Trump is using the 'shock doctrine' to become a corporate dictator, but it's not really working

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[Note: I tried to insert an image here of the cover of Naomi Klein's book, "The Shock Doctrine," but nothing seems to show up.]

From the continuous barrage of propaganda emanating from President Trump and his administration, it seems more and more the case to me that their agenda is to hollow out our constitutional institutions and implement a form of dictatorial, corporate-controlled government in the U.S.

And it is becoming clear from the ongoing chaos of their statements and actions that they are trying to use the time-honored technique of political shock to reduce the nation to a state of helplessness so that they can impose their will as quickly as possible.

But a few things appear to be holding them back. One is our Judicial Branch, which has stopped Trump’s attempt so far to ban at least some people from getting into this country. Trump’s immigration ban would seem to be rather ineffective in any event in achieving its stated purpose of curtailing terrorism. But it might achieve a symbolic effect of closing the laboratory doors, as it were, in order to carry out the shock treatments.

It appears our constitutional institutions are holding up so far under the onslaught. Trump may effectively control two of the three branches of government right now, but it appears he needs all three.

Excellent Essay Making the Rounds:

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Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.

Party Chair: Are We Doing this Wrong?

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Here’s a question for everyone to think of today, as we’re awaiting news on our next party chair from the smoke-filled halls of a hotel in Atlanta.

How many people do we think should get a vote? 477, or 4,770,000?

Right now, it’s 477 and only 477.

There’s been lots of debate about the race, and plenty of strong feelings, but almost no discussion over whether this crazy process is even the way we should be doing it — especially for a party supposedly of the grassroots.

DNC chair voting happening now

… and you would be forgiven for wondering when this primary will ever end.

Most of the attention has fallen to Keith Ellison, an early endorser of Bernie Sanders and therefore the favorite of that wing. Tom Perez is seen as the stalking horse of the “Obama/Clinton wing”, which still seems like a strange hybrid. And then there’s the exceptionally well-spoken young mayor of South Bend IN, Pete Buttigieg.

They’re all saying the right things. They all plan to build up the party from the very local levels, to compete everywhere across the country. This is good and necessary and everyone professes to agree on that.

The party — progressivism generally — needs to establish and burrow in at the cultural level, more widely than it has heretofore. This ought to be possible away from big, multi-cultural population centers. Anyplace where people want to come together to build better schools for themselves; be able to see doctors when they need to; breathe easy and drink water without fear; and get paid a decent wage — these are places that a progressive message ought to be at home. Anytime we blame intractable geographic/cultural differences for electoral defeats, we know that actually we just stopped trying. People aren’t all that different. The amazing display of Indivisible protests around the country shows that.

The party still suffers from a cruft of lobbyists, consultants, and big-money grabbers. In practice it may well end up that the consultant class sucks the money out of those efforts on behalf of TV buys for “high-profile” races. The big-money/quick fix mentality needs to be resisted. You’ve got to start with people.

As a tactical matter I’m pulling for Ellison. I have little insight into the actual organizing/strategic merits of him vs. Perez. But there’s nothing obviously disqualifying about him, he says the right things, his background is relevant, and many Sanders supporters would view it as a good will offering. The Bernie faction has the energy and organizing juice. I’m more than happy to let Ellison channel some of that. And structurally it works as a marriage-of-state — a way to seal the end of hostilities.

Enough. Let’s let the future happen already.

MA Newspaper Owner: Layoffs Will Continue Until Subscriptions Improve

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More than a dozen of Massachusetts’ top mid-sized newspapers are facing even more layoffs, because $32 million in profit isn’t enough for their Wall Street owners. Reports David L. Harris in the Boston Business Journal:

The cuts come as the company, which owns more than 100 newspapers in Massachusetts including the Patriot Ledger and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, reports a 50 percent drop in profit for 2016 — to $32 million on $1.3 billion in generally flat revenue. New Media blamed its challenged financial results on the “further decline in traditional print” as well as a challenging holiday season experienced by its retail advertisers, which caused lower advertising spending.

It’s not immediately clear if those cuts would come from its workforce itself, but the company did say that the savings would come from “synergies from out latest acquisitions.” GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis did not immediately return a message seeking comment. [...]

So far, New Media has spent $735 million buying up newspapers since it was formed in 2014, taking advantage of the flagging value of print newspapers across the U.S. New Media is managed by an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group, which announced last week it would be acquired by Japanese multinational firm SoftBank Group for $3.3 billion.

Gee, I wonder why traditional print is declining? Who can say, we’re too busy laying off all our reporters and editors and literally selling customers a smaller newspaper for the same price! But it’s OK because we’re using the money to hire digital sales reps!


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“Those who can make us believe absurdities, can make us commit atrocities.”


White House to FBI: Shoot Down Reports of Trump-Russia Connection, Please

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This is part of series of posts on President Trump’s connections to the Russian mafia.

One of these days, President Trump’s involvement with Russia is going to become a major story. The FBI has an ongoing investigation into Paul Manafort and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The Senate Intelligence Committee plans an investigation. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) has also been making some noise on the subject. He’s the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Last week, the New York Times reported that the President’s personal attorney Michael Cohen delivered a “peace plan” from Manafort, a mobbed-up, convicted felon, and a Russia-friendly member of the Ukrainian parliament. It barely made a blip on the national news

Today, CNN reported that the White House requested that the FBI and other agencies investigating the Russia Connection to say that “the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts” between the Trump Administration and Russia. The FBI refused.

The American media has had a hard enough time keeping up with the ongoing chaos of the Trump Administration, but Americans lack a good understanding of either Russia or organized crime. We need to get up to speed and quick.

What We're Fighting For

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I’ve seen too many posts and comments here, and too many op eds around the country arguing that Democrats have to choose between an economic program that lifts working families up and fighting for civil rights for all Americans. Skeptics of fighting for civil rights mislabel it “identity politics” while skeptics of the working class agenda falsely equate it with the white nationalism of Trump.

What the hell happened to our party? We used to believe fighting for civil rights and the New Deal were our greatest achievements. Hillary Clinton’s maiden speech of the presidential campaign at Roosevelt Island eloquently linked the fight for economic equality with the fight for civil rights. So have Sen. Sanders and Warren. We’re all on the same page if we signed up for this party.

1) Civil Rights

Equal Justice for All. This means black lives must matter. This means stopping the inhuman deportations and travel bans of this administration. It means fighting on behalf of our Muslim and Jewish citizens when their houses of worship or burial grounds are targeted. This means making our schools bully free zones for Muslim, immigrant and LGBT students alike. And if the Feds won’t help us our states and mayors and school boards gotta step up. It means fighting for civil liberties and a free press. It means protecting our civil institutions from creeping facism. This is important and we have no excuse not to fight.

2) A New Deal for This Century

Globalization and automation can’t be reversed, but the unprecedented profits these advances generate gotta go back to the people. Progressive taxation, truly universal health care, universal college and more radical ideas like basic income have to be coupled with stronger labor unions, stronger worker protections and stronger safety nets. This is the most hostile administration to workers in American history. Time for them to own it and time for us to fight it tooth and nail while building a better vision for a fairer America.

3) Global Leadership

I feel like foreign policy got the short shrift in this election and continues to do so, even though this is where the administration has caused the most damage. Old allies like Mexico and Australia are being alienated while foes are being embraced as friends with false promised of change. We can’t have that.

A strong NATO, a strong UN, and strong alliances are Democratic achiemenrs that have been the hallmark of our foreign policy and kept the peace for a half century. America First always means America Next, and just as we couldn’t appease our way to better relations with Hitler or Stalin we can’t appease our way to better relations with Assad or Putin.

Keep it Simple

Civil rights, a New Deal, internationalism. These have always been the hallmarks of American liberalism and our party. We invented social security, the civil rights act, NATO and the UN. Our party built that and should own that. Our party has always been the party of immigrants since my ancestors came off the boat at Ellis Island and my wife and her family flew into O’Hare.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel-we just gotta do a better job of being ourselves.

Did Globe Forget Inflation Exists & Miss Amazing MassHealth Story?

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Boston Globe reporter Jon Chesto had a great story on Sunday about how Gov. Baker is floating a plan to sharply increase the per-employee fee on companies that don’t provide health coverage. I’m greatly summarizing, but MassHealth enrollment has nearly doubled over the last decade, with a comparable increase in costs to the state. It’s hard to say exactly what the main driver is, but but workers are taking advantage broader eligibility under Obamacare/ACA, while employers may be cashing in by letting big government pay for their workers’ health care.

Accompanying the story is this graphic, designed to look like MassHealth spending is skyrocketing:


The problem is that these numbers aren’t adjusted for inflation (if they are, the graphic doesn’t say so). If you don’t adjust for inflation, everything is much more expensive over time. In my day, the ferry to Shelbyville only cost a nickel!

And here’s the thing: If you adjust for inflation, putting all the numbers in 2017 dollars, an amazing thing happens:

So... at what point should sane states secede?

A dark view... - promoted by david

Or at least try to secede?

It’s pretty clear that there are many badly-broken things in our country. Our federal government is run by nuts, kleptomaniacs, and sadists. Our health care and health care reimbursement systems are a bizarre joke. We’re the only industrialized country to not have paid leave for sickness, child birth, and vacation. Our wealthy pay taxes at an astonishingly low rate, and openly purchase our legislators and our laws.

And so forth.

And there is no body, on whole, that speaks for the 99%. There are a few in power who look to do the right thing, but both major political parties are far to the right of the average American on many issues – war, taxes, health care, Social Security, etc. They serve the 1%, not us, and many have made personal fortunes in doing so.

We are a stupid and savage nation.

At what point does make sense to throw in the towel, and let the Scheisskopfs engage in their lunatic games without sucking us into the bonfire? Perhaps sane states like Massachusetts can join up with Canada or others to finally move beyond the great sickness that’s taken hold, because I don’t see how this mess gets fixed in any reasonable amount of time, and without a terrible price.

Piloting Field Trips

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PILOT (Payment in lieu of taxes) reform often moves to the fore as budget season rolls around. In Boston half of the land is tax exempt, which strains our municipal services. Voluntary PILOT payments are not collected at nearly the rate that they are asked. What can be done?

One idea that I hope gains traction centers around providing BPS students with more equitable opportunities for experiential learning at Boston’s many cultural institutions. The Museum of Science, The Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the New England Aquarium, and the Children’s Museum all refuse to pay the amount of money that the City of Boston requests. In fact, of the institutions mentioned above only the Museum of Fine Arts pays any of the CASH PILOT requested. The MFA was asked to pay $1,032,392 in CASH. They paid $68,920. All of these large institutions receive a substantial community benefit credit toward their PILOT payment – or lack thereof.

Teachers know first hand that field trips are not easy to facilitate. One of the major impediments is lack of transportation to and from these world renowned cultural meccas. Navigating and relying on the overstrained MBTA with multiple classes in order to get to a museum wastes school time, is unnecessarily cumbersome, and takes way from the time that we get to spend on location.


I propose that these institutions buttress their community benefit by providing chartered buses to our schools. Doing so would encourage more equitable learning opportunities for BPS students. Students in the suburbs participate in many programs at these Boston institutions. It’s high time that these institutions that reside in our city start putting the kids who live in Boston first. How many Field Trips would the $1,401,965 that is owed by these five institutions provide? Better yet – have the rest of the non paying non profits chip in as well, maybe for some BTU teachers on assignment. If you live in Boston and agree call your elected representatives. Together we can be that change. In union there is strength.

People are thinking

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Ideas to push priority issues has been made more difficult in this political climate. However I received an email today from a member of the Universalist Church that lives up to its name that puts forward a proposal to develop a single payer system. The writer is distributing the message through members of the church, and asking them to pass it on. Many who belong to the church are progressive activists.

They are looking to broaden the chain of taking on more supporters. The proposal is here.

The email also had the accompanying message: