Archive for the ‘Livin’ in the USA’ Category


Trump backed down. He backed down from systematic child abuse and holding abused children hostage to his demand for a useless-as-tits-on-a-boar-hog border wall.

That he would even consider, let alone implement, a policy that traumatizes children and uses the abused children as hostages tells you all you need to know about him.

Add to that the fact that he wasn’t man enough to take responsibility for his horrific actions and attempted to blame others for what he did, and you really begin to understand what Trump is. (Come up with your own epithets — they’re almost certainly accurate.)

But Trump’s actions reveal more than his lack of character, they reveal the “character” of the scared-shitless Republicans in Congress who wouldn’t denounce the pure evil of deliberate, organized child abuse and holding children hostage. They wouldn’t, and won’t, stand up for what’s right if it threatens their self-interests.

As for Trump’s supporters, the most charitable explanation is that they’re brainwashed, frustrated fools (via Fox “News” and Facebook) who take the Glorious Leader’s every word as gospel, no matter how obviously false and self-contradictory. The less charitable interpretation is that they’re fear-driven, vicious racists.

I take a more charitable view:  they’re simply focused on their own economic survival, are too dumb to understand that Trump is not on their side, don’t care about the suffering of others, and are primed to blame scapegoats for their problems.

How can we reach them?

It is possible. At least in some cases. The corporate Democrats (and Republicans) systematically screwed over the white working class over the past four decades, leaving jobless, rotting, hopeless communities in their wake as they catered to the corporate overlords who funded their identity-politics, elitist campaigns. Who can blame people for being pissed off? And who can blame them, given the pathetic job the corporate media does, for being grossly misinformed?

What might bring at least some of them around is how obviously they’re being screwed by Trump and his Republican enablers. Their friends and family members will begin to die shortly, if they haven’t already, because of inadequate or nonexistent healthcare coverage. And things will only get worse — more and more people will die needlessly — as long as the Republicans are in charge and focused on ensuring profits for big pharma and the parasitic (apologies for the redundancy) healthcare insurance industries.

This is the most obvious point of attack. But the corporate Democrats (Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, et al.) won’t even consider attacking it. They’re beholden to their corporate funders, have betrayed the white (and black, and brown)  working class for decades, and think they can continue to get away with it, simply because Donald Trump is, very obviously, a cancerous polyp on the rectum of humanity.

Pelosi, Schumer, et al. have got to go.

Offer suffering people some real relief, and they might turn away from the vicious demagogue and hypocrite Donald Trump, and his enablers.

Donald Trump seems to be gambling that the real pieces of human shit in his base, who enjoy seeing the abuse of immigrant children, will be motivated to get out and vote for his Republican minions in the midterms.

We can only hope that the forces of human decency are stronger.

 

 

 


Christians are fond of pointing out that the devil can quote scripture, and on Thursday Jeff Sessions did so, citing the Bible as justification for his and Trump’s policy of forcibly separating immigrant families. That policy has involved federal agents ripping babies and small children from their mothers’ arms; this is not hyperbole — Sessions’ and Trump’s uniformed thugs are doing exactly that.

Appropriately, Sessions cited Romans 13. Here are its first two verses:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Just why was it so appropriate for Sessions to cite this passage? It can be used to support any government and any of its actions, no matter how horrific. (Not coincidentally, Romans 13 was widely cited at the time of the American Revolution by royalists opposing the Revolution, and was likewise widely cited by slavery advocates in the run-up to the American Civil War.)

One can see how handy this passage is for the Trump regime.

What was Sessions trying to justify here? The Trump administration’s decision to rip immigrant families apart, to separate children from parents — a decision labeled child abuse by the American Association of Pediatricians.

Typically for Trump, he and his underlings have refused to take responsibility for their horrific actions: they’re attempting to shirk responsibility, to blame them, somehow, on others, in this case on the Democrats. As if they’re helpless to reverse the decision they made, helpless to reverse the policy they implemented. Their gutlessness is beyond slimy.

Almost worse, the Republicans have introduced bills in Congress to reverse this policy, but that also include $25 billion in funding for Trump’s border wall. So, they’ve torn children from their parents’ arms, are inflicting grievous psychological harm on the children, and are holding them hostage.

And Romans 13 gives them exactly the justification they need.

One would think this would make most Christians, especially those espousing “family values,” uncomfortable. Wrong. I just took a look at the web sites of the two most prominent “family values” political groups: James Dobson’s Focus on the Family site, and Tony Perkin’s Family Research Council site. There’s not a single damn word about this disgusting assault on vulnerable families on Dobson’s site.

And Perkins’ Family Research Council web site attempts to justify Trump’s and Sessions’ vicious policy: “It’s impossible to feel anything but compassion for these kids, who must be dealing with a great deal of pain and confusion. But the origin of that pain and confusion isn’t U.S. law or the Trump administration. That burden lies with their parents who knowingly put them in this position.”

As if Trump and Sessions bear no responsibility for this atrocity. This abusive policy was never implemented under any previous administration. And no, somehow, it’s not the fault of those who implemented it, but rather the responsibility of its victims. (And yeah, right, one can almost feel the compassion oozing out of Perkins.)

To be fair, evangelist Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, has denounced Trump’s assault on families.

But most Christians, especially most evangelicals, haven’t.

Why? Let’s take another look at Romans 13. Fundamentalists claim to believe in the Bible literally (they don’t — only in the hate-filled, authoritarian parts of it that justify their cruelty), so they use it as a “get out of jail free” card for this horrible form of child abuse and the nauseating hypocrisy of the “ordained of God” Trump administration. They treat it as a “divine right of kings” card, more accurately a “Christians must kiss their authoritarian butts” card.

In fact, if you take Romans 13 literally, Christians must kiss all authoritarian butts that are seated in power, no matter who the butts belong to, and no matter what their owners’ political persuasions.

One would think that this would give pause to fundamentalists. For if Romans 13 is true, God ordained the suppression of Christianity in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin.

If you believe literally in the teachings of Romans 13, you should have no problem with this. No problem with either Lenin or Stalin — they were “ordained of God,” as were their actions.

Hitler? The Holocaust? Not a problem. He was “ordained of God,” and those who resisted him “received unto themselves damnation.”

Many Christians have attempted to interpret Romans 13 in a way that blunts or negates its obvious meaning. Please. It speaks for itself. Others have pointed to more humane passages in the Bible, as if they mitigate the horrific message in Romans.

Either Romans 13 is true or it isn’t. And if it’s true, the passages humane Christians cite that contradict it point to only one conclusion: the Bible is a man-made artifact filled with contradictions. It’s not the word of God.

The other lesson from this sad, tawdry affair is that “pro-family Christians” who support Trump’s and Sessions’ vicious treatment of families are disgusting hypocrites, utter moral garbage.

 


When Amazon started, the company’s founder and directors decided to use books as a loss leader, to sell them at prices where they were certain to lose money — a lot of it. Why would they do that? While no one except Jeff Bezos and his minions knows for sure, there are several likely reasons:

  • The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) system. That system gave Amazon immediate access to a numerical listing of almost every book in print (or out of print, since the ISBN was introduced in 1970) — perfect for database-organized online sales.
  • Selling books at or below cost was an easy way to build market share and visibility.
  • That money-losing strategy drove competitors out of business, especially independent bookstores and most of the chains — Borders, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, etc., and it greatly weakened the only remaining large chain, Barnes & Noble. This drastically increased Amazon’s leverage with publishers. Jeff Bezos famously said that Amazon should “should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” And Amazon has done that.
  • Amazon, which was founded in 1994, had deep enough pockets to lose money — a great deal of it — in pursuit of its goal of complete dominance of bookselling and damn near everything else, and in fact did not turn a profit until 2001.

The results of this are well known. In addition to driving myriad independent booksellers — who simply couldn’t compete on price — out of business, Amazon also drove out most of the chains, which bore massive expense through their bricks-and-mortar stores, and so again couldn’t compete on price. The irony is that the chains had driven huge numbers of independents out of business by undercutting them on price, and they in turn were undercut by Amazon.

Amazon still sells books fairly cheaply — though it seems like their massive book discounts of decades past have largely disappeared except on the most popular titles — and, using their ill-gotten reputation as the lowest-price seller, have branched out into selling damn near everything.

Many people apparently still assume that Amazon will provide the lowest price on almost anything they buy. Guess what — they’re wrong.

I occasionally order goods online, mainly musical gear, computer gear, electronic components, and optics. When I do so, I always check prices, and I’ve almost always found lower prices than those on Amazon, usually on eBay. Here are a few examples of items (all brand new) I’ve purchased recently where I could find exact comparisons between Amazon and other sources:

  • NUX OD-3 guitar drive/preamp pedal — $35.99 on Amazon, $20.02 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 1/4″ female guitar jack (metal construction) X10 — $4.57 on Amazon, $1.89 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 10mm Plossl eyepiece (for telescopes) — $34.00 on Amazon, $6.26 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 250K audio taper potentiometer — $1.40 on Amazon, $1.32 (with free shipping) on eBay
  • Acer S200hql monitor — $127.95 on Amazon, $79.99 (with $8.50 shipping) on eBay

There are other online retailers who usually have better prices than Amazon for the things I often buy; a few that come to mind are SurplusShed for optics, Newegg and Fry’s for computer gear, and Musicians Friend and Sweetwater for musical gear. However, while their places normally beat those of Amazon, you can often find whatever you’re looking for on eBay for even less.

So, you think you’re getting the cheapest price by buying from Amazon? Think again.

 

 


WAR, n. A political tactic guaranteed to raise an incumbent president’s approval rating by 30%, and a tactic especially useful in October in even-numbered years.

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— from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded), the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. (The link goes to 50 sample definitions and illustrations.)

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


WORSHIP, n. 1) In the United States, a term incomplete unless preceded by the word “military”; 2) The attitude of a dog to a man, a man to a god, and the media to the military.

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(with apologies to Ambrose Bierce and his definition of Reverence: “The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man”)

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the 21st-century successor to Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


CONSERVATISM, n. The desire to conserve wealth and power at any cost (to others).

–from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded)

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


As the famous quote from All the President’s Men goes, “Follow the money.”

In this case, that’s all you need to do to immediately realize that Trump’s supposed plan to lower prescription drug costs is total bullshit: When Trump announced he had a plan to lower those costs, pharmaceutical stocks plummeted. When he announced the details, they immediately spiked. Pharmaceutical stocks finished higher on the day than at the start.

That makes sense when you realize that Trump proposed nothing that would have much of an effect on prices. His plan consists of wonkish tweaks that won’t touch the basic problems.

What, you ask, would? Here are the top four things that would help. Of course, none of these are in Trump’s vaunted plan:

  • Allow Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies on prices. When the Republicans passed the Part D law (which took effect in 2006), they specifically forbade Medicare from negotiating prices. This giveaway to big pharma has cost Medicare and Medicare recipients (responsible for co-pays) billions of dollars, probably tens of billions, since then.
  • Allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies. Prices are much lower there and the drugs are exactly the same.
  • Have the Justice Department apply anti-trust laws to big pharma. In recent years, generic drug prices have skyrocketed at the same time that the big pharmaceutical companies have been buying up generic drug producers. The drugs haven’t changed, but the prices have, as has the concentration of drug-producer ownership.
  • Outlaw “pay to delay” collusion. At present, it’s common for the big pharmaceutical companies that have drugs on which the patents are expiring to bribe generic drug producers to delay introduction of generic alternatives. These payments for delays of a year or two often run into the tens of millions of dollars. Forbid this exercise in sleaze, and drug prices would drop.

So, why did Trump trumpet his bogus plan to reduce drug prices? Like all con men, he’s in it for the short term. He realizes that his brain dead followers will buy this obvious bullshit from the Dear Leader, and won’t notice by the time of the fall elections that it’s having no effect whatsoever on the ever-increasing prices they pay for prescription drugs. When they eventually do notice it, he’ll haul out scapegoats — my guess, penniless Mexican immigrants and Satan — and the goose-steppers licking the Glorious Leader’s boots will buy that, too.