I'm honored to have seen the man in the flesh. It was January 20, 1993, inauguration day for President Bill Clinton.
After the ceremony, we walked up the street from the Capitol where we would (eventually) eat lunch at Slick Willie's, also having its' opening day at the time.
As we were standing at the intersection southeast of the capitol, waiting for the light to change, I saw someone who, at side glance, looked very familiar. When I turned to look, it was Nelson Mandela, also leaving the Capitol for lunch.
Being present for the inauguration was a thrill. Seeing Mr. Mandela was another one.
Evangelical culture warriors have enjoyed a some-time alliance with the Roman Catholic heirarchy on some social issues, but not economic ones. Most recent popes have been socialists, or, at the least, very supportive of the rights of labor. In his first lengthy missive as Pope, Francis takes a similar line:
"In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."
He's absolutely right that "trickle down" has never been "confirmed by facts." Just the opposite is true. When the wealthy suck up the wealth, they are very careful not to let any "trickle down." Plutocrats are not philanthropists.
His critique of unrestrained capitalism, which may be read here, is similar to the one offered by my late friend, Fr. Francisco Fahlman, who was a priest in Moquegua, Peru for 40 years.
Fr. Fahlman was no friend of what he called "liberal economics." (It isn't what you think. "Liberal economics" is what they call free market-ism in Latin America.)
In the 1990's, Peruvian President Fujimori was pushing it, and Fr. Fahlman voted for Fujimori when he first ran. He did not vote for Fujimori when he ran for re-election because, as Fr. Fahlman acidly said it, "Liberal economics 'helps' poor people by getting rid of poor people."
I went to healthcare.gov this morning and browsed around. I know HHS has had problems with this website, but it worked just fine this morning.
In fact, it seems pretty well laid out. If you're a business you go one direction, if an individual you go another. Simple enough. For individuals, the next most important thing is what state you live in. For Colorado, you are directed off the government site to the state site.
If you're in a state that doesn't participate in ACA, and has done everything it can to undermine it, like Texas, for example, you stay on the government website and then must open an account. I would imagine that this is where the sand got in the gears.
From the New Deal until Reagan, when labor unions were strong and the United States toyed briefly with the idea of a safety net, income inequality went down. Wealth was still concentrated in the wealthy, but more of it was spread around.
This was an era when George Romney, Mitt's dad, paid about a third of his income in taxes and could have paid less tax than he did. He didn't take legitimate deductions because he "wanted to give something back" to the country.
It was government that taxed progressively and guaranteed union and civil rights. In order to turn things around, the 1% went on a campaign against government. With government diminished, the fat cats could play! They did and do!
The North Carolina voter-ID will likely pass. Here's what it will do: shorten early voting by 1 week, eliminate same day registration, end provisional voting, prevent counties from extending poll hours by one hour on election day in extraordinary circumstances (like long lines), and will purge voter rolls more often.
Oh yes, and the actual voter-ID provision will disenfranchise 318,000 voters.
Just in case the black panthers try to storm the voting booth, the law also provides for "vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters."
State Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-N.C.), who fought for voting rights in the 1960s, told the GOP majority, "I want you to understand what this bill means to people. We have fought for, died for and struggled for our right to vote. You can take these 57 pages of abomination and confine them to the streets of hell for all eternity."
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and he knows what's going on. He spoke on the subject of surveillence in a speech yesterday at the Center for American Progress--full speech here. Excerpt:
"The piece of technology we consider vital to the conduct of our everyday personal and professional life … happens to be a combination phone bug, listening device, location tracker and hidden camera...
"Without adequate protections built into the law there’s no way that Americans can ever be sure that the government isn’t going to interpret its authorities more and more broadly, year after year, until the idea of a tele-screen monitoring your every move turns from dystopia to reality."
Conservatives are falling all over themselves to claim they've been harrassed by the IRS. Some outfit named Aleteia claims that a Catholic professor critical of the Obama administration was mysteriously audited.
Franklin Graham, the apple who fell far from the tree, likewise claims the IRS has been persecuting him. (His organization is a 501(c)3, which has stricter requirements than a (501(c)4. Plus, he used organization funds to campaign against marriage equality in North Carolina, so there's more to his story than he's letting on. Just sayin')
This is fall-out from the Citizens United decision. Citizens United led directly to the rise of "super-political action committees, a.k.a. "super-pacs."
When Karl Rove began his super PAC American Crossroads, at first his fundraising was pretty anemic. He then set up Crossroads GPS, under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which is for “social welfare” organizations, which are supposed to further the general welfare (the provision talks about “civic betterment”). Donations to (c)(4)’s are not tax deductible. The main benefit is that contributors’ names are not public.
The 501(c)4 status is an artful dodge to get around disclosing donors. Donors to these organizations care more about protecting their identity than they do about getting a tax deduction.
Also one wonders: Do the tea party groups know that their promoters are passing themselves off as a "social welfare" organization to the IRS? Are they aware that they're now committed to promoting the "general welfare" leading to "civic betterment"?
Incidentally, poor people who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are five times more likely to be audited than other people, mostly because conservative Congressmen keep asserting there's "fraud" somewhere in the program, which is what they always say this about programs that don't benefit them.
The Boston bombing killed three and injured 150. The West, Texas fertilizer explosion killed 15 and injured 200. Both are horrific events, of course, but the West, Texas explosion did more actual damage to life and property than the bombings. Yet, 95% of the news coverage has been about Boston.
Terrorism kills relatively few people, yet we can't stop ourselves from obsessing about it. Meanwhile, industrial accidents--if that's what the West, Texas explosion proves to be--kill and maim many, many times the people directly affected by terrorism.
The Dallas Morning News has some stunning photos of the effects of a lack of regulation. Local officials assess damage:
Stephen Hawking, who may be the smartest person in the world, thinks we only have about another 1000 years on this planet. He expects human beings to be extinct by then because of "our fragile planet."
"We must continue to go into space for humanity. If you understand how the universe operates, you control it in a way," Professor Hawking said, adding that "we won't survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet."
Our sun is about half-way or so through its life cycle. In about 400,000 years, the sun will expand and consume the earth. Earth, of course, will have been uninhabitable for 100,000 or so before that. All surface water will evaporate, and the atmosphere will disintegrate about 300,000 from now.
This would give us plenty of time to find another planet, or another way for human beings to survive somewhere.
Global warming and climate change rolls earth's potential doomsday much, much closer. It is entirely possible that human beings will indeed become extinct because of climate change. The atmosphere is thin and fragile. We've messed with it, and now face our hour of peril. Within 100 years, many portions of our world will not be uninhabitable.