Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Strong Towns in Salem (Redux) on KMUZ's "The Forum" This Week

Please share with any who may have missed Chuck's presentations, and also those who caught it but would like to hear them again.

The Forum: Friday Dec 16 at 1pm and Sunday Dec 18 at 8am:
88.5 or 100.7 FM and streaming at kmuz.org
Strong towns are more than tall buildings. A city planner who came from "Minnesota Nice" to tell Oregonians that we're pretty nice, too, says to have a healthy town full of healthy people, it takes a mix of business and recreational space, transportation and investment, jobs and upkeep...and a successful neighborhood may be the one you never suspected. 
Chuck Marohn is the organizer of Strong Towns, a movement that helps people figure out how to prosper and thrive. He tells how to study the heart of a city and why spending money on upkeep is the way to stay strong, on this week's Forum on KMUZ.
I wanted to let you know that the Chuck Mahron presentation on Strong Towns that he did last October will play on KMUZ's The Forum this Friday at 1pm and repeat Sunday at 8am.  And will be podcast.  Here's a link to the The Forum's FB page: https://www.facebook.com/KMUZForum/

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mark your Calendar: See "Where to Invade Next" as it was meant to be seen (In community)

Tuesday, 20 December, 7 p.m.
At the beautifully restored, comfortable -- almost luxurious -- Grand Theatre
191 High St NE, at the corner of Court and High St. 

Probably Moore's best film because it is focused on solutions, often those first conceived in the United States, only to be ignored here and implemented elsewhere.

After-film speakers include Laurie Trieger of "Family Forward Oregon" and some dude who is pretty much a windbag from what I hear.

America’s favorite political provocateur, Michael Moore, is back with his new film, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT. 

Honored by festivals and critics groups alike, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT is an expansive, hilarious, and subversive comedy in which the Academy Award®-winning director confronts the most pressing issues facing America today and finds solutions in the most unlikely places. 

The creator of FAHRENHEIT 9/11 and BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE has returned with an epic movie that’s unlike anything he has done before—an eye-opening call to arms to capture the American Dream and restore it in, of all places, America.

To see the trailer: http://wheretoinvadenext.com/

Guest Speakers:

Laurie Trieger, Family Forward Oregon, Regional Outreach Director
Laurie is working with Family Forward Oregon to support a movement for family-friendly policies across Oregon; including paid sick time, affordable childcare, pay equity and retirement security for women, and paid family and medical leave. Laurie grew up in Philadelphia and enjoyed living on the Oregon coast for nearly three years before settling in Eugene in 1987. She has been involved with a variety of initiatives and organizations focused on poverty reduction, food policy, child wellness and healthy communities; including working in a women’s health clinic, serving as an advocate for a regional food bank, founding a public health nonprofit organization, and working in community economic development. She is a parent of two adult children, grandparent of twin boys, and a former foster parent.  Before all this, Laurie worked for many years in the restaurant and retail sectors.

and some dude

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump Nominates 'True Enemy' of Public Schools for Education Secretary

Suddenly, folks on the left are realizing that killing the US Dept. Of Ed IS a great idea, even though it's been a constant hope on the far right for decades. 

What America needs is not a cabinet position with Education in the title. What we actually need is a solid research program into what works when and where, like the National Institutes of Health, or maybe under the National Research Council.

We would be so much better off if we got rid of US Dept. Of Ed and used the money to fund research into new models of education and how to make existing educational institutions work better.

So much of what is considered to be "education" problems is actually poverty problems, and now we are going to find out that, while having a corporatist like Arne Duncan is bad enough, having an out-and-out enemy of public education like DeVos in the job is enough to ruin your whole decade.

Standard GOP playbook -- appoint union-busters to head the Department of Labor, appoint people who hate taxes, unions, and public education to head Department of Education, appoint morons who think climate science is "politicized" to head agencies like EPA and NASA.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

WORD (Cong. John Lewis)

"I would say to the young people, the young protesters, and those not so young: Accept a way of peace, believe in the way of love, believe in the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence," Lewis told The Associated Press. 

"Never become bitter. Never become angry. And do whatever you can to speak truth to power, and be hopeful, be optimistic.

"The struggle is not a struggle that lasts one day or a few weeks or a few years. It is a struggle of a lifetime."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Rule #1Believe the autocrat

He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler's anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: "The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly" rather than those protesters' "liver should have been spread all over the pavement." Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one. For all the admiration Trump has expressed for Putin, the two men are very different; if anything, there is even more reason to listen to everything Trump has said. He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him—from the president, who met with him at the White House on Thursday, to the leaders of the Republican Party, who are discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.

He has received the support he needed to win, and the adulation he craves, precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted "Lock her up!" They, and he, meant every word. If Trump does not go after Hillary Clinton on his first day in office, if he instead focuses, as his acceptance speech indicated he might, on the unifying project of investing in infrastructure (which, not coincidentally, would provide an instant opportunity to reward his cronies and himself), it will be foolish to breathe a sigh of relief. Trump has made his plans clear, and he has made a compact with his voters to carry them out. These plans include not only dismantling legislation such as Obamacare but also doing away with judicial restraint—and, yes, punishing opponents.

To begin jailing his political opponents, or just one opponent, Trump will begin by trying to capture of the judicial system. Observers and even activists functioning in the normal-election mode are fixated on the Supreme Court as the site of the highest-risk impending Trump appointment. There is little doubt that Trump will appoint someone who will cause the Court to veer to the right; there is also the risk that it might be someone who will wreak havoc with the very culture of the high court. And since Trump plans to use the judicial system to carry out his political vendettas, his pick for attorney general will be no less important. Imagine former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie going after Hillary Clinton on orders from President Trump; quite aside from their approach to issues such as the Geneva Conventions, the use of police powers, criminal justice reforms, and other urgent concerns.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Best plan ever to end the electoral college

I've just signed this crucial petition to stop the election of unpopular Presidents who don't win the popular vote.

Join me here: https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/national_vote_qd/?kiMcPdb

What would you prefer, election reform or collapse?


I took a lot of political science classes as my electives of choice and what I really remember concluding most from that period was that democracy works best in an expanding economy -- when there's more pie for all every year, the division of the pie is less likely to promote warfare.

But for 8 years now, the US has been mainlining what would, historically, have been jet fuel in economic terms, and it has only served to bring us off the mat and get us shambling slowly towards a "recovery" that basically means servicing the machines that could take over even more of what used to be called "work."

That evidence -- that even with the historical constraints on economic growth obliterated, there is no real growth to be had -- makes it undeniable that growth is over, because the natural world is no longer a bountiful storehouse of easily accessed natural capital.

We have consumed and polluted and wasted to the point that now all our economic voodoo tricks don't reanimate the lifeless economy, they simply heat it up in that one spot but only for as long as the stimulus is applied directly. It's really hard to stimulate a corpse.

And so, instead of an expanding pie, giving each group a bit more each year, even if not as much as others -- making it possible to avoid warfare over the relative sizes of the slices -- we are now in the era of the permanently contracting pie (economy), and it's not clear that democracies survive this state very well.

One thing that is now even more clear, we must have election reform or we are likely to have an even rougher go of it, as in conflicts that will make the post-Yugoslavia Balkan states seem tranquil.

Our archaic 18th C. "vote for one only" system ("first past the post," winner take all) is as zero-sum as it gets, and even in the best of times it encourages the group conflict we must learn to avoid. If we don't adopt better voting systems (instant runoff voting for single-winner races, full representation systems for legislative bodies) rapidly, the risks of metaphorical conflict becoming actual conflict and social collapse increase dramatically. In an expanding economy, "wait till next year" is much more possible because there is a fundamental optimism that the years ahead will be better, so why fight?

But in a relentlessly contracting economy, the dominant groups can lock out the others -- instead of all sharing in the pain, the winners can get more while the losers get lots less, AND those divisions can result in permanent lockout, as the so-called "meritocracy" converts the privileged dominant groups to an aristocracy of health and access to education and resources that creates the hard caste structure recognizable in feudal societies throughout history.

Dealing with economic contraction is hard and requires compromise and good will --- but winner-take-all election systems apply belt sanders to tender places instead of soothing ointments.

Full representation election methods preserve majority rule but also do more -- they make sure that minorities have a real rather than figurative seat at the table, so that every citizen can say that they are represented (that they helped elect someone) and have someone who cares about their concerns in power.

Because of winner-take-all methods, the US is about to shift wildly in its national policies. This is purely as an artifact of using zero-sum winner-take-all election rules that take a tiny overall shift in voting and magnify it to a wildly inflated result that has the effect of giving more than half of American voters no voice whatsoever in national policy. That is a recipe for revolution.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Who is James Comey?

Spread the word:

James Comey is Gavrilo Princip -- a zealot-nobody who with a single rash and illegal act forcibly altered the course of history and sparked the calamity that caused the deaths of tens of millions and destruction on a scale the world had not before then known.

If Comey's assassination attempt on HRC works, instead of "The Guns of August," then, -- if there are future historians -- they can write about "The Nukes of November" when the world was slowly drawn into a catastrophic maelstrom by adherence to pre-assassination alliances and understandings.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Happier Thoughts

Something nice for a change -- the annual "Empty Bowls" fundraiser for Marion-Polk Food Share, a great opportunity for you to get local artisan gifts for everyone on your, at amazing prices (because those talented artisans donate all their work), with all proceeds going to fight hunger in Salem and surroundings.

As always, the weekend BEFORE Thanksgiving at Willamette Art Center on the Silverton Road entrance to the State Fairgrounds.

Why Salem should VOTE NO on the Police Facility Bond (23-399)

Some years ago, the humor magazine National Lampoon had a memorable cover that exposed once and for all the guilt-trip method of marketing:

The companies seeking to make huge profits from building a gigantically oversized and overpriced new police facility seem to have taken their lessons from National Lampoon, running a bond campaign that boils down to "Build us a Taj Mahal police palace or the Boys in Blue get it right in the head, and you are probably being murdered right now because you called and we were all dead because you're so cheap."

The bottom line is that this campaign only reveals the cynicism and greed of the developers and contractors, because they've been perfectly happy to see the Salem PD sit in the basement of City Hall for years now after it has been known that we face a real risk of a gigantic earthquake offshore that could be so severe as to rank among the biggest quakes in recorded history (9+).

The "Salem Can Do Better" campaign is right. If the police are at risk -- and everyone agrees they are, and that we need a new police facility -- then so is everyone else who works at or uses the current City Hall facilities, so we cannot afford a police facility that breaks the bank.

So pretending to care about police safety while really just money-grubbing for a porky overbuilt project that is about twice the size as needed (for tens of millions of dollars more than required) is the height of cynicism.

What the police chief should do -- whether this bond fails or succeeds -- is tell the City Manager that the city needs to do some emergency leasing of vacant commercial structures pronto because the Chief is going to direct all officers not to enter the current facility in 2017 except to empty it out.

In other words, the police should refuse to remain where they are while the voters hash it out with the pork-seeking lobby trying to push through a supersized facility (150,000 square feet - roughly double what Salem needs). And then follow through.

After all, it's an emergency.  And so, once this iteration of the bond is defeated, we can do it again in six months.  And we should keep doing it, as many times as needed, again and again, until the city comes up with a plan that provides the money to take care of ALL the city facilities in the current City Hall complex, including the main library.

Besides -- a single huge police facility is the worst strategic move possible. In the event of a massive quake, we would regret putting all our eggs in that one huge basket. What Salem needs is multi-purpose facilities north, south, center, and west, with the main HQ functions in the center, but precinct facilities north, south and west. These can provide community meeting rooms for neighborhood groups, branch libraries, and social service satellite centers, with police integrated into them (you know, community policing).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mark your Calendars: Nov. 13 @ Salem Cinema, 7 p.m.

Shattered :: a Reel Change event

Benefit for Center for Hope & Safety


Salem Cinema on Broadway, (The Majestic Auditorium) (Salem, OR) 

Shattered: Journey into a silent Past. 

Sunday, November 13th.
meet & greet at 6pm & documentary film at 7pm.
followed by Q&A with local legend Britta Franz.

Britta and Marianne Lion grew up in a Jewish family in my hometown Aachen. As a filmmaker I was interested in their fate because in 1937, when the two sisters were 9 and 12 years old they were forced to leave Germany and flee to the United States together with their parents. Their father, Curt Lion, owned a beautiful clothing store named Appelrath-Cüpper and sold it to my grandfather shortly before the flight. How did the transaction actually take place and were the two businessmen able to avoid the "Nazification" and all the taxes on Jewish property?

Together with Britta and Marianne, we researched letters, photographs and archives. We visited the store which still exists and found traces of their relatives who didn't succeed to escape the Nazis.

The siblings are two of hundreds of thousands of German Jews who lost their home country and many family members -- a widely silenced generation.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Name the Third Bridge Contest Over: It's the Donald J. Trump Bridge

On revising the Salem urban growth boundary so that the Bridgeasaurus Boondogglus (Third Bridge) can be added to the Salem Transportation System Plan:
This evening, you are taking a momentous action and such a momentous action really deserves a fitting memorial. So I ask that, if you approve this proposal, you should go the whole way and name the bridge now, so that this monstrously expensive waste of planning dollars will always carry the name of someone associated with the kind of sound good judgment and maturity that this project has exhibited from the start, Donald J. Trump.

It's really exactly is the kind of classy project that should bear his name and it would be fitting indeed.

The financing is pure fiction and will lead to massive losses, but not for the people pushing the project, only for the little people in the blast zone.

It's the kind of project that can only be supported by people who are in total denial about the reality of climate change and who insist that climate change is a hoax by the Chinese to destroy American industry. If you vote to add this to the plan, you are endorsing that kind of thinking, in direct contravention to state policy goals.

The demand modeling underlaying the project projections is as sound as The Donald's earnings projections on his bankrupt casinos. Just as The Donald flatly denies his own filmed quotes, the traffic projections in the draft EIS you are furthering are pure flat denials of reality.

Citizens raising questions and concerns have been treated like a Hillary Clinton piñata at the GOP Convention. 

The repayment cost for the financed project is remarkably similar to the yuuuuuuuuge $916 million loss that helped The Donald shift his tax burden onto ordinary citizens, just as this bridge will do.

And the backers of this pork project have acted throughout like The Donald backstage at a teen beauty contest, salivating and determined to just grab the prize with both hands.

It really is The Donald to a tee.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A good example of the Strong Towns thinking Salem and everyplace else needs


Thinking about the maintenance obligation when considering the cost of building something new -- amazing!

Sad to say, such thinking has become positively unAmerican.

And so this article is about yet another example of entitled folks building something that works for them in particular while screwing everyone else for generations.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Should we build new and shiny when we can't maintain what we already have?

An exchange with Chuck Marohn during the questions and answers following Chuck's presentation to the people of Salem on October 5th.

Chuck's entire talk is available online here https://vimeo.com/185985263
Tom Andersen (Ward 2 Salem City Council): [90:03] I wonder if you can comment a little more about the wisdom or folly of spending money on building new infrastructure and roads and bridges, but we cannot maintain roads and bridges and infrastructure that we have right now.
[90:18] [applause]
Chuck Marohn: [90:27] Only an insane people would think that it's smart to build more when you can't fix what you have. The Department of Transportation head for Tennessee when he was named went to the legislature in Tennessee. Schroer is his last name, I can't remember his first name, brilliant guy.
[90:47] He went to the legislature and said, "Look, we have a house with a leaking roof, you want me to put on an addition, I'm not going to build any addition until we fix the roof, period." Is that common sense or what?
[91:01] Here is the way cities operate, imagine and think about that map of Lafayette, we had the green areas and the red areas. A city today is like a company that has five divisions and the one division is profitable and the four divisions are losing money, and our solution to that problem is to build a fifth division that looks like the four that are losing money.
[91:25] That makes no sense at all. To me, I think the solution is to make sure that the first division never fails. Your good neighborhoods should never suffer from lack of maintenance. Your downtown should always have sidewalks that are fixed, should always have streets that are properly maintained, should always have lights that are on, should always be taken care of because it's producing huge amounts of wealth for you.
[91:52] Then in the neighborhood surrounding that maybe are cash flow positive, maybe are not but are on the borderline, those places should be getting the excess, the wealth being generated [in the downtown], they should be getting the love and brought back up, because that's the division that can actually be made profitable with a little bit of tenderness.
[92:12] The other ones are the places where you're going to have some difficult triage questions, but you are fools -- we are fools, I will put myself in this American pool of people -- We are fools if we build more. Do you want to know how big a fools we are?
Audience: [92:29] Yes.
[92:29] [laughter]
Chuck Marohn: [92:32] Detroit, which is undergoing massive contraction. They are letting go of whole neighborhoods. They're letting go of pipes. They are digging up roads but building more stuff too. It is so ingrained in who we are and what we become. It so ingrained in our processes and the way we envision ourselves.
[92:56] Think of like the Romans with the Gauls coming in saying, "We can still have that circus," and it took a while for them to come to grips with the world have changed. We can be smarter than that.
[93:12] I don't want to rail on your bridge project. I'm not here to fight about a bridge, but to me, the idea of building even a frontage road to a potential bridge is a bizarre concept when you have so much stuff that you cannot afford to maintain today.
[93:29] You're actually going to have to make really, really difficult painful triage decisions in the future about the stuff that you've already built, why would you make that problem way, way, way worse?
[93:40] [applause]

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Watch "How can Salem Become a Strong Town" on CCTV Channel 21

This is the playback schedule for Strong Towns on channel 21:

Invest 90 minutes with Strong Towns before Wednesday's Third Bridge Hearing

Salem's excellent and indispensable "Breakfast on Bikes" blog does an outstanding job demonstrating that the Sprawl Lobby's strategy is to bury citizen involvement in a mountain of paperwork to prevent citizens from finding and sharing the most important proofs that would show just how foolish is the plan to expand Salem's urban growth boundary to allow further consultant-enriching work on the $500 million (liar's budget) "Salem River Crossing" (a/k/a "Bridgeasaurus Boondogglus").

Watch Chuck Marohn's thoughtful, powerful presentation on CCTV Channel 21:

This is the playback schedule for Strong Towns on channel 21:

Basically, the City has backed a dumptruck of documents up and downloaded them right on the heads of the people of Salem, confident that, with less than a week to review the material, citizens won't be able to find and highlight the many contradictions and failures to comply with the state land use goals and requirements.

A far better use of your time than the mountain of dreck that the city has dumped on us is this video from Wednesday's Strong Towns presentation.

The Sprawl Lobby - the construction firms and developers salivating over the massive spending possible through the project are willing to bankrupt Salem to enrich themselves. They want as few people as possible to hear this message, especially now, while the Bridgeasaurus is still easy to kill.

So watch this powerful presentation and plan to attend Center 50+ on Portland Road on Wednesday to speak up for making Salem a Strong Town and against municipal bankruptcy.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Salem's Best Cultural Venue -- Salem Cinema : Salem, Oregon

Another terrific edition of the "Manhattan Short Film Festival" at Salem Cinema.
The Motto is "One World, One Week, One Festival" because the same 10 shorts are shown all across the world in the same week, and audience goers all over the world vote for their favorite, and so it's the only truly global film festival.

Manhattan Short Film Festival

Fri 9/23 & Sat 9/24 3:15
Sun 9/25 4:15
Mon 9/26 & Tues 9/27 7:00
Weds 9/28 & Thurs 9/29 7:45

All seats only $9!
no coupons, passes or CineBucks
accepted for special events

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Worth Many Thousands of Words (and Millions of Dollars Saved)

Proposed "Taj Mahal" Overbuilt $82M police HQ compared to size of ENTIRE current city hall.

Proposed "Taj Mahal" Overbuilt $82M police HQ is not only twice (200%) the size of the facility the city claimed was the right size for years, it's 160% the size of the ENTIRE current city hall.

It's not about Clinton

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Elizabeth Smart Is Speaking Out Against the Cult of Purity/Virginity


ADMITTED: Corporations want to force you into arbitration because it's unfair to you

Every American needs to understand what this admission is -- That the whole reason corporations hide forced arbitration clauses in contracts is 100% because they don't want a fair process for resolving disputes. 

They want to stack the deck against you as a consumer or employee, and they stack the deck automatically because they are the frequent flyers in arbitration, meaning that they will be in arbitration again and again and again, so arbitrators who want to keep getting hired know which way they better rule. 

Labate advises clients to get their employees to sign arbitration agreements, waiving their right to sue in court, and sending disputes to privately hired arbitrators.

The controversial tactic means disputes are settled behind closed doors with no public disclosure, no right of appeal and none of the strict procedural rules that courts follow.

"People question whether arbitration tends to favor employers," Labate told a conference session. "I believe they do. I use the same arbitrators over and over, and they get paid when I pick them. They know where their bread and butter comes from."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mark your Calendar and Spread the Word!

  • Loucks Auditorium (City Hall) (map)
  • 645 Liberty St SE, Salem, OR
Charles Marohn will lead a Curbside Chat presentation in Salem, OR, sponsored by

John Gear Law,
Oregon PEN,
Cherriots (Salem-Keizer Transit),
Salem CityWatch and
Salem Community Vision.

The Curbside Chat is a presentation followed by a community-specific discussion about the financial health of our places.
  • Why are our cities and towns so short of resources despite decades of robust growth?
  • Why do we struggle at the local level just to maintain our basic infrastructure?
  • What do we do now that the economy has changed so dramatically?
The answers lie in the way we have developed; the financial productivity of our places.

This stunning presentation is a game-changer for communities looking to grow more resilient and obtain true prosperity during changing times. This presentation is free and open to the public.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

It's time to stop wasting money on the Boondogglus Bridgeasaurus and start spending the savings on preparing for The Big One

A Major Pacific Northwest Quake Looks Even Likelier, Thanks to Underwater Landslide Evidence - The Atlantic


We have real work to do to secure the infrastructure we have now against the quake we know is likely.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Come to City Hall Next Monday Night, 8 August to Oppose Foolish UGB Expansion

The Sprawl Lobby is trying to beat that dead dinosaur of a 3rd Bridge proposal ($60,000 a month blown since 2006!) and now the scheme is to ignore the state's land use goals by expanding the Salem Urban Growth Boundary in Polk County, something we will be waiting to take to the State Land Use Board of Appeals to reverse.

But it would be a lot cheaper if everyone would just come to City Hall and help us deliver a simple message to the Council next Monday evening, August 8th:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing

Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing

Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing


Over the last year there has been a recurrent refrain about the seeming bromance between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. More seriously, but relatedly, many believe Trump is an admirer and would-be emulator of Putin's increasingly autocratic and illiberal rule. But there's quite a bit more to the story. At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.

Let me start by saying I'm no Russia hawk. I have long been skeptical of US efforts to extend security guarantees to countries within what the Russians consider their 'near abroad' or extend such guarantees and police Russian interactions with new states which for centuries were part of either the Russian Empire or the USSR. This isn't a matter of indifference to these countries. It is based on my belief in seriously thinking through the potential costs of such policies. In the case of the Baltics, those countries are now part of NATO. Security commitments have been made which absolutely must be kept. But there are many other areas where such commitments have not been made. My point in raising this is that I do not come to this question or these policies as someone looking for confrontation or cold relations with Russia.

Let's start with the basic facts. There is a lot of Russian money flowing into Trump's coffers and he is conspicuously solicitous of Russian foreign policy priorities.

I'll list off some facts.

1. All the other discussions of Trump's finances aside, his debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. This is in just one year while his liquid assets have also decreased. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks.

2. Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin. Here's a good overview from The Washington Post, with one morsel for illustration ...

Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.

"Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," Trump's son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."

3. One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump's largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld. But that's not the most salient part of the story. As the Times put it,

"Mr. Lauria brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians "in favor with" President Vladimir V. Putin, according to a lawsuit against Bayrock by one of its former executives. The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a "strategic partner," along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt."

Another suit alleged the project "occasionally received unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia."

Sounds completely legit.

Read both articles: After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. As I noted above, Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of Deutschebank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.

Trump's tax returns would likely clarify the depth of his connections to and dependence on Russian capital aligned with Putin. And in case you're keeping score at home: no, that's not reassuring.

4. Then there's Paul Manafort, Trump's nominal 'campaign chair' who now functions as campaign manager and top advisor. Manafort spent most of the last decade as top campaign and communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister and then President whose ouster in 2014 led to the on-going crisis and proxy war in Ukraine. Yanukovych was and remains a close Putin ally. Manafort is running Trump's campaign.

5. Trump's foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia and who has deep and continuing financial and employment ties to Gazprom. If you're not familiar with Gazprom, imagine if most or all of the US energy industry were rolled up into a single company and it were personally controlled by the US President who used it as a source of revenue and patronage. That is Gazprom's role in the Russian political and economic system. It is no exaggeration to say that you cannot be involved with Gazprom at the very high level which Page has been without being wholly in alignment with Putin's policies. Those ties also allow Putin to put Page out of business at any time.

6. Over the course of the last year, Putin has aligned all Russian state controlled media behind Trump. As Frank Foer explains here, this fits a pattern with how Putin has sought to prop up rightist/nationalist politicians across Europe, often with direct or covert infusions of money. In some cases this is because they support Russia-backed policies; in others it is simply because they sow discord in Western aligned states. Of course, Trump has repeatedly praised Putin, not only in the abstract but often for the authoritarian policies and patterns of government which have most soured his reputation around the world.

7. Here's where it gets more interesting. This is one of a handful of developments that tipped me from seeing all this as just a part of Trump's larger shadiness to something more specific and ominous about the relationship between Putin and Trump. As TPM's Tierney Sneed explained in this article, one of the most enduring dynamics of GOP conventions (there's a comparable dynamic on the Dem side) is more mainstream nominees battling conservative activists over the party platform, with activists trying to check all the hardline ideological boxes and the nominees trying to soften most or all of those edges. This is one thing that made the Trump convention very different. The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump's backing but because he simply didn't care. With one big exception: Trump's team mobilized the nominee's traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. For what it's worth (and it's not worth much) I am quite skeptical of most Republicans call for aggressively arming Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. But the single-mindedness of this focus on this one issue - in the context of total indifference to everything else in the platform - speaks volumes.

This does not mean Trump is controlled by or in the pay of Russia or Putin. It can just as easily be explained by having many of his top advisors having spent years working in Putin's orbit and being aligned with his thinking and agenda. But it is certainly no coincidence. Again, in the context of near total indifference to the platform and willingness to let party activists write it in any way they want, his team zeroed in on one fairly obscure plank to exert maximum force and it just happens to be the one most important to Putin in terms of US policy.

Add to this that his most conspicuous foreign policy statements track not only with Putin's positions but those in which Putin is most intensely interested. Aside from Ukraine, Trump's suggestion that the US and thus NATO might not come to the defense of NATO member states in the Baltics in the case of a Russian invasion is a case in point.

There are many other things people are alleging about hacking and all manner of other mysteries. But those points are highly speculative, some verging on conspiratorial in their thinking. I ignore them here because I've wanted to focus on unimpeachable, undisputed and publicly known facts. These alone paint a stark and highly troubling picture.

To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump's direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin's policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He's the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out 'what's going on' as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.

There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump's financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That's simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.

I’m Voting For The Democrat In November Because I’m Not A Human Tire Fire — Medium


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Undernews: What Socrates had to say about Donald Trump

What Socrates had to say about Donald Trump


Tyranny, says Socrates in The Republic, is actually "an outgrowth of democracy." And would-be tyrants always in every instance claim to be shielding regular people from terrible danger: "This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector." 

As The Republic explains, leaders like this inevitably end up "standing up in the chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no longer protector, but tyrant absolute." This is how liberty "passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery."

Donald Trump reminds me of Vladimir Putin — and that is terrifying - The Washington Post


Garry Kasparov is chairman of the Human Rights Foundation and author of "Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped."

Donald Trump's dark and frightening speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday had pundits and historians making comparisons ranging from George Wallace in the 1960s to Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. As suitable as those comparisons may be, the chill that ran down my spine was not because of Trump's echoes of old newsreel footage. Instead, I saw an Americanized version of the brutally effective propaganda of fear and hatred that Vladimir Putin blankets Russia with today.

This isn't to say Trump plagiarized Putin verbatim. The language and tone were comparable the way that the Russian and American flags make different designs with the same red, white and blue. Nor was it merely the character of the text; Trump's mannerisms and body language — toned down from his usual histrionics — were startlingly similar to the sneering and boastful delivery Russians know all too well after Putin's 16 years in power.

Donald Trump's convention speech in 5 minutes

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Donald Trump addressed the GOP convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21. The Republican presidential candidate spoke for more than one hour, we broke it down to less than five minutes. (Deirdra O'Regan/The Washington Post)

In both cases, the intent of the speaker is to elicit the visceral emotions of fear and disgust before relieving them with a cleansing anger that overwhelms everything else. Only the leader can make the fear and disgust go away. The leader will channel your hatred and frustration and make everything better. How, exactly? Well, that's not important right now.

The demagogic candidate must paint a bleak picture of the status quo, citing every catastrophe and failure before presenting the even darker future ahead if he isn't granted the power to act, and act now. You might believe a campaigning politician would prefer to evoke positive emotions in prospective voters, but this does not fit the profile of the strongman. Instead of telling people what he will do if they elect him, he threatens them with what will happen if they don't. The democratic leader needs the people. The tyrant, and the would-be tyrant, insists that the people need him.

Putin, long in power, must downplay Russia's crisis. Trump, the outsider, must exaggerate the United States'. Trump has focused on terrorism and divisive domestic issues such as illegal immigration to populate his enemies list. He has also joined Putin's crusade against NATO, a bizarre stance for an American presidential candidate if he actually considers global terrorism to be a serious threat. Strategic cooperation in the free world is more important now than ever. I am writing this from Tallinn, Estonia, which, without NATO, would indeed soon be in the "suburbs of St. Petersburg," as Trump admirer Newt Gingrich recently put it.

Terrorism is a serious and scary problem, and the United States should be leading a serious international conversation about how to deal with it. Instead, Trump does his best to make sure people are as terrified as the murderers hope they will be. It mirrors Putin's bombastic rhetoric as he produces his own deadly reality show in Syria, where Russian forces are carrying out massacres that will create millions more refugees and inspire another generation of jihadists.

Trump's imaginary border wall is the quintessence of strongman rhetoric. The enemy is clear, and the benefits are apparent, while its innumerable impracticalities and drawbacks are more complicated. For Trump, as with Putin, solutions are always clear and simple — when they are given at all. That they are also impossible, or that they go unfulfilled, is irrelevant, because by the time this becomes obvious the strongman already has the power he wanted. 

Contrast's Trump's campaign message and Putin's propaganda with Ronald Reagan's acceptance speech at the Republican convention in 1980. America and the world were facing many dire threats, from the failing economy to the energy crisis and the never-ending showdown between nuclear superpowers. And yet Reagan's demeanor was cheerful, his language full of positives. He was relentlessly upbeat about the bright, new day and the grand opportunities that lay right around the corner for an America that united on shared values.

Americans believed Ronald Reagan and, because they believed him, they made his vision come true to the great benefit of the nation and the world. Many Americans believe Donald Trump today; the votes cannot be denied. But if Trump's vision comes true, it will be a nightmare, not a dream.

It is painful to admit, but Putin was elected in a relatively fair election in 2000. He steadily dismantled Russia's fragile democracy and succeeded in turning Russians against each other and against the world. It turns out you can go quite far in a democracy by convincing a majority that they are threatened by a minority, and that only you can protect them.

The final and most worrying similarity between Putin and Trump is that so many are unwilling to believe that someone like Trump could ever become the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed to great jubilation, we never would have believed that a former KGB agent would become the president of Russia just nine years later. The moral: Be careful whom you vote for, it could be the last election you ever have.