republican candidates operate on the principle that “ignorance is strength”.

They not only are uninterested in the details of policy.  They lack understanding of how a Constitutional government works.  They seem to think that Presidents can do anything they want by decree, and the only qualities needed are decisiveness and average common sense.

Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump have no experience or interest in government.  Senator Ted Cruz, although he holds public office, also manifests no interest in actually governing.  The popular appeal of such candidates is a measure of the frustration of the American public with the present bipartisan consensus.

One-party system: What total Republican control of a state really means by Herman Schwartz for Reuters.

The Republican Party has much more grass roots strength at the state level than the Democrats.  But except for those who think gun rights and the suppression of abortion are more important than anything else, they’re not governing in the interest of American working people.

The Age of Imperial Wars by James Petras.

Insouciance Rules the West by Paul Craig Roberts.

The establishment Democrats and Republicans understand the workings of government better than the Tea Party Republicans do.  But in their overall policies, they, too, are either disconnected from reality or powerless to change the direction of a government that is on automatic pilot for drone warfare, covert warfare and proxy warfare.

Read the rest of this entry »

There never was an “economic stimulus”

August 24, 2015
blog_govt_spending_recession

Source: the Wall Street Journal

All the recessions since World War Two were followed by an “economic stimulus”.   The current one is the exception.  As the chart above indicates, government spending—combined local, state and federal government spending—has actually declined.

The idea behind “economic stimulus” was that increased government spending would put people to work and put money in circulation so that the recession would not have a domino effect and develop into a full-fledged recession.

Of course some of this was not intentional.  Spending for unemployment insurance and other safety net programs automatically increases in hard times.

For the idea to work, there has to be deficit spending.  There is no economic stimulus if governments take as much money out of the economy through taxes as they inject through spending.   Keynesian economists think this should be offset by government budget surpluses when the economy is booming and needs to be cooled off.

You could argue about whether this is justified and how much effect it really works.  I personally think that the severity of the Great Recession is due to the long-range decline of American wages in inflation-adjusted terms.

But it is interesting to note that the current recession is the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s and that it is the only one followed by an actual decrease in government spending.

LINK

Chart of the Day: Here’s Why the Recovery Has Been So Weak by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

The passing scene – August 24, 2015

August 24, 2015

White supremacist gathering underscores Russia’s nationalist trend by Masur Mirovalev for the Los Angeles Times.  Hat tip to Oidin.

Racism, xenophobia and extreme nationalism are on the rise among ethnic Russians, who are 81 percent of the population of the Russian Federation.  The victims are Russia’s ethnic minorities, such as the Tatars, and its immigrants, who are mainly from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Vladimir Putin has cracked down on hate killings while trying to harness Russian nationalism to support his struggle with NATO nations over Ukraine.  He aligns himself with the Russian Orthodox Church, Cossack paramilitaries and the extreme right-wing parties.

Putin Cracks Down on Christians in Crimea by Geraldine Fagan for Newsweek.

Russian authorities in Crimea are building up the Russian Orthodox Church while persecuting Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Eastern Rite Catholics.

A suspiciously “European” solution by Tom Sullivan for Hullabaloo.

The French National Front and Donald Trump by Paul Gottfried for the Unz Review.

Anti-foreign and anti-immigrant sentiment are on the rise throughout Europe as well as the USA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Higher education’s cult of leadership

August 24, 2015

American higher education has been taken over by “neo-liberalism,” which is the idea that all institutions in society should pattern themselves on profit-seeking corporations and serve the interests of business.

So argues Willliam Deresiewicz, in a good article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine.  The old idea of higher education was to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, he wrote; these have been pushed aside by corporate buzzwords.   As an example, he cited a liberal arts college’s mission statement – leadership, service, integrity, creativity.

He said integrity nowadays means nothing more than “not cheating”.   As for the rest—

HarpersWeb-2015-09-cover-302x410So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity?  What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neo-liberal assumptions.  Neo-liberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen.   That’s what “leadership” is finally about.  There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people.  Leaders get things done; leaders take command.  When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

Read the rest of this entry »

Statues in Berlin honor famous whistle-blowers

August 23, 2015

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Life-size heroic bronze statues of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning were unveiled in May in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz Square.

“They have lost their freedom for the truth, said Italian sculptor Davide Domino, creator of the artwork.  “They mind us how important it is to know the truth.’

Domino depicted the three whistle-blowers standing on chairs and he added an empty fourth chair for anybody who wants to take a stand and speak (as shown above).

We Americans like to see the world as a battle between the good guys and the bad guys.  It is hard to accept that so much of the world sees us as the bad guys.

LINK

New Statue in Germany Illustrates Just How Much the Rest of the World Opposes the U.S. Police State by Jay Syrmopoulos for The Free Thought Project.  Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow.

The Superman of the animal kingdom

August 23, 2015
elephant-life-advice

Click to enlarge.

Source: Medium-Large

Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow

Something you don’t see every day

August 22, 2015

CL8wC8NVEAAND7zPhotographer: Greg McCown.

Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.

There are more things in heaven and earth worth noticing than the crimes and follies of the powerful.

Pentagon spending out of control

August 22, 2015
What $8.5 trillion looks like

What $8.5 trillion looks like

My friend Mike Connelly e-mailed me a link to an article on the Antimedia web site pointing out the lack of auditing or spending controls by the Pentagon, along with a helpful graphic showing just how much the Department of Defense has spent since 1996.

The article was based on a three-part series in Reuters news service in 2013 about how nobody knew exactly how much money was being spent or for what, and the general lack of financial control.

As one example, Scot Paltrow quoted Admiral Mark Harnicheck, head of the Defense Logistics Agency, as saying “we have about $14 billion in inventory for various reasons, and probably half of that is in excess of what me need.”   Note the “probably.”  He didn’t really know

The Reuters articles reminded me of a similar series in the Washington Post in 2010 reporting the same situation in regard to secret intelligence and national security agencies.  There, too, nobody knew the extent of what was being done, how much was being spent or whether it was effective.

Claire Bernish, author of the Antimedia article, was rightly concerned about money being wasted being wasted on the military that could be better spent on other national priorities or left in the pockets of American taxpayers.

I have another concern.  Just how effective can the U.S. armed forces be if the Secretary of Defense can’t set priorities or know just what the department’s budget is being spent for?

Read the rest of this entry »

The passing scene – August 22, 2015

August 22, 2015

So Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Is Actually Getting Kinda Serious by Alex Davies for Wired.

Hyperloop, which is being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla Motors, would be a series of above-ground pneumatic tubes filled with people that would zip them along at near-supersonic speeds.

It’s being developed by men and women with day jobs at places such as NASA, Boeing and SpaceX who are paid in stock options rather than cash.  Two established companies, Aercom, an engineering design firm, and Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, are helping with the project in return for stock options.

A prototype demonstration of the system is scheduled for 2016.

Germany fact of the day, will support for immigration collapse? by Tyler Cowen for Marginal Revolution.

A big backlash is developing across Europe against refugees and unauthorized immigrants.  Cowen favors open borders in principle, but doesn’t think it is politically feasible.

Dejá Vu: Germany Tightens Its Economic Power Over Europe by Richard D. Wolff for Truthout.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The European Union was supposed to be an association that benefited all its members.  Now it has devolved into a mechanism by which Germany, Europe’s richest nation, inflicts economic punishment on Greece, one of its poorest.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bernie Sanders on the Greek debt crisis

August 22, 2015

This is an excellent summary.

How many presidential candidates talk about such issues in this way?

I thank Mike Connelly for calling my attention to this.

California’s depleted underground aquifers

August 21, 2015

CMy1PeAUkAA1MiLSource: Reveal | Twitter

Hat tip to naked capitalism

This photo shows the huge subsidence of a tract of land in California because of the exhaustion of underground water reservoirs beneath.   It would be interesting to see how much more the land has subsided since this photo was taken.

In the current drought, Californians are increasing their draw on underground aquifers as a substitute for the water they are not getting from rivers fed by melting snow.  This cannot go on forever.

And, as Stein’s Law says, if something cannot go on forever, someday it will stop.

Read the rest of this entry »

The passing scene – August 21, 2015

August 21, 2015

Our infant mortality rate is a national embarrassment by Christopher Ingraham for the Washington Post.  Hat tip to the Mahablog.

The phony unprincipled war on Planned Parenthood by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star (via the Baltimore Sun)

The American infant mortality rate is the highest among developed nations.  The infants of rich Americans have as good a chance of survival as children anywhere in the world, but in the United States, like in countries such as Austria and Finland, the survival rate of children of poor, uneducated parents is much less.

Also, the United States has the same maternal mortality rate as Hungary and Iran.  People who are pro-life and pro-choice ought to agree that something should be done about this.

President Jimmy Carter’s amazing last wish by Sarah Kliff and Dylan Matthews for Vice news.

The Carter Center has nearly eradicated a horrible disease called Guinea worm, which was prevalent in Africa, by promoting common-sense public health measures.  President Carter’s last wish, expressed in his press conference on his brain cancer, is to follow through to eradicate the Guinea worm entirely.

Finland considers basic income to reform welfare system by Maija Unkuri for BBC News.

Finland is experimenting with a pilot project to guarantee everyone a basic minimum income regardless of whether they are employed or not.  It will be very interesting to see how this works out.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s a big strange universe out there

August 20, 2015

Hat tip to kottke.org

The passing scene – August 20, 2015

August 20, 2015

Struggle and Progress: Eric Foner on the abolitionists, Reconstruction and winning “freedom” from the Right, a conversation with Jacobin magazine writers.

Eric Foner

Eric Foner

Historian Eric Foner pointed out that the abolition of slavery was truly a second American Revolution.  It involved the confiscation without compensation of the most valuable form of property at the time—enslaved African people.

The Civil War is sometimes interpreted as a triumph of industrial capitalism over a backward agrarian economy.  Foner said that, although this is true in a way, the pre-Civil War capitalists got along very well with the slaveowners.

The abolitionists included moderates, radicals, wealthy philanthropists, lawbreakers, politicians, former black slaves and racists who opposed slavery because it was harmful to white people.  Although sometimes working at cross-purposes, Foner said their diverse approaches created a synergy that made the movement stronger.   This has lessons for our own time.

The Last Refuge of the Incompetent by John Michael Greer for The Archdruid Report.

John Michael Greer wrote that a successful revolutionary movement will (1) discredit the existing order through relentless propaganda, (2) seek alliances with all those with grievances against the existing order, (3) create alternative institutions of its own and (4) offer a vision of hope, not despair.

In the USA, this program is being carried out not by what Greer called the “green Left,” but the “populist Right”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Does any one group speak for black America?

August 19, 2015

One big mistake that white people, especially white liberals like me, make is to anoint some particular group of African-Americans as representatives of all black people.

In the case of people like me, it is naivety and jumping to conclusions.  In other cases, it can be cynicism, a way to divide and rule.

When representatives of #BlackLivesMatter seize a podium, spectators not only have no way of knowing how many black people they represent, they have no way of knowing how many supporters of #BlackLivesMatter they represent, because #BlackLivesMatter is a movement and a Twitter account, not an organization.

I don’t know how representative the guy in the video is, either.

I presume that many or most black people are up in arms about the many times unarmed black people are killed by police.  I presume that many are concerned about Social Security, minimum wage and other issues.   The fact that one group concentrates on one of these issues doesn’t mean the others are unimportant.  There ought to be room for different groups, different priorities and different approaches.

LINKS

Black Lives Matter and The Failure to Build a New Movement by Douglas Williams for South Lawn.

A Short Follow-Up to the Previous Post on Black Lives Matter by Douglas Williams for South Lawn.

What No One Is Saying About the Killings of Blacks in America by Benjamin A. Dixon.

Dear #BlackLivesMatter: We Don’t Need Black Leadership by R.L. Stephens II for Orchestrated Pulse.

A Future for Workers: A Contribution From Black Labor, executive summary of a report by the Black Labor Collaborative.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The fruits of Reagan’s attacks on the poor

August 19, 2015

Ronald Reagan’s attacks on the minimum wage, families being helped by welfare, those receiving unemployment insurance when the economy failed, became racialized attacks, and not viewed as attacks on the foundation of worker survival.

So in the 1980s, the real value of minimum wage drifted to unprecedented lows, states rolled back eligibility to, and benefit levels for, unemployment insurance and the foundation was laid to attack women who needed help in raising their children to force them into low-wage work.

Without providing any gains to American workers, Reagan mastered the appearance of worker advancement by succeeding not by having wages rise with productivity, as had been the case, but by having wages rise relative to the poor who could not find jobs, or could only find minimum wage jobs.

The silence of the labor movement in the sinking fortunes of the poor meant there was political space, for the first time since the 1930s, to have the economy improve and expand while the poverty rate increased.

==From A Future for Workers: A Contribution From Black Labor(Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The passing scene – August 19, 2015

August 19, 2015

On the elementary structure of domination: The Bully’s Pulpit by David Graeber for The Baffler.

Schoolyard bullies typically believe they have a right and duty to punish and humiliate those who manifest vulnerability, fear or deviance, and they retroactively justify their actions by the inappropriate ways in which their victims resist, Graeber wrote; this reflects the structure of domination in the larger society.

Algorithms can be a digital star chamber by Frank Pasquale for Aeon.

An algorithm fed into a computer can determine whether you get a job, get credit or get insurance, or what kind.  Probably you don’t know about it.  Probably you can’t appeal the result because arbitrary assumptions processed through a computer are considered “objective.”

Climate Change Threatens Economic Development, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim Says by Julia Glum for International Business Times.   (Hat tip to Hal Bauer)

We’ll see whether he puts the World Bank’s money where his mouth is.

Read the rest of this entry »


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