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Notes on Election 2016

14 Nov

It all went the way it was supposed to right?

While Princeton professors have to eat insects on TV because they predicted the predictable wrongly, luckily the Bhatany Report did not make any official forecasts for the presidential election.  Donald J. Trump, America’s Mogul, in alliance with Rudy Giuliani, America’s Mayor, romped the Electoral College in a Rust Belt blowout that really lived up to his claim of a “Brexit times 50.”  Watching CNN in a historic downtown Los Angeles theater, I knew the end was nigh when Hillary’s U.S.S. Pennsylvania triangulated into a red iceberg in the Allegheny Mountains.  I almost laughed at the room’s maladroit hipster anger until I thought about, you know, the consequences.

Like  Caesar galloping into Gaul, Mr. Trump astounded the inbred and sheltered pundits and pollsters and number-crunchers in the capital.  They shed tears for their career paths in the once and future queen’s court.

This sack of Rome by a ragtag band of alt-right deplorables led by a Penn graduate received its votes from a population so sick and tired of politics as usual that they held their noses and voted for a birther and groper just to send Washington a message and get jobs back in exchange.  They were under no illusions that Trump was a well-bred taxpayer.  This was not 2004.  The naïve voters were the Democrats, not the Republicans.

Andrew Jackson Trump

Earlier this year, I warned people that a Trump-Clinton race would smack of the nasty 1828 presidential election when the last American presidential dynasty crumbled before the rage of Greater Appalachia.  The “most qualified man” to ever run for president, John Quincy Adams, a former secretary of state and son of a president, had won the 1824 presidential election by a vote in Congress due to an Electoral College deadlock despite getting many fewer popular votes than Andrew Jackson. J.Q. Adams still, by far, has the record for the highest IQ of any president. A well-educated Harvard gentleman, he refused to stoop to “campaigning.”

Andrew Jackson, a wild man with wild hair, hailed from Tennessee. He claimed to speak for the common man but was a fairly wealthy slaveowner and land speculator by the time he ran for president. And he did not just imagine shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, he actually did! He executed soldiers as a general and shot a man in a duel long before running for president. He did not have many ideas and not much experience compared to the series of secretaries of state turned presidents preceding John Quincy Adams. But he instead inveighed against the “corrupt bargain” in Congress that gave Adams the White House and the speaker of the house, a Cabinet job.

Running against a corrupt, elitist system, Jackson made inroads in the North with some sharp alliances (Chris Christie anyone?) and overblown rhetoric about Washington D.C. The Adams camp accused him of being a violent bigamist living in sin and adultery with his wife. Jackson supporters called Adams a pimp who supplied women to the Russian czar as ambassador.

You can guess the outcome; Jackson wins bigly, but his wife dies from depression after the election from all the negative campaigning. He throws a wild party of an inauguration by inviting the masses to the White House who promptly trash it and break all the china looking for spiked punch. Old Hickory goes on to deport the Cherokee and cause a financial crash by destroying the Second Bank of the United States and unleashing a wave of shifty loans in the West.

We have a lot to look forward to America.

What you should read

27 Jul

These are some of the latest and greatest articles that I have meant to send to you.

  • Mother Jones ran a fantastic article a few months ago explaining how the American oligarchy has succeeded in its war against the middle class.  Key to their strategy was the the destruction unions in the United States through Ronald Reagan’s  attack on the working class.  These fascinating charts show how the bottom 80% of Americans have had a net loss of income over the last thirty years that has been transferred to the top 10%.  Most of that went to the top 1%.  That means that every year $743 billion is lost from 80% of Americans and $673 billion of it goes to the top 1%.  Inequality has also slowed economic growth as money circulates through fewer and fewer hands.  A must read.
  • TIME ran an interesting article on a number of myths about the recession and the “recovery.”  They end concluding that the solution for America’s jobs crisis is German style industrial policy.  Not everyone should go to college, and it is important for the economy to produce middle and lower tier jobs that rely on skilled labor developed through technical or community colleges.  That also relies on re-emphasizing industry over services, something the United States has refused to do.  Besides Obama’s bailout of the automobile companies, he has made no significant efforts to support heavy industry in the United States.
  • Is India developing into an oligarchy? – Raghuram Rajan warns that India’s development is very unequal and could potentially turn into oligarchic capitalism like Russia or many Latin American countries.  Economic development would proceed up to a point and then fall into a middle income trap whereby any further development of the country would depend on breaking the power of large, powerful, and well-connected industrial families.  India is not there yet, but if the connections between businessmen and politicians grow even more then the country will come to resemble Mexico and not South Korea.  Given that Rajan  warned that financial deregulation was making the world economy more unstable long before the financial crisis, he is worth listening to.
  • Are vaccines a CIA plot?  – a common complaint heard in the Muslim world is that vaccine drives are really a conspiracy against poor people by the United States.  Polio drives in India fail often in Muslim neighborhoods where this belief is common.  Unfortunately, The Guardian, reveals that the CIA really did run a fake vaccine drive in Pakistan to “find” Osama bin Laden.  Naturally, Doctors without Borders is not amused.  This can undermine public health everywhere!

Dispatch from London: The Middle East’s Laundromat

8 Mar

This morning’s edition of the Guardian fronted the news that the head of the London School of Economics and Political Science had resigned last night over donations from Libya.  Colonel Qadaffi’s son received a Ph.D. from the institution that may be fraudlent.  Lord Megnhnad Desai (an economics professor) supervised the dissertation that a quick Google search revealed to be ripped off of the IMF’s website.

Is it really that unusual?  London is the Middle East’s favorite spending place.  An Egyptian owned Harrod’s and sold it to the Qatari royal family.  A few steps north of Oxford Street finds offices of all the Middle East airlines.  U.A.E. money paid for the Sheik Zayad Theatre in the LSE’s New Academic Building.  Hijabs and rather stylish burkas parade down Regent Street shops.

It’s in a central time zone (not too far from the Continent, Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Asia, or the Eastern U.S.A.).  The tax laws are favorable to foreigners in a wayAmerica’s are not.  Financial regulation like Sarbanes-Oxley did not apply here; a little known fact about the AIG implosion is that it began at their division in London.

Is there a better way for this city to exist and prosper?

Deconstructing the Economist

17 Feb

The Economist may rank among the world’s most prestigious publications, but it is easily among the most dishonest and deceptive newspapers in the English language.  A classically liberal rag from the 1800s, it would more easily be classified as “libertarian” in American political terms.  I know a good many of you admire this British magazine, so I will deconstruct a recent editorial (“leader”) on rising inequality in the world.  They basically shrug the problem off and say it is perfectly natural and part of globalization and development.  Their counterexamples also include many countries and leaders they have opposed editorially in the past.  Let’s begin.  First read the editorial “Inequality: The rich and the rest.”  Below I will demonstrate their FOX News-for-the-global-elite-biases.

Continue reading

On Egypt

1 Feb

“I believe the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice” – Martin Luther King

As that great liberator of men once spoke of slaves in Egypt, perhaps will come true in Egypt itself.

 

Links

Human Rights Watch Egypt

MLK Day Links

17 Jan

To celebrate Martin Luther King Day, I would like to share with you some original speeches of Dr. King.  While the media will dilute his message and ignore his radicalism to make him family friendly, I will remind you that Dr. King was a socialist, a friend of organized labor, and opposed materialism and war.  In his own words, I present to you the following:

Dispatch from Pune: Shiv Sena strikes again

5 Jan

The day before I reached Poona, a strike was called against the relocation of a statue by the local government of Dadoji Konddeo from an intersection and moved somewhere else.  The bandh turned violent as 4 local buses were destroyed and 2 Pune-Mumbai buses were ransacked over the course of the strike.  It turns out that the riots were planned by the none other than the Shiv Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray.  Who are these Thackerays and what is Shiv Sena?  How can the cause such damage in the historical capital of Maharashtra and booming IT metropolis?  As in all things Indian, it is difficult to distinguish what is ancient and what is today.

Chatrapati Shivaji ruled Maharashstra in the 1600s as the founding maharajah of the Marathi people.  Maharashtrians (especially Maratha kshatriyas known as Marathas) lionize him as the Hindu king who fought off the Muslim sultans of North India.  His independent state protected South India from Muslim invasion from the north.  Shivaji’s capital was in Poona (now called Pune) and Marathi culture flourished there.

Nowadays, a political party called Shiv Sena (Shivaji’s Army) claims to represent ideals.  It’s directed by a man named Bal Thackeray and his family.  Shiv Sena includes a trade union and a newspaper; its financing also comes from a protection and extortion racket enforced on local businesses.  This local state party allies itself with the BJP in national elections as part of the National Democratic Alliance.

Shiv Sena’s main accomplishments to the outside world are renaming Bombay as Mumbai and its participation in the Bombay religious riots in early 1990s.  In this recent disturbance, they are causing a ruckus because they oppose the moving of a statue of Shivaji’s guru.  However, scholars and the local government have discovered that it is unlikely that this Konddeo could have taught Shivaji because they lived 100 years apart.  That does not matter to the Shiv Sainiks who attacked historians and the Bandarker Oriental Research Institute which contains the papers of Shivaji.  Apparently they don’t like people doing any research on their hero.

Who knows?  Maybe they are afraid of finding out that the legends built up about Shivaji are inaccurate.  Maybe they might be afraid to find out Shivaji was actually a pretty tolerant king and would be ashamed of the Thackerays and their gang of illiterate hatemongers.

Dispatch from Mumbai: Dissolving Sugar

25 Dec

Long ago, Zoroastrians from Persia fled their native land for the more tolerant shores of India.  When their boat docked in western India, the local maharajah refused them entry.  A messenger was sent to the refugees’ boat in the Arabian Sea.  “Our country is this full,” the messenger said and pointed to a full glass of water from the king.  “How will you fit in?”  “Like this,” said their leader as he mixed a spoon of sugar into the glass.  The maharajah received the sweetened glass of water and was pleased.  The Parsees (as they came to be known) have stayed in India ever since.

Despite their small numbers, they have an outsized influence on India.  Dadabhai Naoroji founded the Indian National Congress that fought for independence and which is still the largest political party.  The Tata family of industrialists began the Indian steel industry in the 1800s, started Air India, and donated most of their stock to charity.  Oh, and they also bought Jaguar and made the world’s cheapest car.

Parsees these days are slowly going extinct; not from any intolerance but perhaps from a little too much mixing in.  Intermarriage with non-Zoroastrians is common (our neighbor in Bombay being one), but their children will not be considered Parsee if both their parents are not Parsee.  Consequently their numbers have fallen from over 100,000 at Independence to around 60,000.  When they do marry, they have too few children.  In 2007, there were only 99 Parsee births.  In fact, the Tata family currently has no heir.

Parsees neither cremate nor bury their dead.  They leave their bodies to be eaten by vultures and then dump the bones into a dry well.  This usually happens at the Tower of Silence in Malabar Hills in Mumbai.  Lately though, the vulture population has been declining, and it has become difficult to dispose of bodies traditionally.  Rumor has it that because this temple is on prime real estate, unscrupulous businessmen are poisoning the vultures to force them to move out.

Which will perish first?  The Parsees or the vultures?  Will it be the end to a fascinating Indian subculture?  Our Parsee friend seems to think so, and he sighs wistfully for a community whose days are numbered.

 

Christmas News and Gift Ideas

22 Dec

Here’s the news you should be hearing more about, but probably aren’t.

  • Most companies don’t pay taxes – The Government Accounting Office says that the 72% of foreign corporations and 57% of domestic companies paid no federal income taxes despite having billions of dollars of sales.  Next time you hear people talking about getting “government off their back,” check whether they mean off of Big Business’s tax bill and onto yours.  This is the same tax code that lets Warren Buffet (the second richest man in America) pay less in taxes than his secretary (17.7% versus 30%).  And he isn’t even TRYING to cheat on his taxes; he actually supports higher taxes on the rich.
  • Budget Director goes to Wall Street – Peter Orszag, Obama’s fiscally conservative budget director, retired from working in the White House to spend time with his family.  But before he did that, he made some noise about Social Security going bankrupt and how the United States needs to cut its deficit to please the bond market and extend the Bush tax cuts.  If that didn’t make sense, maybe his new job at Citigroup at a salary of $2-3 million explains it.  Citigroup, if you haven’t heard, is 12% owned by the taxpayers and the biggest welfare queen in the financial universe.  It’s also where corrupt, neoliberal Democrats go to retire like the infamous Robert Rubin who selected the Obama Cabinet.  Orszag is obviously being paid to lobby for Citigroup and against all the rest of us.  Oh yeah, and he dumped his pregnant girlfriend for a Eastern European hottie.  From class act to class war I suppose.
  • Americans too fat and stupid to join the Army – Here’s an interesting statistic: 75% of 17-24 year olds cannot join the military because they are physically unfit, didn’t finish high school, or have a criminal background.  One-fourth of military applicants fail the entrance exam that started in World War I.  The Department of Defense needs 15% of young people to join the military!  Too bad most people are ineligible to join.  If the recession ends, there will be fewer people needing to join the military.  Will stupidity kill the war machine?  Unintended consequences of the decline of American public education.
  • Stuff These Stockings – Columnist Katha Pollitt annually publishes her favorite charities for Christmas donations.  This year’s list includes Partners in Health (Haiti), a Gaza women’s group, and the Ubuntu Education Fund (South Africa).  Open your checkbooks and donate!  At the least, buy your loved one an Oxfam goat.

WikiLeaks Favorites

6 Dec

While the media crows about how evil WikiLeaks is and Bill O’Reilly wants the government to assassinate its founder Julian Assange, I figured the Bhatany Report should focus on the actual substance of the cables.  Here are my favorite revelations so far.  Think about what it means for the lie machine that is our nation’s foreign policy.  The WikiLeaks website has a mirror at www.wikileaks.nl.  You can find coverage at the Guardian and the English edition of Der Spiegel.

  • Al Jazeera ain’t so neutral – the Arab world’s number one satellite news channel is not as editorially independent as it tells the world.  However, this doesn’t mean it’s propagandizing on behalf of Osama bin Laden; it’s carrying water for the Qatari royal family that sponsors it.   Certain countries Qatar is mad with will get negative coverage until they patch up with the royal family.
  • America is spying at the UN – the United States is showing blatant disregard for the United Nations by spying on its key staff.  The State Department was ordered to spy on Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and to collect his fingerprints, credit card numbers, iris scans, and frequent flier account numbers to track his movements.  Wiretapping was encouraged as well. 
  • Who got Iraq’s oil? – Despite invading Iraq for non-existant reasons of weapons of mass destruction, the only American company that made out like a bandit in the invasion was Halliburton.  Oil companies that benefited from the Iraq invasion were all foreign.  Not only do we do wars of conquest, we suck at them too!  After the invasion, Iraq had to import gasoline   

WikiLeaks is the future, and other international bad guys await its scrutiny.  Before America huffs and puffs too much about the unwelcome scrutiny, keep in mind that the next three victims will be Russia, Wall Street, and BP.  Who wants to defend them?