If You Keep Yelling, Folks Will Believe What You Say

Today’s number is 87,000. Today’s quiz concerns that number and its position in today’s political discussion. What does 87,000 represent? Is it:

  1. The number of new jack-booted thugs armed with assault rifles who will enforce the IRS’s evil mandates, shooting any who resist the decrees from the Federal government,


2 .  The number of hires the IRS will need over the next 10 years to off-set retirements, and    improve the response time for an agency that has been starved of resources for over a decade.

OK, I know that was an easy question. If you live totally in a right-wing cocoon, the answer is 1. If you have any relationship with reality, the answer is 2.

It really shows up the hypocrisy of the Republican party as to how they frame the issue around the increased resources for the IRS. What they don’t tell their gullible rubes is that a few of these 87,000 proposed employees will end up auditing high-income returns, making it less likely that overt cheating will avoid scrutiny. Look, a vast majority of taxpayers do not have any opportunity for not paying their fair share of taxes. They don’t have ownership of limited partnerships, where income and deductions are played with by accountants of mixed morality. They cannot play with depreciation of assets, since they do not own assets they could depreciate. It has been easier to look for those who cheat by playing with their eligibility for earned income tax credits. Certainly we do not want those who are benefiting from taxation redistribution programs to cheat and cause them to benefit excessively from taxpayer’s largesse. But to pretend that significant amounts of dollars can be recovered by keeping the IRS status quo, and mandating increased work requirements for benefit programs shows the true financial illiteracy of the would-be ruling class. Either that, or they are pretending to care about the true victims of our economy by appealing to moral instincts by lying about the unworthiness of those who are losing out in the national income race.

Over the last several decades, the mantra of the Republicans has been that any expenditures from the Federal Government are unjustified, and wasteful. Therefore, it is their bounden duty to reduce taxes on the productive class (themselves), while imposing strict limits on any redistribution of income to the wastrel class (those who are in the lower bounds of the income distribution). It is as if the belief system of Ayn Rand has sprung to life in their political pronouncements. What they have is theirs, since they earned it. No mention of them rigging the system to ensure their types of income is treated more leniently than income earned through participation in the labor market.

And now they would have us believe the proposed increase in the IRS budget is the number 1 evil they are fighting against. Well, I am of the belief that taxes are the rent we pay to live in a civilized society. Taxation does not represent evil taking. And when overt lying becomes a main form of political discourse, it is the responsibility of others to speak up against these lies from becoming embedded in the beliefs of those who drink the swill of the upper classes.

There has always been an element of wish fulfillment in Republican politics. They always represented the capitalists against the majority who do not have capital to play with. Their trick now has been to convince a substantial portion of the laboring class that they are being deceived by the evil of the social issues favored by Democrats. They have subjugated their economic pitches by wailing about the degradations they see in their culture war issues. Meanwhile, those who provide the political lubricant (money) in the Republican party are literally laughing on their way to the bank as they chortle over the tricks they are playing on the lower classes. It has been their dream to reduce the portion of national income going to those who labor for their living. That way, corporate profits can increase, and they benefit from the share buybacks and increased dividends accruing to those with capital.

I am one of the fortunate ones in this economy. I went to college and majored in a STEM field which was in demand when I graduated. I was able to save throughout my career, and through a combination of pension, and inheritance, I’ve been able to build up my share of capital. I look to deploy my capital in investments where dividends play a significant role in total return. But I see how unfair our income distribution is. Look at the graph of total US income:

Nearly 40% of households earned less than $55,000 dollars in 2019. And while that income may be acceptable in places like West Virginia, it is untenable to live on that amount in our urban centers. So for those who claim only the undeserving in society need assistance, I maintain it is the system imposed upon this nation which precludes many dedicated laborers from earning a decent wage. We either need a system which increases the value of labor, or we need a national program to aid those who find themselves at the bottom of the heap in this ongoing race to the top. Of course, since service worker wages are the foundation of the economy, rises in service worker pay is reflected in higher costs for the products of those service workers. And immediately, concern grows about the inflation those higher costs produce. Of course, blame is attributed to high spending from the Federal Government. And those Republicans who seek to deceive the foolish masses, trumpet their folderol loudly so people believe their words instead of seeking to analyze the situation for themselves.

An Assault on Intelligence

And the beat goes on. The beat goes on.

So the beat of mass shootings keeps on keeping on. No sooner have they reported on one shooting than news comes in of another shooting. Maybe it’s a Sweet 16 birthday party in Alabama. Maybe it’s a bank in Louisville where a soon-to-be fired employee decides to take proactive measures to protest his imminent separation from the bank by ensuring permanent separation for others and himself.

Oh, we see the responses. Crickets from one party, calls for complete regulation from another. But the genie is out of the box. When you have a country where the number of guns greatly exceeds the residents of the country, there is no way to prevent gun violence from being a major cause of death and injury. Still, I am struck by how many times in mass shootings, it is an assault rifle purchased recently that is the weapon of choice. So I add my voice to those who are calling for a ban on the sale of this type of weapon. If nothing else, it will cut down on the attention-seekers who decide to add meaning to their life by the way they leave it. Take as many as possible with themselves. God, I’m sick of hearing of these weaklings who have only the ability to kill, using these weapons of war.

Still, a question hangs in the air, asked by a Tennessee state representative. He asked what kind of gun would you prefer to be shot with. Well, my first smart-aleck response is to say a bb gun, since the muzzle velocity is not over 3000 feet/second, and the damage the little steel ball would do does not compare to the organ liquefaction enabled by weapons like the AR-15. Failing that, a 22 caliber handgun with about a 1000 feet/second muzzle velocity would be better than anything from an assault weapon.

I know, 2nd Amendment purists will claim that banning an inexact type of weapon will inevitably lead to banning and confiscation of all firearms, thus enabling the gestapo takeover by the jack-booted thugs of our overpowering government. That is the argument that still resonates within legislative halls. So now we are free to take our guns into bars, where everyone knows only sober, sane people ever get into disagreements. And those old laws that implied you had to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon? Shoot, that was an imposition on law-abiding ‘Muricans. What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand?

Since this is the era of revisionist Supreme Court rulings, where Roe v. Wade was “wrongfully decided”, what keeps us from revisiting other rulings. Surely Heller is something that should be reviewed. If the original intent of enabling keeping a weapon in the home was kept intact, we would not be seeing this plethora of gun violence. But the 2nd Amendment purists have twisted this ruling into a behemoth that mandates this nation turning into an armed camp. And the idiots who run roughshod over the desires of the citizens of this country in state legislatures and in Congress, have made it impossible to institute any sort of effective defense against armed intruders into our lives.

Look, it doesn’t matter whether the shootings come from gang bangers striving for control over the streets, or lone actors who try to bring meaning to their lives by showing how many innocents they can take out before they die, in both cases people end up with holes in them. Doctors try to repair the damage from these holes, but especially in the cases of rifles, the damage is permanent. Even if a shooting victim’s life can be saved, the victim will never be made whole. All because we insist that any regulation on guns will end up in the great civil war over gun confiscation. I’m quite sure there are many who secretly are hoping for this end. These faux patriots believe they are the only ones who can force an evil government from total domination. They call out, “Bring it on!” as they buy up the wares for sale in their local gun shop.  It doesn’t matter that they already have an armory in their house, there’s always a need for one more gun.

Those who decry gun regulation point to states with regulation where shootings still occur. Those shootings supposedly provide proof that gun regulation does not work. But let’s take the case of Illinois, where shootings in the city of Chicago happen frequently. Nothing prevents an aspiring criminal from purchasing their guns legally in a neighboring state, where gun regulation is nearly non-existent. Only nation-wide regulations will end up working, and even then, multitudes will try to game the system and obtain guns outside of the established legal pathways.

It seems to me that nothing we do will totally eliminate gun violence. But we now are at a frequency where any act that leads to a reduction in mass shooting events would be welcome. Surely we should consider closing the private sale loophole for background checks, a ban on the manufacture and sale of certain types of high-powered weaponry, and uniform red-flag laws across the country. If those measure could reduce the toll from guns, it would be worth it. And those who have fears about Federal Government overreach, I invite you to be satisfied with the pile of guns you already have. Maybe you could invest surplus monies for your retirement, rather than expect your idolatry to pay off.

Selma Lives!

Rep. Justin Pearson, Rep. Justin Jones, Rep. Gloria Johnson People hold their hands up as they exit the House Chamber doors at the Tennessee State Capitol Building, in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 3, 2023. Nicole Hester/USA Today Network via REUTERS.

Bull Connor was resurrected this week. It had been years since his name had crossed my mind, but after the events in the Tennessee house, he came back uninvited into my consciousness. He was also mentioned by cable news commentators, along with the images of the fire hoses being used against civil rights demonstrators. It was telling that it took images of 60 years ago to match what was happening in Nashville.

I spent 10 years in Memphis. The district that just got “unrepresented” was not one I lived in, but if I lived there now, it would be familiar to me. The 86th legislative district was the one that Justin Pearson represented, and now has no representation in the Tennessee house. That district was gerrymandered to include the industrial lands next to the Mississippi River, downtown Memphis, and a swath of land along the river and up into a county adjacent to Shelby County (home to Memphis). My old workplace along the Loosahatchie River is currently without representation.

As I watched cable news coverage, they were in split-screen mode. Those who were pontificating were on one side, while images of the speakers in the Tennessee Assembly were shown on the other. The sound was off in that chamber, but it was apparent through the shaking of fists, and the clenched jaws of the speakers, raw hatred was being expressed. Raw hatred against three individuals who dared to stand up and challenge the one-sided nature of legislative discussion after the murders in the Nashville church-based school. In the end, the two black males were on the losing end of the vote, and their expulsion from the chamber was completed. The white woman who had joined the two in violating the decorum of the house chamber? She received just enough votes to avoid being expelled as well. So the final score was one white woman allowed to stay, two young black males sent packing. As the remaining female legislator said, the result was probably related to the color of her skin.

My knowledge of Tennessee politics ended nearly 40 years ago when I moved away. I was there when the newly elected governor of Tennessee took over earlier than anticipated (three days prior to the scheduled inauguration day), in order to forestall then-governor Ray Blanton from selling any more pardons. Fortunately, he was held accountable for some of his multitude of crimes, although not for pardon sales. Yes, he was a Democratic party member, but I was very glad to see the Republican Lamar Alexander take over. Back then the crime and grift was equal opportunity, and all politicians were suspect regardless of party affiliation. Now, however, it does seem like one party is inclined to use their power for one purpose only – to maintain said power.

White privilege is debated often. States have gone to extraordinary lengths to deny its existence, so much so that in Florida, you may not discuss in the classroom anything that could bring discomfort to the youth of that state (those who just happen to be white). The party that decries cancel culture, is guilty of cancelling anything that presents a challenge to the lily pure image being presented by the dominant class. Snowflakes cannot stand any warmth of reality, else they melt away.

I am old enough to remember seeing the fire hoses used against demonstrators. I felt awful that a group of people had to put up with such vile hatred in order to gain a semblance of citizenship. At the age of 8, I was only capable of thinking that could not happen in the state of Nebraska, where I lived. I had to be older to learn that the same feelings existed even in my state, though they were expressed with less overt violence. Somehow I managed to live through learning of the imperfections of our nation. Still I retained the belief that things were getting better, and we would soon embody the post-racial world Dr. King discussed. But events like those in Nashville show how far away we are from truly becoming a post-racial society. They replace the images of Barack Obama with those of Bull Connor, letting us know we are drifting back to a world we believed we had left behind. Who will be the voices we hear in the 2020’s that will match that of Dr. King? If we continue to follow the racism as expressed in the Tennessee Assembly, it may be a long time before we ever can accept our ongoing participation in the American sin. There is a call for reparations now. Yeah, let’s go throw money at the problem. Seems like that is our answer to everything. Let me say now, reparations without repairing the schism in our hearts will not bring about true equality. We now see so many who do not want equality, who will not accept the founding principles of our nation. And they are the ones who are gaming the system to ensure their continued occupation in the lead coach. Unfortunately, if we follow their lead, it will be towards national derailment and ultimate ruin.    

Is He Really Naked?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” The words of Charles Dickens reach out to us over the centuries and still hold true. Within the US, you will find both sentiments existing simultaneously among the political tribes we are sorted into.

You find those who bought a celebratory bottle of sparkling wine after the first step was taken towards holding a former President accountable for his actions. And you will find those in sack cloth and ashes moaning about the complete collapse of the legal system in this nation if they were supporters of the former President. Taken as a whole, this nation has cognitive dissonance in how the actions of the legal system in the State of New York are viewed. But both sides are utterly convinced theirs is the correct interpretation of events. Indeed, I now see where the concept of alternative facts can appear. The facts themselves are not much in question, but how they are viewed through lenses of partisanship varies greatly.

One side sees the status of this nation torn to shreds by having the audacity of indicting a former President. The other side sees the honor of this nation upheld by a demonstration of the commitment to the rule of law, a commitment other nation-states can only dream about. What-aboutism has reared its head as one side tries to equate events in the 1990’s with interns, to the events of the last decade where the price of dalliance was made clear. It takes a bit of historical perspective to view events in their proper context.

It is apparent this nation is not where it used to be. Regardless of the personal sexual habits of politically connected individuals, there used to be a red line that could not be crossed if one wished to be taken seriously by the electorate. That red line was paying at least lip service to the concept of moral consistency with the sexual morality expressed in countless pulpits across the United States. But as the moral exemplars of the church yielded to the temptations of the secular world, be they related to money or sex, the moral authority of our political leadership also became compromised. So much so that when a candidate for President discussed his own privilege and preferences, his supporters were not bothered with his confession. He grabbed them by the pussy, just like he could grab the pussy of anyone else who caught his wandering eyes.

He could not be bought. That was his original argument. His business empire threw off so much cash he could ignore the traditional high rollers of campaign finance. But with a political environment so corrupted with money (equivalent to speech), by the time the second run for office came about, he was less picky about who supported him financially. Sure, the small donor was satisfying. After all, a few million supporters averaging $30 per capita could exceed even the mega moneys of the privileged class. There were efforts made to crack open the aura of financial success, like the reporting of the New York Times. But by the time serious investigation into his business “successes” was made public, his followers had morphed into a cult incapable of hearing any flaws in their leader’s public persona.

So one group sees the Emperor in his gaudy clothes, while the members of another group is blinded by the glare of lights upon the gilded fixtures in his palaces. Meanwhile, his true business successes remain few and far between, and without a television series adding to his mystique, slowly his true nature becomes visible to many. But what is really wild, is that he still reigns over the wreckage of the party he appropriated. Once the Republican party was a party of ideas, and those ideas were discussed and debated on the platforms of this nation’s elections. By 2020 though, the Republicans actually committed themselves to “what he says”. Never have I seen a party completely abdicate its responsibility to enunciate its principles. Not until this last election where the dedication to a cult leader became absolute. It mattered not who objected to this charade. An entire party apparatus was usurped, with the added effect that anyone who disagreed with the dear leader immediately became subject to the charge of being a RINO. Good luck at trying to convince any of his true followers of their leader’s faults and foibles. Indeed, we are now in a world where attempts to hold the man accountable for his actions has become reinforcement for the cult member’s beliefs of unjustified political persecution. It may take shooting someone on Fifth Avenue before his true believers would open their eyes to the actual nature of their leader. But given his style, he would just suggest that someone should be shot, and one of his deluded followers will take it on themselves to execute the desire of the leader. That way, he can claim he was only warning about what was to come, not that he was responsible for nudging someone into fulfilling his desires. Buckle up, because the ride is just beginning.