With friends like these

In the final praise-a-thon of 2017, Mike Pence performed his most sacred duty, stroking President Trump’s ego so he could go to Mar a lago for Christmas and end 2017, his first year in office, believing he was the most successful first year president in all of history.

Among his remarks, Pence said,

“You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage.  We’re standing with our allies.  We’re standing up to our enemies.”

He was echoing Trumps’ words,

“We’re rebuilding our nation, we’re rebuilding our confidence, and we’re standing in the world as a different country.  We’re being respected again.”

Yes the world loves America again and has such respect for us.

And the evidence of this restored love?

A Thursday vote at the UN overwhelming rejected Trump’s support of Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.

Before the vote US representative to the UN Nikki Haley wrote to other countries’ representatives,

“As you consider your vote, I want you to know that the President and US take this vote personally. The President will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us. We will take note of each and every vote on this issue.”

Strong words from a strong country sure to result in strong support among our allies, the ones who are standing with us because of restored American credibility on the world stage under Trump.

But the threat may have been seen as dangerously immature and not deserving of the expected respect. Diplomats do not see threats as a good attempt at diplomacy.

It may be a tactic that is useful in Trump’s businesses where he is the boss, but this is the world where he is only one of many leaders, and those other leaders may not see this tactic and the one choosing to use it as worthy of respect. To them, it shows inexperience and an ego.

As one U.N. diplomat put it,

“No matter how close we can be to the US, we are keen to keep up our longstanding attachment to UN Security Council resolutions on the Jerusalem status,” said a diplomatic source. “It’s really a question of abiding to international law, and this is where we disagree with the US.”

This hissy threat could undermine the U.S. ability to get the help of other countries to pursue any policies that need allies and partners.

And, when the vote was taken in the U.N General Assembly to support Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital the overwhelming support came down to Israel, Togo, Guatemala, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and Nauru.

The rest voted against the U.S., chose to abstain, which could mean they did not want to embarrass the United States, or just did not show up to vote.

But these nine would not be strong evidence that, as Mike Pence said, the president has “restored American credibility on the world stage.  We’re standing with our allies.”

 

 

 

Using and abusing workers

A few days ago, while I was attempting to enjoy a quiet beer, the woman sitting next to me reacted favorably to a news story about Trump that had just finished on the television behind the bar, announcing that she hoped whatever the topic was would mean that unions could now be destroyed and power restored to the workers. Obviously, she was not aware that union membership is made up of the workers or that unions were formed because someone had to protect their hour, wages, and conditions of employment the best of which are not given freely by the bosses who would pay the least amount of money in wages if they could.

She revealed in further comments that she sincerely believed that those things won by unions over the years, things like the weekend, fair wages and relative income equality, the end of child labor, employer-based health coverage, and the family and Medical Leave Act would have happened anyway because corporations, if left to themselves, are good enough to have bestowed those things at their largess.

She was not aware that corporations find unions to be cumbersome in the attempt to take those things back, and are working hard to remove them for that reason.

Another gentleman who was sitting nearby offered that if the corporations were going to do it anyway, why did they refuse to until workers went on strike.

Her response was that the workers demand and get whatever they want and perhaps the corporate owners wanted them to learn that this was not how it should be done.

Further discussion revealed that she had no idea what negotiating a contract actually meant, but believed, instead, that it was a one way process where unions made demands and without any input, management had to give what was demanded.

She also was unaware of the reality that when things went right in a business the owners took the credit, while anything that was wrong was put onto the unions and the workers.

In my experience, another problem with people’s attitude toward unions was that the general power structure favors those who own companies over those who work at them, which is odd considering by how much the workers outnumber the corporate heads with too many workers siding with management over their peers. Either from a nurtured fear of possible dismissal if this opinion is not shared by the working class or because of some form of the Stockholm Syndrome those who should identify with the workers, even workers themselves, are more ready to believe what is said by corporations and not workers.

Although the unions I had belonged to had an in-house newsletter, unlike management who had the finances, they did not have a set public relations department, so, in spite of releasing news notices to media outlets, the publication of these notices was up to the whim of the editors while these same outlets actively sought news from management.

As a result, the actions of management were very well known while those of the union were only treated if there was a labor/management problem, and then presented too often with a bias favoring management as what the media releases is decided on by their management.

While reading a news story from the Sunday paper at home, enjoying the backyard barbecue,  or when sitting in the doctor’s office getting the treatment their healthcare plan covers, many, if not most people will condemn unions while not realizing those things were earned for them by unions and not the largess of corporate heads.

It is a sad but common thing that the news of the good that unions do is either downplayed or completely usurped by, and the credit for it taken by corporate heads.

AT&T’s latest move is a fine example of this.

After the passage of the GOP tax plan, AT&T played a self serving hand when it’s CEO announced the company would give $1,000 bonuses for all AT&T employees, saying they were the result of corporate tax cuts passed in Congress.

The president loved this and accepted it as validation of the tax bill to which he contributed nothing besides his bragging about its going to be yet another historical first that was better than just about anything.

However, AT&T had already been involved in talks with its union to give holiday bonuses, and was taking credit for itself and bestowing praise on Trump most likely to ease the administration’s reluctance to allow AT&T’s merger with Time-Warner.

The company wanted this favor from the White House and chose to misrepresent and completely ignore that the company had already reached a new contract agreement with its workers after a year of pressure from the workers’ union,  the Communication Workers of America.

Considering the promises of a workers’ financial windfall if things went as Trump was boasting, the CWA had begun contacting AT&T, asking the company to give workers a $4,000 raise, the amount the president claimed all workers’ paychecks would rise by.

The $1,000 bonus was the settled on amount in the negotiations, and not the product of corporate largess.

Trump’s Justice Department had filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the AT&T/Time Warner merger threatening to block the merger if Time Warner did not sell CNN, Trump’s fake news nemesis, so this praising of Trump might have garnered much desired pro merger results.

This past Wednesday Trump crowed,

“This just came out… AT&T plans to increase U.S. capital spending $1 billion and provide $1,000 special bonus to more than 200,000 U.S. employees, and that’s because of what we did. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good.”

No, it was because the union negotiated that. 

AT&T is hoping by claiming it was the sole idea of its management in response to “his” tax plan, Trump’s ego was stroked enough to allow the merger.

 

 

 

 

 

this time perhaps?

in 1986 Ronald Reagan enacted huge tax cuts for corporations, and to make up for the loss  of the money the cuts made to the federal coffers, he took a chunk of money from the Social Security account claiming it was a loan, a loan that was never repaid.

He claimed that the extra money corporations would have would be used to create jobs and raise wages.

Like champagne poured into a glass at the top of a champagne glass pyramid trickled down to the lower glasses, the same would happen with the money businesses got to keep.

America waited, but the jobs were not created and wages didn’t go up, but people insisted that it would happen. we had to have faith.

Any day now.

Twenty years of no results later we had another cut. It too gave more money to businesses which, in spite of not doing it, earned the name “job creators”, and, again, called for a loan from the Social Security account. Again we were promised jobs and we had the phrase “job creators” thrown out as the reason why corporations were given benefits while the people, who would actually create jobs because their ability to spend the increased wages they were never to get would have required increased productivity that would rely on increased employment with profits going into the salaries of those who produced the goods people could afford to buy, got nothing.

Again, any day now.

Now, 30 years after the first time that things were supposed to happen but didn’t, and10 years after the second time that things were supposed to happen but didn’t, we are being told it will happen just like the last two times.

And sadly, they know people will believe it and patiently await the promised results because they cannot accept and will not admit they were duped.

Considering that last two times while businesses got extra cash while our Social Security money was used to pick up the slack, and considering the businesses kept the money and bought that second vacation home, the new yacht, or gave stock holders big payouts, this time it might have been a good thing to reverse that an give the money to the working people and have the businesses foot the bill like the workers did twice when our Social Security funds were raided.

 

 

 

We are approaching it wrong

A friend of mine, after having been a very successful member of the Board of Selectmen in a town in which I had lived by putting the best interests of the towns people over any personal gain, was encouraged not only by friends and party to run for the state legislature, but by people in the other political party as well. He agreed to run, but made it clear that he would serve for only ten years or until not being reelected, whichever came first, so that he would not become a career politician.

During his ten years of service he began each session by proposing a bill that would establish that any student who graduated from a Massachusetts high school and attended an in state college or university would pay the instate tuition so long as he or she maintained the required grade point average that would be established. There were no qualifiers applied to the students other than they lived in the state and graduated from high school.

In spite of the expressed support he received from the other members of the legislature, this bill either never made it out of committee or was killed on the floor.

On my friend’s last day of his final session of the legislature, another representative rose and, although my friend had proposed his bill at the beginning of the session as he had done each previous one,  proposed his bill. One representative spoke in opposition and declared that he was sick and tired of this bill coming up each session and was really annoyed that it did.

My friend was recognized to speak and brought up the obvious. If the members of the legislature had put the students over their desire to please their base and get reelected, but, rather, had voted for this bill in the past, then his respected fellow legislator would not have had to hear it brought up each session.

In spite of it being continually supported in principle, not wanting to lose a possible reelection  for supporting a bill that might reduce their support of their base, the legislators put their own desire to get reelected above what would be best for students and a bill they in principle supported.

This desire for reelection by favoring self interest over the people could be used in another situation, one that would actually benefit the people.

There is a Massachusetts law which was passed in 1843 and is still on the books. It states:

 

“(a) All persons within the commonwealth, regardless of sex, race, color, creed or national origin, shall have, except as is otherwise provided or permitted by law, the same rights enjoyed by white male citizens, to make and enforce contracts, to inherit, purchase, to lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other. General laws: Part 1:Title XV: Section 102.

It is important to note two things.

First, the law refers to “All persons within the commonwealth”. It does not say citizens, nor does it even say “legal residents”. It does say all with no qualifiers.

Second, it specifically states how this equal treatment can be removed, “except as is otherwise provided or permitted by law”.

 This second part would seem to say that if any person or group within the commonwealth were to not have equality, a law needs to be passed stating who that person or group is.

In proposing Sanctuary City and Safe Communities ordinances, it is my personal opinion, the wrong approach is being used.

By proposing laws that add people to the protected class list, it allows those who oppose such actions the opportunity to voice their bigotry toward groups, whether based on fact or simple assumption, and gives the opportunity to spread this bigotry in the light of day with the possibility of bringing others to it or encouraging those who have been quiet to come forward.

The actual issue can be high jacked by those who will do what it takes to prevent passage.

In the last presidential election we saw that unsupported bigotry is a powerful tool albeit exercised by a minority, but done in the proper places can override the majority and give us a president with the minority of votes because of the existence of the electoral college.

In preventing an inclusive law, all manner of falsehoods can be promoted by people with authority, and this could kill such a bill

Not all people who voted for Trump were bigots, but their numbers were added to those who are.

Fighting to add people to equality laws is an uphill battle, and in this case totally unnecessary.

The burden needs to be placed on the bigots to express their opinions for the judgment of the majority population.

In my opinion rather than assume that people have to be added to the list of people endowed with equality by our creator and our state law, according to this 1843 law, a law must be passed that lists those whose equality we now choose to negate.

Either by vote of the legislature or the people, a law must be written that states that as of a certain date the “following people” will no longer be considered equal in the commonwealth, and their inclusion and any acceptance will require future approval.

If legislators are concerned about reelection, it would seem a very difficult proposition to pass a law removing people’s equality and listing who they are when many in the state are descendants of those minorities who were treated as less than the ruling population in the past in violation of that law that has too often been conveniently ignored.

Anyone who has recently, or whose families have a historic link to those who were not allowed entry into certain places, were denied their rights to make and enforce contracts, to inherit, purchase, to lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property, or when employment should have been available were told they need not apply may have difficulty being the people who decide who will receive the treatment that in their present or historical treatment they find abhorrent.

Transgender people should never have had to fight to have laws enacted to bestow upon them equality, a situation that allowed people to fixate on restrooms, because they are “persons within the commonwealth”, but those who have a prejudice against them should have been forced to lay bare all their prejudices in proposing and then passing a law that named them and the rights they should lose.

When it comes to passing ordinances or legislation declaring parts or all of the state as Sanctuary Cities or Safe Communities, there is no need as that was done in 1843.

The burden should be placed where it belongs, on those who have traditionally broken that law and now desire to make their illegality retroactively legal, and their prejudice needs to be laid bare if things are to change.

We have been approaching this ass backward.