Trump to the World: What are Human Rights Anyway?

New Orleans   One of the most poignant pictures I have ever seen in a newspaper was standing alone in The Wall Street Journal without an accompanying story. There were three fully armed US Border Patrol agents standing next to an opening in a piece of the existing wall between the United States and Mexico. The agents had their hands folded in front of them and were peering through their sunglasses at a small family of three, man, woman, and teenage daughter, in a group hug under the shadow of the wall. The caption of the picture was straightforward, needing no accompanying story, saying: REUNITED: Members of the Reyes family hugged Sunday at Border Field State Park in San Diego during a three-minute reunion as U.S. Border Patrol agents opened a gate to allow families to embrace along the Mexico border as part of Children’s Day in Mexico. The headline was equally powerful: On Children’s Day in Mexico, Love Knows No Border.

Three-minutes, a short breath in a lifetime to bind families separated by a border and a wall. So, sad.

The headlines elsewhere indicated that President Trump was having another all-about-me-day with a grievance and ego driven rally to celebrate his 100-days of whatever you want to call it. In a regular job we would call it a probation, but that doesn’t work, because he would have been fired for such a disastrous performance. This was in the wake of an earlier buddy-buddy phone call to Philippine President Duterte which ended in an invitation to him to visit the White House. Duterte has been on a vigilante tear in the Philippines supposedly directed at drug dealers and traffickers which has given license to police and others to kill thousands around the country without arrest or trial, evidence or questioning, in a campaign of terror against the poor, which has been a human rights horror of global proportions.

Who is surprised? Trump, after being a fanboy to Russian strongman Putin during the entire election campaign, has also recently been solicitous of human rights disasters and dictators elsewhere. He has called the President of Turkey to congratulate him on his close and contested success in an election increasing his powers and essentially giving an American seal of approval on his purge of political opponents which has decimated the school, university, police, and public service of his country. He has also glowingly embraced President Sisi of Egypt who has also curtailed and jailed opponents large and small, eviscerated nonprofits, including those supported by the United States.

So, clearly he is clueless about the human rights globally, but his continued drum beating about immigrants and building the wall, as the Journal picture illustrated so powerfully, is also a blindness to basic and fundamental human rights.

This can’t be how we want our government to be seen either locally or internationally?

***

Please enjoy Steve Earle Lookin For a Woman.  Thanks to KABF.

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The Peoples’ Climate March Demonstrates the Danger of the Numbers Game

New Orleans  There are many iron laws in organizing, and one of them has to be that the more any tactic is repeated, the less effective it becomes.

The so-called resistance may be on the verge of painful reality, as the triumphant numbers of the Women’s March in late January was followed by disappointing numbers in the Women’s followup, and even smaller numbers in the parade-like, rather than protest-like, recent Science March. The related Peoples’ Climate March was this week’s march story with a march on immigrant rights and protections scheduled for the next week.

The Peoples’ Climate March was met by news that a federal judge may have approved the Trump Administration’s executive orders to delay and likely dismiss the last of President Obama’s climate protection orders. They did stumble on a small piece of luck as reportedly “tens of thousands” surrounded the White House. For a change President Trump was not enjoying another taxpayer funded golfing weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but was actually at the White House trying to establish that he was hard at it on the 100th day of his presidency. We can hope he looked out the window and that he heard the voices still trying to convince him not to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Organizers claimed that there were “300 sister marches” around the country, and that’s a good thing for sure, but coverage was spotting and targets were thin. Organizers have to be concerned though. The Peoples’ Climate March in September of 2014 was in New York City and the estimated crowd was 310,000 and touted as the largest climate march in history and was joined by global action largely initiated by 350.org, but also enjoying the sponsorship of 1500 organizations. The “tens of thousands” the Associated Press and New York Times reported in Washington, DC on this second march is a long, long way from 310,000 in New York City only 2 ½ years ago, especially in light of the fact that the recognition of the potential catastrophe inherent in unchecked climate change has grown exponentially everywhere in the world perhaps except in the antediluvian and atavistic crew bunkered down in the White House with the President.

Like it or not, marches are a numbers game. If organizers don’t want to take the risk of discounting the anger of their base and the urgency of their issue, they either have to prove their mass support with the tactic or risk inadvertently diminishing the perception of their base and its willingness to fight and take action. The Peoples’ Climate March did showcase a nice, creative tactic by pausing as they encircled the White House and letting out one sustained roar that was symbolically intended to “drown out” the voices of climate deniers ensconced in behind the columns.

If we’re going to sustain the energy and momentum of this moment, maybe we need more unexpected twists and turns like that roar and fewer times where the targets will be counting our boots on the ground, until we’re ready to rise up and swell the numbers to new heights again?

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The Lights Came On in Georgia for Congressional Race

Ossoff marching next to Rep. John Lewis

New Orleans     Jon Ossoff, a 30-year old documentary filmmaker in Georgia and a former Congressional aide, took a run at winning an election in a suburban Atlanta district so conservative that it had not sent a Democrat to Congress since the days Jimmy Carter, 40 years ago. Ossoff was running as a Democrat to replace arch-conservative Congressman Tom Price, who is wrecking his special brand of havoc in Washington as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. In the heavily funded and much watched primary as one of the early barometers of voters’ feelings about President Trump, Ossoff narrowly missed winning the election without a runoff, polling more than 46% against a field of Republicans and now headed for a runoff.

Certainly, Ossoff’s victory is not assured in June in the runoff, but there is no doubt that this race, as well as a better than expected showing recently in a rock ribbed district in Kansas, narrowly won by a Republican, means that the lights have come on in Georgia, the White House, and everywhere else that Republican strategists and pollsters are burning the midnight oil trying to figure out what these early races could portend for continuing one-party control of Congress and the already tenuous Trump presidency. If nothing else, we are already seeing a financial arms race at work as Republican donors are having to recalculate the likely cost of defending what have been crimson solid Republican-base districts. Ossoff attracted more than $3 million dollars for his campaign, many multiples over the Republican field, but reportedly Republicans have also been forced to dig deep to stay in the battle.

Are these early elections really barometers of opinion on Trump and his presidency? Yes and no. Off-year special elections are always more local than national with their own set of issues, so the results are not definitively about Trump. Saying that doesn’t change the fact that the White House and the Republican Party can’t be happy about any of this. The candidates are first time neophytes and they are running against Trump hard and polling with unexpected strength which will embolden others, including more seasoned political warriors. Furthermore, the lessons for incumbents watching these early contests doesn’t lead any of them to a conclusion that Trump has coattails that will help them win reelection in 2018 or that a warm embrace of the President is part of the path to power now. If there is no such thing as a safe harbor district, then the rats will be jumping off the ship in increasing numbers, and no matter what bragging might be done by the President, the American people will have trouble hearing him while staring at the huge L increasingly being tattooed on his forehead.

At the point that Trump and his people can’t win for losing, it’s all over but the shouting.

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Trump’s Taxes Trip Up His Tax Reform

New Orleans    A reported number of 100,000 hit the streets in various cities, not to celebrate Easter, but to continue to demand on the eve of the US tax deadline that President Trump release his tax returns. The President was golfing and preparing for the annual Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn, so was nonplused about these latest rallies.

On the other hand, in a rich irony, a steady stream of Republican Congressional representatives are now joining the Democrats in calling for Trump to release his returns as well. Many in Congress are unprepared now to move forward on Trump’s much vaunted campaign promise to achieve significant tax reform until they see Trump’s own returns to make sure that the President and his family are not going to personally benefit from any tax reform proposals. Talk about being hoisted by your own petard!

These are not trivial matters obviously. There is always the risk of a massive giveaway to the rich, because that has been pretty much standard procedure for many tax issues in recent years, and of course whether Trump is just a millionaire or a billionaire, if there’s a giveaway, he would certainly be in line. More tellingly, a number of the proposals being floated out there, including one that would collect an extra billion dollars in revenue would mean eliminating one of the real estate developers favorites which allows them to deduct the price of interest on debt from their taxes, and god knows, Trump the developer loved debt and that deduction. Some of the sticklers in Congress are saying they have to see Trump’s taxes to make sure they are not lining his pockets, which would be hard to explain to voters around the country.

The additional irony in the land of dysfunction that has typified the first 100 days of Trump time is that there still is no tax reform proposal for all the talk and promises. The Ryan plan which would have larded on an export tax at the border, also helping pay for the wall, has come under fire from a host of businesses and the deep-pocketed Koch brothers who have mobilized their troops against any such notion. Trump has also flip flopped back and forth in fits and starts about trying to resuscitate his healthcare mess because of some tax implications they would have achieved by taking away peoples’ insurance.

The bottom line seems to be that there is no tax reform proposal that has jelled sufficiently on the right or left, leaving him once again without a winning coalition or a coalition at all that could win passage. Trump is stuck. Polls are clear that the American people want to see his returns, but it’s not a life or death issue for them. He wants to keep his business on the down low but can’t move without a plan and a dose of transparency. This guy can’t seem to win for losing and tripping over his own tie.

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Corporate Takeover of Government Means Trouble for All of Us

New Orleans    The one thing that President Trump has proven thus far is that there is nothing about running a family business that qualifies anyone to believe that they have learned how to manage the government. Any thoughtful person would have to have now realized that the loud and long-winded call for government to be run like a business has now been permanently discredited.

The scariest part of this horror continues to be the corporate takeover of government in the wake of the dysfunctional White House. Lobbyists by the score are moving in kit and caboodle to take over the posts of people they previously were paid to lobby. The Trump waiver of the two year bar from employment at an agency where a lobbyist had been involved means that the turnstile is swinging wide for lobbyist infiltrations. Foxes by the score have come in to watch the chicken coups transferring their payroll from their corporate paymasters to the taxpayers.

Corporate takeovers work best in secret and the Trump White House has moved hard against transparency. The contract with the web company that furnished data on employment and financial disclosures as well as the log of White House visitors has been cancelled. In the future, the public will have no idea who goes in and out and what access or conflicts of interest they might have or that the Trump family might have with them.   All of this is foreboding and depressing as the United States takes on the trappings of developing country run by a kleptocracy.

Work at the department and agency level is stalled by the unfilled vacancies, allowing the operators to flourish in the vacuum. Outside of the glare in places like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it is easy to see the devastation. Immediate rollbacks of Obama Administration signature consumer protections on privacy from the telecommunications went out the window quickly. Threats to net neutrality and the protection of the internet as virtually a public utility are an immediate target to favor legacy telecoms once again.

The pattern seems duplicated from agency to agency as the corporate takeover from companies large and small accelerates behind the fog machine of Trump flip flops and White House daily drama. Battles on so many fronts are impossible for the public to follow or progressives to effectively engage, so such efforts seem diffuse and coalitions uncertain.

No one should make the mistake of watching the Trump polling numbers or his confusion and feeling like we’re winning. All of that is nothing but a stagecraft distraction allowing the corporate takeover to continue behind the curtains.

We’re in huge trouble.

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Breitbart’s Bannon, More Proof that What Goes Around, Comes Around?

Bannon with Breitbart Crew

Little Rock   I don’t want to speak too soon, because I don’t want to put my dirty mouth on it, but as depressing as it has been to read the Stephen Bannon fan mail in the media since the election, it has been equally exhilarating to follow his comet’s rapid descent to hard ground. I don’t want to jinx this. He’s still in the West Wing of the White House, and he’s still carrying the title of strategic advisor to the president or some such, but it’s safe to say he’s currently taking a huge beating, including straight up slap downs from President Trump himself. No matter what ends up happening, how sweet it is this minute.

If nothing else all of the big whoops are finally getting some understanding about what it’s like over there at Breitbart and what’s it’s like to be on the receiving end of crazy-ville. When Andrew Breitbart was still alive, you could spend a minute speculating how much he personally believed all of his own site’s garbage spewing. He had been an early player in the Huffington Post startup, so the many cynical bones in my body could wonder if he simply saw an open niche he now had the ability to fill on the right, and went for it for the bucks and theater of it all. The more that comes out on scrutiny of Bannon, there’s no question here whatsoever. He lives in the darkness and embraces the night.

And, there’s some really creeping critters in his night it turns out. A recent story talked about how he is a huge fan of the discredited notion that history runs in 80-year cycles, and we are coming to the downside of one of those cycles. It’s a knocking on the door of the apocalypse notion that fits snugly with his chokehold on the necessity of disruption and chaos as an operating principle. He sees himself as a “Game of Thrones” character and “winter is coming.” Whether the President gets the message or just sees the storm clouds, I wouldn’t say, but clearly the fact that the new team at the National Security Council cashiered him off of the committee is worth at least one sigh of relief from the rest of us.

Bannon is made for the late night, afterhours show, not prime time. No matter what any of us think of Trump, we know for darned sure that he is never someone who likes wiping egg off of his face every day, and Bannon has been hurling them at him. First there was the divisive inaugural rant, roundly condemned everywhere. Then there was the visa fiasco that unraveled the Muslim ban for the president, making millions the face of his abuse.

As one of my organizers always says, “you gotta learn.” In Bannon’s case, he seems incapable. Trump only knows one thing well: how to run a family business. He still thinks the White House and the Presidency is just another huge division of his family’s business. Now Bannon has managed to get sideways with son-in-law, Jared, and alienate daughter, Ivanka. A lot of what Bannon believes and has done is just plain crazy, but not knowing that Trump is always going to default to family and getting crosswise with that foundational principle is just stupid.

The clock is ticking on Bannon. He’s probably debating how to save face now. The power in his job seems already gone.

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