Yes, Progressives Can Be Ignorant and Idiotic, Too

For several days now, nationally and locally, progressives have been whipping themselves into a frenzied outrage over a vote last week on an amendment in the US Senate, co-sponsored by Amy Klobuchar and (BE STILL MY THROBBING HEART!!) Bernie Sanders. Their amendment, the narrative goes, would have allowed Americans to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

The amendment failed by a relatively narrow margin, and several Democrats voted against it. Nationally, rising corporate Democratic star Cory Booker (D-NJ) has gotten the most heat for his “no” vote, but it so happens that both of Washington State’s senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, also voted against the measure. And these votes are being taken, usually with a good deal of online spittle, as obvious evidence that the “corporate Democrats who killed this bill” are Big Pharma sellouts in particular and. more generally, Part of the Problem that is leaving us with President Trump this week. Literally millions of words have been said or written to this effect over the past five days.

There’s only two tiny, itsy-bitsy problems with using this vote to flagellate Booker et al:

1) That’s not what happened.

2) That’s not why it happened.

If it makes you feel better, Booker is and always has been a tool of Wall Street with a feel-good biography. Cantwell has been a technocratic centrist since she was in the House of Representatives 25 years ago, a policy wonk who gets good nerdy regulatory work done but was a DLC member before it was cool the first time. Patty Murray’s votes are a little more liberal, but in a quarter-century in the Senate she’s almost never sponsored anything controversial (quick, name me a senator, any senator, who says they hate military veterans). She rapidly rose to power in her party by raising a ton of corporate money for herself and especially her colleagues and party.

Needless to say, they all loved Hillary Clinton. And absolutely, their disconnection from Sanders’ priorities and (especially) the concerns of ordinary people are prime examples of the kind of timid-to-useless deadwood now clogging the highest levels of the Democratic Party. You want to blame corporate Democrats for giving us Donald Trump? These three are as good as any to blame.

But last week’s vote has nothing, zip, nada to do with any of that. And none of the outrage pouring out of people in the last week contains any acknowledgement, let alone understanding, of Senate procedure and what the vote was about – let alone why senators voted as they did. In parading their ignorance, progressives come off as just as ill-informed and conspiratorial as any low-information Trump fanboy. We’re better that that. So bear with me for some tedious procedural explaining.

What Actually Happened

Sanders’ amendment was not to an ordinary bill. It was an amendment to this year’s Senate budget reconciliation bill, a part of the budget process that does not get signed by the President and that does not become law. Instead, it is a framework for use by Senate committee chairs as they prepare and then hold hearings on the budget.

Sanders’ amendment would not have legalized importation of prescription drugs from Canada, or anything else. It would merely have authorized the Senate Budget Committee’s chairman, Tea Party Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming, to propose such a measure should he choose to do so.

Enzi, however, didn’t want that authority – he said so publicly, and he also voted against the Sanders amendment. Even if the amendment had passed, it would have accomplished nothing, because a troglodyte like Enzi isn’t interested, and Wyoming voters aren’t about to throw him out over it. This was a meaningless vote, one of a batch of amendments offered by Democrats with no expectation at all that any of them would pass.

Why It Happened

That batch of amendments was all meaningless in terms of influencing the actual budget, let alone becoming law. Everyone involved understood that the Republican majority would make sure that the amendments would all fail.

But they did have a purpose, and it’s the same sort of game Republicans play when it’s the Democrats controlling a house of Congress: to get the opposing party’s legislators to take a vote that can be used in campaign ads against them when they run for re-election. In this case, “Bob Smith – VOTED AGAINST CHEAPER PRICES FOR YOUR PRESCRIPTION DRUGS!!!,” and on to the next three second hit. However, invariably, when you introduce such amendments, some of your own people will find it more politically useful to vote against it, too. So if you’re from a state with a lot of Big Pharma jobs, like, say, New Jersey, and your state is just as likely to elect a Republican as a Democrat, you don’t want your opponent’s campaign blurb to be, “Bob Smith – VOTED TO TAKE AWAY YOUR JOBS!!!”

(That explains Booker’s vote – he actually gets a lot less in Pharma donations than your new Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, or a number of other Democratic senators, including some who voted “yes.” Why Murray and Cantwell voted “no” is anyone’s guess, and really does not matter.)

Conversely, Republicans know what this game is about, too. So they can afford to have a few of their members vote “yes,” knowing that it won’t pass. You coordinate which of your members would benefit most from avoiding this particular headache. Thus, John McCain voted “yes” because he’s going to have a hard time getting re-elected. Ted Cruz doesn’t exactly hate Big Pharma, but Texas is the state with by far the highest number of uninsured residents, so why hand ammunition to his next opponent? So he, too, voted “yes.” And so on.

This is not s new game. A decade ago, when new Congressman Dave Reichert was barely surviving re-election in his then-swing district on the Eastside, he got huge benefits from the perception that he was an independent moderate – a perception helped greatly, as he revealed on video to a friendly suburban audience, because his party leadership would tell him when it was safe to break ranks on meaningless votes like this one. If a vote was going to be close, Reichert would vote the party line.

With the Klobuchar/Sanders amendment everyone’s all worked up about this week, that’s what would have happened, too. It’s all political kabuki, tedious and predictable, staged solely to cater to or avoid the wrath of the rubes. Except that it turns out that, on this of all weeks, what the left-leaning rubes want is the blood of their own ostensible allies. If this sounds like an exact mirror of why even rational Republicans no longer dare play rational ones on TV, that’s because it is. IT’S ALL OPTICS.

With all of the truly destructive votes cast by Democrats like Booker and Murray in any given year, it makes less than no sense to go after them on this one – a vote with no impact, not even any force of law, even if it had passed, which there was never a chance of happening. The nicest thing that can be said is that the lunatic far right’s tactics worked, and they now have absolute control of the federal government. And it’s true that as Trump’s Cabinet Nominees From Hell sail through their Senate confirmation hearings, Democrats playing tiny business-as-usual games like these – rather than, say, trying to save the Republic from outright fascism – is remarkably tone deaf.

But the far right isn’t in complete control of the federal government now because they’ve embraced hatred and ignorance as core values. That’s not a tactic we need to embrace. Progressives can hold our elected allies (and pseudo-allies) accountable without going down that road. Right?

Dr, King and Mr. Trump

”The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would have turned 88 yesterday. He has been dead for far longer than he was alive. As his living memory fades, replaced by a feel-good “I have a dream” whitewash that ignores much of what he stood for and fought against, it’s more important than ever to recapture the true history of Dr. King – because as we enter the era of President Trump, much of what he fought against is resurfacing or still with us today.

Even before Dr. King’s assassination, in the mid-’60s virtually every major city in the US saw riots. Those riots were centered in its black ghettos and frequently fueled by systemic police violence against its residents.

Only five years after King’s death, in 1973, a young Donald Trump represented his father’s real estate company, Trump Management, against a sweeping Department of Justice lawsuit alleging that the Trumps systematically discriminated against blacks in renting their New York City apartments.

Another 13 years later, in 1986, an Alabama attorney named Jefferson Beauregard Sessions became only the second nominee since World War Two to have his nomination for the federal judiciary rejected – explicitly because of Sessions’ overt racism.

Now, in 2017, an unrepentant Sessions is about to become the head of the Department of Justice, charged with – among other things – housing discrimination complaints, suppression of black voting (now done wirh computer-aided precision unthinkable when King fought Jim Crow), and investigations of local police brutality against non-whites in cities across the US.

Sessions has been picked for that post by the same Donald Trump who inherited a local real estate empire built on discrimination, and who won the presidency in large part with unusually explicit appeals to racism.

Just how long does that arc need to be before justice takes hold?

King’s faith-based optimism in the moral goodness of humanity may, after a half-century that has seen tremendous progress as well as widespread regression, seem quaint and naive at best, irrelevant at worst. But his moral vision is not the only reason he is remembered today, and it’s not the only lesson the history of his spectacular, all-too-brief career offers as we confront Trump’s America.

The Forgotten History

King, the man, was, along with Mohandas Gandhi, one of the two most internationally revered symbols of nonviolence in the 20th century. He spent his life defying authority and convention, citing a higher moral authority, and gave hope and inspiration for the liberation of people of color on six continents. King is not a legend because he believed in diversity trainings and civic ceremonies, or because he had a nice dream. He is remembered because he took serious risks to his own life (and eventually lost it) fighting for a higher cause.

King is also remembered because, among a number of brave and committed civil rights leaders and activists, he had a flair for self-promotion, a style that also appealed to white liberals, and the extraordinary social strength of the black Southern churches behind him. And because he died before he had a chance to be widely believed a relic or buffoon.

Most importantly, King was a brilliant political tactician. He became the leader of tens of millions of Americans widely thought to have no power, and showed how they could, along with white allies, exercise power – effectively enough to win. He exploited divisions in his racist white opponents, pitting the die-hard segregationists against white-owned businesses crippled by economic boycotts. He gained allies in long-time segregationists like Lyndon Johnson, who was responding to King’s power politics, not his moral appeals. That’s a part of King’s legacy that’s squarely relevant today for marginalized communities of all types.

What little history TV will give us around King’s holiday this year is at least as much about forgetting as about remembering, as much about self-congratulatory patriotism that King was American as self-examination that American racism made him necessary and that government, at every level, sought to destroy him. We hear “I have a dream”; we don’t hear his powerful indictments of poverty, the Vietnam War, and the military-industrial complex. We see Bull Connor in Birmingham; we don’t see arrests for fighting segregated housing in Chicago, or the years of beatings and busts before he won the Nobel Peace Prize. We don’t hear about the mainstream American contempt at the time for King, even after that Peace Prize, nor the FBI harassment or his reputation among conservatives as a Commie dupe.

Pop culture’s MLK has no politics, no history, and even no faith. We don’t see retrospectives on King’s linkage of civil rights with Third World liberation. We forget that he died in Memphis lending support for a union (the garbage workers’ strike), while organizing a multi-racial Poor Peoples’ Campaign that demanded affordable housing and decent-paying jobs as basic civil rights transcending skin color. We forget that many of King’s fellow leaders weren’t nearly so polite. Cities were burning. Selma got the movie, but Watts, Newark, and Detroit made a difference, too.

We Could Each Be Dr. King

Sixty-two years after the Montgomery bus boycott catapulted a 26-year-old King into prominence, blacks are being newly systematically disenfranchised in our elections. Affirmative action and school desegregation are dead. Urban school districts across the country are as segregated and unequal as ever. A conservative US Supreme Court has helped usher in a new era when possible redress for discrimination has been steadily whittled away.

Gifted African-Americans like Barack Obama can achieve at a level unthinkable in King’s day. But the better test of a society’s marginalization of discriminated-against groups is not how the most talented people of each group fares, but how the mediocre do. A black mediocrity like George W. Bush could still never, ever become President of the United States. A wealthy black con artist like Donald Trump would be doing hard time.

Resisting Trump requires that we first acknowledge that the overt racism of Montgomery in 1955 is still a central feature of America in 2017. It shows up in our geography, in our jails, in our schools, in our voting booths, in our shelters and food banks, in our economy, in our law enforcement (hello, SPD), and in the very earnest and extremely white activist groups that often carry the banner on these issues.

King used the moral outrage of white Americans to force change; in a new, far more cynical century, we don’t go much for moral outrage any longer. It’d take a whole lot more than Bull Connor’s police dogs to make the news today.

But in 2017, we also have strengths not available to Dr. King. The forces of racism and hate notwithstanding, ours is now a far more multi-cultural society. Far more people have personal relationships with people of other races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, or classes. Appeals to abstract moral principles mean something, but injuries to people we know personally mean more. And a new generation raised on social media and networking is not only interconnected in ways unthinkable in King’s time, but is able to organize and to resist injustice at a scale he could never have imagined.

The saddest loss in the modern narrative of Dr. King’s career is the story of who he was: a man without wealth, without elected office, who managed as a single individual to change the world simply through the strength of his moral convictions. His power came from his willingness to act at enormous personal risk to do what he knew to be right. That story could inspire many millions to similar action — if only it were told. We could each be Dr. King.

MLK has become an icon, not a historical figure (distorted or otherwise). History requires context; icons don’t. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., nonviolent martyr to reconciliation and justice, has become a schlocky greeting card, a warm, fuzzy, feel-good invocation of neighborliness, a literally whitewashed file photo for sneakers or soda commercials, a reprieve for post-holiday shoppers, an excuse for a three-day weekend, a cardboard cutout used for photo ops by dissembling politicians of all colors.

His image is misused in these ways precisely because he was powerful. The movement he led and inspired gained power not just because its cause was just, but also because of the risk-taking, courage, and determination of both King and millions of other less well-known people.

How they demanded change, and won it though the exercise of power nobody thought they had, should inspire all of us. Now more than ever, their story needs to be told. As it inspires us to action, that arc might just start bending back toward justice again.

From MLK to Donald Trump: Your Local Calendar of Hope and Resistance

As promised, here’s an updated calendar of local protests and resistance surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump and his bands of zealots, nihilists, incompetents, and Russian plants. Starting tonight, for the next ten days Seattle will be very, very busy with protests and organizing to resist Trump’s America and begin to build something better. Be part of it.

Almost all of these events have Facebook event pages of their own. Find them, share them with your friends, and let the organizers know you’re coming!

And then after this wave of protests subsides, keep working, to help create the alternative policies and groups we’ll desperately need to mitigate what will be a crisis on too many fronts to recite. Everyone will be affected by the takeover of the federal government by radical nihilists, con artists, and moral scolds. Everyone. This IS a local issue.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 12, 5 PM reception, 5:30 PM doors open, 7 PM program starts: City of Seattle’s annual MLK “Unity Day” with keynote speaker Angela Davis. Free, but head down there now – this will sell out. Town Hall, 8th & Seneca, downtown.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, 6-8 PM: El Comite and others are organizing a forum for undocumented and other immigrants from around the state to tell their stories and to organize. St. Mary’s Church, 611 20th Ave. S., Judkins Park.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 12-2 PM: “Resist Trump: Town Hall Action Meeting”, a meeting for organizing strategies and trainings, hosted by the “Seattle Resist Trump Coalition” (which includes the organizers of all of these other events – there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination happening.) Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall, 5th & James.

1-3:30 PM: “J20 Banner-Making Party,” sponsored by Ungovernable2017.com. At Agnes Underground, 1433 12th Ave. Ste. A1 on Capitol Hill.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, noon: Sen. Bernie Sanders (by video feed) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal headline a rally to oppose ACA repeal, massive Medicaid cuts, and the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood. Westlake Park, 4h & Pine.

MoveOn.org and others are organizing Community Meetings to Resist Trump. There are several in King County, including three in the city of Seattle: 1 PM at the Green Lake Library, 7364 E. Green Lake Way N.; 1 PM at the Rainier Beach Library, 9125 Rainier Ave. S.; and 2 PM at the Redwing Cafe in Rainier Beach, 9272 57th Ave. S. Check MoveOn.org for additional listings in our area.

MONDAY, JANUARY 16, 9:30 AM-4:30 PM: “Stop the Hate: Come Together” is the theme of the 35th annual MLK Day Celebration at Garfield High School, 23rd Ave. & Jefferson St. in the Central District. You can bet this year’s “celebration” will be all about building a more loving and inclusive alternative to Trump’s America. 9:30-10:50, workshops; 11 AM, gymnasium rally; 12:30, march to Federal Building, 2nd Ave. & Madison St., where there will be another rally; 1-4:30, Career Fair at Garfield.

7 PM: “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Revolution,” talk sponsored by the Uhuru Solidarity Movement – Seattle. The Station, 2533 16th Ave. S. on Beacon Hill.

FRIDAY. JANUARY 20 will bring the biggest inauguration protests in US history in Washington, DC…and in Seattle.

8 AM: KEXP Radio is hosting a “Bed-In To Give Peace a Chance,” featuring a number of live bands. Representatives of Planned Parenthood, The Vera Project, ACLU of Washington, TeenTix, Gender Justice League, and Office of Arts and Culture will be on site with more information about their respective organizations. The Gathering Space at KEXP’s studios, 472 1st Ave. N., in the NW corner of Seattle Center, on the corner of 1st Ave. & Republican just north of Key Arena.

ALL MORNING: Student walkouts around the city; students will convene at noon at Seattle Central Community College (aka Seattle College), Broadway & Pine.

1 PM: El Comite is organizing an immigrants’ rights march – doubtless joined by lots of students and other sympathizers – starting with a 1 PM rally at Judkins Park, 22nd Ave. just south of Jackson, and then marching downtown to the Federal Building, 2nd Ave. & Madison St., to join the 4 PM Seattle Resist Trump Coalition rally, which will then march to Westlake Park, 4th Ave. & Pine St., for yet more 5 PM speaking and agitating and whatnot into the evening.

Also on Inauguration Day, Breitbart News editor and notorious racist and bigot Milo Yiannopoulos is speaking at 7 PM at the University of Washington. Rather than give Yiannopoulos the kinds of confrontations he craves, campus organizers are hosting a counter-event, Stand Up Against Hate, from 6-11 PM with speakers and bands at Red Square on the University of Washington campus.

Protesting isn’t your thing? From 12-8 PM, the City of Seattle and Seattle United for Immigrant and Refugee Families are offering FREE help on a wide variety of immigration issues, from applying for visas or citizenship to legal counseling to personal safety and much more. At McCaw Hall, 319 Mercer St. on the north side of Seattle Center.

There’s also a bunch of cool bands and shows doing stuff that night to fortify us for the next four years, too. Including, just up the street from McCaw Hall:

Salon de la Resistance: An Anti-Inaugural Ball, 8 PM-1 A
M at The Ruins Seattle, 570 N. Roy St. (just north of Seattle Center). Featuring DJ Gene Balk (Emerald City Soul Club), Trickbag’s Mr. B, and many surprise guests. 21 plus, no host bar. Tickets $35. All bar and poster shop proceeds, and a portion of ticket sales, will be donated to the ACLU and El Centro de la Raza.

Also on Inauguration Day, a social media blackout is being called for on the day of Trump’s inauguration. People are being asked to only post images of pure black all day on January 20, 2017, to protest the Trump presidency and to demand that more is done to combat fake news stories on social media. Find out more at http://www.socialmediablackout.net/. There is also a somewhat conflicting effort on the same day for everyone to post as their profile picture a photo of “The Best First Family Ever,” as a way of saying thanks to the outgoing Obamas.

Not enough marching for you? Good, because the largest of all of these events is likely to be…

SATURDAY, JANUARY 21, 10 AM-4 PM: Women’s March on Seattle
(in conjunction with a similar, much larger march in DC) has, after long and tedious negotiations with the city, announced a march. It will convene in Judkins Park (which also hosts the Friday immigrants’ rally and march). 10 AM rally begins, 11 AM march begins. The route goes through downtown Seattle and ends with another rally at Seattle Center. As of today, Thursday 1/12, the event Facebook page lists 33,000 people as “going” and another 42,000 as “interested.” It’ll be yuugggee.

And now that people have marched in enormous numbers to support women’s issues, it’s time to fund part of the resistance:

SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 9 AM: Pantsuit 5k run/walk around Green Lake
. Registration $20, all proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood.

Marching Against Trump Won’t Be Enough

In the coming days, local as well as national and international news will be filled with news of Donald Trump’s inauguration, his and the Republican-led Congress’s efforts to dismantle, well, whatever they can, and the public’s response to it.

It’s a fair statement that much of Seattle is not pleased about all of this. This year’s annual MLK Day Celebration and march at Garfield High School will be all about refuting the Trump version of America. On Inauguration Day, students across the city are walking out and protesting. Immigrants will march from Judkins Park to the Federal Building downtown, where they’ll join another Anti-Trump rally and march that will go to Westlake Park, and so on. The following day, a women’s march, held in conjunction with a sister march in DC, will be enormous in its own right.

Marches are great for primal scream therapy and for community solidarity. They lubricate activist networking and inspire future organizing. They convince nobody of anything, but those other elements are essential. After the marchers go home, Donald Trump will still be President. On fronts as varied as immigration, health care, environmental protection, housing, education, veterans’ services, and so many more, many Seattleites will still rightfully fear the future. What can be done next?

To mash together two cliches: Mourn globally. Organize locally.
While the Inauguration hoopla unfolds, Washington’s state legislature remains in contempt of the state supreme court due to legislators’ failure to meet their constitutional obligation to adequately fund K-12 education. Raising the necessary revenue to fix this is made far more difficult by the control of the state senate by Republicans ideologically opposed to almost all types of revenue increases – and mortally opposed to a progressive income tax, our lack of which helps make Washington state’s budget chronically strapped for money and our taxes by far the most regressive in the country. Instead, Republicans are offering a bill this year that would “solve” the school funding problem by amending the state constitution to delete the requirement that education be funded at all. Seriously.

Now, imagine adding to those existing fiscal pressures the dilemmas the state
will face if all federal education funding suddenly comes, say, attached to a requirement that we fund charter schools (which is unconstitutional in our state). Or if federal block grants for low income housing disappear, compounding our region’s existing crises in affordable housing and homelessnesx. Or if the Affordable Care Act is abolished with no replacement, and the state is suddenly on the hook for ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid and AppleCare. Or if all federal monitoring of environmental regulations – including cleanup at Hanford – simply evaporates. All of these proposals, and many more, are being seriously advocated by Congress and by Trump’s Cabinet appointees.

Our state will, in the next year, likely have to cope with multiple federally inflicted crises, both predictable and capricious. The state simply doesn’t have enough money to go around, and deciding what to prioritize will be a life and death issue for some people. Beyond marching, that’s where organizing and public pressure can have an impact.

The city of Seattle will be affected by all this as well – on top of which, Trump has threatened to pull all federal funding from Seattle and the dozens of other cities nationally that have declared themselves sanctuary cities, in open defiance of Trump’s deportation focus.

Unlike the state, Seattle actually has the money to address a lot of these problems for its residents. With its median household income now well over $80,000 a year, Seattle has far more wealth than any other city in the region. Our problem is both the state’s antiquated tax structure, which limits local taxing options, and an ingrained political culture that’s reluctant to use the non-regressive tools it does have (like closing corporate loopholes, taxing developers fairly for the services their new properties’ occupants will use, or the high-earners’ tax long proposed by councilmember Kshama Sawant) to fund urgent social needs.

Here, again, sustained local organizing can have an impact, on both the type and scale of the city’s responses to the coming crisis.

But such organizing can’t be just about pressuring governments. Our only community security in Trump’s America, where virtually every facet of federal governance is likely to face attack, is in each other. We need our own institutions and security – whether large scale one like nonprofit banks and credit unions, small business and housing cooperatives, or private funding of public education, to supporting the essential expansion of life-saving front line nonprofits like food banks, health clinics, and homeless shelters and encampments.

Virtually everyone can play a role that will make a big difference in peoples’ lives in the coming months and years. We’d better get busy.

Your Very Preliminary Seattle Anti-Trump Inauguration Protest Calendar

So, Donald Trump is set to become the most powerful man in the world in exactly two weeks. Much of Seattle is not pleased about this. And a lot of people are planning to make their feelings known in public.

Since it’s hard to organize things over the holidays, this list is just starting to come together, subject to change and likely addition. Make your plans, and I’ll update in about a week.

Also, almost all of these events have Facebook event pages of their own. Find them, share them with your friends, and let the organizers know you’re coming!

And then after this wave of protests subsides, keep working, to help create the alternative policies and groups we’ll desperately need to mitigate what will be a crisis on too many fronts to recite here. Everyone will be affected by the takeover of the federal government by radical nihilists, con artists, and moral scolds. Everyone. This IS a local issue.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, 6-8 PM: El Comite and others are organizing a forum for undocumented and other immigrants from around the state to tell their stories and to organize. St. Mary’s Church, 611 20th Ave. S.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14, 12-2 PM: “Resist Trump: Town Hall Action Meeting”, a meeting for organizing strategies and trainings, hosted by the “Seattle Resist Trump Coalition” (which includes the organizers of all of these other events – there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination happening.) Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall, 5th & James.

MONDAY, JANUARY 16, 9:30 AM-4:30 PM: “Stop the Hate: Come Together” is the theme of the 35th annual MLK Day Celebration at Garfield High School, 23rd Ave. & Jefferson St. in the Central District. You can bet this year’s “celebration” will be all about building a more loving and inclusive alternative to Trump’s America. 9:30-10:50, workshops; 11 AM, gymnasium rally; 12:30, march to Federal Building, 2nd Ave. & Madison St., where there will be another rally; 1-4:30, Career Fair at Garfield.

FRIDAY. JANUARY 20 will bring the biggest inauguration protests in US history in Washington, DC…and in Seattle.

ALL MORNING: Student walkouts around the city
; students will convene at noon at Seattle Central Community College (aka Seattle College), Broadway & Pine.

1 PM: El Comite is organizing an immigrants’ rights march – doubtless joined by lots of students and other sympathizers – starting with a 1 PM rally at Judkins Park, 22nd Ave. just south of Jackson, and then marching downtown to the Federal Building, 2nd Ave. & Madison St., to join the 4 PM Seattle Resist Trump Coalition rally, which will then march to Westlake Park, 4th Ave. & Pine St., for yet more 5 PM speaking and agitating and whatnot into the evening.

Marching isn’t your thing? From 12-8 PM, the City of Seattle and Seattle United for Immigrant and Refugee Families are offering FREE help on a wide variety of immigration issues, from applying for visas or citizenship to legal counseling to personal safety and much more. At McCaw Hall, 319 Mercer St. on the north side of Seattle Center.

There’s also a bunch of cool bands and shows doing stuff that night to fortify us for the next four years, too.

Not enough marching for you? Good, because the largest of all of these events is likely to be…

SATURDAY, JANUARY 21, 10 AM-4 PM: Women’s March on Seattle
(in conjunction with a similar, much larger march in DC), It will convene somewhere on the south side of downtown Seattle and march north – organizers are still negotiating permits, locations, and march route with the city. As of tonight, the event Facebook page lists 25,000 people as “going” and another 40,000 as “interested.” It’ll be yuugggee.

Media Follies 2016! – Local, National, and International

It’s a holiday season tradition! Here, for the 21st year (!), is the list of overhyped and underreported stories of the year. After a year when “fake news” became a thing and a “reality” TV star became president, we can only hope it gets better. Let’s start with the local stories; national and international to follow over the holidays.

2016’s Most Over-Hyped Local Stories

Ed Murray Is Really Doing Things!: Which, like, he is, He puts out press releases. He makes splashy announcments (leaked days in advance to maximize coverage). He proclaims things. He convenes task forces and names czars and declares emergencies. All of this usually happens when somebody else is threatening to do something substantive he can’t take credit for.

The Jungle Needs to be Shut Down Because It’s a Scary Place!: And it’s true – some (not all) of the longtime ad hoc homeless encampment’s residents were pertty hard-edged people with…problems. So those folks – znd all 400 of The Jungle’s residents – were dumped onto city streets with nowhere to go instead. That was after multiple false starts while it became clear that the city was responding to a PR problem, not helping people. (Oh, and that the city’s contract with Union Gospel Mission to help relocate Jungle residents was a sad joke.)

Let’s Have a Riot!: Every time a march breaks out in Seattle – and with Trump’s election, get used to it – you can practically hear the breathless live TV reporters begging for some awesome anarchist-on-store-window or cop-on-little-old-lady action. It demeans police and protesters alike.

Plus, as usual, car crashes, fires, violent crimes, big (or not) weather “events,” heartwarming stories of photogenic kids overcoming adversity or reuniting with pets, and every other staple of Chuckle-Buddy News. Every time you watch local TV news it lowers your IQ.

2016’s Most Underreported Local Stories:

Sigh. There’s dozens to choose from:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Seattle’s rapidly growing population has masked an unmistakable demographic trend: the immigrants are younger, whiter, and much, much wealthier than existing residents, many of whom are being forced to leave the city in search of more affordable areas. This wholesale change in the character of who lives here has countless cultural and political implications, but local media has not only mostly ignored the trend, but has been happy to keep on featuring articles that drip with child-like wonder over real estate prices. In general, local outlets have kept right on reporting local development issues like it’s 2000 – or, in the case of the Seattle Times, 1950.

In Ayn Rand We Trust: Regardless of who Seattle’s new residents are, they need services. Utilities, infrastructure repair, transportation, schools, parks, libraries, social services, public safety, and all of the other things governments do. In our region’s case, even though the growth is a direct result of government policies – especially corporate welfare for enormous employers like Amazon and Google – those same policymakers seem to think the free market will take care of everyone’s needs. With the limited exception of light rail, there’s been no significant investment in any of these issues outside special operating levies, opting instead to fund splashy vanity projects like tunnels and streetcars while ignoring basic needs. And even those levies – for housing, parks, libraries, and first responders, among other things – have been wholly inadequate to meet the demand. At some point voters, especially ones new to the area, are going to hit their limit in regressive taxes.

The Obvious Link Between Housing Costs and Homelessness: Seattle’s exploding housing costs have gotten lots of local media attention, as a good thing. So has the steadily worsening homelessness crisis, as a bad thing. But Murray and other city officials who’ve done their best to promote the real estate frenzy work hard to treat the two issues as entirely separate, and media, shamefully, mostly follows suit.

The closing window for progressive politics in Seattle: One of those growth-related trends is that the remarkably progressive tone of this year’s city council likely won’t last. The infusion of money into local politics – and tens of thousands of new, financially comfortable voters – all but guarantees it. We’re already seeing this with the lack of a serious challenger so far to Murray’s 2017 reelection as mayor, despite the widespread criticism he’s drawn on multiple issues from both left and right. That’s a money thing – prospective candidates are concluding they can’t raise enough of it to compete with his business community support. There’s a lot more of this coming.

State and local governments have sabotaged pot legalization: Colorado, which passed a legalization initiative on the same day in 3013 as Washington state, had its retail weed system up and running in early 2014. Meanwhile, our state’s drug warrior-dominated Liquor Control Board issued only 21 retail permits for the entire state, vastly less than demand, and has repeatedly delayed even those permits. Countless local governments tried at every turn to block implementation as well. And medical marijuana patients have been brutally sacrificed to the commercial market. Little wonder the black market for pot continues to thrive. That wasn’t supposed to happen with legalization.

Olympia is heading for a train wreck for the ages: The state legislature punted again on education funding in 2016, opting to “solve” its ongoing contempt of the state supreme court by, incredibly, agreeing to convene a task force to study the problem. This year’s elections, which kept tax-hostile Republicans in charge of the state senate, will simply perpetuate that problem.

But if congressional Republicans nad the cabinet members nominated so far by President-Elect Donald Trump are to be believed, much worse is coming. Repeal of the Affordble Care Act without any alternative would force hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians out of AppleCare, and often out of health insurance entirely, unless the state can replace that federal funding. It’d also be a disaster for health care providers. Republicans are also vowing to privatize Medicare and Social Security. Meanwhile, federal education funding looks like it will be tied to charter school funding requirements that would be unconstitutional under state law, and federal housing money also looks to be on the chopping block. Ditto for environmental protection and a host of other departments.

Olympia will be asked to pay for all of these things. It can’t. Instead, it will be forced to make some impossible choices, and those choices will come with a death toll.

Ditto for the City of Seattle: Seattle’s problem isn’t tax-averse politicians. It’s that, as noted above, the limited taxing options allowed by state law – mostly property, B&O, and sales taxes – are already closed to maxxed out in terms of what many individuals can afford. So is bonding capacity and Seattle’s ability to pass special levies for ordinary needs.

The impossible choice for local leaders will be between cutting programs brutally, and finding the courage to tax local businesses (especially real estate and big employers) and close tax loopholes, and to tax wealthy local residents at a higher rate than the rest of us rather than simply trying to pile on more regressive sales taxes. The state can’t even fund basic needs; the city can, but instead has largely chosen to fund other things, usually for the direct benefit of developers and major employers.

Seattle Public Schools is already in trouble: Seattle’s troubled school district announced public hearings last month on what items it should cut for a worst-case 2017-18 budget that assumes Olympia will continue to underfund K-12 education – an all-too-likely scenario which would lead to a $75 million shortfall for local public schools.

Did I mention that SPD is still a problem?

2016’s Most Over-Hyped National Stories

Hillary Clinton’s State Department e-mails: “Those damned e-mails” were neither a scandal (much as Clinton’s Republican opponents tried to make it one) nor a story, though the political witchhunt over them was a story – and, with a big assist from the FBI, directly cost Clinton the presidency and the country its future. Meanwhile, the e-mail story that was much, much more important, that little hacking incident with the DNC, got far less attention when it was needed most.

Any scheme, whether by disaffected Republicans or Democrats, to deny Donald Trump first the nomination and then the presidency: That also included Hillary Clinton’s entire campaign, AND the fact that she won the popular vote handily, AND that Trump and congressional Republicans will somehow be slowed down by their lack of a “mandate” in 2017. All of it ompletely missed the political reality of the given moment – but it built up a bunch of fake drama to drive viewership and page clicks, I guess.

Anything involving Donald Trump’s Twitter account or vocal cords: It’s what he DID, not what he said or tweeted, that was important in 2016. (Though that changes in 2017; as President, even his words and social media outbursts could be enough to start World War Three).

Business-as-usual horse race reporting of the presidential election: That including almost any “if the election were today…” polling, which was only deeply irrelevant, but, as it turned out, wrong.

2016’s Most Underreported National Stories:

There were a lot of important underreported national stories this year, but really, these are the ones whose criminally negligent coverage by US corporate media in real time will, decades from now, be cited as hugely historically pivotal. That’s if anyone is still alive in a few decades to remember that the beginning of the end came with a pivotal embrace by US voters of ignorance, economic nihilism, and neo-fascism, an embrace lubricated by the misreporting (or non-reporting) of stories like these:

Hillary Clinton’s establishment allies at the Democratic National Committee: Egged on by millions of enraged Sanders supporters, national political media gave a lot of attention to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and her many friends for abusing their supposedly neutral positions to try to block support for Sanders. That was why nearly even primaries and caucuses were rendered moot by Clinton’s overwhelming lead among party insider “superdelegates.”

But what got less attention is that a fringe party outsider like Sanders could get so much traction against Clinton in the first place – as much due to her well-known weaknesses as a candidate as to Sanders’ strengths. A more established progressive Democrat would have beaten Hillary – just as Obama did in 2008. Long before Sanders became a factor, party insiders – including the same clueless DNC morons who couldn’t be bothered to follow up on reports that the Russians were hacking their computers – made sure Hillary would get no such challengers precisely because they knew she couldn’t withstand serious scrutiny as a candidate, but thought she could still beat whichever radical nutjob the Republicans spit up.

That arrogance cost Democrats the White House, and the rest of us a future. Democratic leaders actively discouraged credible candidates, including a sitting vice president in Joe Biden, from running against an uninspiring but well-connected candidate because it was supposedly her turn, or something – and media played right along. These folks bear primary responsibility for letting a narcissistic, sociopathic con man get the most powerful job in the world while his dysfunctional, reality-challenged party now controls every branch of government. Many Americans voters never wanted what is coming, but genuinely didn’t know better. These Democrats did, and media gave them a free pass for their petty, cocooned insider bullshit.

Meanwhile, on the other side, the Republican Party Civil War was over before it even began. The radicals won, largely because the Republicans’ nomination processes, both for Congress and the presidency, were far more democratic than the Democrats’. And credulous media coverage of all of the Republican presidential candidates – even though most of them were so ludicrously inappropriate for the office as to be laughable – normalized Teh Crazee to the extent that a Donald Trump could get elected as a president with no serious vetting and virtually unchecked power.

Speaking of normalizing the unthinkable, the unprecedented Republican strategy of refusing to consider a qualified Supreme Court nominee worked exactly as planned. This means that the same strategy will get rolled out again the next time one party controls the White House and the other controls the Senate. What ought to have been a constitutional crisis, and what should have been reported as such, is instead now the new normal.

National media punditry is all abuzz with speculation about what the newly empowered Republicans in Congress will do in 2017, but there’s no mystery: They told us exactly what they would like to do with Trump (or any other Republican) in the White House. But while Congressional Republicans tried over and over to default on the US debt, repealed Obamacare sixty bazillion times, and vowed to stop taxing the rich, bomb anyone they could, abolish the social safety net and all regulations of corporate America, kill The Gayz and put a bible in every classroom, the same media mandarins basically ignored them or laughed at them rather than taking them seriously. At the risk of Godwin blah blah, they didn’t take Hitler’s explicit plans seriously back in the day, either.

Well beyond his “temperment,” Trump is the first president in US history to have no previous public sservice experience at all. Even political neophytes like Dwight Eisenhauer had spent a lifeime in military service. After a generation of ideologues claiming that “running government like a business” is somehow a good idea, it was media’s job to point out that government and transnational companies like Trump’s have very different missions from government at any level, and leading them requires radically different skillsets. A corporate leader can pick and choose whose business he wants, and can basically ignore anyone else. There are names for political leaders who try to do that; they start with “fascist” and get worse.

Trump is also the first major party nominee in modern US history to likely be indictable on multiple wholly unrelated types of felonious crimes, most of which went badly underreported, from allegations of endless fraudulent tax schemes to mob connections to financial improprieties to illegal foreign dealings to tax fraud to alleged rape and sexual assault to incitement to riot. And sadly, that doesn’t include being a racist xenophobic bully, which is still entirely legal. Even now, as Trump’s multiple foreign conflicts of interest and allegiances to Russia come under question, media has somehow forgotten that buried in last year’s Panama Papers scandal of mostly foreign high end money laundering, were numerous details of Trump campaign guru Paul Manafort’s financial ties with Russian billionaires and crime bosses. Trump’s past is dripping with this stuff, and his profile for decades has been one of an extremely wealthy con artist whose primary victims are the people he gets to front him money, time and again. Does the American public know or care? And if not, why not?

Of course, there was also the matter that, as Trump famously (and correctly) noted, he could walk down a Manhattan street and shoot someone and most of his followers wouldn’t care. But who are those followers? That was largely misreported, too. The core of Trump’s support wasn’t either racist rednecks (the liberal caricature) or laid off steel workers (the even more idiotic Beltway Pundit caricature) – those jobs had mostly disappeared by 1980. Polling data consistently showed that Trump’s base was largely older suburban white guys without a lot of education but relatively financially comfortable. They were mad as hell – about immigrants, about non-whites, about their children’s and grandchildren’s futures – but they were neither hillbillies nor working stiffs. The media profiles were simply wrong.

A lot of things about Trump’s ascent to power have been unprecedented but given a veneer of normalcy, mostly out of inertia and institutional respect, by a lazy media. Most critically of late, Trump’s appointments as president-elect – which I’ll profile in depth shortly in a separate piece – are an unprecedented mix of billionaires, fringe zealots, Russiaphiles and incompetents united only by their complete lack of relevant experience for the jobs they would try to fill. It’s been hard to single out a particularly outrageous appointment because almost all of them have been outrageous – but that trend simply mustn’t be mentioned in polite media circles.

Climate change rudely ignores domestic US politics: The Trump cabal has already been quoted, redolent of the worst moments of George W. Bush, that they can say whatever they like because “we create our own reality.” Nature begs to differ. After yet another year of record heat and drought, wildfires across the US West, ocean acidification, more unprecedented extreme weather events, and endless scientific announcements that climate change is going to be worse than we thought and is proceeding at rates faster than our previous worst-case scenarios, the United States went and had a presidential election in which climate change – America’s biggest economic threat, biggest domestic policy threat, and biggest foreign policy threat – was literally never mentioned. And US voters elected a president and party that is more than happy to triple-mortgage the future livability of our biosphere for quarterly oil profits. Climate change has already passed the point of irreversibility; now it’s a only question of whether humanity can mitigate enough of the damage in time to survive. If nails get hammered into a planet-sized coffin in the forest, does anybody hear them?

What the United States government, which governs the country that remains the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, isn’t doing to respond to this crisis isn’t just a crime against humanity. It’s a crime against the entire biosphere, one of unprecedented scope and depravity. If our country in this era isn’t remembered with universal revulsion in the future, it will only be because humanity is extinct.

The Republican Party has lost touch with reality: The unprecedented use of bald-faced, easily refuted, and endlessly repeated lies by high-profile Republican leaders and every single one of its 4,623 presidential candidates has become normal – and even on the rare occasions when mainstream media calls BS on the lies, nobody cares. The inmates are now running the asylum that is now the modern Republican Party. The coming year is going to be dangerous and surreal.

2016’s Most Over-Hyped International Stories

The one exception to American media’s disinterest in the world’s other six billion people comes when there’s a major terrorist attack in Israel or a NATO country. If that same terror attack, however, comes in a country enjoying the fruits of Pax Americana (Afghanistan, Iraq), or anywhere in the remaining, irrelevant world (Africa, say, or Asia – one of those places), it’s a non-story. And even when such attacks are covered, usually because they’re in Europe, good luck finding any context.

Since there is no longer any international news reporting in most US media, about all we’re left with is sports. Which meant, this past year, the Summer Olympics. Should we successfully avoid WWIII, the 2018 World Cup in Qatar will be next up.

2016’s Most Underreported International Stories:

The intentional US strategy in Syria this past year was to encourage a stalemate that would weaken both sides/ That has, as an inevitable result, been a prime factor in the enormous death toll, the humanitarian crisis (and both the neo-fascist and the terrorist backlash in Europe), and a new proxy war with Russia. And, of course, ISIL itself came into existence as a direct result of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the CIA’s desire circa 2007 to gin up the terrorist threat in Iraq to stem flagging US public support for that fiasco. But you’d never know about the American fingerprints all over this crisis from American media.

That new proxy war with Russia also included a vast expansion of US military bases and activity in a ring surrounding Russia, from the North Pacific to Central Asia to Turkey and Eastern Europe – a context entirely missing from “Russia hacked us! How dare they!” stories.

Israel’s unprecedented “settler” expansion is not only grossly illegal, but far more controversial in Israel itself than in the US, which has been helping to both bankroll and provide bipartisan political cover for Israel’s explicitly genocidal.operation.

The intentional Israeli policy of blockading Palestinians enough to keep them desperate, but not dying en masse, is a direct model for the destructive balancing game Obama has been playing in Syria – and the once-unthinkable Israeli policy of foreign assassinations is now standard US policy, too. The US will likely be an international human rights pariah under Trump, but he’ll only be building on Obama’s war crimes, just as Obama built on Bush’s.

Trump’s election, as well as 2016’s Brexit vote, are both part of an internationally coordinated movement of far-right, openly racist/nationalist advances in Western democracies, a movement largely taking its cues from Moscow, not Washington. Proxies for President-Elect Trump have already quietly been meeting with far-right neo-fascist and white supremacist party leaders in Europe, who in turn are getting much of their financial backing from Moscow. Trump is part of a very dangerous game, and he’s a prominent pawn in it, but not a player.

Afghanistan is a total, but forgotten, clusterfuck: The national army of Afghanistan is the Taliban. Green on blue attacks are so frequent now that no one knows who’s a loyal member of the Afghan National Army and who’s a Taliban infiltrator. Meanwhile, aerial drone attacks have alienated most of the countryside, which never supported the corrupt, American-imposed puppet government in Kabul in the first place. That government is collapsing from its own corruption and greed now that the American military is supposedly in a “non-combat” role.

Police States R Us: While the US and its media, with ample justification, demonized the authoritarian governments of Syria and North Korea, it paid almost no attention to the steadily more authoritarian governments of Turkey, Egypt and South Korea – the bigger nearby regional powers, to which the US continues to give massive amounts of military assistance despite our pro-democratic rhetoric.

And, on that cheerful note, get out and make your own news in 2017. If this compilation suggests anything, it’s that we can’t rely on corporate media to push for change, or even to tell us when change is desperately needed. We’ll have to do both ourselves.

Meet US President Vladimir Putin

The United States has eight days to figure out how to avoid making Vladimir Putin the de facto President of the United States.

Back in the days of the Cold War, it was a staple of far-right conservative paranoia that The Russians (i.e., the Soviets) were intent on taking over the United States. From the McCarthy witch hunts to the idiot-fantasy Red Dawn, the Ruskies – who hated our freedoms and coveted our precious bodily fluids – wanted nothing less than to take over the US so as to destroy Our Way Of Life.

These fears were used to destroy lives, but the targets, it turns out, were entirely misplaced. Even in the McCarthy Era, the US itself was busy showing how modern takeovers of foreign countries were done. Old-fashioned conquest and colonialism was dead. It turned out to be far more efficient to identify some willing local financial or military elite, promote him to dictator, and let him and his cronies do your dirty work and suppress the locals for you in exchange for unimaginable wealth. For 70 years and counting, in countries around the world, that’s what US-backed dictators and elected would-be dictators have eagerly signed up to do.

Enter Donald Trump, and the unsurprising irony that when Russia really did take over the US, it used the American colonial model and the eager dupes of modern Bircherism to do it.

Friday’s Washington Post report that US intelligence agencies have conclusively agreed that Putin and Russia acted this year not only to interfere in the US election, but to do so to get Donald Trump elected president, sounds worse than it is politically. The CIA’s case can’t be conclusively proven, as Trump’s allies would simply accuse it of inventing the evidence. Trump can’t be impeached for crimes committed by others in his name before he was even elected, even if his own party (which controls the Congressional impeachment process) were inclined to do so. And he can’t be charged criminally while in office. As such, he’ll likely pay no real price for these revelations and can afford to blow them off (as he’s already done). And any Trump revelations, no matter how damaging, are simply not believed by his faith-based fans.

But in the broader picture, the CIA story is far, far worse than it sounds. The same circumstantial evidence trail that concludes that Russia wanted Trump in office doesn’t stop with Inauguration Day. If, for the sake of argument, I’m Vladimir Putin and I want the US neutered globally and destroyed domestically, Trump – as a wealthy, egomaniacal yet wholly inexperienced local elite with no real loyalties – is nearly the ideal of the US’s own preferred model of puppet dictators, non-military version. So I get people to stroke his ego and I send him Paul Manafort and other top US allies I’ve worked with before, and soon he’s nodding his head like the pliant narcissist I knew he’d be.

And now that Trump has actually won, it’s hard so far to find a single Trump appointment I wouldn’t have suggested. His – my – US national security team is poised to be composed entirely of retired generals who are various combinations of Russian allies, ideological fringe players, and incompetents, few of which have any relevant experience. Taken as a whole, they’re perfectly suited to unwittingly destroying US alliances, bogging the US down in petty local wars, and letting my Russia do whatever it likes.

Domestically? If I were Putin and wanted to engineer domestic American collapse- and the European economy with it – I’d go for fringe ideologues, people who have no relevant experience, and billionaires. That covers the entire domestic Trump team. At least three of Trump’s nominees virulently oppose the entire mission of the department they’re being hired to destroy lead; the economy is in the hands of people with gold-plated jets; housing and the cities are being given to a dude who thinks the pyramids were used to store grain; and none of them have ever managed an organization anywhere the size of the department they’ve been picked to head.

All of them, starting with my lead puppet in the White House, are genetically wired to brook no dissent. And those RNC hacks that were never released? The RNC does opposition research on their own people, too, and most of the RNC’s leadership was strongly opposed to Trump. My pliant Dear Leader knows that if he doesn’t follow orders, his tax returns or mob connections or the video I have of him and that nice Russian 13-year-old, or all three, will be sent out on his Twitter account instantly.

For a brilliant ex-KGB man like Vladimir Putin, putting together this sort of dream scenario is the equivalent of a parlor game, something to amuse and distract him from the more serious problems of his position. I doubt he ever thought he’d get to actually do all this. But here we are.

Is this all an intentional Russian plot? Who knows? Maybe Donald Trump really is just that arrogant and stupid. But honestly – does it matter? The fact that the question can even plausibly be asked is bad enough. The outcome is the same regardless.

Putin has Trump’s nuts in a vice or he doesn’t. We can’t know that part until he cracks them open, and by then it’s much, much too late. Either way, the American experiment with democracy may not survive. Either way, a hell of a lot of Americans will not ourselves survive the ideologically-driven Dickensian nightmare being lined up as you read this.

In the dozens of smaller countries where the US has backed or installed authoritarian leaders over the past several decades, it’s consistently been hard for the locals to oust those leaders. The suffering often lasts for generations. There’s a reason the US and other former colonial powers (including, now, Russia among its former republics) have all embraced this model. It works.

And now, the US is in such an unfamiliar position, receiving what for generations it has dished out, that only now is even a portion of our political establishment realizing the scope of the danger. We now have eight days to prevent Vladimir Putin from essentially becoming our Commander in Chief. After that, the remedies – starting with President Pence – get much more difficult and problematic, and the domestic death toll of vulnerable and poor starts to mount. The United States is facing an existential threat, and not only doesn’t know it, but is seeing it implemented by the spiritual descendants of the same people who used to worry so much about it.

Hyperbolic? I sure hope so.

But right now, five weeks into life with Donald Trump as incoming President of the United States, I’m not seeing any other theory that explains Trump’s actions and decisions nearly so well. And every day is bringing fresh evidence that whether or not President Trump is a Putin pawn, the chaos and suffering that is about to be unleashed on so many of us is real. Trump and his team are real, radical, and they will soon have very few real checks on their power.

Putin’s laughing, and benefiting, whether he’s responsible or not. It’ll be just as bad regardless.

Eight days.

Memo to Eastern Washington: Go Ahead. Secede. Please.

Amidst all the odious wingnuttery-infused bills now being filed by Republicans in advance of next month’s legislative session in Olympia, one in particular, House Joint Memorial 4000, filed by Reps. Bob McCaslin Jr. (R-Spokane Valley/Jurassic), Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley/Pliocene), and David Taylor (R-Yakima/Pleistocene), caught my eye. After a few “Whereas”‘s, the “Therefore” reads like this:

NOW, THEREFORE, Your Memorialists respectfully pray that the Congress of the United States consent to the formation of a new state to be named and known as the state of Liberty whose western boundary follows the crest of the Cascade mountains and the western borders of Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima, and Klickitat counties, and whose eastern, northern, and southern boundaries are the existing state borders.

In other words, they want the portion of Washington State east of the Cascades to secede, becoming the new state of “Liberty.” [sic]

At last, a Tea Party idea I can enthusiastically support. Please proceed. Don’t let the door hit you, etc.

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, an annual remembrance much loved by these sorts of self-styled patriots. But amidst all the media remembrances, the most immediately relevant aspect of this year’s anniversary was all but ignored. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was a seminal event for a generation of Americans whose sensibilities were forged by surviving a global depression followed by a global war against fascism. That generation broadly understood the need for shared sacrifice, that as a society we truly all are dependent upon each other. That generation created a vibrant middle class, an extensive safety net for those less fortunate, and mechanisms like the GI Bill that promoted unprecedented opportunity and class mobility. That generation, in the ’30s, was given the opportunity to embrace fascism. They rejected it so decisively that it’s taken 80 years to become a serious prospect again.

For decades aging hagiographers have called people of the Pearl Harbor era the “Greatest Generation,” but in reality it was just a generation responding to circumstance: the messes, here and in Europe, left by preceding Gilded Age hedonists. They weren’t particularly heroic; they just applied the lessons at hand, learned at the price of enormous human suffering.

And once they died off, over the last 40 years people like the sponsors of the state of “Liberty” have been trying to undo their legacies – culminating in the election of Donald Trump and the ascension to power of a generation of fringe ideologues who make the Gilded Age’s narcissists look altrustic. Nationally, we’re now facing rule by a cabal opposed not just to all public policies that help the less fortunate, but the very notion that they should give a fuck about anyone else, ever. That’s their idea of “Liberty,” though it notably excludes repealing laws that restrict the behavior of the many classes of people they don’t like. That’s why, ideologically, they’re less like libertarians and more like a white nationalist strain of fascists.

Which brings us to this week’s proposal for Eastern Washington to secede and form the state of Liberty.

According to the state’s Office of Financial Management, 22 of the 23 counties in this prospective new state are sucking hard at the teat of big state government. The booming economy of Puget Sound – especially King County – subsidizes most of the rest of Washington state. Only six counties – King, Kittitas, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom – generate more in tax revenue than the state lavishes upon them in expenditures – led by King County, which accounts for 42 percent of state revenue and only 29 percent of expenditures. (Thurston County, which includes Olympia, might also be a net positive were it not the seat of state government.)

Of those six counties, only one – Kittitas County, which includes Ellensburg and a number of smaller communities that cater to tourism from Seattle area residents – is east of the Cascades. In general, the state’s more rural counties are the biggest welfare bums, led by Ferry County, northwest of Spokane, a deep red county which gets $3.16 in state money for every dollar it contributes.

The sponsors of Liberty might be fine with this apparent lack of money to subsidize their new state, since they claim to not want to fund government anyway – but they’ll still need plenty of money for their corporate welfare buddies and to pay for locking up Teh Gayz and policing women’s ladyparts. And honestly, why should those of us in Seattle pay for that?

More pointedly, it’s the Republican delegation in Olympia, as typified by these three bill sponsors, which continues to prevent our state from reforming its antiquated tax structure and to block adequate education funding. In the era of Trump, our state face enormous additional pressures to replace lost federal funding for education, health care, housing, and any number of other urgent social needs. If Eastern Washington’s obstructionists go away, we just might be able to do that. If they stay, there’s no chance at all.

So, by all means, politicians from Liberty: Go away. Take half the state with you – the half that’s an economic dead weight on Puget Sound, and the half that prevents the rest of us from applying the lessons in shared sacrifice evoked by Pearl Harbor. We can take care of the social problems caused by explosive economic growth, and you can be West Idaho. Godspeed.

As a gesture of our profound gratitude, we’ll even let you take charge of clearing snow out of the passes. That way, when your new state goes bankrupt and the unplowed snow piles up, we’ll be protected from all the people wanting to flee Liberty.

Of course, a lot of people in Eastern Washington, just as in the states already controlled by politicians deeply opposed to the Enlightenment, will suffer needlessly under Liberty’s new regime. But there’s an easy remedy for that: stop electing reactionary white guys like Shea, McCaslin, and Taylor.

Or, if you insist, go ahead and keep electing them. Just don’t inflict them on the rest of us. Take your state and leave us alone. The sooner the better.

We’ll be just fine. Honest.

I Need Your Help

HELP LAUNCH FORBIDDEN CITY!! Next Tuesday, November 29, is “#Giving Tuesday,” an annual event that’s gotten traction in the last couple of years, in which people are encouraged to donate for the holiday season. It’s a fine idea, but one that seems kind of backwards to me: the notion that we should, on each Tuesday after Thanksgiving, give to our favorite causes after we’ve spent all our money on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” Seems to me it would be a stronger statement against holiday consumerism to encourage people to prioritize giving first. Like, say, today.

By the time of this year’s election, I had hoped to have a new media project launched that I’m really excited about. Forbidden City is a social media, web site, radio and video project that offers full time reporting and commentary on local and national issues from the standpoint of those of us who are resisting the pressure to abandon Seattle. Nobody ever voted to swap out Seattle’s entire population for a newer, wealthier, whiter, more culturally homogeneous population that enjoys and can afford exorbitant homes in ugly buildings.

While there’s a number of great alternative media outlets in Seattle now, none of them are being written by and for people interested in personal and political resistance to this transformation of a city we love into something unwelcoming, forbidden, to anyone without a six-figure income.

That includes me, of course. As many of you are aware, for the last couple of years most of my time has been consumed by two major tasks: managing the health of my partner, Revel Smith, and myself; and scrambling to find the money that our staying alive requires. I live with the effects from long-term immunosuppression from my kidney and pancreas transplants and from the slow failure of my non-native kidney; last year, for example, I spent eight long months dealing with a nasty and persistent e-coli infection. Revel has multiple sclerosis, and various complications from that. We’re both remarkably functional considering, but we’re still both disabled and our health isn’t predictable enough for either of us to have regular employment. Moreover, this country’s medical system isn’t exactly friendly to people who are permanently disabled and on fixed incomes.

My health is much improved this year, and Forbidden City is what I want to be working on full time. And now there’s also an urgent need to share information on the many attacks on poor, working, and middle class people that the surprise election of Donald Trump are already generating. What I’d like to do is to be able to raise enough, from people who want to help sustain Forbidden City, to be able to reimburse me for my professional time, so that I can devote my non-health management time to it – rather than to the scattershot work and help from friends that has taken my time instead of late.

This month, instead of launching FC. I’ve been helping support Revel as she’s dealt with a significant MS flare and a course of home IV steroids that in the short tern has left her weak and seriously ill. That has had to take priority over Forbidden City. Tomorrow I’ll need to spend much of the day going with her to two more medical appointments. She’s not strong enough to ride a bus right now, and as I write this we don’t have enough money in either of our names to pay for cab fare. She’ll recover soon enough; the IV steroids are a treatment she’s had a dozen times before over the years, and while the side effects are brutal, they’re also predictable and it just takes time to heal. But in the meantime we still have to cope with it, and to find the funds to deal with the unexpected costs of illness. And poor is, in and of itself, also incredibly time-consuming. This morning, for example, I spent two hours waiting in line at a neighborhood food bank, only to discover that it had mostly been picked clean by the 200 or so people in front of me.

It’s Time to Change This

This is the reality for many thousands of people in what has become a staggeringly wealthy city.

This carousel of need is what I’ve been doing instead of full time writing and editing about Donald trump’s America and Ed Murray’s Seattle. But on this, more sensible Giving Tuesday, you can change that.

You can not only help me deal with our immediate need over this holiday week of navigating Revel’s recovery, but help cover the costs and time of the remaining web development, graphic software, and other expenses I need to meet to launch Forbidden City – with the information, strategies, and resistance we’ll need to navigate TrumpTime.

I’m well aware of the irony of having been too poor to afford to launch a media project dedicated to combatting the class war being waged in our city and country. But I also know our strength, politically and culturally, is in our community. And I know I’m the right person for this project, with decades of front line media and activist experience; it’s the right time; and if it’s up and running, I’m also confident there will be plenty of people who want to contribute time, content, and funding to tearing down the walls of our Forbidden City..

I just need to get from here to there, and you can help bridge that. There’s a PayPal button to your right; all money raised will go to Forbidden City’s launch. Or, for the old schoolers, the mailing address is Forbidden City, PO Box 85541, Seattle WA 98145. And message me if you’re interested in helping with content. There’s thousands of stories waiting to be told in the Forbidden City. Thank you very much for your help!!

Seattle’s Challenges Under Trump

The election of Donald Trump as president, and control of all three branches of government by radical Republicans, will drastically impact what are already a surprising number of urgent social and political crises for a city experiencing such unprecedented economic growth.

That growth, as the Census Bureau has reported, has included both rapid population growth and the enormous relative wealth of Seattle’s new residents. That, in turn, has led to far greater income inequality, especially for people of color; interrelated crises of lack of affordable housing and homelessness; and an exodus, to distant suburbs and beyond, of people who can no longer afford to live in the city of Seattle itself.

At least three actions, expected to happen early in a Congress under Donald Trump, will make all this far worse:

1) Repeal of ObamaCare: The likeliest scenario is that the Affordable Care Act won’t be “fixed” – it will simply be abolished, replaced by nothing. That means that a cash-strapped state, whose legislature is already in contempt of the state supreme court for failing to adequately fund K-12 education, will either need to find the money to fund AppleCare on its own or face the prospect of several hundred thousand Washingtonians, many in the Puget Sound region, suddenly having no health insurance.

Two other factors will compound that crisis. The first is that the state is likely to lose a lot of education funding under Trump, who has endorsed far right plans to abolish the Department of Education entirely. That will throw the state’s education funding into even greater disarray. At the same time, Republicans also retained control of the state senate in Olympia, meaning they will be likely to block almost any state revenue increases – let alone the desperately needed structural reforms to our state’s antiquated and uniquely regressive tax system, a system that has left state budgets in chronic disarray despite the Puget Sound region’s prosperity. For at least the next two years, any such reforms would need to come though the initiative process. Even if such a measure were to be passed by Washington voters – voters even more likely to be tax-averse once Trump controls the economy – it couldn’t be implemented quickly enough to help alleviate the loss of federal funds
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2) Unprecedented federal tax cuts: Trump’s tax cut plan is at least three times bigger than the 2001 George W. Bush cuts that almost immediately devoured the federal surplus built up under Bill Clinton. Not surprisingly, the Trump plan skews heavily toward reducing taxes on the extremely rich – it would blow a gaping hole in the federal budget while providing little or no consumer spending stimulus to the economy, increasing the likelihood of an economic downturn. Washington’s tax system, with its reliance on sales taxes and no income tax, is especially vulnerable to such downturns – compounding state and city budget problems.

And the same ideologues who’ve forced multiple federal budget crises over their opposition to raising the debt ceiling or paying existing debts now control both Congress and the White House. A completely gratuitous economic depression is always a possibility.

3) Housing and Social Services cuts: The most commonly mentioned names for Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services are all men with histories of dubious ethics: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former Rep. Newt Gingrich, and, most often mentioned of late, Christian con man Dr. Ben Carson. None of them have expertise in administering health or human services, but all are committed budget warriors ideologically opposed to a social safety net. It’s safe to expect that federal funding for programs like, for example, Section 8 housing vouchers will be cut harshly or entirely eliminated. Privatization of Social Security and Medicare will be on the table as a priority. Just about any nonprofit that gets United Way funding benefits from the federal government at some point in its operation, and they’ll all be reeling in the new regime.

The Impact in Seattle

I wrote last month about Seattle’s closing progressive window, and how its new, more prosperous residents are, by sheer demographics, far less likely to support the kinds of liberal social legislation, especially for the most vulnerable among us, that has been championed by the current council.

That demographic trend will amplify the federal budget buzzsaw. For example, Mayor Murray’s homelessness program, which deemphasizes shelters in favor of temporary market vouchers in part to appeal to federal funding guidelines, may now see that federal funding disappear entirely anyway – at the same time homelessness continues to explode and the local political backlash against the homeless increases. Trump’s climate change denial, emphasis on fossil fuels, and on-again, off-again vow to abolish the EPA entirely mean that funding for both the state Department of Ecology and a host of city programs, from cleaner watersheds to cleaner energy, will be in jeopardy. And so on, throughout every city department.

In addressing such problems, the city, like the state, will be cash-poor even in its opulence. The city’s insistence on shouldering many of the financial burdens caused by hyper-development won’t likely change in the face of economic uncertainty, and the city is constrained, just like the state, by limited taxing options as well as a full plate of bonding obligations. At the same time, Seattle’s newer, wealthier voting base is less likely to support more radical measures to fund what will surely be a staggering human need. The city will need to make hard choices. Without concerted public pressure, in such situations the most vulnerable are almost always the first ones sacrificed. Advocates for human needs programs better get busy.

One piece of good news, sort of: Trump’s new Attorney General, expected to be Rudy Giuliani, likely won’t care much about any future Department of Justice monitoring of the Seattle Police Department.

So there’s that.