originally written on 12/23/2016

Since it’s beginning to look a lot like our new President-elect has no problem allowing Vladimir Putin to use him as a pawn in his quest to start a nuclear war with China and achieve Russian world dominance, my sincere wish for Xmas this year is that we get to have another few Xmases in the future.

Yesterday, both Trump and Putin announced (in similar terms, less than 24 hours apart, and get used to them being in lockstep with the goosestepping) their intentions to reawaken the arms race and begin to stockpile more nuclear weapons. Sarah Kendzior has a great breakdown of the ramifications of this announcement from a global and nuclear standpoint here. I recommend reading it.  This interview from 1987 shows that for 30 years now at least, Trump has had it in his mind that the US and Russia can dominate the world together through nukes, bullying, and thuggish intimidation. But Putin doesn’t want a partner, he wants a puppet. Trump is a spoiled rich kid to whom we gave our lives as a toy. Putin will play him like a fiddle.

This is Trump in 1987:

“Most of those [pre-nuclear] countries are in one form or another dominated by the U.S. and the Soviet Union,” Trump says. “Between those two nations you have the power to dominate any of those countries. So we should use our power of economic retaliation and they use their powers of retaliation and between the two of us we will prevent the problem from happening. It would have been better having done something five years ago,” he says. “But I believe even a country such as Pakistan would have to do something now. Five years from now they’ll laugh.”

[interviewer] “You think Pakistan would just fold? We wouldn’t have to offer them anything in return?”

[Trump again] “Maybe we should offer them something. I’m saying you start off as nicely as possible. You apply as much pressure as necessary until you achieve the goal. You start off telling them, ‘Let’s get rid of it.’ If that doesn’t work you then start cutting off aid. And more aid and then more. You do whatever is necessary so these people will have riots in the street, so they can’t get water. So they can’t get Band-Aids, so they can’t get food. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to do it—the people, the riots.”

That last part is important. The idea that riots and total civil collapse are necessary before real change can happen is central to Trump’s worldview, at home and abroad. Here he is, more than 25 years later, on Fox and Friends in 2014 talking about economic problems here in the US:

“You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be, when we were great.”

When you realize that the first step in making us great again is getting us to total hell, with disaster and riots, the administration’s antagonistic stance toward its critics, nightmarish appointees and hires in its ranks, and general air of disregard toward the people it claims to represent make all that much more sense. Among and possibly chief of those nightmarish appointees is Steve Bannon, White Supremacist…er, I mean, Chief Strategist. Lots of people like to call Bannon a populist or a nationalist, but those words don’t really mean anything anymore. What’s more, Bannon’s rejected them in the past. Here he is in 2013 being interviewed on his own worldview. See if this sounds familiar.

Then we had a long talk about his approach to politics. He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.

 

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

So if it starts to look to you (as it will if you pay attention) like the Trump administration is actively trying to screw the country up so badly as to cause economic collapse, societal breakdown, and civil war, it might not be (just) total ignorance and incompetence on the part of the President-elect and his staff. They’ll blame it on liberals, protesters, and terrorism, but it won’t be because of that either. It might be because the destruction of society is their goal. Trump has stated this before, been consistent on it over decades. His Chief Strategist has espoused the same idea. Why not take them at their word?

Please pay attention. Happy holidays.

On November 29th, after being brutally bullied and harassed online for months by her peers, 18-year-old Texan Brandy Vela shot and killed herself in front of terrified members of her family. In the wake of her tragic, terrible death, her father has said that he hopes this incident will spark changes in the way bullying is handled, and her school has vowed “to make sure that there will be no more online harassment and use this as a learning lesson.” These are noble ideas, but they are facing an uphill climb against American culture. After all, bullying is abuse, Brandy Vela was a woman, and the abuse of women has already been accepted as normal in this country to a horrifying degree.

On November 27th, April Peck was shot and murdered by her boyfriend, Terrell Walker. There has been no outcry about the horrors of domestic assault, no vow to change things to end the endless cycle of abuse and murder of women by men. It’s likely the case would have gotten no national coverage at all except for the fact that Walker also shot and injured 17-year-old Daniel Wesley, a Good Samaritan who stopped to try to help April Peck while she lay dying in the street. The press regarded that as newsworthy because Good Samaritans rarely get shot but violence and abuse toward women by their partners is so commonplace as to be regarded as normal; a 2010 CDC report states that more than 1 in 3 women in the US “have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” In Louisiana, where April Peck lived and was murdered, the rate of women murdered by men per capita is second only to Alaska. 94% of those women knew their murderer. 73% knew their murderer as a husband, boyfriend or an ex.

The deaths of Brandy Vela and April Peck are equally awful, yet are perceived in different ways by the press and the public at large. The death of Brandy Vela is seen as senselessly, needlessly tragic, and people want to know why it was allowed to happen and how it can be prevented in the future. This is the right reaction.

But the death of April Peck is treated as tragic but unavoidable. Many media accounts treat her death as the precursor to the events of violence that would come afterwards, events that would become the focus in many stories about April Peck’s murder. The media seemed to believe the shooting of Wesley deserved attention because it was obviously senseless and unjust, and that the police killing of Walker later in a shootout deserved attention because it was heroic and exciting. April Peck was a footnote in her own murder accounts. Because she knew her abuser and murderer, which is also true of 93% of all the women murdered by men nationwide, no one asks why her senseless death was allowed to happen and no one asks how this can be prevented in the future. But despite the vast gulf in the perception of these crimes of abuse by the media and the general public, there are many things about their deaths that are the same.

Brandy Vela was tormented and victimized over a long period of time. She told the police, she told her family, she told her school, she changed her phone number. She died anyway.

April Peck was tormented and victimized over a long period of time. She told the police, she told her family, she told coworkers and friends, she threw her abuser out of her house. She died anyway.

Police say they were unable to take action against Brandy Vela’s abusers because they did not know who those abusers were, thanks to an untraceable app they used in their online harassment. That may be true, but it seems unlikely that knowing who the abusers were would have fully stopped the abuse. After all, police knew that April Peck’s abuser was Terrell Walker, and they knew he was a danger to women.

Walker was arrested in 1992 and charged with first degree murder. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter and received 10 1/2 years in prison. He was arrested again in 2006 for stalking with a dangerous weapon. He pleaded guilty to a reduced weapons charge and received 2 1/2 years in prison. His ex-wife told police, “on multiple occasions that he physically abused her and threatened to kill her. Over several months, Walker allegedly broke into her home, implied over the phone he would kill her and, on one occasion, chased her down the street and dragged her into a car.” Relatives, friends and co-workers of April Peck all knew that Walker was jealous, abusive and violent.

On November 15th, not even two weeks before Walker killed April Peck, he was arrested for beating her up. The police report said he choked her and “stepped on her face” because he believed she was cheating on him, something her sister said was both a common accusation for him to make, and untrue. He was let out on bail three days later with an order by the judge to not see April Peck anymore. Barely more than a week later, they were both dead.

Much is made of the fact that although Brandy Vela called the police and told her family and changed her number, she could still not stop the abuse being heaped on her. Obviously, nobody blamed her for the actions of her abusers. This is the right reaction.

But April Peck also talked to the police, and told her family and friends. When Walker came home after making bail for assaulting her, she kicked him out of the house. Yet only April Peck is implicitly blamed for allowing her own abuse to continue, and so also for her failure to stop Walker from murdering her. In story after story, Peck is accused of “continuing to see” Walker after his release, even though, like most women caught in an abusive relationship, she was not in a position to decide whether or not to let her abuser keep abusing her.

In stories about Brandy Vela, officials from her school and the police department are made to answer questions about what they did to prevent her abuse, what they could have done, and what they will do in the future. No such questions are asked about the fate of April Peck. Not of the courts or the police or of our culture. We have apparently given up on our system and its power to protect someone like April Peck, and so we have allowed our system to give up on April Peck.

Cyberstalking, harassment and abuse (let’s stop calling it “bullying” which makes it sound like juvenile child’s play) has been an ongoing problem for women online for years now. It is real, it is heinous, and it should be fought and exposed whenever possible. But it is not a separate issue from the systemic harassment and abuse of women perpetrated in our culture since our culture began.  In polite society, we like to think this abuse hides in dirty little corners, out of the light of day, but as more and more of our lives become exposed by social media new social norms, the abuse becomes more open, more pervasive, and tragically, more accepted, even celebrated. Our new President-elect has bragged on tape about abusing and sexually assaulting women, and been accused of assault publicly by several women. His words were brushed off by millions of Americans as harmless, the women who came forward accused of being liars and opportunistic charlatans. His chief strategist runs a website that ran an editorial by a misogynist titled “The Solution To Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Just Log Off.”

The message is clear. The people who will soon run this country, and many of the people who populate it, will be fine with harassment and abuse online as long as it is directed toward women, just as they are fine with that type of abuse offline.

Brandy Vela’s death is senseless, tragic and sad. Above all it should never have been made to happen, should never have been allowed to happen. And unfortunately, it will probably do very little to stop the same tragic, senseless thing from happening to another beautiful young woman who deserves better from our society. And in all those respects, the deaths of Brandy Vela and April Peck are, heartbreakingly, exactly the same.

If you or someone you know is being abused, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TDD). For more info, go here. Call 911 whenever there is immediate danger.

If you or someone you know is being harassed or abused online, contact your local authorities, and report them to the social media and online service providers involved. Check here for more info.

In all cases, don’t be afraid to talk about it, with everyone you can. Stigma breeds ignorance, and ignorance of abuse by those who don’t practice it is a big part of the problem. Don’t be ashamed. Be angry. Don’t feel like you deserve it. Insist you deserve better.

Thanks for reading. See you soon.

(April Peck’s sister is running a gofundme drive for April’s children.)

originally written 1/3/2017

Throughout his campaign, we were told Donald Trump was a “populist,” someone who wanted to Make America Great Again for the rank and file workers who have seen America constructed from their blood, sweat, and tears only to be ignored when it came time to share in the American Dream. Being one of these workers, I’d love if that really came to pass. But it’s clear that Donald Trump’s idea for Making America Great Again is not making a better America for workers, but making America more attractive – more profitable – for their employers. It’s time the American worker asked what price they’ll have to pay, what sacrifices they’ll have to make on the altar of Great America – For Corporations. It’s a cost every American worker – even those who right now feel they are secure – will bear.

Since the election, Trump has taken credit for decisions by both Carrier Corp and Ford Motors to retain or create some jobs in the USA rather than in Mexico. Neither company actually made a deal with Donald Trump or the Federal Government – Carrier received $7 million in tax breaks from Indiana while Ford stated decreased demand for the Ford Focus compact car drove their decision making – but both companies cited confidence in the new administration’s ability to create a more business-friendly environment through “pro-growth policies” “corporate tax overhaul” and “tax and regulatory reforms,” thus creating a more profitable environment for their corporations.

That sounds harmless enough, especially if you buy what the GOP has been selling for years – that high corporate taxes and onerous regulations are hurting corporations and therefore hurting workers, and that increased corporate profits eventually “trickle down” to workers. But it’s been obvious for years that, when given the choice, corporations would rather pocket money than hand it to an employee, every time. You can ask anyone that’s ever worked for one.

That’s why CEO pay has gone through the roof while the average worker has seen their pay decline, their benefits reduced, their rights and protections eroded, almost eradicated. That’s why, during the recovery, corporate profits grew while middle class wages declined. Money that should have gone to the worker in the recession went instead to big business, shareholder profits, foreign investors, and, through shady backdoor real estate and development deals like the kind our President-elect has engaged in on a regular basis, into the pockets of grifters and charlatans.

This article demonstrates how, since the mid-70s, wages have dropped about 7% while corporate profits have increased 7%. This gap has grown faster and become much more pronounced since 2000.

Increased corporate profits have never meant increased worker profits or a better environment for workers. And the Obama administration and, to a larger degree, our Congress deserves criticism for allowing those profits from the recovery stimulus and growth to be consumed by the corporate class and the top 1%.

Trump was supposed to change all that and make this an economy for the workers instead of Wall Street. But none of his policy proposals translate to better jobs or better compensation for us American workers. In fact, most of them will cost us. We should be looking at how – and how much.

What will we have to pay for? Trump has said multiple times we can’t remain competitive with other countries because “our taxes are too high, our wages are too high.” He’s promised to create an environment where companies can be competitive with companies in other countries. How will this Greatness be achieved?

Obviously, the high taxes will be dealt with by lowering corporate taxes, handing out tax breaks. But how much ground can be made up there? Even though Trump constantly claims we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, we don’t. At 35%, it’s not even that much higher than Mexico’s, which is 30%. How many tax breaks can we give? Ford Motors already receives Billions of dollars in tax breaks in the US. Besides $2.3 Billion from the state of MI, they get hundreds of millions from IL, KY, MO, etc. They are already not paying close to that 35%, tax money that could be going to reform our VA, feed our hungry kids, improve our health care and education systems. How much more can we cut their taxes before we’re just handing them money straight out of Joe Workingman’s pocket in the name of Greater profits?

Trump said in addition to taxes being too high, wages are too high. Again, he has said it multiple times, and I imagine every chairman and CEO feels the same way. The average worker in the US makes 10x more than the average worker in Mexico. Ford pays its Mexican manufacturing employees $3 an hour.

That’s an awful lot of space to make up to get “competitive.” How would that be done? For starters, look at how it’s already started. Through reduction in benefits, paid time off, sick leave, maternity leave, paid holidays and overtime, and the systematic decimation of our unions. For years, corporations have used the recession as an excuse to depress wages. This continued with the implied blessing of the Obama administration, but the Trump administration, led by his cabinet of Wall Street financial kingpins, will be complicit in the theft, direct accomplices, ringleaders, even. In the Trump administration, it will be considered patriotic for the average American to work for less money so the corporate machine can have a Great deal more. All our wages will continue to stagnate. Your health benefits, retirement benefits, vacation and sick packages will all continue to decline in quality and your employers will tell you it’s so “we can remain competitive.”

But even this group of robber barons will have trouble depressing wages and compensation far enough to satisfy the folks who watch the bottom line for Corporation USA. So the Trump administration will ask, for us, without asking us: “How else can they, the American people, pad your pocketbooks enough so that you might deign to employ some of them when you obviously don’t really feel they’re worth it?”

Ford and Carrier both named regulatory reform as being part of what they expect from the Trump administration to make it worth their while to keep some (not all) of their jobs in the US. This “reform” will surely include the destruction of regulations at the state and federal level dealing with worker protections against harassment, persecution, and discrimination. Safety protections in the workplace will be severely relaxed, and employer liability will be severely reduced.

Other regulations you can expect to come under attack in the name of Making America Great Again are regulations that have to do with the amount of pollutants a manufacturer can dump into the atmosphere and water table, costing us our children’s health and well-being. Look to the poisoned water of Flint, MI to see an early symptom of America’s future Greatness. No doubt Ford Motors is looking forward to relaxed standards for fuel economy and emissions, leading to higher costs at the gas pumps for the American consumer, and more carcinogens in their air supply, as they lose their health insurance, which their employer probably doesn’t have to provide anymore. I know Carrier expects a relaxation of the energy saving technology required on their appliances, which will allow them to make them cheaper, but will also cause the American consumer to pay more in electricity costs for the privilege of owning one.

So it won’t just be the employees of these corporations themselves that pay the price, in reduced wages, benefits, and protections. At least those people will grateful to still have a job. But even those that have what they consider to be a secure job already will pay through the general stagnation of wages, destruction of benefits packages, and erosion of workplace protections that will result in a worse work environment for all of us. Even those that don’t work will pay the cost through the deterioration of their environment and higher energy costs due to reduced controls on emissions and efficiency, and less safety for ourselves and our families due to lower standards in the manufacturing of our cars and appliances.

All these costs to pay, and all right from Joe Workingman’s hand directly to Corporate USA’s pocket. Trump asks nothing from Corporate USA. He threatens tariffs on imports and on companies that move jobs overseas but since Carrier is still moving over 1,000 jobs to Mexico and getting a $7mil tax break from the state of Indiana for the trouble, it’s been made clear to Corporate USA that those threats are not genuine. In fact, they’re a sign that the Government is sitting there waiting to hand out a big tax break and who knows what backdoor promises in order to get a nice press release where they can claim to have saved a small number of jobs they didn’t actually “save” while not securing anything in the way of a better wage or work environment or guarantee of worker security past what next quarter’s profit margin dictates. In exchange for a few hundred jobs at a swipe, the Trump administration is eroding the wages, rights, and protection of everyone in this country.

Nothing in this world is free, and the government welfare Trump is promising these already profitable corporations has to be paid for by someone. As always, that someone will be the rank and file worker and the middle and lower class taxpayers. Even if you voted for him, you’ll be asked to pay. And if people get angry, thinking the country is looking too much like the countries we’re trying to remain “competitive” with? Maybe we’ll get those riots that Donald Trump and Steve Bannon think the country really needs. The ones that Trump said will get us “back to where we used to be, when we were Great.”

See You Soon