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Are You Complicit In Cobalt Mining? Plus Trump's Fascist Second Term Plans, DeSantis and Nazism, and Goodbye Credit Card Points
The realities of cobalt mining, America's fascist party, and the potential HUGE loss of credit card points to start your week
My son loves dump trucks. He watches a YouTube show that uses trucks to help teach children how to spell, count, add, subtract, and more. It’s brilliant.
What’s not brilliant is the reality behind the mining work some of those trucks do in the poorest regions of the world. The Congo, in particular.
I recently finished a book called Cobalt Red by Siddharth Kara. It’s about his firsthand account of trekking through the Congo on multiple trips to assess the conditions of the world’s largest cobalt mines.
Child labor. Unsafe work conditions. Environmental contamination.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. The broader societal impacts on the Congolese people, the birth defects in many of their children, and the loss of critical natural resources to external parties like China, all make for a depressing and devastating situation.
Meanwhile, we all enjoy our smartphones. Electric cars. Laptop computers. All of which have lithium-ion batteries that require one mineral in particular so they can operate: cobalt.
Here’s a link to the full review of the book, including what I think Kara gets wrong in his assessment. It’s worth the read. At the very least, it will make you question your smartphone ownership.
Trump’s fascist second-term plans
You might have heard that Donald Trump is running again for President in 2024. He may be the first presidential candidate since Eugene Debs to finish his campaign in prison.
It’s easy to focus on all of the lawsuits swirling around the 45th President and forget that he’s actually running a campaign as you read. The details of that campaign should not be overlooked. They are more extreme, more provocative, and more fascist than anything we saw from his campaigns in 2016 or 2020.
For one, he wants to alter the balance of power (ignoring the separation of powers and checks and balances inherent to the U.S. Constitution) and increase the President’s authority over all parts of the federal government.
“How will he do this?”, you might ask.
Bring independent agencies like the FCC and FTC under direct Presidential supervision - basically, he could fire the agency heads if he didn’t like their policies, with no questions asked. Importantly, these agencies were delegated their authority by Congress and created with the understanding that Congress would provide oversight, not the President.
Impounding funds - if Trump doesn’t like a Congressional policy (from Democrats, for example), he could choose not to execute it. Basically, he would refuse to spend money to operate a program that Congress appropriated funds for.
Deep state destruction - Trump hates career bureaucrats. You know, the types who spend their entire lives working for administrative agencies, getting little to no recognition, and almost no pay, all for the good of America. He hates those guys. They are experts, and he’s not one. So if he gets a whiff that they disagree with him or are not politically aligned to him, Trump wants the power to fire them. So if he wins in 2024, it’s down with the deep state in 2025!
Just so you’re aware, in case you’re asking - you know - if this is legal, there is a theory in conservative constitutional law circles that justifies all of it. That theory is known as the “Unitary Executive Theory.”
In short, the theory considers the President an unchecked king in the Executive Branch. All powerful in executing the laws of the United States.
I wonder what George Washington would think.
Trump’s plans would inject the existing Unitary Executive Theory with steroids. It may even be too extreme for the current conservative Supreme Court justices, but who knows? If Trump gets back into power, anything could happen.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
That’s been my name for Ron DeSantis for a while. Ever since writing this article, at least.
Anyways, one of his staffers recently retweeted imagery with Nazi symbolism (see below).
What a campaign team that guy has! What’s left of it at least after he had to fire a large portion of them. He really held onto the winners though. The true believers.
Here’s the image:
Are we going to get any good presidential candidates for 2024?
It looks like - as of now - that the field is set for a Biden-Trump rematch. The octogenarian against the fascist.
I have a secret hope for someone like Jamie Dimon entering the race, but that’s doubtful. I’m sure many of my liberal friends would be horrified that a rich banker was running (as a Democrat, most likely). But I want to seriously ask you: who else?
Biden has done reasonably well all things considered, but we shouldn’t have legitimate questions about the U.S. President’s health and ability to perform basic job functions. And not make embarrassing, senile-sounding gaffes.
Goodbye credit card points?
Now for the craziest story of the week. Which, to be honest, is quite an accomplishment given what was discussed above.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois is coming for your credit card points. The Points Guy is on the case with a great article on why lawmakers are trying to kill them.
In short, Durbin and other senators think it’s smart to regulate the rate that Visa and Mastercard charge big retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. That may sound fine so far, but here’s the kicker - in exchange, the credit card companies would stop issuing points. So the credit card companies will make less, but the entire market then won’t give away anything for “free.”
The law is heavily backed by the retail lobby. That’s not surprising given how much companies like Wal-Mart would benefit from not having to pay existing credit card transaction fees. They add up!
Durbin and others have justified it by saying that retailers would likely be able to lower their prices, which would help fight inflation and would benefit the consumer overall.
If he’s naive enough to think retailers will pass the savings back to the consumer, he no longer deserves his Senate seat. Those retailers will pass the savings back to their executives and shareholders if anyone. Meanwhile, consumers will have to kiss the cash-back rewards and travel points goodbye.
Call and/or email your local representative if you’re in America and make sure this doesn’t happen.
That’s a lot to think about
Let me know your thoughts. I hope you have a good week. Keep questioning.