Monday, October 16, 2017

Let’s use the Weinstein moment to fight for laws that end wage gap & support health of women & families

By Marc Jampole

If a woman would gladly watch a high-powered Hollywood executive play with himself, give him a massage or do whatever else Harvey Weinstein fantasized about, that would be between them—two consulting adults.
But Harvey Weinstein was not interested in consensual sex, and I doubt he was interested in sex at all. For him, it was all about power over women. He must be one sick pup—just as sick as Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. Very insecure men who seem to feel threatened by all women and take every opportunity to use sex as a weapon to assert a superiority in power.
That these men are still allowed to play key management roles in large organizations in the 21st century seems as impossibly fantastic as the idea that enough Americans would vote for an inexperienced, ignorant and unbalanced failed businessman to enable him to win the Electoral College vote. The outing of these famous super-predators, the defeat of an eminently qualified woman in the Electoral College by one of them, and the widespread reports of badly-behaving men and rampant male chauvinism at many young technology companies all remind us that a virulent strain of misogyny still exists in the United States.
But also existing are the laws, and in most places, the corporate policies and procedures to shut down sexual harassment of women. What doesn’t exist all too often is the will. It doesn’t help that, like child molesters, the super-predator has a sixth sense about which potential victims are more vulnerable—the new, the naïve, the ignorant, those with emotional problems. The fact that there are often ready-made victims for sexual harassers makes it even more incumbent on organizations to clearly communicate that harassment of all types is illegal and will not be tolerated, no matter how rich, famous or connected the harasser is.
But in the hubbub about Weinstein’s disgusting behavior and the entertainment industry that enabled it for decades, let’s not forget that women face not just sexual harassment, but economic discrimination in the workplace. Women still make less than men for doing the same job, plus workplace rules often create a “Jim Crow” kind of situation, without the lynching and jailing—a set of laws that tend to favor men over women. For example, employers still are not required to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women who want or have to continue working and there are no national scheduling standards that balance employers’ desire for scheduling flexibility with the need of women (and some men) to be able to plan family necessities.
The issue of employment equality and workplace sexual harassment are related. We won’t solve one until we solve the other. Lower salaries and de facto discriminatory policies and procedures tell men that organizations don’t consider women to be their equal, a subtle but clear signal that women can be treated as objects, insulted or pressed for sexual favors. The lesser, more vulnerable human is always fair game.
My wife alerted me to a great organization, the National Partnership for Women and Families, which lobbies for new laws that expand opportunities for women and improve the well-being and economic security of families. In a March 2017 fact sheet, the National Partnership detailed five proposed laws that would help women achieve equality in the workplace (and I quote): http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/not-enough-family-friendly-policies.pdf
  • The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and help eliminate the discriminatory pay practices that plague employed women.
  • The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and help ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to continue working.
  • The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would create a national paid leave insurance program to support workers and businesses when a new child arrives or a serious personal or family medical need arises.
  • The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn seven paid sick days to use to recover from illness, access preventive care or care for a sick family member.
  • The Schedules That Work Act would establish national fair scheduling standards that would help provide economic security for working families and enable workers to meet their responsibilities at home and on the job.
I urge readers to contact their Senators and Congressional Representatives and urge them to support these bills. Also get on the National Partnership website and educate yourself about all the issues affecting women in the workplace. You might even want to contribute.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Editorial: Lose with King Moron / Save the Iran Deal

Donald Trump markets himself as the master of the deal, but there are two kinds of people who have dealt with Trump: those who have lost money investing in him and those who haven’t lost money yet.

Republicans are just starting to question their investment in the real estate huckster who has taken his businesses through bankruptcies six times — and at least five of those bankruptcies involved casinos, so Trump was the rare business genius who could lose money running casinos. But he looked good on TV and now he’s in the White House.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO who has repeatedly been undercut by Trump in his attempts to engage in diplomacy, reportedly called his boss a “f***ing moron,” which we have sanitized to “king moron.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the most prominent Republican to quit the Trump fan club. After Corker announced he was not going to seek re-election, the Tweeter in Chief on Sunday morning, Oct. 8, claimed Corker “begged” for his endorsement. “I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement). He also wanted to be Secretary of State, I said ‘NO THANKS.’ He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal! Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn’t have the guts to run!”

Corker, who had been a prominent Trump supporter in 2016 and for most of this year, replied with his own tweet: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” Ouch!

In an interview with the New York Times, Corker said Trump had asked him at least four times this year to run for re-election and promised an endorsement. Corker also charged that Trump was treating his office like “a reality show” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

Corker started distancing himself from Trump in August, criticizing the president’s handling of the deadly rally of white supremacists, including Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis, in Charlottesville, Va. At that time, Corker said, “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

On Oct. 8, Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Other Republican members of Congress might feel the same way, but they are willing to put up with Trump as long as he is willing to sign a tax cut bill that their wealthy donors are demanding.

Trump and Republican congressional leaders in September released a summary of their new tax “reform” that would cut taxes by an estimated $2.4 trillion over the next decade, with 80% of the breaks going to the top 1% of superrich by 2027 while tax rates for the lowest-income level actually would increase from 10% to 12%. Americans for Tax Fairness figured that 30% of middle-class families making between $50,000 and $150,000 a year will pay $2,000 more in taxes, on average, under the Republican proposal.

To set up the tax cuts for billionaires and multinational corporations, the House on Oct. 5 passed a 2018 budget resolution on a 219-206 vote, with 18 Republicans joining 188 Dems in voting against the bill. Among other things, it repeals the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), resulting in a $1.5 trillion cut in health care spending, and it cuts Medicare by $473 billion, regardless of Trump’s campaign promises to protect those programs, Americans for Tax Fairness reported.

Trump also has vowed to protect Social Security, but we’ll see how that stands up to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s determination to privatize and/or raise the retirement age for Social Security benefits. Trump’s own budget proposes cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance. The Senate budget proposal not only cuts Medicare and Medicaid; it also cuts $37 billion from affordable housing programs, $100 billion from Pell Grants for university students; $3 billion from Head Start and essentially guts the WIC program that provides food assistance to 1.25 million for women, infants and children, said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Republicans plan to pass the budget through special rules that allow them to get it through the Senate on a simple majority vote. But the choke point is still the Senate, where the loss of three Republicans can stop the bill. If your senators claim to be conservative deficit hawks when Democrats are in power, get them to explain how the US can afford to give $2.4 trillion to billionaires, claiming it will spur economic growth, when the experience of the last 20 years proves that “supply-side” economics is a right-wing fantasy.

About a third of Americans continue to support Trump, polls show, despite his transformation from populist reformer during the campaign to a friend of oligarchs as president. He claimed he would “drain the swamp,” but he named executives and alumni from the Wall Street investment firm Goldman Sachs to key White House positions, as well as pro-corporate administrators to various agencies to prevent health and human services, environmental protection, public schools, federal lands and fair labor and housing standards.

Workers who invest their hopes in Trump are bound to lose.

Save the Iran Deal

Trump is trying to intimidate North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons at the same time he is threatening to renege on a deal with Iran, which agreed to give up its program to develop nuclear weapons.

Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign repeatedly ridiculed the Iran deal, which the Obama administration negotiated with the Islamic republic to give up its program to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Russian, China, France, Britain and Germany also were in on the deal, but Trump vowed to rip it up. He declared at the United Nations Sept. 19 that the agreement was “embarrassing to the United States.”

The only problem is that Iran is living up to its side of the bargain. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Iran is in compliance; when it has found minor violations, they were quickly fixed.

Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify that Iran is keeping up with its end of the deal. He wants to renegotiate the deal, but Iran has warned it would refuse to renegotiate the deal, unless the US was also ready to make concessions, which Trump won’t accept.

Trump’s top Pentagon advisers told Congress Oct. 3 Iran appears to be sticking to the 2015 agreement to halt its nuclear weapons program and expressed support for keeping the pact.

“At this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something the president should consider staying in,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, told the panel Iran “is not in material breach” of the agreement, contending that the pact has “delayed the development of a nuclear capability by Iran.”

”By declining to certify Iran’s compliance, Trump would essentially kick it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose punitive economic sanctions. But even among Republicans, there appears to be little appetite to do that, at least for now,” Mark Landler and David E. Sanger reported in the New York Times Oct. 5.

Still, Trump’s expected move would allow him to tell supporters that he had disavowed the accord, while bowing to the reality that the US would isolate itself from its allies if it sabotaged a deal with which Iran is viewed as complying. But Trump’s bad-mouthing of the Iran deal is another cynical ploy to distract from the damage he is doing at home. And it tells our allies he can’t be trusted. — JMC



From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2017

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Copyright © 2017 The Progressive PopulistPO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652

Selections from the November 1, 2017 issue

COVER/Heather Digby Parton
Trump’s Puerto Rico cruelty: Has he no sense of decency? 


EDITORIAL
Lose with King Moron; Save the Iran deal


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

DON ROLLINS
Dick Gregory: God’s own troublemaker


RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Still need to organize for peace


DISPATCHES
Trump eyes new ways to wound Obamacare;
Trump won’t let states improve their health offerings;
Trump job approval worsens;
Liberal groups got IRS scrutiny too, IG belatedly finds;
Don’t give Corker too much credit;
Dems unveil tax plan that helps working families;
GM embraces electric vehicle future;
White House ties Dreamer protection to increased border crackown;
NFL Players Association responds to Pence assault on free speech:
Coal lobbyist nominated for #2 spot at EPA ...


ART CULLEN
Planting sideways


JILL RICHARDSON
We’re failing the US citizens of Puerto Rico


JOHN YOUNG
No wall, but Trump does have his foxhole

GRASSROOTS/Hank Kalet
Now is not the time for your tears


BOB BURNETT
Trump now owns white supremacy


RICK HODGES
Don’t mess with the disability community


SAM PIZZIGATI
We get sick, they get rich


BOOK REVIEW/Seth Sandronsky
Green and red


HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Revisiting the wisdom of Charlie Wilson


SAM URETSKY
Ranking university rankings


WAYNE O’LEARY
Donald Trump’s new world disorder


JOHN BUELL
Democracy and ecology on a dynamic planet


N. GUNASEKARAN
Asia’s refugee crisis: the grievous human tragedy


BARRY FRIEDMAN
We are Niemöller 


ROB PATTERSON
‘Prairie Home Companion’ refreshed with Thile


SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson
Let’s make a deal: Trump buys Puerto Rico


MOVIES/Ed Rampell
Iran-Contra scandal gets the Tom Cruise, Hollywood treatment in ‘American Made’


and more ...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trump may be living in the past with his ideas and policies, but they are 100% 21st century GOP


By Marc Jampole

It seems as if the pace of Trump Administration abominations is accelerating. Every day Trump’s soldiers issue another decree that hurts the economy, harms our future potential, endangers our population or curtails the civil rights of a group or all of us. Meanwhile, Trumpty-Dumpty sets verbal dumpster fires all over the place as a distraction: Most recently he has picked fights with the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a distinguished if unchangeably rightwing Senator, his own Secretary of State, the trigger-happy dictator of North Korea and the National Football League.
These reality TV shenanigans claim most of the news, while Trump’s troops continue to reset the long-term course of U.S. policy in civil rights, the environment, foreign policy and energy policy. Just take a look at what has happened in the past week or so; I put the harm each action does in italics:
  • Announcing that he will likely decertify the Iran nuclear agreement. Decreases our safety, isolates us from our allies and reverses path to a real peace with Iran
  • Setting terms for putting DACA into law that are harsh, including building a wall and severely limiting immigration. Takes a winning idea and turns it into a lose-lose situation: Deporting 800,000 productive members of society will send us into recession; not getting the additional immigrants we need to fill future U.S. jobs will stunt economic prosperity
  • Letting employers refuse to cover birth control for their female employees on religious grounds. Raises medical costs and abortions, as less access to birth control always leads to more pregnancies (expensive) and abortions (inexpensive, safe but frowned upon by Trumpites)
  • Ending the exemption to the Jones Act, so that only U.S. ships can dock in Puerto Rico once again, driving up the cost of food and other supplies precipitously. A cruel policy in light of the hurricane damage suffered by the island
  • Announcing a tax reform plan that raises taxes slightly on many in the middle class while giving the wealthy and ultra-wealthy an enormous tax break. Will lead to another asset bubble followed by a crash and will increase inequality of wealth and income in the country
  • Telling companies that they can discriminate in employment matters against the transgendered. Do I really have to write why this decision is wrong?
  • Repealing the Clean Power Plan. Doesn’t help anyone since coal is a dead industry but sets back efforts to combat human-induced global warming
  • Making deep cuts to the programs that enroll people for healthcare coverage on the individual health exchanges. Will increase both premiums for the insured and overall medical costs, as fewer people covered leads to higher premiums and more expensive emergency room visits and critical treatments since the uninsured put off seeking medical attention.
It’s a breathtaking display of ignorance and obstinacy. In every area, Trump prefers to believe long disproven myths and his own self-serving ideas than to follow science, empirical observation and the recommendations of experts. In every case, the basis for his views are observations that apply to past decades, myths that have long been proven false or the imaginary creations of the Internet rumor mill. People used to believe that the crime rate was higher among immigrants, but now we know it’s much lower. Same thing with the job-creating impact of lowering taxes on the wealthy. Economic research has proven it doesn’t happen. Extending an unharmonious relationship with Iran only makes sense to someone whose pride is still wounded by the 1979 hostage crisis, which is a far less crime against the amour-propre of a country than overthrowing its democratically elected leader, which is what we did to Iran.
With Trumpian ignorance comes a full dose of venomous small mindedness. He never forgives or forgets a slight or a grudge. Take Trump’s feud with the NFL because its players demonstrated respect for the American way by kneeling during the singing of the national anthem to protest police violence against people of color. While it continues his subtle campaign to demonize people of color, it also enables him to stick it to an old adversary, the NFL. Some history: the U.S. Football League was minting small money as a way to see football during the NFL off season until Trump bought a franchise (probably with OPM) and bullied the other owners into competing directly against the NFL. The USFL soon went bust, losing millions of dollars for all its investors. It’s the perfect Trump move—he comes into something successful and botches it up. Kind of like the casino business and the White House. In any case, his NFL feud plays to his core of racists and jingoists, while allowing him to exact some sick revenge on someone who vanquished him decades ago.
Thus in every way, Donald Trump lives in a past comprised of misbegotten ideas, obsolete notions and old grudges.
But he nonetheless represents the party that he leads. Virtually all of the current GOP subscribes to his full range of crackpot ideas, from lowering taxes on the wealthy to building a wall to supporting the religious imperatives of rightwing Christians to hating Iran to turning back the clock on environmental, labor and safety regulations.
The 21st century GOP pursues the selfish economic interests of the ultra- wealthy by pandering in word and deed to the social imperatives of rightwing Christianity and white racists. Virtually all of the GOP platform is based on the same old ideas and disproven myths that animate the Trump program. It takes ignorance to believe much of their economic nonsense, which explains why the wealthy sought allies among the most uneducated and intellectually vulnerable part of the populations—those with irrational beliefs.
These views do not represent the opinions of a majority of Americans, or even a majority of the approximately 50% who choose to vote, much less in off years. But a constitutional bias in favor of rural states and rural areas within states, gerrymandering by the Republicans, a wave of voter suppression laws and a mass media prone to tolerating Republican lies have enabled the minority that do hold these views to predominate.
Yes, the irrational, voluble, mentally unstable, ignorant and self-centered Trump scares me. But the rest of the Republican Party scares me just as much.