Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Democratic Socialists of America: "Where We Stand":

Let’s just tale a quick look at the platform for the Democratic Socialists of America, “Where we stand.”  

This may look like a long mouthful of words (to quote some libertarian friends).  I’ve said many times, if we had single payer health insurance, we’d be used to it; it wouldn’t be so controversial.  It’s not quite true that all of Europe has it; Switzerland and Germany, for example, simply have much better regulated private systems than we do.

The Democratic Socialists (which David Hogg says he supports) want the “people” or “workers” to own their own production.  Actually, employee ownership of many companies happens now, but it can go the wrong way and eventually turn into franchising (actually we found out that’s a problem in the gay bar business recently).

“People’s” ownership of companies is likely to wind up as a top-down system of state-owned companies with a unary, top-down structure like what we have in China today.  Is that what socialists want?  It can be very restrictive:  you have to have a permit to move from the countryside.  Manufacturing workers live in dorms and are poorly paid and still exploited as they “stay in their place”.  That’s partly what Trump’s tariff battle is about.

So it's hard to get away from people using their own capital to hire other people to do their work with no ownership interest.  But there is on the flip side an idea of self-branding. 
The most convincing way to have people’s ownership is local intentional communities (April 7, 2012 article here on Twin Oaks in Virginia).  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Charles Murray, and some other libertarian-leaning conservatives, actually propose Universal Basic Income

At least one conservative economist is backing the idea of UNI, or Universal Basic Income, according to the Monday morning July 30 front page story in the Washington Times, story by James Varney. 

The story refers to an essay by Charles Murray in the weekend Wall Street Journal on June 3, 2016, “A guaranteed income for every American”.  Murray expects it to replace all other federal transfers or wealth (maybe even Social Security, in some formulations, like his?)  That is, he replaces the “welfare state”.  Murray has advocated encouraging behaviors that improve neighborhood social capital.

Democratic socialist primary winner Olavia-Cortez doesn’t go as far as UBI, instead wanting to guarantee jobs.  Bernie Sanders has stopped short, instead advocating Medicare for all.
Vox Media, normally a middle of the road publication, has supported the idea, in pieces by Ezra Klein and others.
It almost sounds as if Trump could support the idea if his base liked it.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Is the nuclear launch room for error getting smaller under Trump? Is Mattis out of the loop now?

Harper’s Magazine has a particularly disturbing report on p. 51, August 2018, “How to Start a Nuclear War”, by Andrew Cockburn.  The article says several hundred million lives could be lost quickly.

The subtitle is “The increasingly direct road to ruin.”

There seem to be plenty of shortcuts a president or military commanders can take “on lauch.” 

NBC News and other sources have reported that Jim Mattis as defense secretary is increasingly “out of the loop”, story, June 2018.  It’s obvious that this could be very dangerous. And Mattis has personally been quite fair on LGBT issues (despite comments in his book).

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Appeals court upholds open carry in Hawaii ; 3-D printing and gun control

The Ninth Circuit has ruled that the Second Amendment protects the right of a citizen (otherwise eligible) to carry a gun in public for self-defense (it must be visible). Hawaii had said it must be kept at home.

AOL has relayed the Reuters story by Jonathan Allen and Joanna Kruzman. 

Here is another story from a Hawaii TV station.

Red State has a story on the opinion that is, well, breathtaking, complete with multiple tweets.

The Washington Post has a story by Deanne Paul on Cody Wilson and how 3-D printing of weapons will greatly complicate gun control, link.

As of Aug. 1, according to a settlement, 3-D printing will be legal, according to CNN story.  Social media platforms will certainly try to ban posts linking to the sites;  hosted sites will probably try to outlaw such links as part of their AUP's but that will be almost impossible to do. Covered on Don Lemon on July 26.

How can the TSA detect these printed weapons?

I emailed David Hogg on this matter and here is his reply on Twitter.

Update: July 31

A federal judge has temporarily stopped Wilson's company from releasing the blueprints online., story
Picture: I visited Haleakala on Maui in 1980.
By Ekrem Canli - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Monday, July 23, 2018

Splinter and "The Racist History of Banking", and the call for reparations?

Here’s a quick Facebook video, “The Racist History of Banking”, which maintains that deliberate collusion, going back to segregation and before, kept black people financially dependent and vulnerable, especially to the subprime loans and upside down mortgages before the 2008 financial crisis.

Today, black family wealth averages about 5% of white family wealth, according to the video from Splinter.

It also mentions Richard Nixon’s solution, after LBJ’s “great society”, as “black capitalism”.

But the video is quite aggressive in demanding, for example, reparations.

There is also mention of “mud people”, which is actually an art movement in Los Angeles (KCET). 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Washington DC Metro could see a transit strike

In Washington DC, Metro workers (for the subway system) have voted to allow their leadership to call a strike (Post).  A strike would be unlawful and could be stopped with fines and other penalties.
But the union says it does not have enough leverage against management, which has struggled since early 2015 with many safety issues, culminating in the safety surges of 2016 and the cutback of late night weekend hours. Many shutdowns still continue.

The union could have struck as early as Monday July 16, but so far there have been no disruptions of the All Star Game and associated activities.

WJLA has a more recent report here.

The most recent strike occurred 40 years ago, in 1978 and lasted a whole week. But the region was not yet that dependent on Metro, which had opened in 1976.

There will be another meeting Wednesday, July 16. 
New York City had a 3 day transit strike in December 2005.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Trump's tariffs get dangerous when you consider China's hold on rare earths

Listen up on this front page story on “Friday the 13th” in the New York Times by Alexandra Stevenson 

China dominates the world, along with Malaysia to some extent, with the supply of rare earths and with the technical expertise to process them.  Rare earths are critical parts of modern computers and smartphones.  This geographical fact helps explain why companies like Apple need to do a good part of their manufacturing overseas in Asia and specifically China.

It also sounds dangerous because it brings, to my own mind at least, up the possibility of very dirty word: embargo.

Remember the 1973 Arab oil embargo, which threatened my own expanding life style as a young gay man.  It “blew over” in the spring of 1974 when “they got the price up” but then contributed to persistent stagflation which didn’t go away until Reagan.

And the embargo was politically and ideologically motivated: revenge for the west’s supporting Israel’s behavior at the time, especially after a brief war.

Trump’s protectionism is indeed based on picking winners and losers – or by redressing specific and perhaps legitimate economic grievances in his base, who modernism and “creative destruction” (very much from Reagan’s era) left behind.
But it’s dangerous to take sides with specific blocks, just as it was dangerous to support Israel too strongly in 1973.  You can bring down everyone else to fix the grievances of a few. Authoritarians know that and don’t care.
 As for the rare earth issue, I wonder if Trump really understands this at an intellectual level at all. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"March for our Lives" has ten talking points for Congress on gun reform

March for our Lives” has a list of ten policy points on ending gun violence in the US, with some details one each point, here

The fourth point deals with limiting the sale of large capacity magazines.  The writeup gives a lot of detail, and a breakdown by state laws.

There is some controversy over how effective this measure really would be, as some large capacity devices have some legitimate defensive use.

There is also some tension in the public safety area.  Gun control measures that reduce domestic violence, suicides, and some smaller scale school or public venue incidents might make citizens more vulnerable to very determined and very asymmetric, especially foreign, attacks. Europe, with strict gunb control,  has generally been more vulnerable to terrorism than the U.S.
I don’t know how much of this David Hogg may have written himself.  But most of this material is pretty sensible.  It’s a good place for Congress to start in reforming gun control.  “Do your job.”

Monday, July 09, 2018

Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to Supreme Court

President Trump has announced the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, from the District of Columbia circuit.
The New York Times has a detailed analysis of the problems Democrats may have in opposing confirmation, here.
Kavanaugh was involved circuitously in the Clinton impeachment mess twenty years ago, when he worked as a conservative political operator.  That led him to be termed the “Forrest Gump” of conservative polticis. Schumer calls him “the whole shaker of salt” in conservative politics.

He said in his speech that he was an only child, and that his mother was a history teacher with a largely African-American student base.
He did say “The Constitution’s separation of powers protects individual liberty”.
Kavanaugh is Roman Catholic and says he has volunteered with Catholic Charities (a social service agency which does service refugees). He is not thought to be as aggressively opposed to abortion as some other judges (based on one case with an undocumented immigrant. There has been controversy over Trump's litmus test on abortion, and his recent use of "don't ask don't tell" in screening judges on this. 

Dylan Matthews explains Kavanaugh on Vox.  The article must have been ready to go, in the Vox workplace.

George Log Cabin released a tweet saying that Kavanaugh is not a threat to marriage equality.

Update July 11:

Benjamin Wittes writes in Lawfare in detail about Kavanaugh's writings on criminal and civil proceedings against a president while in office.  The comments about Bill Clinton's being distracted when Osama bin Laden was growing as a threat are interesting. 

Saturday, July 07, 2018

USCIS makes quiet change threatening to many legal residents; Trump's tariffs don't create many winners; Hogg registers "enemy" voters

Hassad Ahmad writes in Quartz about a little-noticed change in USCIS policy which would mean that a legal resident but non-citizen who applies for an immigration benefit (like a green card, or a visa extension, for student or medical reasons)  and is denied, is placed in deportation proceedings. 

Persons with medical issues might be placed in deportation out of concern that they become “public charges”.

This development raises the ante of “quasi-sponsorship” of various persons (asylum seekers, DACA) by private citizens, with their being little coordination by social service agencies outside of actual refugee processing, which has been decreasing.

On the tariffs, it’s hard to see that they will help Trump’s own base as promised, except in isolated cases with specific manufacturers and their workers.  The trade war is heating up, and more will be said about this as the days go forward.  A Facebook friend offers this interesting back-view of China's behavior on agriculture, and it seems to have validity, with me at least. '

Also, David Hogg just made a 45-minute video (not the best picture quality) of registering counter-protestors to vote.  This is a case of "love your enemy", right out of the Bible.  

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Trump administration rolls back affirmative action

The Trump Administration has dropped Obama-era race conscious admissions policies for colleges. As reported, for example, in Politico.

The regulations were noted as outdated.

Yet at the same time an Asian-American group is suing Harvard apparently for some sort of systematic discrimination (on the basis of “personality traits) in order to make more room for African Americans and Latinos.  

I remember back in 1997, before moving to Minneapolis, going down to bookstores in Richmond VA to place my book, and I encountered an owner who fervently believed in reparative affirmative action.
An essay by Richard Mason in Intellectual Takeout in April 2018 talks about the “paradoxical nature of equality of opportunity” connected to affirmative action, going back to the 1978 Bakke case.