Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Oct. 28, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

If the Build Back Better plan were to include the Ending the Carried Interest Loophole Act, opposed by financial interests, it would raise $63 billion in revenue over 10 years, according to Americans for Tax Fairness. The bill intends to close the loophole that currently allows Wall Street money managers to pay a 20% rate, rather than 37%. 

What drives opposition to the original Build Back Better Act, which called for funding via higher taxes on the wealthy who pay low tax rates? According to author and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, CEOs of large corporations, the billionaire class and Wall Street interests have been waging war against the Act — and it’s not just because they don’t want to dodge paying more taxes. Rather, Reich believes wealthy interests find security in creating insecurity for workers, since that creates a workforce that accepts lower pay and less desirable working conditions, resulting in more money for employers. The original Act aimed to provide more security for average citizens via programs like child care and greater access to free education.

When Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., asked “how much is enough?” he wasn’t asking about the 10-year $7.5 trillion Pentagon budget. Rather, he was asking about the Build Back Better’s 10-year $3.5 trillion figure, that he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., want to slash. 

In a MarketWatch opinion piece, National Priorities Project Director Lindsay Koshgarian, of the Institute for Policy Studies, pointed out that the issue is not spending, it’s priorities. A 2019 IPS study found that the $350 billion in fat could be cut from the Pentagon budget annually and still keep the U.S. “as safe as ever.” Looking at that study today indicates those funds could instead fund BBB without resorting to taxation on the rich, which conservatives oppose. Manchin and Sinema voted against a 10% Pentagon cut in September.

Mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccines are now endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning it’s OK to receive a different booster shot from the original brand administered.

Former-President Donald Trump’s second attempt to create a “media powerhouse” met with defeat after being hacked and then crashing, The Washington Post reported. Called Truth Social, the site called what Twitter calls a “tweet” a “truth.” Rules on the “free speech” platform included no disparaging remarks about “us and/or the site.”  

Last week Senate Republicans blocked voting, via filibuster, on the Freedom to Vote Act. It had been pared down to what Manchin believed would attract the necessary 10 Republican votes, but even discussion was blocked by GOPers, according to various news reports. The Act would have allowed same-day voter registration, limitations on culling voters, two weeks for early voting, voting by mail, creating a paper trail for ballots, requiring transparency in political advertising, protection of election officials from attack, prohibition of partisan gerrymandering, stopping plans for lawmakers to overthrow election results they don’t like, and making Election Day a holiday. 

An overview of rigged voting from Mother Jones: 19 states have passed 33 laws restricting voting; the majority of today’s Supreme Court justices were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote; out of 160 million voters in 2020, only 16 face criminal charges for voter fraud; and, currently, power in Congress is evenly split, despite Democrats representing 42 million more people than Republicans. 

Internal emails and text messages obtained by Politico show new election laws were not intended to address voter fraud; rather, they were designed to gain a partisan advantage for the GOP.

Blast from the past: Could eating rye, infected with the hallucinogenic ergot fungus, be the true cause of the accusations that resulted in the Salem witch trials of 1692? Just-right weather conditions foster the growth on rye of ergot, which creates a natural form of LSD and causes symptoms that include severe hallucinations, delusions and loss of motor control. 

The author of Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics and History, historian Mary Kilbourne Motassian, wrote that symptoms of “bewitchment” are similar to the central nervous system disorder caused by ergotism: spasms, seizures, face and eye contractions, hallucinations and panic attacks. Rather than a bizarre mass psychosis at play, the missing ingredient was modern scientific knowledge of preventing ergot. 

That, combined with the Biblical directive “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” led to 14 women and five men being hanged, and others who were accused of witchcraft dying in jail. Exonerations of the accused came late — in 2001.

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