Poll Madness.  Polling has become big business, and the media love polls.  They can generate “new” news almost every day with no effort and make fake news sound like real news.  It is far easier to cover elections by reporting the horse race (every new poll) than it is to do substantive reporting.  But polls have evolved from wildly inaccurate to accurate back to inaccurate.  Remember when a Literary Digest poll in 1936 predicted Alf Landon over FDR?  The problem was that it was a telephone poll, so they disproportionately sampled the rich people (Republicans) because they had more telephones. Later in the 20th century, telephone polls worked pretty well because almost everyone had a land line and they actually answered their phones and talked to people.  Today, polling is a witchcraft.  Many people dropped their landlines for cell phones, and their phone number may not be where they live.  They screen calls, don’t answer, hangup quickly, and use social media to communicate.  So count on polls being increasingly inaccurate, and count on the media to keep reporting them as if they are accurate.

US lags behind Scandanavia.  The World Economic Forum recently ranked gender gap in health, education, and economic opportunity (i.e., pay).  Let’s see, if you are a woman living in Yemen you are considered half of a witness in court cases and you cannot leave the house without the permission of a husband.  One-third of the women in the world experience some kind of sexual or partner violence.  Where do women fare best?  The top four countries are Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden.  USA rah-rah comes in 28th.  What about schools?  Fulbright scholar William Doyle says that Finland has the best schools because it lets teachers teach and kids play.  I can attest to this since years ago both of our kids attended public schools there. 

Supreme Court in the News. The conservative Republican attack on the U.S. Government now extends to the highest court in the land, supposedly the bedrock of truth and integrity.  They have been doing this for years internally with the help of #1 buffoon Clarence Thomas who finally asked a question, his first in 10 years.  He was angry about a man from Maine who lost his gun permit merely because he was convicted of domestic violence.  Now the Republicans have violated the Constitution and turned the Supreme Court into a political football by blocking consideration of any nominee of a President they do not like.  Meanwhile they lionize Antonin Scalia who disgraced the court with his judicial activism.  He helped appoint George Bush as President (he was never elected) and said with a straight face that allowing Florida to count all the ballots was unacceptable because it would cause  “irreparable harm” to Bush. Scalia would make outrageous claims about “originalism” such as claiming that the framers of the Constitution believed in free speech for corporations even though corporations barely existed in the 18th century.  When it suited his political bias, he would ignore the Constitution. His legendary tirades and insults were often personal and might make Donald Trump blush.  He flaunted court ethics accepting favors from deep pocketed pals who benefited from his decisions. He attacked the Voting Rights Act and called it “racial entitlement.”  And of course he did the entire political process lasting harm with his support for Citizens’ United which made the government up for sale to the rich and powerful.

Will a new court reverse Citizens United?   Mark Schmitt argues that the horrendous Citizens United decision is largely symbolic and that reversing it by a more liberal court will have only a minor impact.  It may be futile to restrict the way the “billionaire class” (Sanders terminology) can influence politics because they have so many ways to do it with or without this decision.   Will a Liberal Supreme Court Limit Money in Politics?

The Saga of the OC Register ends (or begins?). The Tribune Company, owner of the LATimes and San Diego U-T, won the bid for the bankrupt OCR.  However at the last minute the US Dept. of Justice stepped in and said they would block the sale to prevent a newspaper monopoly in southern CA.  So the default eventual winner was Digital Media (which also owns a lot of newspapers in CA). Digital has a reputation for skimping in order to increase profits so it remains to be seen what will happen to the OCR.  The big question of course is what will happen to the Editorial Page, business as usual or significant changes?  (The OCR has become a fairly good paper except for the Editorial Dept. which no longer represents the makeup of Orange County.)  Business as usual means the right wing Libertarian line: anti-government, anti-teacher, anti-labor, anti-science,  anti-health care (esp. for women), anti-environment, and anti-minorities/immigrants.  But there are also a few things it loves:  guns, corporations, big money and the gospel of wealth.  Digital’s southern CA publisher is Ron Hasse.  If you can figure out how to contact him, spread the word so everyone can flood them with demands that they moderate and balance their editorials, Op-Eds, and Letters to the Editor. The new owners promptly fired 70 OCR staff members including Editor Rob Curley.

Greed, cont.  Despite slumping fuel costs (gas price in Venezuela is now 8 cents/gal) and soaring profits,  Southwest, United, Delta, and American airlines raised fares for the third time this year….Walmart’s imports from China displaced 400,000 American workers (the Walton family which owns Walmart is the richest family in America with a net worth equal to 40% of all Americans)….The 100 largest CEO retirement packages of Fortune 500 companies equal the retirement savings of 50 million American families….As Congress finalized its tax and spending bill of 2000 pages, lobbyists swooped in and added 54 words providing loopholes for Wall Street, hotel, restaurant, and gambling interests resulting in $1 billion loss in tax revenue (that the rest of us will have to subsidize)….The House of Representatives allowed Monsanto to insert one paragraph into a chemical safety bill which would shield Monsanto from hundreds of millions of dollars of liability over cleanup of their PCB contamination of rivers….A lead story in the NYT describes how the richest families in America hire an army of lobbyists to mold tax laws in their favor.  Tax rates for the ultra rich continue to decline, and according to a UCSD professor we no longer have progressive taxation but rather one tax system for the rich, another for wage earners….Wall Streeters (average salary $404,800) are complaining about lower bonuses for 2015.  Junior level employees a few years out of college will get bonuses of only 100-150,000 while managers and VP level types will get only about a million in bonuses.

More bad news.  Over 2000 police shootings in Southern CA since 2004 and only one officer has been prosecuted….Almost 200,000 Americans have been killed by guns and another 400,000 injured between 2009-2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control….North Korea conducts more missile tests, claims to have an H-bomb, and shows videos of a nuclear strike on Washington, D.C. (the missiles already can reach California). Another video released warns North Koreans to except a famine and they may have to eat grass to survive….Japan is unable to contain the 800,000 gallons of contaminated water in temporary tanks.  It is leaking into the ocean, so the government now proposes to spend $312 million to build a deep underground ice dam…. Meanwhile, the police in Belgium discovered terrorist plans to attack nuclear power plants (note that there has not been a single question in the presidential debates over nuclear power safety)….MSNBC cancels the Melissa Harris-Perry show in order to have wall-to-wall primary campaign coverage (less news, more polls, the same trend on every network).

How to control sex-crazed males, plus other gems from the world of Science.  Jan Hoffman writes for the NYT:  “She’s exhausted, but her male partner wants sex.  And besides, she still has to get up for those middle of the night feedings.”  What to do?  Scientists have discovered a new female weapon to zap fathers with an anti-aphrodisiac, a chemical pheromone which also motivates males to help with child care.  Seems to work pretty well for beetles.  Now if they could only bottle and sell the stuff. Click here if you want to see beetles copulating.

Did you know that your large intestine contains about 40 trillion bacterial cells?  (NYT Feb. 16) or that TV may be bad for your brain?     And that those who are bilingual have superior social skills? Finally there is a breakthrough on what has been keeping all of us awake at night: How did fish learn to walk?

How smart are you about Donald Trump?  The media-Trump love affair continues.  He gets the publicity, the media get the ratings (read: money).  But it makes for fun reading:  Donald the Dangerous, Only Trump Can Trump Trump,  The GOP Monster in the Mirror, Trump Unfit to be President, Carson Endorses the Demagogue, etc.  How about this:  Trump popularity highly correlates with mobile home ownership, no high school diploma, history of voting segregationist, being an evangelical Christian (NYT March 15).  But how much do you really know about him?  Did he say “no one has done so much for equality as I have” because his $100,000 membership club Mar-a-Lago is open to everybody?   Did Trump’s son Eric say that torture is justified because it is no different than what happens in frat houses every weekend?  Join the fun and take the Trump Quiz.   How about this LTE in the LAT March 6:

To the editor: We in America need to get used to the reality that a great many of our fellow citizens are just fine with racism, sexism, coarseness, vulgarity, reckless braggadocio, childish temperament and utter lack of qualification — and these people are thrilled finally to have found a candidate who represents them. (“Donald Trump defiant as GOP leaders fight to stop him,” March 6)  It’s sad and so telling that the Republican establishment isn’t opposed to Donald Trump because of these obvious disqualifications, but because he isn’t sufficiently conservative. If he toed the party line, it’d be thrilled with him.  If Trump wins the presidency, he won’t drown the government in a bathtub, as some top Republicans have said they want. But he won’t have to: The government will die of sheer humiliation.

~Barbara Carlton,  El Cajon

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