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Stamp out starving writers, buy their books!


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Earthquakes

We especially enjoyed the Twitter wit who reported that the United States Geological Survey rated the earthquake in Washington, DC,  as a magnitude 5.8, but Standard & Poor’s rating agency downgraded it to a 4.0.

Left and Right on the Second Amendment

The writer Jack Slack – yes, that’s his real name — is politically liberal, so it’s no surprise that he favors gun control legislation, especially on handguns. But he does surprise some of his liberal friends when he says, with emphasis, “I support the Second Amendment as written.”   Here’s Jack  in his own words…

Gun - revolverAmendment II consists of only one sentence.  A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment, by using “militia,” was only emphasizing why the people should have the right to bear arms, they had no reason to say that a militia must have guns, because a militia is an armed force. Why would they need permission bear arms?

I won’t quote all the Supreme Court rulings supporting the individual mandate of the Second Amendment, nor the framers interpretations right after the amendment was written. Suffice it to say, the Bill of Rights does not place a single limitation on the rights of the people, it only limits the power of government — that is why it is called “The Bill of Rights,” to distinguish it from the rest of the Constitution.  If the Second Amendment curtailed the right of the people by limiting arms to the militia, it would be a limitation on the rights of the people.

Finally, the word “militia” has no bearing on the meaning because in the English language the justifying clause does not limit the operative one. This can be seen more clearly if we use the exact syntax and punctuation with a less emotional subject.  Well educated teachers being necessary to the education of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear books, shall not be infringed. (more…)

First, the Bad News…

First the bad news — the ultra conservative Tea Party faction has effectively manipulated the Republican majority in the House of Representative. Now for the really, really bad news — policies espoused by Republicans and Tea Party reactionaries are going to make matters worse, much worse.

Hand points to textHere are two ugly facts.  One: We are in a recessionary period caused by the near collapse of our financial system. Two: Financial recessions generally take a long while to resolve themselves  (think five or ten years)  and employment tends to improve even more slowly than the economy.  A lot of economists have pointed this out. Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, along with Carmen Reinhart, published a big thick book back in 2009, This Time Is Different, surveying eight centuries of financial crises. Century after century the story has been about the same, but each generation of fools thought their own financial recession was different.

Now Tea Party people and other reactionaries apparently don’t know this. Rogoff’s book is heavy with statistics, which may explain why no one in the Republican party seems to have read it. On the other hand, they may understand economics, but want to make sure that things stay bad enough to assure a Republican candidate wins the next election for President.

If you haven’t been driven mad by endless shouting about the deficit, you may recall that most of the new Republican House members swept into Congress with cries of, “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” But after taking their oath of office, those same new congressmen and congresswomen cried, “Cut the deficit!” They claimed “the people” had sent them to Washington “to put our fiscal house in order.” No poll ever found that “the people” believed cutting the deficit was more important and creating jobs. But Republicans got their way.scissors

Cutting the deficit does absolutely nothing for creating jobs now. On the contrary, cutting the deficit cuts jobs.

Our last-minute Budget Control Act of 2011 requires $917 billion in initial deficit reductions over 10 years, including $350 billion from the base defense budget.  The slicing is spread all around for a decade, but it starts right away. Fiscal 2012 begins in less than two months, which means that agencies of government from the Pentagon to the Environmental Protection Agency are now scrambling to find where they can cut.

Here’s a gruesomely relevant page from history. In 1937, as the United States began to emerge from the Great Depression, President Roosevelt’s advisors convinced him to cut spending and balance the budget. So the government cut workers from the Works Progress Administration, and Public Works Administration projects were brought to a halt. Republicans rejoiced that the nation was putting its fiscal house in order. Manufacturing collapsed 37 percent, and from 1937 to 1938 unemployment rocketed from 14 percent to 19 percent. Consumers cut back on their spending and in response production fell even further. (more…)

Who’s Reading Over Your Shoulder?

Visitors to Critical Pages typically enjoy libraries and book stores. So we should warn you that our Congress recently voted to allow the government to search bookstore and library records of people who are not suspected of criminal acts or terrorism.

Spy

Your Government Spy

To be precise, Congress merely allowed the government to continue doing what it’s been doing since 2001 when the Patriot Act was first passed. It came up for reauthorization and Congress reauthorized the whole damn thing, even those parts which invade the privacy of ordinary non-criminal citizens. So if you take out a library book, or buy a book at a bookstore, you might keep that in mind. Maybe you’d like to read about Islamic religious law, or about the safety features of US nuclear power plants, or US railways, or interesting sexual preferences, or AIDS, or impotence in older men or pregnancy problems of older women. And maybe you would have liked to think that those concerns were your own very private business, not open to your government.

Neither the House nor the Senate spent much time considering amendments to the Patriot reauthorization bill, and it passed both chambers handily. (more…)

Whatever happened to “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!”?

The US recovery from the recession has stalled and Congress seems not to have noticed. Maybe you noticed, because you’re one of the unemployed. If so, it’s doubtless cold comfort for you to know there are more than 13.9 million other men and women in the same dump.

Unemployed workers

Unemployed Workers

Almost half the unemployed have been looking for a job for more than six
months, and about a third have been looking for work for more than a year. And if you’ve been looking for more than a year, the chances are you’ll be among the last to be hired. That’s the way it goes in today’s cruel labor market. Because so many workers are idle, employers can pick an choose and they prefer workers whose skills haven’t gotten rusty.

Meanwhile, the Republican dominated House of Representatives is calling loudly for cuts in government spending and in taxes. This is the same Republican party that took over the House a few months ago, saying that “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” were their top priority. It’s strange that lawmakers who say they want to provide jobs should be crying to amputate the federal budget and slash taxes. In fact, it’s bizarre, because doing that will bring not jobs but more unemployment while at the same time reducing the ability of the government to provide for the unemployed.

Municipalities and states cannot perform the kind of deficit spending carried out by the federal government. As a consequence, the recession has compelled cities and states to lay off workers – clerks, firemen, policemen, engineers, school teachers, and so forth. To immediately slash federal spending means that the US would reduce the already reduced flow of money to the already impoverished states, and at the same time fire US government workers, adding even more to the number of unemployed. (more…)

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.