First the good news of the week – the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) easement for the land adjacent to the Sioux tribal land, which was jeopardizing their water and their sacred lands, has been denied by the Army Corp of Engineers. They will prepare an environmental impact statement and review alternate routes. Although wonderful news, this is not the end of the battle, but it is a good start. This entire episode has been a terrifying glimpse into what oligarchy looks like. And has been abysmally under reported by our media. We have been using the full weight of the powers of the state of North Dakota and the federal government to actively assault peaceful protesters. This was both embarrassing globally for the breadth of the human rights violations and frightening – and the lack of media coverage or signs of interest from anyone in Washington, DC (and a statement of support for DAPL from the Trump camp) should worry us as a nation more than it seems to – apparently because we are far more interested in the Twitter rant of the hour.
And on that note…
For our president-elect, this has surely been a strange week. You fulfill a campaign promise to keep companies from moving manufacturing jobs out of the US, and those liberals and elitists find fault. You accept a congratulatory call from the leader of Taiwan and everyone is all up in arms. You discover that a large crowd at a victory rally is damn hard once the election is over because now the secret service presidential protection rules apply, and some people can’t even get there to see you. But the good new is that you can still get lots of press by Tweeting in the middle of the night. And distraction is the better part of governing.
So in a week full of bad deals, diplomatic blunders, interesting choices for senior administration officials, and bad-press-inducing tweets, there’s been quite a bit of noise and distraction. So what does it look like minus the distractions?
First, let’s take a look at the Carrier deal without the hyperbole coming from the left or right. Carrier is owned by a defense contractor, United Technologies. This is an important thing to understand about the deal, and make no mistake, there almost certainly was a small amount of government-contract related strong-arming involved. But in the end, Carrier, for $7,000,000 worth of tax incentives from the state of Indiana – where those jobs are located and where vice-president-elect Mike Pence is still serving as governor – has agreed to stay. This itself, although expensive for the state, is good PR and is easily sold as an indication of good things to come for blue collar workers from our incoming president. In fact, a couple of people have told me that this is a promise fulfilled and a sign of good things to come. But, let’s reality check for a moment, if we may be so ‘negative’. This deal was not, by almost any interpretation, a good deal. Although precise details about the deal are limited, it appears that Carrier is keeping somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 jobs in Indiana that had been destined for Mexico (the number seems to be between 800 and 1100 depending on who is talking- but the higher numbers may include headquarters personnel that were not expected to be moved). The state of Indiana has been compelled by their departing governor to spend approximately $7000 per employeee for those jobs. Neither Carrier, nor its parent, really gave up much of anything. And in fact, it appears that another 700 jobs at another plant are still slated to be moved out of the country. And a further 600 at another United Technologies subsidiary are also scheduled to move. And for anyone that feels it is only the ‘liberals’ that are criticizing the deal, it is worth pointing out that Fox News ran a not very enthusiastic article about the deal on Thursday, and the Wall Street Journal, a paper not known for its Marxist views, seems not to appreciate the finer points of the deal, either. In an OpEd piece that ran on Friday, the paper stated, after some strong wording related to the support of policies from Trump that conservatives would never accept from Obama:
“In that spirit, his Carrier shakedown is a short-term political victory that will hurt workers and the economy if it becomes the norm for the next four years.”
And then there’s Taiwan. Where Trump may or may not have been considering real estate development over the past couple of years. And who probably called to congratulate him – but those calls are scheduled and do not just happen magically on a whim. And by having a high-level conversation, he annoyed China (although they were more annoyed at Taiwan), and undid nearly 40 years on diplomatic non-relations. Is that bad? Possibly. Might depend on where you stand on US relations with China. Way back when – in the early 1970’s – the US got panda bears as gifts and played ping-pong with the Chinese players in return for Richard Nixon’s pragmatic decsion to open relations with communist mainland China. Taiwan took that news badly and our diplomatic relations began to splinter – it was either them or the mainland – there could be only one China. When China was admitted to the UN Security Council – with our support – our relationship with Taiwan (which China considers merely another state of theirs) shut down. And we essentially haven’t had an official diplomatic relationship since 1979. Presumably we still don’t. I think both China’s have an intractable disagreement that is not really solvable – especially since China thinks that Taiwan is not an independent country. This pretty much makes diplomatic relations with both of them at the same time impossible – no matter what, there is diplomatically only one China. But maybe Trump can still build a hotel or open a casino – after all, as president, the possiblilities are virtually endless. Sadly.
And throughout the week, there seems to have been one stupid tweet after another from the future ‘leader of the free world’. I sincerely wish someone would take away his Twitter account. The big problem, honestly, with his bizarre tweets is not the the content of those tweets (disturbing as some have been). Yes, it’s very bad when the president-elect cheerfully tweets that flag burners should be imprisoned or have their citizenship revoked. And while it indicates, again, that he may lack a passing familiarity with our constitution – or previous court decisions around flag-burning – all of his tweeting serves to bolster his ego by keeping him in news, keeps the less well-informed parts of his base happy with him and hating the dissenters. More alarmingly, the outrageous tweets, and the continual press coverage of nonsense, serves to keep us distracted from things that might actually matter. Like DAPL, like his remarkable fondness for Goldman Saks alumni in his cabinet and administrative picks, like the movement of the House of Representatives to destroy Medicare. Or to repeal (and then probably delay the actual repeal) the Affordable Care Act. Or the push to pass yet another ‘religious freedom’ bill that is nothing more than a license to discriminate. Or to pick a very wealthy women who believes not at all in public education, and who helped architect a disasterous voucher program in Michigan, as Secretary of Education.
We need to stop allowing ourselves to be distracted by the outrageous and manuafactured outrage (isn’t it nearly time for the ubiquitous, and non-existent, “War on Christmas”), and keep our focus where it needs to be – on the administrative and legislative damage that can, and will, be done, if we don’t remain vigilant. Twitter wars are not where we need to be focused.
“The key element of social control is the strategy of distraction that is to divert public attention from important issues and changes decided by political and economic elites, through the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information.” — Noam Chomsky