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On the lighter side of life... 

#1445: Tommy, Riposa in Pace

requiescat in pace

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Trump & The Mob

http-//www.politico.com#13C5A6C

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"Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss'd to me

I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door."

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Hundreds of Oregon Corporations Escape the Minimum Tax

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Half of the US Is Broke

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The myth of the Christian country

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“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR, 2nd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1937

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A Just Peace

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SIP contract online

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Middle East friendship chart

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Corporations enriching shareholders

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- Intel tax abatements

- INTEL, come clean!

- Leashing INTEL  

- Free to Be Hungry

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Facts not fiction on universal gun background checks

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"Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere"

Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The GOP - Not One of US.

Wall Street, our new criminal class...       

   Business in the USA is sitting on $2 trillion dollars refusing to invest their own funds in expanding and hiring workers.  

   When one adds to this the reserves that banks, equity firms and hedge funds have - the picture is clear - "capitalism in the USA is on strike." 

   The engine of our economy - the spirit of entrepreneurship is not in evidence today.  So much for business being dynamic and risk taking. 

   They hire K- Street lobbyists and their ilk at the state level because they are averse to risk taking - pleading for tax breaks, tax credits and endless loopholes. 

   The "business of business" in America today is not about job creation, it's about wealth hoarding and redistribution from the middle class to the top 1%. 

   So for those who claim government doesn't create jobs, my response is that business doesn't either until given "corporate welfare" by government.  The fact is that the private and public sector are highly integrated, something the anti-tax, anti-government Tea Party types don't understand. 

   Job creation requires public/private partnerships but the benefits of such collaboration should go to the 99% not just the 1%.  

 

RAD'S

WEBSITE PICKS: 


 

  • An Independent View

Oregon Outpost

  • A Middle East View      

Rami G. Khouri

  • RealClearPolitics:

Realclearpolitics

  • Jim Hightower:   

Jimhightower.com

  • Robert Reich:

Robert Reich

  • Thomas Friedman: 

Friedman Column

  • Nicholas Kristof: 

Kristof Column

Oregon's Motto: 

She flies with her own wings! 


Hard Times in Oregon: 

Hardtimes

The Oregon story - the rich get richer, the poor and middle class lose ground.  Check this front page Oregonian article out. 

Oregon wage gap widens

Homelessness in Oregon - a call to action

Chuck Currie The crisis of homelessness


  

      Oregon's coming 34th out of 41 states in the Obama "Race to the Top" illustrates the failure of leadership from Governor Kitzhaber and his predecessors as they have built an educational bridge to nowhere called high stakes testing.

   Instead of being in a race to the top we seem to be dumpster diving to the bottom despite doing education reform since 1991.  Insanity is termed doing the same thing over and over again.  When can we put a fork in this stupidity? 

   To confuse matters more the Oregonian's editorial board has pontificated that this was a lost opportunity to get federal funding for innovation.  How firing principals and teachers equals innovation is a mystery to me.   

   The way to reform schools is to reduce class sizes, to encourage teacher collaboration and to support their continued education.  High stakes testing and performance based assessment of teachers are NOT the answer!    

   If you want students to succeed you first have to resolve the issues they confront before they come to school.  Children who face poverty, hunger, homelessness, health care issues and family instability require wrap around services for them and their families, 24/7.   

   Every child needs a safe home of their own and parents who know how to be good parents.   

There is only one way to address this impending crisis.  Schools must have a stable source of funding. Until that happens - we will limp from crisis to crisis.   

 

 

    

    Why does the richest nation in the world have the moral blight of homeless people?

Invisible People

http://www.npr.org


 Homelessness

    Connecting the dots between homelessness & hunger in Oregon and Washington County: 

Homelessness:  

•    The faces of the homeless are families with children, single men and women, vets, and many who are impaired. It is estimated that in Washington County up to 56% of homelessness occurs to families.

Hunger:

•    Hunger is highest among single mother households (10%) and poor families (15%) as well as renters, unemployed workers and minority households. 

     In Washington County, Oregon's "economic engine," the divide between the affluent and the working poor continues.  We have a 19,000 unit gap in affordable low income rental housing.  County political and business leaders are indifferent to this crisis...   


A RAD rhetorical question - Were Madison & Marx "Marxists"?  

 

"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments."   

- James Madison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAD Lines

See my FACEBOOK @ Russ

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  • He lost by 2.9 million votes...

  • He's a con artist...

  • He's a pathological liar... 

  • He's a failed business man...

  • He's a fascist... 


Every Fascist Needs an Enabler. Donald Trump Will Have Mike Pence.


Trump's role models are Vladmir Putin and Benito Mussolini.  He has contempt for our checks and balances system.  He wants to "rule" not govern like a strong man, a despot.  He will shredd the Constitution anytime he feels the urge to do so and like all despots he only listens to his inner circle.  And he is paranoid and narcissistic. 

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SB 1533 passes!  

http://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=10863

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Housing Needs in Oregon 

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"There are men who believe that democracy... is limited or measured by a kind of mystical and artificial fate [and that] tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future..." 

FDR, 3rd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1941

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Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel

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Taking on the Pro-Israel Lobby 

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Sign the petition ►

Walgreens - pay your fair share of taxes!


  • "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws." - Mayer Amschel Rothschild


  • Miguel de Cervantes, from The Duke - "I accuse you of being an idealist, a bad poet and an honest man."  Cervantes' response - "Guilty as charged, I have never had the courage to believe in nothing."   from Man of La Mancha  


Intel failed to report fluoride emissions for almost 30 years   


Professor Kingfield, from the Paper Chase

   "I'm not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you." 

- George Bernard Shaw

 

BLOGS:

From the Left Wing:

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman - The New York Times

Democracy Now
democracynow.org

The Daily Kos

dailykos.com

Blue Oregon

blueoregon.com

 

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." 

- Emilie Buchwald 

 


    "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." 

- Justice John Paul Stevens, Bush v. Gore, 2001

    The state of our union - check out the map, it's a reality check for those who can't figure out why people are so ticked off... 

americanobserver

    Here's Garrison Keillor's rap on the rightwingnuts:   

GarrisonKeillor

 

     Garrison Keillor - "...The Founding Fathers intended the Senate to be a fount of wisdom... but when you consider...  moon-faced Mitch McConnell, your faith in democracy is challenged severely. Any legislative body in which 41 senators from rural states that together represent 10 percent of the population can filibuster you to death is going to be flat-footed, on the verge of paralysis, no matter what. Any time 10 percent of the people can stop 90 percent, it's like driving a bus with a brake pedal for each passenger. That's why Congress has a public approval rating of [11] percent...." 



"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war"

- John Adams

"Loyalty to country always.  Loyalty to government when it deserves it."  

- Mark Twain  

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  

- George Santayana 

"The love of one's country is a natural thing.  But why should love stop at the border?" 

- Pablo Casals

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." 

- William Butler Yeats  

 

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' 

But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"  

- George Bernard Shaw, "Back to Methuselah" (1921) 

"...the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society...  The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government..."  

- James Madison, Federalist Papers #11 

"Why … should we have government? Why not each individual take to himself the whole fruit of his labor, without having any of it taxed away?”   

The legitimate object of government, is to do for the people whatever they need to have done, but which they can not do, at all, or can not do, so well, for themselves – in their separate and individual capacities … There are many such things … roads, bridges and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools … the criminal and civil [justice] departments."    

- Abraham Lincoln 

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society  

- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates, but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole..." 

- Edmund Burke  

“It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever hath been done before may legally be done again, and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind.  These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions.”  

- Jonathan Swift 

" Every satirist who drew breath has flung pots of ink at this parade of tooting lummoxes and here it is come round again, marching down Main Street, rallying to the cause of William McKinley, hail, hail, the gang’s all here, ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay."  

- Garrison Keillor 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

  

 


  

 

Thursday
Apr202017

TRAINING

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Two of my fun things to do which get me away from politics and the 24/7 news cycle are model trains and golf.  Since it's been so wet and cold this spring so far, I've had no golf but an expanded model train season. 

The Tualitin Valley & Pacific RR

“Sentimental journey” from 6 to 75

In the beginning…  

       I live in the Portland, Oregon metro area. My layout is a fictional spur line, the TV&P RR, which in the 50s would have connected via Portland to mainline UP, GN, NP and SP&S railroads.     

      I got hooked on American Flyer trains at age 6 in 1948 when I got my first train at Christmas, a PRR K-5 engine plus four freight cars. Over the years I’ve added to my railroad collection.

     Like Joe Sullivan wrote in his “American Flyer Memories” column in the South Jersey S Scalers Club newsletter years ago – “Catalogue dreaming” was a major past time.

     As is typical my interest in model trains ebbed and flowed with the years. When I went off to college and then graduate school my model train habit took a hiatus but not my love affair with trains.  

     UP City of Portland excusion train at Union StationOver the years I’ve ridden the rails on the UP “City of Portland”, SP “Daylight”, GN “Empire Builder”, the Canadian Pacific and Amtrak’s DC/NYNY Metro Liner.

     I’ve visited the B&O train museum in Baltimore, the California RR museum in Sacramento and The Chicago Science & Industry museum and the Smithsonian in DC which have the real things and also fabulous model train layouts.  Balboa Park in San Diego and Tacoma’s Washington State RR museum also have huge model railroad layouts. 

St. Paul to early Oregon training…

     When my wife started teaching the first grade in St. Paul, Minnesota while I was a grad student at the U of Minnesota, I put up my model trains as part of a transportation unit in her classroom. This gave me the excuse to “double” my original set buying an AF Hudson freight set for $25!     

     Moving east in 1969 for my first college teaching job the trains went into storage. But moving to Oregon in 1975 and buying a home the next year I had space for my trains.

    I put them up on our garage floor but Oregon’s wet weather was not a good fit for electric trains.  For a year they ended in our older son’s bedroom. It was amazing how a 7 year old could navigate Daddy’s trains.

     In 1982 they came out of the boxes again. What are the holidays without model trains running around the tree? Asthma ended the tree motif but my railroad empire grew to occupy half of our living room!  But my back and knees were taking a beating. 

The Tualitin Valley & Pacific RR is born

     After remodeling our garage in 2004 into a “family” room – I had space for a permanent model railroad platform on top of newly built storage units and my wife got space for her Teddy Bear collection – a win/win!

     My goal as an S-Gauger is to run and display my trains. They are “toy trains” so while my layout has a lot of scenery – the centerpiece has always been the trains whether operated or as a RR diorama.  

Build it dudes

     Based on a simple drawing of what I wanted our remodeler built the base of the layout in his workshop with Douglas fir 2/4s supports and plywood.  Upon completion they drove it over to our house in two sections    

      The upper interior base of the layout is cabinet quality construction with one 2 x 4 cross beam on each section and 3 vertical layered inner edging supports of 1/2, 1, 1/1/2 inch around both halves of the layout to support the plywood platform on which the trains are run. 

      The storage space has a 3 1/2 recessed by 3 1/2 inch depth inner floor frame with a plywood floor. The layout is accessed by 2 sets of recessed tracked sliding doors on each side of the layout, 67" x 35" x 28" - length, width and height. 

     Entrance to Grandpa's Train RoomOur remodeler and his son had to bring each white painted unit into the back door of our new family room and through the inner door to the new “family” room. Somehow they did it.

    They built a connector 38” x 26” section to connect the 2 units abutting the back wall and a 7” x 38” wood bridge platform connecting the front section opening which enables me to run trains on separate loops at the same time or a single train onto either loop.   

     The roadbed platform is a ¾ inch plywood base wit ¾ inch raised edging.  It’s covered by black indoor rug material purchased at a local building supply store. With the AF rubber roadbed this muffles the sound when trains are running.  

The dimensions of layout…

     GN diesel mainline freight/GN steam locla freightWall to wall on the back is 11.5 ft in length. This includes the inner connecting section 3.2 ft length x 2.2 ft depth.   

     From the back wall to front of the layout on both sides is 7.8 ft. This leaves me with an open space between each section of my layout of 5.6ft length x 3.2ft depth.         

     The front section is 5.1 x 3.2 x 3.2 ft in length. Height from floor to top of the layout is 3.1 ft.   

     My main transformer bank is on the left side of the left section loop.

     With the help of a child’s chair, I duck under the plywood bridge base and Scenery Unlimited trestle bridge that connects the two front-end sections of my layout.  It can also be lifted but that is a chore so far I have avoided.   

Scenery...    

     My layout features a rural scenes in Oregon’s Willamette Valley or the Columbia Gorge. I add to the illusion with wall scenes of mountain, desert country and a city industrial district. But it’s not a replica of a particular place or town. I leave that to one’s imagination.  

Bershire passenger train pulls into Fir Grove with UP Northern waiting      I have two fictional towns – Fir Grove a small county seat town in the inner loop and a rural farming village Gales Crossing on the outer loop with an adjacent train yard along with a commuter wayside and a short trolley line.  

     My villages feature Plasticville buildings – city hall, church, pastor cottage, fire station, gas station, post office, two barns, a fruit stand, a suburban house, a covered bridge, 2 switch houses and 2 AF repo news stands.  

     I have two tunnels made in Holland, a scratch belt train station, a Marx station all purchased at train shows. I also have a lighted molded pizza parlor and grocery store near the “Fir Grove” station.  

     I have a lighted molded cathedral and a Scenery Unlimited farmhouse which I use as a B&B. The B&B and cathedral are connected via Bachmann trolley car tracks running the length on the back of the layout in front of the engine house.

Operating equipment: 

     My model railroad empire is an eclectic collection of rolling stock - American Flyer, AF by Lionel, American Models, SHelper Service, Scenery Unlimited and MTA S Gauge.

     Window train display     Trackside features include a Lionel semaphore, 3 AF semaphores, AF oil derrick, MTH floodlight tower, AF water tower, AF revolving aircraft beacon, AF stockyard, AF barrel loader, two AF billboard whistles, AF water tank, AF crossing gate, Sam the Semaphore Man, AF Wayside Station, 3 sets of AF lamps and an MTH UP arrival/departure billboard adjacent to the north end of my layout.  

     Operating cars included Bachmann Christmas & Hershey Chocolate Trolleys, AFL GE Search Light car, AF Gilbert Milk car, AF Hand car, AFL Walking Brakeman car, AFL Joe & Moe flatcar, AFL Operating coal car, AFL operating lumber car, AF Railway Express mail car and 4 operating cabooses.  I have 2 AFL, 2 AM rail sound box cars plus “B” unit AF SF, AFL UP, SP, and AM NP rail sound cars.  

     Other features - AFL Polar Express truss bridge, 2 UP MTH truss bridges, a Scenery Unlimited steel and a lighted AF trestle bridge, Lionel engine house, an AF diner and a Parr Hobby Shop grain elevator.

     I also have many scale cars, trucks and figures. 

SP Alco pulling passenger consist over the tressle bridge     I have 15 steam engines, 28 diesel engines @ 200 freight cars and @ 100 passenger cars.  I have 11 compete passenger consists of heavyweight or streamliner trains, SP, UP, BN, NP, WP, MP, Pullman & the Polar Express.

     The most unique feature of my layout is the 18 inch long snow shed tunnel made out of corrugated iron by a professional sculptor friend, a one of a kind production based on pictures of such tunnels in eastern Washington state.   

     I also have three book cases in the train room which give me extra display space for my steam & diesel engines plus room for my many train books, videos and DVDs. I’ve run out of space so my empire has maxed out – until I visit the next train show...

Power system…

     My layout is powered by two American Models transformers boosted by an American Flyer 19B, two 8 Bs, one 1.5B, two Marx transformers and a Tech II transformer.  My Bachmann trolleys are powered by a Track DC Accessories AC transformer.  

     UP Big Boy heads to repair houseI also have 3 S Helper Service LocoMatic control boxes, a Lionel Trainmaster Cab I remote and Lionel Berkshire remote. A Train Power Pack 5400 runs a DC AM Burlington switcher freight on the inner loop.      

     Since my AF tracks are embedded in AF rubber roadbed and with 14 AF switches I need a lot of extra power caused by power gaps in the AF tracks, how clean the tracks are and variable engine power need and consist load.   

Train viewing…

     Over the years of thanks to E-Bay, attending train shows, swap meets and hobby stores in the Midwest, East and West my railroad empire has expanded from that modest start in 1948 in San Francisco.

     My wish is that AFL, AM or MTH would add a GN Empire Builder streamliner passenger consist to their product line.   

     Next up?  I bought my grand daughter the O Gauge Thomas the Tank engine and loop plus some old Lionel gondola cars. It’s in our living room where the Christmas tree used to be – oh dear here we go again! 

     Who knows what’s around the bend – toot toot Thomas!

     Grandpa's train girl on the Oregon Heritage Holiday train, with Rudolph in the SP Baggage car;  the other is Miss L wringing a former steam engine train bell at the OHT museum on a warm fall day in Portland. 

Happy 7th Birthday Lavanya!  


Tuesday
Apr112017

THE UNTHINKABLE IN AMERICA?  

The Culture of Cruelty in Trump’s America

Posted on Mar 22, 2017

By Henry A. Giroux / Truthout

Henry Giroux (born September 18, 1943) is an American and Canadian scholar and cultural critic. One of the founding theorists of critical pedagogy in the United States, he is best known for his pioneering work in public pedagogy, cultural studies, youth studies, higher education, media studies, and critical theory.

Khürt Williams / CC 2.0

     For the last 40 years, the United States has pursued a ruthless form of neoliberalism that has stripped economic activity from ethical considerations and social costs. One consequence has been the emergence of a culture of cruelty in which the financial elite produce inhuman policies that treat the most vulnerable with contempt, relegating them to zones of social abandonment and forcing them to inhabit a society increasingly indifferent to human suffering.

     Under the Trump administration, the repressive state and market apparatuses that produced a culture of cruelty in the 19th century have returned with a vengeance, producing new levels of harsh aggression and extreme violence in US society. A culture of cruelty has become the mood of our times—a spectral lack of compassion that hovers over the ruins of democracy.

     While there is much talk about the United States tipping over into authoritarianism under the Trump administration, there are few analyses that examine how a culture of cruelty has accompanied this political transition, and the role that culture plays in legitimating a massive degree of powerlessness and human suffering.

     The culture of cruelty has a long tradition in this country, mostly inhabiting a ghostly presence that is often denied or downplayed in historical accounts. What is new since the 1980s—and especially evident under Donald Trump’s presidency—is that the culture of cruelty has taken on a sharper edge as it has moved to the center of political power, adopting an unapologetic embrace of nativism, xenophobia and white nationalist ideology, as well as an in-your-face form of racist demagoguery.

     Evidence of such cruelty has long been visible in earlier calls by Republicans to force poor children who get free school lunches to work for their meals. Such policies are particularly cruel at a time when nearly “half of all children live near close to the poverty line.” Other instances include moving people from welfare to workfare without offering training programs or child care, and the cutting of children’s food stamp benefits for 16 million children in 2014.  Another recent example of this culture of cruelty was Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tweeting his support for Geert Wilders, a notorious white supremacist and Islamophobic Dutch politician.

     Focusing on a culture of cruelty as one register of authoritarianism allows us to more deeply understand how bodies and minds are violated and human lives destroyed. It helps us to acknowledge that violence is not an abstraction, but is visceral and, as Brad Evans observes, “should never be studied in an objective and unimpassioned way. It points to a politics of the visceral that cannot be divorced from our ethical and political concerns.”

     For instance, it highlights how Trump’s proposed budget cuts would reduce funding for programs that provide education, legal assistance and training for thousands of workers in high-hazard industries. As Judy Conti, a federal advocacy coordinator [at the National Employment Law Project] points out, these cuts would result in “more illness, injury and death on the job.”

     Rather than provide a display of moral outrage, interrogating a culture of cruelty offers critics a political and moral lens for thinking through the convergence of power, politics and everyday life. It also offers the promise of unveiling the way in which a nation demoralizes itself by adopting the position that it has no duty to provide safety nets for its citizens or care for their well-being, especially in a time of misfortune.

     Politically, it highlights how structures of domination bear down on individual bodies, needs, emotions and self-esteem, and how such constraints function to keep people in a state of existential crisis, if not outright despair.

     Ethically the concept makes visible how unjust a society has become. It helps us think through how life and death converge in ways that fundamentally transform how we understand and imagine the act of living—if not simply surviving—in a society that has lost its moral bearing and sense of social responsibility. Within the last 40 years, a harsh market fundamentalism has deregulated financial capital, imposed misery and humiliation on the poor through welfare cuts, and ushered in a new style of authoritarianism that preys upon and punishes the most vulnerable Americans.

     The culture of cruelty has become a primary register of the loss of democracy in the United States. The disintegration of democratic commitments offers a perverse index of a country governed by the rich, big corporations and rapacious banks through a consolidating regime of punishment.

     It also reinforces the workings of a corporate-driven culture whose airwaves are filled with hate, endless spectacles of violence and an ongoing media assault on young people, the poor, Muslims and undocumented immigrants. Vast numbers of individuals are now considered disposable and are relegated to zones of social and moral abandonment.

     In the current climate, violence seeps into everyday life while engulfing a carceral system that embraces the death penalty and produces conditions of incarceration that house many prisoners in solitary confinement—a practice medical professionals consider one of the worse forms of torture.

     In addition, Americans live in a distinctive historical moment in which the most vital safety nets, social provisions, welfare policies and health care reforms are being undermined or are under threat of elimination by right-wing ideologues in the Trump administration. For instance, Trump’s 2017 budgetary proposals, many of which were drafted by the hyperconservative Heritage Foundation, will create a degree of imposed hardship and misery that defies any sense of human decency and moral responsibility.

Public policy analyst Robert Reich argues that “the theme that unites all of Trump’s [budget] initiatives so far is their unnecessary cruelty.” Reich writes:

  • His new budget comes down especially hard on the poor—imposing unprecedented cuts in low-income housing, job training, food assistance, legal services, help to distressed rural communities, nutrition for new mothers and their infants, funds to keep poor families warm, even “meals on wheels.”

  • These cuts come at a time when more American families are in poverty than ever before, including 1 in 5 children. Why is Trump doing this? To pay for the biggest hike in military spending since the 1980s. Yet the U.S. already spends more on its military than the next 7 biggest military budgets put together.

  • His plan to repeal and “replace” the Affordable Care Act will cause 14 million Americans to lose their health insurance next year, and 24 million by 2026. Why is Trump doing this? To bestow $600 billion in tax breaks over the decade to wealthy Americans. This windfall comes at a time when the rich have accumulated more wealth than at any time in the nation’s history.

     This is a demolition budget that would inflict unprecedented cruelty, misery and hardship on millions of citizens and residents. Trump’s populist rhetoric collapses under the weight of his efforts to make life even worse for the rural poor, who would have $2.6 billion cut from infrastructure investments largely used for water and sewage improvements as well as federal funds used to provide assistance so they can heat their homes.

     Roughly $6 billion would be cut from a housing budget that benefits 4.5 million low-income households. Other programs on the cutting block include funds to support Habitat for Humanity, the homeless, energy assistance to the poor, legal aid and a number of antipoverty programs.

     Trump’s mode of governance is no longer modeled on “The Apprentice.” It now takes its cues from “The Walking Dead.”

     If Congress embraces Trump’s proposal, poor students would be budgeted out of access to higher education as a result of a $3.9 billion cut from the federal Pell grant program, which provides tuition assistance for low-income students entering college. Federal funds for public schools would be redistributed to privately run charter schools, while vouchers would be available for religious schools. Medical research would suffer and people would die because of the proposed $6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health.

     Trump has also called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, making clear that his contempt for education, science and the arts is part of an aggressive project to eliminate those institutions and public spheres that extend the capacity of people to be imaginative, think critically and be well-informed.

     The $54 billion that Trump seeks to remove from the budgets of 19 agencies designed to help the poor, students, public education, academic research and the arts would instead be used to increase the military budget and build a wall along the Mexican border.

     The culture of cruelty is on full display here as millions would suffer for the lack of loans, federal aid and basic resources. The winners would be the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the private prison industry and the institutions and personnel needed to expand the police state. What Trump has provided in this budget proposal is a blueprint for eliminating the remnants of the welfare state while transforming American society into a “war-obsessed, survival-of-the fittest dystopia.”

     The United States is now on a war footing and has launched a war against undocumented immigrants, Muslims, people of color, young people, the elderly, public education, science, democracy and the planet itself, to say nothing of the provocations unfolding on the world stage. 

RAD NOTE:  This article was written prior to the missile attack on Syria and today's threat to North Korea to go it alone if the Chinese don't help us. 

     The moral obscenity and reactionary politics that inform Trump’s budget were summed up by Bernie Sanders: “At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when 43 million Americans are living in poverty and half of older Americans have no retirement savings, we should not slash programs that senior citizens, children and working people rely on in order to provide a massive increase in spending to the military industrial complex. Trump’s priorities are exactly the opposite of where we should be heading as a nation.”

     As more and more people find themselves living in a society in which the quality of life is measured through market-based metrics, such as cost-benefit analyses, it becomes difficult for the public to acknowledge or even understand the cost in human misery and everyday hardship that an increasing number of people have to endure.

     A culture of cruelty highlights both how systemic injustices are lived and experienced, and how iniquitous relations of power turn the “American dream” into a dystopian nightmare in which millions of individuals and families are struggling to merely survive. This society has robbed them of a decent life, dignity and hope.

     I want to pose the crucial question of what a culture of cruelty looks like under a neofascist regime, and in doing so, highlight what I believe are some of its most crucial elements, all of which must be recognized if they are to be open to both criticism and resistance.

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     First, language is emptied of any sense of ethics and responsibility and begins to operate in the service of violence.

     This becomes evident as social provisions are cut for programs that help poor people, elderly people, impoverished children and people living with disabilities. This is also evident in the Trump administration’s call to scale back Medicaid and affordable, quality health insurance for millions of Americans.

     Second, a survival-of-the-fittest discourse provides a breeding ground for the production of hypermasculine behaviors and hypercompetitiveness, both of which function to create a predatory culture that replaces compassion, sharing and a concern for the other.

     Under such circumstances, unbridled individualism and competition work to weaken democracy. 

     Third, references to truth and real consequences are dismissed, and facts give way to “alternative realities” where the distinction between informed assertions and falsehoods disappears.

     This politics of fabrication is on full display as the Trump administration narrates itself and its relationship to others and the larger world through a fog of misrepresentations and willful ignorance. Even worse, the act of state-sanctioned lying is coupled with the assertion that any critical media outlets and journalists who attempt to hold power accountable are producing “fake news.” Official lying is part of the administration’s infrastructure: The more authority figures lie the less they have to be taken seriously.

     Fourth, in a culture of cruelty, the discourse of disposability extends to an increasing number of groups that are considered superfluous, redundant, excess or dangerous. In this discourse, some lives are valued and others are not.

    In the current moment, undocumented immigrants, Muslim refugees and Black people are targeted as potential criminals, terrorists or racial “others” who threaten the notion of a white Christian nation.

     Underlying the discourse of disposability is the reemerging prominence of overt white supremacy, as evidenced by an administration that has appointed white nationalists to the highest levers of power in the government and has issued a racist appeal to “law and order.”

     The ongoing rise of hate crimes should be no surprise in a society that has been unabashedly subjected by Trump and his cohorts to the language of hate, anti-Semitism, sexism and racism. Cultures of cruelty slip easily into both the discourse of racial cleansing and the politics of disposability.

     Fifth, ignorance becomes glamorized, enforced through the use of the language of emotion, humiliation and eventually through the machinery of government deception.

    For example, Donald Trump once stated that he loved “uneducated people.” This did not indicate, of course, a commitment to serve people without a college education—a group that will be particularly disadvantaged under his administration. Instead, it signaled a deep-seated anti-intellectualism and a fear of critical thought itself, as well as the institutions that promote it. Limiting the public’s knowledge now becomes a precondition for cruelty.

      Sixth, any form of dependency in the interest of justice and care for the “other” is viewed as a form of weakness, and becomes the object of scorn and disdain.

     In a culture of cruelty, it is crucial to replace shared values and bonds of trust with the bonds of fear. For the caste of warriors that make up the Trump administration, politics embraces what might be called neoliberalism on steroids, one in which the bonds of solidarity rooted in compassion and underlying the welfare state are assumed to weaken national character by draining resources away from national security and placing too large a tax burden on the rich.

     In this logic, solidarity equates with dependency, a weak moral character, and is dismissed as anaemic, unreliable and a poor substitute for living in a society that celebrates untrammeled competition, individual responsibility and an all-embracing individualism.

RAD NOTE:  This is termed "blaming the poor".  

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     Seventh, cruelty thrives on the language of borders and walls. It replaces the discourse of bridges, generosity and compassion with a politics of divisiveness, alienation, inadequacy and fear.

     Trump’s call for building a wall on the Mexican border, his endless disparaging of individuals and groups on the basis of their gender, race, religion and ethnicity, and his view of a world composed of the deadly binary of “friends” and “enemies” echo the culture of a past that lost its ethical and political moorings and ended up combining the metrics of efficiency with the building of concentration camps.

     Eighth, all cultures of cruelty view violence as a sacred means for addressing social problems and mediating relationships; hence, the criminalization of homelessness, poverty, mental illness, drug addiction, surviving domestic violence, reproductive choice and more. 

     The centrality of oppressive violence in the United States is not new, of course; it is entrenched in the country’s origins. Under Trump this violence has been embraced, openly and without apology, as an organizing principle of society.

     This acceleration of the reality and spectacle of violence under the Trump administration is evident, in part, in his call for increasing an already-inflated military budget by $54 billion. It is also evident in his efforts to create multiple zones of social abandonment and social death for the most vulnerable in society.

     Ninth, cultures of cruelty despise democracy and work incessantly to make the word disappear from officially mandated state language.

     One example of this took place when Trump opted not to utter the word democracy in either his inaugural address or in his first speech to Congress. Trump’s hatred of democracy and the formative cultures that sustain it was on full display when he and his top aides referred to the critical media as the enemy of the American people and as an “opposition party.”

     A free press is fundamental to a society that takes seriously the idea that no democracy can exist without informed citizens. Trump has turned this rule on its head, displaying a disdain not only for a press willing to pursue the truth and hold politicians and corporations accountable, but also for those public spheres and institutions that make such a press possible.

RAD Note:  Trump's refusal to allow the White House Press corps travel with him effectively mizzles them and their capacity to keep up informed.  

     Under these circumstances, it is important to remember Hannah Arendt’s warning:

     “What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed ... and a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also its capacity to think and to judge.”

     Tenth, all fascist regimes disparage, dismantle and destroy institutions, such as public and higher education and other public spheres where people can learn how to think critically and act responsibly.

     Evidence of an act of war against public spheres that are critical, self-reflective and concerned with the social good is visible in the appointment of billionaires, generals and ideological fundamentalists to cabinet positions running public agencies that many of them have vowed to destroy.

     What does it mean when an individual, such as Betsy DeVos, is picked to head the Department of Education even though she has worked endlessly in the past to destroy public education? How else to explain Trump appointing Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, even though he does not believe that climate change is affected by human-produced carbon dioxide emissions and has spent most of his career actively opposing the authority of the EPA?

     At stake here is more than a culture of incompetency. This is a willful assault on public goods and the common good.

     Eleventh, cultures of cruelty thrive when shared fears replace shared responsibilities.

     Under such conditions, an ever-expanding number of people are reduced to the status of a potential “terrorist” or “criminal,” watched constantly, and humiliated under the watchful eye of a surveillance state that inhabits practically every public and private space.

     Twelfth, cultures of cruelty dispose of all vestiges of the welfare state, forcing millions to fend for themselves.

     Loneliness, powerlessness and uncertainty—fueled by the collapse of the public into the private—create the conditions for viewing those who receive much needed social provisions as cheaters, moochers or much worse.

     Under the Republican Party extremists in power, the welfare state is the enemy of the free market and is viewed as a drain on the coffers of the rich.

     There are no public rights in this discourse, only entitlements for the privileged, and rhetoric that promotes the moral superiority and unimpeachable character of the wealthy. The viciousness of these attacks is driven by the absolute idolatry of power of wealth, strength and unaccountable military might.

     Thirteenth, massive inequalities in power, wealth and income mean time will become a burden for most Americans, who will be struggling merely to make ends meet and survive.

      Cruelty thrives in a society in which there seem to be only individual problems, as opposed to socially-produced problems, and it is hard to do the work of uniting against socially-produced problems under oppressive time constraints. Under such circumstances, solidarity is difficult to practice, which makes it easier for the ruling elite to use their power to engage in the relentless process of asset-stripping and the stripping of human dignity.

     Authoritarian regimes feed off the loyalty of those who benefit from the concentration of wealth, power and income as well as those who live in stultifying ignorance of their own oppression. Under global capitalism, the ultrarich are celebrated as the new heroes of late modernity, while their wealth and power are showcased as a measure of their innate skills, knowledge and superiority.

     Such spectacles function to infantilize both the general public and politics itself.   

     Fourteenth, under the Trump administration, the exercise of cruelty is emboldened through the stultifying vocabulary of ultranationalism, militarism and American exceptionalism that will be used to fuel further wars abroad and at home.

     Militarism and exceptionalism constitute the petri dish for a kind of punishment creep, in which “law and order” becomes code for the continued rise of the punishing state and the expansion of the prison-industrial complex. It also serves to legitimate a war culture that surrounds the world with military bases and promotes “democracy” through a war machine.

     It turns already-oppressive local police departments into SWAT teams and impoverished cities into war zones. In such a culture of cruelty, language is emptied of any meaning, freedom evaporates, human misery proliferates, and the distinction between the truth and lies disappears and the governance collapses into a sordid species of lawlessness, emboldening random acts of vigilantism and violence.

     Fifteenth, mainstream media outlets are now a subsidiary of corporate control. Almost all of the dominant cultural apparatuses extending from print, audio and screen cultures are controlled by a handful of corporations.

     The concentration of the mainstream media in few hands constitutes a disimagination machine that wages a pedagogical war on almost any critical notion of politics that seeks to produce the conditions needed to enable more people to think and act critically.

     The overriding purpose of the corporate-controlled media is to drive audiences to advertisers, increase ratings and profits, legitimate the toxic spectacles and values of casino capitalism, and reproduce a toxic pedagogical fog that depoliticizes and infantilizes.

     Lost here are those public spaces in which the civic and radical imagination enables individuals to identify the larger historical, social, political and economic forces that bear down on their lives.

     The rules of commerce now dictate the meaning of what it means to be educated. Yet, spaces that promote a social imaginary and civic literacy are fundamental to a democracy if the young and old alike are to develop the knowledge, skills and values central to democratic forms of education, engagement and agency.

     Underlying this form of neoliberal authoritarianism and its attendant culture of cruelty is a powerfully oppressive ideology that insists that the only unit of agency that matters is the isolated individual. Hence, mutual trust and shared visions of equality, freedom and justice give way to fears and self-blame reinforced by the neoliberal notion that individuals are solely responsible for their political, economic and social misfortunes.

     Consequently, a hardening of the culture is buttressed by the force of state-sanctioned cultural apparatuses that enshrine privatization in the discourse of self-reliance, unchecked self-interest, untrammeled individualism and deep distrust of anything remotely called the common good. Once again, freedom of choice becomes code for defining responsibility solely as an individual task, reinforced by a shameful appeal to character.

     Many liberal critics and progressives argue that choice absent constraints feeds the rise of Ayn Rand’s ideology of rabid individualism and unchecked greed. But they are only partly right. What they miss in this neofascist moment is that the systemic cruelty and moral irresponsibility at the heart of neoliberalism make Ayn Rand’s vicious framework look tame.

     Rand’s world has been surpassed by a ruling class of financial elites that embody not the old-style greed of Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street, but the inhumane and destructive avarice of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. The notion that saving money by reducing the taxes of the rich justifies eliminating health care for 24 million people is just one example of how this culture of cruelty and hardening of the culture will play out.

     Under the Trump administration, a growing element of scorn is developing toward the increasing number of human beings caught in the web of oppression, marginalization, misfortune, suffering and deprivation.

     This scorn is fueled by a right-wing [altRight] spin machine that endlessly spews out a toxic rhetoric in which all Muslims are defined as “jihadists;” the homeless are cast as “lazy” rather than as victims of oppressive structures, failed institutions and misfortune; Black people are cast as “criminals” and subjected en masse to the destructive criminal punishment system; and the public sphere is portrayed as largely for white people.

     The culture of hardness and cruelty is not new to American society, but the current administration aims to deploy it in ways that sap the strength of social relations, moral compassion and collective action, offering in their place a mode of governance that promotes a pageant of suffering and violence.

     There will, no doubt, be an acceleration of acts of violence under the Trump administration, and the conditions for eliminating this new stage of state violence will mean not only understanding the roots of neofascism in the United States, but also eliminating the economic, political and cultural forces that have produced it.

     Addressing those forces means more than getting rid of Trump. We must eliminate a more pervasive irrationality in which democracy is equated with unbridled capitalism—a system driven almost exclusively by financial interests and beholden to two political parties that are hardwired to produce and reproduce neoliberal violence.

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RAD Note:  Keep in mind that the harbinger of the Great Recession was President Clinton's decision to de-regulate Wall Street.  9/11 and Bush policies then accelerated the move to neo-liberalism at home and abroad. 

Sunday
Apr022017

IS THERE A PSYCHIATRIST IN THE OVAL OFFICE? .  

https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-says-us-prepared-deal-north-korea-own-074206024--politics.html

     Trump aka Dr. Strangelove:    

     President Trump has been described as being a pathological liar, a megalomaniac, narcissistic, delusional and suffering from attention deficit disorder.  When one adds these symptoms up one has good reason to wonder if Trump is mentally ill or merely a sociopath.   Of course being a sociopath itself may be the result of a mental disorder.  Thinking he alone can take on North Korea OR like he claimed at the RNC that he alone could make "America Great Again" is a sign of delusional thinking.   

     A delusion is a belief that is held strong even when the evidence shows otherwise. Some common delusions associated with paranoid schizophrenia include, “believing that the government is monitoring every move you make, or that a co-worker is poisoning your lunch."[4]

     In all but rare cases, these beliefs are irrational, and can cause the person holding them to behave abnormally. Another frequent type of delusion is a delusion of grandeur, or the “fixed, false belief that one possesses superior qualities such as genius, fame, omnipotence, or wealth."[7]

     PS:  On tonights PBS Plus Charlie Rose public affairs program two reporters from the WSJ described meeting with the POTUS with the intent of talking about his plans for infrasture investsments but got instead a tirade about former US Ambassador to the USA Susan Rice about plots to surveil him and his campaign which she had flatly denied and which the mainstream press has debuked. 

     As the interview was going on the POTUS was interrupted by a stream of minions who wanted his attention.  Trump doesn't seem to have a firm grip on his administration nor his underlings.  The campaigner who embraced "chaos" is surrounded by it in the Oval Office and wherever he travels between DC and Florida.  This is the person who is one finger tip away from launching a nuclear attack.  If that doesn't scare the hell out of you, nothing will!  

      

 

Tuesday
Mar282017

THE "POLITICAL" DEAL TRUMP CAN'T REFUSE?  

There is something wrong with this picture - all white men discussing health care with the Veep.    

     EDITOR'S NOTE:  I've argued that one can't negotiate with a bully and a thug.  I used the example of FDR and Churchill negotiating with Stalin at Yalta.  Aside from his "love" for all things Russian - The Donald reminds one of a petty dictator. 

     So far he's been held back by the courts, the failure of Trumpcare 1.0 and now public opinion which is at an all time low for a new president - in the mid 30% range. 

     But the Ds can't sit idly by and just let health care implode.  Just today Trump hinted at another run - Trumpcare 2.0 - which will be worse than Trumpcare 1.0. 

     You can argue he's delusional, which he is and that he narcissistic, which he is and that's yes he's a bully, a liar, a thug, which he is and that he suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and other mental health issues (which his constant tweeting illustrate). 

     But until he's impeached Trump is the "illegitimate POTUS" who occupies the Oval Office minus his spouse.  So the Ds need a plan. 

     I laid out some of my own ideas on my March 24th FB post last week - go to Russ to see it.  

     But here is an idea by a certifiable smart political operative who plied his trade in Pennslvania for over 20 years and has chops on how you make health care sausage.  Even Biil Clinton noted his work.  It's good reading. 

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The Art of the Deal for the Deal Dude-in-chief:  

By PA Slick:  

     Today, I saw both Sen. Schumer and Sen. Sanders suggest they were willing to talk and negotiate with POTUS over health care reform.  Despite the vehement objections that it will bring from the D left, I think Schumer should try.

     Why?

     First, it’s the right thing to do.  And 2nd, I still think the D’s can play a winning “divide and conquer” strategy. 

     POTUS promised lower drug prices—that’s a simple offer to make—let Medicare negotiate directly with the drug companies.  Sell it to him saying he can be seen again as a real “negotiator in chief”—the art of the deal.  It’s HIS team that will negotiate; sell it to him that way.  That’s “free market” competition at it’s finest.  And it is EXACTLY what the POTUS said he would do while on the campaign trail—many times!

     The drug companies will HATE it, but the vast majority of D’s will vote for it despite the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful opposition, and I think there are now enough “moderate” R’s (you only need 20-25 in the House; and 4-5 in the Senate) to give Trump a true “win” on one of his promises.

     Offer up “insurance competition across state lines (something both POTUS and virtually all R’s support, in exchange for them giving something on a public option.  The public option will bring more competition, especially to the geographic areas that are down to only 1 insurance company.  Trump has NEVER been against this on principle.  He said, more than once, that he was going to give EVERY American health care.

     You could throw in some form of a “high risk pool” (something Mitch really likes) and end up with a public option for anyone 50 or 55 and older; and the risk pool concept for those under that age.  R’s who have supported the risk pool concept quietly acknowledge that it only works if the government subsidizes it.  So you could even offer SOME form of reducing various of the Obamacare taxes in exchange.  One bite of the apple at a time!

     Why not just insist on Medicare for all??  Because there simply aren’t the votes in either the House or the Senate; notwithstanding Bernie and Liz and Al.  Schumer knows this.

     Work quietly with the Republican Governor’s who expanded Medicaid and who were vehemently against the Medicaid cost shift to the states in the Ryan bill.  The moderate R’s in both the House and Senate will support you on that.  Schumer could easily use one of the R House or Senate “moderates” as the go between.  I can name several who would take that opportunity. 

     And despite hard core conservative opposition; it’s one provision that you can factually demonstrate actually reduces health care costs; by providing low income American’s health care at the primary care level that significantly reduces the use of the emergency room as the PCP, and the hospitals will strongly support because it has reduced their uncompensated care debt, big-time!!!  That’s exactly what the R Governor’s were arguing.

     DON’T offer health care savings accounts up front.  In fact, your start point should be “the one thing we can’t sell in the D caucuses is health savings accounts.”  Make the R’s think that THIS is the make or break issue.  It will make them want it, even more!!

     I learned early in my political career to listen carefully to what the opposition REALLY needs; and then make thoughtful policy decisions about what principle it is that would truly prevent you from wanting to offer it up.  In virtually any political negotiation; each side needs SOMETHING that they are fighting FOR, simply because they think YOU are against it.

     Decades ago, I played a key part in creating a new, state, health care agency.  With all the truly difficult policy and political considerations; I knew EARLY that the one thing the major political opponents, the Chamber, the Insurance industry, and the Hospital Association were HUNG UP ON was the name of the organization.  They were vehemently against a “Commission”.  Because to them, it represented “government regulation” at the highest level.  In their minds, “commission” was interchangeable with “government regulation”.

Honestly, the game hasn't changed in 30 plus years.

     So, in each one of the first 6 drafts I produced for the Majority Leader, and for behind the scenes negotiations with both the House Republican staff and the interest groups; I titled the organization as a COMMISSION!!  In fact, in the last draft I had my executive secretary type up, I told her to type COMMISSION in cap letters!!  lol

     And for the 18 months it took to negotiate the bill; the opposition was convinced that my boss and I thought the word “Commission” was the one thing that we would die over.  And so did (with one truly brilliant exception) all the people who I was negotiating with.  They became obsessed on focusing on THAT.  Because, they became obsessed with defeating ME!!  EGO and personality counts in politics 101.  **winks**

     Meanwhile, all the truly important issues, the ones that truly made policy distinctions for us, I was winning concessions on.

     In those 18 months, the bill went through at least 50 drafts.  And in EACH of those drafts, the Agency remained a COMMISSION.

     At the final hours of the budget negotiations in 1986, I got a phone call directly from THE key leader of all the interest groups that were opposing the legislation;  and he requested that I come to his office for a ‘one on one’ meeting. 

     I’d been a staff member in the PA House for more than 12 years at that point; and the key staff member on 3 or 4 major pieces of major legislation that were critical politically to this political interest group.  I’d been involved in many small group meetings with him.   But this was the first time I’d ever been asked to a one on one meeting with him.  And, my title at the time was only “Acting Chief of Staff.”

     That was the meeting that turned my opinion of him from “political enemy” to “a true politician and gentleman”;  he treated me as if I WAS the Majority Leader—with total respect and honesty.  He was as straightforward and brutally honest as I’d ever heard ANYONE in that position of political leadership be.  He laid out, in clear, simple and honest terms what his POLITICAL problems were, and what he needed; and at the end of the meeting, he asked me to consider HIS needs, and let him know if I could do anything about them, to help him get his people from “no” to “yes”. 

     I told him I was more than willing to do that; and I asked him if he was willing to produce a list of “amendments” that he needed.  I truly believed, when I asked the question, that it would take him a couple days to work with his staff and produce the legislative language he needed.

     Without hesitation, he pulled a one page sheet of paper from his desk and said, “I took the liberty of already doing that”, and handed it to me.

     For a moment, I was taken aback; as I thought he was going to say—”Let’s negotiate these right now”, and he knew I wasn’t in a position to do that.  I thought I’d been out maneuvered, because he was about to place me in a position of it being ME (and by implication, my boss) that killed the legislation.

     But before I could even look at his language, he continued:  “I know you’ll need time to review these, and talk with your supporters and your boss, so please look at these in the context of what we’ve talked about today, and then give me a call and let me know ‘which, if any’ you could accept.”

     Political smarts!  Political class...equal to any I’d ever seen from the Majority Leader!!

     As I walked back to my office I read his proposals.  There were 23 specific “amendments” that he “needed”.  Virtually ALL of them fell into the legislative category of “technical”:  change “this” on p.3, line 32, to “that”.  Change “and” on page 5, line 14, to “and, or”...  And when I got to the last one, I broke out in laughter:  23--  Change “Commission” on page 1, line 4 (and in every other place it appears in the bill, to “Council”.

     And #23 was typed completely IN CAPITOL LETTERS!!

     As soon as I got into the office, I called the President of the AFL-CIO and told him—we’ve got a deal.

     If I recall correctly, we ended up being able to agree with 18 or 19 of the 23.  And, as I called him back the next morning, I kept his words “call and let me know ‘which, if any’ you could accept.”, in the forefront of my mind.  I already knew what that “flexibility” in his words meant!  I ended the conversation by saying:  “And, this one hurts bad, but I convinced the Majority Leader that we can call it a Council. 

     It was 10 years later, when this interest group leader was supporting me for Executive Director of the agency, that I learned he was pretty sure all along that commission/council was nothing more than a negotiating position with me; and that he’d actually waited until the end to talk to me because he was actually testing his 2nd in command to see if he would figure that out; and to see what kind of negotiating skills he really had.

     It was already known that he was very close to announcing his retirement, and it was his 2nd in command who was widely believed to be his replacement.  It was only then that he quietly told me that it was his #2’s inability to “get it”, that stopped him from “handing the crown” to him.  Instead, several months later, he anointed another to be his successor, and It devastated the #2.  The #2 left the organization several months later.

     Legislative Reference Bureau drafted the amendments; the following night a House/Senate conference committee meeting was called; and the amendments were adopted on a 5-1 vote.  The bill passed both House and Senate the following day—unanimously in the House, and on a 48-1 vote in the Senate.  (The one vote against is a political story, in and of itself!)

     Within an hour of passage, the interest group had it’s own press release on the front page of it’s weekly publication:  “We gain 19 critical changes in legislation; Bill passes.”  Others of the interest groups followed suite quickly.

     Can any of you guess which ONE, and only ONE, specific ‘critical change’ they specifically talked about??  **winks**

     To me, that’s the Art of the Political Deal!!

     If Schumer wants to substitute insurance across state lines in place of health savings accounts, no problem. 

The actual facts on the two issues are these:

     1.  For the millions of people who’s deductibles have gone through the roof, now averaging $5000, health savings accounts aren’t an option.  If you don’t have the ability to save $5000 a year to cover the deductible; you can’t save anything close to that in a H.S.A.  It might help a couple hundred millionaires save some money on premiums, but it won’t do anything for the millions who barely survive, paycheck to paycheck.  But, that’s EXACTLY the political point.  It’s an easy political give.  Because it doesn’t HURT any of them either.  And it’s a  “Big DEAL” to the R’s.

     2.  Competition across state lines is a “free market” myth for several reasons.  First, insurance is regulated by EACH of the 50 states.  And depending on which state the company is charted in, they would still have to offer products that meet the individual state minimum mandates and any rate pricing regulations the state has.  So what it will do in reality is start a “race to the bottom” by allowing companies to relocate, allowing them to look at the most profitable areas with the healthiest risk profiles, and the absolute LEAST state regulations. 

     Anyone remember all the big banks scrambling to relocate corporate headquarters to Delaware, and then South Dakota, when we “de-regulated” them???  Exactly what will happen with insurance companies.

     Second, insurance company profits/losses are significantly dependent on what payment  contracts  they can negotiate  between themselves and hospitals and doctors.  There are less than a handful of insurance companies who are large enough and with financial resources enough to even want to CONSIDER going outside of their current geographical area of operation; especially the Blue companies. 

     Third, in the long term, it will actually REDUCE insurance company competition and options, as it would allow the few largest insurers to price policies that can entice “healthy enrollees” OUT of the current/existing risk pools of the insurers, leaving those smaller insurers with consumers who are much sicker.  It will force more insurers to merge, or go out of business; without creating any truly NEW competition.

     So, trade that for some sort of public option...which moves us 1 step closer to a single payor system.

     Finally, if I were Schumer today, I’d go secretly and directly to Trump and try and convince him that infrastructure, and not tax reform, should be the next item on the agenda.  Why?

     Because infrastructure is far easier for the D’s to unite around than tax reform.  And here, I’m applying the #1 rule in politics:  “Everything is related to everything else.”, when it comes to negotiations. 

     There are so many things in an infrastructure bill that both the D’s, and Trump, could add or give up on.  By quietly offering the opportunity to Trump to bring in an infrastructure bill as part of the overall deal, POTUS becomes a hero.  I can’t think of a deal I was able to close in all my years that didn’t, in the end, include passing legislation (many times, a significant # of bills), absolutely “unrelated” to the theoretical policy issue in the forefront of the negotiation.  Not one. 

     That’s how one gains votes—give your members something they want/need, in THEIR district.  Not threating your members you’ll campaign against them in the next primary election.

     Tax reform has far, far, fewer options for Schumer and the D’s to trade on.

     One further point that I know.  It’s actually far EASIER to negotiate with a bully and a thug (and sometimes even a liar), than with political ideologues and demagogues.  If you understand the personal characteristics of the person (people) you’re negotiating with; you can use those very characteristics to your advantage!!  I’ve done it, many times!!

     POTUS could use this exact strategy as easily as Schumer.  Rather than letting Obamacare collapse on it’s own (which, in  2018 will be put on POTUS and the R’s); he could end up looking to his supporters like the most brilliant President we’ve ever had:  getting 2 BIG wins that he promised.  And putting him in a STRONG position to negotiate tax reform.

     Now, THAT, is the art of the deal!!  That won’t happen because neither Priebus nor Bannon have any “political sense”.

     I have no illusions this political strategy will be implemented by either leader.  Because if it actually occurred neither side would be confident that they would be the winners in 2018.  To enter into this type of “Faustian bargain” would be a big risk for BOTH sides,  And, politicians are seldom willing to take risks.

     But I do know who the true WINNERS would be. 

     The American people!!!  Yes, even the Trump supporters!! 

 

Friday
Mar242017

TRUMP'S RUINOUS NEGLECT 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  One of the necessary and sufficient things to do when you are POTUS is to fill around 4,000 jobs in the many administrative agencies of the federal government including regional field offices of the bureaucracy.  This makes the job of "governance" possible.  If one neglects these important appointments, then one's agenda will be DOA even if the administration's bills are passed.  

The Trump Administration’s Not-So-Benign Neglect

While we’re watching the scandals du jour, the president and his top advisers are dismantling the federal government.

632408944-president-donald-trump-congratulates-senior-counselor President Trump congratulates his strategist Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C.  Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

This week, President Trump delighted his base with a pledge to treat deportations like a “military operation.” There were also reports that his administration is urging government officials to cherry-pick intelligence to support their desired policy outcomes and that his White House chief of staff made inappropriate contact with the FBI regarding Trump’s Russia ties. And that’s just the news from the national security sphere.

The rage felt by the president’s critics is real, and understandable, but it also plays into Trump’s broader agenda. His chief strategist Steve Bannon outlined that strategy this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, describing it as nothing less than the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Bannon’s comments this week suggest a darker, more nefarious purpose to the nascent Trump administration’s dysfunction. It may be the case that the Trump team is deliberately failing to staff, manage, and provide resources for federal agencies so as to sabotage and slowly dismantle them. To make matters worse, the Trump team might be leveraging the controversies regarding its disastrous national security moves to obscure and conceal that slow and steady demolition of the bureaucracy.

After the election, the administration was slow to deploy its transition teams, pick top officials, develop future budgets, and generally take the reins of government. By almost any measure, the Trump White House lagged behind prior transitions in these efforts—it was the dog that caught the car and didn’t know what to do next.

To this day, the Trump administration lags in terms of picking its political appointees, let alone articulating a comprehensive policy agenda that goes much beyond “make America great again.”

At the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, the two largest federal agencies by budget and headcount, the Trump imprint on policy remains amazingly light. One can glean more about acquisition, health care, or war-making from presidential tweets than from the White House’s website.

Federal agencies require certain commodities to run: leadership, legislative authorization, funding, and people. The combination of these commodities results in programming, executed either by government employees, contractors, or local governments using federal grant funds. Every part of this formula has been neglected by the Trump administration.

As of this writing, the Trump administration has failed to announce its picks for deputy, undersecretary, and assistant secretary positions across government, let alone to submit those nominations to the Senate for confirmation.

Political personnel appointments are, as the old saying goes, a form of policy. These administration appointees are the actual executors of any administration’s agenda. They are the ones whose orders, directives, and oversight provide guidance to millions of federal employees and contractors.

The officials the Trump administration has appointed include personnel whose résumés are extraordinarily thin on governance experience and who are hostile to the government itself.

Dr. Ben Carson, the former presidential candidate who is now leading the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has never worked in government. Neither has Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose donations have funded an anti-federal agenda for years. One appointee, Gov. Rick Perry, has plenty of public sector experience, but he previously took the position that his future agency (the Department of Energy) ought to be wiped off the map.

The Trump team has already started its campaign to undo the state that has evolved since the New Deal.

Beyond leaders, agencies need congressional authorization and funding to function. And yet, because the agencies lack political leaders beyond the midlevel transition teams deployed after the inauguration, they are woefully behind in preparing budgets for President Trump to submit to Congress.

In years past, Presidents Bush and Obama submitted their budgets within a few weeks of taking office, thanks to Herculean amounts of work by their transition teams to develop detailed fiscal plans. These teams understood that the budget submission was the key to execution of their policy agenda. It’s possible that the Trump team doesn’t understand that linkage between funding and policy.

It’s also possible the Trump team doesn’t care if agencies get new budgets because its ultimate goal is to starve these agencies. If Congress continues to pass continuing resolutions that freeze funding at current levels, while the White House’s hiring and regulatory freezes remain in place, federal agencies will begin to shrink by attrition.

Editor's note:  The irony here is that with the chaos over repealing and replacing Obamacare - if Trumpcare is passed - it will have to be implimented by somebody in the bureaucracy.  So Trump and Bannon are on a path of almost anarchist self-destruction.  

Agencies need people to do their jobs.

The government is staffed by 2.6 million federal civilian and 1.4 million uniformed employees. Most new leaders would look for opportunities to engage their workforce and enlist them in their agenda. Not Trump, who has instead opted to attack parts of the federal workforce (like the intelligence community) while holding political rallies before others (the CIA and troops). Trump’s hiring freeze has signaled disdain to the federal civilian workforce, as have many of his Cabinet picks and congressional allies, who have continued to rail against the scourge of bureaucracy and bureaucrats.

The irony, of course, is that the federal government helps and supports the standard of living of red states far more than blue states.  More...  

Each of these forms of neglect advances the Bannon/Trump agenda of crippling the federal government. Unfortunately, we’re too busy paying attention to Russian intrigues, presidential conflicts of interest, and unconstitutional immigration policies to notice that the Trump team has already started its campaign to undo the state that has evolved since the New Deal to serve the American people.

We cannot ignore the scandals du jour. The Trump administration’s Russia ties represent a threat to national security and the rule of law; its immigration order threatens to tear apart the constitutional fabric that binds us together. However, we must see these scandals in context and stop Trump from leveraging our distraction to disassemble the government in front of our eyes.