Donald Trump has repeatedly said he wants drug dealers to face the death penalty for their crimes, but hasn’t gone into any detail as to what sort of drug crimes would warrant capital punishment if he and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had their way.

Are we only talking about the leaders of drug cartels? Are we talking about the drug “mules” who move the drugs into the country? Are we talking about the people who cut up and deliver the drugs? Are we talking about the doctors prescribing the drugs? What about the manufacturers of opioids?

Trump’s death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan is what he thinks will reign in the opioid epidemic. But opioid addicts don’t go straight to fentanyl and overdose. They start on Vicodin prescribed by their doctor, one in 12 of whom has received money from drug companies marketing prescription opioid medications, according to a recent study by Boston Medical Center. These doctors are just as responsible for opioid overdose deaths as other drug dealers.

More than 40,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016, 40 percent of which involved prescription opioids. So putting drug dealers and drug lords to death for trafficking heroin and fentanyl only addresses part of the problem. If opioid addicts don’t have access to the cheaper, stronger heroin and fentanyl, that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop using opioids. They’re just going to use more prescription opioids, whether their doctor prescribes them or not. And they can still overdose on prescription opioids.

Who Deserves the Death Penalty?

The death penalty has been and continues to be reserved almost exclusively for murderers. In fact, of the 31 states still sentencing people to death, only Texas kills people convicted of “criminal homicide” and those suffering from mental illness. Even now, a bill filed by Democratic State Rep. Toni Rose of Dallas to bar the death penalty for the mentally ill is unlikely to pass in the Lone Star State. The state would likely be the first to embrace Trump’s death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan given the border it shares with Mexico, from where 90 percent or more of America’s heroin supply originates.

Drug Lords

Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera was scheduled to stand trial in April, but the federal judge in Brooklyn presiding over the case postponed the trial until September. It gives the prosecutors ample time to prepare their case against the most wanted drug dealer in the world, but they won’t likely need it. They have access to over 300,000 pages of documents and thousands of secretly recorded conversations to help make their case.

The real question isn’t whether “El Chapo” is guilty, but whether he actually has the $14 billion in cash from narcotic sales U.S. authorities want to seize. Most experts think this figure is too high, but the point is the man made billions of dollars selling opium around the world, and especially to Americans.

While “El Chapo” is charged with federal crimes that would subject him to the death penalty, the Mexican government wanted assurance the death penalty would not be sought when negotiating the terms of his extradition. So “El Chapo” won’t be the first drug dealer Trump gets to put to death. International drug lords are already subject to capital punishment, though, because they’d be charged with federal crimes. Drug lords like “El Chapo” certainly deserve the death penalty, but Trump isn’t just talking about killing drug lords. I’d hope he knows we can already do that.

Cartel “Security”

“El Chapo” had a 30-year career dealing illegal drugs because of his “security” detail. Not only did they keep him alive and out of jail all those years (and broke him out of jail twice), but they left no witnesses and eliminated troublemakers for the cartel.

These killers fulfill the “murder prerequisite” required by 30 of the 31 states still sentencing criminals to death, and are deserving of the death penalty. But murder charges would have to be brought in the country where the murder occurred. If no blood is shed on American soil, they are not subject to American law.

Drug Mules

Trump’s death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan seems to be targeted at the people who don’t deserve it. Sessions did his best to implement Trump’s plan by sending a memo to federal prosecutor’s requesting they pursue the death penalty in cases “dealing with extremely large quantities of drugs.” But the people found in possession of those “extremely large quantities of drugs” are the least deserving of the death penalty. Some aren’t even aware they’re trafficking drugs.

Most drug mules are only guilty of being desperate. They’re just trying to find a better life for themselves and their family and might not have another means to do so or, frankly, a choice. I dare Jeff Sessions to refuse a drug lord’s order to traffic heroin across the border. The thought that you could be sentenced to death if arrested isn’t as bad as being killed where you stand. Plus, what if you get away with it?

Many of these people are looking to move to America just to do a job an American is unwilling to do. Drug lords “help” them realize that dream -- for a price. There are over 55 million poor people in Mexico and 15 millionaires who amass roughly 13 percent of the Mexican economy’s total value. So 45 percent of Mexico’s population is impoverished and for every millionaire in the country, there are roughly 3,660,000 poor people. Now you know why so many Mexicans are eager to move to America and work a shitty job you wouldn’t do for double or triple what they’re paid.   

Put yourself in the shoes of a poor Mexican with a family to support. Even if you don’t have kids, you still have mouths to feed in Mexico. Mexicans take care of their familial elders, and not just their parents. Aunts, uncles and other immediate family members living under one roof with their nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters is common in Mexico. So a working-aged couple could have no children but still be expected to support a family of five or more. And when it comes to feeding the family, the oldest and youngest are the first priorities. Those who provided the meal are most likely to eat the least.

Despite a 3.8-percent unemployment rate in 2017 and a 17-percent increase in the number of Mexican workers gaining access to social security in the first half of 2017, 57.2 percent of Mexican workers still have jobs in the “informal economy.” This means more than half of the country’s laborers aren’t receiving health insurance or earning retirement benefits nor are they protected in the workplace. Their wages are not collectively bargained; they are dictated. The hours they work per day are not subject to Mexican law, and neither is the condition of their workplace nor the treatment they receive from their superiors.

Even worse, the informal economy accounts for roughly a quarter of Mexico’s gross domestic product, so programs meant to help impoverished Mexicans are severely underfunded because the government is raising revenue from just 75 percent of its economy. It’s something that’s taken a long time to correct. Mexico’s congress eased restrictions on hiring and firing back in 2012, and over the next five years, participation in the informal economy fell just 2.2 percent.

And in a country where drug lords earn more than CEOs and have not only assassins but cops on the payroll, you can bet that Mexico’s informal economy will never disappear. Every country has an informal economy. It doesn’t matter where you go, there will be jobs there that pay cash under the table. Governments can’t monitor every dollar that changes hands, but countries where large amounts of illicit drugs are produced will always have larger informal economies. Since we mostly just consume drugs in America and not produce them, the informal economy created from drug trafficking in the United States is modest when compared to that of Mexico, Colombia or Afghanistan, the leading provider of opium to the world.

So when a Mexican laborer struggles to find work in the formal economy, the informal economy awaits to prey and profit on his or her desperation. At some point, any type of work for any amount of money will look a lot better than the starving, disappointed faces of your family at home. Scrape by long enough working 16-hour days for barely enough money to feed your family and trafficking a little heroin across the border to a dealer in the states sounds like an opportunity instead of a risk. And when your employer, the drug lord, a surprisingly amiable fellow, promises to send your family to join you upon your successful completion of this most simple task, you too would turn mule for a chance at the American Dream.

Just deliver a package across the border, and you’ll be working an American farm and earning more money than you ever thought was possible, even though it’s less than what most American, fast food employees earn. You’ll send some of the money from your first paycheck back to your family with a letter telling them how long it will be until you can afford a foreclosed fixer-upper you can renovate together and turn into a home. But your family won’t likely receive that letter or the enclosed American money because the cartel probably has a murderous goon holding your family captive in their own home who reviews and censors all incoming mail and pockets any money he discovers. Getting you out of Mexico allowed the cartel to “recruit” your family.

Members of your family would likely be forced to take your place working for the cartel, regardless of their health or ability. The cartel doesn’t care if they die on the job, and neither do the police. That’s the risk that comes with working in the informal economy: you are treated like slave labor. The cartel needs its laborers to be so uncomfortable that they welcome the work because it means they will eat. Threats aren’t as effective a form of persuasion as a person’s instinct to survive. Threaten your workforce with death, and they’ll soon welcome it; provide just enough for your workforce to survive, and they’ll do just that -- survive.

Those who do survive will ride off into “retirement” as a drug mule when the cartel has no use for them anymore. Everyone becomes a liability eventually, and processing heroin, from planting to harvesting the opium poppies to splitting and scraping the poppies to extract the opium, is not work suited for the arthritic. Your former employer, the drug lord, provided them with no knowledge of your whereabouts despite reviewing your mail. His only interest is in his product reaching its destination, and he doesn’t want his drug mule thinking about his brother, the American mule. The drug lord wants his mule’s mind on the job.

Unfortunately, your family member is probably better off being caught at the border and locked up in an American prison than they’d be having delivered their drugs successfully. Unlike you, they aren’t fit for the type of work available to them in the states, or anywhere else for that matter, and will likely resort to working for the cartel’s drug dealer in the states, hoping to put away enough money to try and find you and the rest of the family. That hope dissipates upon discovering the cost of living in America, eventually giving way to those survival instincts once again.

There’s no room for hope in drug cartels. Families can’t discover their escaped, American dreamer is actually living the American Dream and saving to buy a house for the family. Slave owners didn’t want their slaves learning how to read for a reason. That reason is reason -- the ability to think, understand, and form judgements logically. Your family receiving a letter from America saying how well you’re doing, how much money you’re making and, most importantly, your return address, will have them escaping north the first chance they get, consequences be damned. Hope makes people risk their lives, not because of the potential payoff, but because of the realization that they aren’t actually living. The hopeless are simply surviving, and hope makes people risk survival for the chance to truly live.

Drug mules don’t deserve the death penalty because despite being responsible for trafficking the drugs into the country, they’re usually doing so to preserve their own life or the lives of their family. To hold them responsible for deaths that result from the drugs they traffic is asinine, unless, of course, your goal all along was to limit immigration.

The people Trump and Sessions seem to be targeting are the cartel’s lowest-level, nonviolent laborers. Putting these people to death is not going to solve anything. There are plenty of mules drug lords can recruit or force across the border. You don’t think a drug lord would kidnap a man’s wife or child to persuade him to traffic some drugs?  

Drug mules are not drug dealers; they’re drug movers, and when drug movers are caught, no harm has yet come to anyone in this country because the drugs haven’t reached the drug dealer. And even the drug dealers aren’t all bad.

Drug Dealers

Drug dealers provide a service in high demand, especially in America, where roughly a trillion dollars was spent on illegal drugs from 2000 to 2010. If there’s one thing the Drug War has proved, it’s that you can’t stop people from using drugs. The opioid epidemic in this country is a perfect example of how drug users find a way to abuse drugs. Even in places where illegal drugs are hard to find like West Virginia and Indiana, Americans find a way.

Is cocaine too expensive and too stepped-on where you live? Is good heroin hard to find? No worries. Just make an appointment with your doctor and tell him or her you’re suffering from intense pain that’s keeping you up at night. You’ll have a prescription for opioids the same day, and less than a month later, you can tell your doctor the dosage isn’t working anymore and get something stronger. Within a few months, you’ll have access to the strongest opium legally available.

Drug users use drugs, regardless of accessibility or legality. In fact, the illegality of drugs makes them more desirable because of the coolness that comes with being forbidden. Illegal drugs are also more dangerous than legal ones because the people in charge of regulating the purity and dosage are the drug dealers, who do not have their customers’ interests or lives in mind.

Drug prohibition is also responsible for the violence associated with drug trafficking. Since drug dealers and traffickers risk imprisonment, the cost associated with that risk goes into the price of the drug. Every time a drug dealer is arrested, drug prices increase. Every time a drug mule is caught at the border and product is seized, drug prices increase. And every time an “El Chapo” is arrested, drug prices increase.

These inflated prices as a result of illegality make drugs less affordable, forcing drug users to come up with more money. Unlike most products, the demand for drugs doesn’t drop considerably when supply is low and prices high. Casual drug users might be turned off by high prices, but addicts care little about cost and will do just about anything to acquire the extra cash they need except wait for their next paycheck. Unfortunately, methods for acquiring money quickly tend to be illegal.  

The illegality of drugs causes more illegal activity in order to obtain those drugs. It’s responsible for convenience stores, homes and cars being robbed and purses being snatched. It results in violence, death and increased costs to the judicial and prison systems. Oh, and then there’s the costs of enforcing drug laws, which came to roughly $76 billion in 2015. That’s almost half of what the federal government spends to fund public schools.

Legalizing drugs and making them available for purchase at pharmacies that ensure purity and safe dosage for human consumption would make drugs and access to those drugs safer, cheaper, and result in less violent crime and fewer overdose deaths. Daily purchases would be limited to a safe dosage determined by health professionals, and users would be getting a pure, uncut substance that won’t kill them because the “dealer” would have their interests in mind instead of trying to maximize profit.

Drug dealers are looking to make a buck any way they can, which includes cutting up drugs with synthetic additives designed to offer a similar effect as the actual drug but at a cheaper price for the drug dealer. This is why methamphetamine ends up in Ecstasy and fentanyl ends up in cocaine and heroin: it’s cheaper. Of all drug dealers, the dealers of bad drugs are the only ones who deserve the death penalty.

Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff of Aspen, Colo. on a platform that included the legalization of recreational drugs, but also a plan for punishing drug dealers who sold bad drugs. He thought such dealers should be put in stocks and displayed in public places so locals could mock them and even molest them. Thompson was concerned with buying ineffective drugs, though, not dying from heroin cut with fentanyl. I think drug dealers who sell bad drugs that result in an overdose death should be tried for murder and sentenced to death if so ruled by a jury of their peers in states where capital punishment is still enacted.

If Trump sees his death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan as a way to further limit immigration of Mexicans he thinks are “bringing drugs, crime and rapists” to the U.S., he’s going to be disappointed in its ineffectiveness. Sentencing every drug mule to death might send a message, but do you think “El Chapo” or any drug lord will have a sudden shortage of available mules because they’re scared of receiving the death penalty if arrested in America? No, they’ll be scared of the gun the drug lord is holding to their head.

But if Trump sees his death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan as a way to hold drug dealers responsible for deaths that are a direct result of their greed and help ensure drug users get what they order and not a surprise overdose, his plan would sound less crazy.

If he sees his plan applying to doctors who blatantly overprescribe opioids resulting in the deaths of patients all while taking money from the manufacturers of those opioids, I’d have no objection. If those doctors are practicing in a state where the death penalty is still enacted, and their carelessness resulted in one of their patients becoming addicted to opioids and eventually dying from that addiction, a jury should consider the death penalty as a possible sentence for the doctor.

Hell, if by “drug dealers” Trump means the producers of prescription opioids, like Purdue Pharma, Teva, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Endo, Allergan and Watson, I wouldn’t find his plan crazy at all. The executives who created this crisis are most responsible for the resulting deaths. Whether their drugs were specifically responsible for the deaths is irrelevant. You don’t have to wield the knife to be guilty of murder.

These pharmaceutical companies not only downplayed the addictive effects of opioids in the late 1990s, but rewarded salespeople with luxury trips and $20,000 scratch tickets for getting doctors to switch patients to opioids and also paid doctors to prescribe them. The pharmaceutical CEOs and executives who made OxyContin into a billion-dollar revenue stream annually are just as guilty of murder as “El Chapo,” and perhaps more so. “El Chapo” didn’t get Americans hooked on opioids; big pharma did that by providing the “gateway” to heroin and fentanyl. Without $30 billion in OxyContin sales, “El Chapo” doesn’t become “El Chapo” -- the drug dealer worth $14 billion.  

Since Trump won’t likely enact his death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan for his rich, pharma friends who paid for his campaign, at least someone is doing something to hold big pharma accountable. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is suing the opioid manufacturers previously listed to recoup some of what the United States has lost to the opioid epidemic big pharma created. A recent report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers found that the opioid epidemic cost America more than $500 billion in 2015. That’s in one year!


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With agents of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement raiding 7-Elevens across the country intent on deporting illegal immigrants and punishing the companies that employ them, immigration reform is taking center stage this week in Washington, D.C. 

Democrats have long hoped to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants temporarily allowed in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which allows children brought to America by family members illegally to remain in the country temporarily and acquire work visas. As of this writing, a federal injunction has blocked the Trump Administration from rescinding the work permits of these undocumented immigrants. But that's not a permanent solution.

A bipartisan group of Senators has come to an agreement on an immigration deal, but Donald Trump has not offered his support of the bill. The bill reportedly includes a path for DACA recipients to become citizens and changes to the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies while also providing a border security funding package.

Whatever the bipartisan deal looks like now, it’s going change drastically as negotiations take place to please the President become passable in the Senate and the House of Representatives. So what can we expect from the immigration negotiations?

A Wall Will be Built

Trump was asked if he would support a DACA bill that did not include money for the border wall he has proposed in a news conference, Wednesday at the White House. “No, no, no,” was his answer.

Trump won’t approve immigration legislation if it doesn’t approve funding for a border wall. It was his biggest campaign promise -- and that Mexico would pay for it. Mexico isn’t paying for it, and Senate Democrats won’t likely allow tax dollars to be spent on a border wall. But there’s still Ted Cruz’s bill to make El Chapo (Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera) and profits secured from other drug lords to pay for the wall.

The Department of Homeland Security estimated in February 2017 that Trump’s border wall would cost roughly $21.6 billion. U.S. authorities are seeking the forfeiture of roughly $14 billion in profits from illicit drug trafficking by El Chapo.

Marijuana Policy could Play a Part in Immigration Negotiations

U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions gave Republicans leverage in negotiations by ending protections for states with legal marijuana, so Republicans could very well demand funding for a border wall in exchange for protections of medical and recreational marijuana providers and users.

That doesn’t mean Trump will be able to fund his border wall exclusively with taxpayer dollars, though. Congressional Democrats are already frustrated by a tax plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Even if Trump’s tax plan will raise America’s gross-domestic product by .5 percent annually, it still increases the federal deficit by $1.252 trillion. And now Congressional Republicans have their sights set on cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

Deportations Will Increase

Congressional Democrats will have to find some solace in fulfilling the dreams of Dreamers currently residing in America under DACA, because immigrants residing in the country under the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies will be deported en masse.

The ICE raids of 7-Elevens throughout the country are just the beginning. Refugees residing in America with Temporary Protected Status will likely have their statuses terminated and be forced to return to their home countries, which aren’t likely ready to receive them. Most of these refugees escaped natural disasters or war. It was announced Monday that nearly 200,000 TPS migrants from El Salvador must leave the country, and there are another 125,000 TPS migrants residing in American who could be next.

To give you a sense of who these TPS migrants are, 81 to 88 percent of them are employed, which is a considerably higher rate than the 63 percent of American-born citizens who are employed. They do work many Americans wouldn’t do if the jobs were available to them -- 51,700 work construction, 32,400 in food service, 15,800 are landscapers, 10,000 more take care of your kids in daycares and 9,200 work in grocery stores. Almost a third of all TPS migrants are paying mortgages, too.

The Economy won’t Benefit from Deportations

Trump will chalk these deportations up as jobs created for Americans, but it won’t necessarily result in a strengthened U.S. economy. The Center for American Progress estimates "a policy of mass deportation would immediately reduce the nation's GDP by 1.4 percent, and ultimately by 2.6 percent, and reduce cumulative GDP over 10 years by $4.7 trillion."

Agriculture and construction industries are expected to be the industries hardest hit by mass deportations, so housing shortages will worsen as will agriculture exports due to a lack of a sufficient labor force. Americans aren’t suddenly going to flock to farms and ranches in search of jobs vacated by immigrants.

It’s also estimated that illegal immigrants and their employers pay between $7 and $12 billion into Social Security, which would further devastate the program if Congressional Republicans indeed cut funding for it.

So what we can expect from the immigration reform negotiations is: 1) some sort of border wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border, 2) possible marijuana protections for states with legal and medical marijuana legislation in effect, 3) more deportations, and 4) a worse U.S. economy.


 

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While United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era, federal protections for recreational marijuana businesses and users in states that have adopted legal cannabis legislation, that won’t affect states’ medical marijuana providers and users -- at least until Jan. 19.

Indications are that medical marijuana will be off the table when it comes to the Justice Department’s crackdown on cannabis. President Donald Trump went on the record in support of medical marijuana prior to the election, so it’s unlikely Sessions would act in a manner that could jeopardize his President’s reelection chances any further. But if Congress can’t come to an agreement to fund the government before Jan. 19, the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment prohibiting the Justice Department from spending federal funds to interfere with states’ implementation and enforcement of medical cannabis laws will expire.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment must be renewed each fiscal year to remain in effect, and is usually done so through omnibus spending bills. It was most recently renewed in a stopgap spending bill on Dec. 22, which expires Jan. 19. So if Congress fails to pass a budget for the fiscal year or at least another stopgap spending bill to fund the government temporarily, medical marijuana providers and patients will no longer be protected by Rohrabacher-Farr and subject to federal prosecution.

Sessions is making sure the Justice Department is prepared for the opportunity to enforce federal cannabis law. He appointed 17 interim U.S. attorneys general just days prior to rescinding the protections for recreational cannabis providers and users. The 17 temporary appointees can serve for 120 days before Trump must nominate permanent U.S. attorneys and seek to have them confirmed by the Senate. Sessions has empowered all 94 U.S. attorneys to enforce cannabis law as they see fit.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado said he would block Trump's Justice Department judicial nominees until the decision is reversed. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a state where cannabis is legal to use by adults, insists that protecting states with legal cannabis legislation should be part of budget negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. If the government shuts down, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would continue to be funded, so raids of both recreational and medical marijuana providers would be a possibility. Even if Sessions doesn’t crackdown on cannabis, he’s given Republicans some leverage in negotiating a new budget to fund the government. Perhaps in exchange for continued protection for medical and recreational marijuana states, Trump will get his border wall funded.

Regardless, medical and recreational marijuana providers and users haven’t been this vulnerable since before Rohrabacher-Farr went into effect in December of 2014. If the bipartisan condemnation of Sessions’ decision is any indication of what’s to come, protecting cannabis markets, both medical and recreational, will be a top priority over the next week.

As of January 2017, recreational cannabis markets had created 123,000 full-time jobs in America, and a recent report by New Frontier Data forecasts that tax revenues from legal marijuana sales were $559 million in 2017. 


 

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The plot surrounding Russia’s effect on the 2016 Presidential election is thick as mud, and Donald Trump looks more guilty everyday. Michael Flynn allegedly intends to testify that then President-elect Trump ordered him to contact the Russians. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been revealed as the transition-team official who ordered Flynn to contact Russian officials shortly after the election. Facebook has verified that ads purchased by fake accounts owned by Russians had an effect on the 2016 Presidential election.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Republicans. In fact, getting rid of Trump sooner rather than later could save the jobs of many House and Senate Republicans. Here are five reasons why Republicans should want Trump impeached.

1. It would lift Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections

Trump’s record-low approval rating as President this far into his Presidency is falling to even more embarrassing depths, and that approval rating has a considerable effect on the results of the midterm elections. “Since 1934, the party of a newly elected president has suffered an average loss of 23 seats in the House in the following midterm,” according to Ballotpedia. But we’ve never had a President with an approval rating of 35 percent this early in his Presidency.

Democrats need to pick up 24 seats in the 2018 midterm elections for a majority in the House of Representatives. Ballotpedia classifies the reelection chances of 17 incumbent Republicans as battleground races and another 12 as “races to watch.” Just six incumbent Democrats are at risk of losing their seats, and another two are classified as races to watch. 270ToWin predicts 20 tossups in the House and doesn’t see the Democrats gaining a majority in 2018. But if the 2017 Virginia special elections are any indication, Republicans should be worried.

There are eight Republican Senators up for reelection in 2018, two of whom Ballotpedia predicts could lose their seats. The seat vacated by Jeff Flake in Arizona and Dean Heller’s seat in Nevada are two seats the Democrats need to swing the Senate majority in their favor. 270ToWin has 11 tossups predicted for the 2018 midterm elections, so there are plenty of seats to be had by Democrats, and that outcome becomes more and more likely as Trump’s approval rating falls.

2. It would give Republicans a chance in the 2020 Presidential election

Republicans would be better off with Mike Pence as their Presidential candidate. Right now, PredictIt shares of Trump losing the election are selling at 64 cents, so despite his shares of winning the 2020 Presidential election leading the pack at 37 cents, the market doesn’t have a lot of faith in him. Shares of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren winning the 2020 Presidential election are both trending up, as Trump’s shares go unchanged. Shares of Mike Pence winning are steady at seven cents.

Pence is ideal for Republicans because the Koch brothers prefer him. The possibility of a Pence Presidency would likely result in more spending by the Kochs on Republicans’ behalf, perhaps preserving Republicans’ Congressional majority.

3. It would give Republicans a reason to make abortion and gay marriage election issues, again

Republicans would love to make abortion and gay marriage election issues again and forever, and President Pence would make ending both his campaign promises. Trump doesn’t seem to be as interested in social issues. What he doesn’t understand is that as long as Republicans are talking about why Planned Parenthood should be defunded for all the wrong reasons and abortion should be illegal for even victims of rape, they’re not defending their tax scam that turns churches into the next big, dark-money donors to Republican campaigns or defending their belief that climate change is a hoax and not man-made.

Republicans love talking about abortion and gay marriage because they don’t need evidence of any kind to defend their position. Thanks to The Bible, they’ll be correct in their minds -- not unlike the illogicality of jihadist suicide bombers.

4. It would give Republicans a chance to “drain the swamp,” again

The revolving door that has been the Trump Administration would finally stop revolving after Republicans kick Trump’s appointments through it. Republicans would love to get back to an administration that does as little as possible as quietly as possible, but replacing Trump officials would give Republicans an opportunity to draw the eyes of the media and public away from things like their support of a alleged pedophile from Alabama for the United States Senate. If there’s something Republicans have learned from the Trump Administration, it’s that constantly moving parts allows for mass misdirection of the media and public.

5. It would give Republicans a chance to rebuild relationships with foreign leaders

It only took a Tweet for Trump to wear out his welcome in Great Britain, a country whose recent nationalist and immigration-stifling interests he wants to copy. Kim Jong-un has never been more willing or more prepared to start nuclear war. Virtually every nation disagrees with Trump’s position on climate change, but that’s not going to change with Trump impeached. Pence’s personality would likely repair relationships with Great Britain and Jong-un, though, to the extent the latter exists.

So there are five reason why Republicans should want Trump impeached. The first -- the 2018 midterm elections -- should be enough to convince at least a few Republicans to vote for impeachment.

--


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If the 2017 elections are any indication of what’s to come in the 2018 midterms, Republicans are in trouble, and not because of a clean sweep by Democrats in Virginia on Tuesday. It was how Republicans lost on Tuesday, and how badly, that should have them concerned.

Democrats Sweep the Big Three in Virginia

The Virginia governor’s race that got all the media attention wasn’t close. Polls had Democrat Ralph Norman leading slightly, but his lead over Republican Ed Gillespie had shrunk from as many as nine points to three or fewer points in a matter of days. Warnings of past polls leaning Left in Virginia gave Republicans hope, but it was false hope, as Norman won by 8.6 percentage points.

The most important election for Democrats on Tuesday was that of Virginia’s attorney general. State attorneys general have been the best (and in many instances the last) line of defense for Democrats against the actions of Donald Trump’s administration, especially the travel ban. Incumbent Democrat Mark Herring beat Republican challenger John Adams by 6.5 percentage points.

Democrat Justin Fairfax completed the clean sweep of Virginia with a win over Republican Jill Vogel to become lieutenant governor. He won by 5.4 percentage points. The real gains for Democrats were made in Virginia’s district elections, though.

Republican Majority in Virginia House Vanishes

The biggest blow for Republicans came in Virginia’s House of Delegates, where they’ve lost 14 seats as of this writing, with two more close races predicted for Democrats and another three tossups predicted to go to Republicans. If Democrats win just one of those Republican-leaning tossups -- perhaps the 94th District, where Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds each have 49 percent of the vote -- the Democratic Party would hold a majority in the Virginia House for the first time since 2000. The wins are especially sweet for Democrats because Republicans experienced their largest majority just last year, holding 67 of the 100 seats.

The success Democrats had in Virginia’s districts is unprecedented. Democrats have never taken back as many Virginia House seats as they did Tuesday. It’s been 40 years since Democrats picked up 13 House seats in the Commonwealth, and they were already starting with a 65-seat majority back then.

The history of Virginia’s House of Delegates is one of epic streaks. Democrats held the majority for a century, and when it flipped to the Republicans, it looked as though it would take another century for Democrats to take back control. It took 100 years for the Virginia House to go from a Democratic majority to a Republican majority and, perhaps, just one night to swing the Virginia House back to the Democrats.

How and Why did Virginia Go Blue?

To say the current administration and do-nothing Congress didn’t have something to do with the Republicans’ losses in Virginia would be naive. Trump’s record-low approval rating is representative of the general sentiment of Americans, and with Republicans in the White House, they’re already starting from behind. The party occupying the White House tends to lose more midterm elections than it wins, and those losses are loosely predicated on the President’s approval rating. The effects on voter turnout are already apparent.

Democrats showed up to vote in 2017. Voter turnout was up 16 percent in Virginia compared to the last election for governor in 2013, but that’s nothing when you compare Tuesday’s voter turnout to that of the 2015 election.

Less than 30 percent of registered Virginia voters voted in 2015, which came to a grand total of 1,509,864 voters -- a decrease in voter turnout of over 11 percent from the previous year. Almost 1.1 million more Virginians voted in 2017 than in 2015. That’s a 72 percent increase, so to say Democrats were motivated is an understatement.

What Does the Future Hold?

Democrats also won the elections they should have in New Jersey and New York, and Maine even expanded Medicaid. But the races that reveal the most about the views of the average American and what the future holds for American elections are those for city council. The ever-changing political leanings of communities debut in city council elections long before they’re seen on the national scale. And no city council election revealed more about the future of American politics than that of Minneapolis’s Ward 3.

Ginger Jentzen, running as a Socialist, received more than a third of first-place votes in a four-candidate race. Since she won the popular vote, Jentzen gets to cannibalize the second- and third- choice votes that went to her from voters whose first choice has no chance of winning. For instance, Samantha Pree-Winston received just 10.5 percent of first-place votes and has no shot at winning the election, so those voters who chose her as their first-choice help decide the election with their second and third choices. Those second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates voters chose as first-choice votes. If there’s still not a candidate with a majority of the vote, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and their second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates they chose as first-place votes.

This is where ranked-choice voting proves its worth at Jentzen’s expense. Jentzen might have won the election using a traditional ballot where voters can choose just one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. But her lack of second- and third-choice votes makes her winning of the popular vote irrelevant, unless she had secured a majority (50 percent plus one vote) in first-choice votes.

Unfortunately for Jentzen, it looks as though she wasn’t many voters’ second or third choice. Jentzen received just 13.7 percent and 18.3 percent of second- and third-choice votes, which makes it difficult for her to pick up the majority needed to win the election. Jentzen’s supporters likely chose just one candidate -- Jentzen -- forgoing their second and third choices, resulting in a lot of first-choice votes and not much else. It’s a sound strategy nonetheless. Jentzen just needed another 1.500 first-place votes or so.

Regardless, the strong showing by Jentzen proves a political point: socialism isn’t a dirty word -- in Minneapolis at least. That might not be saying much given Minnesota’s history of strong unions, but Jentzen’s successful campaign will inspire other Socialists to run for office unafraid of the misinformed perception of their party affiliation. At the very least, this little city council election revealed that Left-leaning voters aren’t afraid of moving further Left than the Democratic Party has been willing to go, which bodes well for Bernie Sanders in 2020.

The Democrats left nothing up for debate on Tuesday. Had they lost any one of the Virginia elections or gained half as many Virginia House seats, Republicans might have been relieved or found reason for hope. Instead, they can see the train coming and can’t get off the tracks.

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Noam Chomsky speaks better than I can write. He can recite quotes from peer-reviewed journals as if he’s reading them. The man doesn’t even need to write books anymore; he can simply dictate them. His latest collection of interviews with C.J. Polychroniou originally published in Truthout might be called Optimism over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, but Chomsky only chooses to be optimistic about the state of the world despite little reason for doing so. “What choice do we have?” he asks at the end.

While the same topics and answers are repeated in some of the interviews, much of what’s repeated warrants repetition. Chomsky understandably considers nuclear arms and climate change the biggest threats to the future of the human race, and those threats are more threatening than ever before. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) reinforces the legitimacy of Chomsky’s concern.

“It is quite remarkable to see how little concern top planners show for the prospects of their own destruction--not a novelty in world affairs (those who initiated wars often ended up devastated) but now on a hugely different scale” (60).

Chomsky was speaking of nuclear weapons here, but it’s applicable to climate change as well, especially now that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced the end to a rule limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, proclaiming the end to the “War on Coal” and exacerbating the “War on the World.”

The business class has little concern over nuclear war because there’s little they can do about it. They have even less concern over their own destruction via man-made climate change because they assume they won’t be around for that destruction. But they will be around to spend the money they “earn” by destroying the Earth and the quality of living for everyone on it, even putting the homes of island peoples under water in a world where nationalism is closing borders to refugees.

“With considerable justice, Bangladesh’s leading climate scientist says that ‘These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.’ And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment” (121).

That really should be the punishment for America leaving the Paris Agreement, but mainstream media hasn’t done its job conveying vital information regarding climate change either, especially during the 2016 Presidential Election.

“The most important news of November 8 was barely noted, a fact of some significance in itself. On November 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22), which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28 percent below the average of the previous twenty-nine years, not only raising sea levels but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts” (119-120).

But Chomsky doesn’t ignore the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. He tells us what really happened with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election in a few pages while Hillary Clinton needed an entire book.

“Trump’s appeal seems based largely on perceptions of loss and fear. The neoliberal assault on the world’s populations, almost always harmful to them, and often severely so, has not left the United States untouched, even though it has been somewhat more resilient than others. The majority of the populations has endured stagnation or decline while extraordinary and ostentatious wealth has accumulated in very few pockets. The formal democratic system has suffered the usual consequences of neoliberal socio-economic policies, drifting toward plutocracy.

No need to review again the grim details--for example, the stagnation of real male wages for forty years and the fact that since the last crash some 90 percent of wealth created has found its way to 1 percent of the population. Or the fact that the majority of the population--those lower on the income scale--are effectively disenfranchised in that their representatives ignore their opinions and preferences, heeding the super-rich funder and power brokers.

In part, Trump supporters--predominantly, it seems, lower-middle class, working class, less educated--are reacting to the perception, largely accurate, that they have simply been left by the wayside...Trump’s predominantly white supporters can see that their image of a white-run (and, for many, male-run) society is dissolving before their eyes. It is also worth remembering that although the United States is unusually safe and secure, it is also perhaps the most frightened country in the world, another feature of the culture with a long history” (113-14).

In short, a bunch of working-class, white males are fed up with the state of things in America and a woman in the White House is quite literally the last thing they want to see as their white man’s world slips away.

“There are other factors in Trump’s success. Comparative studies show that doctrines of white supremacy have had an even more powerful grip on American culture than in South Africa, and it’s no secret that the white population is declining. In a decade or two, whites are projected to be a minority of the work force, and not too much later, a minority of the population. The traditional conservative culture is also perceived as under attack by the successes of identity politics, regarded as the province of elites who have only contempt for the ‘hard-working, patriotic, church-going [white] Americans with real family values’ who see their familiar country as disappearing before their eyes” (124).

So is there reason for optimism given the state of American politics? Can things get better? Chomsky offers a few reasons for hope.

“There is a very interesting article by Andrew Cockburn...reviewing studies that show that an enormous amount of the money poured into political campaigns with TV ads, and the like, serves primarily to enrich the networks and the professional consultants but with little effect on voting. In contrast, face-to-face contact and direct canvassing, which are inexpensive--but require a lot of often volunteer labor--do have a measurable impact” (107).

Well at least all the money being spent on election campaigns isn’t swaying the opinion of voters. But the time politicians spend raising that money certainly limits what can be done on the people’s behalf. But are Americans fed up enough?

“The important question is: Are people motivated to do something about it? That depends on many factors, crucially including the means that they perceive to be available. It’s the task of serious activists to help develop those means and encourage people to understand that they are available” (55).

So if the American working class is willing to join together and act on their anger by getting involved in the political process they can expect change, right? Well, given the state of America’s alleged democracy, it might take more than getting out to vote. In fact, it likely requires, at the very least, the formation of an American workers’ party.

“Thirty-five years ago, political scientist Walter Dean Burnham identified ‘the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market’ as a primary cause of the high rate of abstention in US elections. Traditionally, the labor movement and labor-based parties have played a leading role in offering ways to ‘influence political outcomes’ within the electoral system and on the streets and shop floor. That capacity has declined significantly under neoliberal assault, which enhanced the bitter war waged against unions by the business classes throughout the postwar period...The Democrats, meanwhile, pretty much abandoned the working class” (56).

The interviews with Chomsky also touch on the historical inaccuracies and misinformed opinions shared by a majority of Americans concerning socialism and the violent history of American labor busting, on Cuba, the Wars on Terror, on Islam and American terrorism, specifically Barack Obama’s drone program, on capitalism’s incompatibility with democracy, on guns, on the minimum wage, on healthcare, on bailouts and consumerism, and on white supremacy and radical nationalism. The ultimate conclusion: “The democratic ideal, at home and abroad, is simple and straightforward: you are free to do what you want, as long as it is what we want you to do” (144).

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If the tax plan presented by Donald Trump and Republicans is adopted, the average American stands to benefit very little. According to a new report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, four-fifths of American taxpayers can expect their after-tax income to increase .5 percent or less, while the top fifth of earners would see a three percent increase in after-tax income.

The study also found that 80 percent of tax benefits would go to the top one percent of American earners. Households making more than roughly $900,000 a year would save $200,000 on average. The top one percent of American earners can expect a tax cut of 9.8 percent between now and 2027. Repealing the estate tax would cost the federal government $240 billion in tax revenue over the first decade, most of which would stay in the pockets of the super rich.

Big businesses stand to benefit from the Trump tax plan, too, thanks to a decrease of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. But businesses that rely on debt to finance their investments, like real estate companies, private equity firms and financial companies, will likely see costs increase, because Trump’s tax plan proposes limiting the deductibility of corporate interest.

Realtors have been especially opposed to the Trump tax plan, because while it preserves the mortgage interest deduction, fewer people would benefit from itemizing their mortgage interest given the plan’s proposed increase to the standard deduction, which is closer to a 15 percent increase than a doubling of the standard deduction. This could make homeownership less attractive and hurt the housing market.

High-tax states like New York and California would be especially affected by Trump’s plan to eliminate the state and local tax deduction, which allows taxpayers who itemize to deduct property, state and local taxes. Congressional Republicans in high-tax states have already expressed their concern, so Trump’s tax plan might not pass without the state and local tax deductions being preserved.

Who is paying for these tax cuts for businesses and the super rich? The Tax Policy Center found that a majority of households earning between $150,000 and $300,000 would pay more in taxes under Trump’s tax plan, as would almost 30 percent of Americans earning between $50,000 and $150,000 annually.

Trump’s tax plan also doesn’t come in under budget. The tax plan would increase the deficit by $2.4 trillion over the first decade, and by $3.2 trillion over 20 years. And while the Royal Bank of Canada thinks Trump’s tax plan will raise gross-domestic product by .5 percent annually, even if that were sustainable over the next 20 years, Trump’s tax plan still increases the federal deficit by $1.252 trillion.

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Published in News & Information

A day after Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly and the world that he would act alone to “totally destroy” North Korea if threatened, Trump embarrassed himself and the American people in an attempt to diss socialism. You can read the full transcript here, but he said, ““the problem is not that socialism has been wrongly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” and he’s wrong on so many levels. He got one thing right during his speech, though.

The Good: Condemnation of Venezuelan Government

Before Trump put his foot in his mouth, he rightly condemned the corrupt Venezuelan government accused of international drug trafficking and facilitating the funding of terrorism while also undermining Venezuelan democracy through the courts and a fraudulent election. That fraudulent election created a Constituent Assembly that has since served constituents nothing but beatings, arrests and military trials. The Constituent Assembly moved quickly, declaring itself the highest authority in the nation and forming a “truth commission” to silence dissidents of Maduro’s regime. It’s all technically legal now, too. According to the assembly’s newly drafted Communist constitution, Maduro can continue violating human rights of Venezuelans and makes it more difficult for the U.N. to take action in Venezuela.

Trump’s criticism brought a response from the Venezuelan government saying it would defend itself from America’s “racist government,” which is fair. But Maduro and his government officials are in no position to talk smack, even to Trump. Trump’s utter failure to condemn rallying white supremacy groups for violence that left three dead doesn’t even compare to Maduro’s rap sheet (yet). In fact, the entirety of Trump’s sexual assault allegations and alleged marital rape, beauty pageant scandals, racial housing discrimination, tenant intimidation, creating a fraudulent university and other corrupt business dealings, using donations meant for charities to resolve legal disputes, four bankruptcies, antitrust violations, casino rules violations, the hiring of illegal immigrants, and the “grab 'em by the pussy” interview fails to compete with the atrocities executed by Maduro.

In an interview published by Devex on Aug. 28, former minister counselor at the Venezuelan mission to the U.N., Isaias Medina, said more than 130 Venezuelan citizens have been murdered, and 15,000 have been injured in the last four months. More than 600 political prisoners are also awaiting military trials instead of trials by jury.

U.S. sanctions prohibiting the American purchase of Venezuelan bonds won’t help Maduro pay the nearly $100 billion debt facing his country, either. So Venezuelans are going to continue starving silently or starving loudly until they’re black-bagged and disappeared or join the mass refugee migration despite many countries tightening immigration policies. Let’s just hope Trump doesn’t add Venezuela to the list of countries on his travel ban.

Hell, if Trump is found to have colluded with Russia to interfere with the integrity of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, he still hasn’t been responsible for the deaths of over 100 of his own civilians. Civilians in other countries are an entirely different story, though. Civilian deaths from U.S. and Russian drone strikes in the Middle East have reached new highs under Trump.

The Bad: Blaming Socialism for Venezuela’s Crisis

Trump also reached a new high in the long jump he made to use Venezuela as an example of socialism’s “problem” just weeks after the new Communist constitution was drafted by an assembly formed from a fraudulent election recognized by no one in the world but the Venezuelan government. The socialism Trump was addressing is literally weeks old, while the crisis is almost a year old.

First of all, no system of government -- not even a dictatorship -- is designed to oppress. While THE people might not control the actions of their government, SOME people still control the government. Corrupt people use the government to oppress. Oppression is not the result of socialism or Communism, but the result of oppressive people with power.

If you consider socialism’s history of leaders, you can see why people should be condemned and not the system of governance. Lenin, who suppressed any opposition to Communist Party rule, set a pretty poor example for the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin took that bad example and rolled with it, imposing a deliberate famine in Ukraine. He killed 40 million people, second to only Mao Zedong’s 60 million victims in China. (Note that Noam Chomsky never believed the Soviet Union to be a socialist state, since factory councils were eliminated and wage labor and other capitalistic features were utilized.)

Adolf Hitler’s 30 million victims are third on the list of most brutal dictators, but contrary to the belief of some, Nazism is not a form of socialism. Despite the Nazi Party calling itself the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the use of the word “Socialist” was completely for marketing purposes. With Nazism being a far-right political ideology, the Nazis had to find a way to appeal to working Germans in order to gain power. Hitler did not endorse socialism nor practice it while in power.

It took a democratic election to break the chain of brutal Soviet dictators, but the only candidate on that ballot was Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev had already worked tirelessly as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party to boost the slumping economy through reforms like allowing privately owned businesses in the service, manufacturing and foreign trade industries.

More importantly, Gorbachev, who said he believed in the ideals of socialism, gave Soviets rights they’d never experienced under previous regimes. Neither socialism nor Communism require citizens to give up freedoms of speech, press, protest or religious practice, but previous dictators did require the sacrifice of personal liberties in the interest of preserving political power. Gorbachev’s reforms sowed the seeds of democracy, and when Eastern European countries wanted to give democracy a try, the Soviet Union didn’t get in the way. So a Socialist did the most to spread democracy across Europe while America continued to install false democracies that fail people, with Cuba being a perfect example.

The Ugly: The Hypocrisy of American Condemnation of Cuba

Trump mentioned Cuba as another example of the “problem” with socialism. But Cuba’s problem was never and still isn’t socialism. Cuba’s problem was and still is the United States of America, and its response to the failure of the right-wing dictator it had backed to win over the Cuban people.

America’s man was Fulgencio Batista, who had more interest in winning over American mob legends Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano than winning over the Cuban people. He turned Havana into “Latin Las Vegas” and turned a profit of $300 million for himself during his tenure. While Batista was enjoying the benefits of legalized gambling so close to American money, Lansky was making a whole lot more turning Havana into an international drug trafficking port to accompany the sex trafficking that was already rampant.  

Almost everything in Cuba was owned by Americans, so the U.S. did its part to increase revenues for those American business owners in Cuba. Cubans didn’t like that, but they certainly didn’t like the U.S. supplying Batista with weapons, who killed 20,000 Cubans in seven years, according to John F. Kennedy.

Logically, Cubans got fed up -- especially Castro -- who was imprisoned for a year after attempting to overthrow Batista’s police state in 1953. Batista stole an election in 1954, but by the end of 1955, there were no jobs for recent Cuban graduates. Since they weren’t working, they had a lot of free time to protest, but you can only protest so long before you’re desperate enough to rebel.

Batista stuffed the ballot box and lost the 1958 election required by Cuba’s constitution. When he asked U.S. ambassador Earl Smith if he could return to his home in Daytona, Smith recommended he seek asylum in Spain. They didn’t want him. On New Year’s Eve of 1958, Batista and his supporters allegedly took up to $700 million worth of art and cash and fled Cuba. Batista settled in Mexico after originally being denied asylum in the country.

This was hardly the first or last time America backed a dictator who backfired, but it was the first and last time America was worried enough about an attack to order an embargo against a country. The embargo has crippled Cuba even more so than the loss of American investment in Havana businesses. The Soviet Union floated Castro some money in exchange for Cuba’s sugar, and Castro committed to establishing a State-controlled economy -- the first in the Western Hemisphere. This was the closest Communism had ever been to America’s borders, so it got pretty scary there during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But had Kennedy not attempted to assassinate Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis would not have occurred.

Let’s recap. America installed a corrupt dictator who would prioritize American business interests and his own pocketbook over the lives of the locals. America then armed the dictator with weapons for an army to crush any resistance to the production of American revenue, resulting in 20,000 Cuban deaths. America then denounced the dictator it installed; it then denounced the dictator who replaced him. The dictator installed a government that wasn’t agreeable to America. America responded by refusing to trade with Cuba. So the dictator is forced to find an ally who can help his country recover from the economic devastation of the rebellion and the massive amount of American money pulled out of the Cuban economy. America attempts to assassinate the new dictator and fails. The dictator asks his ally to place a few nukes on the island to deter future attempts on his life. The ally obliges, but America stops the delivery and negotiates with the ally to take the nukes back home.

The dictator ends up responsible for the deaths of anywhere from 35,000 to 141,000 people over 49 years. That rate is at most 20 more deaths than his predecessor’s average of 2,857 deaths per year, and at the least 2,143 fewer deaths than Batista annually. The median puts Castro’s death toll at 714 less than Batista’s annually. Despite the death of the dictator, the embargo remains in place. And almost every nation is against it.

Castro was far from perfect, but he had his people’s interests in mind while Batista had American business interest in mind. While Castro improved education and health services and promoted social values, he also imprisoned dissenters and allowed no political opposition. He reportedly killed over 3,600 Cuban dissenters by firing squad and took control of the press. Like Kim Jong-un, Castro lived lavishly while his people struggled to eat regularly. But Americans like to ignore their own dark history when condemning the actions of other nations.

Noam Chomsky acknowledges the human rights violations committed by Castro in his new collection of interviews, Optimism over Despair, but hopes Americans realize the hypocrisy of condemning Cuba for those violations. “[I]t might be recalled that by far the worst human rights violations in Cuba take place in this stolen territory, to which the United States has a much weaker claim than Russia does to Crimea, also taken by force.” That stolen territory is Guantanamo Bay, which Chomsky informs was “taken by ‘treaty’ at gunpoint in 1903 and not returned despite the requests of the government of Cuba” (61).

Americans quick to condemn Cuba should also know that Castro’s Cuba played a key role in the liberation of West and South Africa, receiving high praise from Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison. “During all my years in prison, Cuba was an inspiration and Fidel Castro a tower of strength…[Cuban victories] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa...a turning point for the liberation of our continent--and of my people--from the scourge of apartheid...What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?” (62).

While President Barack Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised, he did attempt to rebuild the relationship with Cuba over a baseball game and actually eased U.S. sanctions and travel restrictions. Trump has since undone most of Obama’s Cuban policies, so the embargo being lifted would require Cuba to stop being Communist and stop associating with Communist powers, according to Proclamation 3447 signed by Kennedy in 1962.

The Uglier: Absolutism

The biggest obstacle America must overcome is its commitment to absolutism -- this assumption that questions have one, and just one, correct answer. This right or wrong, black or white, red state/blue state, Capitalist/Communist mentality permeates our politics and entertainment.

Think about it: some people are unwilling to compromise on abortion because they feel life begins at conception, and aborting that life would be murder. I respect your right to believe that, but not all conception is consensual. Would you be able or willing to raise a child you conceived while being raped? If so, I commend your dedication to both children and your beliefs. But what about crack babies? Let alone the possible birth defects, potential brain damage and hereditary drug addiction, who is going to raise that child if the parents don’t parent? Are you willing to pay more taxes to fund orphanages to raise these children? Would you open your home to a crack baby and raise her like your own? If you are, here’s information about serving as a foster parent and adoption. But all the taxes and all the orphanages and all the foster parents in the country can’t ensure those children are going to turn into contributing members of society. They are disadvantaged the moment they’re born and have a lot to overcome and limited resources.

As you can see, almost any question worth asking or problem worth solving raises more questions and multiple answers of varying degrees of correctness, which rarely results in consensus. But instead of embracing nuance, the typical American knows she’s right even when facts prove she’s wrong. And Americans know everything.

For instance, “Is there a god?” is a “yes” or “no” question with no correct answer agreeable to all. But you will get a “yes” or “no” answer more often than not. A more correct answer would be, “I can only tell you why I believe there is no god, just as you can only tell me why you believe there is.” Rarely is that the question asked, however. Most people ask, “Do you believe in God?” That is a “yes” or “no” question that does allow for a “yes” or “no” answer, neither of which are the best answer.

“I don’t know” is the best answer when you don’t know or can’t prove a “yes” or “no” response because it acknowledges your ignorance and allows for learning to take place. Answering “yes” or “no” to “Do you believe in God?” can only provide two results. Either your inquisitor finds your answer unsatisfactory and ends the conversation, or your inquisitor asks why you do or don’t believe in God. “I don’t know” forces discussion to continue, while “yes” or “no” could kill the conversation and any learning that could occur because of it. America is a “yes” or “no” country.

Acknowledging all we don’t know is also a better indication of intelligence than repeating everything we think we know. Socrates said something about being the wisest man alive because he knew one thing -- that he knew nothing -- and he’s arguably the greatest mind of all time. You want to know how Socrates learned so much? There’s another saying I last heard in high school physical education class I don’t think Americans hear often enough: “You can’t learn anything when your mouth is moving.” Well, Americans’ mouths are constantly moving, serving as a defense mechanism to prevent them from being forced to explain or defend their beliefs.

So the big questions have multiple answers varying in “truthiness,” to use Stephen Colbert’s term. The big question Trump attempted to answer in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly and the world last Tuesday was, “What’s the problem with socialism?” No one asked Trump this question, but with Bernie Sanders’s socialist, single-payer health care bill introduced in the U.S. Senate while Trump’s party fails to repeal and replace Obamacare yet again, Trump’s handlers felt it was a good time to diss socialism in front of a worldwide audience.

The first mistake was Trump’s speechwriter assuming there’s a problem with socialism despite the most socialist countries repeatedly atop the Cato Institute’s annual Human Freedom Index. In 2014, nine of the top 10 most socialist countries were rated in the top 17 when it comes to the overall freedom of their citizens. The United States dropped four spots from 2013 to 23rd overall -- and the Cato Institute doesn’t even consider health care quality, accessibility or affordability in its rankings. But the assumption there’s a problem with socialism is wrong because there are problems with socialism -- plural -- just as there are problems with capitalism.

There are a lot of negative things that can be said of socialism. You could say socialism limits individuality by stressing the importance of serving the State. You could say socialism doesn’t motivate people to work their hardest. You could even say socialism rewards those who don’t work at the expense of those who do. Trump could have uttered any of these and it would have been more correct than what he did utter.

The Ugliest: Arrogant Ignorance

Trump thought he was being clever and eloquent saying “the problem is not that socialism has been wrongly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” He even paused expecting applause. It never came, and a few chuckles could be reportedly heard amongst the U.N. General Assembly, because everyone else was well aware of socialism’s benefits. Most countries implement socialist programs, including the United States, despite running capitalist economies.

But most Americans share Trump's opinion of socialism because the American government made sure of it through propaganda and the persecution of its own people for exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, whether it be in a church or at a Communist Party meeting. It might not be black bags and firing squads, but it is oppressing dissidents nonetheless.

Many Americans use the perceived failures of socialism's implementation as evidence to dismiss it like Trump did, but America never gave socialism a chance. This country did its best to stop the spread of socialism before it started out of fear that people would realize its benefits. America has waged a War on Socialism that continues to this day.

America's embargo of Cuba and bombing of countries attempting socialism, and its unwillingness to allow liberated countries to install anything but a form of "democracy" has created the worst type of enemies. People recover from bombings and wars, but they never forget a bully dictating the terms of their "freedom" when all they want is to try something they think would provide the best quality of living -- not only for themselves but for their neighbors.

As a Democratic Socialist, I can tell you socialism is far from perfect, which is why I’m a Democratic Socialist and not just a Socialist. If there was a correct answer to "how are people best governed," it certainly wouldn't be absolute. It would depend upon the people and the place and the time, but it would most definitely be both democratic and socialist -- which is possible -- because we see it work everyday. You’d find Socialists to be reasonable people if you didn’t tune us out at the utterance of “Socialist” (or Democrat for that matter). But believing socialism is evil because the government said so -- that’s unreasonable.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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Update: On Monday, Republican Representative of Michigan’s 11th District, Dave Trott, announced he will not pursue reelection in 2018, becoming the third Republican House member to retire in the last week and fourth overall. Michigan’s 11th went to Donald Trump by 4.5 points in 2016, but 270ToWin is calling it a tossup in 2018.


 

There are now three open House seats up for grabs in districts favorable for Democrats after two, seven-term Republican Representatives announced their retirements in back-to-back days this week.

Charlie Dent, the moderate Republican Representative of Pennsylvania’s 15th District since 2005, announced that he would not seek an eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, saying in an interview with the Washington Post that it’s become too difficult to work with members of his own party.

“Accomplishing the most basic fundamental tasks of governance is becoming far too difficult. It shouldn’t be, but that’s reality,” he said.

Dent has been one of the most outspoken Republicans when it comes to Donald Trump. He told Trump to drop out of the 2016 Presidential Election after the “grab them by the pussy” video surfaced. He didn’t vote for Trump, casting a vote for independent Evan McMullin instead. And he’s spoken out against Trump’s travel ban, his firing of James Comey and Trump’s comments after white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, killing a counter-protesting, white woman. Two Virginia State Troopers also died in a helicopter crash.

Dent is co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, a dwindling group of a few dozen moderate Republicans that focuses on governing through sensible legislation rather than upholding conservative ideals. But given the growth of Far Right Conservatives via the Tea Party movement and culminating in the House Freedom Caucus, moderate Republicans are a retiring breed.

On Wednesday, moderate Republican Representative of Washington’s 8th District, Dave Reichert, announced he won’t pursue an eighth term either. Like Dent, Reichert has been critical of Trump, and like Dent’s, Reichert’s House district could flip to the Democrats. In fact, it’s more likely to flip than Dent’s 15th District.

Democrats are expected to pick up a seat in Florida, too, as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Republican Representative to announce her retirement back in April after 35 years in office. The first Cuban-American elected to Congress leaves a very favorable seat for Democrats in the recently redrawn 27th District of Florida. Hillary Clinton carried the district by 20 points over Donald Trump, and 270ToWin has predicted a win for the Democrats.

Roll Call projects both Florida’s 27th and Washington’s 8th districts will turn over to Democrats. But House Republicans are likely to lose more than just two seats due to retiring Republicans. History shows midterm elections aren’t friendly to the party of the President, and results are influenced by the President’s approval rating. Trump’s 36 percent approval rating is the worst of any President this far into his first term.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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At some point Congressional Democrats have to start wondering if things could have turned out any better for them had they won the 2016 Presidential Election. I’ve already said once that it couldn’t be worse for Republicans, and except for the hundreds of judges Donald Trump is appointing all over the country, things are really going Democrats’ way. Congressional Democrats will reap the benefits of Trump’s record low approval rating and compulsive terrorizing of his own party members come the 2018 midterm elections.

When Trump said he would “drain the swamp,” I didn’t think he was talking about members of his own party. If that was his goal, it’s the only thing he’s done really well. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s approval rating in Kentucky is 18 percent. He won’t be back, but a Democrat won’t take his seat either. That’s okay as long as Democrats preserve their seats most likely to switch parties (there are eight) and pick up at least three seats. The seats most likely to be within reach are in Nevada, Arizona or Texas.

The Democrats are going to gain seats in the House. Congressional minorities pick up seats when their opposition occupies the White House. 270ToWin has 14 seats as tossups, and every tossup Democrats win after the first will be a House seat gained.

While Democrats winning the 24 seats to take a House majority is a longshot, FiveThirtyEight says House Democrats have a “historically strong position.” Despite Republicans holding the incumbency advantage by holding more House seats, FiveThirtyEight pits Democrats’ chance at taking back the House majority at 50/50.

The prediction is based on the House generic ballot, where voters are asked for which party they’d vote in a House election. Democrats lead that generic ballot by seven percentage points. In 2008, when they led the generic ballot by nine points, Democrats picked up 23 House seats. When they led by 11.5 points in 2006, Democrats picked up 30 House seats.

So House Democrats have to hope Trump’s approval rating keeps decreasing, which would result in an increased margin on the generic ballot and more Democratic Representatives elected in 2018. And it’s not crazy to think Trump’s approval rating could reach the record low of 22 percent set by Harry Truman before the 2018 midterm elections.

Only George W. Bush managed to raise his net approval rating going into his first midterm election, and it took 9/11 for that to happen. The other eight newly elected Presidents of the Presidential approval rating era lost at least 17 points before their first midterm elections. So barring a terrorist attack unifying the country behind a war, Trump’s approval rating will likely continue it’s downward trend.

Trump has been shedding .038 percentage points per day since starting his Presidency with a record low 45 percent approval rating. As of this writing, there are 437 days until the 2018 midterm elections. At Trump’s current rate, his approval rating would be at least 16 points lower than his current 37 percent approval rating, setting a new record low at 21 percent.

Even with his current approval rating, Trump would hold the record low for a net approval rating of nearly -20 percent (37.1 approval rating minus 56.9 disapproval rating). The three Presidents who went into their first midterm elections with disapproval ratings at least as high as their approval ratings ended up losing the most House seats, but none of them even touch the travesty that is Trump’s net approval rating.

Barack Obama’s House Democrats lost 63 seats when his net approval rating was just -2 percent. Bill Clinton’s House Democrats lost 54 seats when Bill Clinton’s net approval rating was zero. Ronald Reagan’s House Republicans lost 27 seats when his net approval rating was -4 percent.

So while there isn’t a direct correlation between negative net approval ratings of the President and the number of House seats lost, negative net approval ratings certainly result in House seats lost. And with 60 to 80 Republican-held House seats that could be competitive in 2018, and 209 Democratic challengers for House seats raising at least $5,000 by June 30 this year compared to the 28 Republicans who did so, Democrats are in position to surprise us like Trump did in 2016. The only thing that might stop them, according to history, is a terrorist attack.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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