Category Archives: Corpocracy

Trump calls Taiwan: Diplomacy for personal profit?


Donald Trump made a call to the President of Taiwan, an island China calls its own and which lost diplomatic ties with the U.S. in 1979, the result of Richard Nixon’s earlier move to restore ties with the mainland.

Before Nixon, the United States recognized the Taiwanese regime as the legitimate government of the mainland, denying recognition to the communist government in Beijing following Mao Tse Tung’s revolutionary victory over the Kuomintang forces of Chiang Kai-shek, who withdrew what was left of his forces to the island in 1950.

Since diplomatic recognition with the island was revoked, no U.S. President had spoken to its government,

Until Donald Trump.

Trump’s call complicates the ongoing Game of Zones being played by China, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines over control of oil, gas, and other resources beneath the contested waters.

China, needless to say, reacted to The Donald’s provocative ploy.

From Reuters:

China lodged a diplomatic protest on Saturday after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, but blamed the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own for the “petty” move.

The 10-minute telephone call with Taiwan’s leadership was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China”.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it had lodged “stern representations” with what it called the “relevant U.S. side”, urging the careful handling of the Taiwan issue to avoid any unnecessary disturbances in ties.

“The one China principle is the political basis of the China-U.S. relationship,” it said.

The wording implied the protest had gone to the Trump camp, but the ministry provided no explanation.

But there’s another game afoot

And that’s a hotel apparently planned by a Trump corporation for the island.

That little but very significant fact would lead to a very big question: Is Trump planning to use the White House as a fulcrum to further his own business interests?

From the Guardian:

Weeks before President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial phone call with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, a businesswoman claiming to be associated with his conglomerate made inquiries about a major investment in building luxury hotels as part of the island’s new airport development.

The woman, known only as Ms Chen arrived from the US in September to meet the mayor of Taoyuan, Cheng Wen-tsan, one of the senior politicians involved in the Aerotropolis project, a large urban development being planned around the renovation of Taiwan’s main airport, Taoyuan International.

“She said she was associated with the Trump corporation and she would like to propose a possible investment project in the future, especially hotels,” said an official familiar with the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“One thing quite sure from her side was that she would like to bring the Trump corporation here to build the hotel,” said the official, who did not know if Chen had a Trump Organization business card.

Can things get any sleazier?

Knowing Trump, we’re certain they can.

Disabled Greeks oppose new austerity regime


We should give austerity a new name: Call it the Reverse Robin Hood Doctrine.

Austerity is the regime imposed on the world’s debt-ridden poor nations to qualify them for loans to pay the corporations and banksters of the world’s richest nations.

To make those payments, the debt-plagued countries are forced to slash programs designed to help the nation’s afflicted, poor, sick, and otherwise afflicted.

The latest crisis, the Great Recession, brought Greece to its knees, and the government sought loans from the Troika, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

Needless to say, austerity was imposed, forcing drastic cuts in the national healthcare system, the selloff of public assets [including power companies, transit systems, ports, and much more], as well as drastic cuts in public pensions and paychecks, as well as reduced social benefits payments imposed on those who could least afford the loss.

The austerity regime prompted voter to elect a government which promised them an end to austerity, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has knuckled under, and new rounds of deprivation are underway.

Some of those most deeply impacted are now expressing their outrage.

From Kathimerini:

Disabled people and patients with chronic illnesses from around Greece protested in central Athens Friday against austerity measures as the government races to clinch a new deal with bailout lenders.

Protesters in wheelchairs carried black balloons while deaf demonstrators wore white gloves as they used sign language to join chants of anti-government slogans.

Disabled groups are seeking exemptions from budget austerity measures imposed under the country’s international bailout agreements.

Unemployment among people with disabilities was more than double the national jobless rate of 23 percent with poverty levels also sharply higher, according to Yannis Vardakastanis, head of the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece.

“We want to live in dignity,” Vardakastanis, who is blind, told the AP. “It’s the obligation of the government and European institutions to stop us from being further isolated, impoverished and discriminated against.”

Greece is currently finalizing a new package of economic measures that would make home foreclosures and business firings easier. The measures are required in exchange for new bailout loan payouts and talks on debt relief measures.

Shame on the Troika, and shame on Tsipras.

Trump team leader wants an end to net neutrality


Expect to pay more for all those streaming videos, and much more.

From The Register:

Supporters of net neutrality are preparing to defend FCC regulations passed two years ago in the face of what is increasingly looking like a determined effort by the Trump Administration to undermine them.

Earlier this week, Trump named a third person to his FCC transition team and, as with the previous two, she is a vocal opponent to net neutrality rules.

“Net neutrality sounds good, but it means different things to different people, making it easy for special interests to manipulate it for narrow political ends,” argued Roslyn Layton in January of 2015, in a post published soon after the Open Internet Order was approved in a partisan 3-2 vote by the FCC.

She continued: “Using their own definitions, companies such as Netflix hijack the language of net neutrality to lobby for regulatory favors.”

In many respects, her opposition to net neutrality is what defines Layton – as well as the other two transition heads, Jeff Eisenach and Mark Jamison – more than any other attribute or position.

Headlines of the day: Oh, isn’t that rich? Really rich


“That” being the Trump cabinet.

First from the Washington Post:

Donald Trump is assembling the richest administration in modern American history

  • Trump is putting together what will be the wealthiest administration in modern American history. His announced nominees for top positions include several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires, one of whose family is worth as much as industrial tycoon Andrew Mellon was when he served as treasury secretary nearly a century ago.
  • Rumored candidates for other positions suggest Trump could add more ultra-rich appointees soon.
  • Many of the Trump appointees were born wealthy, attended elite schools and went on to amass even larger fortunes as adults. As a group, they have much more experience funding political candidates than they do running government agencies.

And from BBC News:

Trump assembles America’s ‘richest cabinet’

  • US President-elect Donald Trump took a populist tone on the campaign trail, pledging to stand for a beleaguered working class abandoned by the elite.
  • Mr Trump, of course, brings immense wealth to his new role. The property tycoon’s worth is estimated at $3.7bn (£3bn) by Forbes magazine, with more than 500 businesses in his empire.
  • But he might not be the richest member of his team. His nominee for education secretary, Betsy Devos, is the daughter of Richard DeVos, who founded the Amway retail giant. Forbes puts their family wealth at $5.1bn.
  • Next up is Wilbur Ross, the president-elect’s pick for commerce secretary. Forbes puts the wealth of Mr Ross, who headed Rothschild Inc’s bankruptcy practice before starting an investment firm, at $2.5bn.
  • Mr Ross’s deputy will be Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, who has an estimated wealth of $1.75bn.

Finally, the front page headline on the New York Times:

Trump Cabinet Choices Signal Embrace of Wall St. Elite

  • Donald J. Trump picked Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager, to run the Treasury and Wilbur L. Ross Jr., a billionaire investor, to head the Commerce Department.
  • The choices have been cheered by investors, but they stand in stark contrast to the populist campaign that Mr. Trump ran.

And while not headlines, two of this morning’s tweets from Sen. Bernie Sanders add some perspective:

blog-sanders-cabinetblog-sanders-rigged

As does the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

David Horsey: Trump gets comfy in the Washington swamp

blog-horsey

Trump and his allies want to kill organized labor


And given their impending control of all three branches of the federal government, they just might accomplish it, warns Raymond Hogler. Professor of Management at Colorado State University, in an essay for the open source academic journal The Conversation:

I’ve written before on how the decline of organized labor beginning in the late 1970s gave birth to the backlash that fueled Donald Trump’s election.

Labor’s deterioration weakened worker protections, kept wages stagnant and caused income inequality to soar to the highest levels in over eight decades. It also made workers feel they needed a savior like Trump.

In other words, his unlikely victory follows a straight line from the defeat of the Labor Reform Act of 1978 to the election of 2016. That bill would have modernized and empowered unions through more effective recognition procedures accompanied by enhanced power in negotiations. Instead, its death by filibuster became the beginning of their end.

It’s a sad twist of irony that Trump’s election and Republican dominance across the country may finally destroy once and for all the institution most responsible for working- and middle-class prosperity. It will likely be a three-punch fight, ending with a fatal blow: the expansion of right-to-work laws across the country that would permanently empty the pockets of labor unions, eroding them of virtually all their collective solidarity.

How we got here

In 1980, union membership density stood at 23 percent of the work force; some 40 years later, just over 11 percent of American workers belong to unions. During the same period, wealth inequality in the U.S. continued to accelerate largely on a social class basis.

White males without college degrees reacted to their ongoing misery in 2016 with a political transformation unrivaled since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s electoral victory in 1932. The election’s postmortem pundits offered differing explanations for Trump’s victory, including racism, sexism and the ennui of Hillary Clinton supporters.

A popular narrative argues that deteriorating economic conditions provided the fuel for the Trump conflagration as it swept through the former union strongholds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Three blows for labor

Despite the enthusiasm of his working-class supporters, Trump’s economic policies would bring them a raw deal, not a New Deal. Three key areas will play a crucial role in union diminution and workers’ bargaining power during Trump’s administration, with further declines in real hourly earnings.

The first is regulatory. On his inauguration, Trump has the opportunity to appoint two new members to the National Labor Relations Board now controlled by Obama appointees with administrative discretion to implement pro-labor decisions. With their new majority, Republican appointees will have a smorgasbord of past cases and regulations to repeal and replace. Trump’s future replacements undoubtedly will promote a business-friendly agenda, and the board’s shift in emphasis will be immediately apparent.

The second is the Supreme Court. If Trump fills the vacant seat with someone in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, the new court will likely uphold what in my view is the rickety constitutional theory of union dues put forth by Samuel Alito in Knox v. SEIU. Alito’s rule holds that public sector union members have a constitutional right to decline dues payments unless they consent to do so. Or, in Alito’s words, dues payers will be deemed to “opt out” of dues unless they “opt in.”

In early 2016, the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case, which would have mandated a constitutional right-to-work rule, stalled out with Scalia’s demise, but a similar case is moving through the lower federal court system that raises the matter once more. The litigation will eventually work its way back to the Supreme Court, and the new Trump justice can affirm the undoing of public sector union dues.

The third and most lethal blow against unions, along with board and court hostility, is the expansion of right-to-work laws as a by-product of Trump’s victory.

Trump ran on a platform of making America great again by restoring incomes through innovation and deregulation.

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Quote of the day: Sanders takes down the GOP


From the website of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the candidate who had the best chance of downsizing The Donald, a statement:

The threat to American democracy under Republican control is two-fold. First, they will likely move to go beyond the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and end all campaign finance limitations. Right now, the Koch brothers and the billionaire class can spend as much as they want only on independent expenditures. The Republican leadership wants more. They want billionaires to be able to contribute directly to the candidate and, in essence, make the candidate a full-fledged employee of wealthy contributors.

Secondly, the Republicans will likely move aggressively to expand their current voter suppression efforts. When Trump talks his disgraceful and unfounded nonsense about millions of people voting illegally, he is sending a very clear signal that the Republicans will move to make it harder for people of color, the elderly, immigrants, young people and poor people to participate in elections.

Our job: State by state and at the federal level, resist all efforts at voter suppression. We must do everything we can to make it easier for people to participate in the political process, not harder. States like California, Vermont and others have already moved effectively in that direction. Others must follow.

For many Republicans leaders, ‘democracy’ means billionaires buying elections and poor and working people being disenfranchised. Too many Americans have fought and died to defend American democracy. The Republican anti-democratic vision is not a future we will allow to happen.

Threats to crop pollinators imperil billions


That’s just the humans, and not the hundreds of billions of earth’s herbivores and the carnivores dependent on them.

It’s a threat directly resulting from the massive agricultural use of pesticides and other chemicals.

From Agence France Presse:

About 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops depend on pollinators, researchers said Monday warning of a dire threat to human welfare if the falls in bee and butterfly numbers are not halted.

“World food supplies and jobs are at risk unless urgent action is taken to stop global declines of pollinators,” said a statement from the University of Reading, whose researchers took part in the global review.

Animal pollination directly affects about three-quarters of important crop types, including most fruits, seeds and nuts and high-value products such as coffee, cocoa and oilseed rape.

>snip<

There are some 20,000 species of bees responsible for fertilising more than 90 percent of the world’s 107 major crops.

Bee populations have been hit in Europe, North America and elsewhere by a mysterious phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder”, which has been blamed on mites, a virus or fungus, pesticides, or a combination of factors.

The authors of the review called for measures to protect pollinators against farming’s worst side-effects.

Agroecology, anyone?