Tone Deaf on Domestic Abuse in the #MeToo Moment

Santa Fe   It is not unusual to refer to a Washington beltway bubble that misses what is going on in the rest of the country, although the Trump narrative is currently the opposite, but how in the world did the powers that be miss the clues that domestic abuse might be a huge, hot button issue during these times in the wake of the #MeToo moment?

Unbelievable!  Or, sadly, maybe not.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, one of the latest in the parade of scandals in the West Wing of the White House has to do with the staff secretary who controls a lot of the access to the President in his job as a chief aide to the chief of staff, former General John Kelly.  Seems that not once, but twice, his ex-wives have accused him of domestic abuse.  Being a Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar known for competence in the White House doesn’t get you a pass, even though that seems to have been exactly what Trump, Kelly, and Rob Porter, the individual involved, were all hoping for.  Despite their denials, reports also seem clear that Kelley, and likely Trump, all knew of Porter’s domestic abuse of his ex-wives over the last year.  Pictures posted by one of his ex-wives of herself with a black eye are making it hard to deny.

Part of the dustup is the usual:  who knew and when did they know.  Add to that the fact that the White House communications director was reportedly dating Porter and initially a leading voice in his defense, and you have the recipe for a mess.

But, that’s not the real issue is it?  The real issue is that a false sense of allowing privacy behind closed doors has legitimized all sorts of domestic abuse and harm to women and children from all levels of society from the President down to the local police.  If women in the #MeToo moment didn’t feel they had the voice to protest outright sexual abuse and exploitation by men who were more powerful, if anything the situation is even worse when we talk about domestic abuse and the inadequate protection for women and children.

I’m not saying that such abuse is given a free pass and a get out of jail card, because there has been some progress in recent years, but too often this is overlooked, and too often there is in fact a free pass and a get-out-of-jail card with tragic consequences.   This is an issue that demands a cultural shift and national dialogue that serves notice on men that there is no immunity for domestic abuse.

We seem to have been well served in the White House by our security system that refused to get a grant security clearance to Porter, since the White House seemed to want to look the other way.  We are also well served by the fact that outside of the beltway bubble, the rest of us are clear that domestic abuse must be countered and stopped.  Someone needs to tell the real news to the President.


Please enjoy Hubertus von Hohenlohe’s Austin.

Thanks to KABF.


Pushing Rent Control around the Country and the World

New Orleans    Real estate associations of landlords, developers and the politicians they finance can scream about supply and demand and straight-laced economics, but as long as tenants are being squeezed by escalating rents and stagnant wages in the United States and around the world, the demand for rent controls will rise as quickly. Voters may once again have the opportunity to push such proposals forward soon, so the debate will move from landlord whining to the potential of tenants’ winning.

According to a Harvard study, from 2000 to 2016, median inflation-adjusted rents in the US rose 15% to $980 per month while renter incomes declined to $37,300 from $38,000.  That’s the big picture explanation and once you add gentrification pressure in city after city, neighborhood after neighborhood the pinch becomes even more pronounced for many families.

Oregon narrowly defeated a statewide referendum last year.  Activists and housing advocates in California and Washington state are moving to put propositions on the ballot in order to repeal state laws that restrict the ability of local governments to devise local mechanisms to deal with this surging crisis.  Bills are before the Washington legislature to allow action on this issue as well.  In Illinois, lawmakers have proposed legislation lifting the state’s 1997 ban on rent control. Some Chicago voters will be able to vote in March on a nonbinding ballot question regarding whether or not to lift the ban.

Officials in city after city are being pushed into debates over housing affordability.  The ACORN Home Savers Campaign has found that the crisis is also fueling the increase of predatory land contracts because lower income and working families are often choosing almost inhabitable housing as opposed to homelessness or unaffordable rents.

In the United Kingdom where the issue is also pronounced, ACORN affiliate Living Rent in Scotland has won enactment by the Scottish Parliament of a unique provision now being implemented that can designate specific neighborhoods as rent imperiled and enact controls to provide relief.  ACORN Bristol has won important protections from landlords in private rental arrangements that are largely surpassing those in social or public housing now throughout England.  The surge in the cost of rental housing for students has triggered organizing drives for new ACORN affiliates in Brighton and Manchester in England.

The fight won’t be easy anywhere.  The New York City Rent Stabilization board voted to approve a 1% rent increase after two years of freezes, though no one is pretending that rents aren’t soaring in the city.  A woman in Boston attending a class at Boston University where I was speaking about organizing and the Nuts & Bolts of what it takes to win change, said at the end of the presentation that she had bought her first house in Boston years ago thanks to the ACORN housing program, but with rising costs and gentrification had been forced out and now lived in a far suburb of the city.

If you keeping hitting the wall, eventually it comes down, and tenants are rising now.  It will be hard to stop us.