Saturday, September 17, 2016

Editorial: Use & Abuse of Patriotism

For a brief time, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that claimed 2,996 lives on the morning of September 11, 2001, united the nation.

Ten months earlier the US had been split by a presidential election that ended with the Republican majority on the Supreme Court stopping the vote count in Florida and putting George W. Bush in the White House.

The evening of 9/11, 150 members of Congress returned to the Capitol, which had been evacuated that morning. They pushed aside party differences to gather on the Capitol steps and sing “God Bless America” together. Flags bloomed in neighborhoods across the country.

Of course, unity can be a mixed blessing. Three days after the attacks, Congress not only approved a $40 billion bill to put a down payment on military action, national security and reconstruction, but it also approved the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorized the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The AUMF has been used to justify military actions tangentially connected with al Qaeda and its successors, rivals and wannabes.

Then, on Oct. 24, 2001, the House rushed to approve the US PATRIOT Act, which sacrificed individual liberty as it streamlined security authority, one day after it was introduced. The House vote was 357-66. One day later, the Senate passed the bill 98-1..

On Oct. 11, 2002, Congress approved the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, giving Bush authority for the invasion of the oil-rich nation. In the November 2002 elections, Republicans regained control of the Senate and expanded their majority in the House, and Bush sought to turn that into a mandate. After the election, Congress approved the new Department of Homeland Security, which professionalized the sometimes rag-tag minimum-wage job of securing airports and moved to coordinate activities of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Approval ratings for lawmakers and the president soared. A Newsweek poll found 79% felt 9/11 would make the country stronger and more unified.

Hillary Clinton was a US senator representing New York from 2001 to 2009. She voted for the AUMF, the USA PATRIOT Act and the Iraq war resolution. She later criticized Bush’s rush to war and his refusal to let UN weapons inspectors complete their mission in Iraq. In December 2006, she said, ”Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote, and I certainly wouldn’t have voted for it.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, now denies that he supported the Iraq invasion. He even claimed in a Sept. 16, 2015 debate that he “fought very, very hard against us … going into Iraq,” saying he could provide “25 different stories” to prove his opposition. But PolitiFact, in a Feb. 19, 2016, analysis, found no evidence that he spoke against the war before it started. Indeed, when Howard Stern asked Trump on Sept. 11, 2002, if he supported invading Iraq, he replied, “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish it was, I wish the first time it was done correctly.” Trump expressed early concerns about the cost and direction of the war a few months after it started.

During the debate over the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act in December 2005, Clinton expressed concerns with its impact on civil liberties and in March 2006 she voted in favor of a compromise renewed act that passed by an 89–10 margin. She has a 75% lifetime rating from the American Civil Liberties Union from her eight years in the Senate. Clinton also was a co-sponsor of the Zadroga 9/11 Health Act, which finally was passed over Republican opposition in 2010 and funded medical treatment for responders and survivors who experienced health complications related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A December 2003 report by the Foundation Center detailed the “unprecedented outpouring of charitable support” following the 9/11 attacks, as nearly 1,300 foundations, corporations and other institutional donors gave a total of $1.1 billion for recovery and relief efforts. But Trump, the supposed friend of the workers, whose family first became wealthy renting apartments to the working class in Brooklyn and Queens, chose not to take part, William Bastone noted at

Trump claimed $150,000 in 9/11 relief money to reimburse him for recovery efforts in helping people out after the attacks, but documents obtained by the New York Daily News show that “Trump’s account was just a huge lie,” Cameron Joseph reported.

“Records from the Empire State Development Corp., which administered the recovery program, show that Trump’s company asked for those funds for ‘rent loss,’ ‘cleanup’ and ‘repair’ — not to recuperate money lost in helping people,” Joseph reported.

The government program was designed to help local businesses get back on their feet — not reimburse people for their charitable work.

Trump claims the money was “probably” meant as reimbursement “for the fact that I allowed people, for many months, to stay in the building, use the building and store things in the building.” But it wasn’t, Kevin Drum noted at As the Daily News noted, Trump’s application says it was for cleanup and repair, even though he had earlier said that his building wasn’t damaged. “It was not part of the program to give money away for the other ancillary stuff,” says David Catalfamo, who helped run the program. “The way the program worked was to help businesses cover for uninsured losses. Businesses came forward with their losses and we covered part of them.”

While many Americans still approve of infringing civil liberties of immigrants, Muslims and others in an attempt to prevent terrorism, we still have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than by a terrorist’s bullets. In 2015, 19 Americans were killed in terrorist-related shootings in Chattanooga, Tenn., and San Bernardino, Calif., and one American died in the November 2015 attack in Paris, noted, while according to the Gun Violence Archive, 13,471 people were killed in the US by firearms and 27,016 people were injured by gunfire. In fact, also noted that in 2015, toddlers under 3 years of age killed more Americans than Islamic terrorists, as 19 toddlers shot and killed themselves and two toddlers killed others.

While Trump has not advanced anti-toddler initiatives, much less proposals to ban gun sales to people on the Transportation Security Administration’s “no-fly” list, his blatantly xenophobic campaign, as well as anti-Islamic rhetoric from other conservative politicians, has helped fuel anti-Islamic sentiment throughout the country. Since the Paris attacks in December 2015, has recorded 103 instances of “egregious Islamophobia” in the US — an unprecedented spike, according to the Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Republicans clearly are hoping a terrorist attack before the election will scare voters into siding with Trump’s extremist views. Islamic jihadists doubtless would like to cooperate, knowing that a Trump presidency, with his demonization of Islam and his inability to distinguish between fundamentalists and more moderate forms of Islam, would provide a boon for worldwide recruiting of jihadists.

The first rule of fighting terrorism is: Do not let fear cause you to do stupid things. The best defense against Islamic jihadists in the US are Islamic communities that are as fully integrated into the United States as any other sect. We hope Hillary Clinton has learned those lessons. Trump seems unwilling or unable to learn them. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2016

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Selections from the October 1, 2016 issue

COVER/Steven Rosenfeld 
Dems’ hopes for Senate Majority hang by slim thread

Use and abuse of patriotism


Trump’s guilt-free campaign

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen 
Agri-chem is all around us

Trump Foundation scandal is real — and should be campaign-ending;
Low-wage workers storm state capitols for living wage;
Dems unite behind Social Security expansion;
Is Hillary right about Trump’s ‘deplorables’?
Kentucky governor: Clinton election may require 'blood to be shed';
Trump faces gap in Catholic support;
Fed isn't keeping interest rates too low ...

Washing our hands of toxins

Trump blows both ways on immigration

What the hell do you have to lose?

Wells Fargo makes case for bank watchdog

How much will the war on unions cost you?

TPP coming to Congress

Against evil

Tell us about that immigrant scourge, Mr. Builder

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
The many ways to lose

Which candidate will help with economy?

Silicon Valley billionaire bankrolls third-party litigation funder

The empire strikes back

Trade and the politics of backlash

Winners at the Olympic games

Trump’s traps

Sometimes a little trouble is necessary

Debate continues over protection or exploitation of public lands

Make love, not war

and more ...

Friday, September 16, 2016

Newsworthy: Quack gives a clean bill of health to conman. Not newsworthy: HRC talks about real path to citizenship

By Marc Jampole

Mark Twain would have changed the names and turned it into a hilarious short story: A charlatan physician interviews a charlatan businessman about his health.

For that’s what we’re talking about in the Mehmet Oz interview of Donald Trump. Oz, a medical doctor, has a television show on which he often touts unproved therapies and products, some of which he has a financial interest in. His current Wikipedia article notes “A study published in the British Medical Journal on the effectiveness of Oz's medical advice found that 51 percent of his recommendations had no scientific backing and rationale, or in some cases contradicted scientific evidence.

Much has been written about Donald Trump’s business quackery, but let’s do a brief review: Four bankruptcies leaving investors holding the bag. 3,500 lawsuits, many of which are for bills he hasn’t paid. His many failed branding ventures, including Trump steaks, vodka, airlines, mortgage broker, magazine, water, game and university, plus a professional football team. The low return on his investments over time, much lower than what he would have made if he had invested passively in the stock market using funds that track stock indices. The criminal actions filed against Trump University and the investigation into the Trump Foundation that have revealed real wrong-doing (unlike the various investigations of Hillary and the Clinton Foundation, which have found nothing illegal or unethical).

A bogus doc and a bogus moneymaker. But on TV, Oz plays a successful physician and Trump plays a successful businessman.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huckleberry and the runaway slave Jim meet two conmen in their travels, one of whom claims to be a Duke, the other of whom claims to be a King. Much of the book, often cited as the greatest of all American novels (I favor Catch 22), details the various cons the Duke and King play on the residents of small towns along the Mississippi.

Oz and Trump. The Duke and the King. It would make a wonderful satire, but as a real life event, it is tragic.

Oz must have gone to the Matt Lauer School of Autocrat Adulation, because he was at least as sycophantic and obsequious towards the Donald as Lauer had been during the Commander in Chief Forum. Although Donald Trump’s body mass index of just over 30 qualifies as obese, Oz said that Trumpty-Dumpty was “slightly overweight.” Why Oz felt that toadying to a narcissistic blowhard running for president was more important than reminding his audience of the problem of obesity in America will remain a mystery to all but Oz and his financial advisors. It was a shameful moment for a physician, but then again, no more shameful than supporting psychic communication with the dead, devoting a show to reparative therapy for gays and calling green coffee extract a miracle, all of which Oz has done.

I thought that Matt Lauer had asked the easiest, most friendly question in the history of the American news media when he inquired of the Donald whether he was studying foreign affairs to learn more. But Oz managed to throw an even slower, easier pitch to hit when he asked Trumpty-Dumpty, “When you look into the mirror what do you see?”  Trump evidently has some uncorrected visual difficulties because he looked past the gray at his temples, the crow’s feet, the double chin and the 60 pounds of extra padding and said he sees a 35-year-old man.

Like Lauer, Oz avoided the tough questions. Trump has released his recent medical test results, including the results of a testosterone test. That he took such a test should have been a red flag to Oz. Testosterone tests are not a routine part of an annual physical and are not and have never been recommended by any medical association for a healthy person without a particular set of symptoms.

WebMD lists the following reasons to conduct a testosterone test on an adult male:
·         See why he is having problems in fathering a child (infertility).
·         Check a man's sexual problems. Having a low level of testosterone may lower a man's sex drive or not allow him to have an erection (erectile dysfunction).
·         See if testosterone-lowering drugs are working in a man with advanced prostate cancer.
·         Find the cause of osteoporosis.

The release of testosterone test results provides highly circumstantial evidence that we did not get a complete list of the medicines Trumpty-Dumpty regularly takes. But Oz did not ask anything about the oddness of a healthy man with no complaints having this test.

Even Oz’s kid glove treatment would not have prevented the Donald from doing severe damage to his campaign and self-image if the producers had not edited the show. Missing in the version that aired on television is a creepy incident that will make you want to jump in the shower and wash off the filth immediately. At a certain point, the good daughter Ivanka appears and Donald gives her a kiss. Oz gushes sentimentally that “It’s nice to see a father kiss his daughter.” Trumps proudly trumpets that, “I try to kiss her as much as possible.” Sick, creepy, and reminiscent of Trump’s other disturbing comments about having an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter. But most people will never know because Oz and/or his handlers cut it out. We wouldn’t want to point out that the emperor is naked, would we?

The quack’s interview of the creepy conman vied with a number of stories about the election as the top news of the day, including (using the front section of the New York Times):
·         Trump still refuses to admit president Obama was born in the United States.
·         Trump vows to create 25 million jobs over 10 years (but gives no details).
·         A Times/CBS poll about voter attitudes, finding voters say Trump lacks the temperament to be president, but is a transformative figure.
·         Trump releases a new letter from his doctor (talk about creepy and quacky!).
·         Democrats make a strategy adjustment as the race tightens, deciding to go after Stein and Johnson supporters.
·         Hillary Clinton returns to the campaign trail.

As a former news writer, field producer and on-air reporter, I have a very strong opinion about what should have been the lead story of the day: At a speech in front of a Latino organization, Hillary laid out in detail her immigration plan and stated explicitly that she wants to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

A Google News search uncovered zero stories about Hillary’s bold and beautiful immigration plan, nor on the impassioned and inspirational speech she gave. Of course, any reporter who saw the speech could no longer be able to say or write with a straight face that Hillary is distant, doesn’t connect with people, doesn’t smile, has no empathy and all the other crap reporters like to say to denigrate Hillary’s style, statements of value that would never be applied to her if she were a he.

Her speech was a perfect platform for a media outlet to contrast the immigration policies of the two candidates. Hillary wants a road to citizenship, Trump wants a wall. Such a story might even bring up the fact that illegal immigration is down so much that at this point more illegals are returning to their former countries than sneaking into the United States, thus negating the panic that Trumpty-Dumpty wants to instill in the American people.

Day after day, the mainstream news media fail to question Trump’s lies; create false equivalencies between the trustworthiness of the candidate who lied the least in the current election cycle and the one who has lied the most in history; focus on personalities instead of issues; create a false narrative about Hillary’s health and trust-worthiness; and spend way more time and space trying to find something wrong in her emails than reporting all the wrong in the dealings of the Trump organization, university and Foundation. The public sees the constant hammering of Clinton and they never learn the full extent of Trump’s lies and lunacy. What should have been a landslide is turning into a close race, and it’s all the fault of the mainstream news media.

Why is the media easy on Trumpty-Dumpty and hard on Hillary? I have developed several theories and read of others to explain the media’s double standard: 1) A close race and a focus on the buffoon Trump is good for ratings. 2) The news media and the wealthy industrialists who own and control them fear or dislike Clinton. 3) They’re trying to “thread the needle,” which means make the race close enough that the Democrats don’t take back the Senate and win the House. 4) Reporters and editors, who so cleverly could find ways to support Bush II in 2000, the Iraq War at its inception, the Tea Party and the absolutely false notion that you solve a recession by balancing the federal budget, suddenly are helpless in dealing with a lying buffoon. 5) They really don’t want a woman to be president. 6) There may even be a class system explanation: that the news media always tend to like the candidate who was born to the manor, or the closest to it of the candidates.

Frankly, I still think it comes down to keeping taxes low for the wealthy. The wealthy elite who own and control most of the news media would rather risk giving the country over to a trigger-happy, sociopathic, racist, mendacious crook who has failed at everything he ever did that did not exclusively include self-promotion than to see their taxes go up.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Let’s learn from mistakes made to respond to 9/11: no more torture, racism, stupid wars

By Marc Jampole

The prevailing sentiment over the United States as we commemorated the 15th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 attack has been one of ineffably deep sadness, but of one kind: the sadness of loss. We have felt enormous loss individually and collectivity.

Missing has been the sadness of regret or remorse. For the most part, the news media and celebrations have not conjured the damage done to thousands of our soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as part of our reaction to the barbarism committed 15 years ago. We did not think of the global torture gulag we created in reaction to 9/11, nor of the physical pain and mental anguish we inflicted on hundreds of men—some innocent bystanders, others our sworn enemies, but all fellow human beings. We did not think of the irrational Islamophobia that rages among certain parts of our population, and which has led to domestic discrimination and violence. We did not think of our national degradation still operating in Guantanamo. We did think of the thousands of soldiers with terrible physical and psychic wounds still clogging our veterans hospitals, but we glorified them instead of viewing them as more victims of a senseless war.

To contemplate the brutal stupidity which characterized many of the actions taken in the name of the United States and individually by U.S. citizens as a response to 9/11 undercuts the image of the United States as an innocent country, a pure victim, which was a major theme of the commemorations.

But not to think about these ugly truths prevents us from learning from our mistakes.

If we factor out 9/11 from the statistics, we would find that deaths from terrorism in the United States are way down since the days of rage of the 1960’s and 1970’s. As it is, individual acts of terrorism are way down. This reduction of violence by those opposed to our government and/or our way of life fits neatly into the overall crime trends: Murders are way down compared to 50, 40 and 30 years ago. Violent crime is way down. The murder of police officers is way down. Except for the minority of Americans who keep firearms in our homes, we are much safer and live in a much less violent society than we used to.

And yet Republicans, and their reality TV candidate Trumpty-Dumpty, have managed to convince millions of people to cower in fear and consider irrational and sometimes un-American tactics. They present magic elixirs that will only make us less safe: loosening gun control laws, when in fact, those who live with guns are more likely to get hurt or killed by them than those living in the most unsafe neighborhood in America; reinstituting “waterboarding and worse,” as Trumpty-Dumpty put it, which doesn’t work, is illegal and will prove to many that what ISIS says about us is true; fomenting Islamophobia, Latinophobia and other forms of racism, which only further enrages those who hate us.

Generally speaking, the Republicans seem unwilling to learn any of the lessons from 9/11, mainly because they are unwilling to admit that violent crime and domestic terrorism are down and that throwing our military weight around internationally doesn’t work. When it comes to how we prevent and address terrorism in the United States, the Democrats have learned much from our mistakes following 9/11, as demonstrated by their platform, the inclusiveness of their party, candidates and convention and the measured words they use when characterizing our enemies.

Internationally, if the Republicans are D students, we can only give Democrats a C+ at best. The Dems won’t return to torture and are more likely to achieve a solid peace with Iran. But both parties accept the basic premises that have guided U.S. foreign policy since World War II. Both sides of the aisle seem dedicated to using our armed forces and our treaties to protect the business interests of large international companies, butting our noses into the business of other countries and playing a geo-political game for hegemonic control of other regions of the world.

Until we turn to a foreign policy based on engaging the world, not dominating it, we will not fully learn the lessons of 9/11. Another easy choice: Trumpty-Dumpy is dedicated to dominating; it’s in the essential nature of his dangerous narcissism. Hillary talks about engaging the world instead of dominating it, but her past actions and current proposals show she’s of two minds. Better than Trumpty-Dumpty and better enough to deserve our votes, but still not good.