Monday, July 25, 2016

15 reasons to vote against Donald Trump, which means voting for only candidate who can beat him, HRC

By Marc Jampole

I really just wanted to write a tidy little list cataloguing 10 reasons to vote against Donald Trump, by which I mean vote for the only other viable candidate, Hillary Clinton. I wanted 10 reasons, each of which would in and of itself disqualify Trump or would be enough to make the reasonable person vote against him. My bar was high—and yet I still couldn’t winnow my list down to any fewer than 15 reasons that Donald Trump is completely unqualified to be president and would be a disaster if elected.

Ordering the list was a challenge. The Letterman approach of going from least to most important doesn’t apply because so many of Trump’s past actions, expressed beliefs and character traits are so odious and inappropriate in the leader of any country, let alone the world’s oldest democracy.

For every list item, I merely scratch the surface of Trump’s offenses. For example, if I included every lie Trump has ever told in public, it would make a book comprising thousands of pages.
  1. He is an extreme narcissist whose lack of self-control, overweening self-regard and belief that all things revolve around his own needs makes him dangerously close to sociopathic, if not already over the line. There is no telling when Trump could have a breakdown or in a momentary pique of grandiosity and or anger do something that would hurt the country, such as attack a country or insult an ally.
  2. He lies in virtually every statement.  Where to begin? As of the end of June, 123 out 158 Trump statements checked by PolitiFact were mostly false, false and “pants on fire” false. His “Law and Order” campaign is based on the triple lie that violent crime, police killings and domestic terrorism are up, when they are all down. His most disgusting lie was when he said in an early debate that he knew someone whose child became autistic after being vaccinated; imagine if benighted parents used Trump’s false anecdote as the reason not to vaccinate their children. Trump also has a well-documented history of lying in his past business dealings, too, such as when he promised New Jersey regulatory authorities he wouldn’t float junk bonds to finance a casino, but then did it anyway.
  3. He failed at the businesses that have an application to governing. Trump failed miserably at his original two businesses, real estate development and casinos, in the process sending four separate enterprises into bankruptcy. Both these businesses can prepare someone to govern. Of business less relevant to running a large bureaucracy, he was a successful television performer and his business as a brand marketer has had mixed results. One analysis found that if Trump had passively invested his inheritance in the stock market he would have twice his current worth as estimated by Forbes magazine, which makes him a complete flopper. 
  4. He is a racist. That can be no doubt that Donald Trump behaves in the way racists behave and says what racists say. His many comments about Mexicans and Muslims take the structure and use the language of racists. As Nicholas Kristoff detailed in a recent New York Times piece, Trump has a long history of racist behavior. The Nixon Administration (!!) sued the Trumps’ real estate firm twice for discriminating against blacks in renting apartments while Donald was president of the company. One casino worker reported that when the Trumps came to visit, the managers would hide all the black employees so Trump wouldn’t know they had any. The man is on record as saying that it’s not their fault that blacks are lazy, because “laziness is a trait in blacks.” Then there was the malicious birther campaign and his reluctance to distance himself from white supremacy groups. Disgusting!
  5. He is unknowledgeable about issues and doesn’t want to learn. Trump has said on a number of occasions that he is smarter than experts who have studied an issue for years. His narcissism is so great that he not only believes that he’s the smartest person around, he doesn’t think he has anything to learn from anyone else. Some of his most outrageously ignorant statements have been that there is no drought in California that he could make Mexico pay for a wall separating the two countries and that he would keep first-strike use of nuclear weapons on the table.
  6. He is a misogynist. To quote an article in the Daily Beast, “Donald Trump’s hateful musings about women and his boastful claims of sexual dominance should be reason alone to drive him from polite society and certainly to blockade him from the West Wing.” For one thing, he seems to judge women on looks alone, and his definition of good looks involves a narrow, fashion- and surgery-enhanced look that has for about 70 years communicated a woman’s subservience to and possession by men. He invariably comments on a woman’s looks when discussing her competence.
  7. He does not carry himself with the dignity of office. His frequent insults, his vulgar language, his tendency to go off script and to fly off the handle, his inability to hide his emotions, his reduction of all issues to winning and losing, his uncontrollable desire to rub it in when he gets the best of someone, his many exaggerations all make him an inappropriate candidate—a bull in a China shop of foreign relations which his immature and coarse behavior will quickly shatter.
  8. He is not trustworthy, as is proven by the 3,500 lawsuits he and his company are involved in, most having to do with his non-payment to vendors, many small business, for services rendered to Trump’s family or companies.
  9. He wants to bring back waterboarding and other torture. Like many of his major policy proscriptions, his love of torture is based on either misinformation or lies.  All independent studies show torture doesn’t work, but even if it did, it is against U.S. and international law and the morality shared by all major religions.
  10. He wants to lower taxes on the wealthy. That’s right. The Donald talks a good populist game about the impact of trade and the decline of manufacturing, but like all Republicans, his actual policies tend to help the wealthy and to reinforce the trend of growing inequality of wealth and income in the United States, starting with lowering taxes on rich folk even more than their already historically low levels.
  11. His election will enable Republicans to pack the Supreme Court with rightwing activists. Anthony Scalia would be delighted if he had taken a look at the list of people Trump said he would consider for the Supreme Court. It’s a litany of rightwingers just chomping at the bit to extend the rights of corporations, expand gun rights, end Obamacare, reduce voting rights and criminalize abortion.
  12. The Republican platform. If Trump weren’t bad enough the platform he is running on is the most regressive, rightwing set of ideals and legislative goals in at least 100 years. Some platform planks include privatizing both Medicare and Social Security; ending gay marriage; allowing parents to put their LGBTQ children through “conversion” therapy; including Bible study in public education; declaring coal is a clean fuel and encouraging the use of coal; lowering taxes on the wealthy; and opposing a woman’s right to have an abortion.
  13. His election puts Mike Pence one heartbeat away from the presidency. To a progressive, liberal or centrist, Mike Pence is a disaster—an almost clone of Ted Cruz when it comes to fringe social, economic and foreign policies. Except he may be more unhinged than Cruz, if that is possible. He was the only Republican to vote against the bank bailout. In 1998, he said that smoking doesn’t kill people. As governor, he signed a law that makes it easier for businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples. He signed a law now under appeal that bans women from having abortions because the fetus has a disability like Down syndrome. He has a 22% rating from the National Association of Colored People and a 7% rating from the American Civil Liberties Union. In other words, Pence is another uneducated small-town moralist scared of diversity and wanting to impose his stilted male-centric morality on all other people.
  14. He could be in cahoots with Vladimir Putin. There have been hints of a Trump-Putin axis for months. Trump has often displayed open admiration for Putin’s strongman tactics. Trump stated that he wouldn’t necessarily come to the defense of NATO allies. His campaign manager used to work for Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a Putin puppet. In a recent column, Paul Krugman points out that Trump has extensive if “murky” involvement with Russian businesses and wealthy Russian individuals that may have ties to Putin. We have already had two presidential candidates—both Republican—make promises to foreign countries to help them win elections. In the first case, Nixon had the South Vietnamese government boycott the Paris negotiations to end the war until after the 1968 election. In the second, Reagan promised Iran arms if it didn’t release the hostages until after the 1980 election. Have Trump and Putin hammered out a similar deal? 
  15. Hillary Clinton is a competent, honest, experienced and trustworthy candidate in the tradition of other left-leaning centrists like FDR and LBJ.  Hillary’s competence and caring positions should make reason #15 the strongest on the entire list, but I recognize that Hillary is a hard sell to many after 25 years of unwithering false attacks by Republicans, often financed by the money of billionaires like Richard Scaife Mellon and the Koch brothers. Subsequent columns after the Democratic Convention ends will make what I think will be a very convincing case for Hillary.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The very bad Ted Cruz has one shining moment telling GOP convention not to vote for Trump

By Marc Jampole

Though not much into predictions, I’m fairly certain that John Kasich and Ted Cruz will inherit the mantle of leadership of the Republican Party after Donald Trump and the Republican ticket get crushed in November. On the surface, it looks as if there are real differences between them, but their differences revolve around style only. Both will seek to end Obamacare and the legal right of women to have abortions. Both will fight against an increase in the minimum wage and for a decrease in taxes for the wealthy. Both will slow down our response to global warming. Kasich will do it with a smile and Cruz with a churlish grimace.

While a few have condemned John Kasich for not endorsing Trump and not taking part in any part of the GOP National Convention, held in his state’s largest city, most of the news media have applauded his stand as heroic and principled.

But what Ted Cruz did was braver. He went into the lion’s den and spoke truth, at least his truth, which is shared by about 20% of the voters. He stood there and took the verbal abuse hurled at him by the pro-Trump crowd, calmly making his points.

It was his finest moment as a politician and a person, but more striking is that it was his only fine moment in his political career, as his time in the public light has mostly been spent on meaningless political stunts for suspect causes. There was a stunt-like quality, too, about explicitly not endorsing Trump in front of the entire convention on day three of the Trump coronation, very much like his shutdown of the government to protest Obamacare in 2013. But the difference in context made the Cruz-engineered shutdown the self-destructive act of a spoiled toddler and his speech before a hostile audience an act of political bravery that will be rewarded in the future, but only if Trump loses, and especially if he drags down the Senate and the House with him.

Don’t get me wrong. I despise Ted Cruz. From what I can tell, he is the second most despicable politician on the current national scene after Donald Trump, and certainly as despicable as anyone since Nixon. But I see the impact of his political program as no different from that of John Kasich. Nor from those of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio either, for that matter. Economically, they want the same thing. They all want to lower taxes on the wealthy and cut social welfare programs. All want to let in immigrants who help large corporations keep wages down while building a wall. None of these guys has any experience in foreign affairs, so despite the relative bellicosity of Cruz, all four would follow the recommendations of the continuing Republican foreign policy establishment, which is decidedly Neo-con, prone to send troops and unabashedly opposed to any reconciliation with Iran, probably because their foreign policy prescriptions seem to track so well with the best interests of Saudi Arabia.

Notice I haven’t mentioned Paul Ryan. His craven submission to Donald Trump, all the while winking that he doesn’t mean it, has been criticized in the mainstream media for cowardice and willingness to sacrifice principle for the Party. In contrast to Kasich and Cruz, Ryan does seem to be a wimp. Before the cavemen among my readers blame Ryan’s weakness on his intellectualism, keep in mind that that intellectualism is merely his brand, that his program is very short on specifics except for lowering taxes on the wealthy and that he has the barest of academic credentials, especially when compared to the Ted Cruz, who pretends to be a hick but has an ivied, establishment set of credentials. Let’s note that Marco Rubio also buckled under and endorsed Trump in convention speeches.

Ted Cruz is a worm, but on the third night of the Republican National Convention, he was a hero.

We do need to clarify what Cruz meant when he said “Vote your conscience, up and down the ticket.” He did not say “Abstain from voting.” He did not say, “Vote for the Libertarian candidate.” He did not say, “Write in for me.” No, he said “Vote your conscience, up and down the ticket” which at the very least means consider voting for Hillary Clinton.

But let’s look into the conscience—the deepest recesses of the intellect—of people like Cruz, Ryan, Kasich, McConnell, Rubio, Romney, the Bushes and other Republican leaders. Many of the delegates may have been brainwashed by 25 years of lies and innuendos about the Clintons, but these men of government and two-party politics know that Clinton is an ethical person who has never committed a serious crime or done anything that even resembles self-dealing or traitorous while in government. They don’t really believe any of the garbage they say about Hillary.

It is possible, then, to infer into Ted Cruz’s statement “Vote your conscience” the message that you should vote for the most competent, experienced, level-headed and stable of the two major party candidates, Hillary Clinton. I know that Cruz went on to excoriate Clinton and say her election would be a disaster. But when you say, “Vote your conscience, up and down the ticket” what you are really saying is “split the ticket” which is understood by virtually everyone to mean that you should vote for a different Party’s candidate for president than you do for other offices. To most people, that will mean voting for Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

GOP speakers paint a dystopic, dangerous world deteriorating under Obama, but offer no facts because they have none

By Marc Jampole

Jokes about a Republican fact-free universe have circled the late-night and high-brow magazine circuits since the Bush-Cheney public relations program to build support for the invasion of Iraq. On the first day of the 2016 Republic National Convention, we got to see what a fact-free universe looks like.

Speaker after speaker bemoaned that the United States is under siege, rapidly being destroyed from within by the actions of a weak president and his sketchy former secretary of state. They painted a picture of an America cowering before both domestic and foreign threats. They advocated strong actions against our enemies with a harsh, merciless bellicosity. Many blamed immigrants, the Muslim religion and the supporters of “Black Lives Matter.”

But where were the facts? There were none, because studies show that over the past 40 years, cop killings are down, the rate of violent crime is half of what it was in 1990, and there are fewer acts of domestic terrorism than in the turbulent 1960s. Illegal immigration is currently almost nonexistent and legal immigration is already tightly controlled.

I’m not saying that we don’t have problems in these areas, but the fear-mongering speakers at the GOP National Convention exaggerated the current dangers to a degree that borders on explicit lying. The current publicity stemming from tragedies such as Ferguson (cops killed), Dallas (cops are killed) and Orlando (U.S.-born terrorist) may represent an upturn in crime and terrorism or may just be highly publicized anecdotes of tragic violence. We won’t know for a few years. But the Republicans use these incidents as proof that we face more dangers now than eight years ago. Then again, the Republicans have long argued from anecdote, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s welfare queens and Bush Senior’s demonization of parolee Willie Horton. It’s Donald Trump’s preferred method.

The Republicans were able to get through the entire night fact-free, with the exception of the very angry Sheriff of Milwaukee County, who quoted a recent study that did not measure rates of crime or terrorism, but public perceptions. The survey found that the public is more fearful than a few years ago—of course, why wouldn’t they be when rightwing and mainstream news routinely feature this collection of roid-raged Chicken Littles? The Sheriff was talking about how people feel, not about the reality of falling crime, which he denied by hiding behind an attitudinal study.

Virtually every speech closed with the same words, “God bless the United States.” Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, the traitor who went over the heads of U.S. negotiators to deal directly with Iran via a threatening letter, said, “God calls us to serve.” (FYI, CNN, which treated the first night of the convention as if it were the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, was trying to sell Cotton to the public as a 2020 candidate for president if Trump doesn’t win.) Didn’t this procession of saintly authoritarians ever think that maybe their god was giving them a message through the U.S. failures in Iraq and Afghanistan? Heaven to America: stop invading other countries. Of course, many in the audience believe that their god is punishing the United States for allowing LGBTQ rights, abortion, the teaching of evolution, birth control and other abominations.

Besides seeking the blessing of their deity, the other thing that virtually every speaker did was to condemn President Obama and Hillary Clinton for not using the term “Islamic terrorism.” This insistence by every speaker that not using those precise words—“Islamic terrorism”—bordered on the criminal has tremendous significance.

First, it symbolized how little they really can criticize Barack Obama. Many speakers advocated that the United States do what it is already doing. Many talked of war and violence, without recommending a single measure that would endanger American lives. With no specifics with which to indict Obama and Clinton, they reverted to becoming language police. Unless they use these exact words, the GOP states, nothing Obama or Clinton do will help keep us safe.

The words themselves, “Islamic terrorism” are particularly important to these Bible-touting Christians because it communicates that we are in a Holy War against those of another faith. While occasionally paying lip service to inclusiveness and diversity, the GOP wants us to connect terrorism with the religion of Islam. The GOP conveniently forgets that Christians still commit the majority of acts of terrorism and mass murders taking place in the United States. Obama, Clinton, Kerry and the State Department avoid the term “Islamic terrorism” because they understand that the terrorists represent a miniscule part of Islam and they don’t want other Muslims to think we are blaming them or lumping them in with people they themselves despise.

Keep in mind, too, that “Islamic terrorism” is one small piece of a large racially-tinged lexicon that Republicans have employed since the inception of Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy.”

The insistence on shaming Obama and Clinton for not using two words also contrasts the styles of the parties and the candidates who will represent them in the fall. Obama and Clinton take studied, fact-based approaches to problems, attempt to understand all sides and try to reach consensus. Their careful phraseology reflects all these concerns. Donald Trump and all the other Republicans want to dominate, humiliate and crush. They see a world of good guys and bad guys, and if you’re a good guy, you can do anything, even bad guy stuff.

Beyond these political concerns of attacking the opposition and claiming the beneficence of a caring deity, the focus on the use of language fits right into the Trump ideology because it is concerned most with branding reality. The constant disparagement of Obama for failing to use two words was an example of branding the other side. 

The Trump brand is based on the lie that everything the Donald touches turns to gold. In reality, he failed as a real estate developer and casino owner, then succeeded as an entertainer and a brand marketer, although it should be pointed out that most of the businesses selling merchandise with the Trump brand have failed. Trump wants us to believe that his genius will fix everything, perhaps merely by his getting involved with addressing the problem. Trump slapped his name on vodka and claimed it was better. He slapped his name on a hotel room and claimed it was better. He slapped his name on a steak and claimed it was better. His campaign consists of saying that he will slap his name on solutions to problems—some which don’t even exist—and they will be solved. Too bad that while Trump was always a genius in branding, he proved almost always to be a failure at actually doing things, such as running casinos or building curricula.

The first night of the Republican convention was about slapping a negative brand on Obama, Clinton and the Democrats. To do so, they slapped a negative brand on our current world.