Community Log & News Digest
Donald Trump, ever our protector, has proposed arming 20% of school teachers as part-time guards. That's 600,000 teachers. We can evaluate the proposal superficially rather quickly (fearless analysis: this article has taken longer to write than DT has thought about the issue).
Average teacher salary in US (2014) is $56,383 plus benefits. With est. fringe of 25% = $70,000.
Average training period for a sworn police officer is six months; we might assume three months for limited-duty training. There is ample reason to doubt that police-training agencies could gear up for this effort, but we won't count that for now.
Cost of training = one-fourth of a teacher's annual salary plus cost of training a police officer. Averages $7,000 across the US. Total with three months teacher salary $18,500 approx. The trainees might reasonably ask for a bonus for giving up their summer vacation, but we won't count that.
Presumably the teachers accepting the risk would get combat pay, let's say 25% bonus for half their career span. Figure 25% of $70,000 for 20 years or $300,000. Of course that would raise their pensions by a commensurate amount; est. 10% rise in pension cost; we won't try to calculate that permanent cost either.
So to summarize.
- Initial costs
- N/teachers (20% of 3,000,000), 600,000.
- Initial training @ $15,500.
- Training, first year (600,000 X $15,000), approx. $9.0 billion one time.
- Annual costs thereafter
- Retraining est $2,000 + one month salary (5800/12), total @ $7,800.
- Combat bonus, $15,000.
- Total/teacher, $22,800.
- All teachers (600,000), $13.7 billion.
- Continuous training of recruits @ 600K x 1/40 = 15,000 recruits/yr @ $18,500, total $342 million/yr.
- Combined annual costs
- Recruit training, $342M.
- Armed teacher extra pay, $13.7B.
- Min. total, $13.7B+342M=$14.022 billion per year, FOREVER, NOT including hiring more teachers when an unknown number are removed from classrooms to roam the halls at all times.
- Ten year program cost $9+14=$23 billion or $2.3 billion/year. That's $115 per adult (taxpayer). You might ask your local T-bagger how he feels about that.
Ban and collect all "assault" weapons (define it yourself).
Government(s) might reimburse owners @ $400 each (currently advertised price of used AR-15 on 26 Feb 2018). (This is a good deal for most owners, whose guns are mostly hidden in closets, improperly maintained and rusting away.)
This would put a lot of money into circulation, almost entirely at a scale conducive to re-spending, which could be a boost to the economy, or perhaps equally to savings, which has lagged in recent decades.
If 10M are in circulation the one-time cost would be (400*10M)=$4 billion — about one-fifth of the armed-teacher plan — with no annual incremental cost.
To assuage anti-"Big Gub'mint" fears, there could be a federal license to carry with reasonable qualifications, e.g., an age limit; training requirement and certification; documentation while in possession; storage and protection obligations... Such a license might carry fees roughly equivalent to a passport, around $200 initially plus a periodic renewal. Further open and honest dialogue could work that out. Thus we protect the Second Amendment, as we should for a host of reasons.
Summary of Alternative
- Less expensive
- Radically reduces the likelihood of mass murder with assault rifles.
- Losers: Gun manufacturers.
- Winners: Everyone else.
- We won't count those, either, but you might want to.
The nay-sayers are probably right that nothing can entirely eliminate the possibility of mass shootings, but this is about probabilities, not metaphysics, and imperfection is no excuse for inaction..
Trump stated that the U.S. should admit more immigrants from Norway. In a recent meeting with the leader of Norway he announced the sale of F52 fighter jets, planes that only exist in a video game. However, the main problem with his statement is that very few people from Norway WANT to immigrate to the U.S.
I'm reminded of the time Lyndon Johnson misread the name of the RS-71 as SR-71 during a speech, whereupon the Pentagon renamed the spy plane (on the fly, as it were) to Johnson's version. Today, of course, our Fearless Leader would change its name to TRUMP FIGHTER 1 and try to charge the government for the use of his name.
They're baa-aack. Now it's the RAISE Act (look up the stupid acronym yourself.)
You need at least 30 points to be eligible.
Hypothetical review for a certain person living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC.
How old are you?
> 50, 0 points.
What’s your highest level of education?
US bachelors, 5 points
What’s your English ability?
Good, 10 points
Do you have a job offer?
No, 0 points
(It is unlikely anyone would offer this person a job based on prior service or current recommendations.)
Do you have a Nobel Prize or major international award?
No, 0 points
Have you won an Olympic medal in the past 8 years?
No, surprisingly given this person’s status as the most fit leader in US history, 0 points
Do you plan on investing money (foreign currency) in the US?
No. Despite substantial purported foreign currency holdings, this person prefers to invest abroad in countries with authoritarian, non-democratic governments, and repatriating such holdings would require reporting via IRS, 0 points
I make that 15 points.
Source: Time Magazine
Trump on Health Care. Interesting: Apparently Obamacare was passed before Obama was first elected. (Watch today's speech by DJT in which he alludes to "seventeen" years of Obamacare.) And nothing but what's wrong; little or at best hype about what's coming to replace it.
It’s easy to find anecdotal examples of failure to help a particular individual in any system. In the aggregate O’care has made about ten percent more Americans eligible for insurance. The whole concept of insurance revolves around the greatest good for the greatest number; it can never promise perfect outcomes for every person. There is no functional issue keeping insurers from participation in exchanges; they just don’t want to cut their marginal profits or — heaven forbid — actually have to deliver on their policies.
Insurers must be required to adhere to minimum standards and compete on quality, not on cost minimization. That is the only way they can ultimately avoid a government takeover of the health care system.
Almost from its founding, the US Supreme Court has been subject to political stress and strain, as successive presidents have sought to create a preference for their own views of both short and long-term issues. Recently the Senate leadership has used the requirement that it consent to judicial appointments to block or to accelerate the seating of new justices of the supreme and other courts, whether to liberalize or constrain the behavior of the courts purely for partisan reasons.
Recognizing the possibility that this might occur, the Founders’ only solution was to institute lifetime appointments to federal courts that would transcend the tenure of any given president or congress. That was in an era in which few citizens had ever left their own state, learned a foreign language, earned a university or law school diploma or indeed subjected themselves to the competitive aspects of a society of 300 million people, and when the primary criteria to be considered for a court seat were that one be adult, white, male and acceptable to the current power structure. In the modern world, that solution is inadequate and has often resulted in the appointment of relative non-entities to the Supreme Court. There are probably much better ways to manage a court system in the modern era.
Imagine a “Supreme Court System” to replace the current arbitrary grouping. The members of the court hearing any given case would be drawn from among a set of eligible justices on the various appellate courts -- from which many of the Supremes are now drawn anyway -- assigned at random. They need not all be in the same place, as they could share everything, both written and oral, by telecommunication, as most appellate cases are not heard but read, with oral argument being only a supplementary part of the review and often omitted. Where used, oral argument can be presented over the Internet, as was done in the recent Hawaii-based hearings on travel restrictions.
There are currently 169 members of the appellate circuits. If that number were increased, let’s say to 200, or even doubled, there would be adequate judicial time to hear the cases now before the Supreme Court (only a tiny minority of cases are ultimately resolved by the SC). Each case could be examined by a group of nine selected randomly (or perhaps five or seven for cases not involving constitutional or other truly national issues) from among the 200. For quality control, if necessary, eligibility for SC cases could be limited to the senior half of the appellate justices, whereby the qualifications of the justices on any given case would be at least comparable to the current politically selected jurists. Randomization effects would diminish partisan influence.
This approach could also make more cases suitable for SC review, giving both fairness and finality to many cases now declined by the SC. The SC could also be extended to a full work year; the current arrangement is determined in part by the awful summer weather in DC, which should hardly be part of a decision process that can involve life and death.
The Constitution does not prohibit such a change. It would be well within the law to change the role of the Chief Justice to one of administration and assignment of the five, seven, nine, etc., justices to individual cases (the Constitution leaves rules of court structure and management to Congress). The cost of the courts might rise somewhat, but the increased efficiencies and the reduced time and travel required of litigants, lawyers and judges would offset much of the increase, and litigants would be more likely able to get on with their lives. The suggested changes would also in a heartbeat increase the probable socioeconomic diversity of the members of the court hearing any given case, making the justices more like peers than superiors of the litigants.
Such a change should be acceptable across political lines. Both conservatives and liberals have been heard to complain about decisions being made in “far off Washington DC” that could be made closer to the action.
We are not well served by the current politically charged court. It is time to review the implementation of Article III of the Constitution and bring the Supreme Court into the 21st Century.
Copyright © 2017 A. Rees Clark
Here are some complaints about government you might recognize, updated and distinguished by "Ancient" and "Modern" to reflect the idea that the more things change the more they stay the same. It appears there is little to no difference between inherited monarchy and willful usurpation of authority.
The ancient "he" was George III. We leave identification of the modern "he" to you.
Ancient: Ancient: He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
Modern: He has made it exceedingly easy for States to avoid enforcing Federal law, and has neglected to attend to them.
Example: Allowing states to evade low income provisions of ACA.
Ancient: He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
Modern: He has with the connivance of his political affiliates sought to disenfranchise large numbers of voters based solely on complex and irrelevant documentation of eligibility or to favor certain forms of documentation over others albeit their equivalence.
Example: Arbitrary and discriminatory voter registration rules demonstrably for the purpose of restricting voting by classes of citizens.
Ancient: He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
Modern: He has conducted the business of state at undisclosed or private and inaccessible locations, for the purposes of his persoal convenience or to obscure the existence or content of such conduct.
Example: Numerous private meetings with business associates, intermediaries and foreign government officials at his own private venues.
Ancient: He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
Modern: He has declined to nominate managers or administrators of major and lesser Federal offices and judgeships, whereby the citizens are deprived of essential Federal services.
Example: After three months only a handful of the over 500 senior officials of the Federal government subject to Senate confirmation have been nominated and/or confirmed.
Ancient: He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
Modern: He has imposed untenable conditions on the Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to accommodate migration hither; ignoring the impending natural decrease of native-born populations that will inexorably lead to social and economic decline.
Example: He has ordered or proposed numerous discriminatory barriers to entry and naturalization based on such unconstitutional grounds as national origin or religion; preferring instead to base immigration policy on economic benefit to corporations and financial manipulators.
Ancient: He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
Modern: He with his political affiliaes has failed to appoint or confirm Justices of the various Federal Courts.
Example: As of May 13, 2017, 129 of 890 judgeships are vacent, and only nine persons have been nominated and eight confirmed.
Ancient: He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
Modern: He has essayed to make Judges answerable to himself on matters of law; and has impugned their legal decisions by derision or personal insult.
Example: He has denigrated numerous judges of the Federal Courts for a multitude of decisions, based solely on his personal disagreement with them, regardless of his utter lack of legal or judicial training.
Ancient: He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
Modern: He has rendered certain agencies impotent by leaving key positions unfilled, by ignoring his obligation to properly adminster the government; or he has appointed administrators who lack substantive knowledge of are in fact opposed to the purpose and practices of their own agencies.
Example: A secretary of commerce opposed to the regulation of financial institutions; a secretary
Ancient: He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
Ancient: He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
Modern: He has appointed military officials to civilian offices.
Example: J. Mattis as Secretary of Defense and H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor; though many of the security challenges we face are non-military offenses by non-state actors essentially immune to military defense and better suited control by legal or police power or international cooperation.
Ancient: He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
Modern: He has entered into unexplained relationships with foreign dictators of countries inimimcal to our national interest; providing no or little explanation of the intent of such relationships or what quid pro quo may be involved.
Example: Can you name a good reason to praise Putin, Kim, Duterte, etc.?
Ancient: He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
Modern: He has charged his followers with imposing physical harm upon opponents of his personal beliefs, statements and actions during extra governmental rallies.
Example: Assaults on protesters at campaign and post-election rallies perpetrated by spoken approval of violence even against silent protesters based solely on their appearance or attire.
Ancient: ... A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Modern: There is no possible improvement on Jefferson's conclusion.
I am recalling CA Rep. Charles Wiggins (R) nearly dissolving into tears as he cast his vote for impeachment of Richard Nixon in 1974 along with several of his Republican colleagues, putting country ahead of party. He was not alone in his emotions, as both Democrats and Republicans voted for impeachment with difficulty. In those days, Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" still resonated with the citizenry and its leaders.
Like most Americans, I hope the implications of the importune interactions with Russian government officials and intelligence operatives turn out to be innocent. Perhaps Michael Flynn acted alone, but as with L.H. Oswald, we need to know. Flynn’s own assertion that he is a scapegoat implies otherwise.
So far the present Congress is silent, letting the current scandals over Flynn and other Trump associates fester without prospect of investigation by the people's representatives. This reticence is disappointing at best. One awaits with curiosity the first volume of "Profiles in Pusillanimity." --Rees Clark
According to leading purveyors of "alternative facts" there were about three million persons "illegally" registered to vote in 2016. One rather insecure candidate has claimed that all the “illegal” votes were cast for HIS opponent; a shocking claim, and one that bears investigation. We may find that fraud is not the right problem to investigage.
The current estimate of the voting age population is 231 million of the total population of about 322 million, or 71.7 percent. Write that down. In fact only 130 million (56%) of the eligible voters actually voted. That is 56% of 71.7%. Write that down.
About 2.4 million persons died in the USA during 2016, which deaths are not automatically cross-tabulated with voter registrations in any state as far as we know*. Most deaths are among elderly people, and death is rare among persons under 21, so we can fairly safely estimate that about two million eligible voters died.
Consider also that in 2015 some 51 million persons moved from one state to another. Applying the same ratio of voters:population, the number of voters moving would be about 71.7% of 51 million, or 26.3 million*.
The combined total of “lost voters” is thus 2.4 + 26.3 million, or 28.7 million. An unknown number of the 26.3 million re-registered in another state, but there is no simple way to correlate those registrations. These numbers will repeat in each national election, roughly proportionally to the changing size of the population. For argument’s sake we will assume that half re-register in time to vote in the ensuing election, reducing the “lost” voters to about 15.5 million.
If three million persons actually voted improperly of the 130 million voting that would be 2.3% of all persons voting. Precinct sizes vary from state to state from about 1,100 (KS) to about 2,700 (DC). That means that on average from 25 to 62 persons slipped through in each precinct despite the presence of poll watchers from both parties and sworn officials checking lists, and those numbers must be increased by removing from the tallies all persons voting absentee or otherwise by mail, which votes are much harder to fake, at least here in Washington State. Frankly, we think we could take those claims and happily wash our hog with them. So... three million? Don't write that down.
Even if we accept the fraud estimates, the current state by state registration system hypothetically allows three million to vote who shouldn’t while actually disenfranchising over 15 million who should and failing to involve 100 million who abstain. We also see a large, national political party hell-bent to apply a full court press to increase the actual 15 million while wringing its hands over the hypothetical three million and ignoring the disengaged 100 million.
Only you can decide which distresses you more as a resident of a democracy. Would you direct your efforts toward punishing the guilty (or merely careless) or toward engaging the uninvolved?
(* Please, prove us wrong about cross-tabbing; perhaps some states actually do it, though it's unlikely that any state includes deaths in a different state, making any cross-tabulation suspect; kindly cite your sources. Also, the mortality and mobility numbers vary only slightly by year, so that really is insignificant, but pick such nit as you wish. We understand this article is a long slog, but these are the weeds through which you must hack your way if any improvement in recent dismal US voting patterns is to be achieved.)
The Trump Immigrant Exclusion Wall is a long, expensive row to hoe, and it will bear either bitter fruit or none at all. DT estimated $10bn. to $15bn. during the campaign. NO ONE accepts that figure. The parts of the border now having no fence are the easiest terrain on which to build. Using a consensus estimate equal to the average of five analysts, that wall would cost about $22.9bn, or $12.7 million per mile.
Of course that’s only about $73 per capita for each person in the US population, so some will consider it cheap. But that’s not the only consideration.
Let’s suppose the estimates of undocumented population of about 11 million are correct and that half of that number are adults and that those adults work on average half time at the average state minimum wage of around $11.50 (the federal minimum wage is $7.25). Those 5.5 million workers would earn $65.7bn and contribute about $26bn in taxes, assuming the average tax:income ratio (including all local, state and federal taxes).
Using a common economic multiplier of 5.0, that would mean undocumented workers expand the US economy by about (5X65.7bn) or $300bn per year. Others
have estimated different amounts, and we don't pretend to be well trained economists, but that seems like a lot to give up just so some benighted fools won’t have to hear Spanish in the lunch room.
wrote that About $7bn. has been spent building 653 miles of fencing now considered inadequate by the anti-foreign crowd. $7bn ÷ 653 = $10 million per mile or $19bn. for the whole 1,900 miles.
has estimates ranging from $15bn to $25bn, averaging $20bn.
calculated: $16Mm per mile for the 1,300 miles now unfenced, but much of that fence would need replacement. Assuming replacement of 300 miles plus 1,300 new miles, the estimated cost would be $25.6bn.
MIT Technology Review
stated: Components: Concrete $9bn; steel $4.6bn; labor $27 to $40bn. Taking the average labor estimate, the wall would cost (9+4.6+33.5=) $46.9bn.
: Their estimate was very similar, may I repeat, very similar, to that of Business Insider.
Yesterday I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. I am disclosing my vote, which I usually do not, for two reasons. First, as my own immediate and extended family has become more international than ever before, I don’t wish to see our nation more divided by ethnic strife. We should take advantage of our cultural diversity, not be afraid or shrink from it. (Yo no tengo miedo cuando oigo los idiomas que no entiendo. 私たちは一緒に強いです。)
Second, I have a dear friend who has two daughters who will come of age as young women during the tenure of the next president. I cannot abide the thought of them reaching maturity knowing that the president of the United States thinks of them as chattels, to be used and discarded. We are better than that.
Every member of our society deserves to be respected, heard and lifted up by both rhetoric and action. The alternative of a dog eat dog, we versus them, devil take the hindmost nation will lead us only to despair and bitterness, which is not what I want for my children, my friend’s children or yours.
Neoconservative columnist Robert Kagan warned in a Washington Post column (http://www.businessinsider.com/robert-kagan-trump-2016-5) published May 19, 2016, that the "Republican Party's attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic.” and that Trump could be putting America on a path to "fascist” rule.
"Trump has transcended the party that produced him," Kagan wrote. "His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. ... Their allegiance is to him and him alone.”
In both republican and imperial Rome, contending factions were often allied with popular generals whose independent armies wrestled for control of regions or greater Rome itself for hundreds of years. Many of them used the traditional “fasces” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasces) as a symbol of their power and legitimacy. In the end, these internecine battles came to be more important than the defense of the empire, which was then dismembered by marauders from the margins.
In 1920s Russia and Italy, 1930s Germany, Japan, Spain…, one dictator after another came to power somewhat legitimately and then consolidated its power into an absolute form. Those countries are now in the fourth and fifth generation of atonement for their past. Italy’s political, religious and social fragmentation has lasted for 1,500 years.
The substitution of personal for national loyalty is always and unambiguously a threat to any political system. We are not immune. Kagan’s observations are especially noteworthy due to his conservative orientation and illustrate the nexus of conservatism and liberalism that have traditional formed the core of our transcendant national principles.
If the presidential candidates wanted to make useful points about the future energy
economy, one might be the value added if we switch to new sources. Here are some typical wages for low-end energy jobs and prospective replacements.
A Coal Mine Worker earns an average wage of $21.63 per hour. People in this job generally don't have more than 20 years' experience. Experience has a moderate effect on salary for this job. A rooftop installer of solar panels earns about the same amount and works where no explosive dust fills the air or the worker's lungs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 51,540 (oil field) roustabouts employed nationwide as of May 2011. These workers earned an average of $34,680 a year, or $16.67 an hour. Those working specifically in the oil and gas extraction industry earned $35,590 a year, or $17.11 an hour, on average, about 3 percent higher than the overall average for the profession. One ad reviewed today for 9 positions in a single solar project management firm averaged just under $40,000, ranging from $27,000 to $57,000 per year.
Even the briefest review of the old extractive and new implementation industries shows more potential for the latter, and the number of positions is growing rather than shrinking. States like West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and others relying on old modes of energy production should now be looking at investing in education for the new world of non-fossil-fuel modes, and the candidates should be more specific in defining the types of programs they will implement to move in that direction. Of course one can anticipate that the major party candidates will take very different views of the options available.
Much is made in some quarters this season of excluding “Muslims” or “Islam” from the USA. Religious intolerance has a long and storied history in America, going back to protestant, witch hunting Massachusetts and struggles in initially catholic Maryland in the 17th Century. Supporters of this attitude are many, sadly.
Background: In Arabic, the word “Islam” means submission or surrender – however, it was derived from the root word “salam”. From this root word, you can also derive the words peace and safety. Many people feel that Islam implies some sort of enslavement to Allah, but others find it more helpful to define the word “Islam” as surrender.
Many religions have a concept of surrender to God. In Jewish history, when the ancient Hebrews obeyed God’s commands, they had a long period of prosperity and stability.
In Christianity, surrendering to God is a way of putting your life into more capable hands – in fact, Jesus asked many of his disciples to surrender their livelihoods and follow him.
So, if we look at the word ‘Islam’ in this way, we can understand why obeying Allah’s commands and trusting in Allah’s wisdom could bring about peace for a Muslim.
The word does not represent a one-sided relationship, where the believer is enslaved to Allah. Rather, the word Islam indicates a covenant between Allah and his followers, where a Muslim surrenders his or her will to Allah in return for peace or safety. (Source
In secular America, the parallel concept is that we have a social contract with one another, obliging us to consider the well-being of our fellow citizens in addition to our own. It’s a Golden Rule without God, which leaves each person to seek — or not to seek — God in his/her own way without the intercession of the state. This, and a whole lot of relatively unpopulated land (yes, I know about the Native Americans), is how we have mostly managed not to be at one another’s throats these past 200-plus years. Everyone is free to believe as he/she chooses, but no one, and not the state, may compel others to believe or pretend to believe.
Now as to exclusionary practice based on fear, let’s look not at words but at numbers. There are about 1.2 billion Muslims, which looks like a lot more expressed as 1,200,000.000. There are about 30,000 ISIS/Daesh fighters plus perhaps as many as 100,000 to 200,000 somewhat subscribe but are not actively combative, according to various sources one might cite. Dividing by the 1.2 billion, population 30,000 is about two tenths of one percent of all Muslims, and 200,000 is about 1.6 percent. Only a tiny fraction of those extremists reside in the US, and even if they did, the largest of those groups is outnumbered by loyal Muslim-Americans (roughly 2 million adults) about ten to one.
Most American Muslims are (or are descended from) people who came here for the same reasons as all other immigrants: (1) to improve their economic condition and/or (2) to escape religiously intolerant governments. They are indeed our best defense against the intrusion of intolerance and extremist ideology based on cherry-picking the Koran for its most anti-modern elements.
As we non-believers say, "peace be upon us."
Anderson Cooper Offers No Apology for Slandering Bernie Sanders
By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
19 October 15
Who was the richest person in CNN’s Democratic presidential debate?
The richest person in the Democratic presidential candidate debate on October 10 was not a candidate. The richest person on that Las Vegas stage was CNN moderator and Vanderbilt heir Anderson Cooper, whose $100 million net worth ($100,000,000) is greater than all the candidates’ worth combined (about $84,000,000). In a very real, if unspoken sense, this “debate” was more like an exclusive club interview with Cooper vetting the applicants for their class credentials.
These class aspects of the debate went unmentioned. In American politics, class issues have traditionally gone unmentioned. The tacit understanding is that if you have the bad taste to ask, then you have no class. If you have class, you will have the right opinions. This year is different because of Bernie Sanders, part of whose popular appeal is that he is so clearly the scion of no great wealth and even less pretension. Sanders is calling for a social revolution against the ruling class of millionaires and billionaires, yet even he did not publicly object to having multi-millionaire Anderson Cooper of the One Per Cent running the show. Sanders likely understands that his best chance to win is not to confront the rich, but to surround them with everyone else whose net worth is more like his ($700,000) or less.
Net worth is notoriously hard to pin down with any accuracy, but ballpark figures are good enough at the highest levels, even if the numbers usually come from the candidates themselves. In a candidates’ net worth listing published October 13, the Democrats were evaluated as follows (with an alternative set of estimates in parenthesis):
Hillary Clinton: $45 million ($31.2 herself, with Bill $111 million)
Lincoln Chaffee: $32 million ($31.9 million, mostly his wife’s trust)
Jim Webb: $6 million ($4.6 million)
Bernie Sanders: $700,000 ($528,014)
Martin O’Malley: $-0- ($256,000)
By one recent measure, it takes a net worth of $1.2 million, minimum, to make it into the top One Per Cent of richest Americans (usually accompanied by pre-tax income of more than $300,000 annually). A US senator’s salary is $192,600, which is amplified significantly by perks and benefits.
Cooper’s life of wealth illuminates his gift as a glib carnival barker
Like most debate moderators, Anderson Cooper seemed most interested in promoting a food fight among the candidates. While he had snark for everyone, his most provocative and least conscionable jibes were saved for Sanders, served up with class-based relish.
What does yellow journalism red-baiting sound like? Cooper started with the lurking horror of every unjustifiably rich person:
“Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?”
How could such a horror happen in America? That’s the question he seems to be asking. But to ask it that way, Cooper has to be deceitful and spin the Gallup poll to fit his meaning (Cooper’s spin reflects the conventional coverage of the poll at the time). The real news from the June 2015 poll was that 47% of Americans were OK with electing a “socialist” (not further defined by pollsters). That 47% is more than past polls, and those opposed to a “socialist” make up only 50%, a difference close to the margin of error. In other words, more than a year from the presidential election, Gallup finds America more or less neutral on the question of whether or not a candidate is “any kind of socialist.” For a Bernie kind of socialist, the simple answer to getting elected is to make the kind of progress in the next year that he’s made in the past six months.
Cooper’s approach uses “socialism” as something that is by definition pejorative and comes out of a deep, common bias in the US. The American ruling class has cultivated fear of “socialism” for close to two centuries, not because it’s a threat to people’s freedom but because it’s a threat to the wealth and power of people like the 158 families funding most of the 2016 race for the presidency.
Anderson Coopers class roots: Vanderbilt, Dalton, Yale, CIA
Anderson Cooper was not only born into wealth and power, he has lived the life of that class, as even his official CNN bio affirms. After attending New York’s Dalton School, Cooper graduated from Yale College in 1989 with a BA in political science and two summer internships at the CIA. He also studied Vietnamese at the University of Hanoi.
Cooper kept his CIA experience in the closet until September 2006, when an unnamed web site reported that Cooper had worked for the CIA. Cooper responded on his CNN blog in minimizing, dismissive fashion. He said the website didn’t have its facts straight, but cited no errors. His own facts are well fudged – “for a couple of months over two summers I worked at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia…. It was pretty bureaucratic and mundane.” Cooper doesn’t say what he did (of course) or even what years he was there (1987 and 1988, in the aftermath of William J. Casey’s directorship). Whatever Cooper did at the CIA, he was there when the CIA was running an illegal war in Nicaragua (and another in El Salvador) and the agency’s activities were subject to serious congressional efforts to curb them (the Boland Amendment).
When Sanders offered no direct answer to the question of how a “socialist” could win a general election, Cooper followed up more vituperatively and dishonestly:
“The question is really about electability here, and that’s what I’m trying to get at. You — the — the Republican attack ad against you in a general election — it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist. Doesn’t — doesn’t that ad write itself?”
Cooper’s first dishonesty here is asking the “electability” question here only of Sanders. Yes, everyone assumes Hillary Clinton is “electable,” but O’Malley, Chaffee, or Webb? They’re not even as close to getting nominated as Sanders. Why would anyone assume they’re electable in anything but a flip-of-the-coin sense? Cooper’s addressing the electability question only to Sanders may actually be a measure of how strong Cooper believes Sanders is or may be.
Then Cooper stated: “You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.” He said it as if there were no question that supporting the Sandinistas was a really bad thing. That’s the talking point on Breitbart, National Review, and other right-wing sites for whom Cooper was carrying water. On Just Foreign Policy, Robert Naiman posted a prompt denunciation of Cooper for playing the knee-jerk, pro-war media honcho.
Cooper on record in support of illegal war supported by drug traffic
Supporting the Sandinistas in the 1980s was, and is, a principled position. The Sandinistas had overthrown the Somoza government, one of the most vicious of the US-backed dictatorships in Central America. President Reagan decided to wage an illegal covert war against the Sandinistas, using the CIA to recruit the Contra army to fight in Nicaragua, supported by CIA-supported drug traffic to the US. Cooper refers to none of this, which was all taking place while he was doing summer internships at the CIA. Is Cooper a CIA asset? Hard to know, but he plays one pretty well on TV. A Cooper-CIA tie is perfectly credible – there’s means, motive, and opportunity all round. And in 1988, Bob Woodward wasn’t getting any younger.
Supporting the illegal Contra war, run on drug money, is an unprincipled position, but Cooper clearly implies that it’s still his position. Like the US government, Cooper showed no respect for the International Court of Justice, which issued a 1986 ruling strongly supporting Nicaragua’s claims against the US, including the US mining of Nicaraguan harbors. The ruling awarded reparations to Nicaragua that the US never paid. The lone dissent in the decision came from Judge Stephen Schwebel, an American judge. The US defended its position in the UN Security Council in soviet-style, blocking any action with numerous vetoes. The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of Nicaragua, with only the US, El Salvador, and Israel opposed.
For Cooper to say that Sanders supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua would be high praise in most of the world. Only in the boxed-in, unilluminated world of American media can it pass for a criticism without bring the house down in laughter. That’s another of the US government successes brought on by secret agencies like the CIS and fellow-travelers like multi-millionaire Anderson Cooper.
Bernie Sanders challenged the yellow journalist on the issue of Hillary Clinton’s emails. His was an act of generosity and presidential stature. None of his fellow candidates had the courage or character to repudiate Cooper’s shameless red-baiting, not on Nicaragua, and not on his next slander, “You honeymooned in the Soviet Union.”
Integrity is not a quality Cooper showed much interest in
Almost surely Cooper knew that statement was a dishonest low blow, a neat way to brutalize the truth without actually lying. Again Cooper was irresponsibly peddling another right wing trope, used with similar hypocrisy by George Will and others.
As a Daily Kos blog details, the Sanders honeymoon was also part of a 1956 sister-cities program initiated by the Eisenhower administration. In 1988, Sanders and his wife Jane were married, marched in a Memorial Day parade, then headed off to the Russian city of Yaroslavl on their “honeymoon.” Somehow that doesn’t have the same impact as when Anderson Cooper lies about it.
Cooper’s last dishonesty was: “And just this weekend you said you’re not a capitalist.” Once again Cooper acted as if that was an undeniable evil, case closed. But the instance he referred to on NBC was not so simple, and Cooper provided no context. On NBC, Sanders bristled when his interviewer asked if Sanders was a “socialist,” since Sanders has referred to himself a “democratic socialist” for decades. Sanders asked the NBC toady parrot if he ever asked others if they were “capitalists” and the guy cowered out. He asked Sanders if he was a capitalist. And Sanders said, yet again, that he’s a democratic socialist.
Returning to his distorted framing bias, a “Republican attack ad,” Cooper asked, “Doesn’t that ad write itself?” Well, so what if it does? That just means Republican ad writers have as little integrity as Cooper, and maybe that’s what they’re all paid for.
As Sanders put in on CNN at the end of his opening statement:“What this campaign is about is whether we can mobilize our people to take back our government from a handful of billionaires and create the vibrant democracy we know we can and should have.”
We are at the beginning of what might be a long learning curve as we find out what our country is truly about. Bernie Sanders offers an opportunity to look at realities in broad daylight and make up our minds about them. Anderson Cooper is but one of a legion of self-serving, self-preserving One Per Cent propagandists who will do all they can to keep the Sanders message in the dark.
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
According to US Sen. Bernie Sanders of VT, "The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it would cost $3.6 trillion to bring our nation's infrastructure to a state of good repair. Spending one trillion would create about 13 million jobs..." So, of course, I rushed to my spreadsheet.
$3.6 trillion borrowed at 4% for 40 years (the typical rate and term combination for US infrastructure projects) would cost about $64 per capita per month or $773 per year, assuming 200 million adult taxpayers. At the median wage of $17.09/hour (Citation) each adult would have to work about 52 minutes more per week to earn that extra tax money; of course better infrastructure would reduce that time requirement and improve the general economy, but my spreadsheet has no column for that. Of course we could do nothing and save that pittance of time and money, but why not be remembered as those who built or restored the bridge over the Columbia or the playground in our neighborhood?
In contrast, every year we spend $2,141 per capita (Citation) for our military, and that's for all citizens, not just taxpayers; using the 200MM taxpayers figure, the yearly amount is more like $3,500.
There are other costs. Many infrastructure projects are dangerous; in the current era about 9.5 workers per hundred thousand die in construction accidents yearly (2008-12, est., Citation). The senator estimates 13,000,000 "jobs," but it's not clear how many would be employed at any given time. If that number is half those who would ever be employed in such a work plan, or 6.5 million, then the number of annual deaths would be 9.5 ÷ 100,000 X 6,500,000, or 617, or about 15 per year over 40 years. For comparison, since the era of G.W. (Great Warrior) Bush, we've been burying about 4,000 soldiers per year.