Trump Nightmares

From a Google image Search – Pinterest

It’s fall and midterm elections are only a year away. Once again Trump is “too much with us near and far” (Wordsworth). Echoes of past lies, rallies to entertain the Trump peeps with bogus claims about fraudulent elections in states all over the nation in 2020, taunts about President Biden’s senility hidden by his staff (the childish “I’m rubber, you’re glue” defense), repetition of all his ‘oldies but goodies’ (I am the most stable genius, I alone can do that), sniping at liberals, and nary a sign of a policy because the guy is not interested in politics, just in winning. Just that voice coming over the media far too frequently is enough to give us the heebie jeebies.

Maybe it’s because it’s almost Halloween and he keeps popping back up like Freddy Krueger, or because his style with women resembles that of an old school vampire. (There is a new school of vampires.) Our anxiety is returning, the Trump-as-President anxiety. 

The man is spooky. He can apparently commit any of the sins that usually spell disaster for politicians and, since he is soulless, never experiences guilt or remorse, these sins just do not slow his roll. He abuses women, a sin which has cost a number of politicians their jobs and the conversation disappears into a black hole. 

He fires all of the inspectors general, attorneys general, and anyone else who might criticize or curb his bad behaviors and the accusations gain no traction in the media. 

He pretends a pandemic is no big deal in order to maintain his supposedly strong record on the economy even though his lack of an organized response causes many deaths, and half the nation agrees with him and refuses to take a preventative vaccine. 

He (with the help of the Republicans) trashes voting in America and then walks away a bit and says, as if he had nothing to do with it, “look at our flawed elections.” We all know elections were fine before Trump got his fascism going and made half of Americans doubt our free and fair elections. Then, he tells “The Big Lie” and half of America, at least, piles on pretending they believe him. How he does go on! Once he gets what he believes is a winning tactic he expands on it – now he has multiple states involved in auditing election results from 2020, even though there was no fraud and 2020 is almost over. And he is making sure that no one will have any trust in future elections – a true authoritarian move. 

He foments a riot at the Capitol on January 6. He denies any responsibility and once again walks away, not only without being charged with sedition or impeached in the Senate, but here he is once again, bold as brass, planning to run to be our president again in 2024 and he is treated in the press like an acceptable candidate.

So, we are seeing that ‘Bob’s Big Boy’ face everywhere again and bracing ourselves for more election insanity. Biden is being prevented from any accomplishments so Republicans can say he and the Democrats did nothing. It is easy to believe that 2020 may be the last election Dems ever win. 

Americans, who have been taught to see liberals as their enemies are flying black flags, some pure black, some a black and white version of the American flag used in the Civil War by the Confederacy to serve as symbolic threats to neighbors that if they are liberals, they will soon be toast. Is it time for liberals to arm themselves?

If your nightmares bear the face of Trump, pray to whoever created the planet and the universe to please stop Trump from ever again being the President of the United States, or any splintered off segment of the United States, and hope (or believe) there is a caring God out there in the void.

  

Distractify

Our Seas Are Sicker

Orange County oil spill cleanup – From a Google image Search – ABC7

In May 2015 I wrote: 

“We sort of view our oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes as a giant purification system. We can empty any dirty old thing in there and it will come out clean. But we have been fooling ourselves with this science of wishful thinking. When our population was smaller, and the waste we emptied into our water was mainly organic, this faux water science sort of worked. But with 7 billion plus people on the planet even organic wastes are taxing our water systems, fresh and salty.”

We seem to be trying to keep our freshwater resources cleaner and fresher, although there are still too many environmental accidents. But, most individuals have little or no control over what is happening in our seas and oceans. We are still presented with so much plastic as consumers. Getting rid of plastic bags is finally happening and that’s great. Plastic take-out containers, plastic straws, plastic wraps and packing materials are still making mountains of trash, and although much of it can be recycled, some places that used to accept plastic to recycle like China, no longer accept our plastic waste. Tons of plastic waste ends up in our waterways and oceans. There is that great group, “4Oceans”, that is working to clean up plastic waste on beaches. There is the guy who invented the giant plastic vacuum cleaner to pull plastics out of water using nets, similar to the way fishermen pull fish from the oceans. Plastic waste is a problem we can help with, by innovating ways to replace each piece of plastic we use. 

We have learned a lesson we already knew, and we have learned it repeatedly – everything is interconnected. Plastic waste doesn’t stay in the ocean. Plastic finds its way around the necks of birds; it destroys a fish’s quality of life by getting wrapped around its mouth and head. There is usually no person around that poor fish to remove the plastic. It stays there as an irritant, or perhaps the fish can no longer eat properly, and the plastic becomes a killer. 

The ocean grinds plastics down into tiny pebbles the size of grains of sand, birds who eat by scooping up tiny organisms in sand have ways to filter out the sand, but not the plastic. Then they feed their babies with the food they have scooped up, but the plastic is passed on too, the babies starve, and the entire family dies off. We have lost 3 billion birds in the last census taken by bird counters. If plastic kills birds which are pretty high up on the food chain, imagine what happens to those tiny critters that birds eat that rely on even smaller things that live in the sand at the bottom of ocean. If birds die and fish die, then eventually we die. Everything is interconnected.

This past week in early October 2021 a pipeline was breached near the beautiful beaches of Orange County, California – Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point Harbor, Newport Harbor. It was an underwater oil pipeline possibly scraped by anchors in a high-volume shipping harbor. At the bottom of the ocean oil coats seaweeds and living things and kills everything that it covers. On the beach it smells and makes enjoying a beautiful natural environment dangerous and unpleasant. Near the beach are the wetlands, biological nurseries, environmental safeguards; protected sanctuaries designed to act as buffers against man’s voracious desires for development and biome destruction. But the oil cannot be kept away, at least until the booms are placed that block the oil from traveling across the water. We mourn every time we see the birds drenched in black raw oil and see the habitat workers cleaning them off. We sometimes are shown the ones that die, sometimes not. Plants are killed off too which can hopefully regrow if the soil is not too poisoned. This happens over and over. 

“We sort of view our oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes as a giant purification system.” 

When does the challenge become too great? What is the tipping point? When do our oceans die? Can oceans clean up oil? Oil and water don’t mix. Water requires additives to clean up oil, additives we can’t put into our water because they will alter water’s chemistry. Where does the oil go in the long term? What knock on effects does that oil have years later? Oil spills have happened near every nation that has a coastline and imports and/or exports oil. Here’s a short list of some of the largest oil spills.

Orange County pipeline spill, 2021

Deepwater Horizon blowout, 2010

Exxon Valdez tanker grounded off Alaska, 1989

Ixtoc, spill off Mexico, 1979

Gulf War spill, collision, 1981

Amoco Cadiz, tanker ran aground, 1978

Castillo de Beliver oil fire after spill, 1983

Atlantic Empress, collision off Trinidad and Tobago, 1979

There was a spill in the Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon, the Emerald Marine Ltd. spill, there have been oil spills off the China coast-in 2021 a collision between oil tanker and bulk carrier off China’s east port city of Qingdao into the Yellow Sea, in 2018 when an Iranian oil tanker sank in the East China Sea. Most of this info is available online as a search answer on Google. 

An article in Environmental Science and Technology at pub.acs.org is entitled, “Long-Term Ecological Impacts from Oil Spills: Comparison of Exxon Valley, Hebei Spirit, Deepwater Horizon”. Scientists found long term effects on seabirds, sea otters, killer whales, and subtidal communities. Near the Deepwater Horizon spill they found effects on a diversity of complex aquatic communities in the deep ocean and offshore biologic areas, coastal environmental impacts to deep ocean corals, failed recruitment of oysters over multiple years, damage to coastal wetlands, reduced dolphin, sea turtles and seabird populations. In the Hebei Spirit spill off Western Korea, environmental conditions that were different and extensive cleanup resulted in limited long-term impacts. This last example offers some hope that human intervention can work although in open ocean situations the consequences may not be as easily ameliorated.

Living on a planet with dead oceans will eventually kill us all. This is not even global warming, which is having other effects like slowing the Atlantic current, but this is a fossil fuel effect because oil and gas are being moved around the globe and accidents happen, drunk captains happen, storms happen, wars happen. This is a repetitive tragedy that individuals cannot resolve. This is an industry problem, so we need the help of everyone in the oil and gas chain, all those who are least likely to want to help. This is a problem that will cost money, so it is the province of billionaires and millionaires. We’ll help if we have clear guidance about what to do.

Obviously, the biggest problem of all is that we don’t have enough clean energy sources to generate all the energy we use without gas, oil, and even, perhaps, coal. We don’t want to lose our comforts, but we want to keep the planet functioning. Keep working on this everyone. Perhaps the universe will offer up a solution if they see that we really want to save our planet. Keep finding biodegradable alternatives to plastics. Keep creating better batteries or other ways to store power. Keep inventing alternative energies. Meditate. Speak to a higher power. We may be locusts, but we are locusts with brains, and we can do this.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/10/09/energy-crisis-global/

Pandora Papers, How the Wealthy Hoard Assets

From The Washington Post

Billions hidden beyond reach

“The Pandora Papers documents — more than 11.9 million records from 14 offshore entities, including law and wealth-management firms — illuminate a hidden world that has allowed government leaders, a monarch, billionaires and criminals to shield their assets.”

The Pandora Papers hit the news yesterday. I saw the story in The Washington Post, but it was also available in other media sources. It’s not all that shocking, since we knew wealth was being hidden to avoid taxes, but the scope and complexity of the way trusts are structured and the fact that most of it is legal suggests that hoping for a balanced economy anytime soon is a pipe dream. (It is now legal in many American states to talk openly about pipe dreams.)

Not many Americans were exposed in this tranche of data, perhaps because they use different places to shelter their wealth and different lawyers to set up their irrevocable trusts. Many trust structures are so complex that flow charts and spread sheets must be used to keep track of the legal and illegal shenanigans. Maybe there are even some disorganized hoarders who lose track of all the money and assets they have stashed away. Some American states have become “islands” where assets can be stashed without penalties or oversight. South Dakota, Nevada, and others were mentioned.

The Panama Papers gave us a peek into these vast caches of assets, but the Pandora Papers exposé is “huge” (a descriptive adjective made popular by a recent impeached president). If money becomes useless and the world moves to digital money systems, will all these assets disappear? Only if the transformation takes them totally by surprise. Rumor has it that certain ancient members of Congress are trying to learn the ins and outs of bitcoin and cybercurrency.

Can we change laws enough to make these sequestered assets visible to the IRS once again? Can we do such a thing when people in our government have a vested interest in continuing to improve the Machiavellian twists that have made trusts so useful? Can we do it when all around the world powerful people are deeply invested in “creative” financing? Read all about it in your favorite media source. 

Capitalism

From a Google Image Search – GreenBiz

In a capitalist system “a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

“Capitalism is often thought of as an economic system in which private actors own and control property in accord with their interests, and demand and supply freely set prices in markets in a way that can serve the best interests of society. The essential feature of capitalism is the motive to make a profit.”

Capitalism has been around for ages. The stock market began when the Dutch East India Company began selling shares out of Amsterdam. When other countries saw how this increased profits, they adopted the same model in their own countries. Even in nations governed by monarchs there was some private enterprise, small businesses offering the services of artisans, bakers, farmer’s markets, cobblers, tanners, silversmiths, and so on. Although the king or queen took a share, the owner of the business kept most of the profits. 

However, when steam engines and then combustion engines came along, as monarchies began to fail, get overthrown, or become less responsible for governing and more titular in nature, we started to see capitalism on steroids. This was an age of invention and innovation, with machines, improvements on machines, improvements on ways to fuel machines, new designs to produce with machines, and finally assembly lines which followed immediately after Ford’s example. Wheels turned on new cars, on railroad trains, boats got engines, the world practically bustled with industry, at least in Europe, America, Canada, and some of South America. Streets turned gritty with ashy remnants of burning coal and later gas and oil. Even electricity often had to be fueled with fossil fuels, although hydropower was also used and did not foul the air. There was work for everyone and there were no rules.

These days capitalism may be a problem the world faces, rather than the engine of prosperity. Both definitions I found use the term control. Private owners control trade and industry, supply and demand. Both definitions claim that the state (the government) does not have a role in business. Capitalism would be fine, but capitalism with no controls, no rules, no regulations is untenable. Conservatives stridently insist that we must have free markets, we must have an unregulated business scenario if we want booming profits. America’s economic problems are not necessarily with capitalism. It is just a system for doing business. The system doesn’t require any ‘purity’ in order to function, and since it is an idea, it has no values of its own. The values belong to those private owners who say that profits are highest when business is unregulated. It is the way humans interpret capitalism that makes the system problematic. 

If profits are all that matters, then every nation could just be run by corporations, and everyone would buy from the company store, and all the profits would accrue to the owners. Since there would be no central government corporations would probably run their own little kingdoms and perhaps have wars with each other. Capitalism does not, in and of itself, offer any governance, allow for a civilized society, leave room for small businesses. Left to their own devices corporate owners would not concern themselves with anyone’s quality of life, except the owner’s own quality of life.

But capitalism is not our system of government; it is simply the way we do business. Totally unregulated capitalism is incompatible with democracy. We see what happens with too much market freedom. Wealth pools at the top. A system for conducting business may not be greedy, but the people who own the parts of the system can be. They can be cruel and uncaring, and they can begin to feel that they are above government and above workers; above it all. Even people who seem civil may still believe that all the wealth accruing to them is theirs by right. After all, they started the company, or s/he started the company. Owners forget that their business could not have expanded to provide ever greater profits unless they hired people to help them. They did not see the people as helpers; they are workers, lesser beings, to be paid as little as the owner can get away with and still attract the quality of help s/he needs.

Conservatives have come to be the American citizens who insist that business can only operate if government keeps hands off. They act as if the definition of capitalism is absolute and not mutable. They act as if business profits everyone if there are no rules and regulations, if we let supply and demand control the marketplace, if trade is freely determined by owners of corporations, and if it is up to corporate leaders to decide how trade will be conducted. (Do they get together and decide, or is it every business for itself?) Conservatives insist that if governments keep their “mitts off” business, the profits will be so great that they will overflow and trickle down on workers. They never describe how small that trickle will be.

It is a myth that capitalism only functions or functions best when there are no rules. Free markets and unregulated capitalism have not produced market stability or enough trickle down to reach those at the bottom of the culture. We have seen markets experience cycles of boom, recession, and even depression without some oversight. These cycles don’t always exempt the wealthy owners either. Even the rich can lose everything and, in fact, they have a lot farther to fall.

Our economy will not survive the current conservative messaging on corporations and businesses. Just as conservatives seek an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, they seek totally unfettered capitalism. “Fettered” capitalism works just fine. Harness capitalism a bit and it can serve everyone in a society and not just those at the top. If the thirst for profits of those at the top of corporations gets too heavy, then it robs everyone at the bottom. If those on the bottom cannot perform their role in a capitalist system as consumers, then there is no demand for goods. Regardless of the supply side options no one can afford to buy whatever is on offer, and capitalism dies, the economy dies. Greed at the top will kill the economy just as surely as too much regulation. 

Conservatives say that Democrats will ruin the economy. They want to allow the government to exercise control over business by making rules and regulations about things like masking and vaccinations. Even before the pandemic, Conservatives said that Democrats liked to make up all kinds of rules to hamstring owners of businesses. They want to raise taxes on the wealthy. Conservatives say, if we call it “redistribution” and label it as “socialism” people will climb on board with us to fight the Democrats, even if they are low wage workers. This is exactly what has happened.

Too much regulation can also be bad for a capitalist economy, but there is a whole lot of room between no control and too much control. The economy will show us when the balance is right. There will be a more even distribution of money, a prospering middle class, and no poverty. But those at the top will still be wealthy, just a bit less wealthy. These are the signs of a healthy economy. These are signs that taxes and regulations are set at appropriate levels.    

If you look at our historical record on booms, or prosperous times, and recessions and depressions, it tells a tale. Recessions and depressions tended to occur after Republicans were in power. Steady progress tended to occur when Democrats were in power. Capitalism should not conform to an absolute definition, it should conform to reality, to conducting the system in a manner that will achieve balance, and a healthy planet. With all the great minds that have delivered us to the brink of the technological age you would think there would be a plan for a sustainable business model that is not totally out of balance, as well as a sustainable planet. Those of us who are not wealthy could stop enabling wealthy corporations that are hoarding profits. We could support laws that help workers, and we could insist on more balance in pay and in taxes.

Just out today, Sunday, October 3, 2021

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2021/pandora-papers-offshore-finance/