Trump vs. the First Amendment

the hallmark elements of the president’s political style:

  • ignorance,
  • stupidity,
  • pettiness, and
  • malice.

.. the FCC does not license networks or cable channels. NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, etc., do not have FCC licenses to review or revoke. The FCC licenses individual stations.

.. Bill Mitchell, the Trump sycophant whose comprehensive lack of self-respect makes Paul Begala look like Cincinnatus, went on to argue that print publications such as Vanity Fair and the Washington Post should have their licenses revoked, too

There is no such thing as a newspaper license in the United States. There is the First Amendment.

.. Gutting the First Amendment is one of the top priorities of the Democratic party, which seeks to revoke its protection of political speech — i.e., the thing it’s really there to protect — so that they can put restrictions on political activism, which restrictions they call “campaign-finance reform.”

.. They abominate the Supreme Court’s solid First Amendment decision in Citizens United, a case that involved not “money in politics” but the basic free-speech question of whether political activists should be allowed to show a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the days before an election. (Making a film and distributing it costs money, you see, hence “money in politics.”) They lost that one, but every Democrat in Harry Reid’s Senate — every one of them — voted to repeal the First Amendment.

.. Right-wing populists, too, are an illiberal bunch

.. They are repeating the progressives’ mistake: imagining what their guy could do with vast new antidemocratic powers while never bothering to consider that the other side’s guy is probably going to get in there one of these days and enjoy the same powers.

.. Free speech is extraordinarily unpopular on college campuses, and California has just enacted a flatly unconstitutional law that would empower the government to put people in jail for failing to use the preferred pronoun of a transgender person.

Nearly Half the Pentagon Budget Goes To Contractors

In fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon issued $304 billion in contract awards to corporations—nearly half of the department’s $600 billion-plus budget for that year.

the biggest beneficiaries by a country mile were

  1. Lockheed Martin ($36.2 billion),
  2. Boeing ($24.3 billion),
  3. Raytheon ($12.8 billion),
  4. General Dynamics ($12.7 billion), and
  5. Northrop Grumman ($10.7 billion).

Together, these five firms gobbled up nearly $100 billion of your tax dollars, about one-third of all the Pentagon’s contract awards in 2016.

Health care companies like

  1. Humana ($3.6 billion),
  2. UnitedHealth Group ($2.9 billion), and
  3. Health Net ($2.6 billion) cash in as well,

and they’re joined by, among others, pharmaceutical companies like

  • McKesson ($2.7 billion) and

universities deeply involved in military-industrial complex research like

  • MIT ($1 billion) and
  • Johns Hopkins ($902 million).

.. The heads of the top five Pentagon contractors—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman—made a cumulative $96 million last year.

These are companies that are significantly or, in the cases of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, almost entirely dependent on government dollars.

.. Donald Trump initially spent a fair amount of tweeting energy bragging about how he was going to bring such contractors to heel on their pricing practices for weapons systems. In fact, he’s already turned out to be good news indeed for major contractors, most of whom have seen sharp upturns in revenues and profits

.. Trump has proven eager to lift restrictions on U.S. weapons sales abroad (and enlist State Department and Pentagon officials to spend more of their time shilling such weaponry).

.. The arms industry’s investment in lobbying is even more impressive. The defense sector has spent a total of more than $1 billion on that productive activity since 2009, employing anywhere from 700 to 1,000 lobbyists in any given year.

.. you’re talking about significantly more than one lobbyist per member of Congress, the majority of whom zipped through Washington’s famed “revolving door”; they moved, that is, from positions in Congress or the Pentagon to posts at weapons companies from which they could proselytize their former colleagues.

.. Two analysts from U.S. war colleges have estimated that about 300 deliverable nuclear warheads would be enough to dissuade any nation from attacking the United States with a nuclear weapon.

.. And note that the current trillion-dollar “modernization” program for the nuclear arsenal was initiated under President Barack Obama, a man who won the Nobel Prize for his urge to abolish all such weaponry.

.. In 2011, a study by economists from the University of Massachusetts made this blindingly clear.  What they showed was that military spending is the worst way to create jobs. Putting the same money into any other area—from infrastructure to transportation to alternative energy to healthcare or education—creates up to twice as many jobs as military spending does.

.. Contractors aid and abet the process of investing in the Pentagon by routinely exaggerating the number of jobs their programs create.

.. the best jobs generated by Pentagon spending are the ones for well-heeled lobbyists and overpaid corporate executives.

.. So the next time someone suggests that the Pentagon needs yet more money for the troops, just remember that what they’re actually talking about are troops of overpaid defense contractors, not members of the armed forces.

The issue that is — unfortunately — uniting Americans on the left and the right

Some of the tenured class that sets the intellectual tone of the left concluded long ago that America was built by oppression, is sustained by white privilege and requires the cleansing purity of social revolution (however that is defined). In this story, capitalism accumulates inequities that will eventually lead the rich to eat the poor. The American Dream is an exploitative myth. Change will come only through a coalition of the aggrieved. And those who are not permanently enraged are not paying proper attention.

.. It is unrecognizable to people — mostly white people — who regard mid-20th-century America as a social and economic ideal. The country has been fundamentally altered by multiculturalism and political correctness. It has been ruined by secularism and moral relativism. America, says the Rev. Franklin Graham, is “on the verge of total moral and spiritual collapse.” And those who are not permanently offended are not paying proper attention.
.. a poll taken last year found that 72 percent of Donald Trump supporters believe American society and its way of life have changed for the worse since the 1950s. And the most pessimistic and discontented lot of all was white evangelical Protestants. Almost three-quarters believed the past 70 years to be a period of social decline.

Those of us who remember politics in the Reagan era have a mental habit of regarding conservatism as more optimistic about the American experiment and liberalism as more discontented.
.. They are united in their belief that the United States is dominated by corrupt, self-serving elites. They are united in their call for radical rather than incremental change. While disagreeing deeply about the cause, they see America as careening off course.
.. What group believes that American society has gotten better since the 1950s? About 60 percent of African Americans and Hispanics.
.. Many conservatives have failed to appreciate the mixed legacy of modernity. In recent decades, the United States has seen declining community and family cohesion, and what former U.S. surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy calls “a loneliness epidemic.” “We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization,” he says, “yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.”
.. elevate and praise American ideals while courageously applying them to our social inconsistencies and hypocrisies.
.. And this might be matched with a spirit of gratitude — for a country capable of shame and change, and better than its grievances.

The Morality of Charles Koch

A libertarian billionaire embraces a Catholic business school for its ethics.

the chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries finds two aspects of the Washington-based business school highly attractive: at the personal level, its emphasis on character and virtue; at the social level, its message that the right way to get ahead and contribute to your community is by creating wealth and opportunity for others.

.. for his own hires, Mr. Koch ranks virtue higher than talent. “We believe that talented people with bad values can do far more damage than virtuous people with lesser talents,” he says.

.. “Tim always said, ‘You’re a Catholic but just don’t know it,’ ” says Mr. Koch. While he wouldn’t go that far, he will say he is attracted to Catholic University’s effort to put the human person at the heart of business life.

.. or many on the Catholic left, and increasingly on the Catholic right, the idea that free markets might advance Catholic social teaching is anathema.

.. “One can be in business and pursue bad profit,” Mr. Koch explains. “That is, by practicing cronyism—rigging the system to undermine competition, innovation and opportunity, making others worse off. Good profit should lead you to improve your ability to help others improve their lives. But that’s not how many businesses act today.” For Mr. Koch, everything from protectionist restrictions on goods and services to subsidies for preferred industries to arbitrary licensing requirements promote bad profit by unfairly limiting competition.

.. This distinction between good and bad profit illuminates the fundamental difference between how Mr. Koch regards the market and how his critics do. In the view of the critics, free markets treat working men and women as commodities to be bought and sold, and only through strong government intervention can workers hope for a decent standard of living. In Mr. Koch’s view, the most important capital is human, and the truly free market is vital because it’s the only place where the little guy can use his or her own unique talents to offer better a product or service without being unfairly blocked from competing.

.. workers, whose greatest protection is possible only in a dynamic, growing economy: The ability to tell the boss to “take this job and shove it”—secure in the knowledge that there is a good job available somewhere else.

.. The opposite of market competition is not cooperation, as is often assumed. It’s collusion—and almost always the kind that benefits the haves over the have-nots. Which explains why the moral threat to capitalism these days comes not from socialism but from cronyism and corporate welfare.

.. What he wants to encourage, he says, is an economic system open enough so that ordinary people who work hard and have their own unique abilities can build lives of dignity and hope for their families.