Too rich for you?

The news broke recently, right before the annual Davos convention of the world’s richest people (done by Zoom this year), that the world’s top ten billionaires had doubled their combined wealth during the pandemic, to the tune of about $800,000,000,000 (800 billion), accruing at $15,000 a second ($1.3 billion a day).

It appears, as the BBC points out, that the figures might be slightly exaggerated. If you choose a starting day in February 2020, instead of once the pandemic, officially underway, dropped stock prices in March 2020, then the wealth of the ten richest men may only have increased by 70%, a full thirty percent less than the 100% increase in their wealth claimed by anti-poverty organization Oxfam in its recent report.

So rather than a combined almost two year windfall closing in on a hard to imagine trillion dollars, say, the world’s ten richest men may only have reaped a more modest five or six hundred billion, combined. Beyond that, all of the world’s richest men did not profit equally, throwing things off a bit more still.

Bill Gates, for example, only saw a 30% rise in his net worth, while Times Man of the Year Elon Musk raked in a more than 1,000% increase, making all the other world’s richest look worse than they actually are in evading all social responsibility while fighting to shield their wealth from taxes.

The BBC account does seem not contest these findings by Oxfam:

The pandemic has made the world’s wealthiest far richer but has led to more people living in poverty, according to the charity Oxfam.

Lower incomes for the world’s poorest contributed to the death of 21,000 people each day, its report claims.

But the world’s 10 richest men have more than doubled their collective fortunes since March 2020, Oxfam said.

Oxfam typically releases a report on global inequality at the start of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

That event usually sees thousands of corporate and political leaders, celebrities, campaigners, economists and journalists gather in the Swiss ski resort for panel discussions, drinks parties and schmoozing.

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they also note:

Oxfam’s report, which was also based on data from the World Bank, said a lack of access to healthcare, hunger, gender-based violence and climate breakdown contributed to one death every four seconds.

It said 160 million more people were living on less than $5.50 (£4.02) a day than would have been without the impact of the Covid pandemic.

The World Bank uses $5.50 a day as a measure of poverty in upper-middle-income countries.

As John F. Kennedy, raised in tremendous wealth (the Kennedy fortunes were greatly enhanced during Prohibition, as a result of taking bold business risks similar to those of organized crime) said: Life is unfair. Then they shot him in the head. His nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently said at an anti-vaccine rally in Washington DC, of the tyranny of vaccine mandates during a :

“Even in Hitler Germany (sic), you could, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did,” said Kennedy, a prominent anti-vaccine advocate, in a speech at the Lincoln Memorial. “I visited, in 1962, East Germany with my father and met people who had climbed the wall and escaped, so it was possible. Many died, true, but it was possible.”

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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. later apologized for the remarks, as people of good breeding often do.

Hard to refute

After their candidate won the election that was stolen from him, in their fevered imagination, a host of extralegal steps were undertaken by partisan conspirators, justified by crackpot constitutional theories, to keep their defrauded leader in power. Their efforts focused on January 6th, the last chance to keep him in power over the will of an 8 million vote majority and an Electoral College majority identical to his four years earlier. The final play, right before Biden’s victory would become irreversible, was a show of force, the violent storming of the Capitol building.

Initially denounced by all Republican leaders, they soon saw the popularity of the alternative reality that their leader had been deprived of power by an organized bipartisan plot to rig the election and steal victory from him. The so-called riot was, like, a totally legit peaceful protest. The rioters were right all along! That story has legs!

Using the filibuster back in May, Senate Republicans shut down debate on formation of a senate committee to investigate the January 6th siege of the Capitol. This was after weeks of bad faith negotiations during which the GOP was granted every advantage they sought on that committee. When the House formed a special committee, the Republican leader in the House tried to insert two or three loud-mouthed defenders of the right to riot when an election is allegedly stolen. These shrill obstructionists were correctly kept off of the commission. One of them is now standing on his absolute right not to divulge anything he discussed with the former president on January 6th, something he claimed he’d be glad to talk about, since, as he repeated, he had nothing to hide.

Now the word is that the House January 6th Select Committee is illegitimate, not bipartisan, another baseless Democrat [sic] witch hunt like Mueller’s, that the two Republican members are traitors to the rest of the Republican Party.

Bearing all that in mind, take a look at this short video and look for a weak link in the story that it presents, in light of what the January 6th Committe has now confirmed with a mountain of evidence.

Merrick?

The deadliest poison often comes from “friends”

The New York Times editorial board decided the most important story for Saturday, in a country on the doorstep of authoritarianism, was the following critique of our beleaguered president (because of worldwide inflation, don’t you know?):

When you click on the link you learn that not only is Biden not passing the so-called Big Mac test, he’s failing!!!

I had the stomach to read this poisonous editorial board editorial to the very end where one reads this:

The role of presidents in shaping the nation’s economic fortunes is generally overstated. But if the government can complete the work it has begun, this administration may yet deserve the victory laps it is taking for successful stewardship of the nation’s economy.

The discomforting truth is that the United States last year faced a choice between a protracted period of economic pain and an economic recovery whose benefits are temporarily attenuated by high inflation. Mr. Biden made the right choice. But it came at a real price — economically, for the nation, and politically, for him.

read the whole poisonous “critique” here

It’s hard not to offer a hearty “fuck you and what the fuck is your fucking problem?” to the New York Times editorial board . Breitbart, OANN, Newsmax, The Wall Street Journal, The NY Post and FOX news could not have done it better! It is certainly a model of editorial restraint. Mazel tov, momzers...

Bear in mind:

To recap the NY Times’s perfectly reasonable sounding analysis: Biden took office during a pandemic/economic/political nightmare on a global scale, and his policies worked, much better than in most other places.

The White House finds itself in the position of a physician who has administered a successful course of treatment but who has neglected to prepare the patient for the side effects or to give the timeline for a full recovery. A lot of pain was averted, but it’s hard to feel gratitude for things that didn’t happen. The economic outlook is strong, but it’s hard to feel gratitude for things that haven’t happened yet. Right now, the pain of inflation is front and center for most.

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They also point out, almost accurately:

A one-year expansion of the child tax credit helped to reduce the share of American children living in poverty to the lowest level since the government began to keep records in the 1960s. But Democrats, unable to agree on the terms of a permanent expansion, have allowed the expanded benefits to expire, depriving millions of working families of needed help.

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Something like “Biden and Democrats, needing every vote to pass laws and budgets, even by reconciliation, were blocked by all fifty Republicans and two conservative Democratic senators who are staunch opponents of minimum wage and the child tax credit, and incoherent defenders of the filibuster, who stand athwart all progressive aspirations, no matter how modest,” would have been a little more accurate, and fairer, description of Biden’s inability to get anything passed.

The Times continues (my recap): Admittedly, the president alone is not responsible for fixing all of that, particularly not in his first year in office. He did a good job, much better than anyone could have predicted. BUT, the price of a Big Mac is up, so that’s Biden’s fault, he failed, which is why, even though highly successful on most of these supremely challenging fronts, during the second half of a period when the world’s ten richest men doubled their net worth to the tune of five trillion untouchable bucks, Biden is still a fucking failure, as the polls show, largely because of inflation and nobody approves of a failure, particularly one who picks their pockets.

The Grey Lady has spoken. To millions, worldwide.

Fraud is also against the law

It’s not as if fraud is murder, fraud is just stealing from people, with a cunning lie that fools the credulous for long enough to get their money. Fraud may not be shooting somebody to death on Fifth Avenue, but it’s bad nonetheless.

It’s not as though these fraud allegations against the Trump Organization are anything new. Fraud is a big part of his lifelong business model and an integral part of Trump’s classy, gold-plated, exclusive brand.

Right before the Electoral College selected him as the president of the United States in 2016, Donald Trump agreed to pay the State of New York $25,000,000 (twenty-five million dollars) to settle, with no admission of wrongdoing, a case brought on behalf of defrauded former students of hugely profitable Trump University which also agreed to shut down [1]

It’s not like his fraudulent charitable Trump Foundation was closed because of fraud, it just happened that a few million dollars of the money Trump raised for the charity were spent by the Trump family in a legally improper way, and his charitable Foundation was forced to empty its bank account and donate all the funds to actual charities. The Trump Foundation, now bankrupt, was closed down as well. New York Attorney General Letitia James summarizes:

“Not only has the Trump Foundation shut down for its misconduct, but the president has been forced to pay $2 million for misusing charitable funds for his own political gain. Charities are not a means to an end, which is why these damages speak to the president’s abuse of power and represent a victory for not-for-profits that follow the law.” [2]

These pain in the ass witch-hunting DA’s and AG’s are a big part of the reason Trump retired to DeathSantis’s hospitably fascistic Florida.

Deflating the value of assets that you used, in their inflated form, for purposes of obtaining maximum loans and social status, and lowered for purposes of evading taxes … is that fraud? It would sure seem to be. Why this fraud is the subject of a very likely civil action by the NYS Attorney General (rather than a criminal one) is hard to grasp, at least without two minutes of diligent research on DuckDuckGo or Ecosia. Which wearieth me too much at the moment, tapping away, eyes agoggle, on this tiny but very, very smart phone, but feel free to drop a comment below if you do.

[1] https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2018/ag-schneiderman-statement-final-trump-university-settlement

[2] https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2019/donald-j-trump-pays-court-ordered-2-million-illegally-using-trump-foundation

Jon Ossoff, excellent speech in defense of the right to vote

It’s hard to believe democracy is still having to fight this same fucking war over and over again against the infinitely wealthy forces of reaction and entitlement, but there we go.

Jon Ossoff, the first Jewish US senator from the great state of Georgia (mein yamulka’s off to you, Jon), delivered a powerful speech in defense of passing a federal law to protect the once again threatened right to vote.

The only thing I wish Ossoff would have added was that not only was the Voting Rights Act last reauthorized in a bipartisan vote, as he points out, but in a unanimous bipartisan vote, 98 to zero in the Senate. All 16 Republicans still in the Senate voted for Voting Rights in that 98-0 vote, the same folk now all unanimous in filibustering debate and a vote on the same law they’d embraced in 2006, like the craven tools of authoritarianism they now plainly are (OK, not that last part, Jon).

Powerful speech well worth hearing, very sad that not even one of the sixteen Republican former voting rights supporters was moved by it.

Majority Rule vs. the machinations of the unscrupulous uber-wellborn

Why is the 1965 Voting Rights Act so crucial to democracy? The law was a great victory for equality at law after a bloody, generations-long fight for enforcement of the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, a right long denied, openly and also under many subterfuges.

From the start, wealthy, determined reactionaries gritted their teeth about Black, brown and urban poor people voting and got to work to counter “majoritarian tyranny.” Over decades they figured out how to get the Supreme Court to grant them a series of game changing powers to perpetuate their privileges.

A key prize was the new constitutional right to form legal entities to spend limitless amounts of tax-deductible money to engage in fully protected freedom of speech, to express partisan political views and influence political outcomes, to the extent their vast fortunes allowed. Everybody else, one vote and limited campaign donations, at best. The right to vote is the majority’s only voice to oppose the designs of determined, activist billionaire reactionaries.

The right to vote is the essential right of democracy, in a government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. It can take millions of us casting votes to express our combined wishes to overcome the will of a handful of super-wealthy individuals, their identities secret, spending limitless, anonymous, tax-deductible dough to influence elections, to lobby and buy the Sinemas, Manchins, McConnells and their ilk.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse describes the electoral game, tirelessly and cleverly rigged by right-wing billionaires and their hired political operatives and other hirelings to secretly wield undemocratic influence on a mass scale.

Whitehouse ends his speech talking about the dark money funded “Honest Elections Project,” a corporate entity created solely to influence elections. The Honest Elections Project exercised $45,000,000 in 100% anonymous free speech prior to the 2020 elections. No individuals are associated with this gigantic influence machine because all identities are legally laundered through 501(c)(3) Donors’ Trust, which also makes their political gifts tax deductible. Here’s Whitehouse:

Somebody wrote [The Honest Elections Project] a $19,000,000 check to suppress votes.


Folks, if we don’t get to the bottom of this we’re going to have a real problem on our hands, and when we get to the bottom of this, the American public will be with us because they hate this stuff.

You can be a Bernie Bro or you can be a Tea Partier, you can disagree on everything. and you agree that big dark money corruption has no place in American democracy.

Hard to argue with any of that (hence the filibuster, which silences all debate). The whole presentation is well worth taking in.

The man is a kind of genius

Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, has asked a judge to let her convene a special grand jury, one dedicated solely to deciding whether Donald Trump violated the Georgia criminal statute against interfering with election results by attempting to enlist state officials to change certified election results. You can hear the entire phone call between Trump and Raffensperger, and their lawyers, as Trump tenaciously badgers Raffensperger with ten different appeals for those stinkin’ 11,780 vote he needed, “one more than we had”.

It’s online, you can hear the whole coversation right now, from the horse’s mouth, judge for yourself how innocent or guilty he was in that eighteenth call to change the election results on Georgia. To me, he checked every box, violated that venerable old Georgia law every which way. I can’t conjure a single nonfrivolous legal defense for the former president. This special grand jury will allow DA Willis to move forward with criminal charges after they’ve heard all the evidence.

So here’s the genius, himself, truly one of a kind, you gotta give it to the vuggin’ guy.

The Media’s false equivalence is deadly

The corporate media, at its fairest and most balanced, often presents things in this frame:

Since there are very fine people, (along with a few bad apples), on both sides, on both sides, all Americans have to try harder to aim for the sane middle ground, between Black Lives Matter and the Klan, between Nazis and Jews, between billionaires and low value citizens, and we’ll be right back to tell you exactly how you can find that Golden Mean, but first, these important words from our sponsors.

Robert Reich lays it out in five minutes

and this bit of bitter common sense, also from Reich