Russia and Democracy

Russian interference is associated with using anti-Islam propaganda and other divisive wedges to promote Trump.

The US and several countries are now ruled openly or behind the scenes by an elite of billionaire / corporate / princeling / oligarchical / kleptocrats sometimes in alliance and other times in conflict…

I’d love to see our country restore (or maybe you could say just get to in the first place) our ideal of representative constitutional democracy under rule of law, in which we all get to vote (on paper ballots), and where have reason to vote for candidates who have good, honest proposals that tell us how they would make our lives better, and who we can trust to do that and not make corrupt deals that involve enriching themselves in office or later.

I don’t know how we get there from here.

Trump Destruction, For The Record

No help for Puerto Rico? No science at the EPA? The State Department dismantled?

The destruction is the POINT.

Trump sent the following email this week:

Friend,

TIME Magazine thinks this is an ATTACK against me?

“How Trump’s cabinet is dismantling government as we know it.”

Good! The federal government is a broken, lobbyist-infested cesspool of corruption that abuses its power, cooks deals for crooked politicians, and despises hardworking Americans.

America didn’t vote for the same old thing. You voted for a wrecking ball to obliterate the status quo and rebuild a new government OF, FOR, and BY the PEOPLE!
But the swamp is revolting! That’s why it is so important now more than ever for you to accept your 2017 Sustaining Membership BEFORE MIDNIGHT TONIGHT.

The Fake News Media will do anything to try to rip apart the strong bonds of our movement. But they will never succeed — because we are fighting to save our country, and that’s a fight we will NEVER surrender.

I hope to see your name on our next list of 2017 Sustaining Members before midnight.

Please contribute $1 to accept your Sustaining Membership.

Thank you,

President Trump Signature Headshot
Donald J. Trump
President of The United States

He brags that he is a “wrecking ball.”

For Those Wondering Why I Haven’t Been Writing

I haven’t been writing.

I’m having a terrible time grappling with with the national situation. For one thing, I don’t want to write anything that might help normalize what is happening here. That includes using the word “President” for Trump.

Another, I wrote for years saying, “Wake up or the worst could happen.” And by that I meant what HAS now happened. So I’m not sure what I have to offer to help right now. The worst has happened, I don’t know that a lot of us realize how bad it really is…

So I am doing a lot of thinking. And some tweeting, at least, because I just can’t help myself.

I’ll be back.

White House Propaganda, Graft: This Is Not Normal

Early in this millennium, Mississippi’s Trent Lott was the Senate’s Majority Leader. Then it was disclosed that he had done something outside the bounds of what most Americans considered “normal” and acceptable. Lott had spoken favorably about Strom Thurmond’s 1948 Presidential candidacy on a platform of racial segregation. So he had to go.

Favorable comments about a segregationist were enough to unseat a national leader fifteen years ago. This was considered a major scandal, and a short time after his comments were revealed, Lott was forced to resign his leadership position in the Senate.

That is what “normal” used to mean. That was then, this is now.

Breitbart is a “news” website, which was until recently run by Steve Bannon. It is a far-right outlet that promotes “alt-right” concepts often involving white nationalism.

Bannon often refers to what he calls a “‘Camp of the Saints’-type invasion” to describe what he sees as a rising tide of threats to Western civilization. When he says these things,  Bannon is referring to a 1973 French novel that “describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague,” and “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”

Steve Bannon, race-baiting propagandist, is now the White House Chief Strategist. Yet this is not a national scandal.

In fact, Bannon is not the only “alt -right” person in the Trump White House. Other Breitbart staffers are also getting jobs in the new administration, as are other far-right figures. It is said that White House alt-right figures removed reference to the genocide of Jewish people in the White House’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.

This is not normal.

President Trump recently accused former president Obama of a massive criminal conspiracy involving abusing presidential power to “wiretap” Trump’s campaign to help Trump’s opponent. This is , to say the least, not normal.

The White House has begun sending Americans a daily state-propaganda email “newsletter” called “Your 1600 Daily.” It is sent unsolicited, in violation of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. It comes from an official White House government email address, and is signed by “The White House. ”

One day this briefing advertised a meeting with “victims of Obamacare.” Another asks Americans to “Share Your Obamacare Disaster Story With President Trump.” Wednesday’s makes the claim, “Under his leadership, the United States will be the world’s great magnet for innovation and job creation.”

It promotes extremist news outlets like Townhall, and white nationalist outlets like Breitbart.

This is just not normal. In other times this, too, would be a major scandal.

And then there is the blatant moneymaking. Last week China granted Trump a number of lucrative trademarks, after Trump broke a campaign promise to declare China as a currency manipulator, which would have initiated a process that could lead to tariffs on Chinese-made goods entering the country.

This week we learn that the family of Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner will make at least $400 million in “a sweetheart deal” with a Chinese-government-connected firm.

But there are a number of red flags surrounding the transaction, and no way to rule out concerns that this represents just the latest instance of potential conflicts between the Trump administration’s obligation to the public and its own financial gain.

And that’s just a taste of the financial shenanigans going on. For example, despite Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington from the influence of lobbyists, his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has started a lobbying firm. See if you can guess what he’s selling to clients.

Fox News commentator Monica Crowley was asked to join the Trump White House, but had to back out after it was disclosed that she had engaged in plagiarism. Now it is reported that she is going to work as a lobbyist for Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire and Putin supporter. She’s making big bucks, because she has influence with the Trump White House. That is just a recent example of so many examples of corruption.

But wait, there’s more. The President of the United States is holding campaign rallies just one, two months into presidency. And he is raising “campaign funds” from donors. What?

Meanwhile the Republicans in Congress, in the thrall of corporate cash and billionaires, assist their benefactors rather than do their Constitutional duty to hold these people accountable.

This is like the story of the frog in boiling water. The water is starting to boil, but because the warming happens slowly, the frog gets used to it and doesn’t notice it is cooking.

What’s going on here is not normal. They are so much not normal and happening so fast that we risk becoming desensitized to what normal means.

So a reminder: This is not normal. Do not allow yourself to ease into any level of acceptance of this, or a belief that what is happening in our country is part of a pattern or a political pendulum that will swing the other way or a back and forth between parties or think checks and balances are going to save us and our nation.

——-

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.

Holocaust Denial and Religious Persecution, Courtesy of the White House

Friday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. As you may have heard, the White house marked the occasion with this statement:

It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.

Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.

Can you see what’s missing?

Continue reading

Trump Punch Down Strategy Endangers Local Union Leader

“You better keep your eye on your kids. We know what car you drive.” That’s the kind of threats a local union official is getting after President-presumed-Elect Donald Trump tweeted something bad about him.

“You gonna die. Death is coming to you real soon.” A Florida woman is arrested for threatening the parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook. Trump-tied “fake news” sites claim the shootings there were a “hoax” intended to push gun control.

A guy shows up at a Pizza shop based on conspiracy theories — some pushed out by Trump insiders, others by the same Trump-related websites and radio shows that pushed the Sandy Hook hoax — claiming Hillary Clinton runs a child sex trafficking ring from its basement. He brings an assault rifle,

… terrifying customers and workers with his ­assault-style rifle as he searched Comet Ping Pong, police said. He found no hidden children, no secret chambers, no evidence of a child sex ring run by the failed Democratic candidate for president of the United States…

Is this the “new normal” for our country?

Trump Attacks Local Union Leader

The latest example of this top-down attacking involves Chuck Jones, the president of United Steelworkers (USW) local 1999. Local 1999 represents workers at Indiana’s Carrier furnace and air conditioner manufacturer.

After Trump falsely announced that he had made a deal to “save” 1,100 Carrier jobs Jones said Trump had, “… for whatever reason, lied his a– off.” (See LA Times, Trump’s Carrier jobs triumph looks more like a sham every day.)

Trump publicly responded to Jones on Twitter,

and

This is the next President of the United States publicly attacking a guy who is president of a local union in Indiana, singling him out for national attention. And this national humiliation and endangerment by the next President of the United States is because the guy told the truth after Trump did not.

According to the Washington Post report, Donald Trump insulted a union leader on Twitter. Then the phone started to ring., “My first thought was, ‘Well, that’s not very nice,’ ” he told The Washington Post on Wednesday night. “Then, ‘Well, I might not sleep much tonight.’ ”

Then things started to get bad,

Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.

He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

But there’s more to it. Attacking a union’s leadership, saying “no wonder companies are fleeing the country,” the union should have “kept those jobs in Indiana” and saying the union should “spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.” is classic management anti-union propaganda. Saying the union is costing jobs is a union busting tactic intended to drive a edge between the union and rank-and-file workers.

This anti-union action shows the mindset of Trump toward working people. It sends a signal. If unions try to help their membership, and challenge Trump’s tactics and facts, Trump will attack them and threaten their leadership.

Support For Jones: #ImWithChuck

Not everyone is intimidated by these attacks on individuals by the next President.

In response to Trump’s attack on Jones, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued this statement,

Chuck Jones is a man of passion, conviction and integrity who would do anything for his union brothers and sisters. President Gerard is exactly right – Chuck is a hero. An attack on him is an attack on all working people.

Chuck is right to call out the president-elect for inflating the number of jobs that will be saved at Carrier. He understands better than anyone that these are more than numbers—they are people with families to support and bills to pay.

Instead of attacking those who have been working hard to save jobs, the president-elect needs to engage with local union leaders at Carrier and at his hotel in Las Vegas. Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas is breaking the law by not bargaining with its newly unionized employees. Mr. Trump will soon occupy the White House. His words and actions need to befit that office.

Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing tweeted this about Jones,

Also on Twitter, the hashtag #ImWithChuck has messages of support of Jones.

This Is The Next President?

Trump, believe it or not, is President-elect on the United States. That is a position of great power, commanding great influence over what people think and do. When Trump or those around him “punch down” and publicly attack individuals or advance bizarre conspiracy theories, it puts people in danger. Trump and those around him don’t seem to care. And by publicly not caring and continuing to do it, it starts to look like intent.

Trump and the people around him are, in essence, sending these nuts after people. Provoking. Inciting. But with the tweets attacking Chuck Jones using classic union-busting propaganda Trump is also strategically attacking the interests of all working people.

The Reality Of This Election Is Trump Or Clinton

The reality of this election is that this year two choices for president, and only two choices. Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will become president.

And this election is entirely about Donald Trump. You are either for him or against him, period. There is just no way around it.

Trump will have the keys to the FBI, NSA and Department of Justice. Imagine Chris Christie as Atty General and Rudolph Giuliani as Director of National Intelligence. Maybe Newt Gingrich running the FBI. Imagine Trump with the NSA surveillance apparatus under his control. All rubber-stamped by a Republican Congress. He’s already talked about firing all the generals, imagine what happens to the rest of government. our government will become entirely a support-Trump operation — not unlike how Putin runs Russia. Do you think you’ll be safe?

Trump promises a “deportation force” that will round up Muslim and Latino families — and do what with them? Black, Jewish and “mixed-race” families obviously are in line to be on that “Skittles” list. What happens to the rights of Gays and political “politically correct” opponents? His crowds chant “lock them up” about the news media. No, if you are someone who is reading this you won’t be safe if Trump wins.

If you think this is a just exaggerated talk or a joke, everyone also thought it was a joke that Trump could win the Republican nomination, or be anywhere close to becoming President. Yet he did and he is.

This is serious shit. Bernie Sanders is traveling around the country right now to spread this message:

“The stakes are much too high. This is not a personality contest. You are not voting for the senior class president at the local high school. You are voting for the most important public official in the world. The differences between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump are day and night.”

If you do not want Donald Trump to become president you have to vote for Hillary Clinton. If you do not vote FOR Clinton you are voting to allow Trump to become president, period. You might not be able to stand Clinton, but you have to decide if you want Trump to be president, with all the consequences that brings. Because that is what it could mean if you do not show up and vote for Clinton.

My very first blog post ever was this July, 2002 post: Ralph Nader is a Scab,

In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It’s called SOLIDARITY. It’s what “union” MEANS.

When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called “scabs”.

In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.

Even if you are in a “safe” state you still have to vote for either Trump or Clinton. Not voting for Clinton to “send a message” keeps her “numbers” down nationally which, if things are close elsewhere could leave Trump with more votes nationally but lose the electoral college — like what happened to Gore. If that happens it encourages Trump’s neo-Nazi followers to take up arms.

In 2000 people voted for Ralph Nader to “send a message.” Solidarity was broken and Bush became president. No message was received and nothing was done about climate for 8 years, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed in an illegal war that brought lasting chaos to the Middle East. And our economy was ruined. A Trump win promises far, far worse consequences.

Must Must Must Listen Podcast: Robert Reich On This Election

I listened to this on a walk, and it is a must, must, must listen podcast.

Robert Reich, speaking Tuesday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: “The Oddest Presidential Election in Living Memory

From the website:

Tue, Sep 27 2016 – 6:30pm
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary of Labor; Author, Saving Capitalism

Holly Kernan, Executive Editor for News, KQED—Moderator

In the midst of an unpredictable presidential election, get insight from a veteran political figure who knows Washington inside and out. Time magazine named Reich one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. Come hear his provocative thoughts on the presidential election and the future of America.

Republicans ‘Working The Ref’ With War On IRS

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was forced to testify on Wednesday before a Republican impeachment committee. Republicans are doing this because the IRS (under a previous commissioner) dared to check whether organizations applying for special IRS nonprofit status were following the law or illegally promoting candidates.

Republicans in Congress want to send the IRS and other government agencies a clear message: If government employees try to make corporate/conservative movement organizations follow the laws and rules, Republicans will make their lives miserable, bankrupt them and ruin their careers. And thanks to the huge sums of “dark” money flowing to Republican candidates from billionaires and corporations, they have the power to do it.

Continue reading

Chamber of Commerce Works To Defeat, Not Implement Its Own Members Preferences

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims to be “a business federation representing companies, business associations, state and local chambers in the U.S., and American Chambers of Commerce abroad.” They claim to be “the voice of” their members. They are supposed to represent their members.

So what does the Chamber do when it learns that their members support policies that do not align with the right-wing ideology of the “conservative movement”? Do they work to implement the policies their members support? Or do they hire experts to manipulate their members and the public into thinking that businesses do not support what they know their members actually do support? (Hint: they don’t go with their members.)

If the Chamber of Commerce is not really the voice of its members as it claims, whose voice does the Chamber really represent, and why?

Wait, What?

Here’s the story. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) – the people who exposed ALEC – obtained a confidential poll and webinar done by LuntzGlobal, the polling firm of prominent GOP pollster Frank Luntz, for Chamber of Commerce lobbyists.

The Council of State Chambers (COSC) commissioned Frank Luntz’ firm LuntzGlobal to poll members and potential members, and found they overwhelmingly support progressive policies. The poll of 1,000 local, state and national top senior corporate executives who are either current or prospective Chamber members found that business executives overwhelmingly support progressive policies. Some of the poll results:

● 80 percent of current or prospective Chamber members support raising their state’s minimum wage – only eight percent opposed it,
● 73 percent support paid sick days,
● 78 percent support predictive scheduling policies,
● 72 percent support increased maternity leave time,
● and 82 percent support increased paternity leave time, among other policies.

What did the Chamber do after learning that their members support these policies? In response, the Chamber had Luntz’ firm instruct lobbyists on messaging to use to defeat policies their own members support.

Webinar On How To “Combat” What Its Members Support

LuntzGlobal held a webinar for the Chamber’s Council of State Chambers lobbyists on how to counteract this support, so they can advance their anti-worker agenda. From the webinar:

“So what we’ll try to do is actually give you a few helpful hints on how to actually combat these [workplace reform efforts and their popularity among business leaders] in your states…”

“This webinar reveals just how deeply corporate interests and their lobbyists are influencing the priorities of state Chambers of Commerce, even when that agenda contradicts the opinions of their local business members,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of CMD. “Rather than listening to its members and crafting a policy agenda that reflects their priorities, Chamber lobbyists pick their policy positions behind closed doors and then figure out how to convince their members to fall in line.”

According to CMD:

The U.S. Chamber has close ties to some of the largest multinational corporations in the world, including Koch Industries, whose leaders, Charles and David Koch, have funded an array of groups that actively oppose policies like increasing the minimum wage. The Koch brothers’ group Freedom Partners has donated millions to the Chamber of Commerce in recent years. In January, the Council of State Chambers held a session for state lobbyists on “Policy and Politics in 2016,” where Marc Short, then-President of Freedom Partners, was a designated speaker.

The LuntzGlobal survey reflects a national sample of business owners and executives who are registered voters and who are members of the local, state, or U.S. Chamber of Commerce or match the profile of executives that the chambers would want to attract. In all, 73% were CEOs or owners; more than half (59%) had revenues of between $50 million and $500 million; 39% had fewer than 100 employees while another 41% had 100-499 employees. The results included 250 responses per region (East, Midwest, South, West), with results weighted among all states in each region.

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog covered this story Monday, in “Leaked documents show strong business support for raising the minimum wage,” It begins:

Whenever minimum wage increases are proposed on the state or federal level, business groups tend to fight them tooth and nail. But actual opposition may not be as united as the groups’ rhetoric might make it appear, according to internal research conducted by a leading consultant for state chambers of commerce.

The survey of 1,000 business executives across the country was conducted by LuntzGlobal, the firm run by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, and obtained by a liberal watchdog group called the Center for Media and Democracy. … Among the most interesting findings: 80 percent of respondents said they supported raising their state’s minimum wage, while only eight percent opposed it.

CMD’s Mary Bottari explains, in “Highlights of Luntz Poll of American CEOs Shows Broad Support for Progressive Policies“:

There is no force in America that has spent more time and effort to keep wages low than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the state chambers that aggressively lobby against increasing the minimum wage. The U.S. Chamber is a $165 million dollar lobby shop (2013 990), which raised and spent $35 million in the 2014 election cycle, according to Open Secrets.

The Chamber has lobbied on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country to block, federal, state, and local wage hikes. It has been active in states like Wisconsin to preempt local minimum wages ordinances. It has lobbied against paid sick days in many states, including recently in New Jersey. At the federal level, the Chamber has lobbied againstthe “Minimum Wage Fairness Act,” which gradually raises wages to $10.10.

“Unconscionable”

“With their internal polls showing that business owners and executives support raising the minimum wage by an overwhelming 80-to-8 percent, it’s unconscionable that the U.S. Chamber and state chambers continue to fight the wage increases that America’s workers and our economy need,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

You can see videos, transcript, the poll, and presentation slides from the webinar here.

——-

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.