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The Importance of Labor and Labor Day

Excellent commentary and history of labor in the United States. Labor Day has had its ups and downs in this country, as have labor laws and the rights of workers. Our current Administration gives lip service to valuing workers, while eroding labor rights at seemingly every turn. We need to strengthen labor protections both in this country and worldwide to lessen the ability of the oligarchs to exploit the workers who produce the goods and services that make so few of them even more enormously wealthy while pitting us against each other to work harder while lowering our standard of living slowly but surely.

The path that Trump and the GOP are taking us down will only succeed in making most of us poorer in the long run and distract our attention from their exploitation of our labor to augment their bank accounts through use of their undeserved privilege, which they see as either their birthright or the fruits of their superior merit as human beings or some combination thereof. Immigrants and people of different religions, races, ethnicity or sexual or gender preference are not the enemy. The hunger for power over others and greed for material possessions in excess of real need for them cause the problems that then become scapegoated into irrelevant differences  used as excuses for much of the warfare and social turmoil that result in the situation like that we face now.

Hopefully, we will someday see a society where all work to improve the welfare of all in a more cooperative endeavor, so that all will have enough to not only survive, but to thrive, unhindered by greed-driven wars and grand theft. The way to achieve this is to stop electing folks like our current President and his powerful enablers elsewhere in government and society at large and choose a path that progresses to more equality and peace rather than regression to times when life was even worse for most people than it is now. Turning the clock back on labor and worker rights, like dismantling the social safety nets that took so long to develop, as has been broadly supported by some very prominent leaders in this country and abroad recently, is something we must oppose with every fiber of our beings. – RJC

Padre Steve's World: Official Home of the Anti-Chaps

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today is Labor Day and sadly many people don’t really understand its significance. For decades organized labor has been demonized by the descendants of people who died to secure decent working conditions, wages, and benefits for regular hard working people. The attacks on labor and workers have become much more pronounced under the Trump Administration than any prior administration since that of Herbert Hoover.

But most of the people lucky enough not to have to work on Labor Day really don’t know why it it matters, and whips in spite of those who despise labor and care not a whit about working people, who simply to use business terminology are simply human capital or resources. I actually despise those terms because they dehumanize people by turning them into impersonal economic units of measure.

So today I am digging into the vault to explore why Labor…

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We Now Live Under The Rule Of A Rentier Capitalism by Paul Street

An excellent essay by Paul Street explaining many of the trends in advanced capitalist societies in the last several decades which have resulted in vastly increased economic inequality within them as compared to the early decades of the Post WWII era. Wealth, income and political influence have become increasingly concentrated in fewer hands, exacerbated by laws and policies which enable such trends. Intellectual property laws, tax laws favoring certain forms of income over others, and ownership of property (physical as well as intellectual) along with how the wealth becomes re-distributed over time, result in more really rich folks and many, many more living in poverty.

Some examples of how this works are easily gleaned when one examines our current health care system and the pharmaceutical industry serve to impoverish so many. Health insurance provided by employers or on an individual basis has gradually (Depending on how one one defines that term) become more costly for employees at the same time as their paychecks have failed to keep up with the cost of living in other areas of their lives. The increasing number of new jobs replacing old jobs but at lower pay and benefits hurts millions. Allowing pharmaceutical companies to prey on captive audiences of people requiring their products to become healthy or just to stay alive (through the use of patent and other laws that enable them to often make windfall profits on their products, regardless of the effect those prices have on those who pay them) ,eams that more people than ever before are just one hospital stay away from lifetime debt and/or bankruptcy.

To date, most countries have done a better job of alleviating the effects of these changes as regards health care than the US has, but the overall extremity of the problem hits other areas of our lives as well. Climate change becomes an even more urgent problem, especially when governments like our current one continue to urge increased consumption of the various energy and other industrial and agricultural methods that speed up the climate change to begin with. To put it simply, we allow a small number of oligarchs to profit tremendously at the expense of the vast mass of humanity with little or no regard for the future.

The solutions to these problems exist, though they have been and will continue to be fiercely opposed by most of the people who have gained control of most of the world’s wealth. The time to slow down, stop and begin to reverse this path of personal and societal destruction is long overdue. Our government and economic system need to become friendlier to us by becoming saner in the ways in which we are all treated by the system, and the ways in which we treat our planet. H/T to Dandelion Salad blog. – RJC

via We Now Live Under The Rule Of A Rentier Capitalism by Paul Street

Refugees- A Moral Obligation and a Call to Action

Another excellent missive from Envisioning the American Dream by Sally Edelstein concerning our responsibilities with regard to refugees and the utter hypocrisy of Donald Trump and key advisers (most notably Stephen Miller on this issue) in formulating a policy regarding how we as a nation treat people seeking refuge from a homeland which has torn their world asunder. Bereft of any humanitarian moral courage, the policy to this point has resulted in large scale separation of family members from each other with no thought of reuniting them, as well as denying valid applications for asylum and deportation back to their countries of origin despite the very real dangers posed to the lives of people thus turned away from our borders. The total lack of humanity and any semblance of compassion in dealing with this tragic situation illustrates how far from American values our government has come when led by a President and key adviser who have benefited mightily from more benevolent immigration policies from years gone by.

The USA has not always been charitable when dealing with those who seek to come live within our borders, but this current attitude of xenophobia, racism and fear mongering is neither warranted nor a valid reflection of how a majority of the American people would seek to treat people living in such dire straits. Not only does this policy need to be called out for the morally bankrupt fiasco it has turned into, but Congress needs to stop sitting on its collective hands and pass legislation spelling out a better way to deal with immigration which not only deals with enabling people being persecuted and mistreated in their homelands (for whatever illegitimate reasons) to escape the dire circumstances that drove them to seek asylum here, but also to be treated with the compassion and dignity that should be afforded all people as an integralpart of their basic rights as human beings. – RJC

 

Envisioning The American Dream

Vintage United Jewish Appeal Ad 1947 image of little girl “Stretch out your hand in brotherhood, open your heart in compassion.”

Just like my own Jewish family, White House senior advisor Steven Miller’s family was the beneficiary of immigration policies  that his own administration is working so hard to undo.

Trump may be unhinged but Steven Miller is clearly unmoored, especially when it comes to his own family roots.

Like many Jewish Americans, Steven Miller is from a family of immigrants and refugees who desperately came to this country escaping anti Jewish pograms.

But unlike most Jewish Americans who feel a deep sense of obligation to help the next generation of  refugees, Steven Miller is Trump’s architect of his draconian immigration  policy.

Miller is a disgrace to America and a disgrace to the Jews.

Even Miller’s uncle has recently written a scathing editorial eviscerating his black sheep nephew calling him a “immigration hypocrite.”

Jews and Jewish organizations have longed stepped…

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The case for obstruction

Excellent opus by Judd Legum for his newsletter Popular Information  outlining a possible future course for the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller involving President Trump, the 2016 campaign and actions taken subsequent to his inauguration. Time will tell how the situation is finally resolved, but recent activity by the President and his legal team indicate increased anxiety in anticipation of what comes next. – RJC

Welcome to Popular Information, a political newsletter for people who give a damn — written by me, Judd Legum. Send your feedback to judd@popular.info or tweet your thoughts using #popularinfo. Reminder: Popular Information is published Monday through Thursday. I’ll return to your inbox, bright and early, on Monday, August 6.

Source: The case for obstruction

SCOTUS vs. the American People

On February 13, 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, ending his nearly thirty year tenure on the nation’s highest court. At that time, the GOP leadership of the Senate (Republicans held a majority in that body for the first time under President Obama after the 2014 midterm elections) declared they would not act on any nomination to fill that seat until the new President was inaugurated in January of 2017. President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the slot became an exercise in futility as the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to hold hearings or vote on his nomination, nor did the entire Senate.

The story of Donald Trump’s ascension to the Presidency after his surprise victory in November 2016 has been told ad nauseum. He promptly nominated Neil Gorsuch, a much more Conservative jurist than Garland, to fill Scalia’s vacant seat. Hearings were held and Gorsuch was confirmed. The recently concluded SCOTUS term was concluded with his full participation – including several 5-4 decisions which most likely would have been decided differently had Garland been confirmed as would have been the traditional course of action under the circumstances.

Anthony Kennedy, himself confirmed to a seat on the Court in the waning days of the Reagan Administration (February of 1988), decided in late June of 2018 to retire early this month. Mitch McConnell and the GOP Senate leadership, unlike the case almost exactly two years earlier, announced their intention to hold hearings and vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee (Brett Kavanaugh) prior to this year’s midterm elections, which may or may not see a change in which party has a majority in the Senate.

Leaving aside for now the utter hypocrisy involved in setting aside a precedent McConnell had just established himself a year ago and agreeing to fill the seat immediately despite the coming election, rushing to replace Kennedy this quickly seems to many to be a ploy to further radicalize the Court begun by the installation of Gorsuch. Kennedy was no bleeding heart liberal, by any means, but he was often the swing vote in some extremely controversial and groundbreaking decisions rendered by the Court in recent sessions. Kavanaugh, judging by his writings and past court decisions, promises to be further to the right politically than his predecessor, which may serve to produce many decisions in future cases that may reverse decisions which have shaped legislation in recent years on such subjects as abortion, marriage equality, LGBT rights and others.

While further debate in the Courts is to be expected on controversial matters, wholesale reversal on such matters is likely to cause severe disruption on any number of fronts. Reversing Roe v. Wade would have life-altering implications in most, if not all, states, and definitely increased tensions between pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates. Other decisions may re-establish bans on marriage equality or the civil rights of LGBT individuals in many other areas of their lives. The list goes on and on, and many of these concerns will presumably be raised in the course of confirmation hearings, which is the purpose of those hearings.

What is not easy to ignore, however, is the potential of a conflict of interest arising as a result of one and possibly two SCOTUS members having to decide on issues affecting Donald J. Trump’s very Presidency. The strong possibility that the current investigations regarding the Trump campaign and the actions taken by the President and others associated with both his campaign and his Administration to this date could take a course which would lead to a Supreme Court decision which could make or break Donald Trump’s ability to retain his position.

The way in which President Trump went about deciding who he would nominate for such positions is fine. That individuals approved by the extreme right wing groups who provided him with the list from which he selected Gorsuch and Kavanaugh would face stiff opposition from Democrats and various other groups concerned over how future decisions that will drastically affect them is a foregone conclusion and part of the process. Donald Trump’s extreme demands for personal loyalty are not. It would not be unexpected for many people of both parties to expect a Supreme Court Justice to be capable of determining the appropriateness of their participating in a debate and vote on a case where even the hint of a potential conflict of interest may exist.

Donald Trump has amply demonstrated throughout the first year and a half of his Administration a decided inability to show such judgment himself. The circumstances of his firing of Jim Comey as FBI Director and his infuriated response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from matters concerning the Special Counsel’s investigation lead many of us to believe that he would also expect anyone he nominated to the Court to under absolutely no circumstances recuse themselves from a case directly dealing with his perceived powers as President of the United States of America. I think most Americans agree that the fact that SCOTUS is a coequal branch of government that he does not supervise and cannot legally fire as he can his cabinet members makes any difference whatsoever to Donald Trump.

On issues such as a sitting President being subject to criminal prosecution, subpoena under oath, or any number of other potential scenarios which may play out in the coming months, it seems on his record to date, Kavanaugh has a predisposition to tend towards the greatest possible leeway in the direction benefitting Trump. He and Gorsuch should both recuse themselves on matters dealing with these issues as they pertain to the President who appointed them.

I happen to disagree strongly with recent Court decisions which may decimate further organized labor in this country, as well as the travel ban that targets individuals from several predominantly Muslim countries. Gorsuch was on the wrong side of both, in my opinion. Kavanaugh did not participate in those decisions. Neither participated in the decisions like Citizens United and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act that many think threaten the future of democracy in this country, but I doubt Trump would’ve nominated them if they openly disputed those decisions. Like most Americans recently polled, I disagree that Roe V. Wade should be reversed. Men forcing medical decisions on women without regard for their input is unacceptable. Using the Court to allow authoritarian evangelical “Christian” morality into law while enforcing social, economic and political inequality, such as the above opinions have done, in my view, was not the intent written into the job description for SCOTUS or any other branch of of our government.

While I firmly believe the US Government and the American people would be far better served by not including Gorsuch and/or Kavanaugh on its Supreme Court, that’s not my call. Nor is it Donald Trump’s. But it certainly is against our interests for those two men to have any part in the proceedings of that body as they may pertain to the President who nominated them. This needs to be made abundantly clear to them, to President Trump and to all our elected Members of Congress. Let there be no doubt that we will not stand for Court appointments that end up saving the job of the corrupt politician who appointed them in the first place by allowing them to cover up their misdeeds.

Suggested Further Readings:

Supreme Court delivers blow to organized labor in fees dispute

Supreme Court upholds Trump travel ban

Justice Kennedy retiring; Trump gets 2nd Supreme Court pick

Kennedy’s retirement will have huge consequences for minorities and women

‘The McConnell rule’: Some Dems say the vote for Justice Kennedy’s replacement should be delayed

With Supreme Court’s Capitulation to Hate, Trump’s Stranglehold on Government Tightens

#MidtermsBeforeSCOTUS Takes Off as Democrats Told to ‘Stiffen Their Spines’ – https://goo.gl/d8RTaY

Siding With Billionaires Against Workers, Supreme Court’s Janus Ruling ‘An Assault on Labor Movement’

With Justice Kennedy Gone, Abortion and Gay Rights Are Next

A Second Trump Term Just Got Way More Likely

American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths

Food for thought from Lee Camp as published in truthdig. Now, as to how we fix this predicament – I really don’t think Donald Trump and Donald Trump alone can solve it. He seems preoccupied with making the status quo increasingly more unequal. – RJC

You cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation, but we choose to continue to live like this.

Source: American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths

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The Anti-War Speech That Jailed Eugene Debs For 10 Years + Transcript

The man ended up running for President from prison on the Socialist ticket and garnering significant support. Would that we had more like him today. Judging from this speech, he’d eat Trump for lunch (rhetorically speaking). – RJC

 

via The Anti-War Speech That Jailed Eugene Debs For 10 Years + Transcript

Allies, Trade and Military Activity: American Foreign Policy Under Donald Trump

The past several weeks have spotlighted President Trump’s forays into implementing his foreign policy vision. High-level meetings including long-term allies dealing with economics and trade, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program (including his meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim), the NATO military alliance and the Helsinki summit meeting between President Trump and Russian leader Putin all placed great emphasis on Trump’s decidedly unconventional means of communicating with friend and foe alike.

As far as dealings with our long-term economic, political and military allies are concerned, the G7 meeting in Canada was fairly universally seen as a failure when Trump chose to use the same personally insulting rhetorical methods that helped him ascend to the Presidency after the 2016 campaign on the leaders of the United States’ main economic and political allies since at least the Second World War. His instituting punitive tariffs against targeted industries in many countries to boost those industries in our country are deemed unfair at best in those countries and insulting in others. Putting in place tariffs while claiming to do so in the interests of national security when the target is Canada or the European Union stretches the imagination, to say the least.

When combined with the budding trade war that Trump has decided to wage against China, the trade war with our allies is seen by many economists to be risky. Raising taxes (which is in essence what the tariffs really are) makes many goods and services more expensive for consumers. Whether they will in fact accomplish the major economic gains they are intended to achieve – saving or increasing good paying jobs in key industries in this country while stemming the flow of such jobs to overseas factories, etc. – remains to be seen. Increasing the prices of goods at the level of consumers would tend to slow down the economy, even worldwide.

At this point, the trade war has not been in place long enough and is still in the process of potentially even expanding in the future – particularly with regard to China, to know what the long term consequences will be.. Agricultural products are also involved in this process, threatening the livelihoods of farmers as well as well as industrial manufacturers. Many of the economic sectors most directly seen as threatened by the imposition of these trade barriers involve people living and working in states that voted heavily for Trump in 2016. Whether impacts are felt in time to affect this year’s elections is uncertain, but the 2020 election cycle could most definitely be influenced.

As for the sojourn to Singapore and the ongoing soap opera that has become the Trump/Kim relationship, with the rocket man insult parried by the dotard comment, among others, the on-again/off-again. on-again meetings finally did take place, with Trump predictably declaring them to be successful. It seems that nothing concrete is in place (at least not even up to the level of the Iran nuclear deal which he referred to as one of the worst ever agreed to when he announced the US would be pulling out of it) concerning when and how the North Korean weapons program and the existing weapons would be dismantled, to be accompanied by removal of sanction that have been imposed on North Korea. He unilaterally agreed to cancel joint American/South Korean military exercises. Along with the prestige he lent Kim as a result of his direct meeting between the leaders of the two nations for the first time ever, it appears to many that Kim got more than he has given, at least so far.

The NATO summit was another case where our President chose to berate our allies and publicly cajole them again for not contributing adequately to meeting the costs of the ongoing organization. He wanted to get many of them to increase their defense spending to more closely approximate that of the US in relation to percentage of GDP being allocated for defense expenditures. That appears to be happening, though whether that is because of or in spite of Trumps antics is an open question. In keeping with classic Trump lack of class, he seemed to taint with the faintest praise (an a great deal of ridicule) the two most prominent women heads of state – Theresa May of the UK and Angela Merkel of Germany. His diatribe about Germany being owned by Russia was particularly ironic when placed next to what he would do a few days later with Putin in Helsinki. (I’m not positive Trump doesn’t think irony is something they do at the Dry Cleaners’)

Perhaps the biggest debacle of all happened most recently in Helsinki and afterward. The main events were a two hour meeting attended only by Trump and Putin and their respective interpreters. This was a mistake on Trump’s part for a number of reasons, at least in my opinion. Having an extremely widely publicized meeting where nobody other than the main protagonists have a clue as to what transpires may be a good thing in the culture of a former high-ranking KGB official not noted for presiding over  open government, but it surely is not a part of American political tradition. What was the point of the secrecy? We can only guess. Were they discussing important matters such as election meddling, the war in Syria, Iran, North Korea, the weather, sports? Were they there as equals or was one being read the riot act by the other?

The subsequent press conference certainly shed little light on the matter, other than showing Trump as a bumbling buffoon incapable of doing anything but fawn over his Russian counterpart and disrespect his own hand-picked intelligence and national security experts as often and publicly as he could possibly have done. The attempted walk-backs and explanations which have occurred since have done nothing to clarify the situation he created with the awkward statement he made in Helsinki making it plain to those watching and listening that he’d sooner sell out his own cabinet members than say one word challenging Putin on anything. I for one cannot understand why some of the American officials involved have not resigned in disgust, especially Dan Coats, after he was informed of a proposed visit to DC by Putin via a tweet sent by his Press Secretary and read to him by Andrea Mitchell while she interviewed him on national television.

One big takeaway from all this is that President Trump is continuing to lead the press around by the nose, constantly creating new controversy to distract from the old controversies which never seem to get resolved. The Helsinki performance and its aftermath were pure theater signifying nothing. All the networks spent lavishly on coverage of basically nothing at all. Hours of nothing but speculation that will probably never be definitively reported at all. This was done at the expense of covering other real news. Congress might as well go on recess when Trump is performing, at least as long as the TV networks insist on hanging on Trump’s every word, tweet or not. He’s basically giving McConnell, Ryan and the rest a free ride. Not only do they get away with not questioning him on anything of substance, they get to not go on record about about much of anything at all. Immigration, refugees, wars, gun control, health care, the budget, the economy, you name it. If Trump is talking about something else, that gets covered first and foremost, at the expense of just about everything else.

Very few members of Congress are doing anything at all to put checks and balances on the Executive Branch or the Commander-in-Chief. If I want to live in an autocratic society I’ll move to North Korea or any other number of totalitarian societies. We don’t need to bring that from of government here. In less than four months, I hope others’ displeasure at the way our government is being run is expressed loudly and clearly at the ballot box. Hopefully the oligarchs’ attempts at suppressing the vote and gerrymandering have not reached the point where this unrepresentative and increasingly undemocratic government has become unfixable (see, Mr. President, it is possible to use a double-negative to convey a point).

Bullying our friends with  insults and policies that aim to advance our interests to their detriment is no way to conduct international relations. Dropping out of the UN group dealing with human rights, while it expresses Trump’s contempt for such a concept perfectly, does not reflect the values of most Americans at all. Nor does his treatment of the other G7 and NATO leaders. We need leadership in Congress and at the state and local levels to call out our out-of-control President when he screws up. We’ve gone more than long enough with only one dysfunctional branch of government calling most of the shots.

Suggested Further Reading:

“Psychopath’s Trade War”: Critics Denounce Trump’s Reckless Tariffs on Mexico, EU, and Canada

‘Insulting And Unacceptable’: Justin Trudeau Delivers Stunning Rebuke of Trump Labeling Canada a National Security Threat

Justin Trudeau just dropped the niceties and hit Trump in a new interview

Trump throws G-7 into disarray with tweets after he leaves

This photo tells you everything you need to know about Trump’s presence at the G7 Summit

Trump seen as threat to Western alliance, likely delighting Putin

Trump’s alienating disdain for U.S. allies defies explanation

Justin Trudeau Fires Back at Trump with Retaliatory Tariffs: Canadians ‘Will Not Be Pushed Around’

Petulant, Whiny Trump Cuts Short G-7 Early, France Effectively Declares U.S. Irrelevant

Leaked Transcript Shows Trump Throwing a Fit at US Allies During Private G7 Meeting — And Trashing NATO as \’Bad as NAFTA\’

\’This Is Much Bigger than Harley\’: General Motors Shows How Trump\’s Trade War Could Deal a Devastating Blow to His Presidency

Ketchup, pizza and lawn mowers: Canada begins imposing tariffs on U.S. goods

Assess: Supreme Court this year gave a preview of things to come: Wins for Trump, employers and Republicans

Jimmy Carter – A Crisis of Confidence Speech – American Rhetoric

Excellent speech delivered to the American people by President Jimmy Carter on July 15, 1979. Trump has yet to even come close to this and probably never will through his tenure, though he very well may succeed in winning a second term. I dare say Trump’s accomplishments as President will never equal or exceed Carter’s. He certainly will not come close to what the man has accomplished in the years since he left the office. – RJC

Full text and audio mp3 of Jimmy Carter’s Address entitled “A Crisis of Confidence”

Source: Jimmy Carter – A Crisis of Confidence Speech – American Rhetoric

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I’m Sick and Tired of This Thing Called “Patriotism” by William Blum

History is replete with examples where patriotism has not been a particularly honorable trait. It has been and continues to be an excuse used to perpetuate all imaginable forms of evil in terms of how people treat (or should I say mistreat) others in the course of their lives. Often, “patriotism” brings out the worst in people while they claim it as exemplifying the pure nobility of their motives, as misguided and cruel as they appear. I would prefer to be known as a genuinely good human being to being a patriot any day. – RJC

 

via I’m Sick and Tired of This Thing Called “Patriotism” by William Blum

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