Can Constitutional amendments save the Republic?

Summary: We’re losing to the 1%, and articles like this show why. Reformers dream of changes to the system (like the amendments proposed here) while the 1% builds the machinery to make changes happen. They’ve invested the time, effort and money; now they reap their reward. It need not be this way.  {1st of  2 posts today.}

“The throne is never vacant.”
— Russian aphorism. If we choose not to govern, then others will.

Amendments to the Constitution

It’s Not Too Late: Save Democracy By Amending the Constitution

By John Nichols, The Nation, 6 April 2015
“Corporations are not people, money is not speech,
and votes must matter more than billionaires’ dollars.”

Nothing locks in inequality and dysfunction like a constitution so imprecise that it allows right-wing judicial activists to make buying elections easy and voting in them hard. But don’t just blame “constitutional conservatives” for turning our founding document into an outline for oligarchy. Fret about liberal constitutionalists who imagine we’re just one thrilling presidential appointment away from making our democratic vistas real. Like Democrats dreaming of another FDR, liberals waiting for another Earl Warren miss the point. Our democratic destiny is not something to wait for — it’s something we have to make happen. Dissident Americans have been bending the arc of history by rewriting the US Constitution since amendments were added with quill pens. Today’s dissenters should be about the business of doing so once more.

… The real friends of the Constitution today champion a “move to amend” that would declare that corporations are not people, that money is not speech, and that votes must matter more than billionaires’ dollars. Sixteen states and some 600 communities have recently demanded that Congress initiate a constitutional response to the judicial activism that has allowed elites to commodify our politics and corporatize our governance. At the same time, activists are taking up a proposal by Congressmen Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison to end the crude assault on voting rights with an amendment that establishes, finally and unequivocally, a right to vote and to have every vote counted. These are good starting points, but they are not an end to anything.

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Star Trek reboots to give us simple stories, the cartoons we like.

Summary:  Films show who we are, our dreams and fears. Today Locke Peterseim compares Star Trek Into Darkness to the original TV show, showing how we’ve changed during the past 5 decades. We want simpler plots, cardboard villains, more emphasis on emotional behavior and beating up bad guys. And above all, ignoring the disturbing deeper questions that made the original show so interesting.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness Spoilers and Geekery Ahead!

By Locke Peterseim
Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly, 24 May 2013.
Reposted here with his generous permission.

This explains why I’m disappointed in Star Trek Into Darkness. Spoilers!

In my previous piece about why I felt a deeper disconnect with J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek film, I spoke primarily about the larger problems I have with how Abrams and his Trek co-writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof approach Star Trek and their emphasis on empty escapism and popcorn thrills to the near-exclusion of any deeper ideas or meaning.

… As I said in my earlier piece, part of me enjoyed the majority of Into Darkness because of all its obvious whoosh-whoosh zip bang action adventure and character humor. I won’t deny that the Trek franchise needed a little warp boost in that area — it’s just that after the 2009 reboot, I deluded myself a bit into thinking the new series would eventually get around to doing more than just action adventure.

I’m not going to sit here and nitpick the film to pieces over the sort of “but wait, why in the hell would this character do that?” plot-logic questions you can use these days to take apart most any big-budget Hollywood film. But there were several major points in Into Darkness where missed opportunities or plain old script laziness worked to undermine my overall enjoyment of the film.

And remember, SPOILERS! In case you missed the big ‘ol headline above, this is going to be full of Into Darkness spoilers… and Star Trek geekery…

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The GOP budget shows us the New America that lies ahead

Summary: The first budget by the new Republican majority in Congress shows what lies ahead for America. It’s another tale of the New America rising on the ruins of the old, as the 1% begins the pursuit phase of the battle against us. These tales are entertainment for the outer party, just exhilaration as they boo the other tribe unless they motivate people to political action. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
— Warren Buffet, quoted in the New York Times Magazine, 26 November 2006.Was Marx right?

 

Brick by brick the New America slowly rises on the ruins of the Second Republic. As we see in this week’s headline “Senate passes Republican budget with deep safety net cuts“. It’s a full-court press to reconfigure the US government to benefit the 1%. Excerpt:

The Senate passed a Republican-authored budget plan early on Friday that seeks $5.1 trillion in domestic spending cuts over 10 years while boosting military funding. … which is similar to one passed by House Republicans on Wednesday. … They also showcase the fiscal vision for Republicans, who now control both Houses of Congress for the first time since 2006 and are eager to demonstrate their ability to govern.

… The Senate budget seeks to eliminate U.S. deficits by 2025 without raising taxes through deep cuts to social safety net programs, investments in transportation and education and other domestic programs. At the same time, it proposes to boost defense spending by adding about $38 billion to an off-budget war funding account, and offers core Pentagon budget increases in subsequent years.

This is just the first step. We can expect more drastic measures in the future, shifting taxes from the 1% to us and cutting government benefits. The Hill explains (Note: block grants are a means to shift spending to the States, for easier slashing):

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A Tale of New America: a judge burns the Constitution

Summary: Today we have another Tale of New America, as the government exempts from legal challenge the shadowy neocon group United Against Nuclear Iran. The tale is told here not as information (clickbait), but to spark your anger and action at what’s happening to the Republic and what we have become.   {1st of 2 posts today.}

“United Against Nuclear Iran”

Let’s make it a dawn, not a sunset.

For a decade I and many others have documented the decline of the Republic and its replacement by a plutocracy. We’re now far along in this, as the 1% begins the “pursuit” phase (the endgame) in which they exploit their victory to crush their foes (preventing subsequent conflict), and begin the post-bellum restructuring of law and society to accommodate their values and appetites. The changes to date were on the gentle downward slope of an “S Curve”. Now we enter the steep section as the 1% makes large obvious changes, without fear of effective opposition. This is our daily news.

The police become both militarized and bolder in their brutality (as in yesterday’s vignette, and the other posts about police brutality). The government becomes more open about their mass domestic surveillance; Obama boasts about ordering assassination of America citizens. Public excitement about these things produces no substantial change, just a delay in their advance.

Today we have another outrageous tale, as the government displays its power over the now-impotent institutions created by the Constitution. Accounts of these provide clickbait for the news media, excitement for the outer party (We’re informed!), and boost the reputation of the Deep State. Win-win-win.

So let’s turn to Glen Greenwald at The Intercept for today’s sad story: “Court Accepts DOJ’s ‘State Secrets’ Claim to Protect Shadowy Neocons: a New Low” —

A truly stunning debasement of the U.S. justice system just occurred through the joint efforts of the Obama Justice Department and a meek and frightened Obama-appointed federal judge, Edgardo Ramos, all in order to protect an extremist neocon front group from scrutiny and accountability. The details are crucial for understanding the magnitude of the abuse here.

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Don’t ask if there’s a biotech bubble. Ask why we have another bubble.

Summary: Powerful trends occur when multiple waves combine. So it is with the biotech bubble, where our inability to learn about our out-of-control financial sector meets the grifter economy. The results will be spectacular, and typical of our time — powerful benefits to society manipulated to produce massive profits for the 1%. As you read this remember that it need not be this way.

This is a follow-up to Economics gets interesting as the economy darkens while stocks bubble. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Back to the Future

Contents

  1. The dream machine
  2. About the profits of Big Pharma
  3. The grifter economy
  4. About the patent cliff
  5. The slowdown in drug discovery
  6. Conclusion
  7. For More Information

(1)  The dream machine

Credit Suisse published a report about the biotech industry with deserves attention. Here is a brief excerpt.

Biotech Has Been the Best Performing Sector For 5 Years In a Row – No Sector Has Ever Done That!

Given the unprecedented performance in the biotech sector – are we in a “biotech bubble”? We are in completely unprecedented times for the stock performance of the biotech sector:

  • Since 1/1/2011 the BTK {NYSE Biotech Index} has delivered 204% performance vs. 64% for the S&P500. The BTK is up nearly 400% since the previous peak reached during the mother of all bull markets, i.e. the dotcom fuelled 1999/2000 frenzy. The cumulative market cap of the 5 large caps is $513B currently up from $128B at the beginning of 2011 (and $82B at the beginning of 2001);
  • Biotech was the top performing sector for the last 5 years – 2011-2015;
  • The number of IPO’s in 2014 (82 IPOs) has eclipsed the previous peak (67 IPOs) in 2000. There have been 12 IPOs YTD; (d) Multi $B valuations for SMID caps are now the norm. There are currently 44 public biotechs with >$2B market caps (outside the 5 large caps), 1 year ago there were only 26 and in 2011 just 14.

The success of large cap biotech has been due to a fundamental shift from Biotech 1.0 to 2.0. … It’s the cool science baby:

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A Tale of police brutality New America: it’s just entertainment unless we act.

Summary: Today we have another story of bold police brutality, with racial overtones. Like the revelations of massive NSA surveillance, these stories produce excitement before we relapse into apathy. They show the construction of a New America rising on the ruins of the old regime.  What will it take to spur us to action? {1st of 2 posts today}

Are these proud words from an era now ending?

Police: To Protect and to Serve

This is New America, where the police act boldly to establish their dominance over the proles and outer party (they’re deferential to the inner party). As Floyd Dent found: pulled over, beaten up, and then charged with resisting arrest and drug possession (dropping one of their handy dime bags of dope). The charges provide deflectors to the police against the inevitable brutality charge. Here’s his story (there will be another next week, or tomorrow): “Detroit-Area Cops Shown Beating Black Man During Traffic Stop“, NBC, 25 March 2015 — Excerpt:

“Why you beating on me like this?” the driver, Floyd Dent, 57, asks after police pull him to the hood of a cruiser.  Accounts of the incident from Dent and from Inkster police — all of whom in the video appear to be white — are wildly different:

  • Police said Dent attempted to flee the police car, but the video appears to show Dent maintaining a consistent speed and then pulling over safely across the street from a police station.
  • Police say Dent threatened to kill the officers. Dent says he didn’t — and none of the 6 officers’ microphones were turned on at the beginning of the incident to substantiate their claim.
  • One officer said Dent bit him on the arm. Dent said he didn’t, and the officer didn’t seek medical attention or photograph his injury to support the allegation.
  • Police said they found a bag of crack cocaine under the passenger seat of Dent’s car. Dent, who has worked for Ford Motor Co. for 37 years and has no criminal record, said officers planted the cocaine. A post-arrest blood test showed no drugs in his system. Inkster Police Chief Vicky Yost said that “appropriate action” would be taken if the investigations found the cocaine possession charge to have been manufactured.

A judge dismissed all charges involved in the physical confrontation with police after watching the video obtained by WDIV. Dent’s lawyer said he was offered a plea deal resulting only in probation on the cocaine possession charge, but Dent turned it down, telling the station he wouldn’t plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit.

See the dashcam video

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John Bolton reveals a serious threat to America

Summary: Since 9/11 our leaders have become increasingly militant, urging America to attack an even invade an ever-growing list of nations for flimsy or imaginary reasons. We’re powerful but not omnipotent. War is a game that cannot be played forever with painful consequences. Eventually we’ll attack someone (a nation or group) who either retaliates irrationally but severely, or we’ll spark growth of a coalition of nations determined to restrain our military adventures. Our leaders work to make such disasters happen. A little bad luck and they will get their way.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Flames

An op-ed in today’s New York Times shows what might be the greatest threat to America: “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” by John R. Bolton. It’s another volley in the well-funded multi-decade propaganda campaign to involve America in an endless series of foreign wars, a program that no series of failures and revealed lies can derail. Let’s review the high points.

… the president’s own director of National Intelligence testified in 2014 that they had not stopped Iran’s progressing its nuclear program. There is now widespread acknowledgment that the rosy 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which judged that Iran’s weapons program was halted in 2003, was an embarrassment, little more than wishful thinking. Even absent palpable proof, like a nuclear test, Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident.

Bolton’s acknowledgement that there is no proof is the only fact in this essay. He offers no evidence of the “widespread acknowledgement” about the 2007 NIE. Bolton’s statement about Clapper’s testimony is incorrect since he does not say that Iran has a “nuclear weapons program”, let alone that it’s “progressing” (international agreements allow Iran — like other nations — to have a civilian nuclear program). Clapper said:

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