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Richard Mellor / Some Thoughts on Space and Time
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Today at 06:02:33 PM »
Some Thoughts on Space and Time

Image Not with the Original Text
I read these brief comments written by a comrade in response to a person who claimed proof of "god". I found it sort of interesting although I have to admit, I don't really understand it, but I know some will.  I'm also aware that with subjects such as these there will be some controversy and different opinions. I am not referring to controversy between religious doctrine (idealism) and science but within the scientific community itself. Anyway, read away.

On the matter of "God" and "creation" (I just posted elsewhere):

Dave Parks, Exeter UK

The Friedmann solution to the Einstein equations of General Relativity  is something I studied in my 2nd year at University. For simplicity here  I will describe the closed model solution - this is where there is  enough matter in the universe for it to eventually collapse under it's  own gravity. A bit like a rocket shot directly upwards but without  enough speed to escape the effects of Earth's gravity - eventually it decelerates and falls back to Earth.

First thing this is a 4-D model. There are two assumptions the universe  is homogeneous and isotropic. Basically made of the same stuff  throughout and in a symmetric or equal way in all directions. Any  localised clumping or asymmetry evens out on a grander scale. Evidence  from microwave background radiation suggests this is a highly reasonable  if not accurate assumption for the early universe.

It is almost  impossible for us humans to visualise 4-D - so we use analogies. For the  closed Friedmann model that analogy is the surface a 3D sphere  representing the whole history and expanse of 4D space-time. The North  pole of this sphere represents T=0 (the Big bang). Time (1D) is  represented by longitude, 3D space is represented by latitude. At this  point the radius of the universe is the extent of the latitude of the  sphere at that point which is also zero. As longitude increases as you  move away from the north pole the size of the universe increase until it  reaches a maximum at the equator. From then on the universe stops  expanding and starts contracting back down to zero size - a "big  crunch".

All points in space and time throughout the entire  history and expanse of the universe are represented on the surface of  this 3D model. This is a finite and bounded model. There is no "edge" -  if you could travel around it you would not fall off the edge. If you  could somehow approach the north pole you would find the region "smooth"   no edges or boundaries. To speak of a minus time here is meaningless.  There is no minus time or time "before". This is to abstract "time " as a  concept separate from relativistic space-time. It is hard to understand  for those who have not studied the maths and physics of Riemann  geometry - non-Euclidean geometry is the reality of the Universe we live  in. Talk of creation and "gods" have to be understood in that context.

Source: Some Thoughts on Space and Time
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AlterNet / Has Donald Trump Made the World Less Safe for Jews?
« Last post by AlterNet on Today at 06:02:24 PM »
Has Donald Trump Made the World Less Safe for Jews?


The virus of white nationalism is spreading, warns "(((Semitism)))" author Jonathan Weisman.


Earlier this month, a lifetime ago in the Trump administration, an art dealer named Todd Brassner burned to death in a fire at Trump Tower. (The building did not have a sprinkler system on its residential floors because its eponymous owner refused to install one, citing its prohibitive cost). According to the New York Daily News, real estate mogul Trump was less than enamored of Brassner, reportedly referring to his tenant as "that crazy Jew." The scandal barely registered with the American public, but it offered yet another reminder that the Oval Office is still oozing with anti-Semitism, even after the departures of white nationalists like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.

Bigots and bullies have grown emboldened. The Anti-Defamation League tallied 1,986 anti-Semitic attacks in 2017, up 57 percent over the year prior. Schools proved the most common place for these incidents; 457 were perpetrated against children grades K-12. American Jews have not faced the kind of overt persecution that Muslims, African Americans and Latinos have since Trump assumed office, but as Jonathan Weisman warns in his new book, now is no time for diffidence or retreat.

One part memoir, two parts sociological study, (((Semitism))) explores what it means to be Jewish in Trump's America, with all of its inherent possibilities and dangers. (The triple parentheses allude to the so-called alt-right's method of marking Jews on social media for online harassment). Days ahead of a neo-Nazi rally in Newnan, Ga., AlterNet spoke with Weisman over the phone about the rising tide of white nationalism, American Jewish organizations' singular obsession with Israel and the need for Jews across the country to form broad coalitions. The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Jacob Sugarman: You yourself acknowledge that there are other religious and ethnic groups who are even more imperiled by Trump's presidency than American Jews. Why do you think it's important to explore the wave of anti-Semitism his run for office and subsequent election appear to have triggered?

Jonathan Weisman: When white nationalists talk about so-called white genocide, they imagine that white human beings, specifically white men, are being supplanted and driven out by brown people: African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and immigrants more generally. But their mythology also tells them that these brown people are inferior beings, so they summon the Jews as the cause of their demise, the answer to the question, "How could this be happening to us?" It's the Jews, they believe, who are the puppet masters, pulling the strings of the ethnic hordes. You can't separate one group from another, we're all in this together.

The American Jewish community also has a certain amount of power and resources to bear in this fight. If a Jew stands up and screams, "Anti-Semitism," the response is often, "You're just being parochial. There are other people who have it far worse than you. What are you doing?" That's why it's so essential we form alliances with Muslim Americans, immigrants, Latinos and African Americans to denounce all forms of bigotry.

JS: Does Trump pose a unique threat to Jews, or is he simply channeling hatreds that have always been present in American society?

JW: I'm not sure I'd call it a unique threat because the globe goes through spasms of nationalism, and these spasms tend to be bad for Jews. The rise of white nationalism is international, and Trump is proof that it has arrived at the shores of the United States. If you look at [Viktor] Orban's Hungary, or what's happening in Poland, or the last elections in Italy, or Golden Dawn in Greece, you have to think that the virus is spreading. Things are demonstrably worse in Europe than they are in the U.S., but we're at a dangerous moment in history.

JS: I'm glad you brought up Hungary and Poland. Has Trump's victory rekindled anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe?

JW: Absolutely. There's no question that the white nationalists in Europe look at the president as a kindred spirit. They feel they have some momentum, and with Trump in the Oval Office, they no longer have to fear the United States as a bulwark against their movement.

JS: If we can wind back the clock two years, why do you think American Jewish organizations were so tepid in their response to Trump's presidential campaign? Did they fail to recognize the threat he posed?

JW: Over the last 20 years, whether they're liberal outfits like J Street and New Israel Fund or conservative groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition and AIPAC, mainstream Jewish organizations have become obsessed with Israel. To an extent it's understandable, because at least for now, support for Israel may be the one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. You're not going to get into trouble with potential donors or supporters by focusing on the Israeli cause. But this focus has come almost at the exclusion of domestic politics in the United States. Few realize that the white nationalist movement actually emerged in the later Bush years, after the public had soured on the Iraq War and later with the collapse of the financial system. Conservatives were looking for a new rallying cry. Most people, virtually everybody, ignored the alt-right for eight years. And during that time, American Jews were basically arguing about Israel.

JS: How did the concern of these organizations become so blinkered, and do you believe it has affected their commitment to social justice?

JW: Money is obviously a big part of it, but it's also complacency. The United States from 1960 to 2016 felt like it was on slow but steady trajectory toward a more pluralistic, inclusive and tolerant society. I think these organizations were completely blindsided by this latest surge of nationalism. They had been looking for a cause to rally behind, and Israel offered an obvious one.

JS: At the risk of falling into the same trap, do American Jews have a responsibility to speak out against the recent violence on the Gaza border?

JW: You have to understand that Jews in their late teens and early 20s have grown up experiencing nothing but Likud politics, with no exposure to hope in the Middle East. They don't know an Israel with a Labor or a centrist government. They don't remember the Oslo Accord, and they certainly don't remember the Camp David Accord. On their left, they have the BDS movement, and on their right they have their elders telling them, "Part of your Judaism is bound to your fealty to Israel."

I believe very strongly that if love of Israel is a prerequisite to Jewish identity in this country, then we're going to lose an entire generation. It's probably the biggest threat facing the American Jewish community today?that drift of young Jews away from Judaism because of the demands that Israel puts on them. Jews should be able to embrace their religion and their identity without having to answer to the latest atrocity in Gaza.

JS: Why do you think anti-Semitism and militant Zionism have proven so compatible? At least superficially, Likudniks and an administration that has featured the likes of Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka would appear to make for strange bedfellows.

JW: I think the more you study alt-right ideology, the less strange it appears. Unlike the kind of anti-Semitism that you see emerging in the British Labour Party or on the French left, the alt-right is not especially anti-Zionist. They view Israel as a model ethno-state for their own country. There's no incompatibility with white nationalism because they believe Jews have a place to go and should go there.

JS: I have to push back a little bit here. Are you really suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party is rife with anti-Semitism?

JW: I wouldn't go so far as to call him an anti-Semite himself, but absolutely, I think anti-Semitism is a real problem in the Labour Party and that Corbyn has been especially reluctant to confront it.

JS: How did Gamergate presage the 2016 election, and why does misogyny so often serve as a gateway drug for overt racism and anti-Semitism?

JW: For most of the decade, members of the alt-right talked to themselves in their own little online ghettos at the National Policy Institute and Taki's Magazine, and then at the Daily Stormer, Stormfront and other neo-nazi publications. Gamergate showed that they could spread their ideology in the chat rooms of 4chan and 8chan, the comment sections of YouTube and eventually on Twitter?that through doxxing, trolling and other tactics, the web could be weaponized. And remember, there was a bridge from one movement to the other. One of the great orchestrators of Gamergate was Milo Yiannopolous, who parlayed his notoriety into an editing gig at Breitbart and later emerged as a celebrity on the alt-right.

I talked to [video game developer] Zoë Quinn, and she believes that Gamergate was like a signal flare to white nationalists. They said to themselves, "Oh my God, we can do that too." And it took very little time for the harrassment campaign to turn anti-Semitic, because Quinn's boyfriend was a Yeshiva-educated Jew. Before long, trolls were threatening her with rape and posting photo-shopped images of her covered in semen. 

The entire episode was a trial run for Trump's presidential bid. All of the abuse heaped on Quinn, Brianna Wu and other women video game designers was redirected not just at political journalists on the campaign trail, but the Jews of Whitefish, Montana. (The National Policy Institute is based in Whitefish, as is the mother of alt-right founder, Richard Spencer). As for why misogyny leads to anti-Semitism, I think feelings of sexual frustration or humiliation can be a powerful source of hatred. And hate breeds hate, right?

JS: Donald Trump won't be president forever, even if he wishes he could be, so what hope do we have of mending the hole his political ascent has torn in the social fabric? You advocate for American Jews to assume their place in the public square, but given how insular our media consumption has become, are we sure one still exists?

JW: You know, I actually think it does. I've been doing a lot of traveling to promote the book, and everywhere I go, I'm asked, "What can we do?" I'm a journalist; I'm not a social activist or a community organizer, so my answers are limited. But I think that there's a desire out there to build alliances, and you're seeing it now. I recently spoke to a Jewish organization on Long Island, and its first instinct after a swastika was found scrawled on a local synagogue was to form an interfaith coalition against bigotry. People understand we cannot be a series of atomized organizations standing up for ourselves. I believe we'll remember the age of Trump as a re-emergence of activism on a very local level.

 

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Source: Has Donald Trump Made the World Less Safe for Jews?
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Richard Mellor / Barbara Bush a "Force for Civil Rights"? Please.
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Today at 06:00:42 AM »
Barbara Bush a "Force for Civil Rights"? Please.

This pouring of admiration and sympathy around the death of Barbara Bush is nauseating. Bloomberg Business Week writes of her: "While generally declining to discuss policy, she was a force in supporting civil rights. And she liked to walk her dog in her bathrobe." No, Martin Luther King was a "force" supporting civil rights, Barbara Bush was not. An example of the "policy" she chose to keep her mouth shut about was the attacks on civil liberty at home. An increase in state security services. The illegal arrest and detention of people without trial. An unprovoked attack using chemical weapons on a Middle East country that forced hundreds of thousands in to refugee status including to Syria and the deaths of more than a million people.

Lying to the American people and the world.

What is there to respect about this matriarch of one of the world's most ruthless, barbaric and powerful ruling class families? And what is so sacred and why should we honor this ridiculous saying that we should not "speak ill of the dead". This matriarch of a ruling family who wandered around with her dog in a bathrobe, a habit the pimp Hugh Hefner was fond of with somewhat different motivations, possesses no qualities a working class person should respect or admire. Please teach your kids not to end up like that.

A friend and I always used to say of our kids, like if one of them was a Jeffrey Dahmer for example, that we'd never disown them, they would always be our son. But we'd say lock him up, he's, sick, he's a threat to society. We would not keep our mouths shut. The war criminal standing next to Barbara Bush killed a lot more people than Dhamer and did it for political and economic gain. He's far worse. And he had the support of all his family.

We could learn a thing about class solidarity from this gang. In that way we should be more like them.
 
Source: Barbara Bush a "Force for Civil Rights"? Please.
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Conservative Pages Are Still Making Racist Russian Propaganda Posts Go Viral on Facebook


The images include content from banned accounts.


Conservative and pro-Trump Facebook pages, most affiliated with fake news websites, are recycling memes created by the Russian troll companies like the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which the social network has banned from its platform. Media Matters found 24 posts dating back to December 2017 from 11 right-wing pages that contained memes bearing watermarks from Russian troll-run social media accounts. Ten of these posts have earned over 20,000 interactions, with the two most popular crossing 70,000. These 28 posts appear to be Russian propaganda because they contained watermarks of logos from Russian troll-run accounts like South United, most of which pushed racist and anti-immigrant propaganda.

Propaganda from the Russian troll account Secured Borders, which has used violent language to push anti-immigration misinformation related to illegal voting, crime, and welfare, has showed up on conservative pages multiple times. Memes from two other anti-immigration Russian troll accounts, Stop All Invaders and Heart of Texas, have also been recently reposted by conservative pages. A pro-gun meme from Heart of Texas was posted by the blue badge-verified page Chicks on the Right and by the page Cold Dead Hands which, according to its ?About? section, pertains to a pro-gun Texas-based nonprofit group. Propaganda from the pro-Confederate Russian account South United has also been reposted by conservative Facebook pages with memes featuring the Confederate flag. Other Russian troll accounts pushed on Facebook include the pro-gun account Defend the 2nd, a law enforcement account called Back the Badge, and a conservative account Being Patriotic.

Most pages posting such Russian propaganda are connected to or run by fake news and hyperpartisan sites. They include:

 

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Source: Conservative Pages Are Still Making Racist Russian Propaganda Posts Go Viral on Facebook
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Inter Press Service - Labour / Dreaming of A New Sustainable Economy
« Last post by Inter Press Service on Today at 06:00:32 AM »
Dreaming of A New Sustainable Economy

Officials from around the world came together to create and support a vision for a new, sustainable economy: a bioeconomy. Almost 1000 bioeconomy experts, from former heads of state to civil society leaders, convened in Berlin for the second Global BIoeconomy Summit to discuss best practices and challenges. Already, over 50 countries have begun to […]

The post Dreaming of A New Sustainable Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Source: Dreaming of A New Sustainable Economy
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Richard Mellor / He Shot a Hobo in the Back
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Yesterday at 06:06:58 PM »
He Shot a Hobo in the Back

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

As if being homeless isn?t bad enough, those of us that end up living in the streets due to market failures and/or mental illness in a society that pays no serious attention to mental illness other than filling the jails with its victims, is repeated attacks and abuse from the general public that often result in death.

At one point in time about one third of the homeless were Vietnam Veterans, working class people that survived a devastating war perhaps with physical damage but certainly with severe emotional trauma.  The Hollywood propaganda wars of John Wayne, Silvester Stillone and others are simply nationalistic garbage. Neither of these two characters faced what so many ordinary young workers have. They are despicable individuals, an insult to those who actually experienced the true horror of war.
Homeless camp Oakland CA. Source East Bay Times

In the years I have lived in the East San Francisco Bay Area, I have seen homelessness mushroom. There are entire tent cities now all over the place; under freeways, in wooded areas, or out in the open along sidewalks. I worked in the streets of Oakland and the surrounding area for 30 years so I know this is the case.

The highly censored mainstream media doesn?t delve too deeply in to this subject, after all, if the homeless had made better choices they wouldn?t be homeless. We all know that if you work hard in America, you will succeed; if you?re poor, it?s your own damn fault.

The US is the worst of the advanced capitalist economies to be poor in. Last year homelessness was on the rise again, particularly on the West Coast, perhaps because of our weather. Gentrification, housing costs and rents are another driver of homelessness. A two bedroom apartment in my small town can cost $2500 a month, when one considers that to get in to a place one needs to fork over a first and last month and a deposit, getting in to a basic place could cost $6000. Beyond the most desperate, there are many people that sleep in their cars and still keep a low waged job not earning enough to get in to a regular place. The working poor are perhaps the most numerous as without a car, having a dismal transportation system can make it hard getting to work and at least a car can function as a makeshift home as well.

Those living on the streets are the most vulnerable and fall prey to racists, masochists and other types of sociopathic elements. Homelessness is in a crisis situation for Native Americans and they are among the most vulnerable to attack. Just writing these words presents me with a bizarre thought in that those whose land this was, who roamed free on it for the most part, suffer the most and are often homeless, separated from decent housing and the land. The genocidal wars, driving them from their lands and herding them in to camps has had catastrophic consequences for the Native people.

Last month, in Albuquerque New Mexico, two teenage boys shot and killed a 50-year old homeless Native American man. According to reports, he was shot a dozen times, four times in the back as well as in the forehead and temple. The suspects, one 15 the other 17, apparently shot the man ?for fun? according to the police and the 15 year old boasted to a friend at a party he attended after the murder, that he shot a ?hobo in the back? They even returned to the scene of the crime and saw that their victim Ronnie Ross, was still alive, so the older kid pumped four more bullets in to him to finish the job.

As a handful of Americans continue to accumulate massive wealth in to the billions, coupon clippers basically, and we fork over close to $800 billion a year in order to defend US corporations? profits abroad, living standards and basic social services decline and homelessness continues to grow.

Native Americans are about 4 percent of Albuquerque?s population but 44% of people living in the streets and some 75% of them have been physically assaulted according to a 2014 survey. Ross? brutal murder occurred three months after the body of Audra Willis was found east of the city---Willis had been decapitated. Back in 2014, two other Native men were beaten to death with cinder blocks at a homeless encampment by three teenagers.

There?s no doubt that there is a mindset that homeless people are less than human, and therefore fair game, but in my mind it is inconceivable that racist motivations are present as well in most cases. As the Guardian pointed out last year, ??.out of frame and ignored, a Brooklyn-sized housing crisis has languished in the 617 American Indian and Alaska Native tribal areas and 526 surrounding counties where 2.5 million of this land?s first peoples live. There, Native men, women and children occupy the most severely overcrowded and rundown homes in the United States.?

I once spoke to a tribal official at the Pine Ridge Reservation some time ago and she told me that the living conditions when teenage girls, unemployed men, and alcohol are thrown together under one roof, trouble arises in the form of violence and sexual abuse. The same Guardian article points out, ?The 11,000 members of the Northern Arapaho in Wyoming, for example, share just 230 reservation homes. A staggering 55% are considered homeless because they?re couch surfing. In the Navajo Nation, 18,000 homes or roughly 40% of total Navajo housing stock lack electricityor running water.?

And in 2005, ??.a CDC Prevention report found 11.7 percent of deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives were tied to alcohol. Over 60 percent of those who died were younger than 50. In the general population, by comparison, alcohol related deaths were 3.3 percent.? Indian Country Today

Native Americans are not the only homeless people of course, and it?s quite likely that European Americans are the majority as they are most likely the majority of the poor population because there?s more of them. But it?s the overall crisis and percentage of certain marginalized groups that is staggering. After centuries of racism and in the case of the Native people, a genocidal war on them, the savagery of the market economy and crisis of capitalism has taken its toll. It is not necessary to look to Syria or the underdeveloped world to see massive poverty and social crises, we have it right on our doorstep.

A significant aspect of the offensive of capitalism that has such destructive repercussions is the ideological offensive. Outside of lip service paid to the noble Natives, the dominant ideology in society---bourgeois ideology----maintains that the resources are there to change ones condition if only one makes the right decisions. History is but a blip on the radar screen. The institutions of capitalism will never alter this thinking or approach history from a perspective of understanding it fully, laying bare the economic and political forces behind it and are today incapable of rectifying past horrors. The system must not be undermined.

What must it be like for Native people to see that mountain with the ?New World?s? new rulers carved in to it, those responsible for the genocide?  It?s similar to black folks having to walk post those statues of racist heroes of the Apartheid South. Amherst in Massachusetts is named after an English colonial aristocrat who responded to one of his colleagues who suggested infecting Native people with Typhoid and referred to them as ?Vermine? that, ?You will Do well to try to Innoculate [sic] the Indians by means of Blankets, as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. I should be very glad your Scheme for Hunting them Down by Dogs could take Effect, but England is at too great a Distance to think of that at present.?

No doubt there would be an outcry at the suggestion Amherst change its name but it would be a small gesture a recognition of wrongs, especially if the demand came from working class people and our organizations.

Things are changing though and the  U.S. is reaching a boiling point as more and more people are being driven in to poverty. Insecurity and the fear of being cast aside is everywhere as social services and basic social needs are eliminated in order to pay for the crisis of capitalism.  Millions of Americans live a life of fear, fear of losing ones shelter, the fear of getting sick and being without adequate health care and being priced out of a decent education or the fear of losing one?s life. What sickness must exist in US capitalist society with all it?s supposed freedom and wealth that 15 year olds murder homeless people, or beat them to death with cinder blocks then boast to their friends about it?

Capitalism makes us sick, destroys our humanity. Here in the belly of the beast, Citizens of the United States currently consume 85 percent of all the antidepressants in the world

Gideon Levy, the Israeli journalist, thanked Trump in a recent speech for lifting the mask off of the faces of those Israeli politicians who for years have pretended that they want peace with the Palestinians, the indigenous people whose land they stole. It is an excellent speech about what it is like to live in Israel and readers can watch it here. And we can say the same thing about Trump here at home. He is the ?whip of the counterrevolution? that will force the US working class to recognize that their backs are being pushed against the wall, they have no alternative but to fight. 

There have been numerous responses to the outright brutal treatment that marginalized sections of society experience, Black Lives Matter in response to police murders and the conditions in these communities in general as well as obscene incarceration rates. We had a near civil war as Native people at standing rock and their allies fought the corporations and security forces assault on the land. Since Trump we?ve had millions of women marching in the streets, some 4 million in one day by some accounts. We had the science marches, the occupations of airports in response to attacks on immigration and campaigns against polluted water and land.

Coming on the heels of these developments there has been an unprecedented illegal strike wave as teachers, particularly in the southern states, have made it clear they have had enough. Teachers struck in West Virginia, a state where strikes are illegal and they won a 5% increase for themselves and for all other state workers. They did this by overcoming their conservative pro-capitalist leadership who for years have told us that we can?t break the law. Next week, Arizona teachers are going on a statewide strike and these actions continue to spread. 

The affect of these developments cannot be understated as millions of workers will be watching. The conservative trade union hierarchy that has suppressed any movement from below that threatened their relationship with the bosses? based on cooperation and concessions fear nothing greater than a victory that undermines their worldview.Victories inspire.

We are in anew era that is witnessing the end of the domination of the two capitalist parties over US political life and the likelihood of all sorts of developments arising from this.  The intense anger and hatred of the system and those that run it will rise to the surface as this process unfolds and the numerous isolated and separate struggles against a common enemy come together.  Facts For Working People wants to play a part in helping this movement grow and, more importantly, win.

Source: He Shot a Hobo in the Back
7
Big Banks Are Raking in Record Profits Thanks to Trump's Supposedly 'Middle-Class' Tax Cuts



 
 
 



Republicans misled voters about what the bill would do.


When President Donald Trump and the Republican Party pitched their bill to overhaul the American tax code, they promised voters that their plan was aa "middle-class tax relief." As the law goes into effect, though, most Americans are seeing little benefit, while the big banks are raking in record profits.

According to new analysis by the Associated Press, six big Wall Street banks made an additional $3.59 billion dollars so far this year thanks to the tax law.

Financial Analyst James Shanahan told the AP:?If there was one significant factor quarter for the big banks that I follow, it was taxes."

This is no surprise. The tax law was designed mainly to slash taxes for business, dropping the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

The bill also cut individual tax rates, but those changes benefit the rich the most the poorest the least. Meanwhile, health insurance costs continue to rise, which can easily wipe out the meager wage increases middle- and low-income people may get from the tax law.

At a time of growing inequality and the rising power of corporations, the GOP decided to take the tax code and skew it even more toward those who already have a disproportionate share of wealth in the society. Record profits0 from the banks are only the most recent evidence of this change.






 

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Source: Big Banks Are Raking in Record Profits Thanks to Trump's Supposedly 'Middle-Class' Tax Cuts
8
AlterNet / Is It Time to Admit the 'Grotesque Caricature' of White Evangelicals Is the Reality?
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:00:26 AM »
Is It Time to Admit the 'Grotesque Caricature' of White Evangelicals Is the Reality?


There?s no doubt that evangelicalism seems to have an image problem, especially since its overwhelming alliance with Trump.


This week dozens of prominent evangelical leaders gathered at conservative Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL, to address the ?grotesque caricature? of their faith in the Trump era. The organizer of the gathering, Doug Birdsall, told the Washington Post that under Trump?s leadership, the term ?evangelical? has taken on too many negative associations, especially when it comes to racism and nationalism. The goal of the gathering, then, was to address these concerns while returning the word ?evangelical? to its core meaning. Rather than a political pariah, an ?evangelical? is simply ?a person who believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus? work on the cross, personal conversion and the need for evangelism.?

This article is reprinted with permission from Religion Dispatches. Follow RD on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.

There?s no doubt that evangelicalism seems to have an image problem, especially since its overwhelming alliance with Trump. In the minds of many outside the fold, evangelicalism no longer represents a specific religious position centered on sin and the need for individual salvation but rather a self-serving, power-hungry political movement that will side with the devil himself for the sake of political pragmatism.

?When people say what does it mean to be an evangelical, people don?t say evangelism or the gospel,? Birdsall told the Washington Post. But this image problem isn?t new. Although polling showsthat overall feelings toward evangelicals as a religious group have remained relatively stable since 2014, the perception of evangelicals as ?agents of intolerance,? to quote John McCain back in 2008, well predates the Trump era.

And besides, we shouldn?t chalk it all up to image. The fact remains that over 80% of self-identified white evangelical voters cast their lot with Trump. Moreover, despite a host of missteps and scandals, overall evangelical support for Trump as president hasn?t declined but grown.

It would be wrong to paint all evangelicals with the same brush. Evangelicalism is and will remain a complex socio-political movement propped up by a religious rhetoric that emphasizes individual piety, but its adherents aren?t all the same. Indeed, some of Trump?s most vocal critics come out of evangelicalism.

That said, given the consistency with which white evangelicals as a whole have lent their support to Trump?and right-wing candidates and policies more generally?it?s far past time to own up to the fact that the image is, in many respects, the reality.

Well-intentioned evangelical leaders may not like to hear that, but it remains the case that an overwhelming majority of evangelicals continue to support Trump and his policies. Sure, they may have issues with his moral center, or lack thereof, but they?re willing to overlook all this for the sake of political expediency, for promises of ?religious freedom,? and the hope of a judiciary stacked with conservative judges.

This is because, at the end of the day, evangelicalism isn?t really about personal values but, rather, social and political conversion and control. Little has changed, in this sense, since the days of Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority (as Daniel Schultz rightly pointed out recently on RD).

The Trump era, then, does not create a new problem for evangelicals and their image; it?s simply casting a very bright light on what has always been there, at least for the past forty years or so.

If evangelical support for Trump sounds more calculated than sincere because of this, that?s because it is. But while critics charge evangelicals with hypocrisy, with undercutting their own assumed moral authority for the sake of political success, it?s important to emphasize, contra John Fea, that this more pragmatic approach to social change isn?t completely outside their own religious traditions, and it?s questionable the extent to which evangelicals ever held much moral authority in the first place.

Evangelicals put great stock in the Bible, but as others have noted in the Trump context, the Bible is full of stories of God choosing morally ambiguous and even repulsive individuals to lead the so-called faithful. Indeed, that narrative line, repeated over again in numerous ways, makes up a significant portion of what most Christians refer to as the Old Testament.

Another way to put the matter is to say that the Bible isn?t all about love and how you relate to your neighbor, as Christians of a more liberal bent seem to assume privately and when they enter the public sphere. Love?s certainly part of the story too, but it?s not the whole story: sure, the Bible tells us to love each other, to care for poor, the outcast, and the oppressed; but it also tells us many stories of cold calculation, self-preservation, and ideological success?and many of the ?heroes? of the Bible play just these games.

It would be wrong, however, to understand the distinction between these two impulses according to the tired?and ultimately anti-Semitic-distinction?between an Old Testament God of wrath and a New Testament God of love. There?s plenty of the latter in the so-called Old Testament, but there?s also pieces of the former in the New Testament. Indeed, someone like Paul could not have become an apostle if the narrative of the morally ambiguous, repulsive individual weren?t in place there as well. Even after Paul?s conversion, he?s not exactly the nicest guy on the block; indeed, if one reads Galatians, Paul can even sound a little Trumpish: certain of his own position while dismissive of others, all the while touting his accomplishments as a way to gain favor (Gal. 1-2).

In pointing this out, I?m not saying that I agree with the particular narrative arc of the morally suspect individual and the way it?s deployed by evangelicals in our current political landscape. I don?t, and if I had to throw my hat into the ?culture wars? I?d throw it on the side of the more liberal Christians every time. Nevertheless, it?s wrongheaded to reduce evangelical involvement in politics to a simple hypocrisy that lies completely outside the purview of biblical faith. In this respect I part ways with John Fea, who believes that prominent evangelical leaders have ?sacrificed their moral vision? to become ?court evangelicals.?

While emphasizing only this aspect of the Bible is horribly simplistic, to assume it?s not there is to ignore the book?s complexity and ambiguities, some far from ideal, that mark the history of Christianity. But covering over the ?darker? aspects of the faith for the sake of love, as more liberal Christians tend to do, reads Christianity just as simplistically, even if it?s a reading that is, in many ways, more palatable.

I applaud those evangelicals who want to think honestly about the movement?s current image in the Trump age. But appealing to some ?pure? form of the faith beyond its supposed political corruption?beyond the racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and the like that even critics of paper over?isn?t the way to go.

Not only do such appeals represent little more than nostalgia-laden theological desires that have little to do with what goes on on the ground, but they also ignore the fact that the line between religion and politics is flimsy at best, if not entirely non-existent. Evangelicalism, in its current manifestation, isn?t a religion that has been corrupted by its entry into politics but is, rather, a social movement that works through a specific type of politics. The substance of that politics has been clearly on display for some time now. Trump and his evangelical allies didn?t invent it; they only exacerbated it.

If evangelicalism ever wants to play a more positive role in social and political life, perhaps it?s time its leaders acknowledge that its public image isn?t a ?grotesque caricature,? but the thing itself. There?s a weighty theological term and disposition for taking an approach that comes to terms with such hard truths but attempts to chart a new path beyond them: repentance. If that doesn?t happen, then Daniel Schultz is probably right: the meeting at Wheaton will not have accomplished much of anything.

 


Source: Is It Time to Admit the 'Grotesque Caricature' of White Evangelicals Is the Reality?
9
Richard Mellor / Puerto Rico Teachers in the Front Lines
« Last post by Richard Mellor on April 21, 2018, 06:02:31 PM »
Puerto Rico Teachers in the Front Lines

Mercedes Martinez
Puerto Rico news from Mercedes Martinez teachers union leader. FFWP hopes the translation is accurate and apologizes for our linguistic limitations. We hope to keep folks up to date on these developments in Puerto Rico.
Admin

Siete  verdugos, nombrados por el Congreso de EEUU para imponer medidas de  austeridad severas sobre nuestra gente acaban de votar a favor del Plan  Fiscal.
Siete miembros de una  Junta que no fueron electos por nosotros. En cualquier país a eso le  llaman dictadura, pero aquí no...aquí le llaman democracia.
Una junta que acaba de aprobar
Despidos de maestros, oficinistas, secretarias, conserjes, empleados de  comedor en el DE, cierres de 307 escuelas, elementales con 330  estudiantes y secundarias con 700.
Eliminación de bono de Navidad  para empleados públicos y privados, eliminación o reducción de la  aportación patronal al plan médico a empleados públicos.
Eliminar  el sistema de pensiones vitalicios y pasar a TODOS los maestros a un  sistema de aportaciones definidas 401k, recortar las pensiones de 10 a  25% a nuestros jubilados.
La pregunta es: ¿nos vamos a quedar golpeados, o vamos a luchar?


Seven  executioners, appointed by the U.S Congress to impose severe austerity  measures on our people, have just voted in favour of the fiscal plan.

Seven members of a board who were not elected by us. In any country  they call it dictatorship, but not here... here they call it democracy.

A board you just approved

Layoffs of teachers, clerks, secretaries, janitors, dining-room  employees, 307 schools with 330 elementary students and 700 middle school students.

Elimination of Christmas bonus for public and private employees,  disposal or reduction of employer contribution to the medical plan to  public employees.

Remove the life pension system and move ALL  teachers to a defined 401 k input system, cut pensions from 10 to 25 %  to our retirees.

The question is: are we going to get beaten, or are we going to fight?

Tonight is a sad night in our island.  The dictatorial Oversight  Control Board approved its fiscal plan.  A plan that creates draconian  measures against the working class and  retirees of our country:
$466.5 million dollar cut in the DOE's budget progressively from 2019-2023
 $124.5 million dollar in savings, through lay offs of secretaries, janitors, cafeteria workers and other workers from the DOE.
 $194.5 million dollar saving in teacher lay offs
 $14 million dollar saving in 283 school closures
 elimination of the Christmas bonus
 elimination of the pension system and transfer all active public workers to a 401k system
 cut from 10 to 25% of the current pensions of retirees
 The government approved Law 85, which will allow charters and vouchers.
 They want our people to pay a $72 billion odious debt, that was not created by us.
 They want to use our kids for profit through the charter and voucher systems.
 They approved the privatization of PREPA
 They approved to reduce the minimum wage for youth workers of 25 years of age or less
 This is what disaster capitalism in steroids looks like!
 We have no way out
 But fight fight fight!!!!

Source: Puerto Rico Teachers in the Front Lines
10
Rural Trump Voters Have Second Thoughts About Opposing Immigration After Recent ICE Raids Violate Their Christian Beliefs


'You cannot be a true Christian if you ignore your neighbor in need.'


Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently conducted a large-scale workplace raid in Bean Station, Tennessee, a rural community that overwhelmingly voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.

However, many community members who backed Trump nonetheless found themselves disturbed at the way that ICE had gone about rounding up immigrant families -- and now they're rethinking their past hard-line stance on immigration.

In a lengthy report published by The New Yorker, some local residents say that raids such as the one in their community go against their deeply held Christian values.

"I?m a Christian; God loves everybody equally," 50-year-old Hank Smith told the publication. "And I never had a problem with anyone being here... immigration didn?t really affect me before. But then this raid happened."

Pastor David Williams, who leads the local Hillcrest Baptist Church, says he's seen people in his congregation change their minds about the best way to deal with undocumented immigrants.

"You cannot be a true Christian if you ignore your neighbor in need," he told the New Yorker. "The people in the middle have had their hearts soften because of the raid."

As the New Yorker documents, the raid on immigrant workers was particularly traumatic for many people in the nearby town of Morristown, Tennessee, where "more than five hundred students were reported absent from area schools" the day after the raid.

Deborah, a 44-year-old Trump voter, said that while she has conflicting views on immigration, she didn't hesitate to help out her community members who were affected by the ICE raid.

"I never understood all the technicalities of what it takes to become a legalized resident," she told the New Yorker. "How can I judge what I don?t understand?"

Read the whole story here.

 


Source: Rural Trump Voters Have Second Thoughts About Opposing Immigration After Recent ICE Raids Violate Their Christian Beliefs
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