Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Those doing a victory dance at the election of Doug Jones to U.S. Senate from Alabama should remember that 650,000 voted for a child molester


By Marc Jampole

While anyone who believes in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIPS, food stamps, public schools, cheap public universities, abortion rights and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should rejoice in the victory of Democrat Doug Jones over the truly deplorable Roy Moore for the U.S. Senator from Alabama, we should only do so with caution.
Trump and the Republicans are still in charge. The GOP is still upsetting decades of Congressional protocols pushing through a tax bill that represents the largest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy in U.S. history, a tax bill opposed by more than 70% of all Americans. The current administration is still overturning regulations that address climate change and protect Americans on the job site and in the marketplace. The appointment of a young generation of ultra-right, pro-corporate judges continues.
Moreover, democracy in America is still threatened, not just by the Republicans in Congress and the White House, but by the voters themselves. Only 32% of registered voters participated in the Alabama special election, a total that all the news media is labelling as high or heavy. A majority of voters stayed home and that’s a good turnout? No wonder Congress so often thwarts the will of the people and acts against the best interests of most Americans to favor a wealthy few. The people often don’t speak loudly enough.
More dangerous to American democracy than the lack of voter participation is the fact that more than 650,000 voted for a child molester. Even if every one of the Alabama voters who stayed home had voted against Moore on the principle that a child molester should not represent a state in the U.S. Senate, that doesn’t mitigate the fact that more than 15% of the total electorate either didn’t care or took the word of a man over a large number of very credible women and supporting witnesses. Either these voters are morally bankrupt or irredeemably misogynist. The low turnout magnifies the power of this 15%, just as it did in the 2016 Republican primary races in which Donald Trump never exceeded 25% of the total of eligible Republican voters. When voters stay home, a motivated minority can turn the country in an ugly direction—in this case, almost electing a child molester.
Which brings us to Senator Al Franken, a good guy and leading liberal light. On the scale of sexual offenses that men can perpetrate against women, Franken’s is much less offensive than Roy Moore’s. But still not acceptable. And they occurred multiple times. He made at least eight women feel uncomfortable with his frat boy antics. Why didn’t he learn from his mistakes?
I’m fairly certain that someone said something to him about the inappropriateness of his behavior at least once over the years. Back in 1973 when I was teaching my first university-level French course at the University of Washington—Introduction to French Literature—I was prone to making salacious puns and sexual innuendos in my lectures. I was just a 22-year-old doofus trying to be funny and clever—I was and am an incorrigible punster with a vivid imagination and a love of jokes about sex. After about three weeks, one of my female students took me out for a coffee and told me the jokes made the women feel uncomfortable. I was as embarrassed as I have ever been, completely humiliated. I stopped the sexual joking immediately. I never had another complaint. I am still grateful that my student sent me in the right direction so early in my career and adulthood.
That was 45 frigging years ago!!! Don’t you think that along the way some outspoken woman would have done the same favor for Franken, who as a liberal must have hung out with a number of sensitive, sensible and assertive women? Keep in mind, too, that some of Franken’s antics took place in public “on the job,” typically working for large organizations. Every large organization has had a sexual harassment policy in effect and given training to supervisors on identifying and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace since about the mid-1990s. Many seem routinely to ignore the policy especially as it applies to powerful men, but that doesn’t let the liberal feminist Franken off the hook.
It therefore shocks me to see so many comments on Facebook asking Franken to remain a Senator, petitions pleading he reconsider and nasty notes to New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, leader of those demanding Franken resign. These well-meaning liberals and progressives risk giving up their ideals for political expediency—exactly what we accuse the other side of doing. If being accused of molesting a 14-year-old, assaulting a 16-year-old and pestering a bunch of young girls when he was in his thirties disqualifies Roy Moore from elected office, how can we exempt Al Franken for his overly aggressive and sexual touching and feeling? The case of Trump is even more apt. If we disqualify Trump for his 18 instances of harassment, we must qualify Franken for his eight. When it comes to the discomfort it could cause a woman or the assertion of a prerogative of power over a woman, I can’t see much difference between touching a woman’s breast and slipping fingers underneath her panties. Both equally heinous.
Franken has to go. Otherwise there is no moral ground on which to accuse Trump, Moore and other Republicans. Otherwise, we send a message that in certain cases it is alright to harass women, and even perpetrate a mild, good-natured, we’re all-just-having-a-good-time sexual assault.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What is the relationship between domestic & foreign policy in the current administration? Is it an incoherent stew or is there a grand strategy?

By Marc Jampole
That the incendiary announcement that the United States was moving its embassy to Jerusalem comes in the wake of the Senate’s passage of the Trump GOP tax giveaway to the wealthy begs the question: Does any relationship exist between domestic and foreign policy in the Trump years? Can we connect the current administration’s domestic policy to shift wealth to the wealthiest and permanently entrench the wealthiest as a ruling elite to our bellicose, go-it-alone, anti-Muslim foreign policy? Is there a grand design? Or is it just an incoherent stew of bad ideas?
To a great degree, domestic and foreign policy always work hand and glove in the United States. For the most part, both have always served the interests of the ultra-wealthy and a coterie of large companies in industries long used to mixing in politics such as energy, metals extraction, telecommunications and defense.
The current foreign policy abandons attempts to solve world problems collectively and replaces it with an angry isolationism that tries to bully or bluster to get its way. It appears to represent a radical turn from the approach of at least the last three administrations, but if you scratch the surface…la plus sa change, as the French say. We seem always to have a ton of troops and advisors in a number of foreign countries. We still employ a large number of private companies to perform military functions. We still seem to do the bidding of Saudi Arabia and therefore demonize Iran. Diplomacy may be gone. We may be courting authoritarians and snubbing allies. But we’re still flexing our military muscle, still fighting several senseless wars. We still employ a large number of private companies to perform military functions. We still seem to do the bidding of Saudi Arabia and therefore demonize Iran. Diplomacy may be gone. We may be courting authoritarians and snubbing allies. But we’re still flexing our military muscle, still fighting several senseless wars.
But what does our foreign policy—both what continues and what is new—have to do with domestic issues?
As it turns out, our continued military misadventures that transcend regimes have four profound connections to domestic affairs, all of which have both political and policy implications.
First and most obvious, the defense industry plays a large role in our politics. No candidate from either party has strayed very far from espousing the central tenets of our foreign policy since the end of World War II, which of course call for tremendous annual expenditures for the military. Our sainted President Obama, for example, was a leading proponent of developing a new generation of nuclear weapons and raised no objections to robot weapons that decide on their kill without human intervention. The acquiescence to or support of the defense industries by all leading politicians results in a greater likelihood that we will use the weapons.
For the most part, politicians from both parties also buy into the long-time U.S. policy of being the arms master to the world, selling more military weaponry to other countries than the rest of the nations of the world combined. Often these sales, by private military corporations, take place only because of U.S. loans to the purchasing government.Thus our federal budget is stretched and our politics distorted by the influence of military contractors.
Besides draining our treasury of funds that could be used to help people, both in the United States and throughout the world, our large military expenditures and our long-time policy of being the arms master of the world contribute to the overall “culture of guns” that exists in America. We are armed to the teeth and have armed the world to the teeth. The political and policy dynamics of selling guns abroad and guns in the United States reinforce each other: America, armed to the teeth, land of freedom and defender of freedom.
In other regions of the world, our arms mongering causes disruptions. In the United States, it leads to a slaughter unseen in any other nation of the world. Then again, no other nation in the world has so many guns in active circulation. Every study shows that the more guns a society has, the more people will die and be injured by guns. Our elected officials seem to accept the casualties in the United States in the name of a single freedom proclaimed as inviolable through a gross misinterpretation of an amendment to the constitution ratified more than 200 years ago, long before the invention of automatic weapons and bump stocks.
Our foreign policy also helps to justify our domestic police state apparatus, and has done so since the end of World War II when we decided we were better off with the Soviet Union as an enemy than as a friend. When we don’t have an enemy, we manufacture one, or expand a minor threat such as ISIS into a major one. Government uses international affairs as the rationale and justification for all manner of intrusion into our lives, such as eavesdropping on the phone calls of American citizens, executing secret searches, tracking library card use, seizures of private property, classifying millions of documents as top secret and cracking down on undocumented immigrants.
Finally, foreign affairs serves as a distraction from domestic issues. Traditionally, people come together in a war. They’re ready to make sacrifices for the good of the country.They forget or are willing to postpone consideration of pressing domestic issues such as healthcare, minimum wage and growing inequality. The common enemy—be it real or imagined—takes our mind off domestic concerns. Think North Korea and the fear of nuclear attack.
Defense industry influence, the gun culture, the excuse for creating a security state, a distraction from domestic problems. These four links between domestic affairs and foreign policy transcend administrations and have existed since at least the Truman Administration. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, getting into a name-calling contest with an erratic lunatic with a finger on the bomb, escalating the war in Afghanistan again and trying to wiggle out of the Iran nuclear deal may make us quake from fear that our foreign policy has gone rogue, but the main outlines of the post-war bipartisan consensus to be both the world’s bully and its arms dealer persist, as does the pernicious interaction between foreign policy and domestic affairs that is the necessary outcome of that overarching strategy.

Friday, December 8, 2017

My mistake: Trump didn’t have private meeting w/David Koch & friends the day after Senate passed tax reform. It was another Park Avenue billionaire, Stephen A. Schwarzman


By Marc Jampole

It turns out that my guess as to who hosted the private meeting Donald Trump had at 740 Park Avenue the day after the Senate passed the Trump GOP massive tax cut for the wealthy was wrong.
I said it was probably David Koch, and that Trumpty-Dumpty no doubt has his hand out for a little sugar from the windfall Trump’s Republican Party was giving the Koch family and their pals.
But the New York Times is reporting—six days after the meeting—that the host was Stephen A, Schwarzman, the billionaire founder of private equity behemoth Blackstone Group, another trust fund baby who has turned his head start into an estimated $11.2 billion in net worth. The Times report claims that the group included old New York friends and real estate colleagues, a tip-off that at least part of the article is spun from air or that almost no one attended, as Trump doesn’t have many if any New York friends or real estate colleagues after his buffoonish public behavior before and during “The Apprentice,” thousands of lawsuits involving legitimate New York businesses he stiffed and his six bankruptcies that cost plenty of New York real estate interests lots of money. New York’s wealthy and powerful elite have considered The Donald a joke since before one of his ex-wives first called him The Donald.
Supposedly many in the group who met with Trump at Schwarzman’s luxury apartment, urged Trump to pressure the Republicans in Congress to roll back plans to end the tax deduction for state and local taxes. Ending the deduction is expected to cost high-tax, high-benefit states like New York, California and New Jersey billions of dollars—part of the way Republicans are planning to pay for the enormous tax break they are giving to everybody assembled in Schwarzman’s apartment except for the servers and security.
My bad guess as to whom Trump visited matters not to the points I was trying to make when I—alone among news reporters and pundits—reported the meeting earlier this week. Whatever else was discussed, we can be sure that Trump had his hand out. We can also rest certain that whoever else was in the plush environs of the Schwarzman residence with Stephen A. and the Donald, they were multi-millionaires or billionaires aligned with conservative causes. The self-seeking and self-satisfied moneyed elite whose opinion matters more to Republicans and many Democrats than the will of the people.
And we can rest assured that self-interest was in the minds and on the lips of everyone present. Remember that it was Schwarzman who in 2010 compared President Obama’s proposal to increase taxation on “carried interest” profits to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939. I guess he needs all that money to indulge his well-documented hobby of collecting expensive antiques and fine art furniture.
The question remains as to who was riled enough about my OpEdge article and had the juice to force a “correction” at the head of a front-page Times article. The article was about the fact that Trump is going against many other New York moneybags in wanting to end the state deduction. The fairly lengthy piece never returns to the meeting, or even to Schwarzman. The mention of the meeting was a factoid throwaway that was entirely unnecessary for the article and a fairly weak beginning to it.
So who wanted the record corrected? Was it Koch, who doesn’t seem to want to have any public association with the erratic and ignorant leader of the current administration? Or was it Schwarzman, who in the past has embraced his connection to Trump and his role as a Trump advisor? I doubt it was Trump himself, who would have no reason to correct a small inaccuracy in a blog reaching 40,000 people, and every reason in the world to pretend to the American people that he doesn’t spend a lot of time trawling for dollars amongst the ultra-wealthy. Although I have strong circumstantial evidence that the Times has ripped off my OpEdge and Jampole Communications ideas before, I doubt it was the Times that started the ball rolling after seeing my article, because the Times always knew Trump was headed to the Big Apple to beg for cash. It published two photos that referenced Trump’s day-after-the-tax-heist trip in the Sunday paper without explaining the reason for the visit. Of course maybe after seeing the OpEdge article, the Times editors realized they had an interesting little factoid they could use to flesh out a broader story.
We’ll never know, just as we’ll never know what was really said at the meeting. I doubt, however, the conversation veered anywhere close to discussing government actions that would help the vast majority of Americans not worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.