Taking Care

I’m not a fan of unions. But companies must remember that you pay a reasonable and modest ROI to your banker, take care of your people, and ONLY THEN decide how to split what is left between yourself and re-investment.

That’s how my dad did it. That’s how I do it. And that’s how America did it until we decided that the assholes between the Battery and Central Park were more important than our own neighbors.

Drug Dealer

Martin Shkreli is a poster boy for the dark side of coddled capital. That said, the members of Congress questioning him are being downright disingenuous. They and the FDA have the wherewithal to put and end to pricing inequities for drugs, and they don’t lift a finger.

The End? Good.

Screenshot 2016-02-17 11.27.07

This is an Ending of some sort for conservatism as we’ve known it, and, depending on outcomes, probably liberalism as well. For better or worse – and I’m just enough of a political Pollyanna to think “better,” I’d say it is time for a major re-alignment in American politics and for a questioning of some of the assumptions we’re all making.

I don’t much care for the idea of either a narcissistic blowhard capitalist or an idealistic septuagenarian sitting in the White House, but I’ll freely admit that the system needed the combined jab-to-the-face/punch-to-the-gut these two represent.

The New Power Elite

Mike Pence, Asa Hutchinson, and the Republican party were not blindsided by opposition to RFRA by gay rights activists. What knocked them back were major corporations, such as Apple, Walmart, and Angie’s List, and organizations such as the NCAA that denounced the law, in many cases announcing boycotts of Indiana.

Source: The Power Elite by Patrick J. Deneen | Articles | First Things

Patrick Deneen

Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen writes powerfully in First Things about the defeat of the RFRA, viewed by most on the Left as legalized bigotry; by most on the Right as an essential defense of the rights of small business owners; and by most of us on the Center-Right as a well-intentioned but probably redundant law that would create more problems than it would solve.

Deneen’s primary point, though, is not a defense of the RFRA (though he makes one later in the article that will do nothing to sway the bill’s critics or fence-sitters like me). It is, rather, to point out that the response to the bill may have shed the first public light on a new elite coalition in the US between corporate America and social libertarians. It is a compelling proposition, but one that needs more evidence than the RFRA to support it.

Our view at the Pacific Bull Moose is rather more nuanced. It is not whether corporations are aligned with Republican causes and candidates. They are. Neither is it that corporations are aligned with Democratic causes and candidates. They are that as well.

Our view is that corporations align themselves to whichever political party or movement offers the the most lucrative commercial prospects. And this is exactly the problem with handing political power to commercial interests: it makes them a political power center that serves a small elite group and is answerable to no one, all while operating in a manner that serves the interests only of themselves, and not the nation as a whole.

Their alignment on both sided of the political spectrum means that it is impossible to align against corporate interests merely by choosing a political side. Their power must be fought on an issue-by-issue, election-by-election basis.

Deneen makes the point that America is devolving into a nation “where the powerful will govern completely over the powerless, where the rich dictate terms to the poor, where the strong are unleashed from the old restraints of culture and place, where libertarian indifference—whether in respect to economic inequality or morals—is inscribed into the national fabric, and where the unburdened, hedonic human will reign ascendant.”

That is a sentiment that should resonate with Americans of every political stripe. And it should frighten us all.

Pope Francis’s positions have compelled a number of politicians once again to declare themselves Americans first, Catholics second. Rick Santorum, a GOP candidate who has long attributed his staunchly conservative views to his faith, dismissed the encyclical in advance, quipping that the pope should “leave science to the scientists”. (Perhaps it bears noting that the pope trained as a chemist before joining the clergy.)

Religion and politics: The Republicans have a pope problem | The Economist.

The Economist is not the first to report on this problem – The American Conservative has been discussing this at some length, including a damning piece by the devout Crunchy Con Rob Dreher excoriating Jeb Bush for being a “cafeteria Catholic.”

At some point, the Republican candidates for President are going to have to recognize that their messages on climate are looking increasingly like they are coming from the public relations departments of America’s largest fossil fuel producers.

Give Me Your Wealthy, Your Leisure-class

Want a Green Card? Invest in Real Estate – NYTimes.com.

Work as a bracero for seven years in a California farm field, pay your taxes, be a positive member of society, raise a family, and live in constant fear of deportation because a pathway to legalization is closed to you.

But if you are wealthy, you can come to America and get a green card while you study, all for investing in a speculative real estate scheme that “employs” people.

Now, I’m all for enterprise. But I think if we are going to expand the EB-5 program, we had best start looking after the people who have been making America run, not just the people who want to bring bags of cash with them.

If you think that is a “liberal” sentiment, I implore you to go to New York and read the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Then tell me when this country stopped being the refuge of the tired and poor, and became a vacation colony for the world’s wealthy and privileged?

Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar – The Washington Post.

There is a growing body of evidence pointing to a deep divide between the interests of conservatives (and, indeed, of America) on the one hand, and those of corporate America on the other. The campaign being waged by public utilities against rooftop solar is one. The buried lede:

“Conservatives support solar — they support it even more than progressives do,” said Bryan Miller, co-chairman of the Alliance for Solar Choice and a vice president of public policy for Sunrun, a California solar provider. “It’s about competition in its most basic form. The idea that you should be forced to buy power from a state-sponsored monopoly and not have an option is about the least conservative thing you can imagine.”

Excellent article, superb links.

As an aside, I am on the verge of giving up my resistance and subscribing to the WaPo. With The New York Times continuing Pinch Sulzberger’s long, ugly slide to the Left, and the Murdoch-controlled Wall Street Journal digging in deeper on the far right, it is nice to see Jeff Bezos allowing the Post to settle in somewhere closer to a balanced center.

Election 2016: A Battle of Status Quo Dynasties?

In slogging through [Hillary Clinton’s State Department memoir Hard Choices], one is reminded of why the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency is so dreary. The dreariness begins with the real possibility that Jeb Bush will be her opponent, setting up another contest between two dynasties, one of which ‘exploited its vast wealth to obtain political power, while the other exploited its political power to obtain vast wealth’, as Glen Greenwald recently put it. Nothing could more clearly illustrate the merger of economic and political power in the oligarchy that dominates American public life. Were Clinton to win, her victory would ensure the continuation of business as usual in Washington.

via Jackson Lears reviews ‘Hard Choices’ by Hillary Clinton and ‘HRC’ by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes · LRB 5 February 2015.

In fairness, absent significant evidence to the contrary, if Jeb Bush were to win, it would also herald “the continuation of business as usual in Washington.”

Failure on the Waterfront

Meanwhile, frustrated exporters and importers will find other routes. In a recent survey by the Journal of Commerce, 60% of shippers said they had begun redirecting cargoes away from America’s West Coast ports. Once that business leaves, it may never return. Western ports have already lost market share to the East Coast since 2002, when failed labour talks led to an 11-day lockout and a total shutdown.

via Labour relations: Watching fruit rot | The Economist.

When the docks of Tacoma, Oakland, Port Hueneme, and Long Beach go quiet; when two million jobs and billions of tax dollars disappear from the West Coast; and when these massive ports become run-down waterside slums, remember that the decline began when a union put its own existence ahead of the well-being of its members, its communities, its cities, and the region.

I have nothing agains the dockworkers having a union. I have nothing against collective bargaining. And I recognize that in any labor dispute, both sides share culpability. But in this case, the union needs to recognize that its tactics are self-defeating and that it needs to take an approach that doesn’t threaten millions of other workers in the process.

Stop “Liking” Memes: Get off Your Butt and Fix America

There is a Facebook meme going around with a photo of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg saying “I think our system is being polluted by money.”

She’s not wrong, but before we start cooking up cures, let us pull back the shot from its focus on cash and see the entire problem rather than the most pus-laden symptom.

We need an American Clean Governance Act that genuinely reforms election finance. We also need to define lobbying more tightly so that acts of corruption that take place under the rubric of lobbying are separated from the legitimate act of informing the legislature.

But this is not just about new laws. This is about public action. Each of us has it within our power to change government. Let’s be clear: voter laziness is doing at LEAST as much damage to election results as the brain-dead voter ID laws.

Voting is not a right, people. It is a responsibility. Because every vote not cast is not a vote for the status quo. It is a vote for tyranny.

The next time you hear somebody blaming a Koch, a Soros, a church or a union for the problems in American government and start to get really heated up, go look in a mirror and say to yourself, three times, “a better America begins with me voting.” Not sharing a meme on Twitter or hitting “Like” on Facebook. Voting.

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