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Worthy of debate

(Dan here)n There are all sorts of ideas about what is going on right now in the US, and many proposed opinions. Yves offers an opinion on the Women’s March itself, but I am watching both locally and state wide (MA) where the follow up is actually happening, what forms it takes, and who is involved. Perhaps others can add knowledge and experiences to date. Certainly Democratic party leaders at the national level are searching for responses. I am going to leave my own experiences in the comments…I think this time around involvement by newcomers and activists might persist and figure out how to keep this energy effective. On the other hand, the testing of dedication is yet to come.

Women Skeptical of the Women’s March

Posted on February 10, 2017 by Yves Smith

Yves here. I’m hoisting this discussion from Water Cooler the day before yesterday. It echoes other doubts raised about the Women’s March, such as the ones in the Counterpunch story, No Pink Woolly Caps for Me. Seasoned protestors point out that the track record of non-issue-oriented marches, no matter how large scale, is poor, and the status of this march as officially sanctioned (blanket media coverage when other marches of hundreds of thousands of people have been minimized, police not tricked out in their usual riot gear) also indicates that the officialdom does not see it as a threat to the status quo.

In addition, as the discussants point out below, the March organizers’ demands were vague and not internally consistent. The reality was that the march was against Trump, as opposed to for a concrete policy program.

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California farming and our food sources

From the New York Times comes this information on the nature of immigration in California.

Mr. Trump’s immigration policies could transform California’s Central Valley, a stretch of lowlands that extends from Sacramento to Bakersfield. Approximately 70 percent of all farm workers here are living in the United States illegally, according to researchers at University of California, Davis. The impact could reverberate throughout the valley’s precarious economy, where agriculture is by far the largest industry. With 6.5 million people living in the valley, the fields in this state bring in $35 billion a year and provide more of the nation’s food than any other state.

Now he worries that a Trump administration could mandate a Homeland Security Department program called E-verify, which was aimed at stopping the use of fraudulent documents. In all but a few states, the program is voluntary and only a small fraction of businesses use it.

Farmers here have faced a persistent labor shortage for years, in part because of increased policing at the border and the rising prices charged by smugglers who help people sneak across. The once-steady stream of people coming from rural towns in southern Mexico has nearly stopped entirely. The existing field workers are aging, and many of their children find higher-paying jobs outside agriculture.

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Trump Administration Plays Havoc with Education–and your tax dollars

by Linda Beale

Trump Administration Plays Havoc with Education–and your tax dollars

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education in a Senate vote that had every Democratic Senator voting against her, along with two brave Republican Senators (Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; and Susan Collins, Maine).  Thanks to those no-voters who showed integrity.  Regrettably, the vote created a tie, broken in DeVos’s favor by Trump’s Veep, Mike Pence.  Note that the result is that Senators representing by far the vast majority of the American people voted AGAINST DeVos.

As a Michigander, I can tell you firsthand that this is a disastrous choice for the head of the most important Education agency in the country.  Betsy DeVos is just another one of Trump’s billionaire crony capitalists who are using service in the government–which  is supposed to be about service on behalf of We the People–as a way to funnel more money to their fellow crony capitalists through elimination of protective regulations, open exploitation of federal lands, and willful ignorance about the harm that their crony capitalist policies have done and will do to the economy.

ASIDE:  Check out, for example, Melania Trump’s new lawsuit claiming $150 million in damages from The Daily Mail because it’s article on the company she modeled nude for suggesting that the company was an ‘escort service’ cost her the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to get rich off of her “multi-term” exposure to being the most photographed woman in the world–i.e., (not explicitly stated but clearly implied) her status as First Lady.

Betsy DeVos  is an heiress with billions who married into another crony capitalist family with billions.  The DeVos family has used its wealth to curry favor and influence in state and federal government.  IN particular, Betsy DeVos has been busy using her wealth to remake public education in Michigan in line with her own particular religious and crony-capitalist views on Michigan’s education.  She supports junk science including “intelligent design“, the pseudo-science replacement term for religious “creationism”, in an attempt to undo scientific support for evolution.   She has pushed charter schools on Detroit–blaming any education shortcomings on dedicated teachers and disadvantaged students in public schools that have been deprived of hundreds of millions of state dollars owed them while turning a blind eye to the abject failures of for-profit charter schools in which ‘management companies’ rip off taxpayer dollars to overpay executives without having to comply with any of the accountability measures that are pressed on public schools that are underfunded. 

Betsy DeVos knows nothing about public education, knows very little about the privatized charter schools she pushes, knows nothing about education law, and knows nothing about improving education in inner cities or poor rural areas.   What she does know is that she supports any way possible to take taxpayer money and give it to religious and other private schools to use without accountability to the public.

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In case you thought Trump was imploding . . .

by New Deal democrat

In case you thought Trump was imploding . . .

For those of you who may be cocooned in the liberal blogosphere, I’m afraid I must administer a cold slap in the face.

Here is the graph of Gallup’s Economic Confidence Survey from its inception nearly 10 years ago.  Notice that spike to new highs right at the end?

Let’s zoom in for a closer look, as in the last 3 months:

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GOP Senators fight facts: won’t hear Coretta Scott King’s views of Attorney General nominee Sessions

by Linda Beale

GOP Senators fight facts: won’t hear Coretta Scott King’s views of Attorney General nominee Sessions

GOP obstructionism is back again in full form.  This time, instead of voting over and over again to eliminate affordable health care (Obamacare) for the 20 million Americans now covered by the health reform act or declaring that they will not perform their duty to even hold a committee meeting on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, they are declaring their unwillingness to listen to anything that doesn’t suit them about Trump’s band of misfits for cabinet posts.  They are, in other words, declaring themselves fit only for a world of “alternative facts” (i.e., lies) and “rose-tinted glasses” for looking at Trump nominees like Jeff Sessions.

During Black History Month, Republican Sen. McConnell squelched Democratic Sen. Warren‘s speech on Jeff Sessions and called for a roll-call vote to rebuke her under a quaint Senate rule against casting aspersions on fellow Senators for discussing Sen. Sessions’ (dis)qualifications for the office of Attorney General to which he has been nominated by the Trump administration.  What was Senator Warren’s so-called sin?  Reading portions of a letter that Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 to oppose his nomination to be a federal judge.  See, e.g., Mitch McConnell gives Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign an in-kind contribution, Washington Post (Feb. 8, 2017).

This appears to be one more blatant example of the two-facedness of the Republicans in Congress.  It was fine for Republicans in the House and Senate to malign President Obama (a former member of the Senate and thus a colleague as well) by calling him names and casting aspersions on his citizenship (Trump’s invention of the so-called “birther” movement)!  But hearing what a highly respected fighter in the civil rights struggle wrote about Senator Sessions’ attempts to curtail the voting rights of Black voters through harassment and intimidation was too much for Republicans!

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Trump’s Cabinet Picks Are A Sorry Lot

Lifted from ataxingmatter from Jan 18:

by Linda Beale

Trump’s Cabinet Picks Are A Sorry Lot

As the Friday inauguration date draws near, most ordinary Americans who read, stay informed, pay attention to history and events, and engage in critical thinking are, understandably, aghast at the poor job Mr. Trump has done so far in putting together a workable Cabinet of high-level appointees with the expertise, experience and values that can lead the country.

We Americans share many values.  Among them has always been a view that those who are better off should help those who are less well off. We’ve done that in many ways, beginning with private charity (supported by our tax code) but going much beyond the soup kitchens and church support for a sick parishioner to include a progressive income tax, taxation of the estates of the wealthiest among us upon their deaths (since they were generally almost tax free in life), and the provision of many necessary services through public institutions.  The latter includes things that are important to the everyday life of all of us as well as the opportunities for better lives for those of us not born with a silver (or, in Trump’s case, golden) spoon:

  • a public right to decent health care, made real by the expectation that hospitals (whether for profit or nonprofit) will care for those who enter their emergency rooms in medical emergencies, even if the patients cannot afford to pay the going price for the service needed, and made more substantive by the passage of the Affordable Care Act which provided coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowed young people to remain on their parent’s insurance, and made market exchanges available to provide better to understand choices while providing a federal subsidy for those who otherwise couldn’t afford insurance;
  • public education from kindergarten through college, supported by federal and state funding, with reasonable rules that protect our children, such as not allowing private carrying of guns within protective zones around schools, and –in many states–rules that ensure that public support reaches poor districts as well as wealthy ones;
  • protection of the environment, from national monuments and parks to restrictions on dangerous fracking and oil drilling in sensitive areas (consider the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), from ensuring that communities have clean water to drink through regulation of corporate waste to ensuring that children have safe homes through regulation of lead paint, from protecting the nation’s waterways so that individual owners and polluters cannot hoard or harm nationally important resources to protecting creatures large and small that represent the genetic diversity of this Earth
  • regulation of commercial enterprises, to ensure that they do not exploit their workers, through fair labor laws and hiring laws and workplace rules that prevent employers from being able to force individuals to work in dangerous conditions or without appropriate rest and meal breaks
  • regulation of financial enterprises, to ensure that those sophisticated ‘quants’ don’t take advantage of less sophisticated customers, to prevent discriminatory practices that disadvantage people of color, to ensure open and fair reporting of financial positions
  • regulation of the foods and drugs that enter our marketplace, to protect Americans, our children and our pets from the kind of pollution of food products that occurred when China’s unregulated marketplace allowed melamine (plastic) to be substituted for protein in pet foods that were exported abroad or the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides without informing consumers so that we can make good decisions about products that we buy; and on and on

Trump’s appointees for many of the important Cabinet positions seem to be primarily wealthy crony capitalists with radical ideologies that are in direct conflict with the agency missions. Consider just the following three:

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Trump Administration Plays Havoc with Voice of America

by Linda Beale

Trump Administration Plays Havoc with Voice of America

Did you know that the Republicans inserted a change to the administration of the Voice of America (VOA) network in the December military authorization ‘must pass’ bill?  The VOA has always been administered by a bipartisan broadcasting board of governors–distinguished nonpartisan media experts.  The change was to have the $800 million budget Voice of America run by a CEO appointed by and directly responsible to the President of the United States.

Trump has now appointed  (maybe temporarily) two twenty-something Trump political operatives to oversee the VOA.  Matthew Schuck is a 2012 graduate from the nondescript Montgomery College who got his start with the Heritage Foundation and then the (alt) right-wing site Daily Surge and worked for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin. The other, Matt Ciepielowski, does not have even that modicum of (mis)understanding of journalistic standards: he is a 2012 graduate of Quinnipiac University and a Republican political strategist who worked for the right-wing Americans for Prosperity organization before he became the NH state director for the Trump campaign.  He also has ties to Ron Paul (Texas libertarian). See, e.g., Trump moves to put his own stamp on Voice of America, (Jan. 23, 2017); Donald Trump sends two aides to Voice of America studios, raising fears he’s going to politicize the outlet, (Jan. 24, 2017).

In other words, it appears that the Trump enterprise in the White House wants to convert the Voice Of America into a propaganda arm for Trump’s “alternative facts” reality show in the White House, just as Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary, has served as a spouter of misinformation and what Trump’s “beliefs” are rather than what the actual facts are.  Compare Kellyanne Conway’s statement that we shouldn’t listen to what Trump says but should “look at what’s in his heart”.  See e.g., Aaron Blake, Kellyanne Conway’s laughable ‘look at what’s in his heart’ defense of Donald Trump, Washington Post (Jan. 9, 2017). Just ways of claiming that lies and distortions don’t matter and allowing Trump political operatives to say whatever they want.


The Voice of America director Amanda Bennett did pull a tweet on Spicer’s erroneous statement reiterating Trump’s “biggest inauguration ever” claim.  Her claim is that stories aren’t “balanced” unless they have a response from the Trump administration. That’s hooey.  Having to have Trump’s version of alternative facts embedded in every VOA story converts the story from news to propaganda.

This is sounding more and more like a tin pot dictatorship.  As Stuart Stevens tweeted (noted in the Politico article cited above): “Irony is that VOA’s reason for existing was to provide truth to those who lived where the government controlled the press.” (emphasis added)

And this matters for tax policy.  Ask yourself.  How can we have any kind of legitimate discussion or legislation on tax when the Trump administration distorts information and presents “alternative facts” that suit the 70-year-old narcissist in the White House, whether or not they have anything to do with the evidence or issues at hand?

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