Trump, Bannon and Tillerson’s war with China.

02tillerson_web2-master768

Rex Tillerson is sworn in as Secretary of State.

It seems like only yesterday I spent my days blogging about pensions and standardized testing.

This wasn’t an idle activity on my part. I felt and wrote passionately about them both.

How things have changed in just a period of a few weeks.

This morning I write instead about an impending war between the United States and China.

And, at the same time a war against Islam. Are you yearning for your kids’ boots on the ground again in the middle east?

Bannon and Trump are. That would be your kids. Not their kids.

Yes. I know. Some of them aren’t home yet from their last tour of duty.

They say it is part of their whole defending Christianity thing. I think we’ve heard that explanation before. It has never turned out to be worth it for us. By “us” I don’t mean the billionaire Masters of War.

I mean us.

This is not speculation. Steve Bannon’s words are reported in the Guardian newspaper that there will be a war with China over islands in the South China Sea.

“We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years,” he said in March 2016. “There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face – and you understand how important face is – and say it’s an ancient territorial sea.”

Islands in the South China Sea? The Spratly chain of islands. Are you ready to sign your kids up to die for that?

Do you even know where the Spratly islands are? Could you find them on a map?

War with China is also on the agenda of Rex Tillerson, the newly confirmed Secretary of State.

Bannon’s sentiments and his position in Trump’s inner circle add to fears of a military confrontation with China, after secretary of state Rex Tillerson said that the US would deny China access to the seven artificial islands. Experts warned any blockade would lead to war.

Bannon is clearly wary of China’s growing clout in Asia and beyond, framing the relationship as entirely adversarial, predicting a global culture clash in the coming years.

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian west is on the retreat,” Bannon said during a February 2016 radio show.

I want to go back to writing about pension theft.

Threat level: deep red / Threat assessment: seek truth from facts

1385254_10202166132134736_1399166213_n

-By Peter Hogness. Peter was for 15 years the newspaper editor at Prof. Staff Congress/AFT Local 2334.

There are several recent postings (on Medium & elsewhere) that portray every move of the Trump administration as part of a deeply thought-out plan, with every stumble and reversal framed as part of a master scheme of deception. The writers are not wrong about the level of threat to democracy posed by this regime.

They’re not wrong about how hard we have to fight, or the urgency of the struggle, and the articles include some useful observations. But they overstate the level of competence & intention within Trump’s inner circle– based on speculation, not actual data– and that’s a serious mistake. Among the staff drafting Trump’s recent decrees was a 2016 college grad– which shocked career State Department personnel accustomed to a certain baseline of competence. Given the almost complete lack of government experience of Trump’s team, we should be skeptical of evidence-free guesswork which assumes that things like the backtracking on green-card holders was “all part of the plan” all along.

No question that Trump, Bannon & co. are dangerous authoritarians, & that we can expect them to try blatantly illegal moves and see if they can get away with it. But the shoot-from-the-hip style and disregard for the law of this first week are not strengths of this regime, they are weaknesses. We will win nothing that we don’t fight for, and it will be a hard fight. But a speculative narrative that sees great planning behind every move of this unprepared administration (even its retreats) is not accurate & ignores real weaknesses in the enemy camp.

16409465_10212058738323708_1836484996_o

Thousands spontaneously turned up at international airports all across the country to protest Trump’s Muslim ban executive order.

Bannon & Co. want us to think that they are highly competent and all-powerful. Intimidation is part of their strategy. They are certainly dangerous motherfuckers who are striving for authoritarian rule, and we must fight them tooth and nail. But they are not as powerful as they want you to think; let’s not make the mistake of believing their own macho PR. That’s not accurate, and is disempowering for progressives.

_______________

P.S. Just as our analysis needs to be rooted in the facts, our resistance needs to be rooted in people’s real lives. Kenzo Shibata puts his finger on a different but related problem with the trend of thinking described above:

“There’s a thinkpiece (not an article) going around on Medium dot com explaining that Trump’s moves are a “headfake” and distraction. It’s not “fake news” technically, but it’s a garbage opinion. Trump’s executive orders have real impacts on real people. This is not House of Cards on Netflix. We cannot be armchair pundits. We need to fight him at every corner. I invite the author of the blog to put down his laptop and join us in the streets.” 

To say that Trump’s immigration and refugee bans were a “head fake” or a “distraction” treats his attacks on immigrants & refugees as not being real issues. For folks directly affected, they are all too real. And all of us need to be organizing on the time-tested principle, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” The immigration ban was a very real policy move, and our side’s pushback on it was not falling for a distraction– it was a good first step.

The Doomsday clock and the Mad Man theory.

extralarge

I woke up this morning to the news that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock to 2 1/2 minutes to midnight.

The University of Chicago-based journal “Bulletin of Atomic Scientists” on Thursday morning moved the hands of the doomsday clock to 2-1/2 minutes to midnight, nearly the closest to midnight ever and a message that the probability of worldwide catastrophe is currently very high.

The clock’s hands were moved because of the international community’s failure to come to grips with climate change and nuclear weapons, Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Pennsylvania State University Professor David Titley, the former head of the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, wrote in a New York Times column Thursday about the decision.

“Making matters worse, the United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts,” the pair wrote. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”

Okay. That’s a problem. Nobody likes having their first cup of coffee while reading that by the time they have their second cup they may not have time on this planet to finish it.

Blogging about Trump is a problem.

There is just more shit than you can keep up with.

One theory is that his tweets and executive orders are distractions. I’m told by friends and those on social media not to pay attention to them. I’m not sure about that. I think we should be paying attention to it all.

Who knows who is doing the distracting?

And distracting us from what?

Trump appears to be provoking tension and a possible hot war with China over islands in the South China Sea. Why should he care about Chinese islands in the South China Sea

What would the U.S. say if China decided Hawaii was of strategic interest to them?

But maybe he doesn’t really care. Maybe this is all part of a Mad Man strategy.

In his business dealings, his art of the deal,  Trump threatens first and then pulls back to get what he wanted in the first place.

When I bargained teacher contracts both sides played this game. It’s kind of like playing good cop/bad cop.

Somebody on our team would play the reasonable one, but warn that if we couldn’t come to agreement with the board then they would have to deal with the crazies.

The board would do the same thing.

The Republican establishment like McConnell and Ryan are the good cops in this scenario. They can and will do the real damage.

Meanwhile they suggest that Trump is just being Trump. Trump being the bad cop, McConnell and Ryan looking not so bad.

Is all this a distraction? Or is it the plan?

So, I  follow the Trump tweets. And the threats of executive action. We have to pay attention to it all.

In global politics it may be the same thing.

Nixon and Kissinger used this Mad Man theory in waging war in Vietnam and Cambodia. 

President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger believed they could compel “the other side” to back down during crises in the Middle East and Vietnam by “push[ing] so many chips into the pot” that Nixon would seem ‘crazy’ enough to “go much further,” according to newly declassified documents published today by the National Security Archive.

The documents include a 1972 Kissinger memorandum of conversation published today for the first time in which Kissinger explains to Defense Department official Gardner Tucker that Nixon’s strategy was to make “the other side … think we might be ‘crazy’ and might really go much further” — Nixon’s Madman Theory notion of intimidating adversaries such as North Vietnam and the Soviet Union to bend them to Washington’s will in diplomatic negotiations.

If that is what is going on with China and the islands in the South China Sea, it is a dangerous game and is bringing us closer to a global catastrophe.

Trump and the GOP may be carrying out the Mad Man theory domestically as well.

Or maybe it isn’t all worked out but the results are the same thing.

We have to pay attention to it all. Nothing should be considered a distraction.

Although it can be exhausting.

Donald Trump is really president and I’m not really dead.

dead

If you were watching Chicago Med last night, yes, that was me playing a deceased man.

A few months back I got hired as an extra to play the role.

“How long can you hold your breath?” I was asked. “Don’t know,” I said. So he timed me. I took a deep breath and held it for about a minute.

“Should we do eyes open and mouth closed or eyes closed and mouth open?” asked somebody else.

How would I know?

The entire scene took up less than 90 seconds on air and took three hours to shoot. Anne found it disturbing to watch me but I thought it was all fun.

And I’m not really dead. It’s a TV show.

Donald Trump is not really a TV show. He is president.

I find that far more disturbing and there is no doubt it will be bad, at least for those not represented by his cabinet of dopes and Wall Street wheeler-dealers.

But there is this.

At the exact moment when Trump was taking the oath of office in Washington, I was sitting with a group of kindergarten and first graders at a public elementary school in Chicago, all of us playing the ukulele and singing This Little Light of Mine.

“What’s the light?” I asked.

“Love,” a first grader told me.

Ah. Don’t tell me there are no right answers.

Some of my friends woke up this morning feeling down.

First of all, as bad as Trump is, this is not my first rodeo.

We have been here before.

We can deal with this.

And as bad as things can get, and for many already are, in a room where there are no Grizzly bears, or for that moment any fear of guns, a safe place, things are good.

And I feel alive and ready to go at it.

Rahm to Trump on unions: “Here’s what you do.”

rahm-emanuel-and-donald-trump-clash-immigration-rockford-advocate-701x400

Mayor Rahm and DT hooked up yesterday at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Rahm says he talked to the next President about his immigration stand. But call me skeptical.

Shortly after Rahm left, DT tweeted.

This was no tweet directed at Alec Baldwin’s spot-on goof of DT on SNL.

It wasn’t even directed at the president of a giant international union.

This was directed at an elected local president named Chuck Jones.

Rahm knows this tactic well.

As Chief of Staff to President Obama, Rahm famously told the President to “fuck the UAW.”

And when he came back to Chicago, just south of his home in Winnetka, he told the local President of the teachers union, Karen Lewis, “fuck you.”

I’m not sure what Karen said in return. She just smiles if you ask her.

But the public attack on the local president of a Steelworkers union in Indiana is no joke.

The thing is that the union even praised the deal when it was first announced, although admitting they hadn’t seen the details.

The Washington Post reports that since the attack by Trump, Jones’ phone has been deluged by threatening calls.

He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

“I’ve been doing this job for 30 years, and I’ve heard everything from people who want to burn my house down or shoot me,” he added. “So I take it with a grain of salt and I don’t put a lot of faith in that, and I’m not concerned about it and I’m not getting anybody involved. I can deal with people that make stupid statements and move on.”

Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, called Jones after Trump’s tweet caught his eye. Jones, he said, had just left his office in Indianapolis, where he manages the needs of about 3,000 union members.

“This guy makes pennies for what he does,” Voorhies said. “What he has to put up with is just crazy. Now he’s just got the president-elect smearing him on Twitter.”

Earlier, Jones had the nerve to say that the President-elect’s numbers on jobs saved by the Carrier deal were wrong.

So, following the meeting with Rahm, Donald blasted Jones with his own version of “fuck you.”

Coincidence? You tell me.

On the day Trump formally handed the U.S. government over to Wall Street Executives (and not the first time this has happened by any means).

pentagon

United Technologies, whose biggest client is DT’s Pentagon owns Carrier, the air conditioning company. Do we need 800 more deals like this?

On the day DT formally (and not for the first time) handed the government of the United States to Wall Street executives, he also announced that United Technologies would not be moving their air conditioning factory from Indiana to Mexico.

Barack Obama’s White House praised the Carrier deal.

The White House first applauded Donald Trump’s deal to keep around 1,000 manufacturing jobs in Indiana, then challenged him to do it 800 more times to match President Barack Obama’s “high standard.”

Trump’s team announced he and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor, will appear in Indiana Thursday to formally announce Carrier will keep those jobs at an air conditioning plant rather than move them to Mexico. His aides are eager to make sure the president-elect and Pence get credit for cutting the deal.

At the White House on Wednesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said “this is good news and, obviously, we’d welcome that good news.”

Then the trolling began.

“I know that the president-elect has indicated that he deserves credit … for that announcement, and I guess what I would observe is that if he is successful in doing that 804 more times, then he will meet the record of manufacturing jobs that were created in the United States while President Obama was in office,” Earnest said.

I get that Obama wants some props for bringing 800,000 jobs back into the economy since Bush and his Wall Street buddies tanked it in 2008.

It’s odd that this wasn’t really mentioned by Hillary during the election.

Still, do we really want 800 more deals like Carrier?

What neither Trump nor the company has announced officially, however, is just what the Indiana government has offered as an inducement to stay. But you can assume, even with the pressure from the President-Elect, that Indiana paid up. Earlier on Wednesday, a source close to the company told Fortune that United Technologies would get $700,000 in state tax breaks for a number of years.

This is congruent from what we know about the sort of tax breaks Indiana and Indianapolis has already offered the firm. Back in 2011, the city gave the company a six-year property tax abatement, which allowed them to forgo paying $1.2 million in taxes, according to the Indianapolis Star. The company has also taken advantage of funds the state allocates for job retraining, and had reached a deal with Indiana to return several hundred thousand dollars for contributions it made to the company’s retraining programs as a part of the state’s Skills Enhancement Fund.

BTW, the Pentagon, now owned by DT, is United Technologies’ biggest client.

Today Crain’s is reporting that the country’s wealthiest folks are getting an additional $21 billion in tax breaks.

So, how are you doing?

They and their businesses are re-evaluating, or putting on hold, strategies for transferring money to heirs as the new administration could work with a cooperative Congress to reform or repeal federal estate and gift taxes among its early moves. That would be an about-face from President Barack Obama, who sought to place tighter restrictions on the way wealth could be passed from generation-to-generation.

“Eliminating the death tax will equate to an enormous gift,” said Peter Rup, who manages about $900 million for rich families at Artemis Wealth Advisors in New York. The IRS collected $21 billion from taxes on estates and gifts in its fiscal year 2016, according to data from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Trump is gearing up to embark on the biggest U.S. tax overhaul in three decades. His proposals include cutting income and corporate taxes and eliminating the so-called death tax, which is paid primarily by the richest 10 percent of earners, according to the Tax Policy Center. Advisers to wealthy families and their offices also anticipate that the new administration’s approach to estate and gift taxes could negate rules they were bracing for, which sought to limit tax breaks on transferring wealth.

About Trump from your neighbor, Karl.

imgres

Karl (on right) and me.

-By Karl-Heinz Gabbey. My friend Karl is a retired teacher and activist. He is a Democratic Party precinct captain in the Chicago suburbs.

I wrote this just over two months ago and gave this to the constituents in my precinct before the election:

What will a Trump presidency be like? His personality reveals everything: He’s a supreme narcissist: In his own mind, he makes no mistakes and can’t lose. He has no inhibitions, morals, or scruples. He acts only on impulse. He has no conscience that tells him what’s right and wrong. He lacks any compassion or empathy for others. He’s deceitful and manipulative. Trump is a compulsive liar who’ll say anything to enrich or aggrandize himself. He’s ignorant and lacks any curiosity, since he’s already “the smartest guy in the world” and “Trump knows best.” The rights of others mean nothing to him. He tolerates no one who questions his motives or actions. Clearly, Trump is not presidential material!

Trump’s caters to our worst instincts. His overt racism, misogyny, anti-immigrant rants, Islamophobia, and bullying have already had an impact. Trump encourages and legitimizes racists, mysogynists, xenophobes, and anti-semites who feel comfortable displaying their hatred at his rallies. Like Hitler or Stalin, he’ll turn neighbor against neighbor. If elected, Trump will only create turmoil and misery for the vast majority of Americans. The handwriting is on the wall.

One of his frightening traits is his “thin skin” and the accompanying vindictive streak that makes Trump lash out against people who “offend” him. The evidence is in the manner he tweets; in his unbridled conduct during the Republican primary debates; and his thousands of outstanding law suits. His call for the “prosecution” of Hillary Clinton is baseless, dangerous, unprecedented in the history of American electoral politics and purely vindictive. Compulsive vindictiveness will cause Trump to abuse his powers as president. The looming questions are how and to what extent?

Trump will appoint Yes-men to his cabinet and put other Yes-men in charge of all federal agencies and the courts. They won’t be advisers; their jobs are to serve and to flatter him. He thrives on flattery and fears criticism. His attorney general will be a Trump sociopath, as will all the federal attorneys he appoints. His Justice Department will be staffed by people who will do unwarranted investigations into the lives of his opponents who’ll be subjected later to show trials that will be broadcast on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. He’ll fill the Appellate and Supreme Courts with Trump “justices” who’ll be far more radical than Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, or Kennedy. Justice, as we’ve known it since the Founding Fathers, will disappear. Law, according to the Constitution, will cease. Civil liberties, like the “freedom of speech,” will no longer exist. The United States will fall under laws entirely according to the whims of Trump.

Regulatory agencies like the IRS, EPA, and FCC, etc. as we know them will undergo changes. These agencies will be transformed and abused by Trump to go after political opponents to settle scores or to undo any regulations that he, Trump, considers bothersome. Regardless of guilt or innocence, the IRS will be used to “investigate,” to prosecute, and to eliminate individual political opponents, opposition political parties, or groups he doesn’t like. Count on it!

An FCC (Federal Communications Commission) under Trump will radically change our media, including the internet. Program content will resemble that of Russia, China or North Korea where censorship and propaganda are the rule. Access to information will be limited exclusively to what Trump thinks is “best” for us. Above all, he’ll use the media as a tool to intimidate or to persecute any political opposition.

Public education from kindergarten to graduate school will be replaced by fly-by-night private, for-profit schools that’ll use his fraudulent “Trump University” as their “business model.” Trump will create educational and cultural blight that has no precedent in American history. His slogan, “Make America Great (Again?),” is emptiness on steroids.

A Trump-controlled EPA will readily allow water and air pollution, as well as ground contamination. It will be a Trump tool that will destroy our environment rather than to protect it. Trump refutes the stark, scientifically based realities of global warming. He has stated so repeatedly. (Hello,Trump: No life on Earth can exist without a healthy environment.)

Despite some qualms, Trump’s presidency will have the support of the majority of the Republican Party. The Congress will be composed of loyal Trump Republican Yes-men whose goals coincide with his: tax cuts for himself and the wealthy, elimination of the estate tax, elimination of Social Security, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act as starters.

If Trump has his way, we’ll be at war forever. He has said as much. He has no idea of the destructive power of nuclear weapons that can kill millions and make Earth uninhabitable. His access to the nuclear codes is beyond frightening.

Never underestimate Trump. If he has his way, the above scenario will be the reality and he’ll render us, the citizens, powerless to do anything about it. He’ll create George Orwell’s vision of “1984,” and he’ll have the technology and the organs of government to tyrannize the rest of us. Such an apocalyptic nightmare is possible with a Trump presidency.

Your neighbor, Karl

It’s the racism, stupid.

Kansas Secretary of State Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law in his Topeka, Kansas office

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped write tough immigration laws in Arizona and elsewhere, said in an interview that Trump’s policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.

The headline above the fold in the morning New York Times:

Senate Democrats’ surprising strategy: Trying to align with Trump.

You will excuse me if I am not surprised.

Mr. Trump campaigned on some issues that Democrats have long championed and Republicans resisted: spending more on roads, bridges and rail, punishing American companies that move jobs overseas, ending a lucrative tax break for hedge fund and private equity titans, and making paid maternity leave mandatory.

 Some Democrats are even co-opting Mr. Trump’s language from the campaign. “Every single person in our caucus agrees the system is rigged,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.