Archive

October 9th, 2016

In Defense Of The Justice System

    This is not to defend a rapist. Nor is it to critique a movie. It is not to judge the guilt or innocence of the accused. It is purely and simply an attempt to emphasize the real intent of our justice system. After all, for all its faults it is still the best that humankind has been able to devise.

    Yes, our justice system makes mistakes, but still there is none other that comes any nearer to perfection; therefore we must accept the verdicts. With that in mind I was distressed to learn of the publicizing of old accusations regarding the actor-producer of the newly released movie version of "The Birth of a Nation." For the record let it be stated that not being a movie buff I had never heard of the name of the actor/director. Nor did I have any idea that this movie depicting an historical event in our history was being filmed.

    Actually my lack of knowledge matters not except to emphasize that my purpose is only to educate on a Constitutional principle as well as to note that as a nation claiming a Christian heritage there is also the part of forgiveness. Once the system has rendered its verdict the accused has paid her/his debt to society according to the legal system.

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Hillary Clinton’s Poisoned Prize

    Perhaps something extraordinary will happen in the second debate, or in the third. Maybe there’s some other surprise in the offing. Barring that, it really does look and feel as if Hillary Clinton is wrapping this thing up. I expect that on Nov. 9, the morning after the vote, we’ll be talking about the election of the first female president of the world’s most powerful nation.

    And we’ll be breathing an epic sigh of relief: that Donald Trump isn’t bound for the White House; that the ugliness of the campaign is at last behind us.

    But, oh, the ugliness still ahead.

    Trump isn’t going anywhere, nor are his provocations. It was the birther conspiracy yesterday; it will be something else tomorrow. And Clinton isn’t trading war for peace. Her presidency, should it indeed happen, will be a battle royal. The circumstances surrounding it are as politically daunting and inhospitable to accomplishment as those facing any of her predecessors over the last half-century.

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Why we ignore thousands of killings in the Philippines: The victims were drug users

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recently admitted what has been plain since he took office and the killings started: He's committing genocide. "Hitler massacred 3 million Jews," he said. (The actual number is 6 million). "Now . . . there's 3 million drug addicts . . . I'd be happy to slaughter them," to "finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition."

    Nearly 3,000 people have already been gunned down, either by police or vigilante death squads, encouraged by Duterte, who has promised immunity. About 600,000 have also turned themselves in, many now caged in hideously crowded prisons that already look like concentration camps.

    But most of the world has remained silent. President Obama has not publicly condemned these actions, and the United States actually pledged $32 million in aid to support Philippine law enforcement -- and not only for the usual political reasons. Instead, this genocide is being ignored because, for too long, the dehumanization of people who use drugs and calls for their death have been an acceptable part of the "drug war."

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Trump's greed helped ruin Atlantic City. The rest of the country could be next

    At 5:59 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 10 - the Trump Taj Mahal, once Donald Trump's greatest real estate hope, will shutter its doors. Nearly 3,000 people will lose their jobs, their pensions and possibly their homes.

    Last week, I watched as Trump was nearly held accountable at the first presidential debate for laying the groundwork for this city-wide catastrophe. I watched Hillary Clinton take him to task for reneging on hundreds of contracts with local laborers. But the Donald just pursed his lips and shrugged, saying that was what "our country should do, too."

    I am watching people rally around a man who thinks that what America needs is to cheat itself.

    For an Atlantic City native like me, it's a bitter pill to swallow. My parents both worked in the casinos; my mom was assigned seniority number 13 of the 500 cocktail waitresses hired to staff the Taj when it opened in 1990. Throughout my childhood, Trump was a blowhard bogeyman figure, a name synonymous with aggressively claiming credit for any success in the vicinity, and bailing when things go wrong.

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Mike Pence is what you get when you add a veneer of seriousness to Donald Trump

    When Mike Pence was selected as Donald Trump's running mate, the descriptions followed a familiar pattern: "a sober, conservative legislator" (The Atlantic), "a seasoned politician who could help bring together disparate blocs of the Republican coalition" (The Washington Post) and "the best choice Trump could have made" (the political blog FiveThirtyEight).

    On Tuesday, after the vice-presidential debate, the pattern continued: The National Review deemed him "more serious, more mature, more knowledgeable, more his own man, more presidential" than his opponent, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia. On MSNBC, Chris Matthews said that Pence "came across as a grown-up." Overseas, the French newspaper Le Monde ran the headline that Pence "rekindled the Republican flame."

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I don't like Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party. I'm voting for them anyway.

    Imagine: You spend weeks wondering if your spouse is cheating on you. You ask him about it, and he denies it. Then one day, you find his emails clearly showing that he has been cheating. You confront him, and he shrugs it off. You see no remorse in him. If anything, you see contempt. You start entertaining dark thoughts in your suffering. One night while you're fighting, an intruder breaks into your house. The intruder points a gun at both of you and threatens to hurt you and your children. Do you keep fighting your spouse, or do you try to figure out how both of you and the children can make it out alive?

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Who’s Sorry Now? The Country

    I don’t know about you, but I’m totally exhausted by the public’s obsession with the vice-presidential debate. Everywhere I go, people are babbling about Mike Pence and Tim Kaine! Who knew it would be so electric? The world can’t stop talking about Veep Vitriole.

    OK, I made that up. I’m sorry. Nobody is talking about the vice-presidential debate at all. This was really just a sneaky way to introduce the subject of apologies.

    It came up in the debate, during an argument over who had the most “insult-driven campaign.” Pence saw an opening to mention that Hillary Clinton had once described half of Donald Trump’s followers as a racist, sexist, homophobic “basket of deplorables.” Kaine retorted that at least Clinton had apologized.

    Which is true. Clinton said she regretted being “grossly generalistic, and that’s never a good idea.” It would have worked if she had not prefaced her original “deplorables” remark — made at a private fundraising event — with, “To just be grossly generalistic …”

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U.S. corporate-tax reform is just around the corner

    For all the partisan squabbling in this bizarre election year, a consensus has emerged in one important area: The U.S. corporate-tax system is broken.

    No matter who wins on Nov. 8, there's surprising agreement that change is coming. To get ready, think tanks are pumping out reform proposals, tax experts are updating their research and Congress is holding hearings.

    Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have plans. But the one most popular among politicians and scholars is by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is offering a type of consumption tax to fix a multitude of problems with the existing code. His plan, however, could destabilize U.S. financial markets, especially the bond market. It may also violate the U.S.'s trade commitments.

    The ease with which multinational corporations avoid taxes is just one of many problems with the existing tax code. The top U.S. rate of 35 percent, the highest in the industrialized world, pushes companies to game the system. A good example is Apple's sweetheart deal with Ireland, in which Apple created "stateless income" and paid an effective tax rate of 0.005 percent.

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The vice-presidential debate deteriorates into a messy brawl

    Tim Kaine's strategy in Tuesday night's vice presidential debate was to go after Donald Trump frontally, over and over again, and to challenge Mike Pence to defend his running mate. Pence's strategy was to evade defending Trump, shake his head, pretend Trump hadn't said the things that Trump said -- and then move on to attacks against Hillary Clinton.

    Kaine was feisty, a lawyer eager to prosecute his case. Pence was polished, his deep voice recalling his talk show host past. Kaine was eager to challenge and sometimes interrupt Pence. Pence wanted certain issues -- Trump's failure to release his income tax returns, for example -- to go away. Kaine seemed fully comfortable turning back Pence's attacks on Clinton. Pence loyally defended Trump where he could, but he acted as if he were reluctant to walk away from the debate owning all of Trump's record.

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The Stumpf Banking System

    “Stumpf” is a German adjective for someone who’s obtuse, slow on the uptake, imperceptive, or to put it bluntly, stupid.

    Ironically, it also happens to be the surname of Wells Fargo’s CEO, who’s now mired in the most shameful banking scandal yet. For seven years or so, John Stumpf has presided over a venal bank policy, pressuring Wells Fargo’s retailing employees into systematically stealing from particularly vulnerable, low-income customers of the bank.

    During this time, he padded his own fortune with more than $100 million in personal pay. When this mass rip-off was recently exposed, Stumpf — the big boss getting the big bucks to be in charge — pleaded ignorance.

    In an act of what Senator Elizabeth Warren called “gutless leadership,” he publicly blamed the corrupt corporate culture on thousands of the bank’s low-level employees.

    But the chief wasn’t the only stumpf at Wells Fargo. Where were its board members, who are empowered and duty-bound to set, monitor, and assure ethical corporate behavior from the top down?

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