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MAKING AMERICA HATE AGAIN: Understanding the Trump phenomenon

Some seventy years after the defeat of fascism in Europe, one of the two major political parties in the United States is promoting a presidential candidate who openly advocates the deportation of millions of immigrants and the tracking of millions of other citizens based on their religion.

How could the nation that responded to the global threat of fascism by proclaiming “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself” give rise to a demagogue who used fear to grow such a large and frightening political movement?

Making America Hate Again
by Elliot Cohen

This brief well documented text analyzes the Trump phenomenon, examining historic similarities between the Trump campaign and earlier fascist movements, exploring the social and political conditions that enabled this ideology of hate to spread, and contemplates what a Trump presidency could mean for the future.

Available on Amazon in print or on Kindle/iphone by download from:

www.amazon.com/dp/B01MCY8T4D

FOR PRINT VERSION GO TO:

https://www.createspace.com/6664500

You are invited to get this discussion started. Please leave you thoughts on “Making America Hate Again” here.

WHITE HOUSE AND CONGRESS OFFER MEASURES TO CURTAIL POLICE VIOLENCE IN RESPONSE TO ACTIONS BY FERGUSON POLICE

Political reverberations from the police shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson Missouri police continued to build this week, with a White House announcement that it supports requiring police to wear body cameras and the introduction, the very next day, of a House bill that would limit the transfer of military technology to police.

According to a 9/15/14 report in The Hill, a White House adviser responded to a petition on the White House web site that had acquired 155,000 signatures, stating White House support for requiring police to wear body mounted cameras.

The Hill quoted Roy Austin, a White House adviser on Justice and Urban Affairs, as saying “We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers.” Austin explained the Department of Justice was continuing to research the best practices for implementation of the technology following a recent Justice Department report that concluded that police wearing body-worn cameras interacted “in a more positive manner” with civilians, and that the video captured by the cameras was also useful for training police officers.

The next day The Hill reported that bipartisan legislation sponsored by Tea Party republican Raul Labrador of Idaho and Representative Hank Johnson (D. Ga.) would curtail the Pentagons 1033 program, which arms U.S. police departments with surplus military equipment.

The proposal would bar the transfer of certain military equipment, including high caliber weapons, sound cannons, grenades, grenade launchers and some armored vehicles, and would include reporting requirements to ensure the equipment is not lost, stolen or misappropriated. In what looks to be a promising beginning 17 representatives immediately signed as cosponsors.

FERGUSON FALLOUT: TOP MISSOURI GOP LEADER PREFERS BULLETS TO BALLOTS

On July 17, 2014 NYPD cops used an illegal choke hold on Eric Gardner resulting in a homicide. On February 4, 1999 NYPD cops pumped 41 bullets into Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black male who had just returned home and was entering the apartment building where he lived, and on November 25, 2006 NYPD cops unleashed a barrage of over fifty bullets on Sean Bell, an unarmed black man who was leaving a night club after celebrating his upcoming wedding.

In each of these cases people demanded justice through peaceful protest and lawful means. Time will tell with Eric Gardner, but in other cases where NYPD cops murdered unarmed black men the cops got away with it, and little was done to address NYPD’s systemic problems of brutality and murder.

Within days of the police shooting of Michael Brown some 40 FBI agents launched an investigation, the Ferguson Police were relieved of authority to police the protesters and Democrats and Republicans in congress began efforts to curtail the militarization of police.

Rioting seems counter productive, but, if one objectively looks at the results, one is forced to acknowledge that the rioting in Ferguson did more in days, than years of peaceful activity to curtail NYPD violence have ever accomplished.

Why is it that the NYPD continues to get away with brutality and murder?
One is forced to wonder if riots are the only way to get the federal government to pay attention when police murder and brutalize whole communities. If riots had occurred in New York would 40 FBI agents be investigating that homicide of Eric Gardner?

Deaths at the hands of police are not rare incidents or aberrations, but a national issue. The StolenLives.org project has documented over 2000 murders by police since 1990 alone. Yet police brutality and murder continues to escalate. What can be done about it?

Those in Ferguson seeking peaceful solutions turned to political organizing. They have marched peacefully, discouraged violence, and set up voter registration tables urging people to “register to vote, get on juries and choose your leaders.” Channeling energy into peaceful efforts like voter registration is something we hope everyone would prefer to violence.

Well, perhaps not everyone. According to a report on Breitbart.com when Matt Wills, the Executive Director of the Missouri Republican National Committee learned that voter registration tables were being set up in Ferguson he replied ” I think it’s not only disgusting, but completely inappropriate.”

So what, Mr. Wills, is an appropriate response? Do nothing while unarmed black people are shot to death? Riot? Carry firearms to protect ones self from the police? Actually, a Texas group, calling itself “The Huey P. Newton Gun Club” thinks that is precisely what is needed. So, in Texas, about thirty mostly black protesters, marched with shot guns, rifles and signs demanding justice for Michael Brown. Such offers a frightening reminder of Malcom X’s prediction that racial injustice would be resolved by “the ballot or the bullet.”

Why, under these circumstances, does Matt Wills, a high level Missouri Republican National Committee member so oppose the very idea of voter registration that he calls it disgusting and inappropriate? Does he speak for the Republican Party? If not why has he not been fired? Does the Republican Party actually prefer the bullet to the ballot?

If Republican leaders oppose peaceful methods like voter registration and the ballot, what is left? Riots and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club.

DEMOCRATS WON’T AGREE TO SPEED CHILD DEPORTATIONS

With just days to go before the August recess Republican House members still haven’t come to an agreement on a bill to address the crisis created by the surge of Central American immigrant children entering the country. House Republicans remain divided on what to do, with conservatives opposing any bill that would send Obama money for immigration purposes other the deportation, while other House Republicans recommended amending the 2008 human trafficking law to speed up deportations of Central American immigrant children as part of a $1.5 billion spending package. House Republicans are scheduled to hold a meeting Friday morning to discuss how to proceed.

Because Conservative House members may oppose any bill that gives Obama funding for anything other than deportations House Speaker Boehner will need the support of House Democrats to pass a measure. But regardless of what House Republicans decide it appears House Democrats may not provide the votes needed to speed deportations, despite the fact quicker deportation is something that both Republicans and President Obama agree on.

According to a report in The Hill, a newspaper that covers congress, Democrats are largely in agreement with the due process protections in the 2008 human trafficking law that both Republicans and Obama would like to change.

According to Luis Gutierrez (D. Ill.) “Almost every Democrat I talk to says we should hold the line on laws passed to protect children from sex-trafficking and smugglers.”

According to The Hill, Gutierrez said President Obama was wrong to seek changes in the law. “I understand that people here are used to saying, ‘Oh, but you’re a Democrat, aren’t you going to follow the president? No, if the president’s wrong , the president’s wrong. I don’t think we should change the law.” Gutierrez concluded.

Republicans denounce Palin as irrelevant following anti-immigration rant

On ABC’s “This Week” several Republicans commented on Palins’ statement that the unsecured border crisis was  the last straw, and that it’s now time for impeachment.

But the Republicans interviewed all seemed dismissive of Palin and seemed determined disassociate the GOP from their former Vice Presidential candidate.

Ana Navarro, a GOP strategist pointed out that the Central American children were not sneaking across the border as Palin implied, but were instead seeking out border patrol agents and turning themselves in. A statement that exposed Palin’s claim that an “unsecured border” as the source of the current crisis was false with regard to most of the Central American children arriving in the U.S.

Navarros’ comment followed a segment on the same program by House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R. Virginia). Goodlatte, a conservative Republican, ridiculed Palin’s call for impeachment saying impeachment was not being considered because Obama had committed no criminal act that could justify impeachment.

Even Bill Kristol, whose conservative publication “The Weekly Standard,” had once run a glowing profile of Palin to bolster her reputation as a Vice Presidential candidate during the 2008 election campaign, stated that “no responsible Republican official has called for impeachment,” agreeing, in essence, that the Democrats would welcome an effort to impeach because it would be likely to enhance prospects for Democratic candidates in the 2014 congressional races.

Republican strategist Ana Navarro best summed up the mood of Republicans toward Palin saying “Nobody of responsibility, nobody in leadership, nobody of relevance has
talked about impeachment.”

With Palin now declared irrelevant by members of her own party the only question that remains is whether or not tea party types still have enough clout to force GOP to impeach. My guess is they do not.

Obama's call for nuclear power will not protect risky nuclear investments

Despite President Obama’s call for the development of nuclear power in the State of the Union address, events in Florida, Vermont and as far away Abu Dhabi make clear that the Obama administration can not protect nuclear investors. Even with federal government support, other factors, such as cost overruns, state regulation, nuclear waste storage, decommissioning cost, and the hit portfolios would take in the event of a nuclear accident, combine to make nuclear an awful investment.

Despite the green energy rhetoric the Obama seems to prefer the two most environmentally harmful sources of energy — nuclear and coal.

The Obama administration seems uninterested in the cleanest fossil fuel alternative — natural gas, and are doing only token projects with regard to solar and wind energy. But despite Obama’s  call for building more nuclear power plants those considering investing should be wary.

As recent events summarized below make clear, nuclear power continues to be plagued by problems, and remains a bad investment idea.

Advisory downgrades Florida Power and Light to “sell” after cancellation of nuclear project

The Florida Public Utility Commission rejected Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) request for a major electricity rate increase, which would have paid for the construction of two Toshiba-Westinghouse nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Miami. FPL responded by halting plans to build the two nuclear reactors.

Although state law authorized the Public Utility Commission to bill ratepayers in advance to build nuclear reactors, years before any electricity is actually delivered the Utility Commission decided to refuse FPL’s effort to burden ratepayers with the financial risks. of building new reactors, while offering little to none of the projected profits in return.

Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor facing problems

Radiation levels at least 40 times higher than that permitted for drinking water were found in a monitoring well at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Although no drinking water samples have shown contamination the evidence that radiation has escaped into ground water have endangered not only the health and environment, but efforts to obtain an extension of the plants operating license. The extension may be denied because rising radiation levels indicate radioactive water is leaking and contaminating the soil. The rising radiation levels have so spooked state residents that the state’s health department have been posting updates almost daily on the monitoring efforts.

If Vermont Yankee is denied the extension it will be the first such denial since 1989, when residents of Sacramento voted to close the Rancho Seco nuclear plant owned by a municipal utility in California. Although such decisions are usually decided by the federal government’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission, state agencies have played an increasing role in recent years.

Since Entergy bought Vermont Yankee in 2002, it has shown itself to be incompetent at running nuclear facilities. In 2007 a cooling tower at Vermont Yankee literally collapsed. A vice president for Entergy lied to state officials, telling them the Vermont Yankee plant did not have underground piping that carried radioactive water, when in fact it did. And the likelihood of further yet to be disclosed problems are believed to be the motivating factor in Entergy’s efforts to obtain permission to spin off Vermont Yankee and five other nuclear plants, and thus limit Entergy’s legal liability.

Areva loses an investor and a reactor deal with Abu Dhabi

The French oil company, Total, has canceled plans to invest in Areva after the French nuclear company lost a bid to build two new reactors in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Total’s director general also questioned if EPR – Areva’s flagship new reactor – could be built less expensively without compromising safety following a joint statement by the Finnish, British and French nuclear safety bodies, stating the EPR’s control and safety systems should be changed to avoid both failing at once. Areva has been struggling financially because the EPR nuclear design has been subject to postponement and cancellations in major markets like the U.S. and China because of unsafe design.

Pipelines to profit: Investing in high-yielding Master Limited Partnerships

Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) are high yielding exchange-traded instruments. As partnerships, they must return all earnings to the partners each year, resulting in a much bigger pay out than most dividend bearing stocks. The yields are called “distributions” not “dividends” and instead of owning “shares” you own “units.” To become a partner you simply purchase units like any other stock through your discount broker (it makes no sense for the average investor to use anything but a discount broker).

To qualify as a MLP under IRS rules, a business must earn 90% of its income from dividends, interest, real estate or natural resources. The majority of MLPs are in the energy business, with most operating natural gas pipelines. Some of which engage in “midstream services” including gathering, pumping, compressing, and refining petroleum or natural gas, and the separation of natural gas into Natural Gas Liquids, such as propane.

After construction is complete, except for occasional repairs or nominal maintenance costs, operating expenses are minimal. Because pipelines are storage and transportation services, they are profitable regardless of fluctuating commodity prices. Consistent need for energy also means pipelines are a recession-resistant investment, providing a consistent stream of income, year in and out, just like utility companies. In fact, rating agencies value pipelines like fixed income investments. But pipelines have several advantages over fixed income products and utilities, including tax deferred status, potential for growth and increasing yields.

This is not to imply pipelines are risk free. Pipelines are expensive to build. High interest rates can cause delays or loss of profits. And although commodity prices rarely affect MLPs that are primarily involved in storage and transportation, some of them can be affected by market risk associated with fluctuating commodity prices. Oil wells and gas fields have a limited capacity, and when the well or field runs dry, so can the value of the investment. To grow, these businesses must build additional pipelines and make new acquisitions

So how does one know which are good investments? Excessively high yield is often a red flag. Is the company, for example, paying out over 100%? If so, that is obviously not sustainable, and could indicate a distribution cut is on the horizon. I believe in fundamental over technical analysis, but I find financial reports difficult to understand, am not good with numbers and can’t do the analysis myself. But I don’t need to. Professional analysts already rate these companies, so I subscribe to trustworthy newsletters and use their recommendations as a starting point.

Next I compare the opinions of the analysts on brokers’ web sites, each broker usually offering several. It’s not necessary to understand everything. What I look at is if there is general agreement on the quality of the stock, as well as the reasons given for any negative recommendations. In examining the annual report, I pay particular attention to what the report says about capacity of proven reserves, as well as new acquisitions.

Looking at recent news related to the stock can be also be helpful. There is usually a link to such information on the Internet along with the company profile, either on brokers’ web sites or on an Internet site such as Yahoo Finance. When reading about investments it is important to distinguish between factual information versus hype about future projections. This is especially important not only in considering what investments to make, but in considering which newsletters to trust, as well in evaluating the advice. Evaluating investment newsletters though, is a separate topic which I hope to address in a future post…

Some Master Limited Partnerships I like:

UPDATE:  I practice socially responsible investing. As long as most energy generated comes from fossil fuels natural gas has the lowest impact in terms of  both air pollution and carbon footprint. However, as information accumulates it seems clear the new fracking technology used to drill for natural gas poses a serious threat to our water. Under the circumstances I no longer recommend investing in companies that engage in drilling for natural gas.

Furthermore,  the recommendations stated below were made in August of 2009. As I update this entry I note that presently the stock price has increased significantly from the date when the recommendations were made. These particular investments no longer pay the high yields they did when the recommendations were made.  The increased cost of purchasing these companies at today’s prices makes them far less profitable to buy today. Stated simply, even if I were not concerned about the environmental dangers  I would not recommend these stocks at the present higher prices and lower yields, because they simply are not as profitable if you buy them at today’s prices than they were on at the time I originally recommended them. Remember all investing advice is time sensitive in that things change.

Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) currently yielding 7.9% (has growth potential).

Mark West Energy (MWE) currently yielding 12.1% (exposure to greater profits if commodity prices increase).

Terra Nitrogen (TNH) currently yielding 8.2%  (non-energy pipeline transporting liquid fertilizer to agricultural communities). It’s a good one, but I suggest buying at $102 or less.

Two non-pipeline MLPs that are like utilities:

Amerigas (APU) currently yielding 9.6%, is a buy up to $34.

Suburban Propane (SPH) currently yielding 8.1%, was recently recommended in a newsletter that has always made me money.

NOTE: “currently yielding” refers to the date I wrote this entry. Yields change with market price of the stock, you can check yield at the time of purchase.

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