Category Archives: Trump

Robert Reich: We must unite to fight back against our country’s bullies

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

We must unite to fight back against our country’s bullies

By Robert Reich, October 7, 2018
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Brett Kavanaugh uses emotional bullying in an effort to get his way. | Erin Schaff / New York Times

As a kid, I was always a head shorter than other boys, which meant I was bullied — mocked, threatened, sometimes assaulted.

Childhood bullying has been going on forever. But America has become a culture of bullying — the wealthier over the poorer, CEOs over workers, those with privilege and pedigree over those without, the white over the brown and black, men over women.

Sometimes the bullying involves physical violence. More often it entails intimidation, displays of dominance, demands for submission, or arbitrary decisions over the lives of those who feel they have no choice but to accept them.

The hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27 was a window into our bullying culture.

On one side: powerful men who harass or abuse women and get away with it, privileged white men intent on entrenching their power on the Supreme Court, men vested with the power to take away a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body.

On the other side: women with the courage to tell what has happened to them, to demand an end to white male privilege, and to preserve and enlarge their constitutional rights.

Christine Blasey Ford was poised, articulate, clear and convincing. More than that: She radiated self-assured power.

Kavanaugh, by contrast, showed himself to be a vicious partisan — a Trump-like figure who feels entitled to do and say whatever he wants, who suspects left-wing plots against him, who refuses to take responsibility for his actions, and who uses emotional bullying and intimidation to get his way.

Even if Kavanaugh gets on the Supreme Court, a large portion of the American public will never trust him to be impartial. Many will never believe his denials of sexual harassment. Most will continue to see him as the privileged, arrogant, self-righteous person he revealed himself to be.

Which brings us to the upcoming midterm elections.

It’s not really a contest between Democrats or Republicans, left or right. It’s a contest between the bullies and the bullied. It’s about the power of those who are rich, white, privileged or male — or all of the above — to threaten and intimidate those who aren’t.

And it’s about the courage of the bullied to fight back.

Donald Trump is America’s bully-in-chief. He exemplifies those who use their wealth to gain power and celebrity, harass or abuse women and get away with it, lie and violate the law with impunity, and rage against anyone who calls them on their bullying.

Trump became president by exploiting the anger of millions of white working-class Americans who for decades have been economically bullied by corporate executives and Wall Street.

Even as profits have ballooned and executive pay has gone into the stratosphere, workers have been hammered. Their pay has gone nowhere, their benefits have shrunk, their jobs are less secure.

Trump used this anger to build his political base, channeling the frustrations and anxieties into racism and nativism. He encouraged Americans who have been bullied to feel more powerful by bullying people with even less power: poor blacks, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, families seeking asylum.

This bullying game has been played repeatedly in history, by self-described strongmen who pretend to be tribunes of the oppressed by scapegoating the truly powerless.

Trump is no tribune of the people. He and his enablers in the Republican Party are working for the moneyed interests — the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other corporate and Wall Street chieftains — by cutting their taxes, eliminating regulations, slashing public services and allowing them to profit off public lands, coastal waters and privatized services.

The moneyed interests are America’s hidden bullies. They have enlarged their net worth by repressing wages (or pushing the companies they invest in to do so), and enlarged their political power through gerrymandering and suppressing votes (or pushing their political lackeys to do so).

Their capacity to bully has grown as the nation’s wealth has become concentrated in fewer hands, as the economy has become more monopolized, and as American politics have become more engulfed by big money.

It is time to fight back against the bullies. It is time to join together to reclaim economic and political power.

It begins with the midterm elections on Nov. 6.

© 2018 Robert Reich
Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, is the author of “The Common Good.” 

    Trump White House: global catastrophe inevitable, we might as well pollute

    Repost from The Rolling Stone
    [Editor: thanks to Marilyn Bardet for alerting us to this deep and shocking analysis of Trump’s latest disaster.  – R.S.]

    Why Aren’t We Talking More About Trump’s Nihilism?

    The White House now says we might as well pollute because global catastrophe is inevitable

    By MATT TAIBBI, OCTOBER 1, 2018 12:28PM ET

    President Donald Trump pauses while speaking at a campaign rally at WesBanco Arena, in Wheeling, West Virginia. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/Shutterstock

    While America was consumed with the Brett Kavanaugh drama last week, the Washington Post unearthed a crazy tidbit in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) latest environmental impact statement.

    The study predicts a rise in global temperatures of about four degrees Celsius, or seven degrees Fahrenheit, by the year 2100. Worse, it asserts global warming is such an inevitable reality, there’s no point in reducing auto emissions, as we’re screwed anyway.

    “The emissions reductions necessary to keep global emissions within this carbon budget could not be achieved solely with drastic reductions in emissions from the U.S. passenger car and light truck vehicle fleet,” is how the report put it.

    To make a real difference, it adds we’d have to “move away from the use of fossil fuels,” which is “not currently technologically feasible or economically practicable.”

    There’s been just a flutter of media attention about this, mostly focusing on the hypocrisy. Trump, as is his wont, has at one point or another occupied basically every inch of territory on the spectrum of global warming opinions.

    He went from urging President Obama to act to prevent “catastrophic and irreversible consequences… for our planet” (2009), to calling global warming a Chinese conspiracy (2012), to calling it an “expensive hoax” (2013), and “bullshit” (2014), to switching up again during the election to concede the existence of “naturally occurring” (i.e., not man-made) climate change.

    Now comes this Linda Blair-style head turn. The NHTSA report deftly leaps past standard wing-nut climate denial and lands on a new nihilistic construct, in which action is useless precisely because climate change exists and is caused by fossil fuels.

    The more you read of this impact statement, the weirder it seems. After the document lays out its argument for doing nothing, it runs a series of bar graphs comparing the impact of various action plans with scenarios in which the entire world did nothing (labeled the “no action” alternative).

    These absurd illustrations make Thomas Friedman’s time-traveling efforts to graph the future seem like the work of a Nobel laureate.

    “A textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” is how MIT professor John Sterman described it to the Post.

    There’s obviously a danger at overinterpreting this paper, which mostly seems like a desperate bureaucratic attempt to square science with Trump’s determination to roll back environmental policies for his business pals.

    But even as accidental symbolism, it’s powerful stuff. A policy that not only recognizes but embraces inevitable global catastrophe is the ultimate expression of Trump’s somehow under-reported nihilism.

    While the press has focused in the past two years either on the president’s daily lunacies or his various scandals, the really dangerous work of Trump’s administration has gone on behind the scenes, in his systematic wreckage of the state.

    Implicit in this campaign of bureaucratic dismantling has been the message that pandemonium is a price Trump is very willing to pay, in service of breaking the “disaster” of government. Many of his top appointees have been distinguished by their screw-it-all mentality.

    Remember, he appointed Mick Mulvaney, a man who had once inspired a downgrade of America’s credit rating by threatening to default on the debt, to be his budget director.

    He later put Mulvaney in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he fired his own 25-person advisory board — after requesting a budget of $0 and promising to fulfill the bureau’s mission “no further.”

    Trump’s original EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, was best known for having used his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general to sue the EPA repeatedly and zero out the environmental-enforcement budget. Trump made a robotization enthusiast his choice for labor secretary, chose a hockey-team owner to run the Army (he withdrew, thankfully), and so on.

    There are still hundreds of top federal jobs left unmanned, and some of the non-appointments seem like Nero-level acts of madness. Trump asked for 25 percent cuts to the whole State Department on the grounds that they were “prioritizing the efficient use of taxpayer resources.” But what country goes without ambassadors for years? Trump fired dozens upon inauguration and to this day still has 34 vacancies. We have no ambassador in South Africa, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, even Mexico. We’re a ghost state with nukes.

    All of this is part and parcel of Trump’s doomsday message. He’s been a textbook example of Richard Hofstadter’s famed theory of paranoid politics. See if any of this (especially the line about “barricades”) sounds familiar:

    The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization… Like religious millennialists, he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days…

    From Day One of Trump’s campaign, pundits have reached for traditional political explanations to describe both his behavior and his appeal. Because we’re trained to talk in terms of left and right, progress and reaction, we tried to understand him in those terms.

    But Trump sold something more primal. His core message was relentless, hounding negativity, lambasting audiences with images of death and disaster.

    His first campaign speech was basically a non-denominational end-times sermon, in which America was either kaput or close to it, surrounded on all sides by bloodthirsty enemies. “They kill us,” he preached. “They beat us all the time… We have nothing…”

    He ranted about a system befouled by false prophets. “Politicians are all talk, no action,” he howled. “They will not bring us— believe me — to the promised land.”

    The “What have you got to lose?” line he pulled out later was supposedly just a pitch to African-American voters, but all of Trump’s audiences picked up on the “it just doesn’t matter” theme. (If you want to be wigged out, check out the similarities between Trump speeches and the famed Bill Murray speech from Meatballs. Just substitute “China” for “Mohawk.”)

    Obese and rotting, close enough to the physical end himself (and long ago spiritually dead), Trump essentially told his frustrated, pessimistic crowds that America was doomed anyway, so we might as well stop worrying and floor it to the end.

    If that meant a trade war, environmental catastrophe, broken alliances, so be it. “Let’s just get this shit over with,” is how Trump’s unofficial campaign slogan was described in the show Horace and Pete, one of the few outlets to pick up on Trump’s Freudian death-wish rhetoric.

    Trump made lots of loony promises to bring us back to the joyous Fifties (literally to Happy Days, if you go by his choice of Scott Baio as a convention speaker). But even his audiences didn’t seem to believe this fable.

    The more credible promise of his campaign was a teardown of the international order, which he’s actually begun as president. Trade deals, environmental accords, the EU, NATO, he’s undercut all of them, while ripping government in half like a phone book.

    He keeps inviting destruction like it’s a desirable outcome. He even pushed through legislation for “low-yield” nuclear weapons, whose only purpose is to be more theoretically usable than the other kind (although he’s wrong about this, too).

    His fans even cheered when he played nuclear chicken with Kim Jong-un, tweeting that his “nuclear button” was “bigger & more powerful” than Kim’s (and “my Button works!”).

    It’s easy to understand the nationalist sentiment behind reversing trade deals or backing Brexit. But what’s the populist angle on burning the planet, or nuclear war? How does hating elites explain cheering a guy on for turning nuclear diplomacy into a penis-measuring contest?

    On a policy level, this apocalypse politics is pure corporate cynicism, with Trump’s big-business buddies showing a willingness to kill us all for a few dollars now.

    The broader electoral pitch is just an evil version of every nuclear-age dance tune ever, “99 Luftballoons” or “1999.” The world is ending, so fuck it, let’s party. As crazy as it is, it’s a seductive message for a country steeped in hate and pessimism. Democrats still don’t understand it. Trump’s turning America into a death cult, with us as involuntary members.

      SFChron editorial: Why the Chronicle didn’t join the editorial crowd on Trump

      Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle

      Why the San Francisco Chronicle isn’t joining the editorial crowd on Trump

      By John Diaz Aug. 16, 2018
      President Donald Trump takes questions from reporters outside the White House, in Washington on March 13. ,More than 200 newspapers have committed to publishing editorials on the same day, Aug. 16, on the dangers of the Trump administrations assault on the press. Photo: Tom Brenner / New York Times

      When the Boston Globe called on the nation’s newspaper editorial boards to come together against President Trump’s “dirty war on the free press,” regular readers of The San Francisco Chronicle no doubt assumed we would be among the first in line.

      After all, in our unsigned editorials and in my Sunday column, this newspaper’s criticism of Trump’s efforts to delegitimize, threaten and neuter independent journalism has been clear, emphatic and repeated since the early days of his presidential campaign.

      But our editorial board will not be joining the estimated 300 newspapers which have signed on to the Globe’s pitch for a coordinated editorial campaign in Thursday’s editions.

      It’s not that we take issue with the argument that Trump’s assault on the truth generally, and his efforts to diminish the free press specifically, pose a serious threat to American democracy. I wholeheartedly agree with Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe’s deputy editorial page editor, that such unprecedented attacks on press freedom by the president of the United States “are alarming.”

      Here is our board’s thinking:

      One of our most essential values is independence. The Globe’s argument is that having a united front on the issue — with voices from Boise to Boston taking a stand for the First Amendment, each in a newspaper’s own words — makes a powerful statement. However, I would counter that answering a call to join the crowd, no matter how worthy the cause, is not the same as an institution deciding on its own to raise a matter.

      Our decision might have been different had we not weighed in so often on Trump’s myriad moves to undermine journalism: from calling us “enemies of the American people” to invoking the term “fake news” against real news to denying access to reporters who dare do their jobs to slapping tariffs on newsprint to requesting the prosecution of reporters who reveal classified information to threatening punitive actions against the business interest of owners of CNN and the Washington Post.

      The list goes on.

      It’s worth pausing to note the role of the editorial board. At The Chronicle, as with most American newspapers, the position on the unsigned pieces on the editorial page reflect the consensus of a board that includes the publisher and the editors and writers in the opinion department. That operation is kept separate from the news side, where editors and reporters make their judgments without regard to the newspaper’s editorial positions. This includes the endorsements we make in elections.

      I am well aware that this “separation of church and state” — as we call it — is well understood and enforced within the building, but is not universally known or accepted by Americans, especially on the far left and right, who might be skeptical of mainstream media.

      This brings me to my other concern of the Globe-led campaign: It plays into Trump’s narrative that the media are aligned against him. I can just anticipate his Thursday morning tweets accusing the “FAKE NEWS MEDIA” of “COLLUSION!” and “BIAS!” He surely will attempt to cite this day of editorials to discredit critical and factual news stories in the future, even though no one involved in those pieces had anything to do with this campaign.

      Yes, those of us in the journalism profession do have a bias that the health of our democracy depends on vigorous reporting that can keep the people in power accountable. That is no less essential whether an elected official is Republican or Democrat, hostile or friendly to the press.

      Our editorial page will continue to speak out against this president’s war on the free press. Our silence on Thursday is testament to our commitment to do it in our own way, on our own timetable.

      John Diaz is The San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page editor.