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Happy Black History Month, No Voting Rights for You

It is hard to make since out of what’s been going on in United States with regard to voting rights over the last year or so. Yes, in spite of Fox News stating that the 2020 election was stolen, Joe Biden did, in fact, win that election. The election was close in Arizona. Republicans cried foul and decided that they would hire a company with no election experience to recount all the votes in Maricopa County, a Democratic stronghold. The funny thing is that their fraudulent recount actually showed that Joe Biden did when Maricopa County. So, instead of figuring out how they can appeal to more voters, Republicans have decided to change the rules. As of December, 19 states have passed 34 laws restricting voting. Early voting, which improves access to voting for the poor, has been reduced. A couple of states have even passed laws to allow partisan ballot reviews after voters have voted. You don’t have to have great imagination to see that in the states if these partisan reviewers don’t like your ballot for whatever reason, your ballot will be thrown out. Oh, and don’t expect the courts to bail you out.

2020 was a re-districting year. This means that every state, once they get the census data, can redraw its districts. In theory, the purpose of this is to make sure that everyone is equally represented. In actuality, redistricting is used as a tool to dilute the power of the poor and minorities. The technique of gerrymandering is actually quite simple when you have the demographic data that we now have at our fingertips. With fairly simple mapping programs, it’s possible to figure out average income, race, single-parent or multi-parent household for every state, every county, city, ZIP Code and neighborhood. More sophisticated programs can break down the United States block by block.

Let’s say that you would like to dilute the liberal vote in Asheville. How would you do that? Well, there are multiple different ways. First of all, you can break Asheville up into four separate districts. Extend those districts into the surrounding areas which are more conservative. Make sure that you include more conservatives than liberals in every single district. This way, no matter how motivated liberals are to get out and vote, the game is rigged against them. The second way you can gerrymander a district is make one large district, Asheville, liberal. Then, make five or six of the surrounding districts conservative but each of these districts have significantly less people. They will be over represented at the state level while the huge Asheville district will be under represented at the state level. Both methods are grossly unfair.

We need national standards for developing districts. We need one standard that is applied equally across all 50 states. We also need voting to be easier for everyone. We need early voting. We need voting on Saturdays. Voting for major elections should be a national holiday. This would be the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Both these bills have passed the House. Both of these bills have died in the Senate. If we are going to live in a democracy, we need fairness in our districts and we need access to the polls. Simply put, the Democrats did not get it done. Sure, not one Republican voted for this common sense legislation. But, at the end of the day, the Democrats had an opportunity to do something truly historic and meaningful for the United States.

The Stock Market and Crypto Currency
About 30 or 40 years ago, there is a book called Grow Rich Slowly. The book discussed how you could wisely begin investing money when you’re 25. You regularly put money into your investment account. You then pour that money into stocks. You put blinders on and don’t jump into the highly risky, new shiny stocks, but instead stay with the blue-chip stocks like IBM, General Motors and the like. Over 20 or 30 years, you would have a nice nest egg and you’re ready to retire.

When I read the book, I was about 30 years old. I thought I was a little behind the timeline but, I can make this up. The problem with this whole theory is that it assumes that you live modestly and have $3000 to $5000, every month, to invest in your future. This also assumes that you don’t have any unexpected expenses. You don’t get sick. Your daughter does not want to have a nice wedding. You never get fired. You also must stay at the same job and live in the same house because switching jobs and changing houses can cost lots of money. (Unless you are my sister, she has moved 10 or 15 times in the last 30 years and has never lost money. I don’t know how she does it.)

Instead, we need to be honest with each other. Sure, you can invest everything you have in a stock that no one’s heard of and it could skyrocket overnight. If that happens to you, congratulations! You’re a millionaire. For the most part, the stock market is for the rich. (I know I’m not supposed to say that out loud.) They have tons of extra cash lying around. They can invest millions. They can let their millions grow at 3 to 5% per year. Basically, they’re using millions to make millions. Laws have been passed so that huge swings in the stock market are rare. If you are a millionaire, you have to take unreasonable risks in order to lose your millions. (Even then, there are things like derivatives to help minimize even the riskiest bets.) On the other hand, if you invest $200 and your investment goes wild and grows at 25% per year and you put in $200 every year for 5 years, you will have $2662.11. Are you ready to retire? No real investment is going to give you 25% per year. Now let’s do the calculation with a more realistic 3% per year. You have $1325.54 at the end of 5 years, but you put in $1000.

One of the funniest things about investing is looking at these investment growth charts. Almost all of them start off with an investment of $50,000. Who has $50,000 lying around? If you do, good for you.

Let me talk about crypto for just a second. If you’re sitting around at home and trading American dollars for Japanese yen or the English pound, then crypto currency may be for you. On the other hand, if you can’t figure out how you can make money trading one currency for another then why would you be interested in crypto currency? I am not a money guy, but it seems to me that crypto has been designed to suck money out of your pocket, quickly and efficiently then put your money into somebody’s pocket. In most transactions, at least you know who’s ripping you off. In crypto currency you have no idea. Recently, I heard a commercial in which you can invest from your retirement account into crypto currency. I’m sorry, I can’t think of a worse idea. I think it is safer to flush your retirement money down your toilet than invest in crypto but I’m probably biased.

A couple of things
I really don’t have any idea what’s going on with Russia. I know that Vladimir Putin loves power. I know that he wants to be perceived as one of the world’s most powerful man. He wants Russia to be seen by the world as a superpower just like the United States. The last thing I heard was that Russia was amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. The United States is sending troops to NATO in order to counteract this nonsense. If any of this remind you of the Cuban missile crisis, it should. This could be extremely bad.

As some of you know, I love football. I love the competition. I love the athleticism. I love the bravado. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember playing football in junior high school and I really wanted to play quarterback. Although the coach let me take some snaps at quarterback, he was really pushing me to play wide receiver. At the time, there were no black quarterbacks in the NFL. There was a perception that the quarterback was the most cerebral of football players and a black man would not be capable. Fast forward to now, there is no doubt that a black man can play quarterback in the NFL. As a matter fact, some teams are actively changing their offenses in order to take advantage of the skills of the extremely athletic black quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson.

Black coaches are a different thing entirely. If, we thought that Blacks could not be quarterbacks, that it is hundred percent clear that Blacks cannot be coaches. The NFL has been reluctant to hire Black coaches. As a matter fact, some teams have gone so far as to hire coaches who have clearly failed in the NFL rather than to give a Black coach a chance. The NFL does not like to be in court. The NFL does not like to have the spotlight shined upon it. Brian Flores, the former Black coach of the Miami Dolphins, has sued the league for discrimination. I have no idea how this is going to work out. All I can tell you is that this is going to get ugly. The NFL will probably get a black eye over this. Remember, that the NFL is nothing but a small collection of billionaires. The NFL is 32 billionaires who each own a single team. Basically, billionaires make up the rules and they do what they want. It is going to be hard for a court of law to make billionaires bend to their will. All I know is that we must keep working hard. We must look out for each other. We must keep each other safe (Covid has not gone away). Finally, we must keep fighting to make America a better place. Happy Black history month!

By |2022-08-19T08:48:53-04:00August 19th, 2022|Civil Rights, Elections, Foreign Affairs|0 Comments

The Real Fight

Welcome to 2022!  This is the year that we beat Covid-19 into submission. At least, I hope so. I can give you the statistics, but I guess you already know them. We are in the midst of yet another spike. Over 75% of the new cases are the new Omicron. This new variant is supposed to be highly contagious but, less deadly.

All I know is I do not want the coronavirus. I do not want the original virus. I do not want the Delta variant of the virus. I do not want the Omicron variant. I will continue to do what I can to avoid this virus. I will continue to wear a mask. I will continue to social distance. I do not go to restaurants, movie theaters, or sporting events. I avoid crowds. I am vaccinated and boosted, I encourage you to do the same.

American democracy

When we think about American democracy, we think about one-man (one-woman), one-vote. Yet, the original United States Constitution was not really about every adult voting. The original Constitution was about the rich voting or more correctly men who owned land voting. The Framers believed that people who held land were more important than “regular” folk. They believed that white-skinned people from Europe deserved the vote, but not the original inhabitants of the continent. Or women. Or people from Africa brought over to be property. Senators were not even elected by “we the people,” but appointed by state legislatures.

Over the centuries the Constitution has been changed. Now, we can vote for our representatives to both the House and Senate. But the real question remains—is America about us or about the rich?

Not my job

Recently Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called out Warren Buffett, billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. It appears there is a steelworker strike of the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia (where I live). Berkshire Hathaway owns the parent company of Special Metals, Precision Castparts. Sen. Sanders asked Warren Buffett to pay his workers more. He correctly pointed out that these steelworkers work for a company that makes plenty of money. Yet Warren Buffett said, “That’s not my job” [to raise their pay.]

Really? Isn’t this the classic rich-vs.-poor struggle that we’ve seen in the United States for over close to 200 years.

In A People’s History of the United States, author Howard Zinn describes a, 1839 fight between tenants and the Rensselaer estate in New York’s Hudson Valley. The tenants were farmers that lived on the estate. They had to pay taxes and rents to the Rensselaers. The famers believed that the taxes and rents were too high: they barely had enough money to live on after they paid their dues.

The disagreement between the Rensselaers and their tenants became a huge fight. The sheriff was brought into collect rent or to evict tenants, but he retreated after being confronted with hundreds of angry farmers. Then the sheriff returned with a posse—and thousands of angry farmers threw stones and beat the posse with sticks. Again, they retreated. A petition for an anti-rent bill was submitted to the New York legislature in 1845. The bill was signed by 25,000 tenants. It was defeated. Finally, a guerrilla war broke out. People were killed on both sides. Although the farmers won some minor victories, the landlord-tenant structure basically stayed in place. This fight lasted for more than 20 years. Yet in the end, not much changed.

The fight between rich and poor is an ongoing battle in the United States. Think about the fights that we’ve been discussing in this space for over a decade. When you think about them in the context of rich versus poor, they make more sense.

Healthcare

Universal healthcare shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not that we can’t afford it. We clearly can. Universal healthcare would raise millions of Americans out of poverty. Universal healthcare would not be tied to your place of work but instead would be tied to your citizenship here in the United States.

Think about it: if you’re poor and working two jobs and develop a toothache, you would have nothing to worry about. You would simply go to a dentist and have you tooth taking care of. Done.

Living wage

Think about a living wage. This would basically mean you would only work two jobs if that’s what you truly wanted to do. Most people who work two jobs, do it because they need the money. Now, if we had a living wage in the United States, people would have enough money to cover their living expenses. They could buy a car (not lease). They could rent an apartment in a decent neighborhood—or buy a house. They could pay more in taxes, which would upgrade the school system.

Yet, we don’t have a living wage or universal healthcare in the United States. Why? I think the answer is obvious. What did Warren Buffett say? It is not my job. (What if the management of that steel company decided to pay every worker $250,000 per year? Would Warren Buffett sit back and say that’s not my job? Or would he fire all management personnel and hire some folks who would get the situation of worker pay under control?)

We don’t have universal healthcare or a living wage because the rich want the poor to stay needy.

January 6

A recent poll by one of the major news outlets found 1/3 of the electorate thought that under certain circumstances it was okay, or even necessary, to overthrow our government. After the events of January 6, I’m not surprised by these polling numbers.

Let’s just think about the aftermath of the 2020 election. Over the last 50 or 60 years, the presidential election has been out in the open. The person who got the most votes was elected president.

(Except in 2000 and 2016. Come to think of it, a majority of American voters have cast ballots for a Republican only once in the past 30 years—yet three times the Republican candidate “won” the presidency, thanks to the Electoral College—another of the Founders gifts to the rich at the expense of the poor).

Yet our 2020 election really depended upon just a handful of Republicans who believed in American democracy.

There was the Secretary of State in Georgia, Brad Raffensberger, who withstood presidential pressure, recorded on an angry, whiny one-hour phone call, and pressure from fellow Republicans, to “find” votes. Almost the same pressure was seen in Arizona. Michigan Republican lawmakers were actually flown to the White House to meet with President Trump. He tried to persuade them to do “something” to help his cause. And there was Vice President Pence, who surprised not only the president and his White House cabal, but the American people, by standing up for principle and certifying Biden and Harris as the winners—and Trump and himself as the loser—of the election.

Think about how close we came to a coup. The riot, the insurrectionists, on January 6, 2021, were simply the icing on the coup cake.

At the crossroads

American democracy is at the crossroads. Donald Trump, Fox News, Kevin McCarthy, Marjorie Taylor Green, Madison Cawthorn, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Newsmax, and other members of the right-wing propaganda machine have left reality and democracy behind.

They have to keep their public riled up. This means they have to push more and more outrageous conspiracies. Yesterday’s conspiracies like Hillary Clinton leading a satanic cult of pedophiles based in a Washington, DC, pizzeria, are tame compared to the new conspiracies these anti-American propagandists are dreaming up.

Are the rich bothered by these developments? Nope. They are going to be okay no matter what goes down.

So this is our fight. The fight is not with each other. The fight is against the rich. I’m not talking about athletes who make a couple million a year. I’m talking about people who are truly rich. People who have so much money they can’t give it away. I’m talking about Rockefellers, Carnegies, DuPonts, Vanderbilts, and others. Their newer counterparts include the Kochs, the DeVos clan, and the Waltons (of Walmart)—older tycoons like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and more recent entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, and Marc Zuckerberg of “Meta,” i.e. Facebook.

Can we fix it?

There are probably somewhere around a thousand American families that have this kind of money—half a billion or more, per person! What can we do about them?

We must take corporate and billionaires’ money out of politics. No political TV ads. No super PACs.

We must stop gerrymandering. This is killing our democracy. We need national standards for voting and districting.

We need voting to take place on Saturday, not on a Tuesday. If you want people to vote in state and local elections, that day should be a holiday. This is how we make America work for the everyday people instead of the rich alone.

By |2022-08-18T23:21:19-04:00August 18th, 2022|Domestic Issues, Healthcare|0 Comments

The Big Lie

I wrote this a couple of months ago.

Trump’s last stunt, and it was a media stunt, was the Big Lie. The election was stolen, he shouted. Trump must have literally repeated this claim over million times. At one point over 69% of Republicans thought that the election was stolen. Why did they think that the election was stolen? Because Trump, Fox News and other right wing media talking heads parroted the same phase over and over and over again.

The Arizona GOP believed the lies that Trump was shoving. They didn’t believe their own election officials who had meticulously reviewed claims of fraud and found no significant irregularities. There had to be fraud because Fox News and Donald Trump said there was. The Arizona GOP, in spite of the objections of the Arizona Democrats, decided that they would recount the votes, again, themselves. They did not want to hire a real “election” company that had experience dealing with election ballots because any independent company was probably biased against Trump. Instead, they hired a GOP company (Cyber Ninjas. Yes, that’s the real name of the company!) that was friendly to Trump but had no experience in counting ballots. They were going to recount the ballots of the Democratic strong hold – Maricopa County.

Out of thin air
Sometimes lairs base a lie of some sliver of truth. This was too much trouble for Trump and his gang. They simply made stuff up like your 6-year-old who was caught with their hand in the cookie jar, the exact same cookie jar that you told them not to touch. Lying is the recurring theme of the Big Lie. Of course, a single lie is not enough. You need a pile of lies. So, they shoveled more garbage at us. Lie after lie.

168,000 ballots were printed on the incorrect paper and therefore needed to be thrown out according to Trump. This was a total lie. This number was pulled out of thin air. Sharpie markers which were used in the election were thought to “bleed-though” and ruin other ballots. Never mind that Maricopa studied this exact scenario years earlier and found no contamination of adjacent ballots. Then there was the claim that 74,000 votes just magically appeared. This was more nonsense. These were early mail in ballots. There was no funny business. One of the most consistent claims were that the voting machines were hacked. There was NO evidence that the machines were hacked. None. The voting machines are NOT hook up to the internet so they couldn’t be hacked from the outside.

Reviewing these ballots, again, was the biggest snipe hunt ever. (When you go camping, you send the newest, most gullible campers to find the mysterious snipe. The animal doesn’t exist which the point of the joke.) So, the final report from the Cyber Ninjas has been received. The company that was not qualified to review the ballots found nothing. They did not find widespread fraud. There was not a problem with the Sharpie markers. There weren’t ballots printed on incorrect paper. As a matter of fact, they found about 400 votes for Biden that he didn’t previously have.

When are the lies going to stop? Never. This is Trump. It is exactly what makes Trump, Trump. Never apologize is his code of ethics if you want to call it that. Never admit that you were wrong. These are signs of weakness in Trump’s eyes. There is no lie too big or too awful to tell. Trump never changes his point of view in the face of facts. He is already doubling down on his election lies. What did Biden steal? Biden did “steal” disillusioned Trump voters in large numbers. These were voters who were tired of the blizzard of lies. (more…)

By |2022-04-05T10:51:22-04:00April 5th, 2022|Domestic Issues|Comments Off on The Big Lie
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