Wednesday, February 22, 2017: Adolf Trump and his DHS/ICE Schutzstaffel
I was told about a German student at one of the major Ivy League colleges that was told to immediately come home to Germany by his parents following the Trump election. He wasn't even allowed to finish the semester. He said that his parents had seen the rise of this type of political power before. They clearly wanted him out of the United States before the control of the country was totally in the hands of a dictator like Hitler.
The most recent immigration orders issued by Trump along with adding 10,000 new DHS/ICE enforcement officers (his version of the SS) should scare the hell out of everyone. His goal is to publicize crimes committed by undocumented immigrants (like no U.S. white American citizen commits a crime); strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.
Trump is building the concentration camps. Can gas chambers be far behind?
Monday, February 20, 2017: Republican Tactics - Continued
Tactic 5: Lies, Deceit and as Kellyanne would say, "Alternative Facts"
It is absolutely incredible to watch the Trumpster, his advisors, and his spoke persons sell their snake oil. No amount of truth dissuades them from presenting their version of reality, however warped or untrue their version might be. Take the case of Trump's "look what happened last night in Sweden" remark. A false reference to a terrorist attack in Sweden that was apparently created by Fox news. So Trump's intelligence briefings are now provided by Fox. But that is not what is scary. What is scary is that the Trump faithful unquestioningly swallow the shit they spew proving once again that stupid is forever.
Friday, February 17, 2017: Republican Tactics - Continued
Tactic 4: Undermine Public Education
Republicans understand that an ignorant electorate is an easily manipulated electorate and where better to start their attack on knowledge than in our public schools. The Betsy DeVos appointment as Secretary of Education has brought this tactic into the limelight. The policies that DeVos has managed to implement through her elected minions in Michigan have fundamentally destroyed Michigan public education. Now that DeVos is Secretary of Education, she will attempt to foist the same tactics used in Michigan on the other 49 states.
The initial focus in Michigan has been to attack public education where the children are most vulnerable and the electorate is likely democratic with little power to stop the onslaught. They use testing like a weapon. They demonize our professional educators. They ignore the real problems with our most vulnerable school population, which is the struggle these children face every day just to survive. They fail to realize that local schools are the cornerstone of neighborhoods offering a safe haven to children at risk. They push "for profit" charters as the answer even though charters are miserable failures and they want limited or no oversight for the charter schools. They want to implement vouchers that can be used for private schools, further limiting the oversight and control and allowing our tax dollars to be spent on religious indoctrination.
If DeVos gets her way, she will spread her cancer into every public school system in our country. The states must fight back. Public education has been the backbone of our society and must be protected from the likes of DeVos.
Ah, but lest they stop there, funding for public universities has also been slashed to the point where fewer and fewer middle income families can afford a four year college degree. For many who do pursue a college education, it is only by going deeply into debt. The result - total outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. now exceeds $1.2 trillion. That is the second-highest level of consumer debt behind only mortgages.
"You take sixteen credits and what you get, another semester older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don't call me 'cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the Federal store."
If ever increasing student debt weren't bad enough, average wages for young college grads have been falling since 2000 with women fairing far worse than men. What next? Hum, how about debtor prisons for students who can't pay back their loans? At least if they are in prison, they won't be able to vote for a democrat.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017: The Battle for American Democracy: Republican Tactics - Continued
Tactic 3: Right to Screw the Worker (a.k.a. Right to Work)
There is no question that passing Right to Work laws in states where Republicans now have control is a key tactic and at the top of their agenda. The objective is to take economic and political power away from the common man. Right to Work simply translated: if you want to economically and politically cripple the electorate.
I worked in management my entire career, but I understood the need and place for unions. Unfettered corporate power with no counter balance is corruptive and leads to the abuse of the worker. The anti-union rhetoric associated with Right to Work focuses on economics, and never speaks about the fact that unions not only fight for decent, livable wages, but also for workplace safety, job security, worker benefits, class size, adequate school funding, and decent working conditions. They work to insure productivity gains are shared with the workers and negotiate rules to prevent abuse – all subjects that Republicans could give a shit about.
From a purely economic perspective, when unions are strong, everyone benefits. Past history shows us that the salaried worker received raises when the union negotiated raises for its members. Salaried workers also received the same or better benefit packages as the unions. If you were in a trade or profession where there was a strong union but you were not a union member, your pay went up too, albeit not to the same level as the dues paying union member.
Republicans see Right to work Laws as a way to not only screw the union member, but also a way to shaft middle management and every non-union person in the same trade or profession. This tactic has been successful beyond their wildest imagination. From 1948 to 1973 when unions were strong, productivity went up 96.7% and hourly compensation when up 91.3%. From 1973 to 2013 productivity went up 74.4% but hourly compensation only when up 9.2%. All the economic benefit of the productivity gains in that forty years flowed up to the shareholder. What happened in early 70's? The Koch's, the DeVos's and the others in their billionaire class started their formal attack on unions and their push for Right to Work.
So bottom line, unless you are independently wealthy, if you support Right to Work laws you only screw yourself.
Monday, February 13, 2017: The Battle for American Democracy: Republican Tactics
A continuation of the February 10th post.
Tactic 2: Manipulate the Electorate and our Elections to Establish and Maintain Control
Manipulate Elections: Using their majority in the state legislatures, they modify the boundaries of electoral districts to favor Republicans and create voting restrictions that place the poor and minorities at a disadvantage. Chief among their methods is passing laws that require a state issued photo ID to vote while at the same time closing state offices that issue the IDs in areas that are heavily populated by minority voters. At the Federal level, they were able to get a Republican dominated Supreme Court to lift the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that prevented certain states from passing voting laws without the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice. They also use aggressive poll watchers to intimidate voters and try to limit absentee voting, limit polling places, eliminate Election Day registration, make it difficult for college students to claim residency near their colleges, and limit extended voting days/hours.
Manipulate the electorate: First and foremost, they actively exploit the one-issue voters. They do this by "telling them what the they want to hear" which in most cases means lying to them. The Republicans know that the one issue voter is so invested in their issue that they will ignore all of the egregious policies the Republicans will foist on them. The one issue voter is willing to sacrifice their future, their money, their safety, their health and their democracy as long as they think their issue is going to be a the top of the list. These people include the "birthers", the gun nuts, the Tea Party types, the nationalists, and the racists.
The Republicans also carefully craft their messages so that they can be understood at a fourth grade reading level. The Republican voter doesn't want facts or details or complexity. They want simple answers to complex issues. So the Republicans craft messages that are simple but generally hide an agenda or are code for something more nefarious. Examples: "No Child Left Behind" was code for "use testing to cut Federal Title 1 funding to our most needy children" and "Make America Great Again" is code for "Make America White Again"- a thinly veiled message to the racists and xenophobes.
Another key strategy is to stay on the offense and fight dirty. Most Republicans are amoral. They are not concerned about what is morally right, only what gets them the desired result. So they are willing to break laws, violate ethics, defame, and inflame – even commit treason I suspect. In so doing, they manage to appeal to the baser instincts of their voting constituency and dupe their voters by shifting the focus away from their real plans and policies.
Friday, February 10, 2017: The Super Rich versus Everyone Else: The Battle for American Democracy
Make no mistake my friends, this is a fight for our existence as a democratic state. Forget leader of the free world. We lost that standing when the Trumpster was elected. My only hope is that we can win this battle without civil insurrection. To understand the challenge ahead, it helps to look at the goal and strategy of the super rich and the tactics they are using to achieve their goal.
Their Goal: Establish and Maintain a Fascist State. I have used "fascist" consistently in my rants, so it is probably best define what I mean by fascist. "Fascism is a philosophy of government that stresses the primacy and glory of the state, unquestioning obedience to its leader, subordination of individual will to the state's authority, and harsh suppression of dissent. Martial virtues are celebrated, while liberal and democratic values are disparaged. Fascism arose during the 1920s and '30s partly out of fear of the rising power of the working classes; it differed from contemporary communism (as practiced under Joseph Stalin) by its protection of business and landowning elites and its preservation of class systems." (various sources)
Their Strategy: Leverage Their Massive Wealth and Resources. Use the vast wealth and power accumulated by the top .01% to influence and buy elections so that every branch, division and level of government in the United States is populated with their (Republican) minions. They will never call it a fascist state, but that is exactly what the super rich want to achieve. Michigan has been one of the Beta test states. Every nook and cranny of Michigan government is in the control of the Republicans, as are many local governments. This is a direct result of an obscene amount of money spent by the DeVos family and others on elections and political candidates in Michigan. Michigan now has the best government money can buy. Thank you Antonin Scalia.
Their Tactics: There are many, but all are designed to destroy or neutralize every aspect of our society that empowers the average American. In this post and over the next few posts I will cover what I believe are their specific tactics. Each tactic has been carefully crafted and designed to help achieve the end goal.
Tactic 1: Assume Control of a Major Political Party
The United States has a two party system. Successfully launching a viable third party is near impossible. The only viable option is to take over an existing political party. So the Koch brothers and others funded and manipulated the extreme right wing Tea Party crazies to leverage their way into the Republican party. If a moderate Republican state or federal congress person didn't fall in line, the Koch brothers and DeVos's were more than happy to fund some Tea Party nut case to run against him/her. The fear of being pushed out of their elected position got them to fall in line. Eric Cantor was probably the highest ranking and most visible example.
This has been a clearly successful tactic. Not only are the legislative and executive branches of American government now populated with fascist minions, but we are potentially going to see every major U.S. department and the U.S. Supreme court controlled by the same party. Absolute and Carte Blanche control over the facets of our democracy designed by the Founding Fathers to protect us.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017: The Christian Taliban
With the appointment of Betsy DeVos, the Christian Taliban has gained a significant foothold on America. What better place to start their effort than with our schools. According to a Mother Jones article by Kristina Rizga, Betsy and Dick DeVos have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations seeking to privatize education and blur the separation of church and state. Can the Christian version of Sharia Law be far behind?
To truly understand how really unsettling her appointment is for America, you need the read the full Mother Jones article: Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America's Schools to Build "God's Kingdom".
Tuesday, February 7, 2017: Diversionary Tactics
We need to stop focusing on the Trump absurdities. Forget the size of the crowd on inauguration day, the length of his ties, and forget the illegal voting crap. Forget the wall. The press should give little or no attention to his rants, his insults or his inane tweets. Trump's absurd claims are nothing more than a diversion to take the focus off the real objectives of the current administration and the Republican Party. The gang currently running this country will use every arrow in their sociopathic quiver to keep us off guard.
We must stay focused on fighting the numerous actions by the Republicans that are designed to diminish our democratic rights, destroy our environment, limit affordable health care, assault the safety of our food, water, and medicine, undermine public education, illegally limit immigration, and any policy that solely benefits the rich at the expense of the rest of us.
Saturday, February 4, 2017: The Separation of Church and State
President Trump speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington this past Thursday vowed to eliminate a law that prohibits churches with tax-exempt status from engaging in political activity. Where will this insanity end? First, Alito and the Citizens United ruling allowing the billionaire class unfettered and obscene political influence and now proselytizing at the poles? Isn't it amazing how the constitution only applies when it serves the purpose of the Republicans? At some point he will probably say that the ruling only applies to "Christian" churches. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and every other religion on the planet will be excluded.
The United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of Everson v. Board of Education stated "the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State." This is good. We don't need the Christian Taliban running this country.
Friday, February 3, 2017: Whale Farts and other Excuses to Go to War
I fought in Vietnam and saw many young brave Americans die needlessly. Years later we were told that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that kicked off that bloody conflict was probably only whale farts and not a supposed second attack on the U.S. destroyer Maddox. Then in 1968, Tricky Dick Nixon directed his campaign's efforts toward scuttling the Johnson Vietnam peace initiative because he felt it would give Hubert Humphrey, a Democrat, the edge in the November 1968 presidential election. In more recent history, we were at war in the Middle East within a year of Dubya's inauguration based on the Dick Cheney WMD fiction.
The Republicans love war. It feeds the military industrial complex and our current Republican administration now has total control over the decision to prosecute one.
I predict that we will be back into a new Middle East war sometime during the first year of the Trump administration. Mike Flynn is already kicking sand in the face of the Persians. I mean come on now, they launch a missile and we "put them on notice?" For God's sake, the North Koreans are the real threat. Why aren't we saber rattling at them? Oh, wait. My guess is the Trumpster really wants us to emulate North Korea's outstanding record of human rights.
So why should a Trump voter care? Well, it is simple. If there is anything to be learned from the last half century of wars, it is that you still need foot soldiers. The U.S. military knows that it can no longer effectively wage a major war simply with volunteers - conscription is the only way to go. So it is just a matter of time before you start to hear this administration kick around the idea of drafting our men and women (yes, women too) into the U.S. armed services.
A good, bloody war needs cannon fodder and that means sacrificing American youth on the altar of the Republican war mongers. Unfortunately, Americans tend to ignore this ugly reality until the body bags start arriving home.
Thursday, February 2, 2017: They Ain't your Grandfather's Republican
Here are some of the common characteristics I have observed in today's Republicans. They are arrogant, elitist, narcissistic, greedy, ignorant by choice, bigoted, misogynistic, manipulative, have a sense of personal entitlement, feign Christianity,
…….and for them, rules and common practice do not apply.
Once again we get a peek at the character of the Republicans in congress. When they don't get their way, they simply change the rules. It is just a matter of time before they subordinate the rule of law and our constitution to their own fascist agenda.
"President Trump, seeming to relish a fight with Democrats over his nominee for the Supreme Court, on Wednesday encouraged the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, to invoke the so-called nuclear option and abandon the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees." N.Y. Times, Wednesday, February 1, 2017.
- "For the second time this week, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted a hearing on the nominations of Representative Tom Price and Steven T. Mnuchin, Mr. Trump's picks to lead Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury. But Republicans on the committee broke with the practice that a member of the minority party be present and held a vote Wednesday without their Democratic colleagues. They voted unanimously to move the nominations forward." N.Y. Times, Wednesday, February 1, 2017.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017: The Nature and Treatment of Incompetence
In November of 1981, AT&T published an article in its Manager magazine titled "The Nature and Treatment of Incompetence" by Henry M. Boettinger. Mr. Boettinger, a one time assistant controller at Michigan Bell Telephone Company, retired and took up residence at Oxford University as a Fellow of the International Academy of Management. His thoughts on competency are particularly relevant given that we have the village bully (albeit from the very large village of NYC) now leading our country. The article has likely been lost in the archives of time, but I scanned my copy of the publication and it can found here.
As Boettinger points out, incompetence can be injected into an organization when a person is appointed (or elected?) for reasons other that ability to do the work. These types of appointees not only mishandle the job and corrode morale, but they enjoy immunity from the type of discipline that purges an organization of incompetents.
In his article Boettinger lists some of the attributes of incompetence. Here are a few. The rest can be found in the full article. You can decide how many fit our sitting president.
"Leadership must be demonstrated, not announced." -(Fran Tarkenton)
- Unwillingness to listen to any intelligence or information that runs contrary to existing prejudices.
- In confrontations, retreating to precedent, together with reliance on rank or position to overwhelm opposing views.
- Polarized attitudes: "Whoever is not with me is against me."
- Refusal to deal with those of inferior rank from other organizations in solving problems.
- Avoiding controversies by appointing subordinates to deal with contested issues and hostile parties.
- Appointment of persons most like themselves, rather than those best fitted for the tasks, and subsequently, inability to admit mistakes in appointments.
- Tendency to recount accomplishments of a past career when faced with current problems.