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Monday, January 22, 2018

Donald Trump ~ lies are not normal

Donald Trump isn’t normal ~ by Jonathan Bernstein

Trump has been a weak president.

Donald Trump is not at all a normal president.

Trump remains an autocrat in style and deeds.

See a good evaluation from Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes, on how all this played out in 2017. 

U.S. presidents up to this point have, whatever their temptations or even their actions, attested to the democratic values embedded in the Constitution and the practices of the republic.

Trump rarely does that. Instead, Trump  frequently attacks the system of separated institutions that share powers on which U.S. democracy rests.

His nasty personal attacks on other politicians tend to corrode the political system. So do his claims of omnipotence within the system. So does his disregard for norms, whether it’s his refusal to disclose his tax returns, his refusal to divest himself of his businesses, or his use of the office to advertise those businesses.

It’s also a significant problem how, and how often, Trump strays from the truth.

Trump doesn’t lie like a politician; he lies like the proverbial used-car dealer.

Most politicians don’t flat-out lie very often. The good ones spin — that is, they present their case in as favorable a way as possible, perhaps doing acrobatics around the truth or leaving impressions far from the truth, but without straying to saying something that’s outright false.


Trump dispenses with all that and simply makes up his own facts. Constantly. Blatantly. He did it from Day 1, when he insisted despite all evidence that the crowd for his inauguration was larger than that of Barack Obama. And he’s gone on from there.

A small example that effectively demonstrates Trump’s habits is his consistent claim that Republicans won every House special election in 2017 — despite the clear, obvious, uncontested fact that a Democrat won the House special election in California’s 34th District in April.

Whatever Trump’s intentions, this kind of frequent outright lie is, as many have noted, exactly what totalitarian regimes do in creating situations in which truth itself is meaningless.

And it’s also not normal, at least in recent decades, for a president to eschew the role of head of state and instead to speak so often and so explicitly as president of only his strongest supporters.

Trump’s explicit tolerance for bigots, his frequent personal attacks on private citizens seemingly based on ethnicity, and other rhetoric not only divides the nation, but also threatens the full citizenship of everyone.

Of course, all presidents are partisan at times; all presidents, certainly including Obama, pay special attention to their strongest supporters. 

Yet, Trump is way off the scale, in frequency and in extending this kind of talk into inappropriate contexts, where other presidents would be careful to avoid any hint of electoral politics.

It’s hard to tell how much all of this matters in day-to-day politics.

The truth is that a lot of it backfires on Trump; over-the-top rhetoric, for example, almost certainly has contributed to his dismal approval ratings, and therefore to his weakness in office.

Defying political norms and stating constant falsehoods have harmed his professional reputation, further weakening his presidency. But that kind of analysis may miss larger, deeper damage to the political system.

It’s hard to evaluate exactly what effect it all has; that’s probably why I mostly ignore it and focus on immediate, relatively more tangible effects. Still, it’s worth at least pausing to note that it could be very damaging indeed.

And at any rate, it’s worth calling him out on, whether it has measurable effects or not.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University. Email: jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Oh! But it's sad when a love affair dies

Great break up songs for Donal.d Trump and Steve Bannon
By Jules Witcover

Oh but it's sad when a love affair dies
But we have pretended enough
It's best that we both stop fooling ourselves ~ Andrew Lloyd Webber


The dramatic breakup between Donald Trump and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has blown wide open the political direction of the Trump presidency at a particularly inopportune time.

"The love affair dies", comes just as Trump is frantically seeking to stabilize a presidency besieged by internal chaos and to cope with his own Justice Department's investigation into his campaign's possible collusion with Russian agents meddling in the 2016 election.

The president already has his hands full trying to discredit that probe and by association Special Counsel Robert Mueller, even as Trump insists he has no intention of firing him. 

Trump has now, also, turned against Mr. Bannon, his onetime guru.

The catalyst for this bizarre bombshell is a recently released insider book on Trump and his administration by free-lance writer Michael Wolff. 

In it, Bannon is said to have described Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russian officials at Trump Tower in 2016 as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic" — among other explosive contentions.

In reply to derogatory remarks made by Bannon, about Trump family members, the president contended that Bannon's role in his campaign and first months of his administration were overblown. 

Of his old close adviser he tweeted, "When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he has lost his mind." Mr. Bannon, he said, had "very little to do with our historic victory." 

But, Trump also instructed his lawyers to send Messrs. Bannon and Wolff cease-and-desist letters, citing an alleged breach of a nondisclosure agreement that Bannon has supposedly signed.

It's clear now that Bannon has become another cross for the president to bear among an accumulating list of critics in and out of his Republican Party

After being fired by Trump, Mr. Bannon returned to his old job running the alt-right Breitbart (aka "barfcart) News website, which formerly was a conspicuous Trump cheefleader. He stepped down from the company Tuesday, under pressure. 

Under Bannon, the (barfcart) Breitbart, became a vehicle for his own political ambitions, including clashes with the Republican Party establishment and national committee, which he appeared to be targeting for a takeover.

Beyond revealing the breakup itself, Mr. Wolff's book provides a stinging insight into what some White House insiders thought of the president. One fired campaign aide, Sam Nunberg, is quoted as saying he was assigned to tutor Mr. Trump on the Constitution. "I got as far as the Fourth Amendment," he said, "before ... his eyes are rolling back in his head." Mr. Bannon himself is said to have commented that Mr. Trump's daughter Ivanka was "dumb as a brick."

Also, a former deputy chief of staff, Katie Walsh, is quoted as saying that trying to deal with the president was "like trying to figure out what a child wants" — an observation she later denied having made.

Mr. Wolff also reports Ms. Walsh says she was obliged to respond to three different Trump power centers: Reince Priebus, the first chief of staff; Mr. Bannon and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

"For Walsh," Mr. Wolff writes, "it was a daily process of managing an impossible task: almost as soon as she received direction from one of the three men, she would be countermanded by one of another of them."

It was no wonder the Trump White House came off from the outside as a confused madhouse, with a president constantly getting mixed messages and making decisions as an ill-informed neophyte would-be politician.

Whether all the disclosures Mr. Wolff has reported are accurate or not, taken together they constitute more tasty morsels for both the conventional news media and the social media platforms Mr. Trump himself so favors.

As a new year gets started, there are already more than enough reasons to worry about the state of the union in the era of Donald J. Trump and his merry band of confusion-spinners.

(In fact, the Trump and Bannon love affair has died.)

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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Republicans are irresponsible to create their own extremist agenda


Filmmaker, actor, producer, husband, and father.

Rob Reiner is an active Twitterzin and this particilar Tweet sums up the Republican point of view ~ for reasons unknown to humankind, the Grand Old Party has decided to ignore the will of the people:

"90% of Americans are in favor of extending the CHIP program. 90% of Americans are in favor of DACA. 90% of Americans are in favor of universal background checks. Here’s a novel idea: Congress, try representing Americans."

It's irresponsible for Republicans to go against the will of the American people just because they prefer greed over democracy, they support gun rights over Free Speech, they want to deport all immigrants even though they are all (to a person) descendants of immigrants, they are "pro-life", oppose abortions but don't want to provide health care for children.

As Republicans are responsible for closing down the US government because they prefer extremism over compromise, the American people are the ones who are paying the bills for their their political incompetence.

It's time to throw out all the Republicans in Congress and hire, instead, leaders who care about Americans first and put their extremist opinions aside for the benefit of improving our human condition. Republicans are irresponsibly supporting an extremist agenda and their political platform is void of inspired leadership.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Missouri calling on Senator Roy Blunt to stand up to Donald Trump

Senator Roy Blunt is the Republican senator representing Missouri and a Donald Trump cloneStand up to Trump ~ echo letter to the editor in the Kansas City Star newspaper
An open letter to my U.S. senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt:

A sitting president declared that a political opponent who has not been charged with a crime should be thrown into jail.

He also called for stopping the publication of an unflattering book about him. (Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff)

Shockingly, this was not Russian President Vladimir Putin, but his most prominent American admirer and protégé. (Maine Writer- Donald Trump is a Putin "groupie"!)

Senator Blunt, will you honor your oath of office to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” by making a public statement against these (Trumpism) affronts to the Constitution?

Or must we conclude, by your silence, that you would support a regime led by dictator Donald Trump?

Doug Shafer,  Kansas City

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Lies from the Secretary of Homeland Security ~ border wall lies too

How can the Secretary of Homeland Security function when she doesn't tell the truth, when she testified under oath to the Senate?


Trump, Nielsen and the border wall fraud ~ echo opinion published in the Chicago Tribune

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said she "did not hear that *$#@hole word used" when asked during a Senate hearing about a vulgarity attributed to President Donald Trump. ~ It's impossible to believe that Nielsen was telling the truth, when asked about the word, by Senator Dick Durban.
Steve ChapmanContact Reporter
Chicago Tribune

In Tuesday’s testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, all the attention was on whether she had heard President Donald Trump use a derogatory scatological phrase at a meeting with senators. Overlooked in the coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was new evidence that when it comes to his favorite proposal, Trump is full of something.
Mexico will not pay for the border wall! 
In reference to a border wall, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Nielsen about funding: “Have we opened an account that Mexico can put the money in to pay for it?” He persisted in asking whether Mexico would bear the cost as Trump repeatedly pledged. Nielsen had several unhelpful answers, including, “I am not aware” and “How do you mean ‘pay,’ sir?”

If Mexico had agreed to provide the money, evasive replies would not be needed. But the promise was a fraud, as just about everyone knows by now.

When he talks about the wall, it has never been entirely clear whether Trump is fooling voters, being fooled or both. 

Never has a politician promised something so emphatically that he has no chance of delivering.

The wall is a bad idea from almost any vantage point. And even if his plan weren’t a bad idea, it’s an unattainable one. In pushing for it over and over, Trump invites ridicule from critics and disappointment from admirers. Shutting down the government if he doesn’t get it, which is a real possibility, would be a perfect way to compound the self-inflicted damage.

His wall fixation is one reason that his stock of admirers has shrunk so much. A new Quinnipiac poll reports that 63 percent of Americans oppose erecting a wall on our southern border.

Republicans are the only group that supports it. “White voters with no college degree are divided with 47 percent supporting The Wall and 49 percent opposed,” says Quinnipiac. “Every other party, gender, education, age and racial group opposes The Wall.”

Why does Trump continue his Ahab-like quest in spite of the serious political drawbacks? One reason is that he promised it, and he fears that his most loyal supporters will abandon him if he reneges.

That’s how he ended up, in a phone call with the president of Mexico last year, practically begging him to play along. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall,” he pleaded. “I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”

What he had been talking about, of course, was that we would build a wall and — this was the cue for thunderous ovations — Mexico would pay for it. But there is no chance that Mexican leaders would ever agree.

A CBS News survey in August found that only 10 percent of Americans think Mexico would pay for the barrier — and only 21 percent of Republicans believe it. His followers know his promise isn’t worth a centavo, and they don’t seem to care.

Trump has already implicitly admitted defeat. The reason for the impasse over immigration policy is that he demands funding for the wall that Democrats (and some Republicans) are loath to provide. But if Mexico could be coerced into footing the bill, this appropriation would not be needed.

Trump’s folly is a boon to economics professors looking for ways to illustrate basic insights. One is the law of diminishing returns. If you own no shoes, acquiring a pair would make your life much better. If you own 20 pairs of shoes, getting a 21st would not. If you have no fencing on the border, putting up 700 miles of it prevents some illegal crossing. But adding another 900 wouldn’t make as much of a difference, and the 1,600th mile might have zero additional effect.

As the value of each additional mile falls, the cost would rise, because the most heavily traveled and accessible sites have already been covered. Constructing a high, impenetrable barrier in more remote spots would be more expensive.

Another important economic concept is opportunity cost. If you spend $1,000 on a cruise, you can’t spend it on rent. To pay for the wall, Trump’s budget proposes to take money from programs that are more useful.

Among the budget items that would get shorted are customs officers, surveillance cameras, coastal interceptor vessels and canine units. The wall wouldn’t stop visitors from overstaying visas or prevent drugs from coming via cars, tractor-trailers, tunnels, drones and boats.

What Trump proposes to do is spend $18 billion to erect a giant symbol. What he would really be doing is shoveling money down a — what’s the term? — rathole.

Steve Chapman, a member of the Tribune Editorial Board, blogs at www.chicagotribune.com/chapman.

schapman@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @SteveChapman13

Meanwhile ~ Secretary of Homeland of Security can't recall (while under oath) what her boss said about Haitians?  I don't believe her.

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Donald Trump and Racism

Historians Call Trump’s ‘Sh*thole’ Comment ‘The Most Openly Racist by a President in Decades’

“The point is that since the New Deal, since the beginnings of modern civil rights era, no president has ever said anything publicly as explicitly racist as what we’ve heard from Donald Trump,” historian and emeritus of Princeton University Daniel Rodgers told Vice News.

In Trump’s Immigration Remarks, Echoes of a Century-Old Racial Ranking

As outrage continues to pour in over President Donald Trump calling Haiti, El Salvador, and several African countries “shithole countries,” a new dialogue is being created about how to frame Trump within the context of his predecessors. 

Is Trump more openly racist than recent former presidents? 

Short answer is: Yes.

“The point is that since the New Deal, since the beginnings of modern civil rights era, no president has ever said anything publicly as explicitly racist as what we’ve heard from President Trump,” historian and emeritus of Princeton University Daniel Rodgers told Vice News.

When analyzing Trump’s comments, Rice University professor of presidential history Douglas Brinkley also referenced Woodrow Wilson—who made D.W. Giffith’s The Birth of Nation, a romanticized tale of the Klu Klux Klan, the first film ever shown inside the White House.

“Trump is the most overtly racist president since Woodrow Wilson,” Brinkley told Vice News. “All presidents have tried to not flash their bigot card as clearly as Trump does.”

Of course, Trump isn't known as the White House's first racist; what sets him apart is how he's made bigotry the "modus operandi of his campaign," as Brinkley puts it. 

Trump is preceded by Lyndon B. Johnson—a president who was known for dropping an N-bomb with the hard R inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

“When I appoint a nigger to the bench, I want everybody to know he’s a nigger,” Johnson infamously said about nominating Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. ...


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Republican reject their own heritage when they punish immigrant children

Shame on Republicans for continuing to make the immigration issue such a political firestorm. Nothing has changed with their cruel right wing entrenched positions except for the fact that they now have a racist leader who gives cover to their extremist views.

When Republicans support hateful rhetoric and incendiary views about immigration, they are denying our nation's richly diverse heritage and their own immigrant ancestry. Punishing immigrant children by denying them legal status is a wrong.

An echo article in The New York Times and published in Vice News reported in Maine Writer Trump and Racism blog

In Trump’s Immigration Remarks, Echoes of a Century-Old Racial Ranking ~ by Vivian Yee in The New York Times

The argument was genteel, the tone judicious, the meaning plain: America, wrote the senator leading Congress’s push for immigration reform in 1924, was beginning to “smart under the irritation” of immigrants who “speak a foreign language and live a foreign life.”

The year before, things had been slightly less decorous. A certain unnamed country in Europe was “making the United States a dumping ground for its undesirable nationals,” the president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn, told a national immigration conference.

Here in the earliest weeks of 2018, the worldview that last gained wide acceptance nearly a century ago has found perhaps its most succinct expression yet — distilled, this time, to a pungent question from Donald Trump: Why should the United States take in immigrants from “shithole countries” in Africa over people from places like Norway?

Mr. Trump, who made the remark while discussing potential immigration legislation with members of Congress at the White House on Thursday, also asked, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?” “Take them out,” he added. (On Friday, Trump denied that he had used some of the derogatory language, while a senator who attended the meeting confirmed that he had.) ~ (MaineWriter- Senator Tom Cotton and Senator David Perdue lied to protect the racist comment. Telling lies continues to be the operational policy of the Republicans in Washington DC.)
His commentary struck many Republicans as well as Democrats as extreme, if not outright racist. But the words were a Twitter-era detonation of an attitude that once before shaped American immigration policy, an attitude that, even after the country tried to reverse itself by loosening immigration laws in the 1960s, seems to have loitered on in the national attic.


Its resurfacing in the public sphere capsizes a half-century of mainstream consensus: that immigrants enrich the United States, no matter where they come from.

Donald Trump’s remarks were “sadly reminiscent of the language used by nativists and racists in the early 20th century against Eastern and Southern Europeans and Asians,” said Mae Ngai, an immigration historian at Columbia University.

“Obviously he likes Norwegians because they are white,” she added. “But he knows nothing about Norway, a country with single-payer universal health care and free college education. Why would anyone want to leave Norway for the U.S.?”

The more liberal immigration policies of 1965 still form the scaffolding of the United States’ legal immigration system, ushering in — if unintentionally — an America that grows less white every year. For years now, Asians, Africans and Hispanics have accounted for an expanding proportion of the country’s visas.

But first came 1924, when the people in charge spoke openly of ranking immigrants of certain origins above others.

That was the year Congress passed an immigration overhaul that set strict quotas designed to encourage immigrants from Western Europe, block all but a few from Southern and Eastern Europe and bar altogether those from Asia. Overall immigration levels were slashed. The racial theories at play in the legislation, wrote the immigration historian Roger Daniels, would later become the first draft of “the official ideology of Nazi Germany.”

There were some familiar refrains in the 1924 immigration debate. Cheap immigrant labor had depressed wages, the restrictionists said. Immigrants had seized jobs from Americans, they said. But it was also heavy on racist rhetoric aimed at preserving what eugenicists and social theorists of the time called the “Nordic” race that, in their telling, had originally settled the United States.

The bill’s authors had been avid readers of the 1916 book “The Passing of the Great Race,” in which the eugenicist Madison Grant warned that the country was in danger of a “replacement of a higher type by a lower type here in America unless the native American uses his superior intelligence to protect himself and his children from competition with intrusive peoples drained from the lowest races of Eastern Europe.”

Under the 1924 law, the number of visas given to each country could not exceed annual quotas based on the number of people from that country who were living in the United States as of the 1890 census, before the flow of new Americans had begun to tilt away from Western European countries.

The United States, the law’s supporters said, could now dispense with the “melting pot.” The only new immigrants who would be allowed to come would already look, act and speak like the Americans already here.

“Each year’s immigration should so far as possible be a miniature America, resembling in national origins the persons who are already settled in our country,” the bill’s chief author, Senator David A. Reed of Pennsylvania, wrote in The New York Times on April 27, 1924.

Englishmen and Germans were welcome; Italians and Jews, not so much. No Asians need apply. (Incidentally, Norway, home to many Nordics, was also subject to a quota, though it was given significantly more slots than countries including Greece, Spain, Turkey and Hungary.)

By 1965, Congress had repealed the per-country quotas, replacing them with a system that emphasized new immigrants’ family ties to American citizens and residents and, to a lesser degree, the skills they brought. 

Under the framework established then, people already admitted to the United States can sponsor their relatives overseas through the process Mr. Trump calls “chain migration.” Others now come for jobs, for study, as refugees or through the diversity visa lottery, a program put in place in 1990 and intended for nationalities that are underrepresented in the normal immigration stream.

Conservative members of Congress, including some Democrats, had fought to include the family-based preferences for relatives of people already living in the country, believing, according to historians, that more white Europeans were likely to come that way.

But fewer Europeans, and far more Latin Americans and Asians, knocked on the door.

In the 2016 fiscal year, according to government statistics, there were about 98,000 people from Europe who became lawful permanent residents. 

More than four times as many, 443,000, came from Asia, and half a million from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean. Africa sent another 111,000. Over all, nearly 1.2 million people obtained green cards that year, compared with about 700,000 in all the years from 1930 to 1939 combined.

The consequences of the 1965 law were unforeseen by all. They were downright alarming to some.

In an October 2015 radio interview with Stephen K. Bannon, who would become Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who would become attorney general, pointed out that the country’s population was heading toward a historically high proportion of foreign-born Americans. Mr. Sessions, a longtime supporter of tighter controls on immigration, helped craft Mr. Trump’s immigration proposals during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly,” Mr. Sessions said. Those who came to the United States through the 1924 quotas assimilated into the country and helped create “really the solid middle class of America,” he continued.

But, he said, “We passed a law that went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, and we’re on a path now to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.”

Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump have called repeatedly for ending chain migration and the diversity visa lottery. Haitians, too, have found themselves partially shut out by the Trump administration. In November, homeland security officials announced that they would end a humanitarian program that had given some 59,000 Haitians temporary permission to live and work in the United States since an earthquake shattered their country in 2010.

Living conditions in Haiti, they said, had improved enough that Haiti could “safely receive” its citizens.


Jack Begg contributed research.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Leadership ~ Secretary Madeleine Albright and Governor John Kasich

A leadership interview conducted by the Public Broadcasting expert journalist Judy Woodruff on the PBS New Hour on January 16, 2018.  America needs to see and reflect on real conversations about the news impacting the future of the world. This interview between Secretary Madeleine Albright and Governor John Kasich of Ohio, is a good example of how our nation must focus on issues, rather than personality politics and extremist opinions. In the interview, the two thoughtful leaders discussed immigration, the Russian interference in our democracy and America's diminishing standing with the international community.
Secretary Madeleine Albright

Governor John Kasich of Ohio

The United States is becoming less engaged in the world in order to focus on fixing problems at home, but that shift is creating a power vacuum that will be filled by countries that don’t share U.S. values, according to Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.

Kasich and Albright talked to the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff about a report released Tuesday by democracy advocacy group Freedom House, which says democracy worldwide today “finds itself battered and weakened,” a trend it has reported for the past 12 years. It noted this year a “striking” withdrawal by the United States due to the Trump administration’s “America First” stance.

When we withdraw from trade agreements in the Pacific, the Chinese have an advantage. When we insult people in Africa, it means the Chinese have more ability to have sway [decisions]. When we are not working with our allies and making unilateral decisions, it begins to undermine the strength of NATO,” Kasich said.

“These are things that are very, very concerning not just to me, but to people around the world,” he added.

“America is better off and Americans are better off if other countries are democracies,” Albright said, because countries with crumbling governments can be petri dishes for terrorism and instability.

Other highlights from the conversation:

On “America First”:

“I think that’s very short sighted,” Kaisch said of the desire to “withdraw, take care of ourselves. “I don’t think that’s the fundamental problem,” he added. “But I think that was the reaction here. And the danger is, when the United States of America withdraws, it creates a vacuum, and the vacuum today is not being filled by people that we share our values with.”

On Russian interference in the 2016 elections:

“The thing that troubles me is [Russia] did get involved in our election process and it’s gotten so personal here that we have not really been investigating enough what they’ve been doing in Europe,” Albright said.

On the immigration debate:

“I know people want strong borders. I know they want immigration reform. I am for strong borders and immigration, but we cannot project an image that we don’t love our friends and our neighbors who are part of our culture. It’s just not right,” Kasich said, adding he hoped Congress could reach an agreement on immigration this week.


Judy Woodruff:

Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017. That is the stark verdict of an annual report from Freedom House, a Washington-based democracy promotion and human rights organization.

The report charts a 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom, analyzing whether countries hold free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law.

The freest nations on Earth, according to the analysis, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The least free? Syria and South Sudan.

The report says the United States remains a vibrant democracy, and free. But if — there was a further erosion of American political institutions, continuing a seven-year trend.

To discuss the findings, I spoke earlier today with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who served under President Bill Clinton, and with Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich.

I asked him what has happened in this country that has led it, according to the report, to retreat from being a champion of democracy.

Gov. John Kasich:
Well, I think, Judy, that people are thinking about the problems inside of our country.

To me, that’s part of the reason why President Trump was elected. People were saying, look, I don’t have much income. My kid graduated from college. They have debt. They can’t get a job. And it’s somebody else’s fault out there in the world, so, therefore, we need to withdraw, take care of ourselves.

I think that’s very shortsighted. I don’t think that’s the fundamental problem. But I think that was the reaction here. And the danger is, when the United States of America withdraws, it creates a vacuum, and the vacuum today is not being filled by people that we share our values with.

Judy Woodruff:

But I think, Secretary Albright, it’s hard for people to believe that the United States, which was the beacon of democracy around the world, is now described as a place in retreat when it comes to democracy. What are the specifics that’s led to this?

Madeleine Albright:

I think that the problem is that — just as the governor said, is that people say, why should we worry about other countries, we need to worry about America.

And that whole America-first stuff, I think, has made that a more likely policy to follow, when, in fact, what we have to show is that America is better off and Americans are better off if other countries are democracies, because those other countries that are in decline are basically petri dishes for those people that hate us and terrorism and various problems that come from just people being on the move.

So, I think we have come to this because — and I hate to say this — is because there has been leadership that has exacerbated divisions,and not those where we’re trying to find common ground.

Judy Woodruff:

Divisions.

And, Governor Kasich, I mean, the report refers to violations of ethical standards at the highest levels in the U.S. government.

Gov. John Kasich:

Yes, I mean, there’s parts of that report I think are really kind of silly, Judy.

To say that we have lost our freedom because the president didn’t release his taxes, but yet he complied with the law, to me is really silly. Look, we’re all concerned about the attacks on the press, but the press is resilient.

Frankly, the press is more aggressive today than I can remember it in a long time. I’m not worried about the United States in terms of our basic freedoms.

What I am worried is, when we withdraw from trade agreements in the Pacific, the Chinese have an advantage. When we insult people in Africa, it means the Chinese have more ability to have sway. When we are not working with our allies and making unilateral decisions, it begins to undermine the strength of NATO.

These are things that are very, very concerning, not just to me, but to people around the world. Now, again, I think these institutions are pretty darn strong, but you can’t take anything for granted here in the 21st century.

Judy Woodruff:

But, Secretary Albright, you were telling me earlier your main concern is when it looks at what the Russians are doing.

Madeleine Albright:

The thing that troubles me is, they did get involved in our election process, and it’s gotten so personal here that we have not really been investigating enough what they have been doing in Europe and what their plans might be for 2018 in the United States.

Judy Woodruff:

Well, at a time when we’re…

Gov. John Kasich:

Hey, Judy.

Judy Woodruff:

Yes, go ahead, Governor.

Gov. John Kasich:

Secretary Albright made a point here about a week ago that I thought was spot on, and that is this reinforcing of polarization, the breakdown of our political leaders able to reach any consensus on anything is — you know, it’s just — it’s destroying people’s confidence in the ability of our government to make decisions that are in the best interests of the public, and not in the best interests of political parties.

Judy Woodruff:

I want to pick up on what you said, Governor, about polarization, because what we’re seeing is a divide not just between the two parties, but right now within your party, the Republican Party, over immigration.

How do you see that divide getting resolved in your own party?

Gov. John Kasich:

Well, Judy, look, we — everybody, every American believes we have to protect our borders. That’s a given.

But to take 800,000 people who were brought here as kids and to say that we’re going to systematically engage in an effort to ship them out of the country, or even the El Salvadorans, where that country is not ready to accept these people.

You have President Bush and President Obama both saying they gave waivers, so those people could stay. And when you study this, you see that many of those folks are terrorized about the notion if they go home. Many of them fear for their lives.

We need to have a policy that goes through the windshield, not through the rear-view mirror, and begin to punish people, and maybe that’s a strong word, but to do things to disrupt them once they are fully integrated in our society, and they have been, you know, law-abiding people.

Judy, there is one other element of this that I thought about over the last few days. You know, the Republican Party says it’s a party of the family. But we need to strengthen all families. I also think that we’re all made in the image of the lord. And when we treat these people as somehow numbers or goals, without thinking of them as people, we fall short as a nation.

And I know people want strong borders. I know they want immigration reform. I’m for — I am for strong borders and immigration, but we cannot project an image that we don’t love our friends and our neighbors who are part of our culture. It’s just not right.

And I hope they will resolve this here in the next week or so. I don’t understand the holdup. Think about the way you want your family to be treated. And if they think that way, we maybe get a better result.

Judy Woodruff:

Secretary Albright, as somebody who has looked at not only global issues, but knows how the United States is seen around the rest of the world, how much difference does it make in the United States’ ability to get done what it wants to get done how it resolves an issue like immigration?

Madeleine Albright:
 

Well, I think that people know and they have seen the United States as a country that is welcoming, that understands diversity, that has the Statue of Liberty, and that really we are the kind of country that understands that we have to be diverse. That’s the strength of America.

And I think that when the president makes statements that basically makes a whole set of people feel inferior, it undermines our policy. And what’s been so interesting is to watch stories about how our ambassadors now have to try to explain what is going on. And it undermines America’s image.

And let me just say there are people who say, who cares about our image? What we care about — and I think is right — it’s the job of every president to protect our people and our territory and our way of life. And that can only happen if we have good relationships with other countries, because we can’t do everything alone.

So, it undermines America’s strength and it makes it more difficult for our people to be protected.

Judy Woodruff:

Finally, Governor Kasich, last night on the program, I interviewed Peter Wehner, a longtime conservative, a longtime Republican, who said, to him, it’s extremely painful to watch what’s happened, what the president has said in the last few days.

What about you, as a lifelong Republican, to watch this?

Gov. John Kasich:

I have already said that he should apologize. It was outrageous.

And Peter Wehner, it’s interesting, because he’s talked about the war inside of people of faith, particularly in the Christian movement, a war within — I mean a war, but maybe a debate is a better term — about what evangelicals are all about, what Christians are all about.

And, to me, as a person of faith — and, look, I fail all the time, but I will tell you what it’s about. It’s about love. It’s about caring. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about compassion. And that’s America. And when we lose that, we could lose our soul. I don’t believe we will.

Finally, how about Secretary Albright? She’s iconic. She’s contributed a great amount to this country, and I am privileged to always spend time with her. She’s terrific.

Madeleine Albright:

Thank you, Governor.

(LAUGHTER)

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A Nazi rally is in your neighborhood? Advice from history

We have an ethical obligation to stand against fascism, racism and Nazism. 

But we also have an ethical obligation to do so in a way that doesn’t help the fascists and racists, more than it hurts them.
Resistance Americans must be strategic in how we respond to Neo-Nazi  "Trumpism".  There's nothing Donald Trump and his political cult want to see more than civil disobedience. 

History repeats itself

Charlottesville Virginia, the evil White Supremacy and the response to it, was right out of the Nazi playbook. 

In the 1920s, the Nazi Party was just one political party among many in a democratic system, running for seats in Germany’s Parliament. For most of that time, it was a small, marginal group. 

Yet, in 1933, riding a wave of popular support, it seized power and set up a dictatorship. The rest is well-known.

It was in 1927, while still on the political fringes, that the Nazi Party scheduled a rally in a decidedly hostile location – the Berlin district of Wedding. Wedding was so left-of-center that the neighborhood had the nickname “Red Wedding,” red being the color of the Communist Party. 

The Nazis often held rallies right where their enemies lived, to provoke them.

The people of Wedding were determined to fight back against fascism in their neighborhood. On the day of the rally, hundreds of Nazis descended on Wedding. Hundreds of their opponents showed up too, organized by the local Communist Party. The antifascists tried to disrupt the rally, heckling the speakers. Nazi thugs retaliated. There was a massive brawl. Almost 100 people were injured.

I imagine the people of Wedding felt they had won that day.

They courageously sent a message: Fascism was not welcome.

But historians believe events like the rally in Wedding helped the Nazis build a dictatorship.

Yes, the brawl got them media attention. But what was far, far more important was how it fed an escalating spiral of street violence. That violence helped the fascists enormously.

Violent confrontations with antifascists gave the Nazis a chance to paint themselves as the victims of a pugnacious, lawless left. They seized it.

Moreover, it worked. We now know that many Germans supported the fascists because they were terrified of leftist violence in the streets. 

Germans opened their morning newspapers and saw reports of clashes like the one in Wedding. It looked like a bloody tide of civil war was rising in their cities. Voters and opposition politicians alike came to believe the government needed special police powers to stop violent leftists. Dictatorship grew attractive. The fact that the Nazis themselves were fomenting the violence didn’t seem to matter.

One of Hitler’s biggest steps to dictatorial power was to gain emergency police powers, which he claimed he needed to suppress leftist violence.

KEY NAZI DATES

SEPTEMBER 15, 1935

NUREMBERG LAWS ARE INSTITUTED

At their annual party rally, the Nazis announce new laws that revoke Reich citizenship for Jews and prohibit Jews from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of "German or related blood." "Racial infamy," as this becomes known, is made a criminal offense. The Nuremberg Laws define a "Jew" as someone with three or four Jewish grandparents. Consequently, the Nazis classify as Jews thousands of people who had converted from Judaism to another religion, among them even Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers whose grandparents were Jewish.

OCTOBER 18, 1935

NEW MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS INSTITUTED

The "Law for the Protection of the Hereditary Health of the German People", requires all prospective marriage partners to obtain from the public health authorities a certificate of fitness to marry. Such certificates are refused to those suffering from "hereditary illnesses" and contagious diseases and those attempting to marry in violation of the Nuremberg Laws.

NOVEMBER 14, 1935

NUREMBERG LAW EXTENDED TO OTHER GROUPS

The first supplemental decree of the Nuremberg Laws extends the prohibition on marriage or sexual relations between people who could produce "racially suspect" offspring. A week later, the minister of the interior interprets this to mean relations between "those of German or related blood" and Roma (Gypsies), blacks, or their offspring.

Copyright © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington

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Centennial year for the Influenza Pandemi

An interesting retrospective setting the record right
https://theconversation.com/the-greatest-pandemic-in-history-was-100-years-ago-but-many-of-us-still-get-the-basic-facts-wrong-89841?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20January%2011%202018%20-%2092077812&utm_content=Lat

Published in "The Conversation": 
By Richard Gunderman, Chancellor's Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University
The ‘greatest pandemic in history’ was 100 years ago – but many of us still get the basic facts wrong ~ January 11, 2018 

In 2018, the year marks the 100th anniversary of the great influenza pandemic of 1918. Between 50 and 100 million people are thought to have died, representing as much as 5 percent of the world’s population. Half a billion people were infected.

Especially remarkable was the 1918 flu’s predilection for taking the lives of otherwise healthy young adults, as opposed to children and the elderly, who usually suffer most. Some have called it the greatest pandemic in history.

The 1918 flu pandemic has been a regular subject of speculation over the last century. Historians and scientists have advanced numerous hypotheses regarding its origin, spread and consequences. As a result, many of us harbor misconceptions about it.

By correcting these 10 myths, we can better understand what actually happened and learn how to prevent and mitigate such disasters in the future.

1. The pandemic originated in Spain

No one believes the so-called “Spanish flu” originated in Spain.

The pandemic likely acquired this nickname because of World War I, which was in full swing at the time. The major countries involved in the war were keen to avoid encouraging their enemies, so reports of the extent of the flu were suppressed in Germany, Austria, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. By contrast, neutral Spain had no need to keep the flu under wraps. That created the false impression that Spain was bearing the brunt of the disease.

In fact, the geographic origin of the flu is debated to this day, though hypotheses have suggested East Asia, Europe and even Kansas.

2. The pandemic was the work of a ‘super-virus’

The 1918 flu spread rapidly, killing 25 million people in just the first six months. This led some to fear the end of mankind, and has long fueled the supposition that the strain of influenza was particularly lethal.

However, more recent study suggests that the virus itself, though more lethal than other strains, was not fundamentally different from those that caused epidemics in other years.
Influenza of 1918Patients receive care for the Spanish flu at Walter Reed Military Hospital, in Washington, D.C. origins.osu.edu
Much of the high death rate can be attributed to crowding in military camps and urban environments, as well as poor nutrition and sanitation, which suffered during wartime. It’s now thought that many of the deaths were due to the development of bacterial pneumonias in lungs, weakened by influenza.

3. The first wave of the pandemic was most lethal

Actually, the initial wave of deaths from the pandemic in the first half of 1918 was relatively low.

It was in the second wave, from October through December of that year, that the highest death rates were observed. A third wave in spring of 1919 was more lethal than the first but less so than the second.

Scientists now believe that the marked increase in deaths in the second wave was caused by conditions that favored the spread of a deadlier strain. People with mild cases stayed home, but those with severe cases were often crowded together in hospitals and camps, increasing transmission of a more lethal form of the virus.

4. The virus killed most people who were infected with it

In fact, the vast majority of the people who contracted the 1918 flu survived. National death rates among the infected generally did not exceed 20 percent.

However, death rates varied among different groups. 

In the U.S., deaths were particularly high among Native American populations, perhaps due to lower rates of exposure to past strains of influenza. In some cases, entire Native communities were wiped out.

Of course, even a 20 percent death rate vastly exceeds a typical flu, which kills less than one percent of those infected.

5. Therapies of the day had little impact on the disease
No specific anti-viral therapies were available during the 1918 flu. That’s still largely true today, where most medical care for the flu aims to support patients, rather than cure them.

One hypothesis suggests that many flu deaths could actually be attributed to aspirin poisoning. Medical authorities at the time recommended large doses of aspirin of up to 30 grams per day. Today, about four grams would be considered the maximum safe daily dose. Large doses of aspirin can lead to many of the pandemic’s symptoms, including bleeding.

However, death rates seem to have been equally high in some places in the world where aspirin was not so readily available, so the debate continues.

6. The pandemic dominated the day’s news
Public health officials, law enforcement officers and politicians had reasons to underplay the severity of the 1918 flu, which resulted in less coverage in the press. In addition to the fear that full disclosure might embolden enemies during wartime, they wanted to preserve public order and avoid panic.

However, officials did respond. At the height of the pandemic, quarantines were instituted in many cities. Some were forced to restrict essential services, including police and fire.

7. The pandemic changed the course of World War I

It’s unlikely that the flu changed the outcome of World War I, because combatants on both sides of the battlefield were relatively equally affected.

However, there is little doubt that the war profoundly influenced the course of the pandemic. Concentrating millions of troops created ideal circumstances for the development of more aggressive strains of the virus and its spread around the globe.

8. Widespread immunization ended the pandemic

Immunization against the flu as we know it today was not practiced in 1918, and thus played no role in ending the pandemic.

Exposure to prior strains of the flu may have offered some protection. For example, soldiers who had served in the military for years suffered lower rates of death than new recruits.

In addition, the rapidly mutating virus likely evolved over time into less lethal strains. This is predicted by models of natural selection. Because highly lethal strains kill their host rapidly, they cannot spread as easily as less lethal strains.

9. The genes of the virus have never been sequenced
In 2005, researchers announced that they had successfully determined the gene sequence of the 1918 influenza virus. The virus was recovered from the body of a flu victim buried in the permafrost of Alaska, as well as from samples of American soldiers who fell ill at the time.

Two years later, monkeys infected with the virus were found to exhibit the symptoms observed during the pandemic. Studies suggest that the monkeys died when their immune systems overreacted to the virus, a so-called “cytokine storm.” Scientists now believe that a similar immune system overreaction contributed to high death rates among otherwise healthy young adults in 1918.

10. The 1918 pandemic offers few lessons for 2018

Severe influenza epidemics tend to occur every few decades

Experts believe that the next one is a question not of “if” but “when.”

While few living people can recall the great flu pandemic of 1918, we can continue to learn its lessons, which range from the commonsense value of handwashing and immunizations to the potential of anti-viral drugs. 

Today we know more about how to isolate and handle large numbers of ill and dying patients, and we can prescribe antibiotics, not available in 1918, to combat secondary bacterial infections. Perhaps the best hope lies in improving nutrition, sanitation and standards of living, which render patients better able to resist the infection.

For the foreseeable future, flu epidemics will remain an annual feature of the rhythm of human life. 

As a society, we can only hope that we have learned the great pandemic’s lessons sufficiently well to quell another such worldwide catastrophe.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Racial obscenity - beneath the dignity of human beings: flashback to Antisemitism

It's beyond embarrassing to report about how crude Donald Trump was when he used the obscenity "shithole", when referring to countries where immigrant people, those who are other than Caucasians, happen to originate.  

In other words, Donald Trump prefers to court immigrants from places like Norway (where the citizens have little interest in immigrating to the US), because people seeking protection from other countries, like Haiti, are, sadly, unworthy ~ in his opinion. 

This is dangerous talk and Donald Trump knows how to create a brouhaha.  In my opinion, his "shithole" statement was deliberately made to upstage the Martin Luther King celebrations scheduled for the holiday to recognize the Civil Rights movement. Americans simply can't allow this atrocious behavior to continue. 

This following excellent commentary was published in the Boston Herald on January 12, 2018, now an "echo" blog:

Trump’s “Shithole” Comment Is Right Out of the Anti-Semite’s Playbook  ~  by Richard E. Frankel

Richard E. Frankel, Associate Professor of Modern German History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is the author of Bismarck's Shadow: The Cult of Leadership and the Transformation of the German Right, 1898-1945.
On Thursday, January 11, during a discussion of immigration with congressmen from both parties, the President of the United States was reported to have asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” 

Such “shithole” countries included Haiti and a number of nations in Africa. The social media universe lit up immediately with many expressing shock and outrage that the president would say such a thing so openly.

Perhaps it was time, many said, to stop beating around the bush and call out the president for what he truly is: a racist. The truth is, the time for that came well before this latest outburst. 

Nevertheless, Trump's most recent outrage does provide an opportunity to reflect on the danger that such vile rhetoric can pose, especially when spewed from the highest authority in the land.

As someone currently writing about anti-Semitism and immigration in Germany in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century, the rhetoric of this president is all too familiar. 

Similar sentiments were commonly directed toward Jews in both countries before and after the First World War. Back then, much of the immigration debate involved concerns over the “racial health” of the nation. Superior, white Anglo-Saxon/Germanic stock (which, many believed, had been responsible for ‘making America great’) was in danger of decline through the inclusion of inferior, darker peoples from Eastern and Southern Europe. Trump’s expressed preference for Norwegians echoes such racist, eugenic notions.

Back a century or so ago, Jews were the ones playing the role that Haitians and Africans are playing today in the president’s thinking. Consular reports entered into the record during congressional debates over immigration in 1920 described Jews as “an undesirable class of immigrant” representing an “immediate danger of carrying contagious diseases” and exhibiting “signs of mental, physical, and moral depreciation.” 

In 1922, Hugh Gibson, American Minister to Poland, described “awful” Jewish villages that he encountered in that country. “Never,” he wrote, “have I seen nigger villages at home so utterly shiftless and hopeless as the Jewish settlements along the road. The people are filthy and sullen and you wonder why they go on living.” These were the people that journalist Kenneth Roberts called “human parasites” in his 1922 book Why Europe Leaves Home.

Already by the 1890s there developed a strong association between Jews and disease. After successfully excluding Chinese workers in 1882, America’s white supremacists sought additional ways to keep out other undesirable immigrants, the newly arriving Jews among them. Health standards became one way to do that. And as American immigration agents enforced such standards with ever-greater zeal, they began sending immigrants back across the ocean.

Located across the route from Eastern Europe to the United States, Germany became a transit-land for the millions of poor, unassimilated Jews seeking better prospects in the “Golden Land.” Concern that these Jews might be sent back led the German government and then the shipping companies themselves to set up medical stations along the country’s eastern border and quarantine stations in Berlin and the ports of Hamburg and Bremen. The very fact that Jews had to be checked for disease and even “deloused” before they could travel attached a very powerful stigma to this group—Jews were carriers of disease, threatening to infect and weaken the German or American racial body.

We know what role that stigma played in Germany after the First World War. The image of the Jew as pest, as bacillus, as the polluter of healthy Aryan blood was among the most common tropes in Nazi propaganda. By the 1940s, then, the “delousing” of Jews meant death.

In America, the fear of people migrating from such “shithole” countries in Eastern Europe played an important role in the rise of anti-Semitism to unprecedented levels during that same period. 

Already back in the 1890s, health agents in New York, tasked with moving Jews into quarantine, acted brutally in taking them from their homes. In 1924 Congress all but shut the door to further immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe while continuing to allow the flow of “superior” white northern Europeans. But while Norwegians could still come to America over the coming decades, immigration restriction helped seal the fate of unknown numbers of Jews who looked to this country as a refuge from the horrors of the Holocaust.

The truth is it was clear long before the president’s latest outburst that he is a racist. And the mountain of evidence grows larger seemingly by the day. After all, this is a man who refused to unequivocally condemn people who marched with swastika flags on the campus of an American university. The message sent by his moral failure on that day is the same as the message he sent yesterday. Americans—real Americans—are white and Christian. They are the ones that count. The others? The ones from the “shitholes” of the world? They’re a threat. And as we saw on that horrible day in Charlottesville, Trump’s followers know what to do with people they consider a threat. There should be no shock whatsoever when the violence increases.

There is no clearer message of exclusion than what Donald Trump expressed so freely to his colleagues on Capitol Hill about who does and does not belong in this country. But fortunately, we have history to tell us where such exclusionary rhetoric leads. Donald Trump can define his own community any way he likes. It’s up to all the rest of us—the outraged—to keep our community as wide, as open, and as welcoming as possible.

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Tax Cuts for the rich are focused on the wealthy


Indiana ~ This echo letter to the editor was published in the News Sentinel newspaper: "Tax cuts for the rich are only focused on the rich" ~ the middle class will not benefit.

Most of us who object to this (Republican) “tax reform” don’t believe that the rich are the only ones to benefit. What we object to is that they benefit the rich dis-proportionally to the middle class. 

Republicans sold their bad till as "middle-class tax relief"...so why did anyone above the middle class get a cut?

In fact, the wealthy will benefit not only directly from this “reform” with lower taxes, but as shareholders, they will get a probable second dose through stock buybacks and increased dividends.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful with my new found treasure. 

Certainly, I will most assuredly spend and enjoy whatever I get. 

I am a shareholder so I may enjoy those benefits as well. It’s estimated that the average middle-income tax break will be $1,000-$1,500 while those at the top will average $16,000. In a country where income and asset inequality is the greatest since the great depression, that seems not only misguided but maybe even evil.
Kevin Leininger’s January 2nd column in the News-Sentinel was wrong when he compared tax cutting of communist China to the Republican tax cuts.  (MaineWriter- Donald Trump's tax cuts for the rich claims that the American corporations that pull business out of China and, thereby, improve US jobs and pay. This is wrong. American companies will never be able to compete with China's labor costs.)
That brings me to my next point. Tax abatements and corporate welfare. It is estimated that the federal government spends $100B on corporate welfare each year and state and local governments spend another $100B. This last fact is so hard to find information on that nobody really knows how much it is. The one example cited by Leininger shows one company getting $46,350 in benefits each year and that’s one company in one county in our state. 

Multiply that by counties cities states and businesses and you see how difficult it is to keep track of. Politicians argue that it creates jobs but I see it as blackmail. Whenever companies want to build new plants they always seem to have 2 or 3 states where they want to relocate and then the bidding starts. So now you see the true comparison to China, it is in our socialist policies of giving welfare to corporations. It’s how business is done in communist countries. Take away Putin’s oligarchs and you have a much weaker Putin. Take away any politicians donors and you have politicians who need to stand on their record to survive the next election.

The $200B I cited could be used for socialist policies that benefit everyone. Improve healthcare costs, police and fire departments and infrastructure. Pay attention and vote.

— Dennis Powell ~ Indiana

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