A Weblog of The Jackson Progressive

The Difference Between France and the United States

In the face of a vicious attack by guerrillas acting on behalf of ISIS, the French have responded, not with abject fear, but with resolve that their freedoms—indeed, their entire civilization—will not be undone by an enemy working to sow fear and uncertainty.

We Americans, an the other hand, are succumbing to fear and uncertainty—cowardice, in other words—over an enemy thousands of miles away.

Our Mississippi governor is in the front ranks of those who would turn away refugees from Syria. He panders to fear. He invokes the worst in us. He awakens the deep currents of racism in Mississippi whites—yes, dammit, whites—that has plagued this benighted state for centuries.

Our Mississippi culture holds fast to the belief that compassion—Christian compassion included—only applies to people like us: WHITE FUNDAMENTALISTS. I omit the word Christian because this rationing of compassion is utterly unchristian. How many passages from the gospels have you read that justifiy the turning away of refugees? Name just one. How many of the words of Our Lord would I have to read to you for you to understand that rationed compassion is no compassion at all. It only means “I got mine.” Like the parable of the rich fool.

Consider how certain natives of India catch monkeys. They cut a small hole in a coconut and fasten the coconut to the ground. The hole in the coconut is just large enough for a monkey to insert its hand through the hole. They place a nut or other attractive object in the coconut. The monkey approaches the coconut, thrusts his hand through the hole and grasps the nut. When in tries to withdraw his hand from the hole while holding the nut, he finds that he cannot. His fist is too large. When a human approaches, the monkey, instead of dropping the nut and running away, refuses to drop it and is easily captured.

We humans do the same thing. We grasp tightly to our “nut”—our version of what kind of world we want to live in—and we are caught. No matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the conditioning of our racist culture without letting go of the “nut” we are grasping, our “southern way of life,” that rests upon a deeply unjust class system based on race. We cannot open our hearts and minds and at the same time tightly grasp the very thing that is doing us in. We must first let go of the nut.

How Stupid Can Mississippi Republicans Get?

By not expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, the state is depriving its less fortunate of medical care and seeing its state Medicaid expenses increase at about twice the rate of states who have expanded Medicaid. Since when did the Mississippi Legislature and governor leave money on the table? It is irrational, vindictive and just plain stupid (for which there is unfortunately no cure).

The only reason for this intransigence seems to be that the Affordable Care Act was passed by the Democrats during the Obama administration. The Republicans’ dislike of Obama has become so intense (racial prejudice is the only explanation that fits) that they have shamelessly abandoned any sense of responsibility for the well-being of the state and its people, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.

Screwing the poor, especially those of color, has been the policy of the power elite of this state since statehood. A large pool of extremely poor unemployed workers has kept wages below subsistence level since the Civil War, and they aim to keep it that way, because cheap labor boosts profits. It has also resulted in our state being the poorest in the nation. Refusing to expand Medicaid is just another method of squeezing the poor and forcing them to pay more of their income for necessary medical care.

An overwhelming majority of our legislators call themselves Christian, but it is patently obvious that either they have never cracked the pages of the Good Book or taken its teachings seriously. Catholic philosopher Jaques Maritain calls such people “practical atheists,” because pretending to believe is socially advantageous in a Bible-thumping society. A ravenous wolf can wear sheeps’ clothing and be thought a fine Christian person in this environment.

I would prefer to spend my time with confessing atheists, for at least they are honest.

An article in Mother Jones prompted this column:
Red States Spent $2 Billion in 2015 to Screw the Poor

The Mother Jones article was based on a Kaiser Family Foundation study. Scroll down to Figure 5. The study did not break out the data by state (except with maps), but by Medicaid expanders and non-expanders.


The EFF Analyzes the Intellectual Property Provisions of the Completed TPP

The Electronic Freedom Foundation published the following article yesterday on its website. It is republished here with permission under a Creative Commons license. Read and heed.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

October 9, 2015 | By
Jeremy Malcolm

The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared

Today's release by Wikileaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn't survive to the end of the negotiations.

Since we now have the agreed text, we'll be including some paragraph references that you can cross-reference for yourself—but be aware that some of them contain placeholders like “x” that may change in the cleaned-up text. Also, our analysis here is limited to the copyright and Internet-related provisions of the chapter, but analyses of the impacts of other parts of the chapter have been published by
Wikileaks and others.

Binding Rules for Rightsholders, Soft Guidelines for Users

If you skim the chapter without knowing what you're looking for, it may come across as being quite balanced, including references to the need for IP rules to further the “mutual advantage of producers and users” (QQ.A.X), to “facilitate the diffusion of information” (QQ.A.Z), and recognizing the “importance of a rich and accessible public domain” (QQ.B.x). But that's how it's meant to look, and taking this at face value would be a big mistake.

If you dig deeper, you'll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever.

Another, and perhaps the most egregious example of this bias against users is the important provision on limitations and exceptions to copyright (QQ.G.17). In a pitifully ineffectual nod towards users, it suggests that parties “endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system,” but imposes no hard obligations for them to do so, nor even offers U.S.-style fair use as a template that they might follow. The fact that
even big tech was ultimately unable to move the USTR on this issue speaks volumes about how utterly captured by Hollywood the agency is.

Expansion of Copyright Terms

Perhaps the biggest overall defeat for users is the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years (QQ.G.6), despite a broad consensus that
this makes no economic sense, and simply amounts to a transfer of wealth from users to large, rights-holding corporations. The extension will make life more difficult for libraries and archives, for journalists, and for ordinary users seeking to make use of works from long-dead authors that rightfully belong in the public domain.

Could it have been worse? In fact, yes it could have; we were spared a 120 year copyright term for corporate works, as earlier drafts foreshadowed. In the end corporate works are to be protected for 70 years after publication or performance, or if they are not published within 25 years after they were created, for 70 years after their creation. This could make a big difference in practice. It means that the film Casablanca, probably protected in the United States until 2038, would already be in the public domain in other TPP countries, even under a life plus 70 year copyright term.

New to the latest text are the transition periods in Section J, which allow some countries a longer period for complying with some of their obligations, including copyright term. For example, Malaysia has been allowed two years to extend its copyright term to life plus 70 years. For Vietnam, the transition period is five years. New Zealand is the country receiving the most “generous” allowance; its term will increase to life plus 60 years initially, rising to the full life plus 70 year term within eight years. Yet Canada, on the other hand, has not been given any transition period at all.

Ban on Circumventing Digital Rights Management (DRM)

The provisions in QQ.G.10 that prohibit the circumvention of DRM or the supply of devices for doing so are little changed from earlier drafts, other than that the opposition of some countries to the most onerous provisions of those drafts was evidently to no avail. For example, Chile earlier opposed the provision that the offense of DRM circumvention is to be “independent of any infringement that might occur under the Party's law on copyright and related rights,” yet the final text includes just that requirement.

The odd effect of this is that someone tinkering with a file or device that contains a copyrighted work can be made liable (criminally so, if willfulness and a commercial motive can be shown), for doing so
even when no copyright infringement is committed. Although the TPP text does allow countries to pass exceptions that allow DRM circumvention for non-infringing uses, such exceptions are not mandatory, as they ought to be.

The parties' flexibility to allow DRM circumvention also requires them to consider whether rightsholders have already taken measures to allow those non-infringing uses to be made. This might mean that rightsholders will rely on the walled-garden sharing capabilities built in to their DRM systems, such as
Ultraviolet, to oppose users being granted broader rights to circumvent DRM.

Alongside the prohibition on circumvention of DRM is a similar prohibition (QQ.G.13) on the removal of rights management information, with equivalent civil and criminal penalties. Since this offense is, once again, independent of the infringement of copyright, it could implicate a user who crops out an identifying watermark from an image, even if they are using that image for fair use purposes and even if they otherwise provide attribution of the original author by some other means.

The distribution of devices for decrypting encrypted satellite and cable signals is also separately proscribed (QQ.H.9), posing a further hazard to hackers wishing to experiment with or to repurpose broadcast media.

Criminal Enforcement and Civil Damages

On damages, the text (QQ.H.4) remains as bad as ever: rightsholders can submit “any legitimate measure of value” to a judicial authority for determination of damages, including the suggested retail price of infringing goods. Additionally, judges must have the power to order pre-established damages (at the rightsholder's election), or additional damages, each of which may go beyond compensating the rightsholder for its actual loss, and thereby create a disproportionate chilling effect for users and innovators.

No exception to these damages provisions is made in cases where the rightsholder cannot be found after a diligent search, which
puts the kibosh on ideas for the introduction of an orphan works regime that would cap remedies available against those who reproduce these otherwise-unavailable works.

One of the scariest parts of the TPP is that not only can you be made liable to fines and criminal penalties, but that any materials and implements used in the creation of infringing copies can also be destroyed (QQ.H.4(12)). The same applies to devices and products used for circumventing DRM or removing rights management information (QQ.H.4(17)). Because multi-use devices such as computers are used for a diverse range of purposes, this is once again a disproportionate penalty. This could lead to a family's home computer becoming seized simply because of its use in sharing files online, or for ripping Blu-Ray movies to a media center.

In some cases (QQ.H.7), the penalties for copyright infringement can even include jail time. Traditionally, this has because the infringer is operating a business of commercial piracy. But under the TPP, any act of willful copyright infringement on a commercial scale renders the infringer liable to criminal penalties, even if they were not carried out for financial gain, provided that they have a substantial prejudicial impact on the rightsholder. The copying of films that are still playing in movie theaters is also subject to separate criminal penalties, regardless of the scale of the infringement.

Trade Secrets

The severity of the earlier language on trade secrets protection has not been abated in the final text. It continues to criminalize those who gain “unauthorized, willful access to a trade secret held in a computer system,” without any mandatory exception for cases where the information is accessed or disclosed in the public interest, such as by investigative journalists or whistleblowers.

There is no evident explanation for the differential treatment given to trade secrets accessed or misappropriated by means of a computer system, as opposed to by other means; but it is no surprise to find the U.S. pushing such a technophobic provision, which mirrors
equivalent provisions of U.S. law that have been used to persecute hackers for offenses that would otherwise have been considered much more minor.

Top-Down Control of the Internet

ICANN, the global domain name authority, provoked a furore earlier this year over proposals that could
limit the ability for owners of domain names to shield their personal information from copyright and trademark trolls, identity thieves, scammers and harassers.

The TPP has just ridden roughshod over that entire debate (at least for country-code top-level domains such as .us, .au and .jp), by cementing in place rules (QQ.C.12) that countries must provide “online public access to a reliable and accurate database of contact information concerning domain-name registrants.”

The same provision also requires countries to adopt an equivalent to ICANN's flawed Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), despite the fact that this controversial policy is overdue for a formal review by ICANN, which might result in the significant revision of this policy. Where would this leave the TPP countries, that are locked in to upholding a UDRP-like policy for their own domains for the indefinite future?

The TPP's prescription of rules for domain names completely disregards the fact that most country code domain registries have their own, open, community-driven processes for determining rules for managing domain name disputes. More than that, this top-down rulemaking on domain names is in direct contravention of the U.S. administration's own
firmly-stated commitment to uphold the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. Obviously, Internet users cannot trust the administration that it means what it says when it gives lip-service to multi-stakeholder governance—and that has ramifications that go even even deeper than this terrible TPP deal.

ISP Liability

The provisions on ISP liability (Appendix Section I), as we
previously found in the last leaked text, are not quite as permissive as we hoped. It will still require most countries to adopt a version of the flawed U.S. DMCA notice-and-takedown system, albeit with a few safeguards such as penalties for those who issue wrongful takedown notices, and allowing (but not requiring) a Japanese-style system of verification of takedown notices by an independent body of ISPs and rightsholders.

It is true that Canada's
notice-and-notice regime is also allowed, but effectively only for Canada—no other country that did not have an equivalent system as of the date of the agreement is allowed to benefit from that flexibility. Even in Canada's case, this largesse is only afforded because of the other enforcement measures that rightsholders enjoy there—such as a tough regime of secondary liability for authorization of copyright infringement.

Similarly Chile's system under which ISPs are not required to take down content without a judicial order is explicitly grandfathered in, but no other country joining the TPP in the future will be allowed to have a similar system.

In addition, although there is no explicit requirement for a
graduated response regime of copyright penalties against users, ISPs are still roped in as copyright enforcers with the vague requirement (Appendix Section 1) that they be given “legal incentives…to cooperate with copyright owners to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials or, in the alternative, to take other action to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyright materials”.

Good Points?

Quite honestly there are no parts of this agreement that are positively good for users. Of course, that doesn't mean that it's not improved over the earlier, horrendous demands of the U.S. negotiators. Some of the areas in which countries rightly pushed back against the U.S., and which are reflected in the final text are:

• The exhaustion of rights provision (QQ.A.11) that upholds the first sale doctrine of U.S. law, preventing copyright owners from extending their control over the resale of copyright works once they have first been placed in the market. In particular, this makes parallel importation of cheaper versions of copyright works lawful—and complementing this is an explicit authorization of devices that bypass region-coding on physical copies of such works (QQ.G.10, though this does not extend to bypassing geoblocking of streaming services).

• A thoroughly-misguided provision that would have extended copyright protection to temporary or "buffer" copies in a computer system was one of the earliest rightsholder demands dropped by the USTR, and rightfully so, given the damage this would have wreaked to tech companies and users alike.

But we have struggled to come up with more than two positive points about the TPP, and even then the absence of these tragic mistakes is a pretty poor example of a positive point. If you look for provisions in the TPP that actually afford new benefits to users, rather than to large, rights-holding corporations, you will look in vain. The TPP is the archetype of an agreement that exists only for the benefit of the entitled, politically powerfully lobbyists who have pushed it through to completion over the last eight years.

There is nothing in here for users and innovators to support, and much for us to fear—the ratcheting up of the copyright term across the Pacific rim, the punitive sanctions for DRM circumvention, and the full frontal attack on hackers and journalists in the trade secrets provision, just to mention three. This latest leak has confirmed our greatest fears—and strengthened our resolve to kill this agreement for good once it reaches Congress.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement


Is The Christian Coalition Christian?

I receive newsletters from the Christian Coalition of America on a regular basis. Recently, the newsletter referred to the agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons as “the president’s surrender to the Islamic State of Iran deal.” This is in the face of public announcements by numerous general grade military officers, nuclear scientists, and leaders of the other nations involved in negotiating the agreement, expressing a contrary opinion.

The newsletter exulted in the fact that every Republican in Congress voted against the agreement. It also made clear that the lemming-like support of Republicans for Israel played a great part in their decision to vote against it.

I seem to recall that Our Lord made His position on the issue of war and peace very clear: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9. In light of the fact that Iran hasn’t attacked anybody in hundreds of years and has now submitted to an inspection regime that our own government would reject in a second, one is compelled to ask “exactly what is this “Christian” Coalition all about, anyway? It’s hard to discover anything Christian about it. It supports a policy vey likely to lead to war, not a policy that would enhance our national security.

Sadly, The Christian Coalition has acted as merely another propaganda wing of the Republican Party, intended to pander to fundamentalist Christians by supporting unthinkingly whatever the Israeli government does, no matter how evil. And all for the purpose of inveigling ignorant and gullible Mississippians to vote into office the very representatives that have held back the state for more than a hundred years.

We elected lemmings. Let us congratulate ourselves for electing these moral idiots.


A Short Note to Bernie Sanders


I just read an article in Counterpunch magazine that is highly critical of your policy position regarding the Middle East. You are venturing into areas in which you clearly have no expertise.

Suggestion: before you make any more statements about what our mid-eastern policy should be, get a real expert on board. This is a very serious business, and your opponents will take you apart if you continue with the same policy recommendations you are putting forth now. You would be wise to consult Dr. Juan Cole at the University of Michigan on the middle east in general. For Syria, specifically, Josh Landis at the University of Oklahoma would be a good choice.

The administration’s middle east policy is a mess, chiefly because neither the Obama or Bush administrations really knows or knew very much about the middle east and didn’t seem to want to know. Obama has enough sense to resist the pressure to become deeply involved in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts, and a knowledgeable candidate who can speak with authority on this issue will, if nothing else, reinforce the president’s spine and help him keep the neo-cons, who are dying to put other people’s boots on the ground, at bay.

A president is only as good as his advisors. The same goes for a presidential candidate. Having good and forthright advisors is the key to wise governance.

The Greeks and the Euro

Now that the dust is beginning to settle after the close of Greek/German negotiations, it’s time to assess what has been accomplished by the agreement. I use Germany to represent the collective membership of the banks, governments and other agencies of the Euro Zone, because Germany, with its huge economy, has been calling the shots all through the negotiations.

The “politically correct” problem is the debt racked up by Greece to the European banks (mostly German) since its admission to the Euro Zone, and the assumption by the national governments of that debt in 2012, thus letting the banks off the hook and saddling the governments and international financial institutions with potential losses of € 323 billion ($352.7 billion).

Reckless lenders are at least, if not more, culpable than reckless borrowers, because lenders are usually in a better position to evaluate the creditworthiness of the latter. The Germans have not yet been willing to accept any blame at all, despite this obvious truth. In fact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made political hay by characterizing the Greeks as lazy freeloaders who ought to be forced to pay back the money loaned by the virtuous, industrious Germans.

By thus characterizing the Greeks, Merkel has painted herself into a corner. She cannot now be honest with her nation and tell them the truth: those debts are bad debts; Greece cannot pay its debts to Germany and will never be able to pay its debts, and that the austerity that has been forced on Greece has wrecked the Greek economy and made it even less likely that it will be able to pay the debt, ever. A debt that cannot be repaid will not be repaid.

Haven’t Merkel and her ministers learned from their history classes to know what a mindless insistence on reparations did the last time it was tried?


Why the Republicans Oppose Infrastructure Funding

I’ve puzzled for years over the fact that when in power, the Republicans have steadfastly refused to fund basic research, even though much basic research is not immediately applicable or profitable and therefore not something the corporatocracy would want to do itself. I’m still wondering.

Similarly, I have often wondered why the Republicans in Congress have refused to either raise the gasoline tax to maintain the Highway Trust Fund (authorized by 26 U.S.C. § 9503 and subsequent sections), which is due to run out of funds shortly without additional funding.

The condition of our highway system is not good, notwithstanding the reassurances of conservative think tanks, such as The Heritage Foundation, who point out that the percentage of deficient bridges has been cut in half since 1993. The improvement in the average condition of bridges since 1993, however, does not diminish the gravity of our current situation. For an overview of the national condition of bridges, see Deficient Bridges by State and Highway System on the Federal Highways Administration website. (SD = “Structurally deficient”; FO = “Functionally Obsolete”) That’s still a lot of deficient bridges, and if the Highway Trust Fund is not sufficiently funded, it will take far longer than the 23 years it took to repair or replace the first half. In fact, the average condition will almost certainly become worse, because newer bridges (<10 years old) as well as older bridges will deteriorate during that time.

The near-insolvency of the Trust can be squarely laid at the doorstep of the Republicans in Congress. They have stymied all efforts to cure the problem, either by refusing to raise the gas tax to compensate for inflation, or replenishing the fund out of general funds. This is utterly irresponsible behavior, and their failure to act will lead to more and more lethal collapses of bridges as their condition inexorably becomes worse. Blood will be on their hands.

Of course blood is on Bush’s and Cheney’s hands, and they are riding high.

A post on the Daily Kos by RETIII attributes the deliberate failure to take action on the part of the Republican Congress to five causes:

1. The large majority of transportation expenditures are in Democratic-leaning states and legislators of the southern states that dominate the Republicans in Congress refuse to spend on states that don’t vote Republican. Witness the Republican reluctance to vote relief for Hurricane Sandy and contrast it with its alacrity in appropriating relief for the southern states hit by Katrina. This is shameful behavior.

2. The Trust is a perfect hostage to be used by the Republicans to defund programs that benefit the middle and lower classes. They justify defunding by invoking the need to balance the budget, a position they never take when they are in power. Shortly after he was elected, Bush approved a tax cut for the wealthy and made no apologies for unbalancing the budget. The budget-balancing mantra is a scam, just like the salvation through austerity religion.

3. By letting the transportation infrastructure of the nation deteriorate to a dangerous condition, they can claim that “government is the problem” and that the roads should be privatized. Remember that when you have to pay a toll to back out of your driveway, because the street’s been privatized;

4. By refusing to fund highway construction and repair, the Republicans can demand repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act that requires contractors to pay the prevailing wage on all public works projects for laborers and mechanics. Republicans have whined about Davis-Bacon since 1931, when it was passed as part of the New Deal. Recall that the Bush Administration waived requirement for reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina and contractors promptly trucked in Mexican migrants—legal and illegal—to work at minimum wage or lower.

Read the entire post on the Daily Kos website for a much fuller explanation of how the Republicans in Congress are holding our roads and highways hostage to advance the corporate agenda of their sponsors. Part of that agenda is to privatize any federal or state program that produces a large income stream, like the highways, the schools, and the military, which has already been largely privatized. They are succeeding because they have managed to hide their neo-liberal agenda from the public and keep themselves in the shadows. The corporate media, largely owned—if not completely owned—by the same corporations and financial institutions that profit from the neo-liberal agenda, filter out all contrary points of view, even when they program an occasional “liberal,” in order to claim impartiality. They are quick, however, to squelch a radio or TV personality that gets out of line. Remember Phil Donahue, who in 2003 was fired by MSNBC for opposing the Iraq invasion, even though he was the most popular host on the network. The corporate owners of MSNBE needed that war for their bottom line. Losing Phil was pocket change for them. So it goes.


We're Screwed — Again

Barak Obama’s Duplicity

When I heard that Obama’s chief economic adviser during his first election campaign was Robert Rubin, the former secretary of the Treasury who persuaded Bill Clinton to sign the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, I began to have serious doubts about Obama’s real intentions, irrespective of what he was promising on the stump. When President Obama appointed Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner as economic advisor and Secretary of the Treasury respectively, I knew, beyond peradventure, that the picture of the future painted for us by Obama would not become a reality. It would not even be close. Certainly not while he is president.

Note: For the JP’s comment in 1999 when Glass-Steagall was about to be repealed, click this link and scroll down to the entry dated 10/3/99, about 2/5 of the way down the page.

To start with, Obama refused to prosecute the bankers who committed egregious fraud upon investors and the public and instead, handed over literally trillions of dollars to the megabanks to keep them from going under. He allowed the CEOs and senior officers of the largest banks to keep the hundreds of millions of dollars they received in bonuses from their banks that they knew to be insolvent at the very time that those obscenely excessive bonuses were paid. The usual procedures undertaken by the FDIC when a bank becomes insolvent are to nationalize the bank, fire the current management, recapitalize the bank, and sell it off to the highest bidder. In the process, the FDIC wipes out the shareholder interest, awards the bondholders preferred stock in the new bank, and protects the depositors up to the maximum amount set by law. This process was ignored, however, in the case of the “too big to fail banks,” a clear case of moral hazard that sent a loud message to Wall Street that the government would bail them out whenever they pulled the same shenanigans in the future.

In addition, when a large percentage of private homes were under water caused by the bursting of the housing bubble, that is, were burdened with mortgage debt that exceeded the value of their home, the Treasury, authorized by law and supplied with cash by a congressional appropriation, simply refused to use the cash to give homeowners relief. Instead, Treasury under Timothy Geithner used the funds to “foam the runway” (in Geithner’s words) for the banks, in anticipation of the massive wave of foreclosures that would throw millions of families out of their homes.

On top of it all, Obama asked Congress for a stimulus that he knew perfectly well, in light of the bursting of a $6 trillion housing bubble, was grossly inadequate to put the economy back on track. Instead, he preached to the public that the U. S. Government was like a family and needed to reduce the deficit by cutting its outlays—when he knew what he was saying was a baldfaced lie. The best that could be said about this destructive policy is that the nation’s suffering resulting from the administration’s embrace of austerity was dwarfed by the suffering brought about in Europe by the European Central Bank’s imposition of austerity on the Eurozone. At least our economy is beginning to grow; the Europeans are still stuck in a stagnant recession that is destroying its future by impoverishing its present.

Hillary Clinton To the Rescue?

Hillary Clinton is making her second bid for the Democratic nomination.

Because of her reluctance to answer inconvenient questions (According to the Washington Post, she answered only eight questions in the first 29 days after she announced her candidacy), it is difficult to ascertain just how she stands on many important issues. We can learn much, however, by studying what she has done in the past and with whom she now associates.

Economist Thomas Pally points out that Hillary’s economic team consists of Bill Clinton’s advisors: Robert Rubin, Larry Summers and Peter Orszag.

Does this sound familiar?


“ * * * In the 1990s, Rubin and Summers put in place the trade, deregulation and competition policies that have gotten us in so much trouble. The housing bubble that ended so badly also began on their watch. Above all, they argued persistently for fiscal austerity and even toyed with privatizing Social Security.

“Following in the footsteps of Messrs. Rubin and Summers, for the last several years Mr. Orszag has been collecting booty on Wall Street. Before that, his starting job in Washington was to write papers showing that budget deficits increase interest rates, thereby preparing the political table for a menu of fiscal austerity and entitlement cuts.

“In Clintonworld, it seems that playing a central role in catastrophic policy failure or peddling bad economics doesn’t disqualify you from future influence. If anything, a record of being disastrously wrong on economic policy seems to be a required credential.”


If you read my column on the turnkey presidency, you will see that Hillary’s choices for economic advisors fits the general pattern. There are numerous economists of integrity in the U. S. and elsewhere who are far superior to Rubin, Summers and Orszag, with a vastly superior grasp of economic reality. If Hillary actually desires to help the nation pull out of the recession that still plagues everyone but the top 1%, she could improve her chances by refusing to have anything to do with these three retreads. It reveals much about her vision—as well as the mindset of her plutocratic contributors—that she chose these three men as her advisors after they paved the way for the worst economic disaster this nation has experienced since the Great Depression.

But these are “serious” men, meaning that Wall Street is confident that they will not upset the apple cart, or rather, the gravy train, that has enabled the wealthy to shamelessly enrich themselves beyond the dreams of Croesus at the expense of the less fortunate. This is why Hillary can charge $100,000 for a speech to Goldman Sachs and maintain with a straight face that such an obscenely munificent sum for a single speech is not an advance payment for favors to be rendered when she becomes president.

See: Why Bribery Isn’t Really Bribery Under Federal Law from the Jackson Progressive, dated 11/21/1999.

At the moment, it appears that Hillary is marching to the nomination over insignificant Democratic opposition. The Republicans who have so far tossed their hats into the ring resemble nothing so much as a pack of hyenas fighting over a carcass.The spectacle will further enhance any Democrat’s chances.

There is a caveat: Hillary is the only candidate with high-level managerial experience in the executive branch of the Federal Government. She is friends with many powerful persons in Washington, having served as first lady, senator, and Secretary of State. She is very intelligent, having graduated from Yale Law School and worked in a prestigious Little Rock law firm. In other words, she has her own power base, one that does not rely completely on the elite that customarily calls the shots in Washington. Her experience near the center of executive power make her one of the most qualified presidential candidates in decades. As I pointed out before, only one president since Richard Nixon has held a high position in the executive branch prior to becoming president. Hillary might, heaven forbid, appoint advisers and departmental heads not beholden to the powers that be.

That simply cannot be allowed to happen.

Hillary has gone out of her way to cozen up to the power elite. The speeches to Goldman Sachs are merely the tip of the iceberg. She must assuage the fear of the powerful and wealthy that she might go her own way. She must convince them that she will not attempt to make the system fairer or more equitable. If they do not believe that she will conform, they have ways, mainly through the media—but also some darker methods—of denying her a primary victory.

Don’t forget Edmund Muskie’s 1972 campaign for the Democratic nomination. Leading in the polls, he shed entirely justified tears in the snows of New Hampshire, and his candidacy was over. Muskie’s downfall was brought about by the dirty tricks of Republican operatives who effectively sabotaged the campaign of every candidate other than that of anti-Vietnam War senator George McGovern, who they correctly sensed was the weakest candidate. McGovern indeed became the Democratic candidate and was subsequently crushed by Richard Nixon in the general election.

If a new, credible Democratic candidate suddenly appears on the scene and seems well-connected and well-financed, watch carefully, for it is but a cloud on the horizon no bigger than a man’s hand. It will grow, and the gentle mist that begins to fall from it will soon turn into a raging storm that sweeps Hillary and her campaign into oblivion.

It should be an interesting election.

(Revised and corrected. 5/26/2015)


The Trans-Pacific Partnership: An Evil Treaty Forged in Secret

It’s difficult to comprehend that Congress, one of the three branches of our government, is about to enact fast-track legislation. It is considering a bill doing exactly that before it even knows the contents of the first trade bill that likely will come before it, the Trans Pacific Partnership. Fast-track limits debate and disallows amendments on trade agreements designated fast-track. Congress will have literally no time to even read a massive trade agreement before it votes, and the vote must be either up or down.

Bestowing fast-track authority upon the president is an abdication by Congress of its responsibility to the nation to seriously consider bills. By passing a fast-track provision, our legislature is relinquishing its constitutional powers to amend bills before it. The Roman historian Tacitus warns us what government under an uncontrolled executive is like:

“It is not my intention to dwell upon any senatorial motions save those either remarkable for their nobility or of memorable turpitude; in which case they fall within my conception of the first duty of history — to ensure that merit shall not lack its record and to hold before the vicious word and deed the terrors of posterity and infamy. But so tainted was that age, so mean its sycophancy, that not only the great personages of the state, who had to shield their magnificence by their servility, but all senators of consular rank, a large proportion of the ex-praetors, many ordinary members even, vied with one another in rising to move the most repulsive and extravagant resolutions. The tradition runs that Tiberius, on leaving the curia, had a habit of ejaculating in Greek, "These men! — how ready they are for slavery!" Even he, it was manifest, objecting though he did to public liberty, was growing weary of such grovelling patience in his slaves.”

Annals, III, 65.

Further, the administration has classified the draft of the treaty as “Secret,” as though the TPP is a military secret.

There is only one question to be asked about the TPP: What is contained in that treaty that it must be negotiated in secret by representatives of the largest multinational corporations out of the sight of the Congress, the press, and, most importantly, the public. Why is it so important and sensitive that revealing it could cause the leaker to be charged with espionage and sentenced to jail? This is a trade agreement, not a military secret.

The obvious and compelling reason for the secrecy is that the American public would be outraged by its contents because, being written by the multinational corporations, it almost certainly will be detrimental to our national interests and the welfare of the American people. It leads to the unhappy conclusion that our Congress is bought and paid for by large multinational corporations and Wall Street, plunderers and parasites that are determined to protect and strengthen their privileges and obscene wealth, to the detriment of everyone else.

The following passage from the Good Book is apt:

“[M]en loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19

Very Few Muslims are Jihadist

The media are ablaze with news about the Middle East, and virtually all of the news is biased against muslims. They get away with it because few Americans know anything about Islam today or its history. Reader, how many muslims have you ever met in your life? Have you ever discussed Islam in depth—or even superficially with a Muslim? Have you read any Islamic literature other than some fantastical stories from the Thousand and One Nights’, compiled by the Middle Eastern scholars who were the counterparts of the Grimm brothers? Have you even cracked the covers of the Koran? If you have not done any of these things in an attempt to learn at least a smattering of what Islam is all about, then you are utterly ignorant of the subject and, like an empty vessel, unscrupulous newscasters, with their “experts” can pour all manner of propaganda into your empty mind and fill it to the brim with falsehoods so that there is no room for truth.

Human beings also have a characteristic that makes it easy to hate muslims: we tend to project our dark side onto others and give them those attributes that we are unwilling to recognize in ourselves, and the less we know about the target, the easier it is to project. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and its satellites were the targets of our projection. We were told by our government and its media lackeys that there were no depths of evil to which the Russians would descend to further the cause of “Godless Communism.” The communist government did to its people the same thing we did, turn the United States and its people into villains that were out to conquer or even destroy their country. The Iron Curtain dividing the Communist domain from the peoples whose governments belonged to NATO, kept the two peoples separated and ignorant of each other.

Both sides believed that they had cause to fear the other side. Until 1952, the Soviet Union groaned under the heavy hand of Joseph Stalin, a vicious and paranoid dictator that ordered the deaths of literally millions of Soviet citizens to create a new society that he believed would bring about a golden age for humanity. The nations of Eastern Europe, occupied by the Soviet Army, became part of the Soviet bloc, whereas the western nations and the United States formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to counter a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Shortly thereafter, the U. S. tested a thermonuclear bomb in the Pacific and began to build missiles capable of transporting thermonuclear bombs outside the Earth’s atmosphere to deliver them to the cities of the Soviet Union, an act that speeded up the development by the Soviet Union of the same kind of weapons capable of destroying U. S. Cities. And the people on both sides, who barely knew what the other was like, were manipulated into supporting and funding an insane arms race that carried with it the possibility of human extinction.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the power elite of the United States has been faced with a dilemma: there is no single enemy seriously threatening the U. S. Our armed forces are several times the size of any other possible rival. That is an economic disaster for the defense industry, which, in order to survive, must have a steady source of weapon orders from the government. They were suffering badly when they and the Bush administration received a gift that has been giving and giving: the destruction of the two towers of the World Trade Center by Islamic guerrillas, most of which were Saudis but had joined a jihadist group called Al Qaida, based at the time in Afghanistan. The Bush administration finally had something with which to manipulate the people. They could frighten the people with the threat of terrorism.

In reality, terrorism, which has never been accurately defined, has killed relatively killed very few people. The WTC was the biggest, and things has gone downhill since then. The average American is more likely to be killed by a falling television than by a terrorist attack. But the president and the media were able to strike fear in the populace by pointing to the devastation of the WTC. Along with Al Qaida, Islam became the target of our projections. Those fears and the hatred of Moslems it engendered became the tool of the administration to justify the totally illegal attacks and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The pity of it all is that all those innocent lives and all that wanton destruction would not have occurred had even a small percentage of the American citizens knew just a little about Islam and had come to know them as people who are a lot like us and want the same things we do. Familiarity makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to project one’s dark side on another person. They gradually become ordinary people.

The government and the media are getting ready to pump us up for an invasion of Iran. Hopefully the people of this nation will not permit our leaders to lead us into another illegal and foolhardy war on the other side of the Earth.

If you would like to gain some knowledge of Islam or get a taste of its spiritual wealth, you could not do better than obtaining a copy of The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. Rumi was a 13th Century Spiritual Teacher within the Sufi sect. He is today the most popular poet in the U. S. It is said that Muslims, Jews and Christians attended his funeral in Konya, Turkey. His soul was too big to be contained within the teachings of any religion.

By the way, he dictated all his poetry in Persian, which has become Farsi, the contemporary language of Iran.

The Jackson Progressive

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