Friday, October 14, 2016

Editorial: Light the GOP Fuse

Donald Trump must have had mixed emotions when the news media stopped talking about the nearly billion-dollar loss he claimed on his income taxes in 1995, which allowed him to avoid paying taxes for the next 18 years but also undermined his claims that he is a master businessman.

During the first debate, on Sept. 26, Hillary Clinton managed to goad Trump into admitting that he paid little or no federal taxes. He replied that not paying taxes “makes me smart,” a statement that alienated some middle-class voters who pay their taxes and resent the “takers” who get government benefits but don’t pay taxes. The Washington Post reported Sept. 27 on a focus group of undecided voters in North Carolina with the headline, “When Trump said that not paying taxes ‘makes me smart,’ undecided voters in N.C. gasped.”

Then some unknown person with a return address of Trump Tower, New York City, mailed the New York Times three pages of Trump’s state tax returns for 1995, which showed the $916 million loss, which the Times reported Oct. 1, “certainly could have eliminated any federal income taxes Mr. Trump otherwise would have owed on the $50,000 to $100,000 he was paid for each episode of The Apprentice, or the roughly $45 million he was paid between 1995 and 2009 when he was chairman or chief executive of the publicly traded company he created to assume ownership of his troubled Atlantic City casinos. Ordinary investors in the new company, meanwhile, saw the value of their shares plunge to 17 cents from $35.50, while scores of contractors went unpaid for work on Mr. Trump’s casinos and casino bondholders received pennies on the dollar.”

In another article, Steve Eder and Alicia Parlapiano reported in the Times Oct. 6 on their analysis of roughly 60 businesses started or promoted by Trump in the past decade. Few went off without a hitch. “One-third of them either never got off the ground or soon petered out. Another third delivered a measure of what was promised — buildings were built, courses taught, a product introduced — but they also encountered substantial problems, like lawsuits, government investigations, partnership woes or market downturns.

“The remaining third, while sometimes encountering strife, generally met expectations — notably the television show The Apprentice and the purchases of numerous golf courses, including properties near Philadelphia and in the Hudson Valley.”

Trump surrogate Rudolph Giuliani compared Trump to Winston Churchill and Steve Jobs, saying that, like them, “He had some failures and then he built an empire.” He asked: “Don’t you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman, and the only thing she’s ever produced is a lot of work for the FBI checking out her emails?”

Heather Digby Parton replied, “The idea that a man whose business has gone bankrupt four times, who has stiffed thousands of small business owners, who has been sued all over the country for fraud, who used his charity as a slush fund and who now has been revealed to have reported to the government that he lost more than $915 million — in a year in which the stock market gained 37%! — is an economic genius could only be true in Bizarro World.”

A new firestorm overtook the dissection of Trump’s truncated tax return on Oct. 8 when the Washington Post reported the video of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women and grabbing them by, among other things, their genitalia, and getting away with it. Because, you know, he’s a star.

Trump dismissed his lewd comments as “locker room talk.” He denied that he had physically assaulted anyone. He counterattacked with claims that former President Bill Clinton had done worse in assaulting women while Hillary Clinton also “viciously” attacked the women who claimed they had been abused by her husband.

Trump invited four women to the debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, but PolitiFact noted that only three of them — Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones — actually accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. The fourth woman, Kathy Shelton, was a victim in a rape case. Hillary Clinton defended Shelton’s attacker in 1975 while working at a legal aid clinic. Trump accused Clinton of laughing at Shelton on two separate occasions.

PolitiFact concluded that Bill Clinton has been accused of sexual assault and having affairs. “The record shows Hillary Clinton played a role in defending her husband, and that the Clintons’ first presidential campaign deployed tough tactics to defend against stories of consensual sex.

“But in the cases of alleged abuse by Broaddrick, Willey and Jones, Hillary Clinton was largely silent. The words she allegedly had with Broaddrick are subject to interpretation. Approving the release of Willey’s letters does qualify as an attack, but using a person’s words against them is a fairly tame tactic. And Clinton did not attack Jones directly.

“Overall, we rate [Trump’s] claim Mostly False.”

As for the claim that Clinton laughed at a sexual assault victim on two separate occasions and got her attacker off, PolitiFact noted that Clinton, then 27, was representing an indigent defendant and the prosecutor had little evidence connecting the defendant to the crime, so she plea-bargained the case to unlawful fondling of a minor. The defendant was sentenced to one year in prison and four years’ probation.

PolitiFact concluded, “Trump is referring to an audio tape in which she does respond with amusement at her recollections of the oddities of the case, which involve the prosecution and the judge.

“At no point does she laugh at the victim.

“We rate his claim False.”

Taryn Hillin noted at that, according to legal documents, Trump has been accused of raping a 13-year-old child, raping his ex-wife Ivana, and attempting to rape a former business associate. Trump has vehemently denied all of these accusations — and Hillin noted anyone can file a civil complaint in court, and a complaint is by no means proof of allegations. That being said, the accusations are chilling, and if old accusations against Bill Clinton are fair game, sexual assault accusations against Trump — who actually is running for president — are even more important for the press to explore.

As we went to press, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, taken after the video was disclosed but before the debate, showed Mrs. Clinton jumping to an 11-point lead over Trump among likely voters on a ballot including third-party candidates, up from 6 points in September.

The Journal noted the weekend survey found Clinton’s advantage among women increased to 21 points, from 12 points in the September Journal/NBC Survey. Trump retained a small, single-point advantage among men.

That had Republicans worrying that a Clinton victory could become a blowout, which might not only allow Democrats to gain the four seats they need to regain control of the Senate, but might create a wave that could wipe out the 30-seat Republican majority in the House.

This could ruin House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, regulatory agencies and many other progressive initiatives through the budget reconciliation process. This radical parliamentary ruse depends on Republicans holding onto the House and Senate and gaining the White House, but Republicans still might try to force a regressive budget through the Oval Office if they keep their congressional majorities intact.

On either the business side or the sexual side, it looks like many people have had a bad experience with the blowhard real estate mogul. Now a lot of Republican officials are regretting their embrace of the Caligula of Mar-a-Lago, but they fear the backlash from his millions of supporters if they try to cut him loose, raising the prospect of a civil war among the GOP.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer party. Vote for Hillary Clinton — or Green Jill Stein, if you must. But vote Democratic for the House and Senate. No good will come from another Republican Congress, but the blame-throwing could be entertaining if they get wiped out. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2016

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Copyright © 2016 The Progressive PopulistPO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652

Selections from the November 1, 2016 issue

COVER/Hal Crowther
The graveyard of reality

Light the GOP fuse


RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
For Trump, taxes are for losers

Senate majority hangs in the balance;
Right-wing Rep. Issa looks vulnerable;
Hillary Clinton: Best choice for ‘pro-life’ voters?
Medical journal invites candidates to describe health plans. Guess which one responded;
Federal court refuses to stop Dakota pipeline;
Former inquisitor endorses Hillary

France’s waste-not experiment

Hillary Clinton channels her inner Seinfeld

Dispatches from a orange tweet storm

Ten thoughts about first presidential debate

Trump’s monuments of hypocrisy made with Chinese steel

Voting for the status quo

In a populist moment, Hillary Clinton’s economic vision leans left

Enough is enough

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas 
A sly sugar fairy

A rich man’s dream but a poor job creator

Fight the poverty, not the people

Roots of the immigration dilemma

Redeeming the deplorables

Mexico’s teachers fight neoliberal ‘reforms’

GOP targets failing co-ops in latest attack on Obamacare

China’s labor upsurge

An immodest proposal

‘Family entertainment’ with violence, crime and sleaze

The last shall be first in ‘The Birth of a Nation’ 

POET/Michael Silverstein
Poet Michael Silverstein dead at 75

and more ...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Condemn Cosby but not Trump & you’re racist & New Yorker’s Lepore snidely denigrates Hillary for being smart

By Marc Jampole

The closing month of the 2016 presidential campaign is a tragedy playing out as farce—only unlike Karl Marx’s declaration about history repeating itself “first as tragedy, second as farce”—it’s the first time this degrading drama has occurred.

I’m referring to the Donald Trump sexual predator scandal for which we have now seen the dropping of the second, third, fourth and fifth of what may be a series of shoes extensive enough to accessorize a centipede.  

It’s never happened before and it’s a farce. But as in Marx’s cycle, this farce takes the structure of Greek tragedy. There is the protagonist with hubris. We see rising action and falling action. The chorus is enormous, comprising the news media. And perhaps most significantly, we—the audience—knew what was going to happen as soon as Trump issued his short and whimpering denial that he never did to women what he said he did on tape.

The other shoes dropping is an event that we expect to occur as the natural result or progression of another event that just occurred. When a big company buys your employer, a massive layoff is the “other shoe dropping.” When the media reveals a celebrity has had an affair, his wife filing for divorce is the other shoe dropping.

Need another example? How about Trumpty-Dumpty, who is running to be America’s sexual predator in chief? (He would also like to be its racist, misogynist and nativist in chief as well!).

First came the videotape in which Trumpty-Dumpy bragged about actions that all but Trump factotums and core fans consider to be sexual predation. Second came Trumps’ denial that he actual grabbed women’s genitals without consent or stalked them into corners.

From the moment of that denial, the entire world—and especially the news media—have been expecting the other shoe to drop.

And drop it has. Again and again and again and again.

Almost overnight, four women have come forth to describe various types of sexually predatory actions Trump committed against them—walking in on women nude, putting his hand up dresses, squeezing behinds, forcibly kissing.

And we’re just getting started. There may turn out to be a mall full of shoes in Trump’s sexual predator closet. I don’t know what the line in Las Vegas is, but I’m betting Trump’s final count will exceed that of Bill Cosby.

Thanks to Trumpty-Dumpty, we now have a quick test for racism: If you condemn Bill Cosby on the existing evidence but do not condemn Donald Trump on the existing evidence, you, sir or madam, are a racist!

Speaking of assault, I’ve had an epiphany about the 25-year assault the mainstream news media has made on the character of Hillary Clinton, presenting her as inaccessible, manipulative, lacking empathy, ethically challenged and unable to connect with people. Her performances in debates, in front of committees, in interviews, at town hall meetings and working with others virtually always belie this depiction, but the media persists.

I already knew that many don’t like her because her spouse is Bill Clinton and that others have always applied a double standard to her because she’s a woman.

But reading one word in Jill Lepore’s pedestrian essay on the general topic of presidential debates in a recent New Yorker gave me a sudden jolt of recognition: One of the decades-old themes in mass culture is to denigrate intellectual achievement and “book smarts” and no one represents intelligence more than Hillary Clinton in today’s political arena (although Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama and a few others come close). Lepore clearly composed her piece before the first debate occurred.

I’ve written often about the undercutting of intellectual achievement in the mass media since the end of World War II; for a few examples, see blog entries of March 12, 2015; February 3, 2015; January 22, 2014; October27, 2013; and January 27, 2013. Saying math is hard or that learning is not fun, touting celebrities who didn’t finish college, belittling education, calling devotees of serious theatre snobs, assuming beach reading has to be escapist, equating genius with madness—the barrage of subtle digs at intellectual achievement in the news media proceeds on a daily basis.

In presidential campaigns, when “smarts” has been an issue, the mass media has always influenced the public to prefer the candidate seen as “less smart.” Examples include the 1952 and 1956 election in which both Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower were both educated and studied men, but the media primarily depicted Ike as a “nice guy war hero” and Stevenson as an intellectual (and “smarter”) and subtly marked him down for it. Then there was smart Jimmy Carter versus dumb Ronald Reagan in 1980 and smart Al Gore versus dumb George W. Bush in 2000. In both these elections, the media used all the derogatory ways we have to say “smart” to describe the losing candidates, while extolling the people skills of the winning candidates.

My epiphany came when reading Lepore’s gratuitous characterization of Hillary in a description of what she expects in the debate in which Lepore’s tone reflects a snarky world-wear criticism: “Hillary Clinton will be there, overprepared.”

Overprepared?  That means she hit the books too hard and studied too much. But is there any such thing? Let’s see… If she prepared for questions or comments that would never be asked, e.g., “What do you think of the cancellation of Hill Street Blues?” that would not be overpreparation, but stupidity. If she prepared so much that she neglected to eat or sleep and therefore performed poorly, that would be inadequate preparation, because she focused on just one aspect of what it takes to get ready. If she practiced her facts and messages to the point that she delivered them robotically, as if muttering the rosary, that would be a poor performance, perhaps suggesting, again, that the cause was not overpreparation, but poor preparation for not focusing enough on the performance aspects of debating. The more we study the possible meanings of “overpreparation,” the more we must conclude that there’s no such thing, except as a stand-in for something else.

In short, all references to “overpreparation” are nothing more than a derogatory way to refer to a good, smart student. Interestingly enough, the concept of “overpreparation” is similar to that of “overachieiving” in that the mass media sees it as a virtue in athletics, but a vice in intellectual endeavors. If you think I’m wrong, monitor the sports pages and news sections for a few months. Athletes are always praised for their hard work (especially if they are white and can be contrasted with “natural athletes” assumed to be of color).

With the current election, the news media is in a triple quandary: It usually subtly shapes coverage to help Republicans (see the Congressional 2010 election coverage for a case history) and it usually subtly puts down the candidate who is more intellectual, more educated, more studied—the egghead, as they called Stevenson. But by doing so in 2016, they risk unleashing a monster on the world.

The third part of the triple quandary. Do I even have to say it at this point? It’s sexism, which plays out less in candidate preferences and more in the strict media adherence to condoning a subtle but explicit double standard that exists throughout American society regarding men and women in the workforce.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Another Clinton debate win, not just on words but on look and gesture

By Marc Jampole

When Donald Trump was hovering behind Hillary Clinton while she spoke in the second debate between the two major party candidates for president, what was he thinking? What did he want to do?

Did he want to grab her crotch? Back her into a corner and plant an open-mouth kiss on her lips?

Or tell her she’s fired?

Or did he want to scream at Hillary as loud and as long as it took to turn her into a puddle of tears.

We knew that wasn’t going to happen.

To me, he was walking the desperate wamble of a panicked narcissist temporarily out of the spotlight and searching for the camera.

After all, Trump’s craven whimper of a fallen bully punctuated his every sentence form the beginning of the debate, louder and more pronounced than last time Donald faced off against Hillary. Why can’t anyone find this guy a decent microphone? A very few speculate that Trumpty-Dumpty sniffs because he gets coked up. Others wonder if the healthiest man alive has a cold. Even dismissing it as a nervous tic damages the Trump brand, as a great negotiator is supposed to have nerves of steel. In black-and-white society movies of the 1930s and 1940s the rich would often sniff at their inferiors. Lots of possible explanations, yet I’m still convinced that Trump’s sniffs manifest the pathetic low whine of a bully who has backed down or been beaten down.

Thus, no matter how what either candidate said, Trump lost the debate in his body language, demeanor and sound.

Body language dominated Hillary’s performance, too. In the past, she won or drew every single one of her previous debates primarily with the strategy of presenting the issues and facts clearly and succinctly. In the last debate, her strategy was to throw out live bait, knowing her undisciplined opponent would take aim and shoot himself in the foot with deranged comments and overtly disgusting remarks.

This time, Hillary’s strategy was to be presidential. And there is no doubt she succeeded.  She “went high” and did not take any bait from Trump to unburden about her personal affairs. She did not interrupt, even though Trump constantly interrupted her. She spoke and walked with confidence and warmth. Her comments directed at Trump were stern without being mean or cruel. She sincerely interacted with audience members and paid attention to the requests of the moderators. By contrast, Trump never seemed to connect with anyone; he could have been talking to the clouds.

Unlike Trump, who pivoted to whatever lies he wanted to make at the given moment, Hillary answered every question directly. When Hillary attacked Trump, she did it with his own words and actions. Trump by contrast only made accusations against Hillary and did not substantiate even one of them, probably because none have any basis in fact. Her apology for using a private server was direct and an explicit statement she made a mistake. His apology—only for the remarks he made about groping women, minimized his bragging about committing sexual assaults to locker room talk.

In short, Hillary looked and acted presidential and Donald did not. And it was all in their facial expressions, movements on stage, eye contact and the tone and cadences of their voices.

Hillary won the words, too, but because Trump was able to articulate his messages on a number of topics, using his usual stew of lies, ignorance and braggadocio, he did do better than his complete meltdown in the first debate.

The avoidance of meltdown is a low bar, but because he cleared it the immediate consensus of the non-partisan media was that the debate was a tie. But Chris Matthews must have been chilling with Gary Johnson, because he said that Trump won big. How could one man be so right about the first debate and so wrong about the second?

The public was having none of the news media’s equivocation. They aren’t scoring points or grading on a curve. They want someone who looks like a president and acts like a president. That’s why Hillary won the CNN poll, the only statistically valid poll to come out so far. Her margin of victory when asked which candidate won the debate was a 57% to 34%, a very robust 23% lead! The public did notice Trump’s improvement; 63% thought he did better. But not good enough to win. And probably not good enough to sway many undecided voters.

Certainly Trump did well enough to convince him and his core supporters that he not only won, but “shlonged” Hillary. He will no doubt brag about his big win for weeks. The question is: did Trump do well enough to staunch the flow of red-blooded Republican elected officials fleeing his candidacy?

Above all else, the second debate was a painful reminder that debate moderators should have their staffs do instant fact-checking and tell the audience and viewers when a candidate has told a lie. The after-the-fact fact checkers demonstrated that in the truth department, Hillary won in another landslide. For example CNN checked 15 Trump statements and seven Hillary statements.

Trumpty-Dumpty gave false information in 11 of the 15 instances, whereas Hillary was 7-0; all seven checked statements turned out to be true. Those who will assert that checking twice as many Trump statements shows the inherent media bias against the Republican candidate didn’t watch the debate and haven’t been paying attention to the past 15 months. You can’t check the accuracy of every sentence a candidate says, so most fact-checkers limit themselves to investigating the big issues, the statements that seem wacky or the low-hanging fruit, which in this case, means the statements like Trump’s birther remarks that everyone already knows are fabrications. Since much of what Trump says is either outrageous or a known lie, it makes sense that more of his statements undergo fact-checking scrutiny. Hillary, by contrast, has come in first place in honesty every time someone has compiled the fact-checked statements of every candidate in the 2016 election.