All posts filed under: Current Events and Scattered Scribbles

Tax reform?

By now you have perhaps been hearing stories about how the highly touted Trump tax cut isn’t working so great for some in the middle class. Tax season is off to a slower start this year, with early filers seeing smaller average refunds. The average refund is down about 8% under the first full year of the overhauled tax code, according to data released by the IRS on Friday. Refunds averaged $1,865 compared to $2,035 for tax year 2017. Per CNN

“I’ll be the bad guy”

AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) had another marvelous media moment, at a House committee hearing. It was just five minutes, and the video of her interaction went viral (see below). She was loose and relaxed, asking the small panel of experts some questions in a hypothetical scenario where AOC said that she would be “the bad guy,” the politician with no moral center who wanted to have the system and profit and exploit the democratic political process. What’s to stop me? she asked.

“America will never be a socialist country”

Per Fox News, President Trump dramatically vowed during his State of the Union address on Tuesday that “America will never be a socialist country,” in an apparent rebuke to self-described Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders that drew loud cheers and a standing ovation from Republicans in the House chamber — as well as supportive applause from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez had the perfect zinger of a response, as usual: “I thought it was great. I think he’s scared.” I think it’s great too. I was pretty stoked when I heard that Trump bashed socialism, with the eyes of the nation upon him. Having our tempestuous Tweeter in Chief condemn socialism in the State of the Union Address is the kind of exposure you just can’t buy, which is something that a promotional genius like Trump should be able to appreciate, which of course begs the question: Is Trump, himself, a Socialist? Is he using his plummeting popularity to drive people to socialism?

O Bernie, Bernie, wherefore art thou Bernie?

I was shopping at a local bookstore in downtown Santa Cruz over my lunch break the other day, looking for a California wall map. I didn’t find the wall map but there were a lot of other groovy things and on my way out I saw that there were Trump countdown clocks for sale at the register. For many it might be too soon to think about 2020 Presidential politics, but I imagine there are more people taking an early interest in the Democratic candidates than is typical..especially for those of you with Trump countdown clocks.

Pity the billionaire

Elizabeth Warren had a zinger the other day in response to criticism from the next billionaire Presidential wannabe, Howard Schultz, who said that he is running for President in response to the fact that Warren is running on a sensible idea of a wealth tax. She said, “We have a billionaire who says he wants to jump into the race and the first issue he’s raised is ‘no new taxes on billionaires.’ Let’s see where that goes.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: The Ice Cream Socialist

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. To me AOC seems like a breath of fresh air. Of course it might just be my own thing, because I’m still somewhat stunned at the fact that democratic socialists are actually in mainstream politics now. That’s just seems incredibly surreal, despite the fact that it’s at least a half century overdue.

Martin Luther King was no prophet of unity. He was a radical | Bhaskar Sunkara

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of one of my favorite publications, the brilliant Jacobin Magazine, a take on socialism and democracy that is at the same time intellectually rigorous yet funny and unpretentious. He had a great little piece on MLK that appeared in the Guardian. Her opens with a provocative bit of political history: In 1983, 15 years after King’s death, 22 senators voted against an official holiday honoring him on the third Monday in January. The North Carolina senator Jesse Helms undertook a 16-day filibuster of the bill, claiming that King’s “action-oriented Marxism” was “not compatible with the concepts of this country”. He was joined in his opposition by Senators John McCain, Orrin Hatch, and Chuck Grassley, among others. Sunkara thinks that they weren’t wrong, back in 1983, to still view MLK’s true principles as a threat to the power and privilege, a hierarchy that these politicians were working to protect.

Postmodern Prez

I was listening to the evening news tonight, on my commute home from work and heard the recap of Trump’s visit to the border, as part of his attempt to manufacture a border crises so as to 1) deflect attention from the mounting evidence that Trump knowingly worked with the Russians to win the 2016 election and 2) legitimate Trump’s use of “emergency powers.” (I don’t expect that the government shutdown will end anytime soon because the main purpose is to deflect attention from Trump’s dirty deeds in 2016.) They played a sound byte from Trump. He sounded a little shrill, but that only helps to ramp up the hysteria, and Trump needs hysteria. The so-called “news media” is all using the same term, Trump said, calling it a “manufactured crisis.” But it’s not a manufactured crisis, Trump said, rather the news media is manufacturing the term “manufactured crisis.” Perhaps in response, critics of Trump would say that he’s manufacturing the idea of manufacturing a “manufactured crisis.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is your Postmodern President. …

Road Trip: Zion National Park

A few months ago, in early October, I took a road trip through southern Utah, visiting four National Parks along the way: Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands. It was the beginning of an extended trip. The plan was to start at my home base in California, then a week of driving through southern Utah, then on to South Dakota to visit family, then on the way back visit a few friends in Oregon. I was pretty low energy at the time. Due to my summer tummy troubles, I wasn’t able to eat much, but for the first leg of the trip I felt well enough to be able to soak in the stunning southwestern scenery.

David Graeber on the Value of Work | YouTube

Short animated video by David Graeber, economist with a wry and witty anarchistic inclination. I think he’s really onto something, here, in terms of analyzing a certain shift that a lot people seem to be having, in our perception of work. For example, how people seem more aware that their jobs don’t really have value and how more and more people are looking to do work that matters and/or that benefits humanity and/or has some greater meaning. It certainly isn’t the first time that workers have felt disgruntled with work and/or disenchanted by corporate bullshit. The potential, though, now, is that people seem to be connecting their underwhelming experience of work with the bigger picture and with politics. For example, A lot of the folks who got active with Occupy, a few years back, were from “caring occupations,” which caused Graeber to view Occupy as a sort of revolt of the caring class. So, could this shift toward more meaningful work completely change how we structure society, poltically and economically?