26
Mon, Feb

The Post-Trump Era?

GUEST WORDS--On be careful about what you you wish for, Henwood warns that while Vice President Mike Pence "might not be able to overcome his party’s internal divisions [he would] probably could do a better job than Trump, and every day would not be a circus as it is now." (Photo: John Sommers II/Reuters)

How much longer can this go on? As I write this, PredictIt gives 71/29 odds that Trump will last the year, but it’s mighty tempting to buy the “no”—especially after the revelation that he asked Comey to shut down the Flynn investigation. (Disclosure alert: I bought 100 shares of “no” at $0.28.)

What is the endgame of the people, mostly Democrats, pounding the drums most heavily? Do they want to impeach Trump, which seems a long shot given Republican control of Congress? Do they want to bruise his weak ego so badly that he resigns? Clearly the job is much harder than he ever imagined—and, by the way, what reasonably sentient person over the age of 8 ever thought the presidency wasn’t grindingly hard? But he also wants adulation, not the relentless volleys of shit he’s gotten. It’s not impossible to imagine him just walking offstage, especially if his legal situation gets seriously dicey.

What then? President Pence? If Pence were president, the entire Republican dream agenda would sail through Congress in like three weeks. Pence spent a dozen years in Congress (Tea Party branch) and four years as governor of Indiana; he’s an appalling figure but he knows how things work. He might not be able to overcome his party’s internal divisions, but he probably could do a better job than Trump, and every day would not be a circus as it is now.

"President Pence? If Pence were president, the entire Republican dream agenda would sail through Congress in like three weeks."

Pence is a horror—fiscal sadist, misogynist, homophobe, lover of the carceral state. He’s repeatedly described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” though given today’s modern GOP, it’s not clear there’s much of a difference among these features. (He should have said he’s a reactionary Christian; there are plenty of other kinds.) He’s a creationist who rejects climate change, thinks stem cell research is “obsolete,” and once actually said that “smoking doesn’t kill.” His anti-abortion law was the most extreme in the country. His cuts to Planned Parenthood led to a rural HIV epidemic. Like Sessions, Pence is a maximalist on drugs, including weed. He’s hot to privatize Social Security. He likened the Supreme Court’s upholding of Obamacare to 9/11.

Should Trump get pushed out, the orchestrated campaign of healing would be painful. It’s not far-fetched to imagine leading Democrats channelling Gerald Ford’s “our long national nightmare is over.” There would be something of what Wall Street calls a “relief rally” on the transition, and it would perversely grease the way for Pence to make the U.S. more like the Indiana he left behind. We should be fighting to keep him in office, as fatally damaged goods.

Several things seem to be driving this campaign to squeeze Trump out, aside from the obvious fact he’s an unstable ignoramus. Dems still can’t get over the fact that they lost to the most unpopular candidate in the history of polling, but instead of blaming their own terrible candidate (the second-most unpopular candidate in the history of polling) and the slavers’ legacy, the Electoral College, they want to blame Russia. (Time was they blamed Comey too—remember when Paul Krugman said that “Comey and Putin installed a crazy, vindictive can’t-handle-the-truth person in the White House”? But he’s since been rehabilitated.)

But that’s not all: a large part of the political class (Hillary prominent among them, along with John McCain), the security establishment, and their contract-hungry patrons in the military–industrial complex all want desperately to make Russia the enemy, and are reviving zombie tropes from the Cold War to promote their cause. Trump may well have friends in the Russian mob, but his resistance to elite hostility towards the country is one of the few non-awful things about him.

It’s been stunning to watch liberals cheering on the security state’s war-by-leak against Trump. He’s odious, but he is the legally elected president—under an absurd electoral system, but that’s the one we’ve got. (Makes you wonder what they would have done to Sanders, if by some unimaginable fluke he’d won.) And yet we’ve seen months of praise for the CIA and the FBI as the magic bullets who could deliver us from the short-fingered vulgarian.

The defenses of the CIA began with Trump’s disparaging remarks about the Agency before taking office, which were taken as near-blasphemous. For an amateur like Trump, such attacks were extremely risky. In early January, Chuck Schumer presciently warned (on the Maddow Show, of course): “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community—they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.” You’d almost think that he knew what would come next: an endless series of leaks portraying Trump as Putin’s towel boy and, as an extra-special bonus, a pervert (the piss tape)—all applauded by liberals, with little regard for the CIA’s 70-year history of lying, assassination, and coups.

Then came the Comey firing, and suddenly the FBI was a noble organization as well. It’s far from that, and has always been. As Mark Ames reports in his little history of the Bureau, it has no legal charter; Congress didn’t want to authorize a secret police so Teddy Roosevelt created it by executive fiat. Much of the Bureau’s history has been about persecuting communists—and gay people—and smearing its enemies. It spent the 1960s and early 1970s trying to ruin Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers, and and the New Left. In other words, it’s been political from the very first, and all these current worries about “politicizing” the FBI are Grade A bullshit.

Which brings us back to the endgame issue. Democrats look to be extending the strategy of their failed 2016 campaign by being the not-Trump and nothing more—it’s all they’ve got. They are making no visible effort to come up with an appealing agenda as an alternative to the deeply unpopular one the GOP has on offer. In fact, they’re annoyed at Bernie Sanders for trying to get the party to talk about policy, which is somehow seen as an act of narcissism in the Beltway worldview:

But the senator, who’ll be 79 the next time the New Hampshire primary rolls around, is continuing to put himself at the center of the conversation. He’s introduced a Medicare-for-all bill this week that he hopes will force others to sign on.

Imagine that! Pushing a bill to expand health insurance coverage at a moment when Republicans are trying to take it away. The ego of that man.

The party’s strategy can’t be counted a success on conventional measures; Gallup reports that the Dems have lost 5 approval points since November, leaving the two parties with near-identical approval ratings (D: 40%, R: 39%).

During the early days of the Trump administration, it seemed like a serious left opposition might take form. That‘s a hazy memory now that so many liberals and even leftists are taking dictation from the security state and throwing around words like “treason.” We can do better than this, can’t we?

(Doug Henwood edits the  Left Business Observer, a newsletter he founded in 1986, He also hosts Behind the News, a weekly radio show covering economics and politics on KPFA, Berkeley. His book Wall Street is now available for free download here

-cw

Time to Tell Trump, ‘You’re Fired!’

THE COHEN COLUMN-The Washington Post is reporting that our blabbermouth-in-chief just spilled some of our tippy top secrets to the Russians, security material so sensitive it is incredibly closely held even among people in our government with the highest classified clearances. 

And Trump did it, in one of his infamous off-script derangements, just so he could brag to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador about all the great intelligence he was getting. Our top intelligence

agencies are apoplectic, with panicked phone calls crisscrossing our nation’s capital, trying to contain the mortal damage. Meanwhile, his apologist McMaster pretends nothing went wrong here. 

Trump MUST be told immediately: "You're fired." 

The Republicans in general, and Trump in particular, were stampeding in hysteria last fall because there were a couple (as in three) emails on Clinton's private server with the lowest possible classified designation. What they were, in fact, were Clinton's own appointment schedules, which automatically declassify the instant the meetings were over. 

But to listen to the Chicken Shit Littles in the Trump surrogate camp, her handling of her emails was the biggest security breach of all time in the history of the Nation and categorically disqualified her as unfit for the highest office of the land. They thought people would die in mass terrorist murders as a consequence if Clinton's server had been hacked -- which NEVER happened because it was well secured with an expert server geek on duty to protect it. 

With the new White House resident, no hacking is required. Trump will just freely blab his brains out with our most sensitive top code word secrets like he's trying to impress a girl. Just like that. 

This gives a new twist to one of his favorite crutch phrases, "That I can tell you." 

The same shameless hypocrisy was also on parade this last week when Trump claimed F.B.I. Director Comey had cleared him (which Comey did not do) after Trump said he solicited information about the state of any investigation of himself personally. 

Oh, but President Bill Clinton, while waiting on the tarmac at the Phoenix Airport last year can't talk grand-kids and golf with then Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in what both sides said was an unplanned encounter, without it being the most sinister obstruction of justice ever. 

The calls for investigation and innuendo on that was so thick you couldn't cut it with a Japanese Katana sword. 

Give us a break. 

Careless? That was the worst accusation against Clinton? 

Then what shall we call Trump’s recklessly criminal negligence with top, top, tippy top secret stuff that actually matters? We call it, Trump, "You're fired." 

f anybody else in the government had done what Trump did they'd be behind bars right now. 

Lock her up, indeed. Lock him up and throw away the damn key, preferably with him attached to it. 

Senator Mitch McConnell said about the latest Trump f&%k up: “I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House...” 

The day after firing the F.B.I. Director, Trump shared highly classified U.S. intelligence with a KNOWN RUSSIAN SPY. 

But Mitch McConnell still refuses to investigate Trump. 

What We the People could use is a lot less Republican in the White House, especially when a memo by former F.B.I Director Comey memorializing a meeting with Trump -- a meeting in which it is understood that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who himself had failed to disclose his meetings with Russia's ambassador last year and, even though he is the F.B.I. Director's boss, was not invited to participate -- revealed that Trump talked about the ongoing investigation of a large Trump donor in a manner that may have more than suggested to Comey that he should be nice.
Nate Silver, when asked if Trump's problems have hit a breaking point, said, “I mean…what is there to say? It’s really bad news for Trump that Comey has seemingly created an extensive paper trail of their conversations. This is the sort of thing that would be the basis for impeachment. And at a minimum, the drip-drip-drip of leaks from Comey, and other people in the intelligence community, is going to create a lot of ‘distractions’ for Trump from his ability to pass his agenda." 

But some Republicans who still have the Spirit of ’76 (an aversion to Kings and Tyrants) in their blood are coming around and want an investigation. 

Michigan’s Republican Rep. Justin Amash has openly discussed a Trump impeachment, saying, “...I have more confidence in Director Comey." 

Under Republican command, the integrity of and faith in our government have been sliced into the rough. 

Obstruction of justice is for all Americans an obstruction of our collective gastrointestinal tract. And to flush it out requires nothing more than taking a dump of the trump. 

Lock him up. 

Trump is a man-child, silver spooned, a privileged narcissistic and serial manipulator -- and did I not mention serial liar? -- has in some 120 days done more damage to the soul of the United States of America than any of our enemies could have aspired to. 

In the legal system, when a case is dismissed with prejudice it means it cannot be brought again. 

I say to Trump: “You’re fired! With prejudice.”

 

(Michael N. Cohen is a former board member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, founding member of the LADWP Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, founding member of LA Clean Sweep and occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.-cw

Trump to Netflix? Starring in ‘Daze of Our Lives?’

SCHMO BIZ--“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” These are the opening words of long-time soap opera “Days of Our Lives”. They could just as well describe the story of President Donald Trump’s first months in office. Imagine what Netflix would make of the show we’ve all come to know as the short-lived (so far), but intense, drama of the Trump administration.

The TV Guide version would look something like this:

Episode 1: Donnie takes the oath of office cheered on by the biggest crowd ever at an inauguration. Or is it?

Episode 2: Donnie issues an executive order banning Muslims and gets into hot water with the men in black robes. Who do they think they are?

Episode 3: The “fake news” bunch pick on Kellyanne for sticking up for Donnie. Sean tries to help but just makes things worse.

Episode 4: People keep asking embarrassing questions about General Flynn and Donnie doesn’t like it.

Episode 5: Donnie tries helping his friend Paul kill Obamacare by repealing and “replacing” it, but the Freedom Caucus bullies spoil the fun.

Episode 6: It’s all in the family as Donnie gives everybody their own office. Stevie and Reince shoved out of the spotlight. Kellyanne disappears!

Episode 7: Donnie makes up with the Freedom Caucus and throws a party to celebrate a big win over Obamacare. Nobody tells him it’s not over yet.

Episode 8: “Out like Flynn” is the order of the day as Donnie is forced to deep six his buddy. Tweets fly as the tide of fake news rolls in.

Episode 9: James “Showboat” Comey makes trouble for Donnie because Flynn likes the Russians too much. Donnie reacts: “You’re fired!”

Episode 10: Sergey drops by and Donnie lets slip some gossip from Bibi. Oops!

Episode 11: Some guy Donnie never heard of hires a lawyer to investigate his campaign’s ties to the Russians (season one).

Will the show be cancelled or renewed? Stay tuned.

And come to think of it, maybe a more appropriate opening would be: 

“Submitted for your approval, one Donald J. Trump, orange-haired mogul recently elected president of the United States. He thinks he’s moved into the White House, but the truth is he’s just crossed over into …” 

Well, you know the rest.

 

(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and has served on the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]

-cw

Mueller Appointment: Hold Your Applause, Special Counsel Investigation has Pitfalls

MUELLER WELCOMED .. WITH CAUTION--While many welcome the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe as a "first step," observers warn that it is not enough to guarantee an independent, impartial investigation nor to tackle the range of possible misdeeds by President Donald Trump and his team.

Mueller's appointment, announced Wednesday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as special counsel to lead the investigation into possible ties between Russian election meddling and the 2016 Trump campaign was met with bipartisan applause. It comes as popular demand for an independent probe into an increasingly convoluted Russia investigation has reached nearly fever pitch.

Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn called it "a positive, necessary first step" and "proof that our democracy is resilient." American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) executive director Anthony Romero declared it "a critically necessary step given the conflicts of interest present at the Trump administration's highest levels."

(For his part, Trump called "it the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!")

However, those groups—in addition to a number of Democratic lawmakers—say that the appointment must be coupled with an independent commission, similar to the 9/11 commission, "to augment the efforts of the special prosecutor and follow the evidence wherever it leads," as Hobart put it. 

But others are warning that the appointment of the special counsel without such a commission may actually hobble truth-seeking.

As the Atlantic's David Frum wrote earlier this week, "such an appointment could well turn into a shield for wrongdoing."

He explained:

Of all the types of independent investigation that have been suggested, a special prosecutor is the most likely to disappear down rabbit holes—the least likely answer the questions that needed to be answered. A select committee of Congress or an independent commission of nonpartisan experts established by Congress can ask the broad question: What happened? A select committee or an independent commission can organize its inquiry according to priority, leaving the secondary and tertiary issues to the historians. A select committee or an independent commission is not barred from looking at events in earlier years statutes of limitations. A select committee or an independent commission seeks truth.

A special prosecutor, by contrast, seeks crimes. The criminal law is a heavy tool, and for that reason it is thickly encased in protections for accused persons. The most important protection from the point of view of the Trump-Russia matter is the rule of silence. A prosecutor investigating a crime can often discover non-criminal bad actions by the people he is investigating. If those bad actions do not amount to crimes, the prosecutor is supposed to look away.

Josh Marshall, published and editor of Talking Points Memo, similarly wrote Wednesday:

It is critical to understand that the most important details we need to know about the Russian disruption campaign and the Trump campaign's possible collusion with it may not be crimes. Indeed, I would say that the crimes we're likely to discover will likely be incidental or secondary to the broader actions and activities we're trying to uncover. Just hypothetically, what if Russia had a disruption campaign, Trump campaign officials gave winks and nods to nudge it forward but violated no laws? That’s hard to figure but by no means impossible. (Our criminal laws are not really designed for this set of facts.) The simple point is that the most important 'bad acts' may well not be crimes. That means not only is no one punished but far, far more important, we would never know what happened.

Digging into the details of the Department of Justice press statement, investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler cautioned that the scope of Mueller's investigation "is totally inadequate."

Following Wednesday's order, Wheeler wrote at her blog:

As I read this, it covers just the investigation into ties between the Russian government and people associated with Trump's campaign. Presumably, that includes Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page, among others. 

But there are other aspects of the great swamp that is the Trump and Russia orbit that might not be included here. For example, would Manafort's corrupt deals with Ukrainian oligarchs be included? Would Flynn's discussions with Turkish officials, or Rudy Giuliani's attempt to excuse Turkey's violation of Iran sanctions? Would the garden variety money laundering on behalf of non-governmental Russian mobbed up businessmen be included, something that might affect Manafort, Jared Kushner, or Trump himself?

[...] Any one of those investigations might present strings that can be pulled, any one of which might lead to the unraveling of the central question: did Trump's associates coordinate with the Russian government to become President. Unless Mueller can serve to protect those other corners of the investigation from Trump's tampering, it would be easy to shut down any of them as they become productive.

(Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams  … where this perspective was first posted.)

-cw

How US Military Vets View Trump’s Travel Ban

VETS VOICE--President Donald Trump supports America's troops. The troops, however, are more on the fence about their president.

That fact might not have been obvious during the presidential campaign, where Trump's unique brand of populism fared quite well with America's military veterans: According to exit polls from CNN, they voted for Trump two-to-one.

Then, on January 27th, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump signed a controversial executive order to enact a temporary travel ban against immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. The order made good on some of Trump's promises issued on the campaign trail. It also meant American troops would have to witness many of the very people who once provided them assistance on their missions in the Middle East—the very people whose lives may be in danger from bombings, death threats, poor medical access, or any number of other injustices—being barred from entering the United States.

Since the beginning of the election, a number of veterans have voiced their concerns with Trump and his "yellow ribbon patriotism." While Trump often claims to support the troops (as all presidents do), such assertions can ring hollow coming from a man who has openly disparaged both living veterans (Senator John McCain) and the families of the deceased (Humayun Khan) —especially when Trump never himself served in the military.

In an op-ed in Time, retired lieutenant colonel of the Marine Corps and presidential leadership scholar Justin Constantine wrote, "In a world of complex diplomatic relationships, nuclear weapons, competing national interests and deadly enemies, his [Trump's] inexperience could have severe consequences for our country."

"The ban is a horrifying betrayal of American ideals, our 'better angels,' to paraphrase President Lincoln."

Though veterans voted overwhelmingly for Trump, the results of a military poll conducted by the Military Times one month prior to the election shows that veterans were already skeptical of his stances. The poll found that, "Nearly 83 percent of those surveyed said they are dissatisfied with Clinton as the Democratic Party's pick to be president, and more than 65 percent said the same of Trump as the Republican nominee." In fact, a month before the election, only 40.5 percent of military veterans stated that they would vote for Trump, which can hardly be described as a landslide victory, or a reflection of strong support by the veteran community.

Now, for many veterans, this travel ban presents a frightening reality of life under the Trump administration—and a trespass against refugees' human rights. Two days after the ban was announced, Arabic translator and military historian Kirk Johnson tweeted about the travel ban and how it targets Iraqis and those who risked their lives to help American soldiers during the Iraq War, recounting how Americans allowed their Iraqi allies to be slaughtered after the war, instead of helping the Iraqi people immigrate to America.

"Those that helped us [in the Iraq War] were Christians, Muslims, Yazidis, atheists, you name it. They were our allies," Johnson wrote. "When they ran through gunfire to save our troops, they didn't think about such labels. These Iraqis believed in America. They loved our country. They lost their country as a result of the choice they made to help us."

Johnson goes on to illustrate how thousands of Iraqis lost their lives, homes, safety, and well-being, and made an enormous sacrifice in order to help American troops. In return, the first travel ban denied entry into the U.S. to those who had given us the most. In so doing, it damaged America's relationship with those seeking residence in the U.S.

Many of the veterans who stand in opposition to the ban have a story to tell.

Take Matthew Gallagher, [photo left] a former army captain who served in the Iraq War from 2005 to 2009. Since then, he has written a memoir and become an activist for the Veterans for American Ideals, a group that protects Muslim and refugee rights. "I think the ban is not only a horrifying betrayal of American ideals, our 'better angels,' to paraphrase President Lincoln; it also fails completely to attain its purpose, which is for better national security," Gallagher says. "We're already receiving reports that special operations units in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere have suffered losses of errant relationships to their allies because of how this ban is being received in the Middle East." 

For refugees and Iraqi translators who have risked their lives during the Iraq War, this ban ignores their contributions to this country. During the Iraq War, translators were the No. 1 target for Iraqi insurgents. Without the ability to communicate to local Iraqis, there would have been no way for Americans to gather local support.

Or take Sam Freeman,  an Iraqi refugee and current American citizen who spent seven years in Iraq as a linguist, cultural advisor, and liaison between the U.S. military and Iraqi civilians. "Generally, linguists are not issued weapons, and they look different [from American soldiers] so they stand out. I would be the most important person in our mission, and while the military does take care to make sure that I don't get killed, I was still the target person [for insurgents]," Freeman says. "While I'm lucky to say I made it, I have been pretty close, I've been injured."

Or Supriya Venkatesan, who saw firsthand how Iraqi translators and former refugees risked their lives during the Iraq War. She is a military veteran who served in Iraq for six years, and has gone on to become involved in Muslim and refugee rights by working with Syrian refugee advocacy groups and writing extensive, investigative journalism pieces on the horrific conditions that Syrians are currently experiencing at home, and their struggle to receive entry into the U.S.

What she's discovered since her time back in the states is that refugees like Sam not only feel an increased sense of duty and responsibility to the country that provided them with asylum, but refugees go on to become some of the most hard-working, ardent champions of the American dream.

"Based on my own experiences of working with the Muslims who are translators or linguists or survivors of war, there is something in them that makes them fight, and because of that they become extremely wonderful contributors to society," Venkatesan says. To Venkatesen, citizens from Muslim-majority countries who helped the U.S. in the Iraq War are our strongest allies, and to alienate them and prevent them from entry into our country is the ultimate affront.

Resettlement into the U.S. for refugees and for citizens applying for visas from the Middle East is a long and arduous process. On average, it takes at least a year and a half to two years for citizens of Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan to acquire a visa into the U.S. "Extreme vetting" would add even more time to this process, putting the lives of refugees and citizens of the Middle East in further jeopardy.

Lee Hungerbeeler did two tours in Iraq, where he served as a battery commander. He believes that Iraqi interpreters played a significant role in helping the U.S. military in the Iraq War; however, Hungerbeeler does not feel that the travel ban targets Muslims, Iraqis, or will negatively affect our military's relationship with Iraq or the Middle East.

"I think that [Trump's team is] going about it the right way as long as [the ban is] followed as it's written. But the problem is we're relying on people to take care of it, and it's a fairly ambitious plan with a lot of moving parts."

While not all veterans agree on the problematic nature of the ban, many of those who disagree with it will not remain silenced. Since the ban was introduced, Gallagher wrote an op-ed about his opposition to it for the Boston Globe.  His piece was then read by Senator Elizabeth Warren on the U.S. Senate floor. As op-eds and activism by veterans continues to proliferate, and these soldiers share their stories of working with refugees in the Middle East, a different narrative is coming through: not all military veterans support this ban, or the actions of the president.

(Michelle Threadgould is a journalist who lives in Oakland, California, and covers the intersection between arts and culture and social justice for Pacific Standard magazine … where this report originated.)

-cw

 

 

Drip. Drip. Drip.

BELL VIEW--Once, during a jury trial, opposing counsel asked my witness – who was not my client – whether she had spoken to me prior to testifying. “Yes,” she answered. “And what did Mr. Bell tell you to say today?” 

There’s an old adage that an attorney should never ask a question in front of a jury that he doesn’t already know the answer to. We can’t always be that lucky – but I’m not exactly sure what this guy was fishing for with his question. Luckily for me, I wasn’t surprised when my witness smiled and said “He just told me to get up here and tell the truth.” 

Truth. We live in such strange times that we might be forgiven for believing that the concept of truth no longer has any meaning. But truth has a persistence, and any decent trial lawyer can tell you that nothing is scarier than the truth. As an advocate, the truth is the only thing I have to work with. I can spin it, shade it, bend it, and try to bury it in a blizzard of nonsense – but I can’t deny it. 

California has a jury instruction that reads “A witness false in one part of his or her testimony is to be distrusted in others.” That’s good advice. The lies of the president have begun to seep past the physical body of Donald Trump like a drop of ink on a wet napkin. 

Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway have been so stained by Trump’s lies that nothing they say has any meaning any more. HR McMaster, Mike Pence, and Rod Rosenstein have already started to feel the stain creep in around the edges of their reputations. (I’d say the same for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell if they had any reputations worth sullying.) And it looks like a few million Americans might have to delete their Facebook profiles eventually lest their grandchildren find out the extent of their complicity. 

Enter James Comey – a former prosecutor – well aware of the power of the truth, he’s begun using it to build the brick wall against which this train of deception might crash. Trump has publicly called Comey a liar – but Comey appears to have put on his hazmat suit before he ever came within a hundred yards of the president. Comey tiptoed through the torture years of the Bush White House and walked out with a promotion. He’s not about to let a failed gameshow host get his wingtips dirty. 

I’ve predicted all along that this administration won’t last the full term. Lately, I’ve begun to doubt that prediction. We live in a world where which side you’re on determines how you look at reality. 

The truth doesn’t stand a chance in a lesser-of-two-evils world. But Trump has made it personal with Jim Comey, and he doesn’t look like a patsy to me. There’s probably a reason why FBI Directors are not routinely fired. 

James Comey made a few million enemies when he tipped the scales in the election. He did it because he was covering his own ass. Now Trump’s poking the same rattlesnake that took out Hillary Clinton. My money’s on the snake.

(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.)

-cw

Advisory for Liberals: Stop Talking and Start Acting

RESISTANCE IS AN ACTION--Why do a broad range of factions -- that we commonly label as liberal -- continue ad nauseum to content themselves with only reporting the latest irrational, depressing and demoralizing behavior of our profit-driven corporate-controlled American government? 

At the same time these liberals content themselves with preaching a rational alternative for what is possible to people who already agree with them. They seem to purposefully avoid any action designed to make their progressive ideas become the basis for more rational actions that could be taken by the government. 

But of course, the liberal's exclusively verbal and intellectual take – or, if you will, “game” -- never seems to reach a mainstream American audience that still doesn't have a clue as to what is going on in the programmed dissipation of the American dream of social equity. 

What if the Amy Goodmans, the Robert Reichs, the Noam Chomskys, the Chris Hedges, the Henry Louis Gates, and other insightful liberals took a page from Martin Luther King's playbook? In dealing with a segregated public transit system in Selma, Alabama, instead of merely reporting the ever increasing outrageous assaults on our democracy, Dr. King proactively posited a well-organized plan of action that those in power could no longer ignore with impunity. Ironically, it is my belief that such organized, concerted action would be far easier and would accomplish far more if it were adopted by these current leaders. 

King understood that a public transportation system in Selma that relied on a 70% African American ridership could no longer send these riders to the back of the bus -- unless those riders and their supporters allowed them to continue doing so. The bus boycott that ensued was based on a simple economic premise: either truly integrate this public transportation system or our well-organized boycott will bankrupt it. When push came to shove, the fear of looming bankruptcy of public transit in Selma trumped good old fashion publicly sanctioned racism. 

If we could apply this same principle (based on the fundamental democratic idea that majority rules) to changing the de facto segregated public education system that still exists in Los Angeles sixty-three years after Brown vs. Board of Education established that "separate but equal... is inherently unequal," then we could also stop the now unimpeded move toward corporate privatization of public education for profit and the further dumbing of America. 

Like the Selma bus boycott, a boycott of still segregated and quantifiably inferior public schools might go something like this: 

-Students do not go to school, but rather go to classes that are organized in churches and other public buildings, where they are taught by retired or other qualified teachers -- many of whom were themselves removed from their teaching careers based on fabricated charges. 

- However, the students’ regular teachers would show up at their regular schools and the school district would still be required to pay them. 

- But since the students aren't there and schools receive their money from the state and federal government based on in-seat average daily attendance, now, like in Selma, you've finally created negative financial consequences that the corrupt folks in power in schools, government, and corporations can no longer ignore as they do now. 

Liberals would finally make the news by doing something that can no longer be ignored by corrupt corporate interests and their respective media vassals. In addition, this action would serve to educate what has been, up until now, an unaware and discriminated against majority as to the meaning behind the phrase “majority rules.” 

In order to organize an effective action-oriented anti-oligarchy opposition from the Left, wouldn't it be relevant to wonder just how many degrees of internet separation there are among the still silent majority in this internet age? Would people who receive a solicitation to join a well-organized public school boycott that has a clear shot of succeeding be more likely to get involved if Matt Damon or John Stewart -- whose mothers are teachers – were to reach out and ask them to do so? And wouldn't they reach out to their respective networks to get people onboard? 

Use the list below to create, add to, and share in creating our own 2017 Selma bus-boycott-type organization necessary to bring to an end to the criminality that is destroying our society. 

What we have been experiencing up until now has been the end product of a war started long ago under Reagan to dismantle public education for profit. We have witnessed the further dumbing down of America so that "alternative facts" and irrational policies could then go unchallenged by undereducated Americans who have been subjected to this system for the last 40 years and are no longer capable of understanding what is going on – and what will be its Orwellian conclusion. 

In pursuit of this end, I would argue that the 1st Amendment right to freedom of association -- even virtually -- is the most important civil right we have if we are to bring about measurable change in bad actions and policies. This would make all of our other rights possible to achieve. 

With the Internet, the facilitating association has become more doable. But we must overcome the purposefully nurtured hopeless lethargy that has made the majority think they are the minority. Our truth is nowhere to be found as reported in the mainstream corporate media. 

What follows is, for starters, an initial contact information list of some who have already shown that they know better. If you can think of others or have a better way of reaching out and networking, add to this list and share what you do with all of us in the comments section below. Remember, most of us presently remain unaware of just how powerful we could be in organizing effective opposition to the growing dangerous alternative reality we are forced to live under: 

Reverend Dr. William Barber [email protected] 919‑682‑4700 

The Black Star Project Address: 3509 S King Dr #2B, Chicago, IL 60653 Phone: (773) 285-9600 www.blackstarproject.org 

Noam Chomsky [email protected] 

Stephen Colbert 

Matt Damon 

Ava DuVernay contact Mercedes Cooper [email protected] 

Professor Henry Louis Gates [email protected] 617.496.5468 

Amy Goodman https://www.democracynow.org/contact (212) 431-9090 

Chris Hedges [email protected] 

Rachel Maddow [email protected] 

Professor Diane Ravitch [email protected] 

Robert Reich [email protected] 

Michael Rezendes, The Boston Globe
135 Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, MA 02125
Tel: 617-929-3047
Cell: 617-763-1458
Fax: 617-929-2019 

John Stewart 

And ... Lenny Isenberg [email protected] 

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

Civility in a Time of Panic

AT LENGTH--It’s starting to become a regular occurrence for me: being stopped by people who preface their remarks with, “You probably won’t agree with me, but…” and then they go on about giving Trump a chance or complaining about the lack of bi-partisanship or that the leftists should chose another word other than “resistance” in opposing #45.

All of this becomes more confusing when #45 fires FBI Director James Comey with no warning. Comey learns of his firing from a news report that flashed on a television screen while he was in Los Angeles speaking to employees at an FBI field office. This happened while the investigation into Russian interference in our national elections was just beginning to pick up traction. It makes one wonder if Trump protests too much?

One older gentleman who recently stopped me said, “I just don’t think that these people who are protesting should be calling it ‘resistance.’”

“And just what would you call it?” I asked. There was a pause.

From what I could tell by his age and the fact he was having drinks in an upscale restaurant on a Monday night, he was likely a retiree living off of Social Security and a pension. He was likely more financially secure than those out protesting.

So I ask him, “What if it was your health care that was being threatened? What if it was your family at risk of being deported?”

The questions could go on because the list of threats keeps growing.

“Resistance,” I conclude, “is the natural response to acts of oppression by a tyrant.”

On another occasion, a different older guy, a political insider and a lobbyist who has worked with all levels of government, complained about how there’s no bipartisan collaboration anymore.

“I just don’t understand it,” he said, “I’ve worked with Republicans my entire career and always found common ground. But now…?”

“Those were different times,” I replied. “We haven’t ever had a real fascist in the White House before. When there is this kind of repression going, on people resisted.”

“Do you remember the opposition to the Richard Nixon presidency and the Vietnam War?” I asked. “How much collaboration would you propose if you were living in pre-WWII Germany?”

“What we have here and now is much more than a disagreement on policy. It’s literally an existential threat to our republic by a man and a caucus within the ruling party who are intent on eroding our rights, denigrating public institutions, destroying long-accepted protections and gutting public benefits. This would be like attempting to find common ground with Hitler,” I concluded.

This country stands divided, much like it was in the 1960s over civil rights and the Vietnam War. Even though those wounds have healed, they left lasting legacies, scarring our country and our democracy. Trump doesn’t even seem to know why the American Civil War was fought. His tweet about Andrew Jackson was the ultimate display of his ignorance.

The last older guy to interrupt my day admitted that he actually voted for Trump, but only because he couldn’t vote for Hillary.

“So you would have been OK with voting for a social democrat like Bernie Sanders?” I asked.

“Oh no. I grew up in Vermont back when it was a conservative state,” he replied.

“So you are all right with Trump firing the FBI director?” I pressed.

“I don’t agree with much that he’s said or done,” the man said.

All of these conversations were in public places and were quite civil and polite in tone — not like much of the acrimony coming out of Washington, D.C. these days where incivility is tweeted, repeated and made news-worthy as the topic du jour.

Comey’s firing from the FBI can be considered a distraction from the investigation into Trump’s Russian connections. Wouldn’t someone with the power to subpoena his tax records think that there might be some relevant details included in those returns?

What seems increasingly evident is that the American public is continually being played and  manipulated through false or misleading accusations and propaganda. This drama rises to the level of a Shakespearean tragedy.

However, out here in La La Land, the city blithely moves forward with its well-intentioned liberalism, while violating the rights of the homeless, curtailing free speech at city hall and pressing for a misguided Measure C charter amendment which has been criticized by the groups who have historically lobbied for police reform.

It is an imperfect solution to the intractable problem of Los Angeles Police Department oversight. It should be voted down. The real solution is to set up civilian review boards in each of the police divisions, with members appointed by the locally elected neighborhood councils who then send their decisions to the police commission for confirmation. It is doubtful whether either the police or the city council would share this kind of power with the neighborhood councils, but the time will come when neighborhood empowerment actually means something more than a few words on a website.

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.)

-cw

Don’t Blame Bush, or Trump, or Putin … for LA’s and CA’s Economic Disparity

TRANSIT WATCH--Blame George W. Bush, Donald J. Trump, and Vladimir V. Putin all you want, the financial problems of the City and County of LA, as well as those of the state of California, are home-grown.  One need look NO further than Downtown LA and Sacramento to figure out the TRUE sources of economic disparity, the flight of the middle class, and the ever-growing pension and budgetary crises that you can't keep blaming on "those guys". 

Because "those guys" are the ones running this city, county and state into the ground. 

So when Denny Zane (a good, honorable and likable man) asks how next to address our rail and bus line ridership, and future plans with the Measure R and M funds that LA County voters bravely said "yes" to, it's to be remembered that not that long ago these same voters said "no" to new funds for subway construction when the Metro Board forgot who they were working for. 

I want to again emphasize that Mr. Zane is a good man, and part of the answer, so when his Move LA organization asks "what next?", here are a few good ideas: 

1) Dance with the one who brought you here--the voters.  There are lobbyists and all sorts of opportunists who want that glob of money the voters allowed and trusted Metro with--so long as its transparent, it should be up to the voters to make the decision on how we spend our money.  OUR money. 

2) Clean buses are great ... but the most important thing voters and commuters want is the knowledge there are ENOUGH buses.  If it takes an extra hour to get to work via a bus, those with the money and self-respect to get access to a car will do just that. 

3) As for the rail lines, keep up the great work, but if the Eastside Metro Rail lines don't link well with Metrolink, ridership of both transit services will suffer (it's the same idea as making sure our freeways link to our surface streets ... duh!). 

4) Why are bus stops so lousy with respect to shelter and protection from the sun and elements?  Make bus riding an experience with dignity and convenience. 

5) Uber and Lyft are "a thing" now.  The private sector can and should have delightful, easy access for public/private partnerships to get people to their final destinations once they get off the train or bus.  Easy-peasy ... and affordable. 

6) Watch out for the development creeps--they own Planning, and they talk a lot but don't do squat about real affordable housing.  Don't worry--they'll make money.  Find the honorable and honest developers, and push the liars and cheaters away with both hands, lest they drag down the concept of affordable housing altogether--and also, we CAN build affordable and middle-class housing south of the I-10, can we not. 

7) Anticipate "what's next".  Like knowing there is NO direct LAX to Union Station rail connection, and knowing that people will scream about it from the Eastside to Downtown LA to South LA to the South Bay if you don't use that publicly-owned Harbor Subdivision Rail Right of Way correctly.  A bikeway for a rail right of way that was once considered by the California High Speed Rail Authority?   Do a Major Investment Study updated for the 2024-2030 timeframe, and make whatever financial preparations NOW. 

It's not that hard to take care of the taxpayers' money:  just treat it as if it were your own ... but remember it's NOT your own.  That money is an investment ... OUR investment.  

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)

-cw

The Truth is in the Shadows

THE COHEN COLUMN--A riddle: You're in a dark alley late at night, there is a chill in the air and a fog is rolling in. You hear the echo of heavy footsteps behind you, faint at first, but with every step you take they grow distinctly louder and louder

Who are you, and whose footsteps are behind you?

If you are that person we described (aren't you glad you are not) you are Donald Trump. The increasing footsteps you hear pounding on your heels is the truth catching up to you.

For Trump's entire life he has systematically lied about everything, and gotten away with it, more or less, whether it was about who he was dating or how much money he had. But now he has every
investigative journalist in the country working overtime to ferret out the real truth.

Now Trump's lies are about the vital national security interests and the constitutional honor of the United States, not just fodder for society column gossip. And no matter how many times he tries to smear real reporters with integrity as "fake" news, they will ultimately succeed in reporting reality.

Add to that those major investigative committees in both chambers of Congress. With even Republicans mouthing the words that we need to get to the bottom of Russia's role in all this so that it won't ever happen again.

Let's paint a picture, shall we? Let's suppose that Trump's minions did no more than communicate to Russia and said that if Trump was elected it would be better for Russian interests. We've practically had confessions of that already, for example Michael Flynn talking about sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

What face is appearing in the picture frame? And the answer is the face of treason. That’s Treason with a capital “T”, that’s Treachery with a capital “T” and Betrayal with a capital “B”.

Treason + Treachery + Betrayal = Congressional neck tie party

During Trump's campaign he publically encouraged Russia to interfere on his behalf, remember? 

Why would we be surprised to learn that he did the same thing secretly? We are not.

This is all before we talk about Trump associates taking tons of money from Russian operatives, shady business dealings and everything else.

“FBI Director Comey learned about his firing from a TV screen. Comey was addressing a group of FBI employees in Los Angeles when a television in the background flashed the news that he had been fired. In response, Mr. Comey laughed, saying he thought it was a fairly funny prank.” 

It never would have occurred to him that the guy he massively helped get elected would turn on him so coldly and rudely. But then again Trump is also the Commander of Insults.

But now we are told Trump was thinking of firing Comey the very day he was elected. Only he waited until he learned that Comey was digging deeper into the Russia thing, and then he panicked and acted precipitously.

He directed his own Justice Department appointees to make him a case for firing, and like the patsies they now clearly are, they did. That news has come out too. Jeff Sessions, who himself was supposed to be recused grabbed his hatchet again.

We'll say it again, there was good cause for firing Comey, based solely on his public bias of the Clinton investigation. But the TIMING of this firing is what is so incriminating of Trump.

On the morning of May 12, 2017, President Donald Trump tweeted, "James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Already primed to look at the parallels between Trump’s presidency and Richard Nixon’s, observers jumped on the suggestion that Trump could be following Nixon’s lead in secretly taping conversations in the White House.

This is NOT going away. We're not going away.

Still  not sure if Trump’s activities are that serious?

President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is “much more serious” than Watergate and could arguably be enough to see him impeached now, says the historian who predicted the Republican’s shock election win. 

Lastly, we'd like to credit Stephen Colbert for one of the best jokes we're heard recently. He was talking about Trump's tweet that everyone would thank him someday for firing Comey. "Yes," Colbert said, "let's get him something special, like a special prosecutor.”

(Michael N. Cohen is a former board member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, founding member of the LADWP Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, founding member of LA Clean Sweep and occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

Trump vs. Comey: Avoiding the Obvious

GELFAND’S WORLD-Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday. There was an attempt to blame the timing on a newly installed Assistant Attorney General. That story broke down. There was an attempt to explain the reasoning for the firing on the way the Hillary Clinton email investigation was covered. People laughed. 

How to start? 

George Smiley relit his pipe and ruminated . . . How had his arch-nemesis Karla gotten his hooks into the American president, and how much critical information would be passed to the descendents of his old enemies in the KGB? 

Maybe not. Still, it's almost believable. 

Jack Ryan lifted a vodka and nodded at Marko Ramius. Ramius broke the silence -- "I've something to tell you that had to wait until now, when we both are safe on American soil. Before I took my sub on her last voyage, I heard rumors of a breach in your security that goes all the way to the top." 

If only we had the facts in book form. 

But when you apply logic to the situation, the most obvious conclusion is that this president has something big to hide. And going down that path, the most reasonable conclusion is that Donald Trump had a long-time, ongoing relationship with the Russians that either resulted in a secret deal or in blackmail. 

By Wednesday, numerous commentators, pundits, and the Late Show's Steven Colbert had carefully nailed the firing and the president himself to the scandal over Russian election influence. Heather Digby Parsons (now writing for Salon.com among others, but famous as a blogger early on as "Digby") summarized.  "It's a frantic effort to sidetrack us -- and it won't work." 

The Republicans, who are so dedicated to electoral purity that they question the legality of hundreds of thousands of voters who are a little too old and a little too poor to have a drivers license -- well, they are now so very OK with Russian interference in a presidential election that they are willing to join the coverup. They are willing to excuse the president's firing of the man who was overseeing the investigation. Not all, but quite a lot right now. 

Without stealing from John Le Carre or The Manchurian Candidate, let's consider as a working hypothesis that the treason is at the top, and has been there for at least the better part of a year: The best explanation for the known data is that Trump was compromised by the Russians, perhaps years ago, and cut a secret deal with them sometime between the day he announced his presidential run and the convention. Considering Trump's personality quirks, we should assume that Trump's secret is financial. 

The evidence, if not overwhelming as of now, is at least getting stronger: 

1) The appointment of people to the Trump campaign who were close to the Russian war machine and Putin (Manafort for example). 

2) Trump's questioning of Nato's existence. Remember that this is the same guy who spoke from the fantail of the battleship Iowa, pledging a defense that is so great that nobody would dare challenge us. 

3) Trump's manipulation of the Republican Platform at the convention. 

4) The series of secret communications between Trump operatives and representatives of the Russian government in the period before the inauguration. 

5) Trump acts out the tough guy image except when it comes to Putin, where Trump reverses a century of American policy. He blusters about North Korea and the Chinese, while mewing that it would be nice to have a friendly relationship with Russia. 

6) The timing of the firing of James Comey: This is the man who handed the presidency to Trump through his Hillary Clinton letter. But Comey asked the Department of Justice for additional funding to continue the investigation of the Russian connection a few days ago, and within a few dozen hours he is gone. 

7) Donald Trump's mention in the firing letter that he (Trump) is not under investigation. It seems like a strange topic to include in a notice of termination, but Trump tends to project his actual motives. The investigation into his Russian ties was driving him crazy, so he had to try to undercut it. He would have been better served separating the lies about Russian influence from the termination notice, but that is not how Trump's mind works. 

Admittedly, this is a working hypothesis, but it arises out of multiple independent lines of evidence. There is the family history of financial ties to the Russian oligarchy, the odd events at the Republican National Convention, the staff interactions with a Russian intelligence operative, and the sudden firing of the one man most likely to put a lance into the pustulent boil of Russian interference in western elections. 

Television news anchors have been attaching the word Watergate to Comey's firing due to its eerie similarity to the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox by president Richard Nixon. It's been amusing in a depressing kind of way to watch White House spokesmen try to deal with the stress. Sean Spicer agreed to speak to the press as long as they turned the cameras off. Kelly Anne Conway pretended that there was nothing particularly interesting about the firing. 

There is one group that is having a hard time these past few hours -- Republicans in congress coming up for reelection. They already were forced to deal with angry constituents who want to keep their Medicaid and their coverage for preexisting conditions. Now, all of a sudden, congressmen have to deal with a situation that begins to look more and more like that T word, treason. 

Perhaps the most amusing gaffe was committed by a congressman who pointed out that things aren't as bad as they were in Germany in the 1930s.  Now that's grasping at straws.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]

-cw

Turns Out Running the Country Isn’t Like Running a Business

STUDENT PRESIDENT--Our president says he wants to run the country like a business. But it turns out running the government isn’t like running a business after all.

Trump, for his part, says he’s located the source of the problem: the Constitution. All those checks and balances our founders are cramping his style. “It’s an archaic system,” he complained.

Unfortunately for Trump, unlike on his reality TV show, when he doesn’t like a member of Congress, he can’t simply say, “You’re fired.”

Yes, Trump was elected by… well, not a majority of Americans. Or even a plurality of voters. But he was legally elected, and he has some power. Yet he cannot erase or overrule the power of our representatives in Congress.

How does Trump feel about that? “It’s really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion.” 

Yes, he actually said that about our system of government — which, admittedly, is less efficient than running a business. That’s the idea.

A publicly traded corporation has one goal: to make money for the shareholders.

A government, on the other hand, has many goals: economic prosperity, reducing poverty and hunger, keeping the public safe, preserving human rights and civil rights, and so forth.

A successful business leader may excel in making money. It doesn’t follow that they can achieve the many other objectives the leader of a nation must work toward.

A business can pick and choose who it deals with. The CEO can hire and fire employees at will and choose which other companies to work with. It can target its products towards a particular customer base, instead of attempting to sell its products to the entire public. And the CEO is the boss.

The government gets no such choices. The voters are the bosses. Our leaders have to deal with all of us, and they can’t pick and choose which segments of the population they want to represent. We’re all Americans.

Furthermore, Trump doesn’t get to choose who’s in Congress. We do.

Whether our members of Congress are Republicans or Democrats, they’re supposed to represent their districts. If Trump wants something that will harm their constituents, and potentially get them voted out of office, they won’t (or shouldn’t) go along with it. The president can’t simply issue orders and have them immediately followed like the head of a company can do.

In a company, it ultimately doesn’t matter if the marketing and the accounting departments disagree with the CEO. They have to do what they’re told to keep their jobs.

In a democracy, it does matter whether the representatives from Montana or Florida agree with the president. If the majority of Congress doesn’t agree with the president, they won’t roll over and do as he likes. And he cannot fire them, because they’re accountable to their voters.

So, welcome to Civics 101, Mr. President. You’re right. Our Constitution is “archaic” and it limits the powers of the presidency. That’s what our founders intended.

Maybe you ought to take some time out of your busy golfing schedule to read it some time.

(OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It and an occasional contributer to CityWatch. Distributed by OtherWords.org.) 

-cw

Fake President

COHEN TALK-It is a matter of ongoing astonishment to us that anyone, even his most diehard supporters, could believe a single word that comes out of Donald Trump's mouth. That's what's really "sad" -- a word he has singlehandedly beaten to death. Even blind, unthinking partisanship cannot fully explain trying to defend a person who says things such as, speaking about Andrew Jackson, “He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War." The problem is, by this time, Andrew Jackson, a mass slave holder, had been dead for 16 years. Trump
says he does not understand why the Civil War happened.

Not content with merely being ignorant of history, Trump makes up history, just like he makes up everything else. He will say whatever crazy thing that will get a roar out of the rally crowd of the moment – and that includes saying the exact opposite moments later.

It's gotten so bad that Trump accuses the media of being "fake news" when they play previous clips of Trump himself speaking. 

The latest Trump ass over tea kettle bloviate happened on Monday, May 1 when he actually claimed a victory even though Congress appropriated nothing to build his wall. Why this claim? Because Congress appropriated $15 billion more money for the military, although it was still less than the $54 billion he had asked for at the end of February

The only way to explain why anyone would have voted for him (except for total Republican automatons) is to recognize the cataclysmic failure of the Democratic Party to be responsive to its own constituents. Nancy knows best, Hillary knows best, Chuck knows best, including when Schumer actually said before the election, "For every blue collar Democrat we lose in Western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two, three moderate Republicans in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin." 

We heard with our own ears the audio recording of him saying this. Listen yourself on youtube.  Okay, Chuck, so at least you didn't lose Illinois, the home state of President Obama, but you lost Michigan instead, which is just as bad.

Who will save us from these tone deaf political losing geniuses?

The answer is the same as it has always been. We must save ourselves with our activism. People are speaking out to the Republicans in Congress. They are demanding that they not completely gut health care and education -- and it’s working. They are forcing the Republicans to reconsider, repent and reverse themselves.

But what is missing are more people willing to speak out to their own Democratic politicians, demanding better health care -- specifically Medicare for All. When we find all those people, we will find the missing votes and the needed election victories.

Help us find more of those people, our people. Share this message.

 

(Michael N. Cohen is a former board member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, founding member of the LADWP Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, founding member of LA Clean Sweep and occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Ivanka: ‘Something Very, Very Special Like Nobody's Seen Before’

TRUMP CORRUPTION WATCH--Just another little data point in the ongoing Trump corruption watch: Investors looking to buy a condo at Trump Tower in the Philippines would have found, until this week, some high-powered video testimonials on the project’s official website. 

There was Donald Trump, in a message filmed several years before he was elected president of the United States, declaring that the skyscraper bearing his name near the Philippine capital would be “something very, very special, like nobody’s seen before.” Then there was his daughter Ivanka Trump, now a senior White House adviser, lavishing praise on the project as a “milestone in Philippine real estate history.”

Four months into President Trump’s tenure, his business relationship with a developer who is one of the Philippines’ richest and most powerful men has emerged as a prime example of the collision between the private interests of a businessman in the White House and his public responsibility to shape U.S. foreign policy.

The potential conflict first came into focus shortly before Trump was elected, when the Philippines’ iron-fisted president, Rodrigo Duterte, named the Trump Organization’s partner in the Manila real estate venture his top trade envoy.

The connection burst back into public view this week, after Trump stunned human rights advocates by extending a White House invitation to Duterte, known for endorsing hundreds of extrajudicial killings of drug users, following what aides described as a “very friendly” phone call. Trump aides have said the outreach to Duterte is part of a broader effort to isolate North Korea.

Although the promotional videos were posted online in 2013, the continued presence of Trump and his daughter in marketing materials for the Manila tower reflects the extent to which they remain key selling points even as they have vowed to distance themselves from their global real estate and branding businesses.

After The Washington Post inquired Monday about the use of the Trumps in promoting the Manila project, the links and videos on the corporate website could no longer be accessed. Nonetheless, their lingering connection to the property’s sales pitch shows how difficult it is to separate the president from Trump-branded projects, particularly in foreign markets where there is less oversight of how his image is used.

Amanda Miller, vice president of marketing for the Trump Organization, said the material was “historical clips” that were not related to ongoing sales and marketing activity. Ivanka Trump was not aware that she was still featured in materials touting the Manila project, according to someone familiar with her views. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump’s company does not own or invest in the Manila project, a luxurious 57-story tower nearing completion in Makati, a bustling financial center that is part of metropolitan Manila.

In a long-term licensing deal, the project’s development company agreed to pay royalties for use of the Trump brand. Trump reported receiving $1 million to $6 million in payments from the project between 2014 and mid-2016, according to his financial disclosures.

Jose E.B. Antonio, chairman of the development company, has retained his leadership of the firm even as he functions now in his official capacity as a Duterte appointee. Kris Cole, a spokeswoman for the developer, said that Antonio’s envoy role is an unpaid, nongovernmental position promoting Philippine business interests in the United States.

Antonio, who Cole said was traveling and could not comment, told Bloomberg News in November that his role is to “enlarge the relationship between the two countries,” adding of his business relationship with Trump: “I guess it would be an asset.”

+++++++++


Ethics watchdogs have all weighed in on what's wrong with this. Here's one from The Brennan Center that lays it out succinctly: 

The first significant risk Trump’s continued business ties pose is of a direct conflict of interest. The Trump Organization is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that does business through over 400 entities in at least twenty countries, including vital partner nations and antagonistic dictatorships. Meanwhile, President Trump enjoys the tremendous powers of the executive branch — robust authority in matters of foreign affairs and domestic policy alike. So long as Trump continues to track the progress of his business empire, he can surely assess how his actions as president might benefit or harm his company’s fortunes. Even intentions to the contrary aside, research shows that, when faced with a financial conflict of interest, individuals demonstrate unconscious bias toward reaching conclusions that benefit them. As such, a cloud of suspicion will engulf some of President Trump’s most momentous decisions, leaving observers wondering whether his personal business interests influenced his policy choices.

The second concern with Trump keeping tabs on his business is that it creates opportunities for bribery. Far from the anachronisms of Tammany-era bribery — a stuffed envelope traded for a quick favor — bribery in this sophisticated context occurs on an industrial scale. Such “indirect lobbying,” as academics who studied media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s government in Italy politely termed it, is the practice of providing business to a firm that a politician controls, with the expectation that the given politician will, in return, act favorably for the lobbyer’s interests. With Eric Trump keeping his father abreast of the family business’ progress, there exists a credible risk that President Trump may direct the power of the federal government to reward those who benefit his bottom line and punish those who threaten it.

Some might argue it is premature to project these risks onto Trump’s presidency. But, even if one grants President Trump the fullest benefit of the doubt, his awareness of the Trump Organization’s vital financials is damaging to our democracy. When it comes to corruption, optics are critical. Evidence of an opportunity for President Trump to act in an underhanded manner, even absent bad motives, degrades faith in our democratic institutions.


Everyone will be very relieved to find out that nobody involved ever made a contribution to a charity devoted to helping millions of poor people around the world so this is perfectly fine. And as far as I know the Trumps and the Kushners haven't been using a personal email server as they enrich themselves by selling the presidency to the highest bidder. You can relax.

(Heather Parton blogs under the pseudonym Digby at the blog site she created: Hullabaloo and also writes for Salon and ourfuture.org

-cw

 

We ARE a Pre-Existing Condition

FURTHER--Gone is that loathsome sea of smug, suited, doughy, self-righteous, chortling, older white men in the Rose Garden gleefully celebrating the "moral travesty” of passing a billionaires' tax cut bill uncleverly disguised as a health reform bill that will rob 24 million people, many in the most dire need, of health care.

The House passage of the AHCA will abandon millions to their so-called pre-existing conditions, from AIDS, addiction, asthma and autism through cancer, kidney disease, MS, Parkinson's and yes pregnancy to schizophrenia, sexual assault and ulcers. It will hit a disproportionate number of women and Medicaid recipients particularly hard.

A Washington Post editorial headline cogently sums up the latest cruelty of an already- cruel GOP: "Betrayal, Carelessness, Hypocrisy: The GOP Health Care Bill Has It All." 

Before the obscene "party" "celebrating" a trillion-dollar tax cut to the top 2% of Americans came the spectacle of its accomplices blithely streaming out and down the Capitol's broad majestic steps after the vote to the rising sound of protesters chanting, "Shame!" Critics and other sentient beings swiftly joined in the outrage. Talking Points Memo offered crunched numbers and annotated photos of the "Butcher Block Celebration" to show how many constituents of each leering House member will suffer. Enraged constituents flocked to the Facebook pages of House members who voted for the bill, and caustic sites sprang up allowing you to choose your casket or send your remains to Paul Ryan - mailmetothegop.com - after you die of lack of care.

Among the angry hashtags were #ThingsJesusNeverSaid - "The poor shall receive bread and wine, but first we'll give it to the rich and it'll trickle down to you eventually ... Donald my orange son, go forth, take from the sick, bestow their gold on the wealthy, and destroy the world with hate ... Bless the men w/ pills to make their penis stand at attention, but end the place for women to get cancer protection" - and #IAmAPreExistingCondition, documenting hundreds of accounts of adults and, often, children, suffering from illnesses for which they may no longer be able to afford treatment - and, cue reality check, from which any among us may one day suffer.

Among the grievous stories and photos of kids fighting leukemia, Crohn's Disease, cerebral palsy are many brief, grim lists: "2nd trimester pregnancy loss, childhood cancer survivor...Clinical depression, anxiety, scoliosis..Born with a weakened immune system, mental illness, arthritis, migraine...Survived breast cancer ... Stage 4 colon cancer ... I am a woman. Apparently #IAmAPreExistingCondition.

Perhaps Charlie Pierce, often calm before the indignities visited by "an incompetent and vulgar talking yam," best voiced the pure rage sparked by "a bill constructed to be as cruel as possible to as many people as possible ... an altogether remarkable piece of American political history that should follow the people celebrating it to their graves."

"Goddamn them all," he wrote. "Goddamn the political movement that spawned them ... Goddamn anyone who believes that blind, genetic luck is a demonstration of divine design. Goddamn anyone who believes in a god who hands out disease as punishment. Goddamn anyone who stays behind the walls and dances while the plague comes back again."

Above all, say progressive groups, make them pay. Donations to support Democrats for upcoming open Congressional seats - and take back the House from these cretins - are pouring in. You may want blood. Take power instead.

A list of pre-existing conditions no longer covered under #Trumpcare:


AIDS/HIV, acid reflux, acne, ADD, addiction, Alzheimer's/dementia, anemia, aneurysm, angioplasty, anorexia, anxiety, arrhythmia, arthritis, asthma, atrial fibrillation, autism, bariatric surgery, basal cell carcinoma, ipolar disorder, blood clot, breast cancer, bulimia, bypass surgery, celiac disease, cerebral aneurysm, cerebral embolism, cerebral palsy, cerebral thrombosis, cervical cancer, colon cancer, colon polyps, congestive heart failure, COPD, Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, DMD, depression, diabetes, disabilities, Down syndrome, eating disorder, enlarged prostate, epilepsy, glaucoma, gout, heart disease, heart murmur, heartburn, hemophilia, hepatitis C, herpes, high cholesterol, hypertension, hysterectomy, kidney disease, kidney stones, kidney transplant, leukemia, lung cancer, lupus, lymphoma, mental health issues, migraines, MS, muscular dystrophy, narcolepsy, nasal polyps, obesity, OCD, organ transplant, osteoporosis, pacemaker, panic disorder, paralysis, paraplegia, Parkinson's disease, pregnancy, restless leg syndrome, schizophrenia, seasonal affective disorder, seizures, sickle cell disease, skin cancer, sleep apnea, sleep disorders, stent, stroke, thyroid issues, tooth disease, tuberculosis, ulcers.

These creeps are coming up for reelection, are vulnerable, and need to go.

(Abby Zimet writes for Common Dreams … where this perspective was first posted.)

-cw

What Sanders and Warren Got Right … and Wrong … about Obama’s Speaking Fees

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--Before I get to what Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders got right and wrong about former President Obama’s big Wall Street speech paydays, here’s a personal note. I have headed a non-profit public advocacy and education foundation for more than a decade, and in that time, every penny that I have received from speaking fees, appearances, and other public activities, has been turned over to the foundation to boost our donor program. Not one penny has been taken for personal use or profit. 

The instant word leaked that Obama would nab a big payday from Cantor-Fitzgerald for a speech in September and another $400,000 for speaking to advertisers at an A&E function, the loud screams were that Obama was shamelessly and even hypocritically profiteering off his name, reputation, and former position to enrich himself. There was little said that he’d put much, if not all, of the heavy-duty cash he received back into the public education and leadership training foundation he has set up. 

Former presidents and other big name public figures and celebrities often do exactly that with foundations they establish. But that’s a detail that’s almost never mentioned in the rush to tag them as greed merchants selling their names for big bucks. 

Now Warren and Sanders didn’t use those words to blast Obama for taking Wall Street and big corporate cash, they took the high road and merely said that it set a terrible example by pandering to Wall Street and big corporate donors. The very people and element that Obama from time to time lambasted and sparred and jostled with in trying to somewhat tighten regulations and toughen oversight over Wall Street. 

They have an arguable case on this point. Obama did often preach about the evils of a financial industry that makes its own rules, skirts, ignores and openly subverts the minimal regulations imposed on it, and rakes in billions in profit with a storehouse of taxpayer backed goodies. Wall Street banks and investment houses are both the symbol and reality of the worst of the worst of financial and corporate abuses. Yet, here is their one time White House antagonist taking their money. It just didn’t look and feel right and the way to make it look and feel right was for Obama to do what other former White House occupants didn’t do, namely the Clintons, and that’s just say no to the hefty corporate dollars dangled in front of him. Obama could have done that, but it would not have registered the slightest tick on Wall Street’s dollar scales. It would not make Wall Street pause for a nano-second in its relentless, never ending war against Dodd-Frank and other financial regulations. 

Obama is now a private citizen and he has absolutely no power to influence any of the doings in Congress, let alone the White House. But Warren and Sanders, as populist senators, are the ones who can parry the assault by the financial industry on the regulations, publicly expose and excoriate Wall Street relentlessly for its financial conniving and manipulation, and rally Democrats to stand tough against Trump and the GOP’s plan to scrap Dodd-Frank regulations. This is where their fight is and will continue to be, not with Obama for being paid a sum that amounts to pocket change for a major Wall Street firm. 

It’s also assumed that a public figure who speaks before a Wall Street or corporate audience just by their appearance puts their stamp of approval on the dealings of the financial industry. But that’s not why a financial group will pay a stiff fee for a noted public figure to speak to them. They are there because they are a media and public draw, enhancing the name and prestige of the company shelling out the fee. It is not expecting scripted and saccharine praise but rather a discussion of the very tough issues and criticisms that businesses have become accustomed to hearing from Warren and Sanders. The likelihood is that Cantor-Fitzgerald will hear those same criticisms from Obama in his speech. 

To their credit, Sanders and Warren did not say that Obama should not accept the $400,000 from Cantor-Fitzgerald, or any other amount of money offered from any other Wall Street outfit. That would be presumptuous at best, and meddling at worst. Obama will be a hot ticket commodity on the speaking circuit for a long time to come. There will undoubtedly be more high fee offerings to speak before a variety of public and even financial groups. And there will also be requests for him to speak before groups that can’t pay him a nickel, but are groups that he believes in their cause. Of course, these freebie Obama speeches won’t be mentioned, since there’s no chance to manufacture a controversy at his expense with them. Obama’s taking money from Wall Street won’t change Wall Street, that’s Warren and Sanders’s fight.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst and a CityWatch contributor. He is the author of the new ebook How the Democrats Can Win in The Trump Era (Amazon Kindle).  He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

‘Old Hickory’ and the Donald … What’s Not to Like?

POLITICAL BRANDING--Donald Trump’s recent statements about his admiration for our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, resulted in a lot of commentary and some good history lessons about “Old Hickory.” So did Trump’s suggestion that Jackson was angry about the causes of the Civil War and that things should have been “worked out” between the North and South. Obviously, Trump never heard the phrase “irrepressible conflict” (coined by another New Yorker and Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Henry Seward).

A few years ago, I visited Andrew Jackson’s plantation, The Hermitage, near Nashville, Tennessee. The front appears to be a classic, white-columned example of Greek revival architecture. Walk around the side and you will see it’s only a façade. The rest of the building is brick. It’s imposing, but not quite what it seems at first glance. Like many politicians, Jackson was aware of the need to (literally) put up a good front.

Like Trump, Jackson was always keenly aware of what the media was saying about him. Among the artifacts that belonged to Jackson will be found bound volumes of newspapers to which he subscribed. Throughout his life, Jackson read press accounts published in papers ranging from New England down through the South and into what was then considered the West.

Many publications excoriated Jackson for what they considered his high-handed attitudes. They called him “King Andy” for his lack of respect for Congress and the courts. Cartoonists were especially merciless. The more harsh accusations leveled at Jackson included adultery and murder. (He fought a number of duels and obviously was undefeated.)

Jackson considered himself the champion of the common man. Despite his backwoods origins, he was an astute politician. People forget that he was a successful lawyer, served on the Tennessee Supreme Court, and in both the U.S. House and Senate. He also made a lot of money, mostly in land speculation. Even now, The Hermitage sits on more than 1,100 acres. At Jackson’s death, it was also home to more than a hundred slaves.

Much is written about Jackson’s negative attitude toward Native Americans. His actions in Florida during the First Seminole War far exceeded his authority as commander of U.S. military forces. While president, he caused the forced removal of the Cherokee, Choctaw, and other tribes from their native lands in the Southeast. The “Trail of Tears” describes their trek westward to territory not yet wanted by settlers.

In 1832, the Sauk and Fox tribe was pushed from Illinois and Wisconsin across the Mississippi. The ensuing “Blackhawk” War (named for the tribe’s chief) provided the young Abe Lincoln’s only military experience. Jackson never had doubts about making room for the white homesteaders pursuing the American Dream. Or considering that people of color were lesser human beings.

Maybe it’s Jackson’s success in business and politics and disdain for those who tried to get in his way that Trump admires. Maybe it’s Jackson’s identification with the less fortunate. Or maybe it’s just because Jackson’s picture is on the $20 bill.

(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and has served on the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]

-cw

Tags:  

'God Have Mercy on Your Souls': GOP Pass Cruel, Destructive Trumpcare

NEED TO KNOW--After weeks of arm-twisting reluctant members and backroom negotiations, House Republicans voted Thursday to pass the much-maligned, "astonishingly evil" American Healthcare Act (AHCA), known as Trumpcare. 

"The GOP Trumpcare plan is a disaster. It would take away health care from millions of people, cost thousands more for middle-class and low-income Americans, and strip protections from people with pre-existing conditions, all to give a massive tax break to insurance company CEOs and the wealthiest Americans." —Ben Wikler, MoveOn.org 

"God have mercy on your souls," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told her GOP colleagues during Thursday's floor debate. The final vote was 217 in favor and 212 voting against. No Democrats voted for the bill.

Indeed, with no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score on how many people would be affected, and with scant time for lawmakers to even read the latest iteration of the bill (that was not ever made available to the public), House Republicans have now officially backed legislation that would do untold damage to countless Americans.

Outside the halls of power, nationwide protests were held demanding that the GOP back down from this "disaster" of a health plan while Democratic lawmakers in Washington, D.C. joined a host of progressive organizations for a rally outside the Capitol Building.

"The GOP Trumpcare plan is a disaster," said Ben Wikler, MoveOn.org Washington director. "It would take away health care from millions of people, cost thousands more for middle-class and low-income Americans, and strip protections from people with pre-existing conditions, all to give a massive tax break to insurance company CEOs and the wealthiest Americans."

Referring to the last-minute fix that drew reticent Republicans on board Wednesday, Wikler continued, "The Upton amendment is a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound that does nothing to solve the problems that Trumpcare would create. By rushing this bill through Congress, Republicans are creating a manufactured crisis that will devastate millions of families."

Here is what we do know:

-Even those covered by employer healthcare are under threat. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a newly-inserted loophole that threatens to eliminate the cap on out-of-pocket costs for even those covered by healthcare through their work. This could impact as much as half the U.S. population.

"Under the House bill," WSJ reported, "large employers could choose the benefit requirements from any state—including those that are allowed to lower their benchmarks under a waiver, health analysts said. By choosing a waiver state, employers looking to lower their costs could impose lifetime limits and eliminate the out-of-pocket cost cap from their plans under the GOP legislation."

-Trump lied, premiums for people with pre-existing conditions will skyrocket. A number of so-called moderate Republicans dropped their opposition to the bill late Wednesday after language was inserted to allocate funding to help cover the costs for those with pre-existing conditions who, under Trumpcare, would be placed into "high risk pools." However, a new analysis released on Thursday found that this aid would only cover 110,000 Americans, which amounts just five percent of the 2.2 million current enrollees in the individual insurance market estimated to have some type of pre-existing chronic condition.

Claims by Trump and House leadership that the plan protects people with pre-existing conditions are veritably false, according to observers, who note that while a cancer patient may be able to sign up for an insurance plan, their treatment might not be covered. The far-right Freedom Caucus got behind the plan last month after an amendment was inserted that allowed states to opt-out of a rule that prohibited insurers from charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.

"The return of discrimination based on medical history could increase insurance costs by tens of thousands of dollars," states an analysis by the Campaign for American Progress (CAP), "rendering it unaffordable for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions." 

-Being a woman "is a liability." Not only does Trumpcare consider things such as domestic violence, sexual assault, having had C-section, and postpartum depression to be pre-existing conditions, lawmakers have also axed the requirement that insurance companies cover maternity care. According to the aforementioned CAP analysis, a pregnancy with no or minor complications would result in a premium hike of $17,060, which amounts to a 425 percent increase.

"Read closely," wrote Slate's Christina Cauterucci on Thursday, Trumpcare "reveals the basic theory that underlies the GOP's entire legislative wishlist on healthcare: the idea that being a woman is a chronic medical condition and a liability."

-It takes an axe to Medicaid, decimating special education funding. "Because Trumpcare 2.0 would cut Medicaid by a quarter of its current budget ($880 billion) over the next decade and create a 'per-capita' funding cap on groups like children, school districts are saying that the cuts would force them to limit how much they can pay healthcare providers who assist students who require special education assistance," Salon's Matthew Rosza reported Thursday.

-It's a tax break for the rich. As Common Dreams has reported, the bill provides $600 billion in tax breaks to insurance companies and the most wealthy Americans who were taxed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In a press statement on Thursday, Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, outlined "the math behind the Republican healthcare repeal plan: Subtract healthcare from 24 million people. Add $600 billion in tax giveaways, mostly for the wealthy and corporations. Multiply out-of-pocket costs for senior citizens by 5. Divide all Americans. This equation didn't work out the last time they tried it, and it still doesn't work today. That's why Republicans in Congress want to exempt themselves and their staffs from their own lousy plan while refusing to wait for the Congressional Budget Office to estimate its costs."

-Lawmakers are exempt. Despite all of their rhetoric about the supposed failings of Obamacare, House Republicans inserted a provision on Tuesday that "exempts members of Congress and their staff from their latest healthcare plan," Vox reported, meaning they will be able to opt out of the new amendment that charges more for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a series of infographics on Thursday laying out the myriad problems with the plan:

With so much wrong with it, and with so much popular opposition, many wonder why the GOP would push through a healthcare bill that will likely suffer defeat once it gets to the U.S. Senate.  Addressing that question, Huffington Post's Jeffrey Young wrote Wednesday:

Anyone wondering why Republicans are in such a big rush must remember two things. First, Trump suffered a humiliating loss with the first canceled vote and doesn't like looking foolish, so he'll do whatever he can to get a healthcare win. Second, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) early this year set in motion a procedural course that makes repealing Obamacare a prerequisite for an even bigger GOP priority: permanent tax cuts for rich people and corporations. 

[...] This isn't exactly the "something terrific" Trump promised. This is what getting something done for the sake of getting it done looks like. The goal now seems to pass a bill―any bill―that the House can call "Obamacare repeal" so they can move on to cutting taxes on the rich and dumping this healthcare mess on the Senate's lawn.

"But if Trump and Ryan get their way and anything resembling the American Healthcare Act becomes the law of the land," Young continued, "the American people are going to notice that it doesn't make their lives any better―and for millions, makes them worse. Perhaps next on voters' agenda will be repealing and replacing Republicans."

As representatives head back to their home districts on Friday, the response should be swift.

(Lauren McDauley writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

We've All Heard of the Big Lie Technique … How about a Big Truth Technique?

GELFAND’S WORLD--At a recent meeting of a liberal coalition, one woman talked about a little experiment she had done at a congressman's town hall forum. She started a conversation with a couple of Trump supporters to see if there might be any political common ground. The discussion was cordial, but as she explained, the Trumpers spoke nothing but Fox News points. 

For more than two decades, the right wing, first through talk radio, then through cable television, has accused the mainstream media -- and therefore by implication our society as a whole -- of being biased towards the left. This alt-media loves to pick up rumors and repeat them endlessly, whether it's lies about what Hillary Clinton did during the Benghazi attack or the claim that Barack Obama ordered Donald Trump's phone wiretapped. 

When you look at the right wing approach, it becomes painfully obvious that we are looking at the big lie as practiced by Nazis in the old days and by national communist parties through most of the twentieth century. This technique has been summarized in the Joseph Goebbels description of telling a big lie and sticking to it. Eventually people come to believe the lie. 

Can there be a countervailing approach that will pick off a few voters from the right wing electorate? Here are a few suggestions. 

Don't ever concede any of the fraudulent points. When the NY Times published an op ed by its new columnist Bret Stephens, finding fault with the idea of global warming, that was a concession that should never have been made to the right wing. The piece was unadulterated propaganda that involved a major logical fallacy. If the Times wants to consider the state of scientific knowledge on global warming, then by all means do so. But apply the same level of journalistic integrity to climate science that you would to a story about governmental misconduct. 

We've spent a couple of decades watching the right wing accuse the mainstream press of bias, and then watching the mainstream press respond with chronic cowardice. It's become the norm for newspapers to run right wing columnists as a sop to the Rush Limbaugh fans. It hasn't really helped, because the problem of left wing media bias was never the problem to begin with. The complaint that the press has a left wing bias is just a club to beat the rational thinkers over the head with. You're going to continue getting beaten, no matter how many Jonah Goldberg columns are run on the editorial page. 

Apologizing to the right wing for faults that you don't actually have is not a useful approach for the media, and it does a disservice to our society. Since the mainstream media doesn't fight back, perhaps it's time that the rest of us led the media in responding to the right wing. Let's make clear that we will respond to right wing media bias because unlike the mythical left wing bias, we know that right wing media bias is real. 

We must start by creating a wider societal understanding that Fox News and right wing talk radio are chronically lying to the public. Let the public hear the words right wing media lies every day. 

An acquaintance recently finished a car trip across America's heartland, and mentioned that almost every hotel lobby and restaurant had Fox News running. We need a national movement to explain to the major hotel and motel chains that they are running right wing propaganda all the time, and many of us are tired of it. This approach worked against Rush Limbaugh (notice where he is on the dial around here?) and it could work against others in the alt-media. Use social pressure to encourage diners and hotels to run something besides Fox News on the tv sets in their lobbies. In this way, create the social pressure against the right wing big lie. 

The idea is to make it less comfortable for people to indulge their right wing fantasies. We have a historical context, in that publicly recited racism was the norm well into the 1950s and early 1960s. Even determined racists were forced by evolving societal norms to pretend otherwise. 

The conversion of societal norms away from the more pernicious right wing fantasies is a necessity. That means we have to continue to expose Trump's lies. May I suggest that it's important that many, many people keep repeating that he lies constantly and is not to be taken seriously. 

I suspect that a lot of conservatives have figured out that Trump just makes things up, and are quietly grinding their teeth. But then there's that couple we spoke about in the first paragraph, the people who recite Fox News positions with monotonous regularity. We have to be equally persistent in exposing Fox News misrepresentations. And we have to talk back to people who repeat those misrepresentations. 

Perhaps we are talking about using big truth in the service of public understanding in a way that is analogous to the technique of the big lie. Why not use persistence in telling the truth at a level that is comparable to the way that the right wing tells lies? 

The thing is, you have to use the word lie when you talk about the latest Fox News talking point and somebody has to do it every day. The idea is to create a widespread public discussion about the Fox lack of realism. From that discussion will come widespread doubt about the trustworthiness of Fox News. 

Pick a right wing lie and go after it repeatedly, even after the right wing has dropped it. That kind of repetition is what the Tea Party faction did over Benghazi and the Clinton emails. We could pick the Trump wiretap story as a good example that shows Trump to be a liar and implies how gullible right wingers can be. 

The best approach might be mockery -- persistent mockery. Late night talk show hosts Steven Colbert and Seth Myers are turning this approach into career builders. We can in turn build on that. 

Keep pointing out to people, "The right wing thinks you are gullible." Then tell them, "Don't fall for it." 

Let me point out that we are pretty good (all of a sudden) at taking the argument to Republicans in congress, most notably attacking them when they claim that Obamacare is a terrible thing. 

Thousands of people have shown up at congressional events to point out why they need coverage for their preexisting conditions. By doing so, we have made more possible the turnover of House control in the next election. Republicans from more centrist districts are in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, because they are being arm-twisted by their leadership to vote against guaranteed health insurance. At the end of this week, we should expect that moderate Republicans will be in even more trouble.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]

-cw

The Emperor Has No … Legislative Agenda?

COHEN TALK-Today we update and retell a famous children's fable: "But Mommy," exclaimed the young lass, "the Emperor has nothing on . . . his legislative agenda. The Emperor has no bills." And so, the naked truth has been exposed for all to see.

For in his first 100 days, during which he had expressly promised to pass no less than 10 major legislative initiatives, he had been unable to get Congress to even hold a vote on any of them. That should have surprised nobody, since he had sent them a concrete proposal on none of them at all, though his party controlled both chambers of Congress.

And all the palace courtiers and media echo heads and supplicant voters, who had relentlessly flattered the Emperor about his many wonderful accomplishments in passing so many bills, were finally forced to admit…

No, just kidding about that. They will never, EVER admit the existence of a political reality contrary to the Emperor's tweets of the moment; no matter now different they may be from the moment
before. The tweets are that shamelessly partisan.

But, lo, among the populace not partaking of the Kool Aid, many questioned whether the Emperor ever, at any time, had a plan for "great health care for a fraction of the cost." For when it came time to
introduce that proposal, the paper on which it was to be printed remained as bare as a baby's new bottom, for he had no actual proposal to present.

Even on tax reform, there was nothing but a vague one page outline, transparently intended to greatly advantage and favor the Emperor's richest patrons and fellow royalty, not to mention himself
personally.

But nonetheless, the Emperor headed off to yet another public rally of his most loyal and uncritically thinking supporters, where he bragged anew about having passed more bills in 100 days than anybody before in history. 

Actually he just passed by the White House more than anyone else. 

Fooore!

End of fable…we wish.

The simple point is that none of these charades relieve the Democrats in any way from their obligation to put forward their own concrete agenda. If the Emperor has none, at least none that he can even get his own party who control both chambers of Congress to pass, it is all the more incumbent on the Democrats to bring forward their own, and to campaign on that POLICY agenda, not just opposition to the schizophrenic personality of his Majesty Emperor Tweetness.

 

(Michael N. Cohen is a former board member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, founding member of the LADWP Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, founding member of LA Clean Sweep and occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

A Different Take on the United Airlines Kerfuffle Starting with … ‘Dr. Dao Broke the Law’

GELFAND’S WORLD--I chanced to have lunch with a commercial airline pilot the other day, and the conversation naturally turned to the United Airlines passenger who was forceably dragged from a Chicago flight. The pilot's answers were by parts conventional and in other parts a bit surprising. He started by reminding me that the airline is in the business of squeezing people into a narrow metal tube. In this case, due to the airline's negligence, a number of other passengers were endangered. That's the summary. The guilty parties include the airline, the police, and most importantly, the passenger himself. 

Remember that he's a criminal who should have been put in jail. That's a bit of a paraphrase, but close enough to the more extended argument I heard. In brief, the law is that passengers are required to obey the lawful orders of the flight crew. If you are a passenger and are told to leave the plane, that is what you are required to do. In the case of the United flight, three out of four passengers who were so instructed followed directions without incident and apparently received some compensation for their misfortune. 

One didn't. We've had some reports that Dr Dao not only didn't get up to leave, he made it clear that he would not do so willingly. This is where the next criticism from the pilot comes. 

The crew should have cleared the area around the resistant passenger. Once it became clear to the police and the flight crew that there would be physical resistance, they should have had the passengers in the surrounding seats get out of the way. They should have been told to leave the plane immediately and wait until it became safe to reboard. As the pilot explained, "Suppose my daughter had been in one of those seats and had gotten kicked by one of the police or the passenger." 

The flight crew and the police had plenty of warning that this passenger intended to resist. They had the time to secure the area and thereby protect the other passengers. They didn't do so. They didn't offer other passengers a chance to move out of the way. Why they didn't is a matter of conjecture (more about that below). 

Notice, by the way, that the passengers in the surrounding seats were put in an impossible situation. It would be normal for them to assume, "If I try to get off the plane to avoid the scuffle that is likely to happen, then I will presumably give up my right to fly, even though I've paid for my ticket. I might even get in trouble myself." 

What about the fact that Dr Dao had a paid ticket and had already gotten to his seat? The answer is a bit complicated and obviously not to the liking of most readers, but I will take a shot at it myself: There is a difference between getting treated rudely by an airline and threatening physical violence against the crew and the police. The lawful remedy for the passenger would have been in the courts and through social media (he obviously won at this level). He also had the opportunity to protest in writing and ask for compensation. 

He presumably could have rented a car and driven to Louisville in time for the next morning's work. it would have been a long haul (about equivalent to driving from Los Angeles to Gilroy) but it was possible. Being put in jail wouldn't have helped him to get to Louisville on time. There are lots of legal things he could have done, but physically resisting the acts of the police was not one of them. 

It's the airline's fault for the level at which they overbook flights 

I've rearranged the order of this narrative a bit just to get the more interesting points up front. My lunch companion's first comment was that the largest blame goes to United Airlines for the way they overbooked this flight. I would suggest that there is some nuance in the overall situation and therefore in the argument, because sending flights out full is the way that the industry manages to stay above water financially and, at the same time, sell discounted tickets to all of us over Kayak and Priceline. 

The pilot pointed out that airlines such as United are rushing their boarding in order to get the seats full and the doors shut as early as possible because this helps them to achieve a better on-time record. There is a definite downside for an airline if it has a substantial record of late-arriving flights. That's probably why the flight crew didn't insist that the surrounding passengers get off the flight for a few minutes as a safety measure. 

Nevertheless, United was actually obliged to get a reserve crew onto the plane as passengers, even though this led to an equal obligation to get paid passengers off the flight. 

This is where the more complex part of the argument comes in. The federal rules that protect airline passengers include limits on how long a flight crew is allowed to fly without a break. Fliers need to have the opportunity to sleep, and they are limited in the number of hours they can work without a sleep break. The expression for approaching the legal limit is timed out

The problem in the real world of air transportation is that airlines cannot afford to keep large numbers of reserve crew waiting around in every city. Louisville is a fairly modest aviation endpoint. Chicago is a very large hub, which makes it an appropriate place to site reserve crews (akin to Los Angeles, for example). 

Equally to the point, it's not always possible to know very far in advance that the crew that is supposed to fly the morning flight out of Louisville (presumably flying a different plane into Louisville from somewhere else the night before, or traveling from their homes in different places) is going to be timed out and needs to be replaced. The problem can occur due to weather delays, or sometimes there is an equipment malfunction, and once in a while there is illness. 

Whatever happened to precipitate the problem, United needed to get a crew to Louisville. Sending the Chicago based crew by car was not a reasonable alternative due to the requirements that the crew be allowed to sleep before doing the morning flight. Airlines cannot blithely disregard rules regarding flight crew fitness. 

Obviously we are in an era of increasing passenger frustration due to the security system, fully booked flights, and cramped seating. Long ago, some marketing group did a survey and found that people considered the cost of an airplane ticket as wasted money -- we tend to go for the best price we can find using one of the many online tools. Southwest actually provides pricing choices depending on which flight you book over the course of a day. 

There is one other interesting point. It's not clear to me that the airline did anything illegal at the time that the passenger refused to give up his seat. The ordinary course of events would be to ask the police to deal with the situation, which they did. If the police acted in an overly aggressive fashion, the passenger's complaint should have been against them. It's true that the passenger can complain about airline policy, but as numerous commenters have pointed out, the law is not on his side.

Then why did the CEO of United Airlines throw his own airline under the bus, so to speak? He spoke of his embarrassment and remorse, even though his employees were obeying the law and acting properly. We've now seen reports of a settlement with the passenger, although we don't know for how much. 

What we're seeing, I think, is the effect of bad publicity on business leaders. Cowardice wins out over legal principle. We see the same thing among politicians. What seems to be missing here is any leadership by the federal agencies in charge of flight safety, including the FAA and the TSA. 

Addendum 

As we speak, the story is emerging of an interim federal budget that increases the science budget, including an increase of 6% for the NIH. Maybe all those Marches for Science had an effect.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)

-cw

More Articles ...

 

Across CityWatch