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Trump and Putin

I’ve been leery of making a big deal about claims that Russian agents plotted with Trump operatives to engage in computer hacking to influence our election. Such investigations might weaken Trump, but I thought they were a bad idea for a number of reasons.

First, even if true, this is part of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party’s effort to blame Clinton’s loss on Russia. If Russia is to blame, corporate democrats will argue, there is no reason for Democrats to chart a more progressive course. This enables them to avoid confronting Wall Street’s dominance of the party, and keep its grassroots populist wing out of power.

Second, it appears to be part of the “deep state’s” strategy to re-start a new cold war. Confronting Russia, the world’s second biggest nuclear power, is a very dangerous gambit.

Third, by focusing on hacking such investigations will also be an attack on people like Snowden who have been revealing vital truths to the public.

Fourth, it is hypocritical to get apoplectic about Russia acting to influence our election, when we do this routinely to other countries. Left-wingers should reject such American exceptionalism even when it might serve our purposes. In other words, jumping on the blame Russia bandwagon is opportunistic.

But I’ve also heard Trump’s praise of Putin. I’ve watched Trump fill his cabinet with billionaires. And it is impossible to miss that Trump is using his office to increase the wealth of his family.

This has left me wondering. Does Trump see Putin’s Russia as a model for the United States? Does Trump dream of being the strongman of a crony capitalist oligarchy like Putin is? Is that what he seeks to accomplish while in office?

Trump is hardly a deep ideological thinker. As far as I can tell his objectives are making money, getting attention, and receiving adulation. His motivation seems more personal than class oriented. Perhaps this is why he makes many elements of the current American ruling elite so nervous.

If that is the case then exposing team-Trump’s Russian ties takes on a new dimension. A neoliberal, corporate-dominated state under Clinton would have been an environmental disaster the world could not afford. However, mimicking Putin’s corrupt extractionist-oriented, authoritarianism in the United States, would place all those organizing domestic resistance in immediate danger while locking in the same environmental devastation.

So, despite my misgivings, perhaps I should support efforts to expose Trump’s Russian ties. I am far from certain about this, however. Am I missing something with a shallow analysis?

I urge those who read this to weigh in with their comments. I read them all and respond to many. I suspect some who comment never check to see if they have been answered. I urge those who do recheck to rejoin the discussion if they wish. This is not an easy issue. It requires further analysis and it will be front and center for the foreseeable future.  Read More 
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Immigration Nation

Last week I attended an inspiring local program entitled “Immigration: Facts verses Fiction.” The presenters, two dynamic young women have started a project called #Immigration Nation. They are about to embark upon a six-month journey criss-crossing our nation in a camper van that will serve as a “mobile immigration clinic, providing free on-demand services for immigrants and their communities across the United States.”

Here’s how they describe themselves:

“Immigration Nation is the brainchild of two friends, Martina Carrillo and Lauren Burke. We met in 2010 when Martina, who is originally from Mexico, was in high school, and Lauren was working at a nonprofit in NYC. Together we worked on Martina's case and eventually, with two other young women, we founded the immigrant focused non profit, Atlas: DIY. Over the next six years we became close friends while working to represent individuals, organize trainings and provide safe spaces to immigrants in NYC. In the fall of 2016, however, Lauren was preparing to move upstate to start a consulting agency and Martina was headed back to school to obtain her bachelor's degree. Everything changed on November 8th. After the initial shock of what had just happened wore off, we began thinking of what we could do. Given Martina's personal experience as an undocumented immigrant and Lauren's work with hundreds of immigrant families. we knew we couldn't sit idly by as our communities were under attack.  We also wanted to create audio and visual work that would share the real immigration stories of our nation. Thus, immigration nation was born.”

Now the two of them have left their jobs and school: Lauren is an experienced immigration lawyer and Martina has dropped out of the college she was attending. They are set to begin an organizing and teaching journey while living in their camper. They have a kickstarter campaign to fund their work whose goal is to raise $10,000 by March 1st. As of this morning they’ve raised over $7100. You can find out more at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/991694834/immigration-nation (If this link does not work, just Google "Lauren Burke Kickstarter")

The willingness of these energetic organizers of resistance who are providing a valuable service to a particularly vulnerable population is something that deserves our support. If you visit their kickstarter site, read their bios, and view their three-minute video, I’m sure you will agree.

Getting behind people on the front lines doing critical outreach is an effective way to build resistance to Trumpism. There is no intermediary organization. Instead, for a relative pittance, you are funding six months of face-to-face organizing by two dedicated, knowledgable, and charismatic people.

Elli and I have jumped on their bandwagon. I urge you to watch the video and join their kickstarter campaign. There are only a couple of weeks left for them to achieve their goal.  Read More 
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What Can We Do?

This is my first blog since November. The day after Trump’s Electoral College victory, my 99-year-old father-in-law, Jack Diamond, began failing. He died on January 12th. I was unable to write during this period.

On January 21st I went to the demonstration in Boston with 175,000 of my closest friends. I found it comforting and energizing. Elli and I are working to make our town a sanctuary city and taking other actions to resist the Trumpist onslaught. These actions are necessary and fine, but like you, I am trying to figure out what more we can do. I’ve been thinking about the idea of a general strike and am happy to see that it’s being organized, although possibility prematurely, for February 17th (f17strike.com). One aspect of this proposal is particularly interesting to me, especially for baby boomers.

Years ago, Mario Savio galvanized many us with these words, “There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

This is, I believe, what we need to do, but how? I am so impressed with the masses of energized younger people (for me that means those under 50) who are willing to put their bodies on the gears to disrupt whatever evil policies the Trumpists seek to shove down our throats, but what about the millions of baby boomers whose bodies may no longer be quite up to the task? What can we do beyond generous donations, attending demonstrations, putting up signs and bumper stickers? Those actions alone won’t stop the machine.

How can boomers be effectively disruptive? Where is our untapped power? While many boomers live paycheck to paycheck or worse, millions of us have led professional lives, with good salaries. We may have pensions, retirement savings, Social Security, or inheritances that have left us more comfortable than we ever dreamed of being. This disposable income gives us untapped power beyond our ability to make bigger donations. That ability involves consumption. If we want to disrupt “business as usual” during the Trump administration, are we willing to stop our “buying as usual?”

The millions of us can be disruptive of the Trump agenda simply by participating in a organized effort to sharply curtail our purchases. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, but let’s put our collective money where our collective mouthes are by not spending. Canceling big ticket items is most important. Put off buying a new car. Don’t take that pleasure trip - stay home, better for the environment anyway. Delay major home improvements. Forget about that new 99inch smart TV. It will hurt the economy, but it will help to get rid of Trump.

Do that and participate in “no commerce” as part of the February 17th Strike. Buy nothing that day, and “Join with other like-minded folks and occupy public space with positive messages of resistance and solidarity.” If millions of us participated in organized “non-consumption” days, days during which we stayed home, hung out with family and friends, took hikes, played board games, and built community, we could send corporate America a message they’d feel in their pocket book. And if we can pull off one day like that, then we’ll go for another and a third.

We used to say that if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. Think of it this way - every unnecessary dollar we spend helps Trump. Stop spending to hit this fucked-up administration where it hurts.  Read More 
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