Monday, November 28, 2016

Trump is Trump, But Who Are We?

Nearly three weeks in and Donald Trump is still the president-elect. Never mind how we feel; it's how he feels that counts. Just ask him. He has remained the man he always was, and why not? Good God, the man loves who he is!  His adoration for himself is dazzling. The scope of his self-love is breathtaking. In his eyes he is a commanding figure, a smooth operator, just what the world has been waiting for--a man with a colossal brain, a dick to die for, and no double chin AT ALL!

But about the rest of us: For at least the next four years, if all goes as awry as we fear it will, Donald Trump and his partners in crime will be free to make foolish and dangerous decisions affecting every single one of us.  In order to stop them, or even to slow them down, we have to figure out who we are.  We're not the same people we were before all this.  We've been rocked to our core. 

Are we bitter?  Damn right.  Are we weak?  Weakened, maybe. Are we strong? As strong as we were a few weeks ago, when we thought our strength, our mission, our remarkably good sense, would put an end to this Trump guy and all he stands for.

We were wrong. It hurts. It's awful. But we're at a place now where we can't afford to make foolish mistakes. We're divided. We've splintered into factions.  We're still muttering over how this happened and who was to blame, and we're inclined to blame each other.  We're going to have to get over that.

Still, there is no question the Democrats made some terrible blunders.  We're still hashing out what all they were, but the biggest blunder was in not addressing the real, everyday needs of the lower and middle classes.  The very people who were waiting for signs that help is on the way. It was easy to go after Trump. Every day brought something new and even more outrageous. But the needs of the people took a back seat to every shocking disclosure, until every speech, every TV ad, began to sound the same. Trump is bad. He's soooo bad. Let us count the ways. . .

It's done now, and we can either go on blaming or we can recognize that the presidency of Donald J. Trump will be anything but normal. He is and always will be a spiteful, foul-mouthed, reckless egotist--a verifiable loose cannon--only now he'll have the backing of an equally reckless GOP leadership and the aid of a cadre of dangerous characters with shady pasts and presents.

Instead of advancing our causes, we'll be fighting to keep them from disappearing entirely.  We know going in it won't be a fair fight, so the first thing we need to do is to abandon all wishful thinking. It's exactly what it appears to be.

Donald Trump will never anything but an embarrassing, privileged low-life who will spend the next four years disrespecting the office of the president and irritating the hell out of us in the process.

He'll be up at all hours tweeting silly, snotty stuff in order to draw a snarl or a laugh.  He'll be the first president in history to be accused of blatant overuse of exclamation points.

 And that's just be in his off-hours.  God knows what he'll do when he gets down to business.

So the second thing we need to do is to shake hands and make a pact:  As crazy as it's going to get, we have to be the sane ones. We're the good guys.  No matter how hard they work to beat us down, we're the good guys. And, even knowing the honor the presidency should bring, Trump will always be Trump.

As Charles Blow wrote in his column gone viral, "No, Trump, We Can't Get Along":
You are a fraud and a charlatan. Yes, you will be president, but you will not get any breaks just because one branch of your forked tongue is silver.

I am not easily duped by dopes.

I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.
I, too, see it as my duty. And then there's that moral obligation.  I'm ready.  We're ready. 

All together now.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

America, What Have You Done?

Last night, against all odds, against everything that's holy, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.  A vile, cruel man who flaunts his fame and fortune, who exacts revenge in the form of name-calling and slander, a man who has a history of lying, cheating, and ruthlessly attempting to destroy anyone who goes against him, will be, as of January 20, 2017, the most powerful man in the world.

He beat out Hillary Clinton, a woman who carries her own baggage--none of it nearly as heavy or as dirty as Trump's--yet who is inordinately qualified to be president, a woman who couldn't match him in bombast and showmanship but rose above him in matters of the heart, of commitment, and of intellect. 

It wasn't a glass ceiling that was shattered last night, it was our country.  The Republicans--those very same menaces who, through their obstruction and disdain for anyone other than the rich and powerful, caused most of the economic problems plaguing the voters--still came out smelling like roses. They won over the Democrats and held their majority in Congress. Those voters who felt so threatened by the government of their choosing have now willingly bought into an outrageously ludicrous line of demagogic fear-mongering and turned to someone outside of politics for solace and succor. Or revenge.

The postmortems will be coming fast and furious in the days ahead, but the die is cast, our bed is made, our new president is a nasty narcissistic loose cannon who will be in a position to fill his cabinet with his equally slimy agenda-driven cronies, to fill the Supreme Court with Scalia clones, to shut down needed social services, to rape our public lands, to deny climate change, to end the Affordable Care Act, to send packing anyone whose skin color, religion, or ethnic background, doesn't match his idea of a pure America.

He has threatened to send his opponent, Hillary Clinton, to jail.  He has threatened to take away the freedom of the press. He has threatened to "bomb the shit" out of Isis. He has aligned himself with the ugliest elements in our society, including the gun toting militias, the KKK, the NRA, and the religious right.

Vladimir Putin has already sent his congratulations.

And I'm stunned, angry, depressed, mortified, and embarrassed for my country.  I didn't create Trump, I didn't promote him, I didn't vote for him, but I'll have to live with what comes next and so will everyone I hold dear.  Some of them voted for this man, along with the millions of others who saw this inconceivable win as payback of some sort, a punch in the gut to wake us the hell up.

I'll leave it to them to figure out how they'll live in the America they've now created.  And I won't feel an ounce of pity for them when all of their wishes don't come true.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hillary, You Need To Stop Attacking Trump

Dear Hillary,

In only a few days we'll finally know which of our nation's two candidates has won the presidency.  No secret that I'm rooting for you, and that I have no earthly use for Donald Trump, but I'm begging you to stop talking about him. Right now.

We know what he is. We know how you feel about him. He's vile, he's an opportunist, he's so far from being a logical choice for a viable candidate we can't stop thinking, you and I and everyone in our camp, about how impossible, how improbable his rise to being this close to the presidency really is. We're shocked.  Okay, we're shocked.  But there it is, and the next million words about it and a million words after that won't change a thing.

Stop obsessing over him.  Forget about him altogether. You need to spend the rest of  your valuable time convincing voters you feel their pain and, what's more, you've got pretty good ideas about how to heal.

Hillary at Dartmouth - Dartmouth News

We want to know exactly what you plan to do about trade, joblessness, poverty, health care, education, infrastructure, the military, the environment and everything else that impacts our daily lives. We need to feel comfortable with handing you the keys to the highest office in the land, and it's obvious a whole lot of us are not there yet. 

We are a country so afraid, so on edge, so wary of our future, we've allowed a hate-filled, utterly ill-equipped demagogue to take over and build a ridiculously flawed case for his leadership.  The crowds his hateful taunting has been drawing for many long months should have sent shock-waves all over every single campaign throughout the land, both Democrat and Republican. He's pushing buttons you all can't seem to dismantle and it's working for him.

I don't mean to pile on you. Lord knows you get that enough of that, but if you want to get those young people, those undecideds to vote for you, you'll have to give them reason to believe in you.  Right now, less than a week before the election, they still don't. They're beginning to think your repetitive attacks on Trump are a way of sidestepping the real issues. That can't be good.

Do I need to bring up Bernie Sanders?  Do I need to remind you that he built a huge following by addressing real-world issues wholly abandoned by the Republicans and seemingly abandoned by our party, the Democrats? While I've always been your loyal supporter, I can't help but love Bernie's message.  Who wouldn't? It was, in a nutshell, "I care more about the have-nots than about the haves."  The undecideds need to believe that's your message, too. Bernie is now working to get you elected, but you'll remember that he was able to climb half way up the mountain by making his followers believe you weren't with them. It's your job to make them believe otherwise.

Let's remember, too, that Donald Trump rose to astonishing prominence by demagoguing his followers into believing he was the only one who could ease them out of their misery--an existence forced on them by a corrupt, uncaring government of, by, and for the establishment.  (Not unlike Bernie's populist message, it should be noted.)

So let's pretend Donald Trump is out of the picture.  Let's pretend your opponent is someone who knows something about politics  He or she is a Republican, a member of the same party that set out to ruin Barack Obama's--and the nation's--chances at any kind of social or economic success, simply because they couldn't stand the thought of watching our first black president get credit for a win.  These are the people working to take us down, and they'll go on working at it until we pull the rug out from under them.

Your-opponent-who-is-not-Trump understands government and policy as well as you do, and can go head-to-head over what our future will look like under either regime. They know a little something about demagoguing themselves. You need to get your game on.  You need to push the Democratic platform, which, as you know, is stronger on equity, equality and opportunity for all.  You need to ask favors of every blue collar leader you know and get them to push our agenda--the one where we win and the other side loses and the country is the better for it.  You need to energize our young voters by giving them a reason to dream.

We are a country of hard workers.  We need good paying jobs, we need good benefits, we need good retirement packages.  We need good, low-cost health care, we need education packages that build learning and literacy. We need to get back to building a solid middle class. We need more of what we used to have.

We can only get those things if you and the Dems win. If you want those things, too, then tell us.  For God's sake, tell us!  The script is there; we've written it before.  Now go out there and deliver it.  You only have a few more days.  You're wasting your time on Trump.  Leave him in the gutter. The country and its citizens are far more important.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Women and Donald Trump: Watch Us Take Him Down

Photo credit: AP/Fortune

Every woman alive knows personally or knows about those puffy-chested, foul-mouthed, egotistical bullies who hike up their big, bad britches and talk trash about having loads of fun with our private parts.  Until now, not a single one of them ended up being a major party's candidate for President of the United States.  That's a new one.

Ever since Donald Trump swept the primaries in June and stepped up his awesomely awful reign of terror, I've been doing a lot of hand-wringing, mainly on Facebook, admitting for all the world to see that this guy Trump, a nothingburger in ways too many to count, was scaring the bejeesus out of me.  I've been horrified, terrified, scarified and very nearly petrified.

Silly me.

I'm a woman who came of age in the 1950s. My looks were nothing extraordinary but I've had my share of "accidental" brushes against my breasts, unwelcome nuzzles and attempts at kisses, and, yes, of outright gropes.

Countless times I've heard the kinds of suggestive words clueless, stupid men and boys apparently believe are all it takes to turn us on.

I doubt there are many women who have been lucky enough to sidestep any of it. It happens. But I think it's safe to say this is the first time in our history a known serial groper and admitted sexual predator has come this close to becoming President of the United States.  (Okay, stop. Don't even go there. Bill Clinton may have been a low-life serial philanderer in his younger days but he didn't mic up and brag about it; he didn't make it an essential part of who he is. He was impeached. He paid a price, and for all I know it cured him.)

But back to Trump: As of this day and yesterday and the day before, he's hemorrhaging voters and donors and party leaders as fast as the slime will flow.  He has taken to sniffing and stalking and threatening to jail his opponent as soon as he dons his robes and takes the throne. He's threatening to sue the growing numbers of women who are accusing him of gross indecency.  He's threatening to sue the New York Times for using his own actions to condemn him.  He's making noises against the First Amendment, trying to scare off the press.

He blames everyone, but he mainly blames women, and for once he's right.  We are working to take him down. No mystery. Oh, he still has his female followers--those women who will stand next to a guy wearing a tee shirt that says "She's a Cunt" and smile at the camera, those women who wear the title "Trump supporter" and, no matter what, will defend him with a grin. But, thank Hera, they're in the minority.  The rest of us are working to take Donald Trump down. To take him down.

Just before Donald Trump was seen last week stalking around the stage channeling Benito Mussolini, conjuring up New World Order conspiracies, calling out his accusers, our First Lady, Michelle Obama, gave the speech of her life, talking in exquisitely painful language about sexual predation (without mentioning names), and the effect it has on women:
This is not something that we can ignore. It's not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a "lewd conversation." This wasn't just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.

And to make matters worse, it now seems very clear that this isn't an isolated incident. It's one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life. And I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I'm sure that many of you do too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.

It is cruel. It's frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It's like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

It's that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they've said no but he didn't listen — something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day. It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.
 It happens. And it's not just Donald Trump, it's every man who sees a woman's body as a mindless, soulless playground; it's every man who goes into government believing a woman's body is his to legislate.

But I can't leave this page without acknowledging the millions of men who get it, who are outraged by Donald Trump's words and actions, and who are speaking out.  You are our greatest allies, our heroes, the loves of our lives. You are our husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends. You energize us. It's our fight but we couldn't do this without you.

(Click here to watch Michelle Obama's remarkable speech in its entirety.)

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Donald Trump is Not Redeemable. He Cannot Be President.

The first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is behind us now and, except for the usual tiresome trolls, the racists, the bigots, the misogynists, and a few souls who genuinely want to believe a cruel, crass billionaire will be their saving Messiah, the consensus is that Hillary whomped The Donald, slammed him to the ground, and wiped the floor with him. Like a rag mop.

There's a reason for that. She knew what she was doing up there and he didn't. She's running for president and he's not. She's concerned about America while he's concerned about Donald Trump.

He cannot be president. Even in the most alternative of universes (alt-uni), Donald Trump cannot be president. By now there isn't a person in this country who hasn't seen firsthand how little he knows or cares about the presidency, about the awesome responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the Commander-in-Chief.

He thinks he can stop the presses if journalists keep being mean to him.

He thinks he can shut down regulatory departments because he's a businessman and he doesn't like regulations.

He foments mistrust and hatred for people whose color and religion don't match his.

He thinks he'll own NATO and can force world leaders to bend to his will.

If despots praise him, he'll praise them.

He has to be told the world might end if we use nuclear weapons.

He lies.

And on the personal side:

He dodged the draft and calls John McCain a loser because he was a POW.

He brags about forcing a sitting president to produce his birth certificate.

He calls women "fat pigs" and "Miss Piggy" and defends his reasons.

He thinks women who have abortions should be punished by the law.

He mimics a disabled reporter and makes fun of anyone who doesn't get his sarcasm.

He eggs on his crowds to physically attack protestors and offers to pay their fines.

He stiffs people who work for him and blames them for their own misery.

He slimes anyone who goes against him and brags about his insults.

He warns there is nowhere he won't go, nothing he won't do if he feels threatened.

He lies.

He cannot be president.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Deplorable Thought: Trump Could Win

I was standing in line at the grocery store yesterday looking at this National Enquirer cover, trying to convince myself I'm too old to be horrified by these things anymore. It made me queasy and a little breathless but I managed to get past it and move my groceries from my cart to the belt.

When I heard a woman behind the guy behind me gasp and say, "Oh, my!" I knew without a doubt she was looking at that same tabloid cover. She was an older woman.  An "Oh, my!" sort of woman. Tiny, a little stout, a puff ball of snow white hair surrounding a sweet rosy face.  I couldn't quite hear what she was saying but I heard "Hillary".  She laughed then. She said something to the people behind her and they laughed, too.  Then she said, loudly but nicely,  "I would never vote for her, anyway!"

Well, okay. I live in Red Country.  Blood red. So red I'm not just surprised, I'm shocked whenever I meet someone who can admit out loud they'll vote for Hillary.  The Democrats up here don't flaunt their political preferences, they whisper them.  It's as if we're members of a secret cult, never letting on who we really are unless we know we're on safe ground, in the company of others like us.  Putting up yard signs for Democrats is an act of courage.

But the sweet lady in line behind me wasn't quite finished. She said something else to make the people behind her nod and laugh, and then turned back to where I could hear and threw this out: "I guess I'll just go on being deplorable."

She wasn't talking to me, of course, but it was a direct hit, a punch in the gut. The cashier handed me my change. I moved a few steps away and stood there. For many seconds. What could I say to change the mind of this woman who, I just knew, brought dishes to sick people and sent greeting cards? Okay, she may gossip a bit and look down her nose at people who get food stamps, but a Trump voter?  Inconceivable.

I left, of course, without saying anything. No magic words. What could I tell her that wasn't already out there? But I'm haunted by that woman. In another time she would be as appalled by that man as I am. Our politics might always be opposing, but on this we could agree: Never Trump.

What changed?  Do these people, nice as they may be in their private lives, really think Donald Trump would make a good or even an adequate president? Is Hillary hatred all it takes to make the thought of four years of a Trump presidency acceptable? Can't they hear him?  Don't they see he's fueled by power and hate and it consumes him?

Or is this all it takes?

For all the watching and reading I've done during this presidential campaign, trying to make sense of the rise of Trump so we could finally figure out how to fight him effectively, it took a brief encounter in a grocery line for me to finally get the message:  He could win.

Donald Trump could win.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How Hillary Can Appease The Press

The press is rightfully annoyed. She's a presidential candidate, and she should have disclosed the pneumonia diagnosis as soon as she got it. Those aren't the rules for ordinary people, but they are the rules for presidential candidates, and once again Clinton is trying to slide by them.

So why did Clinton's people try to hide her condition? That's pretty easy: After months of baseless health speculation by Donald Trump's rumor machine, she figured the press would go full National Enquirer over this. She didn't trust them to handle it in a normal, level-headed way.

So that's that. There's a gulf of distrust between Clinton and the media that appears unbridgeable. Clinton doesn't trust the press to treat her fairly, so she adopts a hyper-guarded attitude toward everything she does. The press doesn't trust her to honestly disclose anything, so they adopt a hyper-skeptical attitude toward everything she says. Rinse and repeat.

Kevin Drum, September 12, 2016

I've been thinking for a long time about the ways Hillary Clinton might possibly appease the press and get them to look at her as a living, breathing whole person and not just Bad Hillary. I think I've finally got it.

She needs to stop being who she is and be someone else.  She could change her name to--I don't know--Mother Teresa or Mother Jones or Jo Schmo from Kokomo.  It's clear she can't go on as Hillary Clinton.

The Hillary she has lived with all her life has to go. The private Hillary can no longer compete with the public Hillary whose persona, crafted over more than 25 years by people who don't even know her, has now become a caricature. It's incredibly difficult to run for president as a caricature, even with an opponent as cartoonish as Donald Trump.

(Here I could say a few thousand words about Donald The Deplorable and never take a breath, but enough about him. I mean. Seriously. Enough.)

So here, for what it's worth, is my suggestion to members of our esteemed Fourth Estate: How about pretending the woman running for president isn't named Hillary Clinton?  How about taking a long, thorough look at that woman's record--whoever she is--to see if there is anything, any little thing, that might qualify her for the highest job in the land?

It's on you to be honest about both the pros and cons of this woman who, for this exercise, is not named Hillary Clinton. This woman has been in public service nearly all of her adult life.  She was a lawyer first and then she married a man who became the governor of Arkansas and then became the President of the United States.

She was a First Lady twice but nobody knew anything more about her than they knew about Laura Bush or Michelle Obama. She was a senator in the state of New York but nobody knew anything more about her than they knew about her colleague, Chuck Schumer. She ran for president against Barack Obama and lost, which brought her some attention but no more than any other losing candidate.  President Obama chose her for Secretary of State but nobody knew any more about her than they knew about Colin Powell or John Kerry.

This woman who isn't named Hillary Clinton has indefatigable energy but doesn't brag about her accomplishments. She's not the best at public speaking but aces it one-on-one and in small groups. She laughs a lot, sometimes even at herself.  She's pretty damned popular both here and around the planet.

There are people who hate her but the numbers are lower for her because her name doesn't carry the stigma created and maintained by a real, honest-to-goodness vast Right Wing conspiracy.  She makes mistakes, some of them true head-scratchers.  She says dumb things she often has to take back.  She has been known to consort with filthy rich people who probably want favors from her, and with celebrities who are known Liberals. But she's just one among hundreds of other politicians who don't have to answer for their every waking moment, so it'll be okay. Since she's not Hillary Clinton, she'll be able to concentrate on talking about her dreams, her wishes, her goals for the country.

(She may even be able to struggle through a bout with pneumonia without several days of full-bore "breaking news", not so much about her prognosis but about her lack of due diligence when reporting it to the hovering, stalking press.)

There is a real Hillary Clinton, almost identical to this woman, but if you, as members of our venerable press, want us to believe you've been looking for her, you're going to have to work harder at convincing us. Put away your magnifiers and look at the whole woman before you. Analyze controversies, don't create them. Report truthfully about what you observe. Include context. Let molehills be molehills.

It's not on us, it's not on Hillary, it's on you. Now let's see who you are.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years After: We Remember 9/11

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Fifteen years have passed -- a decade and a half -- but for those closest to the terror, for those whose loved ones were caught in that unimaginable rage storm, for those who trained for this, who mobilized and fought so hard to try and save the lives already lost to them, we pay tribute by refusing to forget.

The pictures are all that is left.  They stay with us and resonate as terrible, beautiful works of art.

The agony of the men and women who could do nothing but stand by and watch the towers fall reflected and drove home our own agony -- even those of us in the hinterlands who watched the horrific events unfold on our TV screens, helpless to do anything but gasp and moan and rock with a kind of psychic pain most of us had never felt in our entire lifetimes.


As painful as the dredging up of the images of that terrible day is to us, there is no sense of dread as the annual anniversaries approach.  Every year, on September 11, we want to remember.  9/11 has become a watchword.  Nobody in America has to be told what those numbers represent.  

  Every year on this anniversary, in a ceremony to honor the dead, family members gather for the recitation of the names of the men and women lost to us on September 11, 2001.  The names are being read alphabetically.  For one brief moment the people live again.  We do this for their families and for us.  They're not just numbers or actors in an unimaginable event that became the catalyst for change, altering our lives forever.  We need to keep their memories alive in order to recognize their humanity, and possibly our own.

We remember.

We remember.

We'll always remember.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Without Unions There Would Be No Labor Day. And that's the Least of It.

Every Labor Day I feel more and more like I'm at a labor union wake and all I can do is pay tribute to what once was a living, breathing, cherished part of so many of our lives.

Our lives. Workers built this country and labor unions went to bat to build protections for them.  As labor unions grew, so grew labor's strength. Wages rose to sustainable and beyond, benefits were true safety nets for workers and their families, the promise of healthy retirement packages kept worker loyalty high, and self-respect grew to levels where employees could demand and get concessions from their employers.

That, some would say, was their downfall.  They had no right to expect wages beyond what their employers thought they should pay. They had no right to expect working conditions beyond what their employers thought adequate. They had no right to expect benefits or retirement packages that would sustain them outside of work.  They had no right to make demands.

No, their downfall began when they believed it.

I'll be blasted any minute now by supporters of the notion that U.S workers were their own worst enemies, fighting against outsourcing and offshoring, against lower wages and benefits, against any action their employers might take in order to make a profit. They asked for too much and forced their employers' hands. Now look were they are.

Okay, let's look: (From an article by Richard Eskow, "How Much Will the War on Unions Cost You This Labor Day?)
If union enrollment had remained as high as it was in 1979, nonunion working men in the private sector would have earned an average of $2,704 more per year in 2013. The average non-unionized male worker without a college degree would have earned an additional $3,016, and those with only a high school diploma or less would have earned $3,172 more. (The differences were less striking for women because of workforce changes since the 1970s.)

The decline in union membership is costing nonunion workers a total of $133 billion per year, according to EPI.

Canada resembles the U.S. in many ways, but union membership there hasn’t fallen like it has here. Why not? In a word, union-friendlier policies – the kind our country should be embracing, but isn’t.

We need unions. EPI’s study confirms that they play a key role in reducing economic inequality, which is a growing crisis. The pay gap between CEOs and average workers has skyrocketed in recent decades – from about 20:1 in 1965 to somewhere between 204:1 and 331:1 today.

Everyone talks about the plight of the workers but nobody wants to talk about unions--about the role collective bargaining plays in worker rights and better wages; about the role unions once played in building a vibrant middle class.

So here's a test: Picture what this country would look like if unions had never existed. Imagine the lives of workers and their families if millions of their peers hadn't organized and fought, not just for pay equity, but for the dignity that comes from laboring as an equal with a stake in the outcome.  Ask yourself, were we--are we--better off with or without unions?

Labor Day began as a day to honor trade and labor organizations.  Huge parades designed to show the might of labor took place in cities across the country. I remember, as a small child, riding on my father's shoulders, watching a Labor Day parade in downtown Detroit, where row after row of union men and women marched in the hot sun, carrying flags and banners emblazoned with the names and numbers of their union locals.  It might even have been this one:

 Detroit was a town bursting with union pride. Whole families worked for the Big Three, most of them starting there fresh out of high school.  Many of them worked their full 30 Years And Out. Wages were good and benefits were better. Company loyalty was pervasive and public.  They wore their company names and union logos on their jackets, on their caps, and put union stickers on their cars--the cars they could watch being built from start to finish on the assembly line.

This year Bill Clinton will be the headliner at Monday's parade in Detroit. I hope he stops long enough to get an earful from the union folks working hard for Hillary in hopes that she'll work hard for them. I want to hear that word "union" attached to any mention of labor from now until November.

And next year, on Labor Day, I want to be rejoicing here and not commiserating.  I want attention to be paid to the workers still grinding away, building us up instead of tearing us down.  I want them to feel their worth, to know they're needed. I want to shove aside once and for all those who do everything they can to stand in their way.

Have a happy Labor Day weekend, but come Tuesday let's get back to work.  All together now, let's give labor a chance.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Photo:  Jesse Walker
 Trump again. I know. I'm obsessed with who he is, how he got here, where he's going, and who's going down with him. Day by day, in every way, it's as if the planet has tilted and those of us still upright are experiencing an existential vertigo.  (In other words, "What the hell is happening??")

In a matter of a precious few months Donald Trump vanquished more than a dozen barely worthy but infinitely better opponents and now he's as astonished as anyone that it's looking less like a political coup and more like a damned junta!

He's the general in charge of an army of rapscallions and scalawags just itching to start the looting and pillaging. But forget all that!  He, Donald J. Trump of Donald J. Trump fame, gets to be the general!

It's the power of positive thinking gone ballistic. It worked! The man is at the top of his game--a bigger con game than even he, Donald J. Trump, could imagine, and he'll do anything to stay up there. It's not about them. It's not about us.  It's about him, him, a thousand times him.

So let's talk about how he got here. (This won't take long.) He got here because the American press and the TV pundits put the last remnant of journalistic ethics in mothballs in order to whoop it up with a goofy blowhard who could be counted on to give them stories that practically wrote themselves.

When Donald Trump won his party's presidential nomination and promised to go after Hillary Clinton with a vengeance the world has never seen, nobody-- not even the alert, ever-ready (cough cough) press corps--thought he actually meant "with a vengeance the world had never seen."

When he took to calling her "crooked Hillary" everyone on his side got a huge laugh out of it, while  our side--the Hillary side--did a kind of "ho-hum, that's all you got?"

It was the press that wouldn't let it go, the press playing the willing foil to Trump's childish attacks on them, the press settling in and going along, no matter how low the road would take them.

Now Trump's attacks have moved from the silly "crooked Hillary", from the astonishing "Hillary Clinton is a bigot", to the outright bald-faced lie, "the Clinton Foundation is a scam".

Just last week, Trump, struggling to follow along with the hated teleprompter, said, about the Clinton Foundation, that "access and favors were sold for cash." That's a lie.

In the same on-the-cuff speech he said, "Clinton used her private email to cover corruption".  That's a lie.

Everyone, including the press, knows by now that any words surrounding "I", "I'm", "she", "they", and "the people" will form as if by magic into outrageous, slanderous lies.  He lies.  Of course he lies.  But the crowds!  The polls!  The ratings! 

Not so with Hillary Clinton.  They grab onto every word, waiting for the moment when what they're hearing can be pulled out and molded into something you might expect from the murky Hillary character they've so carefully crafted over a quarter of a century.

Nobody could be happier than Donald that he gets away with it while Hillary doesn't. So it's not surprising that Trump would latch onto a recent Associated Press story about the numbers of Clinton Foundation donors who were able to have an audience with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State and claim he knew it was crooked all along.

The article began like this:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.  (My bold)
The perception, the article explains, is that Hillary Clinton has been selling access to the State Department, the price being a substantial donation to the family foundation. The AP has been on this for a long time, it said, working to bring out the truth about how the Clintons might have profited by using both the State Department and the Clinton Foundation for their own personal gain.

There is nothing in the article to suggest the two reporters working on the story found the answer.  Nothing that would raise new questions about the Clinton's ethics or bring to light the need for such a lengthy investigation. (The Clinton Foundation is a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit foundation. Their records are public.)  But Donald Trump, ever the opportunist, weighed in on it as if the evidence against the Clintons was obvious.  From that same AP article: 
Trump fiercely criticized the links between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department, saying his general election opponent had delivered "lie after lie after lie."

"Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office," Trump said at a rally Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. "It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office."
Well, no, this story does not prove Hillary Clinton is unfit to hold public office, and it's not abundantly clear that the Clinton Foundation was set up for anyone's profit. What's unclear (with abundance) is the reasoning behind the AP's decision to publish an article devoid of any actual research, based solely on what it might look like.

Nancy LaTourneau writes in the Washington Monthly:
But here is where the AP blew their story. In an attempt to provide an example of how this becomes an “optics” problem for Hillary Clinton, they focused much of the article on the fact that she met several times with Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor. In case you don’t recognize that name, he is an economist from Bangladesh who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance as a way to fight poverty, and founded Grameen Bank. For those efforts, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.
The connection the AP tries to make is that SoS Clinton met with Yunus because he was a Clinton Foundation donor. What they didn’t mention is that their relationship goes back over 30 years to the time Hillary (as first lady of Arkansas) heard about his work and brought him to her state to explore the possibility of implementing microfinance programs to assist the poor.

(Note: I'm taking bets on how many times the anti-Hillary opportunists will use that original AP story against her.  Add it to the long list of dubious ammunition.  File it under "I got nothin. Hey! What's this. ..?")

But where is the mea culpa from the press? When will they admit they had a hand in building up Trump's popularity and an equal hand in creating Clinton's unpopularity?  The press reports and the people listen.  We depend on them to give us facts to help us make decisions. Politics can be entertaining but there's a reason it's not categorized as "entertainment".

(I leave you with this breaking news: Hillary Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin has just announced she is separating from her husband, Anthony Weiner, presumably over another sexting incident. At MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell is asking Ann Coulter what she thinks Donald Trump will make of this, while. at CNN, a four-person panel is waiting for the commercial break so they can discuss what Donald Trump will have to say about this. Seriously. Or not.)

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)