A Blog on Politics, Principles, and Uncovering the Narrative

Month: December 2022

Stacking the Deck

Union massacre
Police attack strikers outside Chicago’s Republic Steel plant, killing 10, on May 30, 1937. (AP / Carl Linde)

Employment is a negotiation between the employer and the employee.

Negotiations depend heavily upon your position.

Businesses have great negotiating power and thus a strong negotiating position. When they hire you, they control the interview. They are positioned as the ones making the decisions. You have to compete with dozens or sometimes hundreds of other candidates. They have all the information, you have practically none. They are portrayed as the ones doing you the favor. They have authority over you. Job interviews are designed to intimidate, to make you feel small and powerless, begging for the position. This is not a natural imbalance; it has been very carefully cultivated to give them all the power and you virtually none. 

The same goes for what happens to you when you are employed. After you get hired, you know that you could be fired at almost any time, if the employer so decides. Employees are forbidden to exchange contract details that could give them negotiating power. Anything you gain has to be begged for, and even with exemplary service, bonuses or raises are rarely guaranteed. And don’t even think of trying to unionize; you will be treated like crap until they find a way to fire you.

Even after you get fired, many employers don’t even give you a letter of recommendation, forcing you to list them as a reference, where you know nothing about what they will say about you, making you rely upon their good graces when you look for jobs in the future. It is as if they hold all the cards, and you have none.

All of that gives employers frighteningly unequal power over their employees.

For the worker, there are only two real negotiation tools that could possibly fight against all of that: unions and government regulations.

Is it any mystery that these are two things that businesses have worked for decades to degrade and destroy? Two things they have striven endlessly to vilify, denigrate, and smear?

“Unions are corrupt! They only take your money and give you nothing! They are run by organized crime!”

“Government regulations cost jobs, obstruct good and honest businesses, are useless bureaucratic power grabs, and only make things worse!”

“Minimum wage hikes will only raise prices, get people fired, and make businesses go bankrupt and close!”

And they get people like you and me, regular working people, to spread and perpetuate these lies.

And they are hypocrites. They claim that the “free market” will treat everyone fairly. That if they don’t pay workers enough, they won’t get people to work—something that only happens in rare cases like 2022, and even then, they fight like hell against paying higher wages, and complain about how “no one wants to work anymore.”

They claim that the “free market” will not only give fair wages, but that it will provide for workplace safety and other abuses—but we have seen all too painfully what a wretched lie that is as well.

Unions are the biggest “free market” mechanism to balance employer abuses… and so businesses go to any expense and the greatest efforts to crush any union from starting or practicing, vilify and attack any existing union, and pay off politicians and plant pro-corporate judges to make laws which undermine any chance of fair union representation.

“Free market” my ass.

The Name of God: Aside from That

“Thank you President Trump for letting us say ‘Merry Christmas’ again!”

A common refrain from the Religious Right: “You cannot dare utter the name of God in the public square.”

Well, they’re right, after all, aren’t they? You cannot say the word “God” in public. Well, not exactly—actually, anyone can do it, really, at almost any time. There are, after all, public churches, and all manner of religious ceremonies, and religious broadcasting all over TV and radio, as well as on the Internet. If you are in public and you say the word “God,” nothing happens to you at all. No, what they mean by the “public square” is just in official government business. No one in government is ever allowed to speak the name of God in official government business. Ever.

Well, except for when the president makes a speech. He pretty much always ends it with “God bless the United States of America.” And a whole bunch of other times the president mentions God and has religious leaders make speeches and stuff.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any part of government.

Well, except for legislatures, where every day, in every legislative body, at every level of government, when they begin every session with a religious prayer led by a chaplain or other religious speaker.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any part of government.

Well, except in every courthouse at every level of government whenever any witness is sworn in, they do it with their hand on a bible and are required to swear in the name of God before they give testimony.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any part of government.

Well, except for every school, at the start of every school day, when the teacher leads every student in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, where every student says “Under God” to describe the nation.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in school.

Well, aside from the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that any student or group of students, acting independently of school officials, may engage at prayer any time at school on the one condition that it not interrupt a class in session.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any way related to the government.

Well, except for every single cash transaction in the country, where every single last piece of currency, every last coin and bill, is branded with the motto “In God We Trust” on it, the official currency of the nation, printed and controlled by the government.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in public where the government is concerned.

So, yes, in every speech made by every president, every session of every legislature at every level, every session of every court in every courtroom, in every pledge and every prayer by every student in every school, and in every cash transaction made by every person every day using federal currency… yes, then you can have the name of God in every single government transaction.

But aside from that, you can never say the name of God in any part of government.

Never. Or the cops will come for you and arrest you for saying that word.

Right-Wing Love for Putin and Russia Pre-Dated Trump


Why do republicans love Putin?

Even now, as the world and the rest of America gets behind Zelenskyy and Ukraine, republicans steadfastly admire and support Putin, though often more quietly so after Putin’s recent atrocities.

But how did they come to love Putin and Russian in the first place? The Republican Party’s identity for decades was practically defined by their searing hatred for Russia. Even in 2012, Mitt Romney identified Russia as being America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”

Most people assume that Donald Trump brought Putin Love to the right wing, but that’s not accurate. Trump’s association with Putin developed at about the same time as the republican admiration of Putin, but Trump was not openly pro-Russian until after Putin was already a right-wing hero. 

So, how did it happen? Why did republicans go Coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs over this aggressive dictator?

The answer is Obama. He was an effective, popular, charismatic president who was being a better Republican president than any of their own candidates could hope to be. This drove right-wingers crazy. They needed a foil for Obama, someone arguably better and more powerful than him, but no one in their own ranks measured up.

And then Syria happened. In August of 2012, Obama was asked what would provoke a U.S. military action in Syria, and Obama replied that Syria’s use of chemical weapons would constitute a “red line” that would bring America into the fray. However, a year later, Assad crossed that red line, using sarin gas to kill more than a thousand of his own people. Suddenly, Obama was boxed in: he had promised action, but almost any action he took would end badly, not to mention that the American people did not want to add a third land war in Asia to our plate.

Obama responded by passing the buck on to Congress, asking for their approval to use military force. Conservatives saw this as a sign of weakness and began to pile on.

It was then that Vladimir Putin came to the rescue, suggesting a plan to get Syria to surrender its chemical weapons stockpiles so as to avoid military action against them. Obama grabbed the opportunity as a best possible solution, and Damascus agreed to the terms.

That was when republicans suddenly took a liking to Putin: he had stolen Obama’s thunder, outplayed him in Syria, and took the limelight in center stage. The idea that Putin had shown up Obama and pulled the rug out from under him in the region became the story of the month. Matt Drudge, of the Drudge Report, hailed Putin’s involvement in Syria, tweeting that “Putin is leader of the free world.” He began to constantly run headlines praising Putin and trashing Obama, branding Putin as the strong, charismatic world leader, and Obama as a spineless coward who couldn’t begin to match his Russian counterpart. This was a drumbeat starting in 2013 onward, often echoed elsewhere in the conservative sphere. And then, in early 2014, just six months after the Syria deal, Putin just rolled into Crimea and annexed it, and Obama could not do much of anything about it. Putin again came out on top.

Republicans loved this. They discovered a newfound hero in Putin. He was rugged, masculine, in control. He was a right-wing, nationalistic, militaristic shirtless man riding a horse in the countryside. His policies were fiscally conservative, anti-tax, pro-Christian, and a near-perfect fit for the religious right. Most of all, Putin was aggressively, even virulently hostile to gay people. And he invaded and occupied nearby countries.

And Obama was more or less powerless to stop him.

That’s what truly made Putin a right-wing hero, besting Obama in the geopolitical arena, not just once, but twice. Showing power to Obama’s powerlessness. Comments like this started appearing in right-wing areas in 2014:

“Putin is a former KGB colonel. 0bama is a former community organizer. Of course Putin is going to have a far better grasp of international affairs. That is obvious to anyone outside of the liberal echo chamber.”

“Putin right? Why is anyone on earth surprised? President Putin is highly intelligent and by far the best leader in the world. The best leader I have seen in my life time. A man’s man who makes his own decisions and loves his country and its citizens.”

“He is a world leader. He sees the world, not the next party, photo op, selfie…. Putin=Leader Obama=Loser in every category for a leader as well as human being.”

“arguably, Putin would be a better Commander in Chief than our dear leader.”

“Putin at least isn’t a blind Marxism/Leninism fool, unlike Obama and his fellow New Bolshevik Criminals. Their pathetic attempts to focus solely on domestic control, while ignoring rest of world will end up destroying this country.”

All of this was more than a year before Trump showed any sign of being relevant at all. Trump did not bring Putin to the party, republicans were already very much on board. Right-wing talking heads started speaking reverently of Putin, gleeful to have someone who showed up their hated foremost enemy, their own president. More and more, they found elements of Russian culture and Putin’s political positions of which they approved, like Putin’s laws against “homosexual propaganda,” i.e. any favorable mention of LGBTQ people or issues.

While Trump spoke favorably of Putin once or twice after the Syria deal, even slightly before his fateful trip to Russia for the Miss Universe contest (the one where the “pee tape” was allegedly recorded), no possible argument could be made that Trump was in any way responsible for making Putin popular in right-wing circles. In fact, this early admiration for Putin likely helped republicans accept Trump better; he was already a Putin-lover, and fit right in with the crowd.

The problem for republicans is that Putin is, both to their discomfort and delight, a murderous power-crazed dictator willing to commit atrocities. The atrocities part may tamper down their enthusiasm temporarily, but they love the aggressive strongman part, and even as Russia becomes a pariah in most of the world, conservatives still prefer him to anything liberal. Thus we saw signs, t-shirts, and other conservative gear since maybe 2018 reading, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”

But Trump didn’t bring that. It was there before he stopped being a joke.


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