John Coltrane: One Down, One Up
Monk and Coltrane: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
Best album of 2005 (*****)
A Supreme Court Justice Says We Should Get Rid of the Second Amendment
by John Lawrence, March 31, 2018
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has called for repeal of the Second Amendment in an opinion piece in the New York Times:
Rarely in my lifetime have I seen the type of civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated in Washington and other major cities throughout the country this past Saturday. These demonstrations demand our respect. They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society.
That support is a clear sign to lawmakers to enact legislation prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons, increasing the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 years old, and establishing more comprehensive background checks on all purchasers of firearms. But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.
Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century.
Finally someone (other than myself) has the guts to stand up and say the obvious: the second amendment is a relic of the eighteenth century. The idea that the citizenry are going to rise up with their guns and quell a tyrannical Federal government is just absurd in today's world. With 85% of Americans living in an urban environment, the need for guns to kill deer or pheasants or wild turkeys or ducks for food is pretty much a thing of the past although the use of guns for hunting shouldn't be entirely ruled out. It need not be even if the Second amendment is repealed. Instead of a well regulated militia we should have a well regulated procedure for insuring that those licensed to own hunting rifles have been trained and educated in their care and use and are of sound mind. The equivalent of a high school course should be required. As much training should go into acquiring a gun permit as goes into driver training.
Justice Stevens continued:
During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.
That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.
That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform. It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States — unlike every other market in the world. It would make our schoolchildren safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence.
Any rational person would agree. The second amendment is garbage and should be thrown out. It just gives toxic, angry males the impetus to do what every American movie advocates and glorifies: kill anyone who angers you or gets in your way.
Living Consciously, March 30, 2018
Those of us born into a Judeo-Christian culture are so used to metaphor explaining creation and the universe, that we have limited our capacity for integrating science into the story. Metaphor relates to a deeper truth. Metaphor is a picture, rather like a river representing flow and movement. The river is not the whole story. The river is an example of flow and movement, but circulation is the deeper truth.
We have come to think of science and metaphorical spiritual story as completely foreign to one another. They are not. Mathematics is like poetry to the trained mathematician. But to the high school student struggling with algebra, it is dry and boring. When we open our minds to the truth in the metaphor, we suddenly include the whole universe in our perception of reality. Now we see an infinite potential hidden in us! We are of something pure and powerful. We have risen out of a field of consciousness, becoming individualized.
This is not irreverent or heretical. It is giving “God” its’ due. We have minimized God for so long, making it a “he” and giving it our form, that we have actually limited its place in us! The new story will liberate humanity from its self-imposed mental and emotional prison. It will release us to transcend all previous experience. It will give us mastery over our mind and bodies. It will be an ascension; a resurrection; immortality. That’s the Easter story and it’s our story.
Stay tuned in,
"Weakening clean car standards is bad for the planet, public health, and the auto industry itself."
After more than a year of aggressively lobbying the Trump administration to gut Obama-era fuel efficiency standards aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emmissions, automakers are poised to finally have their wish granted on Sunday, when EPA chief Scott Pruitt is scheduled to officially declare the rules "not appropriate."
"The current iteration of fuel standards are based on sound science, which the EPA should be using to make its decision—not pressure from the auto industry."
—Natalie Nava, Greenpeace USAAs Reuters reports, Pruitt is then planning to deliver a speech on Tuesday celebrating the regulatory rollback from a Chevrolet dealership in Virginia—a fitting location, given that representatives of Chevrolet's parent company General Motors met with Pruitt frequently last year to demand less stringent fuel standards.
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, argued that Pruitt's plan to lower emissions standards "ranks high among the stupidest policies yet proposed" by the Trump administration.
This ranks high among the stupidest policies yet proposed by Trump admin. Back to the 50s--maybe the EPA should mandate cars come with fins and fuzzy dice toohttps://t.co/0S0jqOivNa— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) March 29, 2018
"Weakening clean car standards is bad for the planet, public health, and the auto industry itself. Ford Motor Company and other automakers...have been actively fighting the clean car standards and have been instrumental in pushing for this development," Natalie Nava, project leader at Greenpeace USA, added in a statement on Thursday. "The current iteration of fuel standards are based on sound science, which the EPA should be using to make its decision—not pressure from the auto industry."
In a tweet on Friday, Public Citizen similarly accused the EPA of "pandering to auto executives and their Washington lobbyists."
Scott Pruitt is pandering to auto executives and their Washington lobbyists and reversing course on the Obama administration’s landmark fuel efficiency rules. Fittingly, he is expected to make the announcement at a Virginia car dealership next week. https://t.co/pwZlna8ytX— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) March 30, 2018
While it is not yet known what specific changes Pruitt plans to make to current fuel efficiency standards, states and environmental groups are already gearing up to challenge what is expected to be a significant rollback in court. Under the current rules, put in place in 2012, automakers would be required to "nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025," the New York Times explains.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led the opposition to Pruitt's rule changes on Friday, declaring: "California is prepared to take any steps necessary to protect our planet and people."
Though companies like Ford and General Motors have publicly expressed their "commitment to sustainability," Sierra Club's Gina Coplon-Newfield argued in a series of tweets on Thursday that their relentless push for weaker efficiency standards exposes the shallowness of their pro-environment rhetoric.
"The clean car standards can limit global warming pollution by six billion tons, save consumers $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and reduce oil consumption by up to four million barrels every day," Coplon-Newfield observed. "Ford has been working with Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump to roll these standards back to pollute our communities and increase what people pay at the pump."
How Is Money Created?
by John Lawrence, March 30, 2018
The money supply is added to whenever a bank creates a loan. They do this with a few keystrokes on a computer. It is a fallacy that this money is money that they already have that they loan to you. No, this is new money that is created by a private bank. That money is deposited in your account supposedly to be used for a good purpose. Else the money would not have been loaned to you. That money must be paid back with interest so it ends up finally as the property of the bank which loaned you the money. The borrowed money is used to expand a business, make home improvements and other worthwhile activities that will supposedly generate the money to pay back the loan. So, theoretically at least the loan is a win-win situation. The bank makes money both from principal and interest and the person borrowing the money makes money from an expanded business or is better off and more productive in other ways. As a consequence, the money supply is increased. It is thought that this situation is not inflationary as long as the money is used for a constructive purpose which leads to an expansion of the economy.
The government, supposedly, does not get involved in creating money or adding to the money supply. That is thought to be inflationary. However, in recent years the Federal Reserve, with its quantitative easing policy, has done just that. It has added to the money supply by creating money and shoveling it out to the Big Banks in order to keep them afloat. They have contended that this policy has not been inflationary because wages and the cost of living have not gone up. But they are fooling themselves. While wages have not gone up, the cost of living surely has if you include rent and real estate prices. Real estate and also stocks are considered to be assets. Asset prices have gone up tremendously. The stock market is in a bubble because the Fed has kept interest rates at zero in order to supply money to corporations, hedge funds, banks and the wealthy class in general. This has not filtered down to Joe Six Pack, so it isn't considered inflationary. But it is inflationary if you consider asset classes.
So money given to the wealthy is not considered inflationary but quantitative easing for the people where money would just be given to average citizens - so-called helicopter money - would be considered inflationary. Another reason the Fed won't raise interest rates is that that would increase the national debt. The Federal government, which is $21 trillion in debt, borrows more every month just to make interest payments on that debt. The market for US Treasuries used to be big enough that other countries and sovereign wealth funds would buy it all up. As of December 2017, $6.3 trillion or approximately 45% of the debt held by the public was owned by foreign investors, the largest of which were Japan (about $1.06 trillion) and China (about $1.18 trillion). The US Federal appetite for debt has increased so much that foreign investors are no longer willing to buy it all up. Therefore, US entities must buy it with free money supplied by the Fed. In other words the Fed is just printing money.
This is not a good situation. Giving free money to the wealthy only drives up the economic divide. Asset bubbles inevitably will burst causing chaos and losses to pension funds. The US Federal government could become a subservient debtor to the Chinese among others with US taxpayers holding the bag. Wealthy speculators and investors will already have taken an immense amount of money out of the system and into their private coffers in the Cayman Islands and other tax shelters so Joe Six Pack will end up with the bill.
Trump's recent tax cuts for the rich enacted by Congress will make the situation immeasurably worse as the discrepancy between government tax revenues and outlays grows.
In the absence of decisive, quick action to tackle this slow-motion crisis, the best-case scenario for the next few years is that America becomes a much riskier place to do business. A high debt load will limit our flexibility to keep the economy on an even course. “Countries with high debt don’t respond aggressively to downturns,” says Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff. If the U.S. slips into recession, we’ll lack the option of lowering taxes or increasing spending on infrastructure, for example, as tools to revive growth. And as the debt load grows, efforts by the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy with lower rates would be more likely to feed runaway inflation. “Then, investors will dump Treasuries,” says John Cochrane, an economist at the Hoover Institution. “That will drive rates far higher, and make the budget picture even worse.”
According to wolfstreet .com:
The US gross national debt jumped by $72.8 billion in one day, on Thursday, the Treasury Department reported Friday afternoon. This March 16 is a historic date of gloomy proportions, because on this date, the US gross national debt punched through the $21 trillion mark and reached $21.03 trillion.
The US national debt spiked $1.2 trillion in six months. This is totally unsustainable. They are acting as if US debt can be unlimited without any consequences just as they acted like climate change doesn't matter. Until it does.
The Degradation of American Culture
by John Lawrence, March 29, 2018
American culture has gone downhill. Sure there are excellent artists, musicians, writers if you seek them out. But they do not represent mainstream culture. Mainstream pop music culture consists of music with no melody, no harmony and a pounding rhythm that a gorilla could pound out. It is not really music at all, but closer to the definition of noise. Literary culture is not much better. Any celebrity can write a book, and it will be sure to receive lots of publicity and a major publisher will publish it. Case in point: Sean Penn's first literary effort: Joe Honey, He Just Do Stuff. Major TV interviews for Sean Penn on talk shows. It's a book about a hit man, naturally. If it didn't have a theme based on violence, it would violate one of the major requirements for any literary or video effort.
According to the BBC:
Publicity for the novel describes Bob Honey as a "contract killer for an off-the-books program[me] run by a branch of US intelligence that targets the elderly, the infirm and others who drain this consumption-driven society of its resources."
It has been described by the New York Times as "a riddle wrapped in an enigma and cloaked in crazy". In his review, Jeff Giles says he had to "survive" reading the novel.
Instead of seeking out the next great writer or novelist, publisher Simon and Schuster, like most publishers, seeks out the next celebrity who is willing to turn out any piece of crap, sometimes ghost written, under their name. Great writers can die by the wayside. Simon and Schuster is only willing to publish a book by a celebrity which is certain to make a profit. After all nobody reads any more unless it is something salacious and violent and written by a celebrity.
Other worthless contributions to contemporary culture include the mainstreaming of the tattoo artist. When I was a kid the only people that got tattoos were merchant marines and Hells Angels. They represent the Hells Angelification of American culture. I guess they indicate that you are real tough, hip and rebellious. They are just a huge waste of money and are bound to cause dermatological problems later on. When I see even homeless people with tattoos and smoking cigarettes, it seems quite obvious that they have taken the wrong fork in the road more than once. Still I think that everyone deserves the basics of life - food and shelter - whether or not they can pay for them.
Frivolous, superfluous, vacuous additions to American culture, which we would be better off if no one had invented them, include bounce houses. A minor industry has been made out of them. Totally unnecessary. Children would be better off with a long walk with a parent followed by sharing a book. The American culture proliferates a bunch of stuff that is supposed to make us think that children today are better off than their parents or grandparents were. At least their grandparents had clean air, clean water and food not contaminated with herbicides, pesticides and artificial substances. 100 years ago all food was organic because chemicals that are sprayed on crops today hadn't been invented yet.
Now we have the soap opera Presidency of Donald Trump. People love it. They can't get enough entertainment so it stands to reason that they want an Entertainer in Chief in the White House. Violence, salaciousness, what more could his base want? The American picture is now complete.
One would be hard-pressed to cook up a more twisted irony.
Nashville Public Radio reported over the weekend that the Tennessee legislature is finalizing legislation that would add work requirements to the state’s Medicaid program, kicking at least 3,700 Tennessee workers off their health care.
The state’s Republican leaders appear to have no qualms about taking health insurance away from Tennesseans who can’t find work or get enough hours at their job—even though taking away someone’s health insurance isn’t going to help them find work any faster, and can actually make it harder to find and keep a job. Instead, debate around the legislation has reportedly centered on how to pay for the new policy. Lawmakers’ own estimates put the price tag for enforcing the new work rules at $10,000 per person disenrolled from Medicaid—which advocates note could be more than the new policy saves.
This is where Tennessee’s proposal gets really evil. Unwilling to foot the bill for their new policy out of the state’s general budget, Republican lawmakers have decided to pay for it with funds from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program—which provides meager cash assistance to very poor families with children.
While news reports, such as the Nashville Public Radio story noted above, make it sound as though Tennessee’s TANF program is flush with unused cash due to a “booming economy and historically low unemployment,” the real story is much more dire.
Nearly one-quarter of Tennessee children live below the federal poverty line, making it one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to child poverty. But fewer than 1 in 4 poor Tennessee families with children get help from the state’s TANF program, which is one of the stingiest in the country. A Tennessee family of three lucky enough to get temporary assistance can expect to receive a maximum of $185 per month—or a little over $6 a day.
Why is Tennessee failing so horrifically to help so many of its poorest children? In part, this failure is the legacy of 1996 “welfare reform,” which converted the nation’s main source of assistance for poor families—then called Aid to Families with Dependent Children—into TANF, a flat-funded block grant with very little accountability for how the money is spent.
Many states use TANF as a slush fund to close budget gaps, with just 1 in every 4 TANF dollars going to cash assistance for struggling families with kids. But Tennessee has made an Olympic sport out of diverting TANF funds away from poor families in need of help, squirreling away more than $400 million in unspent funds in recent years rather than using the money to help struggling families with kids avoid hunger and homelessness.
Now the state’s lawmakers want to use those unspent funds to bankroll the disenrollment of thousands of struggling Tennesseans from Medicaid.
The bill is expected to clear Tennessee’s conservative Senate in the coming days and has the support of Gov. Bill Haslam (R), who is expected to sign it into law. If passed, both the state’s proposed work rules and their proposed pay-for will require the approval of federal health officials. If the state’s scheme gets a thumbs up from the Trump administration, other states will likely follow suit. Kentucky, Indiana, and Arkansas have all received permission from the Trump administration to enact work requirements for Medicaid, following Trump’s widely criticized invitation to states earlier this year, and more than a dozen states are actively seeking similar approval. Many—if not all—of these states are looking for ways to pay for the costly bureaucracy required to implement this type of policy.
One would be hard-pressed to cook up a more twisted irony than taking money intended to help poor families with children avoid hunger and hardship and using it instead to take health insurance away from, in some cases, the very same struggling workers and families. But there’s a deeper rot at the core of Tennessee’s plan that cuts across conservative proposals to slash not just health care but food assistance, housing, and more—both in Congress and in the states. And that’s an ideology-fueled willingness to spend whatever it takes to take aid away from struggling workers and families—even when bureaucratic disentitlement costs more than it saves.
Quantitative Easing for the People
by John Lawrence
During the banking crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve bought up the debts of the big banks. They said in effect, "Oh poor Wells Fargo, you have a debt you can't pay? Here take this money and pay it off." Wouldn't it be nice if the Fed did this for average folk. "Oh, you have a car payment you can't make. Here take this money and pay it." Or "Take this money and pay off your student loan." Fat chance the Fed would ever help out the average folk, the hoi polloi. Why? Because the Fed is privately owned by the Big Banks. It is privately owned by Wall Street. It does not represent We the People.
The Fed shoveled money out the door to Wall Street. The government, meaning We the Taxpayers, did also. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson with his hair on fire demanded the $700 billion TARP bailout. Beyond that the Fed committed to another $29 trillion giveaway to the Big Banks. However, the hoi polloi got foreclosed on right and left. There was no bailout for them. The Home Affordable Modification Program, known as HAMP did little to modify mortgages in favor of the average person.
This is from The Guardian:
Chris Cooley never missed a payment on his mortgage in Long Beach, California. Every month, Wells Fargo would debit him $3,100 for the four-unit building; one of the units was his, and the other three he rented out for income to cover the mortgage. In 2009, when the housing crisis hit, Cooley needed a way to reduce his mortgage. He renegotiated his loan through the Home Affordable Modification Program, known as Hamp. Initially, it was a success: his mortgage payments fell in half, to $1,560.
So it was surprising when a ReMax agent, sent on behalf of Wells Fargo, knocked on the door in December 2009 and told Cooley the building no longer belonged to him. The bank planned to take the building he had lived in and rented out for a decade – and list the property for sale.
So much for government help.
But it turned out that Cooley was not getting government help; without his knowledge, Wells Fargo had put him on what was only a trial Hamp payment program. He had been rejected for a permanent mortgage modification – only Wells Fargo never informed him about the rejection, he says, nor did they give him a reason why.
What followed was what most homeowners would consider a nightmare. While Cooley tried to stave off foreclosure to save his home and livelihood, Wells Fargo paid the other renters living in the property $5,000 to move out behind his back, and then denied Cooley further aid – because his income, which he drew from the rentals, was too low. “They took my income away from me, and then they couldn’t give me a loan because I had no income,” Cooley said. “What a wonderful catch-22.”
The bank held his final trial payment in a trust and never applied it to his loan (to this day, Cooley has never received that money back). For two years, Cooley appealed to Wells Fargo for some alternative form of relief, sending in paperwork time and again, talking to different customer service representatives who knew nothing about his situation, and generally running in place without success.
Tired of fighting, Cooley ended up leaving his home, and became just one of the seven million foreclosure victims in the US since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007.
“Wells Fargo stole my home, plain and simple,” he said.
Nice guys at Wells Fargo. But by now everyone knows they are crooks and scam artists. They have been implicated in scam after illegal scam and fraud after illegal fraud. The only consequences have been multiple slaps on the wrist. A little over 30,000 HAMP modifications from 2009 remain active. That same year there were over one million foreclosures which shows the scale of the problem HAMP failed to fix. But for the banks nothing was too good.
"That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday's marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform."
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens took to the New York Times op-ed pages on Tuesday to call for a full repeal of the Second Amendment, calling it a "relic of the 18th century" wielded by the gun lobby as a "propaganda weapon of immense power."
Though championing other demands for stricter gun control laws receiving attention amid outcry over mass shootings and gun violence, Stevens said "demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform."
"They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment," the judge argued. "That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday's marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform."
Though the amendment is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been able to deploy massive political and cultural influence over recent decades in order to twist its meaning and has pushed the notion that any regulation of firearms is an infringement of an unalienable right.
Stevens reminded readers of the views of former Chief Justice Warren Burger, who led the Supreme Court from 1969 to 1986. Burger said in 1991 that the NRA's efforts amounted to "one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."
"There wouldn't be any such thing as the Second Amendment," if he were writing the Bill of Rights in the present day, said Burger at the time.
Amid the dissent of Stevens and three other justices, in 2008 the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment should be understood to guarantee individual civilians the right to bear arms.
"Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.'s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option," wrote Stevens. "It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States—unlike every other market in the world. It would make our schoolchildren safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence."
The US Should Transfer Resources From the War Corps to the Peace Corps
by John Lawrence, March 27, 2018
Young folks graduating from high school who don't know what to do with themselves have a pretty good incentive package for joining the military. Free education, free health care, pay, a pension in 20 years after which they can use their training and experience to pursue another career in the civilian sector. Those same advantages and incentives should be given for young people to join the Peace Corps or the AmeriCorps. As many resources should be committed in the effort for peace as are committed for the war effort. This would change the character of the whole nation as well as the character of the world situation.
The defense budget of almost a trillion dollars a year should be divided equally between the military and the Peace Corps. As many resources as are presently being expending on pursuing war should be expended on pursuing peace. This way the economy need not take a huge hit as it would if the war budget was simply eliminated because the US economy depends on war to keep it running. Lockheed Martin could turn from providing weapons of war to turning out peace systems. I'm sure that various military contractors could figure out what a peace system actually is. When there is money involved, the American people and American corporations are very ingenious. There just needs to be a change in attitude from seeing every opportunity for manufacturing war systems to seizing every opportunity for providing a peace system.
What would a peace system actually consist of? Tools for economic development, renewable energy resources, educational resources, infrastructure, stuff like that. One large nation is actually pursuing something like that. China with its Belt and Road initiative is pursuing infrastructure development around the world. It is really a peace system in disguise. While the US fritters away its resources on war, China is aggressively pursuing peace. Naturally, the US considers this a huge threat to its war machine. If other countries aligned with China in the pursuit of peace and economic development, where would this leave the US which has promulgated war and destruction around the world. More than a million people have been killed in the middle east because of US war policies there. Whole cities have been left in ruins. Billions of dollars of real estate have been destroyed.
Now along comes China with exactly the opposite policy. Where does this leave the US with its huge national debt? As a bystander at best.
Years before the president's lawyer made a $130,000 payment to Daniels ahead of the election, the actress was threatened with physical harm after speaking to a magazine about her relationship with Trump
In a long-awaited interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" on Sunday night, adult film star Stormy Daniels detailed a brief sexual relationship she says she had with President Donald Trump and potentially-illegal efforts and threats made by Trump and his associates to keep her quiet about the affair.
Five years after Daniels's single sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, she was offered $15,000 to tell her story to In Touch magazine. The story never ran because Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, threatened legal action against the publication—and weeks later, Daniels was threatened with physical harm by someone she had never met.
"I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter," she told Anderson Cooper. "And a guy walked up on me and said to me, 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.' And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone."
The encounter left Daniels shaken. She said it caused her to deny that the affair took place when a gossip website published a story about it later that year, and when various outlets offered her money to go public when Trump announced his run for president, she refused.
Daniels said she was later relieved to be offered $130,000 by Trump's lawyer in October 2016, just before the presidential election, in order to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) promising to keep quiet about the story.
"I turned down a large payday multiple times...I didn't wanna take away from the legitimate and legal, I'd like to point out, career that I've worked very hard to establish. I did not want my family and my child exposed to all the things that she's being exposed to right now," she said.
After the Wall Street Journal published a bombshell story alleging her affair with Trump this past January, Daniels said she was again pressured by Trump's team to deny that it had ever happened. Daniels also says she was warned "they" could make her "life hell in many different ways," if she didn't sign a statement refuting the Journal's story.
"I felt intimidated and honestly bullied," said Daniels. "And I didn't know what to do. And so I signed it."
"This is about the cover-up," said Daniels's attorney, Michael Avenatti, in the "60 Minutes" segment. "This is about the extent that Mr. Cohen and the president have gone to intimidate this woman, to silence her, to threaten her, and to put her under their thumb. It is thuggish behavior from people in power. And it has no place in American democracy."
Former FEC chairman Trevor Potter noted that Daniels's story is also about the $130,000 payment made to Daniels just before the election. Cohen has claimed the money came from his personal funds and that he paid it due to his concern for Trump, and not to influence the election. Avenatti calls the claim "laughable," while Potter and watchdog groups argue that the payment could still be a major ethics violation.
"It's a $130,000 in-kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he's allowed to give," said Potter, now president of the Campaign Legal Center. "And if he does this on behalf of his client, the candidate, that is a coordinated, illegal, in-kind contribution by Cohen for the purpose of influencing the election, of benefiting the candidate by keeping this secret."
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating "episodes involving Michael Cohen," leading to speculation that the payment he made to Daniels could have implications for Mueller's probe of the Trump campaign.
NRA Figures Student Marching Will Blow Over and They Can Get On With Business of Selling Guns
by John Lawrence
It's amazing how so many movements have totally lost steam, blown over, and America's businesses have gone on doing the same thing without losing a beat. Take Occupy Wall Street, for example. Where are they today? Probably back to work on Wall Street. All these movements fizzle out usually in short order. That brings us to the students marching for gun reform. Wayne LaPierre probably tells his NRA members, "Give it a few weeks, and everyone can get back to business as usual. These kids will not be any more effective in limiting gun ownership that the parents were after Sandy Hook. Whatever outrage there is will simmer down in a few weeks."
That's the problem in America isn't it? We don't see things through to their conclusion. And the steamroller of the status quo just keeps on rolling. Like the mighty Mississippi. Or the lucky old sun that just keeps on a'rollin' round heaven all day. There is nothing new under the sun whether it's a diminution of global warming, a reduction in financial inequality or getting rid of guns. American industry just keeps pumping them out.
This is the way empires work. They just keep doing the same things until they collapse or until another empire takes over. Congress persons just keep doing what rich people want. Those who don't have the bucks to pay lobbyists to buy them off don't get represented in this so-called democracy. Political ads and Fox News see to it that the hoi polloi stays in line. The logic of kids voting them out and voting gun control advocates in is ephemeral, a will 'o the wisp. The gears of US politics and business just keep grinding on.
Soon high school students will be out of danger because they will no longer be high school students. They will be out in the world or college students where they'll be safer. Their enthusiasm will wane. Some of them will go into the military where they will learn to love guns. They will get used to being armed at all times so that when they resume civilian life, concealed carry will seem natural for them. It's the teachers and principals that will be exposed to gun violence in schools because for them there is no escape. It's their job to be in school every day until they retire. They need to keep up a steady drum beat for the elimination of guns in American society, more so than anyone else.
"We will be marching this Saturday for those that we loved and lost, and we write this in the hope that no other community or publication will ever have to do the same."
Ahead of the historic "March for Our Lives" demonstrations taking place nationwide on Saturday, student journalists from Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—the site of a shooting last month that left 17 dead—published a manifesto in The Guardian on Friday declaring that they can no longer "stand idly by as the country continues to be infected by a plague of gun violence."
"We have a unique platform not only as student journalists, but also as survivors of a mass shooting. We are firsthand witnesses to the kind of devastation that gross incompetence and political inaction can produce," wrote the students, who work for the Stoneman Douglas school newspaper The Eagle Eye. "We will be marching this Saturday for those that we loved and lost, and we write this in the hope that no other community or publication will ever have to do the same."
The proposals outlined by the Parkland student journalists in advance of Saturday's events—which are expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the streets in all 50 U.S. states and in major cities across the globe—include:
"We believe federal and state governments must put these in place to ensure that mass shootings and gun violence cease to be a staple of American culture," the students conclude.
"This trip is showing the politicians the true meaning of democracy."
—Demitri Hoth, Stoneman Douglas student
According to recent survey data, many of the policy changes proposed by the Parkland students are broadly popular. An AP-NORC poll published on Friday found that "nearly 7 in 10 adults now favor stricter gun control measures," which is "the strongest level of support since the Associated Press first asked the question five years ago."
Saturday's marches are expected to further demonstrate the widespread support throughout the U.S. for stricter gun control legislation. According to the March for Our Lives website, 840 events have been planned in all 50 states and in major cities across the globe, including Paris, Madrid, London, Tokyo, and Seoul.
"This trip is showing the politicians the true meaning of democracy," Stoneman Douglas student Demitri Hoth, who is traveling from Florida to Washinton, D.C. for the event, told CNN in an interview. "They are not there to serve groups; they are there to serve people. It's time for us to take control and be heard."
Below is a map that shows events taking place in the U.S. and Canada. Click here to find an event near you.
ESP: Is It Real or Fake?
by John Lawrence, March 24, 2018
CBS Sunday Morning ran a show on the mind, and part of that was a segment on ESP - Extra Sensory Perception. They covered Uri Geller, an Israeli Psychic who supposedly could bend spoons just by thinking about it, and a woman who located a fugitive. She claimed he was in Lowell, Wyoming. They actually found him in Lovell, Wyoming. Pretty close. However, the show said nothing about Edgar Cayce, a psychic who could diagnose diseases in people which baffled doctors. He did this without ever meeting the person. He just needed an address.
There was also a book, "Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain." The Soviets were intent on exploring psychic phenomena using scientific methods. They did things like having subjects guess the outcome of a dice throw. They knew how many they would get right due to chance alone. Some subjects scored much better than chance, and these were thought to have some psychic abilities. Of course the US and Russia were both concerned about getting one up on the other in a sort of psychic arms race. It was thought that, if Uri Geller could bend spoons, he might be able to interfere with some of the delicate electronics in missiles, for example.
Of course there are the skeptics that say that any claim of psychic ability is fraudulent. It's all just magic which seems miraculous, but really there's always a trick to it. Various claims have been made for so-called psychotronic devices. Pyramids like the Great Pyramids of Egypt are said to have special powers. Wilhelm Reich, author of the "Mass Psychology of Fascism", claimed that he could channel a special energy he called orgones in an orgone accumulator which was shaped like a pyramid.
I think ESP should be studied and experimented with. It's not hard to imagine that there may be phenomena in the universe that exceed the human mind's natural ability to understand or deal with them in the same way that a cat or a dog is hardly aware or could ever be aware of Einstein's relativity theory or the vastness of the universe. Animals cannot possibly understand concepts like those because of their intellectual limitations. Perhaps there are things that are beyond the comprehension of the human mind, but still could be rendered comprehensible.
If the only applications of ESP, however, are to warfare, perhaps it is better that the human mind is not able to comprehend them. If the phenomenon of atomic energy hadn't been discovered by the human mind, the world might just be better off especially if nuclear bombs had never been developed.
"The truth is that our system has been thrown out of balance by the power of moneyed interests, including the gun lobby and the weapons industry."
As calls for stricter gun reforms grow louder following last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the government watchdog group Common Cause outlined in a new report on Thursday the broad financial power the country's largest pro-gun group holds over lawmakers, allowing it to stymie efforts to pass even popular gun control measures.
The National Rifle Association's (NRA) influence over Washington goes well beyond campaign contributions to specific legislators, according to the study, titled "Power Shift: How People Can Take On the NRA." The group maintains its control over the gun control debate and politicians through lobbying, spending by its corporate partners in the gun industry, and secret spending though its legislative action arm.
"If our political system worked as intended, with everyone enjoying an equal voice in the decisions that affect our lives, our families and our communities, such a combination of facts, backed by public opinion, already would have yielded substantial changes in our gun laws," reads the report. "But the truth is that our system has been thrown out of balance by the power of moneyed interests, including the gun lobby and the weapons industry."
"In a democracy, overwhelming public support for policies should be enough to enact them but too often that isn't the case when special interests oppose them." —Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause
The report was released two days before students, teachers, and other supporters of gun control are expected to turn out in towns and cities across the country for the March for Our Lives, organized by students who survived the shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The shooting—which killed 17 people and is just the latest in a long string of mass shootings in recent years, many of which were carried out with military-style semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15—has been followed by demands for reform and declarations that survivors of such attacks will no longer accept "thoughts and prayers" from politicians who refuse to back gun control laws.
Students and teachers have demanded common-sense gun reforms like a ban on semi-automatic firearms, universal background checks for gun purchasers, restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, and a higher minimum age for buyers.
Despite broad support for common-sense regulations, the NRA has so far managed to steer lawmakers away from even debating, much less passing, such proposals. Aside from the $334,000 the group has spent in 2018 campaign contributions thus far, the NRA raised its lobbying expenditures from $1.8 million to more than $5 million from 2007 to 2017.
In 2016, more than 60 percent of the group's independent spending was done through its Institute for Legislative Action, which does not have to disclose its donors. In addition to lobbying for pro-gun laws, the NRA has also lobbied against efforts to mandate disclosure of donors to political causes.
In order to limit the NRA's power, Common Cause writes, lawmakers first need to pass legislation to extend the democratic process to more Americans. The group suggests automatic voting registration, ending the gerrymandering of congressional districts to tip the scale in favor of political parties, and requiring disclosure of political donations as steps to take, while Americans also continue to push for fun control.
"In a democracy, overwhelming public support for policies should be enough to enact them but too often that isn't the case when special interests oppose them—but with simple reforms we can help restore government to one of the people, by the people and for the people," said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, in a statement. "Working together, we can solve the underlying governance challenges so that our Congress and state legislatures are responsive to constituents, not the gun lobby."
We Should Expand Public Facilities
by John Lawrence, March 23
America wants to privatize everything. No public parks. No public rest rooms. No public libraries. No public anything. We need a revolution that will provide public facilities for everyone. In my life I have relied on public libraries as a place to hang out and do my work while listening to music on headphones. I have relied on the YMCA, a semi-public facility, for showering, cleaning up, exercising and more. I have relied on public rest rooms. As an Uber driver, I know where they all are - mainly in supermarkets where you don't have to purchase anything. Again, quasi-public.
One of Steinbeck's characters in Of Mice and Men, George, relates to his sidekick Lennie their dream to "live off the fat of the land." That's the hippie's dream too. There should be free food for everyone. You shouldn't have to work that hard, commute in traffic, sit at a desk all day and please your boss. You should be able just to live off the fat of the land especially in "the world's richest country" as pundits keep reminding us. But it doesn't work that way.
The world's richest country is content to see old men and women living on the street, disabled people living on the street, families with children living on the street. The hippie dream has turned into a nightmare. The world's richest country has allowed the creation of a relatively new underclass of people - the homeless. Richard Nixon had an expression for how we should treat such people - with "benign neglect." They are free to live in America's diminishing public spaces. But they can't expect the taxpayers to support them. Taxpayers are only willing to spend their taxes on implements of war, the military and the military-industrial-intelligence complex. That is those taxpayers who haven't stashed their money in the Cayman Islands so that they pay no taxes.
There should be free or near free facilities for everyone if and when they need them. At least public rest rooms and camp grounds. Society should not expect everyone to live in little boxes and conform. The hippie dream is dying an unpleasant death.
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.
And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
In a perfect world, our politicians in Washington would rein in the abuses of vulture capitalism.
It was either Mark Twain or Rod Stewart who once said that every picture tells a story … don’t it? But while a picture is still worth 1,000 words and all that other good stuff, sometimes that actual story isn’t exactly what we think it is. Consider a photograph of young Denver Post journalist Elizabeth Hernandez, sobbing on a colleague’s shoulder, that went viral after she and her colleagues were told that 30 people on their already emaciated news staff will be losing their jobs in the coming weeks — the latest blow to the ever-shrinking American newspaper industry.
Hi, @rgay. I'm the journalist crying in this @washingtonpost column (https://t.co/OrjTojqDCk ) on cuts to the @denverpost newsroom by a greedy hedgefund trying to destroy newspapers. Know anyone who likes democracy and has the means to buy us from our owner?— Elizabeth Hernandez (@ehernandez) March 17, 2018
I know, I know … you’ve heard this story a million times as the agony known as the 21st century has unfolded. The internet is killing American journalism. No one reads newspapers anymore, and there’s no real way for anyone to make money from the nano-pennies earned from every online click (unless you’re a massive vampire squid like Facebook or Google), and so the money to pay young and once enthusiastic journalists like 25-year-old Elizabeth Hernandez just isn’t there. Too bad.
The only problem is that this is not the real story of why Hernandez — No. 1 on the layoff list since she was just hired back at the Post three weeks ago, by editors who had no clue that a financial neutron bomb was about to go off — and her colleagues wept. While the bigger problems of modern journalism are as true in Denver as everywhere else, the real problem at the Post is the shady financial shenanigans of the vulture capitalists who bought the paper’s parent a few years back, stripped it down like a Pittsburgh steel mill, and left a major American city with a tiny Alamo-like band of journalists surviving to report on its civic life and keep an eye on its politicians.
Russian Fake News Ads on Facebook and Twitter
by John Lawrence, March 22, 2018
I can't read these ads without laughing. As if ads saying nasty things about Hillary Clinton were only the province of Russian hackers. The Presidential candidate, Donald Trump himself, said far worse things like "Lock Her Up." As if the American right wing conservatives were relying on Russian hackers to say bad things about Hillary to get Trump elected? Really? As if Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and a whole host of ultra conservative trolls and hackers hadn't supplied enough of that kind of material? Is this whole thing about Russians influencing our election a cruel joke?
Have you seen some of the stuff floating around the internet about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and any other politician who dares to call himself or herself a Democrat? I'm telling you that conservative commentators and fake news trolls don't need any help from the Russians. So what if the Russians joined in. Are the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world going to go after all the fake news supplied by American alt-right and conservative interests? Or are they protected by the First Amendment but Russians are not?
They need to go after a lot of the stuff on the internet, not just be concerned about Russian hackers. Stuff like how to make bombs, how to modify a semi-automatic rifle to make it full automatic, other racist, or obnoxious material spewing hatred. There's enough objectionable material supplied by Americans that Russian hackers parroting some of the same are not a major threat to our country in my opinion.The outrage over Russian hackers saying the same stuff as American conservatives is risible.
However, the right of free speech needs to be rethunk. They always give as a limitation thereof that you can't yell "Fire" in a crowded theater. What about directions for building a bomb? Is that covered by free speech? And derogatory political statements about other candidates. Oh I guess that's covered no matter how patently false they are. They shouldn't be. Any ad on the internet or statement in a chat room or whatever on Facebook or Twitter needs to be examined in the light of whether or not it is true or fake news. This in and of itself brings a challenge to the First Amendment, the right of free speech. False and misleading ads and statements should not be covered under that blanket regardless of whether or not they were supplied by Russians or Americans.
But we Americans don't want censorship like these other lesser countries participate in. So I guess we'll just have to put up with fake news or reexamine the First Amendment. Wouldn't be a bad idea to take a look at the Second Amendment too at the same time.
The Poor People's Campaign offers an antidote to a poisoned and militarized culture that has perverted the national agenda.
This piece is adapted from a speech given by Brock McIntosh at a mass meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign.
I’m here to speak to you today about one of Dr. King’s triple evils: militarism. As an Afghanistan War veteran, I’d like to highlight an aspect of his warning about militarism, when he said, “This way of… injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane… cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.”
I’d like to tell you all about the precise moment I realized there was poison in me. I’m the child of a nurse and a factory worker in the heartland of Illinois, the family of blue-collar and service workers. At the height of the Iraq War, military recruiters at my high school attracted me with sign up bonuses and college assistance that some saw as their ticket out—for me, I hoped it was my ticket up, providing opportunities that once felt out of reach.
Two years later, when I was 20 years old, I was standing over the body of a 16-year-old Afghan boy. A roadside bomb he was building prematurely detonated. He was covered in shrapnel and burns, and now lay sedated after having one of his hands amputated by our medics. His other hand had the calloused roughness of a farmer or a shepherd.
As he lay there with a peaceful expression, I studied the details of his face and caught myself rooting for him. ‘If this boy knew me,’ I thought, ‘he wouldn’t want to kill me.’ And here I am, supposed to want to kill him. And feeling bad that I wanted him to live. That is the poisoned mind. That is the militarized mind. And all the opportunities afforded me by the military can’t repay the cost of war on my soul. It is poor folks who carry the burden of war for the elites who send them.
A working class boy from Illinois sent halfway around the world to kill a young farmer. How did we get here? How did this crazy war economy come to be?
First, there is the demand. A society that feels perpetually threatened perpetually prepares for wars, even in times of peace. To do this requires a military-industrial complex, a vast war economy whose charters, profits, stocks, and jobs depend on permanent militarization and whose fortune prospers most in times of war. Corporations have political influence, and so do constituents who need the jobs.
Second, there is the supply. A nation that wants to attract volunteers to its military and care for veterans provides opportunities that allure recruits who are predominantly working class folks with limited opportunities.
We need a Poor People’s Campaign to amplify the voices of regular folks above the lobby of militarized industry, a poisoned economy, to demand jobs in industries other than war-making, to demand opportunities for working class folks that don’t require killing other working class folks.
We need a Poor People’s Campaign to demand justice for people of color killed by a militarized police force, a poisoned law enforcement.
We need a Poor People’s Campaign to transform a militarized politics, a poisoned Congress and a poisoned White House, that proves their toughness with chest beating and unites their base with war drumming.
The Poor People’s Campaign offers an antidote to a poisoned and militarized culture. War always has a way of distracting our attention, and perverting our priorities. We need a Poor People’s Campaign to organize for racial, economic, and ecological justice; to force these issues to the front; and rectify our nation’s agenda.
They're Closing in on Trump From All Sides
by John Lawrence, March 21, 2018
It's not enough that the Mueller investigation is now looking at Trump's business ties. Now the Stormy Daniels of the world and the Summer Zervos are taking him to court for aggressive kissing and not signing his non-disclosure agreements. A judge (a woman actually) ruled that these suits against Trump could go forward in state court. I recall the Access Hollywood tape where Trump famously said. "I just go up and start kissing them or grab them by the pussy. You can do that if you're a star." Well, now Trump's star is starting to fade. But he's still friends with Vladimir Putin. He called to congratulate him on winning the Presidency again.
In Trump's mind Presidencies are a sometimes thing, they come and go, but business ties are forever. That's why he's maintaining the Putin friendship. He knows that whatever business deals are cooking between him and Putin will outlast his Presidency. Mueller may be closing in. Stormy Daniels may be closing in. Summer Zervos may be closing in. But Putin is Trump's BFF. He's not closing in. He's just waiting till Trump abandons his foolish gambit in the White House so they can get down to business and discuss the Moscow Trump Tower.
The Washington Post reported:
Playmate, porn star and reality TV contestant in court over Trump
A judge ruled Tuesday that a former “Apprentice” contestant’s defamation lawsuit against President Trump may proceed, potentially allowing her lawyers to begin collecting evidence to support her claim that he forcibly kissed and groped her years ago.
The decision in the case brought by Summer Zervos came on the same day a former Playboy playmate, Karen McDougal, sued the publisher of the National Enquirer for the right to break her silence about the 10-month affair she says she had with Trump more than a decade ago.
The nearly simultaneous developments added to the political and legal challenges for the president, who has faced weeks of reports about his alleged affair with another woman, porn star Stormy Daniels, and his attorney’s effort to buy her silence.
All three women are now seeking to tell their stories on their own terms. McDougal is scheduled to give an interview Thursday to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, while “60 Minutes” is scheduled to air an interview with Daniels on Sunday.
As she rejected Trump’s effort to block Zervos’s lawsuit from proceeding, New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer G. Schecter cited precedent from the Paula Jones case against President Bill Clinton, which led to his impeachment in 1998.
“No one is above the law,” Schecter wrote. “It is settled that the President of the United States has no immunity and is ‘subject to the laws’ for purely private acts.”
Yea, Jennifer. You go, girl. At least Zervos didn't contend that Trump grabbed her by the pussy. The guy is nuts if he thinks that, just because he's a star, he can have his way with whatever woman he chooses to lay his eyes on. Methinks Trump will get his come uppance soon. Then he can get on with real life - doing business deals with Vlad Putin and grabbin' them by the pussy.
"We need to ask the hard questions that the corporate media fails to ask: who owns America, and who has the political power? Why, in the richest country in the history of the world are so many Americans living in poverty?"
On Monday night, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm EDT, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is hosting a nationally televised town hall tonight focused on U.S. inequality and the threat posed by an increasing powerful oligarchy that has corrupted the nation's economy and politics.
"The rapid rise of oligarchy and wealth and income inequality is the great moral, economic, and political issue of our time."
In partnership with The Guardian, NowThis, The Young Turks and Act.tv, the event—officially titled "Town Hall on Inequality in America: The Rise of Oligarchy and Collapse of the Middle Class"—will feature a wide-ranging coversation with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, filmmaker and activist Michael Moore, and other expert panelists who will discuss the economic issues that mainstream and corporate news too often ignore.
Watch it live here:
"We need to ask the hard questions that the corporate media fails to ask: who owns America, and who has the political power? Why, in the richest country in the history of the world are so many Americans living in poverty? What are the forces that have caused the American middle class, once the envy of the world, to decline precipitously?" Sanders wrote in an op-ed promoting the event last week. "We need to hear from struggling Americans whose stories are rarely told in newspapers or television."
Tonight at 7pm ET: Join me, @MMFlint and @SenWarren for a conversation about a topic too often ignored by the corporate media – wealth and income inequality. #InequalityTownHall pic.twitter.com/K9JRCnG3KL— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 19, 2018
"The rapid rise of oligarchy and wealth and income inequality is the great moral, economic, and political issue of our time," Sander tweeted on Monday. "Join us at 7 PM ET tonight on Facebook Live for conversation about inequality in America."
By Ellen Brown, The Web of Debt Blog | News Analysis
The US Postal Service, under attack from a manufactured crisis designed to force its privatization, needs a new source of funding to survive. Postal banking could fill that need.
The US banking establishment has been at war with the post office since at least 1910, when the Postal Savings Bank Act established a public savings alternative to a private banking system that had crashed the economy in the Bank Panic of 1907. The American Bankers Association was quick to respond, forming a Special Committee on Postal Savings Legislation to block any extension of the new service. According to a September 2017 article in The Journal of Social History titled “‘Banks of the People’: The Life and Death of the U.S. Postal Savings System,” the banking fraternity would maintain its enmity toward the government savings bank for the next 50 years.
As far back as the late 19th century, support for postal savings had united a nationwide coalition of workers and farmers who believed that government policy should prioritize their welfare over private business interests. Advocates noted that most of the civilized nations of the world maintained postal savings banks, providing depositors with a safe haven against repeated financial panics and bank failures. Today, postal banks that are wholly or majority owned by the government are still run successfully not just in developing countries but in France, Switzerland, Israel, Korea, India, New Zealand, Japan, China, and other industrialized nations.
The US Postal Savings System came into its own during the banking crisis of the early 1930s, when it became the national alternative to a private banking system that people could not trust. Demands increased to expand its services to include affordable loans. Alarmed bankers called it the “Postal Savings Menace” and warned that it could result in the destruction of the entire private banking system.
But rather than expanding the Postal Savings System, the response of President Franklin Roosevelt was to buttress the private banking system with public guarantees, including FDIC deposit insurance. That put private banks in the enviable position of being able to keep their profits while their losses were covered by the government. Deposit insurance along with a statutory cap on the interest paid on postal savings caused postal banking to lose its edge. In 1957, under President Eisenhower, the head of the government bureau responsible for the Postal Savings System called for its abolition, arguing that “it is desirable that the government withdraw from competitive private business at every point.” Legislation to liquidate the Postal Savings System was finally passed in 1966. One influential right-wing commentator, celebrating an ideological victory, said, “It is even conceivable that we might transfer post offices to private hands altogether.”
Is Race a Social or a Scientific Construct?
by John Lawrence, March 20, 2018
The latest National Geographic magazine is devoted to the subject of race. According to the scientists there is no such thing as race. All human beings belong to the same race - homo sapiens. Their argument is, since all humans belong to the same race, there should be no such thing as racial prejudice. It's a faulty argument. The argument shouldn't be based on science; it should be based on morality and ethics. Even if all human beings did not belong to the same race, all human beings should treat each other with love and respect. It's the moral and ethical argument that should be put forward, no the scientific one.
First of all, the scientific argument is flawed. All human beings are not genetically identical. There is some gene that determines skin color so African Americans, who are mostly black, have a different gene for this than Caucasians, who are mostly white. African Americans also have a gene that determines sickle cell anemia which whites for the most part don't have. So racists are theoretically correct: we are not all genetically identical, and the scientists, who want to base everything on objectivity, are wrong. The only argument that can make a difference in human life is the moral and ethical one, but that is one scientists don't want to give any credence to.
Second of all, racial classifications are in and of themselves a scientific construct. Homo sapiens is a species name that is totally arbitrary. All scientific classifications are names imposed on reality by scientists. They do not represent reality in and of themselves. To think that there should be no racial prejudice because there is no such thing, scientifically speaking as race, is simply naive and fallacious thinking. The only thing that will overcome racial prejudice or prejudice of any kind is moral and ethical thinking. If another species came form outer space to earth that was different genetically, does that imply that it would be OK to be prejudiced against them? Or them against us?
There is a tendency towards bogus scientific arguments as if they are the only ones that count and they can solve every social problem. Not true. Racial prejudice cannot be overcome by the argument that we are all genetically the same because even that argument is false. Of the billions of genes that compose a human being, even if one or two of them is different which is certainly the case, we are not genetically identical except for identical twins, and even they differentiate themselves in later life.
The only argument that can end prejudice, war and a host of other social maladies such as inequality and homelessness is an argument based on morality and ethics. We should be kind and respectful and loving towards other human beings, not because we are the same race, but because it's the right thing to do.
Trump has become the Mad King who says or does anything his gut tells him to, while everyone around him genuflects.
Trump is moving into a new and more dangerous phase.
Before, he was constrained by a few “adults” – Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly – whom he appointed because he thought they had some expertise he lacked.
Now he’s either fired or is in the process of removing the adults. He’s replacing them with a Star Wars cantina of toadies and sycophants who will reflect back at him his own glorious view of himself, and help sell it on TV.
Narcissists are dangerous because they think only about themselves. Megalomaniacs are dangerous because they think only about their power and invincibility. A narcissistic megalomaniac who’s unconstrained – and who’s also president of the United States – is about as dangerous as they come.
The man who once said he could shoot someone dead on Fifth Avenue and still be elected president now openly boasts of lying to the Canadian Prime Minister, deciding on his own to negotiate mano a mano with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, unilaterally slapping tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and demanding the death penalty for drug dealers.
For weeks, Trump has been pulling big policy pronouncements out of his derriere and then leaving it up to the White House to improvise explanations and implementation plans.
“Trump is increasingly flying solo,” report the Associated Press’ Catherine Lucey and Jonathan Lemire. “Trump has told confidants recently that he wants to be less reliant on his staff, believing they often give bad advice, and that he plans to follow his own instincts, which he credits with his stunning election.”
Trump has always had faith in his instincts. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things,” he said on the campaign trail. "I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right,“ he told Time Magazine last year.
But instincts aren’t facts, logic, or analysis. And it’s one thing for a business tycoon or even a presidential candidate to rely on instincts, quite another for the leader of the free world to rely solely on his gut.
Worse yet, the new Trump believes no one can lay a glove on him. He’s survived this far into his presidency despite lapses that would have done in most other presidents.
So what if he paid off a porn star to keep quiet about their affair? So what if he’s raking in money off his presidency? So what if there’s no evidence for his claims that three to five million fraudulent votes were cast for Hillary Clinton, or that Obama wiretapped him? There are no consequences.
The new Trump doesn’t worry that his approval ratings continue to be in the cellar. By his measure, he’s come out on top: His cable-TV ratings are huge. Fox News loves him. He dominates every news cycle. The pre-selected crowds at his rallies roar their approval.
He’s become the Mad King who says or does anything his gut tells him to, while everyone around him genuflects.
How will this end?
One outcome is Trump becomes irrelevant to the practical business of governing America. He gets all the attention he craves while decision makers in Washington and around the world mainly roll their eyes and ignore him.
There’s some evidence this is already happening. The Republican tax bill bore almost no resemblance to anything Trump had pushed for. Trump’s big infrastructure plan was dead on arrival in Congress. His surprise spending deal with “Chuck and Nancy” went nowhere. His momentary embrace of gun control measures in the wake of a Florida school shooting quickly evaporated.
Meanwhile, world leaders are now taking Trump’s braggadocio and ignorance for granted, acting as if America has no president.
But another possible outcome could be far worse.
Trump could become so enraged at anyone who seriously takes him on that he lashes out, with terrible consequences.
Furious that special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his investigation, an unbridled Trump could fire him – precipitating a constitutional crisis and in effect a civil war between Trump supporters and the rest of America.
Feeling insulted and defied by Kim, an unconstrained Trump could order an attack on North Korea – precipitating a nuclear war.
The mind boggles. Who knows what a mad king will do when no adults remain to supervise him?
The late mythologist, Joseph Campbell, advised humanity to create a new myth, one that we could share, that included science and a broader perspective of our universe. Just recently I saw a reference to a conversation by a group of progressive thinkers, suggesting the answer to our problems would be a new story about humanity, its source and our universe., one that everyone would share.
As Campbell also noted, there are many battles being fought in the name of the old story. Religions refuse to evolve. It is not acknowledged that humans wrote those stories to begin with and they were of a different time and a different people. They are out of date and do not hold up in the face of scientific discoveries. But that doesn’t mean they had no value. They have helped people in many ways. But in today's world we need a more inclusive perception and one in concert with science.
New Thought spirituality was once named “Religious Science” for a very good reason. It was, and is, a way of seeing this universe and everything in it, as the ever-revealed potential of pure Intelligence and absolute Love, quivering with energy in the Quantum Field. It is a way of living that helps humans reduce anxiety and turn it into cheerful expectancy. It promotes unity and equality. It includes the wisdom of the ages, modernized and defined in terms of what we now know about Mind and its place in the manifestation process. New Thought is the New Story. It can be found at Centers for Spiritual Living around the globe. Find one near you at www.csl.org
Stay tuned in,
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Should College Kids 18 and Older Be Allowed to Carry a Gun to Class?
by John Lawrence, March 19, 2018
The legal age to purchase and operate a gun is 18. So college kids have the right to open carry, concealed carry or whatever. So they all could be carrying while attending college classes. This would take all the responsibility off the professor who supposedly also is carrying a gun in case any nut opens fire in the class room. Trump's and the NRA's proposal is not enough to deter a gunman. Just having the teacher armed is not enough. The students themselves should also be armed. Setting the legal age to purchase and open carry a gun at 18 deprives 17 year olds of their American Constitutional rights.
According to the Second Amendment, there shouldn't be any age requirements for carrying and owning a gun. The Second Amendment doesn't just limit owning a gun to 18 year olds and above. Therefore, high school kids should have the right to carry a gun to class so they can protect themselves in case of another school shooting. When a bad guy with a gun starts shooting up the place , it is not enough just for the teacher to be armed. The kids need to be armed as well.
Let's be clear. Kids' lives are in danger because a bad guy with a gun entered the school and started shooting up the place. Kids were helpless and defenseless. They've been deprived of their rights as American citizens because they don't have the ability to defend themselves. So a case should be brought before the Supreme Court to guarantee kids the right to open carry guns in school. That way a school shooter doesn't have a chance. He'll be taken out so quickly it'll make his head spin.
Or we could do as more civilized countries do, and regulate guns and have a Constitution that doesn't give anyone a right to own a gun. Either no one should have a right to own a gun or everyone should have that right.
It’s the biggest Trump con since he told Americans the tax cut would help them more than the rich. He’s calling for a $1.5 trillion boost in infrastructure spending—but he’s proposing just $200 billion in federal funding.
So where does the rest come from? Tax hikes on the middle-class and poor, and from private investors.
1. State and local governments, already starved for cash, would have to raise taxes.
2. Private investors, for their part, won’t pitch in unless they’re guaranteed a good return on their investment, most likely in the form of tolls and other user fees. Or worse, governments might be forced to transfer ownership of roads and bridges to private corporations.
So the public will end up paying twice: in higher taxes and higher tolls, and won’t even get what’s needed.
3. Projects that will be most attractive to big investors are where tolls and fees will bring in the biggest bucks: Brand new highways and bridges rather than the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes, and water treatment facilities most in need of repair.
4. Trump’s infrastructure plan only worsens the racial justice divide in America, by leaving disadvantaged communities behind while giving massive profits to the rich and corporations through new tolls and fees.
5. It’s a double con because now that Trump and the Republicans have enacted a huge tax cut for corporations and the rich, there’s no money left for infrastructure. The White House says the $200 billion of federal spending will be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, but doesn’t explain how or where. Given what we know of Trump’s and the GOP’s priorities, that means taking money from programs that protect vulnerable Americans, not from the billions in wasted on military spending.
A real infrastructure program—as opposed to Trump’s fake program—would focus on repairing existing infrastructure, doing so based on need rather than financial returns, prioritizing public transportation over private, and clean water and renewable energy over projects that generate more pollution.
And it would be paid for by closing tax loopholes used by big corporations and the rich, not by imposing higher taxes, Trump tolls and user fees on the rest of us.
To really make America great again we need more and better infrastructure that’s for the public—not for big developers and investors.
We often think there is something missing; either in ourselves, the world or the future. It is a perception that can cause stress and depression if we think there is no way to fill the void. The truth is, there is nothing missing, but what we seek needs to be revealed. It is in suspended animation in the realm of potential. We begin to see it as we allow ourselves to participate in it on a more active level. Rather than imagining it to be so, we take it as our personal project to make it so.
What seems to be missing will be one of these qualities of Being: love, peace, joy, supply, creativity, vitality, intelligence. We do know what each of these means and what it feels like to be involved with any one of them. They are the building blocks of Life. If we feel left out of the experience of one or more, we need to look within ourselves to see if we have been withholding the reality of them. We can always upgrade our use of these basic states of being.
It is important that we keep this local in the beginning. If we start trying to figure out how our personal perception is going to help the world change, we will feel defeated. Just keep spreading the Good you thought was missing. In this way you are making a huge contribution to the betterment of humanity. Like seeds carried by the wind, our activated ideas connect with those of like-minds. They form a matrix, a new meme. Just do your part and life will reveal what has been here all along.
Stay tuned in,
San Diego Mulls Providing Storage Lockers for Homeless
by John Lawrence, March 17, 2018
San Diego has slowly and begrudgingly started to provide facilities for the homeless. It started with the rest room facilities and washing stations that were put up as a result of a Hepatitius A crisis. It made sense to provide minimal facilities such as are provided at any outdoor event in San Diego. Prior to that people were urinating and defecating on the street because they had nowhere else to go. Then amid much resistance they finally got the idea of providing storage facilities for the meager belongings of homeless people so they would not have to push them around in shopping carts.
Theft of homeless peoples' belongings is a big threat when you're living on the street. And it makes it difficult to use public institutions, the library or go for a job interview if you show up with a shopping cart full of your possessions. The City routinely scooped up peoples' possessions and put them in garbage trucks. In one case they scooped up a tent and placed it in a garbage truck with a man inside. Getting people and their belongings off the street is one of the concomitant results of providing storage lockers. The grocery stores and super markets are also thankful not to have their shopping carts stolen.
The San Diego Union reported:
Laura Davis woke up on a sidewalk in downtown San Diego on Monday morning, pulled back the blanket she used as a makeshift tent and looked to her side.
The two bags that held the bulk of her possessions were missing.
“I woke up, and they were gone,” she said.
The apparent theft was frustrating, a setback — and not uncommon for homeless people on the street. Davis said a friend of hers recently lost her children’s birth certificates and other important documents to thieves in the night.
“You need storage facilities so people can get out of being homeless,” she said. “It almost feels like society wants to keep people homeless.”
Help may be coming within a few months. Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced in his State of the City address last week that the city plans to open a second storage facility for homeless people this spring, an addition that would more than double what is available now.
Details were sparse in the speech, but Faulconer spokesman Greg Block said Friday that the new facility will be in a 25,000-square-foot, two-story building at 20th and Commercial streets with space for 700 to 1,000 storage bins.
The second floor will have public restrooms, and the facility will be run by the San Diego Housing Commission, which will hire an operator to manage it, Block said.
Besides helping keep sidewalks clear and protecting property from being stolen, the new facility will allow homeless people like Davis to look for work and go to other appointments.
But as always, when the City tries to do the right thing, indignant citizens are fighting back. Sherman Heights residents don't want a storage facility for the homeless at 20th and Commercial streets. They don't care if the City puts it somewhere else, mind you, just not right in their back yard. The city, however, is promising to be a good neighbor, stressing the site will have security 24/7. There will be no loitering, drugs or alcohol allowed, and they will have regular waste pick-ups within a block radius.
So can't we all get along? Let the homeless have a modicum of respectability? The situation as it exists right now is much worse in terms of the visibility of the homeless on the streets than it would be if they were allowed to store their belongings and have bathroom privileges. And the City would not have to remove 30,000 pounds of garbage every week.
All one can say with 100 percent certainty is that America should be ashamed for not paying more attention to the loss of such a beautiful life.
It was a moment of sheer terror that surely none of the hundreds of kids flooding the corridors for the end of the school day will ever forget. One moment, 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington — already accepted to college for the fall, with dreams of becoming a nurse — was seen with another teen student, a wide receiver on the football team. Then came a loud pop as a bullet went right through Courtlin’s heart, ending her life way too short of adulthood.
“The last thing I told them was ‘I love you’ and have a blessed day at school,” Courtlin’s mom, Tynesha Tatum, who has another son and daughter in the same high school, told the Birmingham News. “That was at 7:45 a.m…At 3:45 p.m., I got a call that my baby got shot.”
On Wednesday, Courtlin’s schoolmates — her murder still ringing in their ears — are planning to walk out of school and protest the lack of safety for teenagers trying to grow up in the most gun-crazed nation on the planet. If you follow the news, it’s almost certain that you’ve already heard about the National School Walkout Day, which has become — rightfully so — a huge story from coast to coast. But it’s almost a lock that you haven’t heard at all about the loss of Courtlin Arrington.
As Dr. Ernest Holmes taught; since the error is in mind, we give the mind a treatment of spiritual truth. That is the first thing we do. What follows will be individualized as the perfect result. And so I declare:
Behind the world of doing, there is the realm of Being. It is a quantum field, quivering with possibility. The perfect pattern for all life is alive in that field and is our individual and collective potential. Nothing diminishes it; there is no conflict within it. It is the Power that makes all things new as it responds to our interaction with it.
Today is not a time, but an opportunity for us to bring forth an expanded use of our own natural potential. We affirm “I am brand new right now. I begin from the highest awareness of my unwavering Source. There is nothing it cannot do through me. I am available and awakened to a greater level of living than ever before. In this moment I am grateful for everything that has ever been my experience. I know it has been nothing but my own perception of my potential that acted as cause.“
There is now an immediate release of any and all past beliefs that limited my life in any way. I am over it! I am through to the other side of it. I am as wholly perfect as was intended by the Source. I live in a world of peace and plenty for all. It is a world transformed by the renewing of our shared mind. I do my part right here, right now. I keep my mind updated and constantly alert to the beautiful possibilities for humanity.
I affirm “ I am delighted by everything I see.”
And so it is.
Give the Kids What They Want: Gun Control
by John Lawrence, March 15, 2018
They don't want no stinkin' second amendment. They want safety and security in their schools. The only kids that want guns today are the nuts. Most kids growing up in the suburbs don't grow up in a gun culture. Neither they nor their parents are out there shooting deer or pheasants. They don't go to Africa on safari and shoot big game. They're just not interested. But they are interested in being in a safe and secure environment especially in school, a place they come to learn. For most they don't have a choice. The law requires them to be in school. They can't opt out of what has become a dangerous environment.
Yesterday thousands of kids walked out of their classrooms to protest gun violence. The NY Times reported:
On Wednesday, driven by the conviction that they should never have to run from guns again, they walked.
So did their peers. In New York City, in Chicago, in Atlanta and Santa Monica; at Columbine High School and in Newtown, Conn.; and in many more cities and towns, students left school by the hundreds and the thousands at 10 a.m., sometimes in defiance of school authorities, who seemed divided and even flummoxed about how to handle their emptying classrooms.
The first major coordinated action of the student-led movement for gun control marshaled the same elements that had defined it ever since the Parkland shooting: eloquent young voices, equipped with symbolism and social media savvy, riding a resolve as yet untouched by cynicism.
“We have grown up watching more tragedies occur and continuously asking: Why?” said Kaylee Tyner, a 16-year-old junior at Columbine High School outside Denver, where 13 people were killed in 1999, inaugurating, in the public consciousness, the era of school shootings. “Why does this keep happening?”
It keeps happening because the gun manufacturers and dealers want their profits, and they don't care who has to pay for them. They have plausible deniability. They take no responsibility for the crap they create and sell. The NRA takes no responsibility. Their response is that we should all live in an armed camp so that way we can shoot the gunman first before he shoots us. Kids today don't want to live that way. I hope this movement gets rid of guns and weapons of relatively minor destruction. We have that to live with as well as the weapons of mass destruction. The small destructive weapons are killing more these day than the other kind.
There are dozens of squawking geese on the lake where I am this morning. They sound like a bunch of dogs yapping or if I want to imagine it another way, they are barking seals. I used to live near a river where the geese would congregate every Spring, coming home from the South. I was just far enough away that I heard them as people at a cocktail party, celebrating something.
Things are often not what they seem to be. The imagination is amazingly adept at turning perception into reality. We hear a sound in the night; our heart beats faster, we think it is a burglar; we look around for something to protect ourselves; maybe we hide under the covers. On closer inspection we find a family of raccoons on the porch scraping around, looking for food. We laugh at our previous fears, wondering why we jumped to conclusions.
I wish humans would do that with religion; look closer at their assumptions and question their perception. Do I really believe in actual places called heaven and hell? Is there a Being who looks like a man somewhere up there in the sky deciding who does what? Does the universe run on crime and punishment or is it more of a constant creating intelligence? Is Love something more than personal emotion? Is there a power for Good in this universe? Have I noticed a feeling of response to me from an invisible power? Is it even possible that my life is pre-destined? Or do I have everything to say about how it unfolds from here? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that science would eventually discover how it all works? Why would I fear that? Spiritually mature people are not afraid to ask the big questions.
Stay tuned in,
Kids Should Demand Gun Control Inside and Outside US
by John Lawrence
Gun manufacturers and weapons manufacturers have made the world an armed camp. They're in it for the money. The US is tearing its own society apart with its foolish adherence to the Second Amendment and making that the excuse for ever more guns. Weapons manufacturers are exporting to Saudi Arabia and others which make the tragedy in Yemen possible. This foolishness puts no premium on peace and security either within or without the country. It puts a premium on GDP which has become more and more dependent on selling guns and weapons.
As is usual, the casualties for the most part are not the military or the police themselves, but innocent bystanders and civilians. Civilians make up most of the casualties of war plus their homes and businesses. Very little attempt is made to resolve matters peacefully. That would be resolving them on the cheap, and, therefore, profits would diminish.
According the the NY Times:
Manufacturing has always relied on public funding in one form or another, and in particular on outlays for weaponry, even nearly three decades after the end of the Cold War. Roughly 10 percent of the $2.2 trillion in factory output in the United States goes into the production of weapons sold mainly to the Defense Department for use by the armed forces.
In this dystopian world, taxpayers and civilians pay for the military and weaponized gun manufacturers who then provide the means for civilians and taxpayers to be killed both here and abroad.
You know we're in a national security state when cutting weapons production would devastate the economy. Better not to devastate the economy, the thinking goes, and continue the killing.
Defense giant Lockheed Martin had a totally sweet quarter, raking in $700 million and looking forward to the same this time next year. So it raises eyebrows when Lockheed's anointed mouthpieces predict mass economic disaster if Congress touches the defense budget.
On Tuesday, the aerospace industry put out a report saying that chopping the defense budget would put over a million Americans out of work. Cuts that could total up to a trillion dollars over 10 years would "devastate the economy and the defense industrial base and undermine the national security of our country," said Marion Blakeley, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, which sponsored the report.
The economy and peoples' paychecks are totally dependent on militarism and an economy captured by the military . There is no other possibility for poor high school graduates except to join the military or take on massive student loan debt. Too bad students are not encouraged to pursue more peaceful pursuits. Maybe today's kids will carry forward their anti-gun activism, some day to include anti-guns abroad as well.
From the Guardian:
by Lois Beckett in Washington
red Guttenberg was at the midpoint of a 15-hour day of advocacy in Washington, and he was refusing to sit down. “No one should feel comfortable talking about the death of my kid,” he told a long line of Senate Democrats.
He was standing behind the chair that had been provided for him.
Three weeks before, his daughter Jaime had been shot to death in her high school hallway. The 14-year-old had been running away from the shooter, her father said, when a bullet severed her spinal cord.
Afterwards, Guttenberg had looked his Republican senator in the eye and told him that his response to the Parkland shooting, and the response of the president of the United States, had been “pathetically weak”. His daughter and her classmates had been hunted in their own school, and politicians needed to admit that guns were the problem and ban military-style assault weapons.
Now, the 52-year-old father was standing in a basement room in the Capitol, where Democrats were hosting an informal hearing for survivors of gun violence. Congressional Republicans had refused to hold a formal hearing.
To Guttenberg’s left were a mother whose daughter had been shot and survived the Virginia Tech massacre more than a decade before, and a mother whose six-year-old son was murdered at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012. At the time, Barack Obama had embraced Francine Wheeler, promising that this time, after the deaths of 20 small children, the reaction would be different. “It wasn’t different,” Wheeler said.
Florida senator Bill Nelson spoke into his microphone to introduce Fred Guttenberg. “Fred is standing,” he said, “because Fred cannot talk about this sitting down.”
Trump's Meeting With Kim Jong Un
by John Lawrence
Trump is unorthodox. Other Presidents would have not immediately accepted a meeting with the North Korean dictator. The conventional wisdom is that this would be elevating Kim Jong Un's status on the world stage. So what? The issue isn't about Un's status . The issue is about peace on the Korean peninsula.
Trump is unconventional. This lets him just do the right thing sometimes without a lot of lawyerly ifs, ases and wherefores preliminarily. If Trump can strike a deal for peace, let his advisors fret and fume. They want the status quo and the status quo is war. Unfortunately for them, Trump as President has a lot of power. They can't rein him in if he doesn't want to be reined in. Just maybe he will actually meet with Un and just maybe they will work out a peace deal. Just maybe Trump will do the right thing.
Just think. Dennis Rodman could be appointed ambassador to North Korea. He seems to be the only American that gets along with Un. Trump is right. The conventional approach has not worked for over half a century. If Trump wants to make peace, let him do it. Whether or not Un's status is elevated is irrelevant. The lawyerly approach is irrelevant.
It's unconscionable that North and South Korea sit there in a state of war because the US invaded. And to what end? What did the US accomplish there? It prevented Chinese communism from taking over the peninsula? You think? We invaded Vietnam for the same reason. That was a debacle. China is now our biggest trading partner. China's influence in the world is on the rise with its Belt and Road initiative. Now we are trading partners with them, by the way, a communist country. The US has fucked up so many times it's unbelievable. I won't even mention the invasion of Iraq. Yes, let's get more women in there as Congress persons. Maybe they will have an unconventional approach as well.
As a final note, the kids are telling the NRA to go fuck themselves. Good for them. We don't have to stand for a country where Wayne LaPierre is the dictator. Let's go the unconventional route for once and create a sane society.
'The best way to show support for veterans is to stop war.'
A mere drop in the bucket in terms of wasteful spending by the U.S. military—which since 2001 includes an estimated $5.6 trillion spent on what the world has come to know as America's "Global War on Terror"—the Pentagon on Friday released details of the military parade ordered by President Trump that will take place on November 11, Veterans Day, later this year—a spectacle described by anti-war critics as "a gross example of [the president's] narcissism" and estimated to cost somewhere in the range of $30 million.
The Pentagon says there will be no tanks involved—"consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure"—but the parade, which will go from the White House to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., will include large "wheeled vehicles," a "heavy air component," and the president himself (who infamously received multiple deferments, including one for bone spurs, to avoid serving in the Vietnam War) "surrounded" by decorated veterans in the reviewing area:
When the idea of the parade was first floated last year, peace advocates denounced it as "totally disgusting" and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CodePink, said all efforts should be made "to stop this colossal waste of money and display of authoritarianism."
While pro-war hawks and pundits at FOX News and elsewhere are downright giddy over the idea, veterans groups have actually been some of the loudest opponents of the parade:
Just so Generalissimo Bonespurs can have his ego stroked, he's making USNORTHCOM build a parade for him, and forcing troops to spend their time preparing for it.— VoteVets (@votevets) March 10, 2018
Save the millions of $ and let Trump go to any of the 1000s of Veterans Day parades instead.https://t.co/MKmqbqK7Jm
But while many have argued such a parade is simply a waste of money, the reality is that the cost—estimated at $10 million on the low end and $50 million at the upper end—is infinitesimal compared to the financial outlays made by the Pentagon since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the illegal war and occupation of Iraq that began in 2003, and the drone wars and smaller conflicts in dozens of countries now that the U.S. considers nearly the entire planet a battlefield in its 'global war on terror' (GWOT).
According to Benjamin, "the $30 million estimated price tag of Trump's vanity military parade is minor when compared to the $700 billion annual military budget or the trillions the US has spent on war since 9/11."
In an email to Common Dreams on Saturday, she argued the "real cost" of Trump's parade is how it "ramps up the glorification of militarism, priming the US public for continuing the endless wars we are already in as well as potential new wars. Perhaps Iran? Progressives must oppose the parade, wrapped up as a tribute to veterans, since we know that the best way to show support for veterans is to stop war. And we have to counter it with a massive peace parade."
Detailed in the latest comprehensive estimate put out by 'Costs of War'—a project of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University—the U.S. (from 2001 through 2018) has spent a total of $5.6 trillion on these various overseas misadventures.
And while these totals speak nothing about the human costs of war—both to the civilian victims of U.S. armed forces around the globe and the lives of U.S. soldiers lost or shattered by 17 years of conflict—they certainly make most uproar over the cost of Trump's parade appear misplaced.
Notably, in addition to the $5.6 trillion, the analysis estimates that because large portions of the GWOT budget were paid for with borrowed funds, those wanting a more complete picture of the total costs of the wars—including payment for veterans' medical and disability needs which will stretch out to the year 2056—should add another $7.9 trillion on top.
Just think of the parade a country could throw with that. Sadly, like the war-making it is meant to celebrate, it could be one that never ends.
From the Guardian:
Action on homelessness is taking place outside Washington, as New York guarantees legal counsel to evicted tenants
Since taking over as housing secretary, the former neurosurgeon Ben Carson has defended drastic cuts to the budget of his own department and proclaimed to the New York Times that public housing shouldn’t be too comfortable lest its inhabitants get used to government largesse.
Yet as the Guardian revealed last week, a senior department official alleged that she was demoted after balking at an expensive redecoration of Carson’s office, including $165,000 for “lounge furniture” at the agency HQ.
To see action on homelessness, you have to look outside Washington. In New York, for instance, it used to be the case that 99% of defendants in housing court did not have a lawyer, compared with 5% of landlords. We wrote about a new plan under which people are guaranteed legal counsel. A study of this kind of initiative in Massachusetts found that two-thirds of defendants were able to stay in their homes, compared with one-third of those lacking lawyers. The difference, one New York attorney told us, was “night and day”.
US Complicit in Saudi Slaughter of Yemeni Children
by John Lawrence, March 11, 2018
The Saudis are ruthlessly and relentlessly slaughtering the Yemeni people, and they're doing it with American weapons. As if the US hasn't done enough damage in the Middle East, it continues its perfidious behavior by selling weapons to its ally, Saudi Arabia. The export of American weapons fuels the fighting and the tragedy in the world. Is the US directly responsible for what's going on in Yemen? No. Is it indirectly responsible? Yes.
This is from the Washington Post:
The Nov. 9 editorial “The crisis in Yemen” called attention to the effect of Saudi Arabia’s blockade on famine in Yemen. It mentioned the lack of media attention to the Yemeni tragedy, which includes “the fastest-growing cholera epidemic ever recorded” and “the world’s biggest food emergency.” It said that Saudi Arabia bears heavy responsibility for the crisis for its “ruthless but unwinnable war.” But it did not mention direct U.S. military complicity in this long and pointless campaign.
In addition to selling a vast arsenal of weapons to Saudi Arabia, our government’s military gave logistical guidance in the Saudi military headquarters in Riyadh and continues to provide intelligence to Saudi defense officials and aerial refueling during bombing runs. The Saudi-led coalition could not have conducted the two and a half years of bombing without the support of our military. In recent years, our military has carried out innumerable raids on the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Yemen, but al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have taken advantage of the Saudi-led campaign to seize territory and expand their activities in the Arabian Peninsula. There is a move afoot in the House and the Senate to end U.S. involvement in this tragic war. It is time to pass legislation to end it.
The US has been the world's biggest war monger in the Middle East ever since George W Bush's invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It has not been a steady hand on the tiller stabilizing the world or creating peace in the world. Its war industry makes its blood money off of defense contracts and weapons sales. Internally it's a war of all against all as the NRA insists on arming everyone - even teachers, for God's sake. There is no attempt to put any money or energy into peacemaking activities either here or abroad.
In addition the US has allied itself with the devil in allying itself with the Saudis. The Saudis are the main sponsor of ISIS which is the terrorist group the US is trying to eliminate. Helping the Saudis only encourages ISIS. It's time to ditch the alliance with Saudi Arabia. We don't need their oil any more anyway. It's only killing the planet.
The end of yearning is being and doing. As Neville wrote; the dynamic prevails over the static, the active over the passive. If we long to quit a bad habit, we start doing the opposite. We begin to BE the person who does NOT engage in the old pattern. Something new has become active in us. Ironically, we need to cultivate stillness first. We need to gain some control over our mind before we try to make a major change. The only battle we have is the one with old concepts of who we are and what we desire. Change the desire, change the habit.
No one intends to do harm to themselves, but until we learn to outwit those negative patterns of self-rejection, we will enter into behaviors that prove us right about our worth. We unconsciously desire to be medicated or temporarily unavailable to some feelings we avoid. Things become ritualized, like smoking, and we are its willing servant. We think it makes us better or more creative or a rebel or ‘cool,’ something the mind makes up to justify the behavior.
There comes a day when we yearn to be free of the habit. We long to be more in charge of ourselves. We desire a healthier life. And so, the intense desire starts a new chain of activity. We take the necessary steps to become who we long to be; then we do what that self would do. We have left passivity and entered the dynamism of self-mastery. It reminds me of the advice given to young people who want to become writers. “Write!” Take the longing and turn it in to being and doing. You are then a writer, writing, and the activity will draw to you everything you need to learn the craft and raise your level of expression.
It’s the old “Be, Do, and Have model, isn’t it?
Stay tuned in,
Trump is So Unorthodox, He Just Might Pull It Off
by John Lawrence
Trump agreed to sit down with Kim Jong Un much to the dismay and chagrin of his advisors who say you just can't do that without a lot of preliminary fol de rol. Well, Trump isn't one to do things the conventional way or to go the conventional route. Of course he can always change his mind, but there is a chance that the meeting could go something like this.
Kim Jong Un: You know we never had a peace treaty from the Korean War. Technically, we're still at war. President Moon of South Korea wants to make peace with us
Trump: You know, it's ridiculous that the US has never allowed South Korea to make peace with you. Blame that on all my Democrat predecessors. Obama, Clinton, the whole lot of them. Also the military-industrial complex and the Generals, they never want to make peace. They're in the business of war. Their paycheck is conditional on war. When peace breaks out, they don't get paid.
Kim John Un: Then we're on the same page. We make peace with you. We make peace with President Moon, and finally the Korean War is over and we can get on with our business. We even build Trump hotel in North Korea.
Trump: Yeah, that would be a great first step to cement our friendship. By the way, could you loan my son-in-law, Jared Kushner a few million. He would like to build a few apartments in Korea as well.
KimJong Un: We could work that out. Yea! No more North Korea and South Korea. We are just one united Korea. Just like you. No red states and blue states. Just one United States.
Of course, Trump is unorthodox, but he always defers to those wiser and cooler heads around him that counsel him that you just can't do that. You just can't go and make peace with Kim Jong Un. He's our deadly enemy. You must make him unilaterally disarm first. He must give up his nuclear program. Making peace is not all that simple. There are a lot of whatifs, whereases and non sequiturs involved.
Trump, the deal maker, could pull off one of the biggest deals in history. It could happen, but I'm not holding my breath.
The 'War on Terror' as the launching of an 'American Crusade'
America may be sinking ever deeper into the moral morass of the Trump era, but if you think the malevolence of this period began with him, think again. The moment I still dwell on, the moment I believe ignited the vast public disorder that is now our all-American world, has been almost completely forgotten here. And little wonder. It was no more than a casually tossed-off cliché, a passing historical reference whose implications and consequences meant nothing to the speaker. “This crusade,” said President George W. Bush just days after the 9/11 attacks, “this war on terrorism…”
That, however, proved to be an invocation from hell, one that set the stage for so much of the horror to follow. The Crusades were, of course, a centuries-long medieval catastrophe. Bush’s Global War on Terror, in contrast, has already wreaked comparable havoc in a paltry 17 years, leading to almost unimaginable mayhem abroad and a moral collapse at home personified by President Donald J. Trump.
Despite the threads of causality woven together as if on some malignant loom that brought about his election -- the cult of reality-show celebrity, the FBI director's last-minute campaign intervention, Russian mischief, Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability to self-defeat and misogyny, electoral college anomalies, Republican party nihilism, and a wickedly disenchanted public -- the ease with which such a figure took control of the levers of power in this country should still stun us. Some deep sickness of the soul had already played havoc with our democracy’s immune system or he wouldn’t have been imaginable. Think of him as a symptom, not the disease. After Trump finally leaves the Oval Office, we’ll still be a stricken people and the world will still be groaning under the weight of the wreckage this country has brought about. How, then, did we actually get here? It might be worth a momentary glance back.
A Fever Dream of a War
“This is a new kind of evil.” So said the president that September 16th, standing on the South Lawn of the White House. “And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.” In that way, only five days after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush elevated a band of petty nihilists to the status of world-historic warriors. “And the American people must be patient,” he continued. “I’m going to be patient.”
He, of course, is long gone, but what he initiated that day is still unspooling. It could have been so different. September 11th was a tragic moment, but the initial reactions of most Americans to those collapsed towers and a damaged Pentagon were ones of empathy and patriotism. The selflessness of first responders that day had its echo in a broad and surprising manifestation of national altruism. The usual left-right divides of politics disappeared and the flag, for once, became a true symbol of national unity. The global reaction was similar. From across the world, including from erstwhile adversaries like Russia and China, came authentic expressions of support and sympathy, of grief-struck affection.
Two days before invoking the Crusades, for instance, he presided over a religious service, which, though officially defined as “ecumenical,” took place in the neo-Gothic National Cathedral. “Just three days removed from these events,” he said from that church’s pulpit, “Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil… This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.”
In a specifically Christian setting, that is, George W. Bush answered the criminal attacks of 9/11 not by calling on international law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to justice, but by a declaration of cosmic war aimed at nothing less than the elimination of Islamist evil. Labeling it a “crusade” only underscored the subliminal but potent message conveyed by television cameras that lingered on the cathedral’s multiple crucifixes and the bloodied figure of Jesus Christ. Held up for all to see, that sacred icon sent a signal that could not be missed. A self-avowed secular nation was now to be a crusader, ready to display the profoundly Christian character of a culture erected on triumphalist pieties from its Pilgrim roots to the nuclear apocalypticism of the Cold War.
Bush’s message was received in the Arab world just as you might expect. There, his reference to “this crusade” was rendered as “this War of the Cross.” Even then, many Muslims knew better than to regard the president’s characterization of the conflict to come as purely accidental and of no import, just as they would later disregard the insistence of America’s leaders that their country’s violent intrusions across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa were not “religiously” inspired in any way. Today, of course, Donald Trump’s brazen denigrations of Muslims have made clear just how on target observers in the Islamic world were about what lay behind Washington’s new “global war.”
At the time of Bush’s cavalier use of crusade, I was one of the few here to take offense and say so. I feared even then that stumbling into sectarian strife, into -- in the argot of the day -- a “clash of civilizations,” could set in motion, as the original Crusades had, a dynamic that would far outrun anyone’s intentions, loosing forces that could destroy the very principles in whose name that “war of choice” was declared. Little did I know how far short of an accurate damage assessment my thoughts would fall.
In fact, Bush’s use of that term wasn’t a stumble, however inadvertent, but a crystal-clear declaration of purpose that would soon be aided and abetted by a fervent evangelical cohort within the U.S. military, already primed for holy war. With what Bush himself called “the distance of history,” it’s now possible to see the havoc his “crusade” is still wreaking across much of the globe: Iraq and Afghanistan are in ruins; Syria destroyed (with Russian, American, Israeli, Turkish, and Iranian warplanes testing one another in its airspace); Yemen gripped by a war-induced famine; the Turks at the throat of the Kurds; the Israeli-Palestinian peace process dead; Libya a failed state; U.S. Special Ops garrisons in Somalia, Niger, and across Africa; and Europe increasingly politically destabilized by refugee flows from these conflicts. Meanwhile, Bush’s crusade became the American disease now peaking in the fever dream of President Donald Trump.
Whenever I see one of those “in memoriam” tributes to celebrities who have passed on, I have the same experience. I think two things; “everybody dies” and “where are they?” It is likely because they were so huge in our world, so well known, and had such an influence on our culture that I am so affected. I can remember when I was 7 or 8 years old, I could not imagine that Bing Crosby would ever die. That was because Bing Crosby was the most famous person in my world at that time. I could not see a life that did not include him. A child’s thought, because of course, life went on and a new person became such a big presence, and then another and another.
Naturally, we deeply feel the reality of death when it is someone we are close to, someone we love. We like to think they live on in another dimension, and maybe they do, but for us here they can only live in our mind and heart. We remember times together and hear them laugh or speak to us. It is all imagination but that is one of the great characteristics of mind; it is a time traveler. It can venture out into the future or wander in the past. It is also capable of the exquisite experience of being fully aware in this moment. Oddly, that is the hardest one to do and entire spiritual traditions have been built to teach us how.
If we are thinking of the past or the future, that is an experience we are having now, but it is not an experience OF NOW. Does that make sense? And so the wise ones have offered the answer; slow the thoughts, stop the clock, train the mind to relax, slip into the gap between ideas, be still. Then when we go out into the world of time and space, life and death, form and experience, we can be truly present and involved with this immediate opportunity: to be fully alive.
Stay tuned in,