Saturday, October 1, 2016

Editorial: No Time to Let Up

Hillary Clinton mopped the floor with Donald Trump during the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, but it would be dangerous to think this will open up the race for Clinton.

Trump appeared to be doing well for the first 15 minutes of the debate, when he was criticizing American trade policy and talking about job losses as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade pacts that have encouraged manufacturers to move their factories to take advantage of low-wage workers across the southern border and overseas. (Trump, of course, has low-cost foreign workers making ties and other items in his apparel line.)

Then Clinton started to score on Trump, calling his tax plan “Trumped-up trickle down,” which would cut taxes on the wealthy, in a replay of the Bush-Cheney economic policy that sent the US into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. She noted that Trump rooted for the housing collapse because he could make money off it, and he interjected, “That’s called business, by the way.” She noted that Trump said climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, which he denied. Of course, he did tweet on Nov. 6, 2012, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

She also poked Trump about the millions of dollars his dad loaned him to set him up in business. Trump replied that it wasn’t that much. Soon Trump was yelling at Clinton and interrupting her as well as moderator Lester Holt.

About a half hour into the debate, Clinton was wondering what Trump was concealing with his refusal to release his tax returns, Trump was sniffling and rambling, and Republican strategist Frank Luntz tweeted, “Even Trump-leaners agree with Hillary. They want to see his taxes.”

Later, Luntz tweeted, “Hillary Clinton has learned how to bait Trump. He doesn’t know how to not take it. Her attacks work. His defenses don’t.”

As Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga noted at DailyKos, “That Luntz tweet is quite remarkable. Luntz is the conservative message guru who gave us ‘death tax,’ ‘job-killing,’ ‘health care rationing’ and ‘job creator.’ And here he is, with one of his focus groups, admitting that Clinton is winning the debate.”

As the debate neared the end, Luntz noted that a Republican friend of his had tweeted, “She just comes across as my bitchy wife/mother.” Luntz replied, “I’m sorry, Congressman, but tonight Hillary is coming across as presidential.” In his focus group, Luntz noted, six people said Trump won and 16 said Clinton. Post-debate polls confirmed that Clinton won by a large margin.

Hillary Clinton has a structural advantage in the presidential race. Trump has alienated women, blacks, Latino and Muslim voters and Nate Silver on Sept. 22 noted that Clinton is leading in exactly the states she needs to win the 270 electoral votes. But that assumes she wins Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the race is currently close enough to vie for the role of “tipping point state.” Senate races in all four of those states add to the drama, and Democrats would gain three of the four seats they need to regain a Senate majority if they sweep those states. If Clinton can win Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, it would pad her electoral lead and possibly swing at least a couple other Senate seats to the Democratic side.

Clinton cannot afford to lose disgruntled former Bernie Sanders supporters to Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green candidate Jill Stein — nor should she. Johnson is basically a right-wing Republican who wants to legalize marijuana, but Kevin Drum noted at that among other things Johnson also supports is the Trans-Pacific Partnership and fracking, while he opposes any federal programs to make college more affordable or reduce student debt — in fact, Johnson wants to abolish student loans entirely, and he thinks the Citizens United court decision that relaxed controls on money in politics is great.

Stein is a progressive candidate who has never held elective office higher than her town council and she simply can’t get elected. And Stein isn’t that far left of Clinton after the Democratic nominee adopted 90% of Sanders’ agenda — including raising taxes on the wealthy, with a 65% tax on estates valued at $1 billion or more per couple, up from the current 40% maximim. That would pay for investments in infrastructure and programs to benefit the working class, including financial assistance for college students. Trump wants to cut income taxes, repeal the estate tax and cut aid for college students. Clinton wants to promote solar panels and sustainable energy. Trump doesn’t believe in climate change and loves fossil fuels.

Those are among the reasons Sanders asked his supporters to work for Clinton’s election. “This is not the time for a protest vote, in terms of a presidential campaign,” he said at a Sept. 16 rally in New Paltz, N.Y., for progressive Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout. “I ran as a third-party candidate. I’m the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress. I know more about third-party politics than anyone else in the Congress, okay? And if people want to run as third-party candidates, God bless them! Run for Congress. Run for governor. Run for state legislature. When we’re talking about president of the United States, in my own personal view, this is not time for a protest vote. This is time to elect Hillary Clinton and then work after the election to mobilize millions of people to make sure she can be the most progressive president she can be.”

One of the hallmarks of Trump’s campaign is his practice of accusing his opponents of abuses that Trump himself has engaged in. While he has accused his opponents of lying, nonpartisan PolitiFact has found his statements to be the most at variance with the facts of any candidate in the Democratic or Republican primaries. Yet Trump insists that Clinton can’t be trusted.

Trump has criticized Hillary Clinton’s activities related to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which Trump said was “the most corrupt enterprise in political history.” But no cases have been uncovered of foundation donors receiving official favors from Mrs. Clinton, and the Clinton foundation spent $242 million in 2014, with about 88% of its budget spent on programs worldwide, CharityWatch reported in April, as it gave the foundation an “A” grade.

In comparison, David Farenthold of the Washington Post reported that Trump, who hasn’t donated to his own Donald J. Trump Foundation since 2008, has used money donated to the foundation to buy a six-foot painting of himself in 2007; sports memorabilia in 2012; and $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013, when Biondi’s office was considering whether to launch an investigation into allegations of fraud by Trump University. Biondi did not pursue the investigation.

Trump also has accused Mrs. Clinton of being a “gun grabber” who would repeal the Second Amendment, when she has called for expanded background checks on all gun buyers to keep weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals and the severely mentally ill. However, Trump has called for reimposition of “stop and frisk” practices in urban centers, which amount to random police shakedowns of “suspicious-looking” black and brown men in a search for guns and drugs. So Trump actually is the “gun grabber” who wants to set aside civil liberties.

In perhaps the most ominous charge of all, Trump has insisted that the elections will be rigged. Republicans around the country have been enacting rules to suppress working-class and minority voters. Like Bernie Sanders said, this is not the election to cast a protest vote. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2016

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Selections from the October 15, 2016 issue

COVER/Chauncey Devega
Racism and complicit media keep Trump close — but it won’t be enough

No time to let up


RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Dead zones expanding to a body of water near you

Newspapers finally call Trump a liar;
Dem women posed for major gains in Congress;
Media blackout on Trump campaign scandal with Russia;
Congress faces shutdown fight over help for Flint;
Judge threatens Kansas voter suppressor;
Health insurance lobbyists fire volley ...

Skyrocketing Obamacare premiums? Not in comparison to employer plans;
Cal is most business-friendly state;
Trump wants fewer food safety regulations;
Stein: Trump is lesser evil 

Organic farms sacrifice sustainability to cut costs

Strangling ag conservation

The imposter in the red ball cap

Annoying reminders NC is part of the US

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
When states play doctor with abortion

Who will make top-ranked colleges affordable?

The foundation and other conundrums

Trade and the lessons of Verizon

Hillary and I made the same mistakes

‘Asia Pivot’ looks like US policy to control Asia

Athletics, philanthropists and schools

Changing the metrics of addiction

Another trade pact looms across the Atlantic

AFL-CIO to planet earth: Drop dead

Strummer left balm and battle cries for left

Stone’s ‘Snowden,’ a hero for the ages

and more ...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Blaming Hillary for her husband’s transgressions is perhaps the single most stupid strategy in political history

By Marc Jampole

One of the classic motifs of female empowerment movies is the woman victimized by a man or men who comes back strong, and either makes herself a success or wreaks vengeance on her former oppressor or both. Think of She-Devil, the Bridget Jones movies, The First Wives Club, Working Girl, The Heat, Double Jeopardy, 9 to 5, Enough, Norma Jean, Legally Blond, Woody Allen’s Celebrity, What’s Love Got to Do With It, Thelma and Louise, and Beauty Shop to name just a few movies over the past few decades that appropriate the female-victim-to-victory plot in one way or another.

The journey from victim to victory resonates strongly in books and movies because it describes the lives of so many women, especially of the Baby Boom generation, which really was the cutting edge of the various feminist movements. Successful movies tend to reflect the aspirations, fears and hopes of the public. Women and men both cheer for the wronged woman as she puts her life together and blossoms into a successful person, whether or not she gets her revenge, and whether or not we also like her initial spouse (who is sometimes a sympathetic roué). And with good reason: most women will know a woman who has been hurt by a man who cheated on or mistreated her, or will have experienced it herself.

In the 2016 political campaign version of this movie, Hillary Clinton plays the heroine. To try to blacken her reputation or bona fides as a champion for women’s rights by invoking sexual scandals that are now two decades old is a move bound to backfire. None but the dyed-in-the-polyester Hillary haters will believe that her actions or comments about Bill’s women were particularly vicious or anti-woman. Her few nasty comments about some of her husband’s accusers in fact seem quite restrained compared to what I have heard my cousins and women friends say about the men who were unfaithful to them. Men, of course, are much more vehement when cuckolded, but then again, their vocabulary tends to be saltier than a woman’s, at least outside of the contemporary spurt of “women behaving badly” films.

The mendacious smear that Hillary was as responsible if not more so for the alleged mistreatment or harassment of women by our former President (I write “alleged,” because virtually all of Bill’s peccadillos appear to have been consensual) is as big a lie as last week’s big lie that Hillary started the rumor that President Obama was not born in the United States and Donald Trump ended it.

There are many ways for women (and men) to get extremely angry at Trumpty-Dumpty and his campaign for dredging up the personal affairs of his opponent from last century:

Women (and men) will be angry at the hypocrisy of someone who was twice caught cheating on wives and has been accused of statutory rape now blaming a woman who was the victim of infidelity.

Women will be angry that he is trying to shift the blame for the affair from the perpetrator to the victim.

Women will be angry if and when they make the connection between Trump’s view of women and his excavating of the Clinton’s past: that Hillary is a less qualified candidate to be president because she couldn’t hang on to her man.

Women will be angry at the clownish pomposity of Trump congratulating himself on not bringing up Bill’s philandering at the debate, even as he was bringing it up.

Women will be angry that he and other Republicans don’t understand that by staying together and repairing their marriage that the Clinton’s affirmed the traditional value of marriage so important to most people, from ultra-conservatives to lefties.

Women will be angry when they contemplate his conflation of personal matters with professional ones, as in his tweet, “If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” which is not only scurrilous but also shows only a pre-teen’s understanding of human nature and what can happen between people.

Women will get angry when they make the natural comparison of Bill Clinton’s actions and words and Trump’s. Remember that Clinton has never been caught saying anything disrespectful of women in general or any particular woman for being a woman—even of his accusers. Maybe it’s because he sincerely loves and respects women (perhaps a little too much in the past). The length of a list of Trump’s insults of women for being women is only matched by the list of his business failures and scandals and only topped by the list of his lies. Among other sick rationales, Trump has dumped on women for their looks, for their bathroom habits, for gaining weight, for their speech and for their silence, for breastfeeding, for imagined changes in professional behavior during menstruation, for their “manipulation” of men, for growing old and for their stamina.
Where’s the win here for Trump, except to pander to his core of support? It’s perhaps the single most stupid gambit ever played in a political race.

Hillary is handling it in exactly the right way. She won’t talk about the scandals and she won’t bring up Trump’s personal life. Hillary rightfully considers Trumpty-Dumpty’s many sexist comments about other women, such as Alicia Machado, Carly Fiorina, Ghazala Khan and his own daughter, to be fair and in bounds for a discussion. But her “I won’t go low” approach regarding the personal lives of her and her opponent is exactly the right approach.

Meanwhile the many well-respected Clinton surrogates, including President Obama, Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Jennifer Granholm and Amy Klobuchar will continue to point out how deceptive and truly disgusting it is for Trump to blame Hillary for any pain inflicted by her husband on his paramours or to try to discredit her dedication to improving the lives of women.

It’s a perfect strategy that needs one more thing. I would like to see Bill Clinton get real mad and talk into the camera as if it were Trumpty-Dumpty himself and say, “Condemn me for my past behavior all you want, but say nothing bad about my beautiful and talented wife who saw it in her humanity to forgive this sinner and take him back.”

Amen to that, sisters and brothers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Trump replaces “scratch & sniff” with “lie & sniff” in losing both debate and truth contest

By Marc Jampole

I began noticing Donald Trump sniffing about a third of the way through the debate.  He would pause several times in the middle of a run-on sentence and sniff loudly, kind of like a seven-year-old explaining that the dog ate his homework or a kid who has just lost a schoolyard fight. The pace of the sniffing accelerated at about the same rate as did the deterioration in the logic of his remarks and the frequency with which he tried to interrupt Hillary, which means it was progressively more rapid as the debate went on.  Others noticed, too, as thousands of Twitterers wondered whether Trumpty-Dumpty was sick. Others wondered where the nervous tic came from.  

But it was neither illness nor a newly emerging nervous tic. No, Donald Trump’s constant sniffing was the primal whimper of the bully backing down, as bullies always back down when their false bravado confronts someone who emanates true strength.

The sniffing is only the most obvious manifestation of the beating that Trump took in the first debate between the major party candidates for President of the United States. Here are some early results:
  • The first CNN poll had Hillary winning the debate 62% to 27%, although the CNN pollster did observe that only debate watchers voted and they tend to skew Democratic.
  • An early Public Policy Polling survey found 51% of viewers thought Clinton won, while 40% preferred Trump’s performance.
  • The MSNBC focus group had Hillary winning 16-4, while the vote of the CNN focus group was 18-2 in Hillary’s favor.

The consensus of the pundits was that Hillary won the entirety of the debate. All I saw, except the reality-challenged Hugh Hewitt, said that the first third was either a draw or a win for Hillary; Hewitt said Trump won the first third. But virtually every pundit except those identified as currently working for the Trump campaign concluded that Hillary wiped the floor with Trump during the last two-thirds of the debate. I share the view of Chris Matthews—that if it were a baseball game Hillary hit five homers and shut out Trump.

Matthews was referring to the Clinton zingers, of which there were several. Her best was when Trump mentioned that he had recently visited Chicago and Detroit and contrasted it with Clinton not traveling much this past week. Clinton said, “I prepared for the debate,” paused a bit, then continued, “and I prepared for the presidency.” The contrast with Trump’s off-the-cuff incoherence was devastating.

I thought Hillary’s finest moment was when she responded to Trump’s bragging comment that he was smart not to pay any income tax with: “So if he's paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health.” Hillary then had the good taste to refrain from mentioning that her family had paid 30% of their income in income taxes.

As an example of what I am calling Trump’s incoherence is his answer to Lester Holt’s simple question whether he believes in the current U.S. nuclear weapons policy not to launch a first strike:
“Well, I have to say that, you know, for what Secretary Clinton was saying about nuclear with Russia, she’s very cavalier in the way she talks about various countries. But Russia has been expanding their — they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint. I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, they’re old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not — we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table. Because you look at some of these countries, you look at North Korea, we’re doing nothing there. China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea. And by the way, another one powerful is the worst deal I think I’ve ever seen negotiated that you started is the Iran deal. Iran is one of their biggest trading partners. Iran has power over North Korea. And when they made that horrible deal with Iran, they should have included the fact that they do something with respect to North Korea. And they should have done something with respect to Yemen and all these other places. And when asked to Secretary Kerry, why didn’t you do that? Why didn’t you add other things into the deal? One of the great giveaways of all time, of all time, including $400 million in cash. Nobody’s ever seen that before. That turned out to be wrong. It was actually $1.7 billion in cash, obviously, I guess for the hostages. It certainly looks that way. So you say to yourself, why didn’t they make the right deal? This is one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history. The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems. All they have to do is sit back 10 years, and they don’t have to do much.”

I counted four major lies and about twenty sniffs in that ramble through ignorance, but could detect no logic in his answer, unless you think it’s logical to have expected Iran to do something to stop North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons or that we should support a Chinese invasion of North Korea. Many people may not know that Russia does not have a newer nuclear capability than we do or that the money we paid Iran was their money all along that we have kept in frozen accounts for more than 30 years. But I feel most people watching saw what a disorganized looney Trump really is.

The battle was mostly fought on Trump’s territory, as he had constantly to defend his business, his lack of experience and his past statements. There was only one moment when Hillary was on the defensive—when she quickly admitted she made a mistake by having a private email server and then moved on to other matters. Trumpty-Dumpty tried a few other snipes, which Hillary ignored. The best example, again, was her comment about birtherism. She did not defend herself from Trump’s obvious and odious lie, but instead defended President Obama.

Trump tried to interrupt Hillary several times, but she just kept talking without raising her voice to shout over him, which this viewer thought was an elegant and classy way to handle the rude Donald. The longer the debate went, the more he interrupted, usually with short ejaculations, such as “it’s a lie” when Hillary was factually relating idiocies Trump has uttered in the past such as his theory that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese. Clinton, by contrast, waited respectfully while the Donald spewed forth his incoherent stew of half-baked ideas and lies before speaking her piece. 

The only thing that Trumpty-Dumpty won was the lying contest, and that was also a wipeout. Unfortunately for the GOP, it’s a bad thing, like leading your opponent in turnovers, errors or penalties. For example, both the National Public Radio and the New York Times fact-checkers found a few minor quibbles with Hillary’s statements, but major problems with a large number of Trump assertions. The biggest two lies were Trumpty-Dumpty’s birther fantasy and his widely discredited assertion that he was always against the war in Iraq. But he also lied about the size of the deficit, the effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement on jobs, Ford moving jobs abroad, the Iran nuclear agreement and Hillary’s role in creating ISIS, among many other fibs.

BTW, Lester Holt was fine. He wouldn’t let Trump tell either of his two big lies about birtherism and his opposition to Iraq. He reminded the audience that “stop and frisk,” a police technique Trump admires, has been declared unconstitutional. He made sure that both candidates had enough time to answer his questions, which were all cogent and appropriate. He made it clear that no matter what anyone else had in mind, he was going to hold both candidates to the same debating standards.

A big win for Hillary in every way.

The big question is whether her debate performance—and that of Trumpty Dumpty—will translate into Hillary attracting the votes of Republicans who recognize Trump’s lack of qualifications, gaining support from the undecided and poaching the votes of those tentatively committed to one of the two minor party candidates. We’ll know the answer when the next round of polls come out. After the contrast between the bright, warm, knowledgeable and honest Hillary and Trump’s mendacious incoherence, if it turns out that American voters prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton then the country deserves all the bad economic times and foreign policy difficulties that will result from his election.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Charlotte shooting result of mix of two bad ideas: racism and open carry laws

By Marc Jampole

The most recent information coming out about the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by police officers in Charlotte, which led to days of demonstrations and a few unruly rioters, makes me wonder whether the officers involved know North Carolina law.

The police officer who shot Scott have now said that he first aroused suspicion because he was carrying a gun and a marijuana cigarette. Let’s take the marijuana first, since smoking marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina. The cameras tell us the officers were too far away from Scott to sniff the pot and know for certain Scott was toking it, although once they were hovering over the dead body they may have seen a joint. So their defense for considering Scott a person of suspicion rests entirely on seeing a gun, which in North Carolina should not signal suspicion because North Carolina is an open carry state, just as is Oklahoma, where the other recent police shooting of a civilian took place.

Would a white carrying a gun have aroused the suspicions of the officers? Would the officers have cared if they saw a white who might be taking a few tokes of the wacky tabacky? It’s impossible to say. We do know that throughout North Carolina police are 77% more likely to stop an African-American who is in a car than they will a white.

Even if it turns out that the officers had a defensible reason to shoot Scott, it’s painfully obvious that they had no reason to show an interest in him in the first place. Remember that many concluded the same thing about the Ferguson shooting: that the police officer really didn’t have a reason to stop Michael Brown.

Except for the fact that he was a black man.

This focus on the initial stop doesn’t even take into consideration that the officers manifested two traits common among American local police: One, their aim is so bad that they only kill and can never just disable. Two, once they start shooting they can’t seem to stop.

That two police officers would believe that open carry does not apply to blacks makes a certain twisted sense considering the history of gun laws. Most people don’t remember that during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when crime, violence and terrorists acts were at their height in the United States, many gun control and gun safety laws passed in states and municipalities. Their major impetus was fear that African-Americans would follow the drum beat of the violent wing of the Black Panthers and take up their right to bear arms. Unlike Donald Trump, Richard Nixon made gun control a major part of his “law and order” campaigns for the presidency and a dog whistle for keeping guns out of the hands of African-Americans.

Once the National Rifle Association saw the trend of fewer households owning guns play out year after year, decade after decade, it started what has now been a 35-year campaign to loosen gun laws. The NRA mostly has used fear to sell the idea of ending gun control even as violent crime has continued to drop, but gun fatalities and injuries have not. The result among other new bad laws has been the preponderance of recent open carry laws passed by right-wing state legislatures, including the new law in Texas that allows 18-year-old students, away from home for the first time and still not in control of their emotions, to bring guns onto university campuses.

Open carry laws endanger the entire public, but they place those African-Americans who want to exercise the same right as whites and carry a firearm openly in particular danger. I would say that every time an African-American male carries a gun in public legally he is risking his life. Given the current police attitudes and statistics about civilian deaths at the hands of police, this non-lawyer wonders if the open carry laws are in effect a novel form of Jim Crow: give whites a dangerous and unsafe right that an African-American with any common sense will not take for fear of being labeled a predator and therefore subject to open fire by the police.  

The NRA, Donald Trump, and to a lesser extent most other Republicans, have painted a grim world in which we must fear for our lives because of rampant crime and ceaseless acts of terrorism.

The statistics, so often ignored by the news media in favor of bloody stories, currying favor with the right or creating false equivalencies between a competent, experienced presidential candidate and a high-strung, neurotic ignoramus, paint an entirely different picture: a nation that has made incredible strides in controlling crime and fighting terrorism, but still suffers an uncommonly large number of violent non-criminal gun acts and too many acts of police violence aimed primarily at minorities.

Violent crime, murder, acts of terrorism and deaths from terrorism are all down substantially from the 1960s and the 1970s, with every decade, and almost every year, showing declines in all these areas except for deaths from terrorists in the freak year of 2001.  

Deaths of police officers in the line of duty are also way down, from 576 a year under Reagan to 314 a year under Obama, even as the overall population has increased by more than a third over that timeframe. Today, in the United States, you have a greater chance of being killed on the job as a landscaper, mechanic, taxi driver, farmer, garbage collector and roofer than as a police officer.

Thus, the streets are safer. We have fewer acts of terrorism. Fewer people are murdered.  Fewer bombs exploded in public places. The police are much safer. It looks as if the system is working.

Unless you’re a minority who encounters police officers.

For obvious reasons, data about deaths of citizens at the hands of police are hard to come by and sketchy. Few in government until now have ever cared how many people the police kill each year. But all reports suggest that even as violent crime, killings of police and acts of terrorism are down, police shootings and other violent acts by police against civilians are up. FBI reports set police killings of civilians at their highest in 40 years in the latest available year. Some sources dispute the FBI’s statistics, saying they underestimate the true number of people killed by police officers by as much as 72% (or roughly three times the FBI).

In short, it is safer to be alive now for every American than at virtually any other time since World War II. Unless you’re a black male.