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Wed, Jun

Most Young Americans (18-30 Yrs Old) See Trump as 'Illegitimate President': Poll

TRUMP WATCH--Responses were varied as to what made Trump's presidency seem illegitimate. Some said it was his nationalist rhetoric and policies; others said they doubted whether he was fairly elected. (Most young Americans see President Donald Trump as illegitimate, according to a new poll out Friday.

The survey by GenForward, conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 57 percent of adults between 18-30 years old—including three-quarters of black Americans and a large portion of Latinos and Asians—see Trump's presidency as illegitimate.

A slim majority of white young adults, 53 percent, consider him a legitimate president, but even among that group, 55 percent disapprove of the job he's doing.

Responses were varied as to what made Trump's presidency seem illegitimate. Some said it was his nationalist rhetoric and policies; others said they doubted whether he was fairly elected.

One respondent said he keeps remembering Trump giving a speech in which he referred to Mexicans as criminals and rapists. "You can't be saying that [if] you're the president," said the respondent, 21-year-old Jermaine Anderson, a student from Florida.

"I'm thinking, he's saying that most of the people in the world who are raping and killing people are the immigrants. That's not true," Anderson said.

Megan Desrochers, a 21-year-old student from Michigan, said, "I just think it was kind of a situation where he was voted in based on his celebrity status verses his ethics."

The poll of 1,833 adults age 18-30 was conducted February 16 through March 6. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams ... where this report was most recently posted.)

-cw

Fox News Poll: As Trump Divides, One Lawmaker Remains Huuugely Popular with American Voters

CONSERVATIVES AGREE--While it seems that the American public holds a dim view of most of its elected officials these days, a recent Fox News poll highlighted one lawmaker who has seemingly won over the majority of voters: Sen. Bernie Sanders

The survey, published Wednesday, found that 61 percent of respondents said they view the Independent senator from Vermont, an avowed Democratic socialist, favorably.

At the same time, only 32 percent of respondents said they approve of the the job that Democrats are doing in Congress (60 percent disapprove), and even less (29 percent) agree with the work of the GOP.

Notably, the polling comes as Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats and lost in a competitive presidential primary bid to Hillary Clinton, has faced antipathy from the party establishment. 

Pointing to the Fox News poll as well as a Huffington Post chart that tracks Sanders' favorability over time, the Guardian's Trevor Timm wrote Friday: "One would think with numbers like that, Democratic politicians would be falling all over themselves to be associated with Sanders, especially considering the party as a whole is more unpopular than the Republicans and even Donald Trump right now."

"Yet," Timm continued, "instead of embracing his message, the establishment wing of the party continues to resist him at almost every turn, and they seem insistent that they don't have to change their ways to gain back the support of huge swaths of the country."

But, as the conservative news survey seems to suggest, Sanders' message of economic justice may be one of the few points of popular resonance in the U.S. Case in point, earlier this week the progressive senator traveled to West Virginia to connect with supporters of President Donald Trump over the growing interest in a single-payer healthcare system.

Another interesting statistic from the Fox News poll: Planned Parenthood, the embattled women's healthcare provider widely scorned by Republican lawmakers, also boasts strong favorability among U.S. voters. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they are either 'strongly' or 'somewhat' in favor of Planned Parenthood, compared to only 32 percent who view the organization unfavorably.

Sanders' rating is the highest yet for the poll, which has also taken samples in September 2015, as well as in March, June, and August 2016. Planned Parenthood's popularity has also jumped 7 percent since August 2015.

Notably, Sanders is the only individual among those on the survey who broke 50 percent favorability. Some of the others include: Vice President Mike Pence (47 percent); President Donald Trump (44 percent); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), with 39 percent; House Speaker Paul Ryan (37 percent); House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (33 percent); Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (26 percent); and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (20 percent).

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

-cw

Missiles of October: A Crisis and a Time When Americans Trusted their Commander-in-Chief

GELFAND’S WORLD--Some of us here may be old enough to remember looking at black and white television as President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation about offensive missiles that the Soviet Union was installing in Cuba. It was October, 1962. This recollection is stimulated by the reshowing on late night TV of the 1974 dramatization, The Missiles of October. Those with a critical eye will notice a much younger William Devane as the president and an equally younger Martin Sheen as Robert Kennedy. Even more curious, celebrated actor Ralph Bellamy played then ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson. Bellamy had previously starred in Sunrise at Campobello, a Broadway play about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a role he reprised on a local stage in Los Angeles. 

Why is this forty year old made-for-television movie of interest all of a sudden? Obviously there is the contrast between JFK and the current occupant of the office. But it is the nature of this contrast that is concerning, and therefore worth dissecting. 

The year 1962 found the western world and the Russian empire locked in an ideological struggle that had been escalating on the nuclear front for a decade. The development of the hydrogen bomb had made the world an unsafe place. The competition to be able to deliver thermonuclear explosives over long distances was an active area for technical research and military development. The placement of intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba would have made the United States more vulnerable at the time. One day, a U.S. spy plane brought back aerial photos from Cuba showing the construction of a missile site. 

The plot of the movie bounces back and forth between the Kennedys and Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev. Each leader is involved in intense debates which include their top military commanders and their foremost political analysts. Krushchev, as portrayed in this dramatization, first rationalizes the risk he is about to take and later begins to understand that the risk of a disastrous war is the result. And it is growing. 

JFK is faced with the task of getting the Russians to back down and to remove the missile emplacements. A ray of hope begins to develop as each side begins to understand that it is necessary to give the other a chance to compromise without losing face. 

The movie portrays Kennedy's inner circle as a group of influential men who bring enormous experience and education to the task. What begins to dawn on the present day viewer is that we are expected to view the characters as people with intelligence, honesty, and honor. It's not surprising that generals and admirals try to push the president in the direction of air strikes and invasion. JFK and his broth Bobby do their best to keep the war talk under control. But each of the participants shows respect towards all of the others. JFK knows how to give orders and the others understand how much they can push back. 

As the crisis continues, we realize that even a leader of the caliber of JFK is driven by real world events. Depending on how the Russians act, he may be forced to order the invasion. He understands the grave danger this would bring. 

That was real life in 1962. Over the past couple of election cycles, we have endured irritating political ads in which a telephone call to the White House at 3 AM about some developing world crisis is used to represent the immediacy of presidential responsibilities. 

In the year of 1974 when this televised movie appeared, viewers were entitled to consider the president and his advisors as people who took their responsibilities seriously, who brought depth and broad intelligence to the table, and who didn't lie to each other. There is a lot of back and forth in the movie about how to withhold information from the press and when exactly to reveal it. But there is no inkling of a president or a presidential press secretary telling lies just for the sake of trivial expediency. 

There is no doubt that The Missiles of October glorifies its participants and avoids their all too human blemishes both as human beings and as politicians. But all of the characters in the story manage to maintain their dignity in public as they did in real life. Then again, they didn't have Twitter in 1962. 

These are characters who would take care to avoid being caught in a public lie. They would avoid becoming the public buffoon. The real life versions of these men didn't always live up to the public perception, but they at least paid lip service to the expectation and the ideal. 

It's hard to imagine the American people of 1960, in the face of thermonuclear risk, supporting a buffoon for the Oval Office. Even Richard Nixon, the 1968 winner, had the ability to carry on fairly learned discourse about international affairs without looking like a complete idiot. 

Perhaps the lesson of 2016 is that Americans simply don't worry very much about mass destruction on the scale that 1960s era Americans faced on a daily basis. Nowadays we are entitled to think about terrorism, but that is at a different level than the prospect of tens of millions of dead in a nuclear exchange. 

Jack Kennedy was aware of the danger, and at least in this dramatized portrayal, does his absolute best to avoid doing anything that would humiliate his opponents. Let this be a reminder. 

As I was watching this old rerun, there was the increasing sense of dismay that at one time, we had the right to expect our top elected officials to act at least in their official capacities with some sense of honor and in the performance of their duties with a considerable amount of intelligence. 

Addendum 

The Congressional Budget Office, as expected, came up with an estimate that the current House bill to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of insured by 14 million people, and over a decade, by nearly twice that many. Then the White House mentioned that their estimate was even a little worse. It remains to be seen how House Republicans will deal with wide scale public fears about the potential loss of Medicaid benefits. We can expect that Democrats will start to talk about Paul Ryan's stated intention of cutting back on Medicare. I'd like to think of some other descriptive term besides perfect storm, but that's what fits.

 

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

-cw

Five Ways This Trump Tax Story Stinks

TAX LEAK RAISES QUESTIONS-- President Donald Trump paid $36.6 million in federal income tax on more than $150 million in income in 2005, according to leaked documents obtained Tuesday night by Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston.

"The 1040 shows how Trump obtained money—salary, business profits, dividends, and the like," Johnston wrote at the DC Report after the White House confirmed the documents' authenticity. "But there is still far more that it doesn't say."

Indeed, the release, which comprised just two pages of returns, in some ways raised as many questions as it answered:

  1. Where did his income actually come from?

As Johnston reported Tuesday night, the 1040 form shows that Trump made money through "salary, business profits, dividends, and the like," but does not name the sources of his income—"whether rich golfers playing on his various courses or Russian oligarchs visiting his various hotels," Johnston wrote at DC Report. "Nor does the 1040 distinguish between Trump's business and personal expenses—money spent traveling in his personal jet between homes and offices in New York and Florida or between hotels and golf courses around the world."

What he did get out of, Johnston noted, was "repaying nearly $1 billion he borrowed for his failed casino business" by making use of a tax shelter that Congress shut down soon after. "Ten years later, on his 2005 return, Trump was still saving tax dollars thanks to that tax shelter."

  1. What's this AMT all about?

Trump has called for the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), the mechanism through which he paid the bulk of his 2005 taxes—about $31 million. The AMT is a federal rule that requires individuals pay the higher of two taxes—either their standard income tax or their AMT, which is imposed at a much higher threshold. The rule was implemented to keep a lid on tax-dodging by the wealthy. During his 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to abolish the mechanism, claiming it put a burden on middle-class families.

"But for AMT, which Trump wants to scrap, he'd have paid a lower tax rate than the poorest ½ of Americans—under 3.5 [percent] on $152.7 million," Johnston tweeted.

  1. Who leaked Trump's tax returns?

The answer is thus far unclear, but many—including Johnston—speculated that it could be someone acting on the president's behalf, or the president himself.

"It's entirely possible that Donald sent this to me," Johnston told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

"It's a possibility, and it could have been leaked by someone in his direction."

On CNN Wednesday, Johnston also noted that Trump has "a long history of leaking things about himself." However, he continued, the White House "behaved pretty unethically" in its response, which included refusing to comment on Johnston's story and instead disseminating the documents to friendly, conservative outlets—which ultimately hints that Trump wasn't behind the disclosure, he said.

Still, many saw the leak's favorable reflection on Trump as too coincidental to be discounted.

As New York Times labor reporter Noam Scheiber wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, the returns showed "basically nothing incriminating." He continued, "If this was someone trying to bust Trump, why wouldn't they leak more than summary page? If this is all they had, why leak it at all?"

Many noted that the forms were marked "Client Copy," indicating that the documents came from someone close to Trump, rather than the IRS, as the Washington Post pointed out.

  1. Was it okay to expose these documents?

The White House said in a statement that it was "totally illegal to steal and publish" Trump's tax returns. But as Johnston and Maddow clarified, they didn't seek out the documents, and Maddow said the First Amendment gives them the right to put them on air.

  1. Where are the rest of the tax returns?

Theories aside, many observers—particularly those in the conservative media, which pounced on Maddow's reporting as a "fake news bonanza," per the rightwing blog Breitbart—said the returns reflected positively on Trump, showing that he paid an effective tax rate of 25 percent.

But that outcome only bolstered the argument that the president's team leaked the documents on purpose, and fueled a separate call to release all the pages in his returns, not just the two-page summary.

As Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) tweeted, "If [Trump] has nothing to hide, why not release complete #TrumpTaxReturns? Not enough to just show 2 pages."

And Slate's Adam Chodorow wrote on Wednesday, "Tax Day is fast upon us. In a normal world, our president would release his tax returns for all to see. This ritual both reinforces the idea that we are all subject to the law and allows the American people to know that their president is not a crook. It also lets us know where the president's financial interests lie so that we can be sure he has our interests at heart when he sets policy."

"Perhaps Trump will surprise us all by releasing his taxes in the next few weeks," he continued. "I'm not counting on it. While we cannot force him to behave as his predecessors have, we can at the very least refuse to let his nondisclosure pass unremarked upon. This still isn't normal. And no one, whether Democrat or Republican, should let it become so."

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

Competing Models for Universal Healthcare have More in Common than You Think

ALPERN AT LARGE--The issue of healthcare, sadly enough, has become highly contentious and viciously partisan, but the need to compartmentalize politics and healthcare policy is critical.   

My previous article was kindly responded to by fellow CityWatch writer Bob Gelfand, who set the right tone:  we've got to TALK and COMPROMISE. 

Particularly if we're not so much on different sides of a given issue.  Part of the reason why health care appears so troubling politically is that we're not always "hearing" what the other side is saying. 

But there ARE differences, and they must be addressed...yet in a manner we've not seen to date.

Example #1: President Obama made it clear that doing nothing is NOT an option, and President Trump, interestingly enough, agrees. 

Example #2: Too many individuals, and families, and businesses were hurting because of the rising cost of health care, so President Obama took action.  Again, interestingly enough, President Trump agrees ... yet uses the "Obamacare" model as the unsustainable and unaffordable option that was hurting the same individuals and families and businesses that President Obama was trying to help. 

So once you/me/we get past the "Obama's coming to getcha!" or "Trump is Hitler!" and focus on fixing the problems, we'll disagree on a few things...but, like Mr. Gelfand and myself, we'll probably agree more than we disagree.   

It's all about the quality, affordability, and access to health care, right? 

1) What we can do, and MUST do, is emphasize transparency and flexibility for negotiations and improvements.   

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who's as responsible as anyone for no longer being the Speaker of the House and for Democrats losing the House) wants transparency now

Well, ain't THAT rich?  OK, I agree, but perhaps the Democrats would do well with different leadership, because it was Ms. Pelosi who rammed the ACA down our throats, and the results have been less than stellar. 

Costs are UP, Enrollment is DOWN and one need not be a right-wing partisan to suggest that the "Affordable Care Act" hasn't been so appropriately named. 

President Trump has made it clear that the ACA repeal/replace is a work in progress, and will speak to ANYONE willing to talk to him. Some Republicans are fighting Trump's and House Speaker Paul Ryan's plan, and many Democrats are vigorously concerned about it (as they should be). So, let's talk.  And no one party should be relegated to "the back of the bus". 

2) There's the inevitable, and potentially beneficial, divide of universal health COVERAGE vs. ACCESS. 

The ACA or "Obamacare" did NOT get to its goal of universal coverage, and even ended a host of health plans that were used and cherished by tens of millions of Americans. 

Paul Ryan is NOT trying to achieve universal health insurance and without getting too reflexively angry at that, let's catch our breath and remind ourselves of competing realities: 

a) A 43 year-old woman with sudden-onset breast cancer should not lose her insurance, and her family should not be destroyed financially because of her terrible misfortune.  Period. 

b) A 43 year-old man in good health who has not worked in 5-10 years and who wants ongoing health insurance is someone who should be offered the ability to work for his healthcare benefits, or should be relegated to the free public health care system that counties are legally obligated to provided.

The first situation requires much attention and fiscal support from all parts of government, and the second situation shouldn't get us too concerned about "how will he be covered?" 

Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are emphasizing opportunity over mandate and affordability over forced full-coverage for all Americans. 

(And even though it's tough for some of us to talk about, the issue of how much we're spending on those not here in the country legally isn't a trivial one, or an issue that's going to go away.) 

The rest of the issues relate to the need to balance capitalism and socialism, between the benefits of the free market and the need to have government protect us all from predatory behavior, and Gelfand, in his CityWatch column, addresses many of them: 

1) Drug costs are three or more times more expensive in the U.S. than the rest of the world, and we're indirectly subsidizing Europe and Canada.  That must end. 

2) We need more residencies, and government-subsidized health educational costs of physicians and nurses to pay for health care in underserved areas.  Lots of health care professionals would give up a few years of their lives to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. 

3) Opportunities for individuals and their families to work for their health care should be promoted so long as they are able-bodied, and a host of public works projects can be addressed by those opportunities...you know, that "win-win" situation Trump has always talked about? 

4) There will be arguments over the federal and state roles in funding and overseeing health care, but the first step is always the hardest step...particularly since this will be a neverending argument. Just pass something, and so long as it’s financially sustainable we can deal with fine-tuning the inevitable glitches in ANY system that is passed in Washington, D.C. 

On a final note, it should be emphasized that Republicans and Democrats both have major problems with Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan ... which can and should be used to the advantage of all of us. 

Because debate and compromise is a form of arguments and policymaking that is ... well ... healthy.

And healthy is what our nation needs to become, more than ever.

 

(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 is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs 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 

 

 

 

 

 

Rx for Chaos: Healthcare Is Too Important for Political Horsepuckey

EASTSIDER-Having negotiated and mediated a good number of healthcare agreements all over the State of California for a lot of years, I have a reasonable understanding of the fundamentals of how these systems work. And after being inundated with all the highly politicized nonsense from both political parties lately, I say, enough! 

As long as we have a healthcare system which is underwritten by insurance companies, the mathematics of healthcare is simple. Hat tip to Dave Winer, a NYC (Queens) software developer and author of the Scripting News blog, who hit the real issue right on: ”The insurance industry, left to a completely free market, will only insure young, healthy people, and will cancel their policies as soon as they get sick.” 

In the current “debate” in Washington D.C., I don’t think it matters too much whether the politicians are Democrats or Republicans. They all take in gobs of personal money from the health insurance industry and big pharma so that they can stay in office -- even as they tell you and me how much they care while they count their take. 

Be it Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, or President Trump and Representative Tom Price (now Secretary of Health and Human Services,) they all take money from the trough. I will, however, admit that Tom Price personally investing in a joint replacement company and then introducing legislation to benefit them, was over the top, even for D.C. On the other hand, what he did is legal for legislators (who make their own rules,) and Zimmer Bionet Tom, as we can now call him, didn’t do anything that a whole bunch of other legislators in both houses of Congress haven’t done in the past. 

The reality of medical care is that none of us really know when or how much of it we will need. So there has to be some kind of a cushion against life-threatening medical events, or long term illnesses that require expensive treatments, such as dialysis, organ transplants, etc. Otherwise, to put it bluntly, we can get sicker and even die. 

Insurance companies have no economic interest in covering any of this stuff. At the same time, rich people have lobbied Congress so that they don’t have to pay for dialysis, organ transplants, or special needs care. The fact that you and I also benefited from these changes was incidental. Congress, of course goes with the bucks and passes such legislation. It is not a coincidence that it was Ronald Reagan who passed the ADA; his donor base wanted it. 

The Math 

The healthcare equation is that insurance companies don’t want to lose any money on their insurance, and you and I don’t want to get an expensive medical condition, and then get real sick or die because we can’t pay for the medical care. This affects all of us, every person in the United States. Absent some resolution to this conflict, we are all one major medical event away from bankruptcy, or worse. 

Think about it. One major event -- be it long term unemployment, divorce, or major medical emergency -- away from bankruptcy. I’m not making this up. Look at The Two Income Trap, by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, written way back in 2003. It’s an impressive (and depressing) read about bankruptcy, a long time before the financial crisis that beggared all of us (except for the banks that caused it.) 

There is really only one entity that has the resources to cover that inherent conflict -- and, you got it, it’s the Government. Because we are really talking about how much risk the insurance industry is prepared to cover (not much) at what cost (a lot), and who’s going to pay for the rest your and my unmet healthcare costs. Realistically, the only entities that can do this are government agencies. And since they govern (and tax) all 360 million of us in the United States, the Feds have the deepest pockets. 

How much the Feds could cover vs. how much state and local entities could cover is pretty much a redistribution of costs issue, since the tax base is progressively smaller as you go down the food chain. Yet the statistical risks for all of us are roughly the same no matter where we happen to reside. A very small state, county or city is simply not going to be able to provide the cushion that the Federal government can. 

That’s the math. 

All the stuff you and I see on TV, hear about on the radio, or that is pushed out to us via social media and our mailboxes, is mostly just noise. Most of it is smoke and mirrors, designed to get you and me to vote for brand X or brand Y, like that will really fix our fundamental healthcare problems. 

Truth is Bernie Sanders was right in his analysis of healthcare, and he paid for it by having both the establishment DNC and RNC try to bury him. Whether or not the government can afford to go to his model, or should, is a public policy discussion that needs to occur and never really has. Instead we get this silliness. 

Budget Cycles and the Cliff 

The timing of all of the proposed changes to our healthcare system is not propitious, either. Most public agencies and corporations operate on one of two budget cycles: July 1 - June 30, or January 1 - December 31. Add in to this the fact that open enrollment for most healthcare providers is October/November for January 1 implementation. In order for them to do the necessary premium calculations, the data and coverage changes need to be in place well before summer. 

So here we are in March with the President and the Republicans playing around with what they call the “repeal and replacement” of Obamacare. After braying the same mantra for about seven years, it is clear that they didn’t have a clue what that slogan really meant. And for their part, the Dems have refused to play and are saying, “You break it, you own it.” Wonderful. 

If you are an insurer, if you are a small business person, if you are a public agency with a July 1 budget deadline, or if you are just a consumer at the mercy of all of these parties, this is incredibly anxiety producing. 

All that “striking while the iron is hot” rhetoric over healthcare is going to do is to make every insurer nuts as they try to figure out what premiums they will have to charge for next year. And they will have to take into account the impact for the rest of this year as hospitals, doctors, clinics and insurers have to make mid-year adjustments. 

The Insurers

It’s a prescription for chaos, even if all the insurers were playing fair. And let us not be deceived -- they are not all playing fair. I keep referring to Aetna as being a poster child for cheating, so let’s take a look at the details. First, they are one of the two largest insurance companies in the “health services industry” space. Whatever they do is therefore a big deal. 

Second, their mega-merger with Humana, another large player in the Medicaid and Medicare space, was a fix. They got caught by a federal judge lying about their decision to drop out of some 17 state exchanges on the grounds that they were losing money. Turns out that they threatened the Feds to do this if the Feds tried to block their merger with Humana. You can read about the skullduggery here.  

While Aetna called off the merger after being nailed by a federal judge, the moves to lessen, rather than encourage, competition in the Obamacare world have been marching on. The other 800 pound gorilla in the Obamacare game is Anthem Blue Cross, and they too are engaging in mergers to limit choice. You can read all about the insurance carriers shrinking our choices for Obamacare here, notwithstanding the blah blah blah of most news media

Whatever people’s ideology or political identification, let’s agree on one thing: insurance companies are in the business of making a profit, period. They are going to budget and set rates based on very conservative assumptions that will keep their CEOs employed. 

Most of the media reports over the Republican healthcare bill concern saving money, and how ok it is to charge folks from 60-65 more money because they “use” medical care more than younger people. Egad! You think? 

Here’s a modest proposal that will save a lot of money. Stop paying for organ transplants, stop paying for dialysis, and stop paying for long term care for the elderly. It would be really cost effective and save a ton of money! Insurance companies would love it. Heck, repeal the Special Ed statute. And make Congress have the same healthcare that you and I have. 

Anyone think they will do it? 

The Takeaway 

Here’s the practical problem: while the Republicans have elected to embrace Speaker Ryan’s plan without any substantive conversations with the Democrats, their math simply doesn’t work. A bill which pushes some 14 million poor and older Americans out of medical insurance while the relatively affluent get significant tax breaks is something that I cannot believe our political system will countenance. 

At the same time, the Establishment, limousine liberal Democratic leadership of Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House seems incapable of doing much more than ignoring the fact that they lost the election and are still trying to punish the Republicans for their choice of a deeply flawed candidate -- even as they themselves repudiated Bernie Sanders in every way possible. 

Well, we are all Americans. We all deserve affordable healthcare no matter who we are. What is missing here and deeply troubling, is that if the Republican effort fails, there is no Plan B being worked on by the few adults left in our political system, be they Republican or Democrat – at least that I’m aware of. This is not good and somebody needs to get crackin’ now

Remember, the ACA (Obamacare) is not sustainable in its current form after all that has happened in the last year, and while the big health insurance carriers are good at evading antitrust and gaming the system, I haven’t seen them or big pharma come up with anything sustainable either. 

We need to start electing politicians at every level who are reasonably honest and interested in actually representing you and me instead of the deep pocketed political parties and their owners. As long as election turnouts are in the under 20% range (heck, in LA that would be a big increase,) we’re going to keep getting what we got. 

Get involved, pay attention…and vote!

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Why the GOP Really Hates Medicaid

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--#45 Trump made news again when he abruptly switched gears and said that he wouldn’t keep hands off Medicaid as he kind of, sort of, promised to do during the campaign. Now, says Trump, it’s fair game for a quick assault, namely, the part of the program that some governors, including GOP governors, used to expand coverage in their states. This was made possible under a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Trump ignored the warning that by attacking Medicaid it could screw up the time table for the GOP congressional assault on Obamacare. 

This is incidental to the real reason Trump broke his promise and why the GOP has a manic obsession with savaging Medicaid. The GOP’s stock arguments that reining in Medicaid is about cutting costs, federal intrusion in health care, and restoring health care to the states is hogwash. It’s all about the program itself -- who it benefits from it and what it means politically to the GOP. 

The root of the GOP attack and loathing of Medicaid starts with who created it and what it was created to do. It was a Lyndon Johnson era, Democratic Great Society, War on Poverty Program that was unabashedly aimed at covering welfare recipients and the poorest of the poor. Despite the outrageous and very serviceable myth that is still happily fanned by conservatives as well as many in the media that Medicaid is a gigantic taxpayer health care give-away to the black poor, the majority of Medicaid recipients have always been whites. 

Over time, Medicaid was tweaked, reconfigured, and expanded to provide health care for millions more who had absolutely no access to affordable -- if indeed any kind -- of health care coverage. The greatest beneficiaries, though, have remained the poor, and especially their children. Medicaid covers the cost of prenatal care and hospitalization. 

Medicaid has been wildly successful in controlling health care costs, providing poor and working families with coverage unobtainable in the private insurance market, and acting as a brake on run-away medical care cost coverage in the states. Conservatives have seen deep political peril in this. And they saw even deeper peril when Obamacare expanded coverage more, bumping the number of those now receiving health care coverage under the program to nearly 20 million persons. 

When conservative GOP governors such Ohio’s John Kasich publicly took the expanded coverage deal with Medicaid, saying it could be a boon to the state, the die was cast. Medicaid had to be assailed. The political horror for the GOP is that as long as Medicaid is seen as a Democratic measure (more specifically an Obama measure to aid the needy) there’s a real possibility that many of those millions of voters in crucial swing states such as Ohio will begin to connect the dots. The dots being that Medicaid is a health care program that helps families in need, the Democrats support it and fight for it, while GOP conservatives bitterly oppose it. Therefore, come election time, those families might, just might, cast a vote for the friends, not the enemies, of Medicaid. 

This is an especially fragile political proposition for the GOP given that Trump won by only the barest margin in a handful of states, nearly all of Congress is up for re-election in 2018, and GOP governors and legislatures have only tenuous control in several states. Medicaid, and the lies and stereotypes told about it, appear to be a tailor-made issue to rally conservatives, and hopefully keep the GOP political ducks in contested states in line. That’s only the start since Medicaid -- because of those lies and stereotypes -- is regarded as the easiest of pickings to go after. If successful, this would open the gate wide for the next two perennial right-wing targets: Social Security and Medicare. 

As with Medicaid, Trump claimed during the campaign that he wouldn’t touch Social Security and Medicare, but that almost certainly will go the way of his Medicaid hands-off promise. The two programs are and have always been seen as Democratic inspired and backed. And that has made them conservative whipping boys with the usual storehouse of lies about run-away costs, waste and heavy handed federal intrusion. 

Medicaid then is the proving ground to convince the millions that benefit from these foundational federal programs that they aren’t really in their best interests. The GOP will try to pound home that there are better alternatives and the GOP, not the Democrats, is the party that can provide those alternatives. Trump got that message and will try to deliver this point to those voters who have grave doubts about hacking away programs that have been life-savers to them. For tens of millions, Medicaid has been at the top of the list of life-saving programs. This is what makes it the enduring political target it is -- or putting it bluntly, why the GOP hates it.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of In Scalia’s Shadow: The Trump Supreme Court (Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Will Donald Trump Ever be Andrew Jackson?

HISTORICAL MODELS-Why Does Andrew Jackson’s 250th birthday this week matter? What does his history of accomplishment tell us about the voids of our current president who admires him so much? It’s a good time to remember what an important political figure our seventh President was, and how far the 45th President needs to go to equal his idol. 

What can Donald Trump learn from Andrew Jackson, who was born 250 years ago on March 15, 1767? It will be a steep learning curve for Trump, who hung Jackson’s portrait on the Oval Office wall the day he took over and uses it as a photo-op backdrop as often as possible. 

Attempting to become Jackson-like, Donald Trump styles himself as the leader of a “populist” movement he energized with his “America First!” and “Make America Great Again!” slogans as he played on nativist sentiments. Such leanings are an identifying hallmark of Andrew Jackson, who shifted political power from the established elites to the ordinary voters, and played a leading role in granting all white males the right to vote, not just white male property owners. This was part of Jackson’s program of “Jacksonian Democracy” that morphed into the creation of the Democratic Party that, in turn, replaced Thomas Jefferson’s agrarian-based Democratic-Republican Party, changing American political history forever. 

This political advance led to greater democracy for the common man and better representation of poor citizens in the United States. With it, Jackson achieved inclusion. So far, Trump has practiced exclusion and his separatism and division are splitting the country. His campaign call to arms emasculated the Republican establishment and terminated the Bush and Clinton political dynasties. 

Jackson started out against the odds. Trump may also want to try to run the table and see what he can create. It will be worth watching. Jackson, like Trump, was not an Establishment political figure – “Old Hickory” was hardly a name the Boston Brahmins and Philadelphia lawyers, one generation removed from the Founding Fathers, would use to address a peer. Like Jackson, Trump is not an Establishment insider. 

Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Not so Jackson who, by adolescence, was an orphan on the Indian-dominated frontier: his father died before he was born, and his mother when he was twelve. He inherited no legacy or fortune. His apprenticeship was “life,” and he was able to parlay that into becoming a frontier lawyer, judge, congressman, senator, heroic general (famously known as “the Hero of New Orleans” in the War of 1812,) and twice a presidential candidate – winning on his second try in 1828, then serving two terms. 

Trump came to the White House partially from a background as a television reality show host where, for fourteen years, he presided weekly over a low-brow, unscripted entertainment program that specialized in humiliating contestants. As President, he continues to be executive producer of that show. Daily Variety reported that for the first time ever “a sitting president will be on the payroll of a current TV show.” Trump also spent years building up and branding himself and the property development business he inherited from his father. More recently, he has been creating his Trump-branded chain of country clubs and golf courses. 

Getting elected was a challenge for both presidents as each was up against the Establishment. Jackson’s opponent in the 1824 election was John Quincy Adams, the son of the second president, who won the election and became the sixth President of the United States. Thus began the concept of political dynasties in America that would come to include the families of Roosevelt, Kennedy, Bush, and Clinton, dynasties that have occupied center-stage in modern Presidential history. Trump had his own equally worthy Establishment adversary in the Clinton-Obama coalition. 

One trait that Trump and Jackson share is a doubt about their fitness for office. Jackson biographer Jon Meacham recounts some of the concerns his contemporaries had, concerns that “a man of Jackson’s temperament might turn the Republic into a dictatorship...unqualified for the difficult and complicated business...a wild-eyed backwoodsman brandishing a whip and a pistol.” However, Jackson turned out to be a man of real accomplishment. Trump’s immediate predecessor, who held the job for eight years, has referred to Trump as “unfit to serve as president...he keeps on proving it." 

Jackson overcame many doubts about him, drawing on his substantial experience as a military officer, a jurist, and a legislator. Trump’s experience coming into office is much more limited. If he’s the student of history he claims to be, and admires Andrew Jackson the way he demonstrates, he may be able to learn on how to be the president on the job. 

Jackson held two terms of office. His likeness was engraved onto the twenty-dollar bill in 1928 -- the 100th anniversary of his election as President. 

Generations from now, will a future President think that Trump’s picture is worth hanging on the Oval Office wall or being engraved onto currency? Will Trump, the student of history, make the kind of history that is worth commemorating?

 

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Trumpism and Anti-Semitism

The United States is witnessing a disturbing rise in anti-Semitic acts, which are sweeping over the country in wave after wave. In St. Louis, more than a hundred tombstones were tipped over; similar hate crimes have taken place in Philadelphia and New York. Attacks are taking place not only in cities across the country, but also in small towns. In Scottsburg, Indiana (a community with less than ten thousand residents), the gravestones of a Jewish couple were defaced with spray paint. To date, there have been reports of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in thirty-three states, and across college campuses.

The rise in hate crimes has risen sharply since Trump’s election. As early as four days following President Trump’s electoral win, an Episcopal Church in a small town in southern Indiana was vandalized with “Heil Trump”. Last weekend, in Orchard Park, a suburb of Buffalo, New York, residents and local law officials discovered spray-painted swastikas and vulgar graffiti on overpasses, a dozen vehicles, and on an elementary school playground. Ten Jewish community centers have been targeted with bomb threats for the fourth time in five weeks. And the list goes on.

While it is not only Jewish individuals and groups who have been increasingly subjected to bigotry and xenophobic outbursts, these latest acts are the escalation of overt anti-Semitism which re-appeared during the 2016 election. What began with tweeting and Internet trolling, is now manifesting itself in more brazen and threatening ways. Unless the underlying conditions are answered, there is every reason to expect that these attacks will persist and become more violent.

As reported by CBSLA, the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles was one of the Jewish facilities across the country that received a bomb threat, authorities said Tuesday.

Officers searched the facility on Olympic Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue Monday afternoon, but found no explosives, Los Angeles police said.

“There was no evidence that it was a credible threat,” LAPD spokesman Officer Tony Im said.

The growing anti-Semitism in the United States has been fed by a social-political atmosphere that is conducive to groups that thrive on racist ideology. White nationalist groups have been encouraged by the current administration's willingness to lend an ear and more to those on the far right.

The president of the United States does not have to be explicitly, or even implicitly, anti-Semitic in either words or deeds to create conditions in which anti-Semitic groups feel emboldened. By being ever ready to entertain conspiracy theories, by showing little regard whatsoever for facts when they are not to his liking, by "remembering" the Holocaust without any mention of the destruction of European Jewry, by failing to condemn these acts in a more timely manner, by empowering figures such as Steve Bannon, and by lending credence to the agenda of the alt-right, the president has helped to make these waves of anti-Semitism and bigotry possible.

Over the past year, the space of public discourse has deteriorated; what was once political spin has been replaced by palpable and shameless lying. It is clear that Trumpism – with its contempt for inconvenient truths, and glorification of authoritarian strongmen – is in part responsible for what is taking place. Racist ideology feeds off of illusions, beliefs which are held because they satisfy deep-seated wishes, without regard for evidence, justification, or warrant. Trumpism has provided the soil in which such illusions are free to grow unhampered by a sense of epistemic and moral responsibility.

The current rise of antisemitism was able to take root more easily when common manners and basic decency were shoved aside during an increasingly ugly election. Courtesy and manners are not insignificant things, but essential to ethical life (in the Hegelian sense), to our shared social substance, the ethical medium in which we dwell with others. The loss of the simple decency that we generally take for granted has wide ramifications and ultimately it creates a social environment where inhibitions against overtly racist acts are weakened, and hate crimes are more likely to occur.

Trump has shown himself ready to make brazen accusations without citing any evidentiary support; he has shown contempt for the rule of law and the freedom of the press, turning away the New York Times and CNN and referring to the media as "the Enemy of the American people" – language which is itself fraught with fascist undertones. Trumpism insists that we cannot be held morally responsible for the claims we make and the statements we endorse.

Indeed, what Trumpism represents is, to put it simply, the suicide of thought (to borrow a phrase from G. K. Chesterton). We are being reminded every day that the human intellect is free to destroy itself precisely by abdicating the responsibility and authority we have to think – we are becoming a society increasingly at war with reason and ‘the tower already reels.’ Trumpism is one of the great-thought destroying forces of our time in its contempt for things like objective knowledge and the disinterested pursuit of truth. The assault on epistemic values has moral consequences – to entertain ‘alternative facts’ and endorse theories on the basis of rumor or heresy is a moral failing, not only because it can lead to actual harm, but because in time it corrupts the mind itself.

To stem the rise of anti-Semitism, we need to restore the integrity of our public discourse, our commitment to intellectual honesty and self-scrutiny. Anti-Semitism has been allowed to grow because we as a country have created an environment that is conducive to race-minded reactionaries. Our country has grown meaner and more cynical. In the span of only a decade, comments that it would have been inconceivable to say in public are now becoming increasingly commonplace.

To properly address the deterioration of our nation’s ethical substance, we cannot underestimate the importance of trust. As the philosopher Jay Bernstein observed, “…trust relations provide the ethical substance of everyday living… Trust relations are relations of mutual recognition in which we acknowledge our mutual standing and vulnerability with respect to one another.” Trust is the “invisible substance of our moral lives” – we only notice it when it has been shattered.

These anti-Semitic and racist acts are attacks precisely on that trust which, under normal conditions, we take for granted. Restoring social trust is a long and difficult process. In this case it will involve, among other things, undoing the moral and epistemic harm caused by Trumpism, and Trump himself must begin this undertaking.

(Sam Ben-Meir, PhD is an adjunct professor at Mercy College. His current research focuses on environmental ethics and animal studies. He can be reached at [email protected].)

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Help! We have Fallen and Can’t Escape the Current Age of Anger!

The Dark Side of Globalization-When I was a gloomy 16-year-old grasping to find some meaning in the world, my father gave me a tattered copy of social philosopher Michael Novak’s The Experience of Nothingness. Seriously. 

There have been times over the past few decades when I’ve considered this “gift” a few yards short of insensitive and maybe even borderline teenager abuse. But I’m quite certain Dad’s intentions were no more malicious then than when he took me to see Annie Hall when I was 11. 

The essence of Novak’s argument -- and to some extent Woody Allen’s classic 1977 rom com -- is that individuals can achieve some semblance of wisdom if they stop believing in culturally sanctioned sentimental pablum about life (and love) and embrace the essentially tragic nature of human existence. 

In my dad’s defense, Novak’s 1970 book was in no way a prescription for fatalism. Rather, it was an exhortation to find enlightenment on the other side of disillusionment. Accepting life’s despair and emptiness, Novak argued, was a prerequisite for becoming a liberated and fully conscious human being. 

Novak knew that what he was prescribing was no easy task. “Because it lies so near to madness,” he wrote, “the experience of nothingness is a dangerous, possibly destructive experience.” Having no recourse to the comfort of broadly embraced cultural symbols and benchmarks requires inordinate doses of honesty, courage, and ethical self-reflection. 

Novak’s brand of transcendent nihilism was itself a response to a cultural breakdown caused by the rapid social change of the late 1960s. Neither nostalgic for tradition nor putting full stock in the coming of the Age of Aquarius, Novak’s push to accept the void was more a do-it-yourself guide to living in the void than it was a viable call to collective action. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about nihilism lately, both because Novak passed away in February and also because I just finished reading Indian writer Pankaj Mishra’s brilliant new book, The Age of Anger: The History of the Present. Mishra offers a sweeping, textured, unified theory of our dysfunctional age and explains what angry Trumpites, Brexiters, and radical Islamists all have in common: an utter fear of the void. 

Eschewing facile political or religious explanations for the rise of nihilistic social movements around the world, Mishra points to a crisis of meaning wrought by globalization. He sees the destruction of local, intimate, long-rooted systems of meaning as the opening of a spiritual Pandora’s box within which lies infinite doubt and disillusion. Mishra sees these negative solidarity movements as the psychically disenfranchised targeting what they see as “venal, callous and mendacious elites.” 

Brexiters railed against liberal cosmopolitan technocrats, as did Trump’s white nationalists. Radical Islamists loathe the hedonism and rootlessness of wealthy Muslims who’ve surrendered to Western consumer society. Rather than advocate for an agenda that would provide them tangible returns, they all cling to nostalgia for simpler times and rally around their hatred for those they see as the winners in a new world order. 

In Mishra’s view, this new world order isn’t simply neoliberal capitalism allowing money, goods, and services to flow unimpeded across the globe. It’s also the attendant ideal of liberal cosmopolitanism first advocated in the 18th century by Enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Voltaire, and Kant. It’s the belief in a universal commercial society made up of self-interested, rational individuals who seek fulfillment. 

Theoretically, modern global capitalism liberates individuals from the constraints of tradition, and encourages them to move about freely, deploy their skills, and fulfill their dreams. But the burdens of individualism and mobility can be as difficult to carry for those who’ve succeeded in fulfilling that modern vision as for those who cannot. A decade ago, one study found that a disproportionate number of Muslim militants have engineering degrees, a prestigious vocation in the developing world. So, while accepting the conventions of traditional society may leave a person feeling as if he or she were less than an individual, rejecting those conventions, in Mishra’s words, “is to assume an intolerable burden of freedom in often fundamentally discouraging conditions.” 

What concerns Mishra most is that when personal freedom and free enterprise are conflated, the ambitions released by the spread of individualism overwhelm the capacity of existing institutions to satisfy them. There are simply not enough opportunities to absorb the myriad desires of billions of single-minded young people. As Mishra sees it, today’s nihilistic politics are themselves a product of the sense of nothingness felt by growing numbers of uprooted outsiders who’ve failed to find their place in the commercial metropolis. “A moral and spiritual vacuum,” he writes, “is yet again filled up with anarchic expressions of individuality, and mad quests for substitute religions and modes of transcendence.” 

Despite his call to harness the experience of nothingness, Michael Novak duly warned of its dangers and potential for destructiveness. Unfortunately, his exhortation to lean in and embrace the void strikes me as about as helpful to frustrated millennials as it was to me when I was an angst-ridden teenager. The answer to today’s nihilistic political movements clearly isn’t more hyper individualism. Nor is a violent return to a traditional past realistic. No one knows how to escape from our current global age of anger. But I suspect that whatever answer there might be will first require us Western liberals to admit that we have finally reached the limits of the Enlightenment’s cult of secular individualism.

 

(Gregory Rodriguez is publisher of Zócalo Public Square … where this column was first posted … and editorial director at the Berggruen Institute. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Here’s What Will … and Won’t … Happen Next Time a Cop Kills an American

In the coming days or weeks or months, a police officer will kill an American, and a controversy will erupt. Maybe the person will be shot while walking away or holding a toy gun, or strapped to a chair and hit by a Taser, or the person’s spine will be severed in a police wagon.

There will be questions about who the victim was and what role she played in her own death, and whether the department is being upfront with the public about what really took place. Protests will bring out hundreds — perhaps thousands — of citizens demanding police transparency and accountability. The media will dig into the officers’ history, looking for allegations of racism or a record of excessive force complaints.

Under the national spotlight, the focus will shift to how the department interacts with the citizens they’ve sworn to protect and serve. It’ll become clear that the protests are about more than this one tragic incident. Perhaps the police department turned into a revenue-collection agency, with officers targeting black citizens for minor offenses while top city officials traded racist emails. Maybe officers were abusing the constitutional rights of civilians through routine stops, frisks and arrests that targeted black residents.

“We know that we have Americans with cell phones. We know that some tragedy is going to be captured on video. And we know that hashtag activism will bring it forward to public consciousness,” says NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.

What we don’t know, Brooks says, is what will happen next. How will the Justice Department respond? How will the attorney general respond? How will the president respond? 

Just a few months ago, the answer to those questions were relatively straightforward. Under Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s attorneys general, the Justice Department made a habit of launching broad investigations of police departments following controversial shootings.

It’s rare for the Justice Department to bring charges against an individual officer in connection with a shooting. The standard for bringing federal civil rights charges against an individual officer is high. Under federal civil rights law, prosecutors must prove an officer used excessive force willfully, and in all but the most egregious cases, it is extremely difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an officer intentionally violated an individual’s civil rights. And even successful excessive-force prosecutions don’t always expose underlying problems and often fail to improve the climate within a police department or prevent abuses. 

That’s where the Justice Department’s broad probes, also known as pattern-or-practice investigations, or 14141 probes, come in. Under a provision of The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act passed in 1994 in the wake of the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers, the Justice Department can investigate systemic problems within law enforcement agencies to identify “a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers” that “deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

These sorts of independent federal investigations allowed the healing process to begin in cities that were “in real pain because of a gulf in trust between the police and certain segments of that community,” says Jonathan Smith, a former DOJ Civil Rights Division official.

But under the Trump administration, the future of broad investigations into police departments is in doubt. On the campaign trail, Trump frequently pledged to back law enforcement. The Trump administration has vowed to eliminate America’s “anti-police atmosphere.” And the nation’s new top cop, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has long been a skeptic of broad civil rights investigations of police departments. 

Sessions is leery of consent decrees, in which police departments agree to change their practices, and believes “bad apples,” as opposed to systemic failings, are the cause of police violence. He went further in prepared remarks for a recent speech to the nation’s attorneys general, arguing that police felt the political leadership of the country had abandoned them. The federal government should not be in the business of “dictating to local police how to do their jobs” or spending “scarce federal resources” to sue cities in court, he argued. And Sessions said the DOJ would “pull back” on investigations that he believed had diminish the effectiveness of police departments.

Police stand guard as demonstrators mark the first anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 10, 2015. More than 100 people were arrested in Ferguson and St. Louis.

“We’re going to try to pull back on this, and I don’t think it’s wrong or mean or insensitive to civil rights or human rights,” Sessions said. Speaking with reporters the day before his speech, Sessions said he believed the DOJ reports released during Obama’s presidency — which he hadn’t read — were “anecdotal” and not based in science. 

Conservative news outlets got the message. “Jeff Sessions Signals That Obama’s War on Cops Is at an End,” declared RedState. Another conservative website said Sessions would “End Federal Harassment of Local Police.”

There’s no evidence that the Obama administration waged a “war” on cops. Only a couple dozen of the more than 18,000 police departments in America came under DOJ scrutiny during the Obama administration. And supporters of the Obama administration’s approach to police reform say the investigations benefit police officers as well, because effective policing requires the trust of the community.

“Fundamentally, you can’t fix the public safety problem in Chicago until you fix the police department. Those things have to go hand and hand,” says Smith, the former Civil Rights Division official. “I’m worried that without this tool available that you will see increasing frustration and growing mistrust.”

When a Huffington Post reporter asked Sessions how he thinks the Justice Department should respond after the next policing controversy, the attorney general focused on DOJ’s role in investigating individual incidents. But federal criminal investigations in excessive force don’t look at the whole department and miss broader issues inside law enforcement agencies that need to be addressed, argues Christy Lopez, a former deputy chief in the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “That officer, even if he did willfully do this thing, why was he hired in the first place? Why was he allowed to stay on? How many other officers have done that and escaped accountability at this department?”

Protecting the reputation and effectiveness of police departments, said Lopez, requires making sure they are abiding by the rule of law. Backing off of police department investigations, she said, “is not friendly to the police any more than it’s friendly to your children to let them run amok in the streets.”

“Obviously I get it, there are a lot of people in the FOP and line officers who feel under attack by the fact that these decrees exist,” Lopez added. “But it’s a narrative I wouldn’t buy into because there are a lot of people in law enforcement who recognize that this is a legitimate part of law enforcement, to make sure that law enforcement officers are abiding by the law just like everybody else.”

All the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police organization, wants from the Trump administration is “fairness and due process,” says Jim Pasco, the senior adviser to the FOP president. “Police officers deserve and are entitled to the same due process that anyone is ― and they should receive it…. Police are not perfect, but neither is anybody else, and we’re hopeful that all American citizens will benefit from evenhanded justice in a Trump administration.”

But most activists and experts who favor broad investigations of police departments concede they’re unlikely under Trump.

“There’s not going to be an Attorney General Holder, who’s flying down to Ferguson to shake hands with people at a coffee shop,” says Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “There’s not going to be an Attorney General Lynch to go to Baltimore and sit with community leaders around the table in the midst of the unrest.”

Lopez is even blunter: “I think we’re more likely to see the National Guard go in than the Civil Rights Division.”

(Ryan J. Reilly is senior justice report at Huff Post and Julia Craven reports for Huff Post … where his piece originated.) Photo credit: Ryan j. Reilly.

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Here’s How the Dems Can Get Back in the Game

NEW GEOGRAPHY--Numerous commentaries from both the political left and right have expounded the parlous state of the Democratic Party. And, to be sure, the Democrats have been working on extinguishing themselves in vast parts of the country, and have even managed to make themselves less popular than the Republicans in recent polls.

Yet, in the longer term, the demographic prospects of a Democratic resurgence remain excellent. Virtually all of the growing parts of the electorate — millennials, Latinos, Asians, single women — are tilting to the left. It is likely just a matter of time, particularly as more conservative whites from the silent and boomer generations begin to die off.

But, in politics, like life, time can make a decisive difference. It’s been almost a decade since the Atlantic proclaimed the end of “white America,” but Anglos will continue to dominate the electorate for at least the next few electoral cycles, and they have been trending to the right. In 1992, white voters split evenly between the parties, but last year went 54 percent to 39 percent for the GOP.

Identity politics vs. social democracy

To win consistently in the near term, and compete in red states, Democrats need to adjust the cultural and racial agenda dominating the “resistance” to one that addresses directly the challenges faced by working- and middle-class families of all races. This notion of identity politics, as opposed to those of social class, is embraced by the progressives’ allies in the media, academia, urban speculators, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, since environmentalism, gender and race issues do not directly threaten their wealth or privileged status.

The rise of identity politics, born in the 1960s, has weakened the party’s appeal to the broader population, as Columbia University humanities professor Mark Lilla argued in a November New York Times column. But most progressives, like pundit Matthew Yglesias, suggest that “there is no other way to do politics.” To even suggest abandoning identity politics, one progressive academic suggested, is an expression of “white supremacy,” and she compared the impeccably progressive Lilla with KKK leader David Duke.

This hurts the Democrats as they seek to counter President Donald Trump. Americans may not be enthusiastic about mass deportations, but the Democratic embrace of open borders and sanctuary cities also is not popular — not even in California. And while most Americans might embrace choice as a basic principle, many, even millennials, are queasy about late-term abortions.

Democrats also need to distance themselves from the anti-police rhetoric of Black Lives Matter. Among millennials, law enforcement and the military are the most trusted of all public institutions. Rabid racial politics among Democrats, notes Lee Trepanier, political science professor at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan and editor of the VoegelinView website, is steadily turning white voters into something of a conscious racial “tribe.”

Finally, Democrats have now embraced a form of climate change orthodoxy that, if implemented, all but guarantees that America will not have a strong, broad-based economic expansion. The economic pillars of today’s Democratic Party may thrive in a globalist, open-border society, but not many in the more decidedly blue-collar industrial, agricultural or homebuilding industries.

Toward a transracial populism

To appeal to the middle and working classes, the Democrats need to transcend cultural avant-gardism and embrace a more solid social democratic platform. Inequality and downward mobility have grown inexorably under both parties, which is why Bernie Sanders, and his eventual “mini-me,” Hillary Clinton, essentially ran against the Obama administration’s economic record.

On immigration, they don’t have to embrace Trump’s misguided views, but they should seek policies that don’t displace American workers. High-tech oligarchs may love H1-B visas that allow them access to indentured foreign geeks, but replacing middle-class IT workers with these foreign workers seems certain to alienate many, including the majority of white, college-educated people who voted for Trump. In contrast to oligarch-friendly Clinton, Bernie Sanders questioned both open borders and H1-B visas.

Sanders’ key plank — a single-payer, Canadian-like health care system — also could appeal to many small businesses, consultants and the expanding precariat of contract workers dependent on the now imperiled Obamacare. Critically, both health care and economic mobility priorities cross the color line, which is crucial to spreading social democracy here.

The key remains embracing growth and expanding opportunity. A pragmatic and work-oriented form of social democracy, as seen in Scandinavia, could be combined with a growth agenda. The Nordics may preen about their environmental righteousness, but their economies depend largely on exploiting natural resources — wood, iron ore, oil — as well as manufactured exports.

Opposing Trump’s plan to expand opportunity and bring jobs back to the country just to spite the president may not play so well in the long run. Most Americans may disapprove of Trump, the person, but they seem far more open to his policies, and are more optimistic than under the far more popular Obama. Trump’s defense of popular entitlements and infrastructure spending should garner some Democratic approval.

Rather than resist and posture in megadollar glitter, Democrats would be better served by developing their own middle-class-oriented growth program. This would be nothing unique for Democrats, and was central to the policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and, most recently, Bill Clinton. If Donald Trump gets sole credit for a massive infrastructure expansion and a robust economy in the face of hyperpolarizing “resistance” histrionics, then the timeline for a Democratic resurgence could be put off for a decade or more.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of New Geography … where this analysis was first posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

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Organize: The Reluctant Activist’s Guide to Protest

RESISTANCE WATCH--Black Lives Matter. Occupy Wall Street. The Tea Party. Even before the nationwide protests in response to Donald Trump’s election, civil unrest was roiling American politics. Citizens who a generation ago might never have considered speaking out are taking to the streets, shouting down officials at town halls, and deluging your social feeds with diatribes.

And it’s not just the United States: Good data is rare, but one survey of news coverage found that protest actions around the globe annually doubled from 2006 to 2012. It’s hard not to feel like you should be out protesting something these days. So, what’s the best way for the novice agitator to affect change?

Commit to Non-Violence

From 1900 to 2015, about half of all non-violent campaigns for regime change succeeded, compared to about one-quarter of violent insurgencies. That’s one much-discussed finding from the Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes catalogue of nearly 500 uprisings since 1900, compiled by the political scientist Erica Chenoweth of the University of Denver.

Non-violence works slightly more often than not; violence rarely works. This data only accounts for national movements to secede, or to remove heads of state or military occupations — sweeping fights — so they may not be instructive for narrower protests against, say, excessive use of force by law enforcement in minority communities.

On the other hand, there is some disputed evidence that, in limited circumstances, violent protests can help achieve small, temporary gains in the form of expanded financial assistance for low-income families or higher wages for workers.

… Even When the Other Side Gets Violent

Easier said than done, unless you believe your cause is worth life and limb. Chenoweth and her colleagues Marie Stephan and Jonathan Pinckney have found that violent state crackdowns in response to protests can shake even well-organized, well-trained movements’ commitment to their non-violent principles, and that violent repression is one of the most common points at which such movements fail. Strong, vocal support for non-violence from protest leaders, and extensive training for participants, might be key.

One of the 20th century’s most influential philosophers of activism, Richard Gregg, recognized this when he suggested that protestors should be as well-trained as soldiers, to tame their instinct to respond to violence with violence.

Be Welcoming to Less Ideological Newcomers

The pro-life movement has made striking gains in state legislatures since the 1990s, with new laws limiting abortion access sprouting nationwide every month. At the core of that movement is a legion of activists, many of whom who were initially invited to events despite holding pro-choice views, as Ziad Munson explored in his 2008 book The Making of Pro-Life Activists: How Social Movement Mobilization Works

One effective strategy of the movement: Once someone with a “thin” connection to the movement gets sucked in, they are encouraged to specialize in one protest tactic, whether it’s outreach to potential recruits, calling congresspersons, or picketing outside Planned Parenthood facilities. Pro-life organizations have gained a lot of very loosely affiliated members with this approach, helping them seem more influential and legitimate.

As much research suggests, the bigger the movement, the more likely it is to secure favorable outcomes.

Timing Is Key

In early 1933, Dr. Francis Townsend published an open letter calling for every person over the age of 60 to receive $200 per month from the federal government, paid for by a 2 percent national sales tax. Millions of people quickly passed the letter along to their friends, who signed up for the doctor’s newsletter.

Their plan rallied the elderly and set the agenda nationally, but elections loomed and competing, less-generous policies developed in the Senate. The Townsend army’s hardline advocacy distracted from bills with more votes in the Senate, so Franklin Roosevelt — who hated the Townsend Plan — passed the even less generous Social Security Act.

Townsend and his followers were bitterly disappointed, despite having helped create what would become one of the most popular government programs in history. The sociologist Edwin Amenta concluded in his 2010 review of dozens of protest studies, including his own on the Townsend effort, that “movements are less influential in later parts of the policy process” and “a national challenger with far-reaching goals is likely to need its issue already on the agenda.”

In the case of the Townsend Plan, their continued insistence on a perfect solution, along with their opponents’ maneuvering, hampered their ability to secure a more favorable compromise.

Understand That Strategy Matters

Protesters of all ideological stripes look to the early civil-rights movement, leading up to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, for strategic guidance. In a thorough study published earlier this year, the Princeton University politics professor Omar Wasow measured the effect of non-violent protests on Democratic vote share in the 1964 election.

Protests like the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins helped pro-civil rights Democrats.

The Watts riots hurt: Counties near violent protests saw decreased Democratic vote share, which Wasow suggests helped spark the law-and-order backlash that swung the 1968 election to Richard Nixon, and gave us mass incarceration that reformers are still trying to undo: “In public-opinion polls between 1950 and 1980, a majority of subjects identified ‘civil rights’ as the most important problem facing America at the same time that non-violent black protest activity peaked and, likewise, responded with ‘law and order’ when black-led violent protests were most active.”

(Michael R. Fitzgerald is Senior Editor, Pacific Standard  … where this guide was first posted.)

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What Should We Do If the President Is a Liar?

GUEST WORDS--"What should a United States senator, or any citizen, do if the president is a liar?" asks Bernie Sanders.

We face a very serious political problem in this country, and that problem is manifested in a post written yesterday by Amber Phillips of The Washington Post. In her piece, Phillips criticizes me for lowering the state of our political discourse, because I accused the president of being a “liar.”

What should a United States senator, or any citizen, do if the president is a liar? Does ignoring this reality benefit the American people? Do we make a bad situation worse by disrespecting the president of the United States? Or do we have an obligation to say that he is a liar to protect America’s standing in the world and people’s trust in our institutions?

I happen to strongly believe in civil political discourse. The vast majority of people in Congress who hold views different than mine are not liars. It is critical we have strong, fact-based debates on the important issues facing our country and that we respect people who come to different conclusions. In a democracy people will always have honestly held different points of view.

But how does one respond to a president who has complete disregard for reality and who makes assertions heard by billions of people around the world that have no basis in fact?

In her post, Phillips reprints five tweets that I sent out yesterday as examples of “the sorry state of political discourse right now.”

Here they are:

One of my great concerns is that there undoubtedly will be major crises facing the United States and the global community during Trump’s tenure as president. If Trump lies over and over again what kind of credibility will he, or the United States, have when we need to bring countries around the world together to respond to those crises? How many people in our country and other countries will think that Trump is just lying one more time?

Trump said three to five million people voted illegally in the last election. This is a preposterous and dangerous allegation which intentionally opens the floodgates for an increase in voter suppression efforts. Amber Phillips herself previously wrote, “There is just no evidence of voter fraud. Why launch an investigation into something that nearly everyone in U.S. politics — save one notable exception — doesn’t believe warrants an investigation?”

Trump claimed that his victory “was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.” Anyone with access to Google could see that this is factually incorrect. George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all had bigger electoral margins of victory than Trump.

And then there are the trivial lies. Trump stated “it looked like a million and a half people” at his inauguration. Who cares? But none of the people who are trained to estimate crowd size believe that one and a half million people attended his inauguration.

More importantly, Trump helped lead a baseless and dangerous attack against the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency by suggesting over and over again that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore not eligible to become president. This was not a disagreement with Obama over policy. It was a deliberate and dishonest effort to appeal to racist sentiment in this country and deny the right of our first African-American president to serve.

Lastly, my tweet which states that the United States will not be respected or taken seriously around the world if Trump continues to shamelessly lie is self-evident. We are the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth. If we have a president who is not taken seriously by people throughout the world because of his continuous lies, our international standing will clearly suffer.

I find it interesting that Ms. Phillips did not take issue with my facts. Her complaint appears to be that it is improper for a United States senator to state the obvious. And that is that we have a president who either lies intentionally or, even more frighteningly, does not know the difference between lies and truth.

What do you think?

It is easy to know how we respond to a president with whom we disagree on many, many issues. I disagree with Trump’s support for repealing the Affordable Care Act. I disagree with Trump’s plan to give huge tax breaks to billionaires. I disagree with Trump’s appointment of an anti-environmental EPA administrator. I disagree with Trump’s appointments of major Wall Street executives to key economic positions and his plans to loosen regulations on Wall Street designed to protect consumers. And on and on and on! These strong policy disagreements are a normal part of the political process. He has his views. I have mine.

But how do we deal with a president who makes statements that reverberate around our country and the world that are not based on fact or evidence? What is the appropriate way to respond to that? And if the media and political leaders fail to call lies what they are, are they then guilty of misleading the public?

What are your views on this extremely important issue? I look forward to your comments.

(Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.  Follow him on Twitter: @SenSanders or @BernieSanders. This perspective provided CityWatch by Common Dreams.

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When, Oh When, Did it All Go Wrong … or Did it?

ALT-RIGHT HISTORY-Donald Trump’s assertion that he will “Make America Great Again” suggests that at some point America became “not great.” Let’s put on our alt-right thinking caps (is that a non sequitur?) and see if we can figure out when that happened. 

If we start with the assumption that America was great when our bewigged forefathers wrote the Constitution, we only have about 220 or so years to examine. When did it all go wrong? 

Bad stuff happening, like the British burning the White House in 1814, doesn’t count. We bounced back from that one fairly quickly. The same goes for the occasional economic depression, rebellion against taxes on whiskey, and cholera epidemics. 

And thanks to shrewd bargains and an ability to win wars with Mexico, the United States grew bigger. Nobody worried about immigration because there were millions of acres to fill with farmers and, later, coal to mine, railroads to build, and factories to fill with cheap labor. 

For some of the alt-right, pro-Trump crowd (think brown shirts and white hoods), the first big “not great” moment occurred at the end of the Civil War when slavery was abolished. Literally, millions of black slaves were freed so they could begin exploiting the poor taxpayers who were forced by the federal government to pay for the 40 acres and a mule promised by General Sherman. 

It took a few years, but America was made great again by successive administrations whose priorities were keeping Wall Street happy, eliminating Native Americans, and doing everything possible to prevent workers from organizing unions. 

Disaster struck at the turn of the century when Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of William McKinley. The progressive Republican (a traitor to his class and party) broke up financial trusts and regulated business. Imagine how people felt when they could no longer walk into a drug store and buy patent medicines whose main ingredients might be wood alcohol and cocaine. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Roosevelt’s run as a third-party candidate resulted in the election of Woodrow Wilson. After promising continued American isolation from world affairs, he took the U.S. into World War I and then consorted with Europeans to ensure peace. Fortunately, the Senate put a stop to that. 

Making America great again, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover napped their way through the 1920s until the stock market ran off the cliff. Following a financial prescription now touted by Trump, the United States went from “really, really great” to “not great” almost overnight. 

During the next two decades, Roosevelt and Truman pulled us out of the Great Depression, fought World War II, and established government programs and policies that have, for the most part, endured because they make the lives of Americans better.

For the alt-right and, apparently, the vast majority of Republicans, this is when it all went wrong. Since the advent of Ronald Reagan, it’s all about demolishing everything in government, at all levels that might involve helping people who do not deserve “entitlements.” Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are targets even though individuals pay for much of the cost of these programs. 

What “Make America Great Again” really means is “Every man (and woman and child) for themselves.” 

The scorched earth policy of much of the alt-right is about erasing the history of the New Deal and Trump and the Republicans are their willing tools to achieve that goal.

 

(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and former Board of Neighborhood Commissioners commissioner. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

An Activist's View of Abortion Clinic Defense

RESISTANCE--I have been on picket lines defending abortion clinics since the 1980s. I remember well the wintry morning in December 1983 when I got a call to come up from Seattle immediately to help support the Feminist Women's Health Center in Everett, Washington, which had been firebombed during the night. The clinic put out the call and dozens of supporters from around the area arrived to stand with the staff in an early morning daze that was dispelled by our anger and concern. That was the first of three bombings the clinic experienced before the cost of rebuilding and escalating insurance premiums finally closed their doors. 

Over decades, I and my Radical Women sisters conducted similar clinic defense work in Seattle, New York City, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Australia, and other cities. Our Bay Area chapter for many years took the lead in mounting the counter-protest of the annual “Walk for Life” in San Francisco. We built and worked in reproductive justice coalitions and participated in actions, marches, forums, lobbying, conferences and speak-outs. Our work continues today as Planned Parenthood and other providers come under an intensified onslaught. 

Little has changed over the years as far as the stakes involved. Access to abortion is still a lifeline for women who for any number of reasons are unwilling to have a child at a particular time in their lives.
 
Our opponents are just as vicious, moralistic and dangerous today – whether they're launching their attacks through legislative means or outright terrorism.
 
But one thing that has changed is the attitude of some clinic owners and non-profit officers. Where clinic managers used to regularly walk the lines with us and thank us for our efforts, many are now so isolated from the movement that won abortion rights that they deplore the mobilization of community support outside their offices. They want to view reproductive services as a business, a professional apolitical enterprise, like dentistry. In another world this would be true, but it is certainly not the case in today's USA. Wishful thinking can't take the politics out of the struggle for accessible abortion – it is a key bulwark in the larger fights for women's rights, racial justice, economic parity, and the separation of church and state.
 
I was disturbed to see some clinic operators call on their supporters to not show up on February 11 outside Planned Parenthood, where anti-choicers had announced protests. Some clinic managers claimed it would cause stress and fear for staff and clients to encounter a face-off between the two sides. In my opinion, it causes much more stress and fear for clinic users to arrive at a site where only opponents are present. This also intimidates community members who assume they are alone in supporting women's reproductive rights if it appears that misogynists have won the disputed territory.
 
Counter to what some providers claim, reproductive rights defenders are frequently thanked for our presence by community members, staff, and people seeking clinic services. They know we are an important buffer between those who are ready to use any means to undermine their rights. 

Clinic defenders are not the problem. We can keep the volume down when staff let us know procedures are being performed. We are controlled in our face-offs with the fetus fetishizers, because our goal is not to change their cement-hard beliefs but to keep them from trampling on ours. Like clinic managers, we have the needs of clinic users paramount in our minds – not just on a particular day but for years to come.
 
The days for clinic defense are not over. In fact, our presence may be more urgent than ever given the heightening war against women.             

                                                    
(Helen Gilbert is a longtime activist with Radical Women and is Managing Editor of Red Letter Press in Seattle, Washington.)

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‘Still Unconstitutional, Still Discrimination’: Critics Lambast Trump's Muslim Ban 2.0

TRAVEL BAN WATCH--President Donald Trump on Monday rolled out "Muslim ban 2.0"—a new executive order blocking entry to the United States to people from six majority-Muslim countries, a directive one civil liberties group says amounts to doubling down on religious discrimination.

Politico noted earlier Monday that in the roughly five weeks since his first now-blocked travel ban was issued, Trump has been "promising the public that the revised version would be substantially the same as the original—while telling courts just the opposite." Also during that time, two Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents obtained by the press debunked the administration's rationale for any such travel ban.

The new ban will be effective March 16; the previous order went into effect immediately.

It blocks for 90 days people from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Iraq has been left off the new list, as the country "has taken steps to increase their cooperation with the United States in the vetting of Iraqi nationals," a fact sheet (pdf) from the White House says. It also states that "the significant presence of U.S. forces in Iraq," contributes to its different treatment.

The executive order affects those who did not have already a valid visa by January 27, 2017. The first travel ban originally blocked even those with green cards and current visas from re-entry.

In addition, the new order blocks all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days. Unlike the previous version, Syrian refugees are subject to this same pause, not blocked indefinitely.

Following the signing of the order, DHS Secretary John Kelly declared at a press conference that "unvetted and unregulated travel is not a universal privilege."

According to David Cole, national legal director of the ACLU and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, "The new order will be less catastrophic in its roll-out than the first, both because it exempts those who already have visas and because it will not go into effect until March 16. But it's still religious discrimination in the pre-textual guise of national security. And it's still unconstitutional."

And in response to the order's impacts on refugees in particular, David Miliband, president and CEO of humanitarian aid group International Rescue Committee, said it's "a ban that heartlessly targets the most vetted and most vulnerable population to enter the United States. This ban doesn't target those who are the greatest security risk, but those least able to advocate for themselves. Instead of making us safer, it serves as a gift for extremists who seek to undermine America."

The original ban sparked protests across the nation and beyond—as well as multiple lawsuits—and immigrant and civil rights groups have already vowed to return to the courts to take on the new order.

Omar Jadwat, head of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, added: "The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws. The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban. Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people."

(Andrea Germanos writes for Common Dreams … where this report originated.) Photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian/flickr/cc

Is The Donald Crazy?

DECODING BAD BEHAVIOR-Forces from the Right and Left don’t want the public to ask the obvious question: Is Trump insane? The American Psychiatric Association has its Goldwater Rule stating, “it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person, and obtained consent from, to discuss their mental health in public statements.” The American Psychological Association does not have a Goldwater Rule, but it has a wordy statement against diagnosing public figures.   

Perhaps the first time Western Civilization needed to the address the question of whether someone was crazy was when Cain slew Abel. After all, the killing arose from sibling rivalry when God said He liked Abel’s freshly slaughtered meat better than Cain’s veggies. 

“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’[d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” 

So, I guess the first crazy person was God who set brother against brother. Only a crazy person would do that. Should vegans everywhere take heed that God does not like vegetables? 

The point is that since the beginning, mankind has been trying to figure out why people (and divine beings) do bad things, and we are not going to stop now because some stuffed shirts in professional associations want to ride herd on us. 

The Bible continued to discuss kings who went mad as did the Greeks and the Romans and every other society on the face of the earth. Very recently, our own society has been trying to classify troublesome behaviors. It is through an on-going work called the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The DSM-5 came out in 2013. But psychiatrists and psychologists do not want us mere mortals to read the DSM for the same reason that many priests conceal sacred texts from the masses. Only the initiated may have access to the Truth. Hmm, kind of sounds like a rule Donald Trump would promulgate. 

What is the benefit in comparing Trump to definitions in the DSM-5? 

We could continue to use the Bible and decide to burn him at the stake or we could strictly apply criminal law and arrest him for criminal fraud. Neither the Bible nor the legal code will be of much benefit in understanding why The Donald behaves as he does. There is no sane reason for us to just sit here waiting for The Donald to deport us to Mexico before we look around for some common language to describe his bizarre behavior. 

How would the DSM-5 classify The Donald? 

Right now the category de jour is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (DSM-5, 301.81), but I think we need to pay attention to Histrionic Personality Disorder (DSM-5, 301.50). According to the DSM, a person may suffer from more than one Personality Disorder. I think I see aspect of Antisocial Personality Disorder (DSM-5, 301.7 - the old “psychopath”). The overlap is normal since all three are part of what the DSM calls Cluster B.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

John Kasich: ‘Resistance is Making a Difference, Affecting Obamacare Debate’

KEEP ON MARCHING--Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) (photo above) implored congressional Republicans to change tack on an Obamacare repeal by cutting out conservatives and working with Democrats to preserve coverage for millions of Americans ― and he admitted that the raucous town halls across the country are influencing the debate.

“There’s going to be a problem in the House of getting anything out of there that still provides coverage to people,” Kasich told “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson. “That’s why the Republicans have to reach out to some of the Democrats.”

Kasich mentioned that there were some conservatives in the House who were trying to get rid of the entirety of Obamacare.

“And that’s not acceptable when you have 20 million people, or 700,000 people in my state [using Obamacare], because where do the mentally ill go?” Kasich asked. “Where do the drug addicted go?”

Kasich is a proponent of the Medicaid expansion, which allowed states like Ohio to offer Medicaid to a broader range of people (including individuals making roughly $16,000 a year). Conservatives have already indicated they won’t vote for an Obamacare repeal that preserves the Medicaid expansion, while some Senate Republicans have indicated they won’t support a repeal that removes the expansion. That has left the GOP in a bind, and Kasich thinks the answer is to turn to Democrats.

Kasich also said he thought protests were affecting Republicans.

“Look, I don’t understand everything that’s going on with these town halls, but ... I think it’s having an impact from the standpoint of ‘Hey, people are watching,’” Kasich said. “I don’t think they mind reform, but don’t take everything away.”

On Saturday, governors were briefed about the GOP replacement plan, with the expectation that millions could lose coverage.

Kasich reiterated that he didn’t want to kick 20 million people off of health care, and that this debate was bigger than a political argument.

“At the end of the day I’m going to stand up for the people that wouldn’t have the coverage if they don’t get this thing right,” Kasich said. “And I happen to believe that the best way to get this right over time is for actually both parties to work together.”

(Matt Fuller is congressional reporter for Huff Post … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

Trump’s State of Trump Address

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-(Editor’s Note: President Trump deliver’s his first State of the Union address Tuesday, Feb 28.) #45 Trump is not calling his State of the Union Address a State of the Union Address. There’s a few good reasons why. Apart from what Trump calls it, a newly elected President’s first address before Congress and the nation is technically not a State of the Union address. It’s “an address to a joint session.” A President must be in office one year before he gives a State of the Union Address. 

This makes sense since it would take that long for a new President to have done anything that he merits discoursing on. Semantics aside, Trump has done everything he can to give the appearance that his presidency will be the most unorthodox, unconventional and precedent shattering of any administration. So, the wonder is he didn’t take it all the way and simply tweet his address. 

However, Trump, as all newly minted Presidents know, will be watched by the biggest audience any politician could ever hope to have watch and listen to them. And Presidents take full advantage of the moment since traditionally a State of the Union Address can boost the stature, prestige, and power of their presidency. It can even bump up a President’s approval rating by a point or two. 

Presidents also know that the opposition’s response to their speech is feeble, pale, and little watched or counted by Americans. In some cases, the opposition response can even backfire. This happens when the rebuttal comes off across as a mean-spirited, partisan, petty rant against the President. The GOP got deservedly plastered with that charge in just about every rebuttal it gave to Obama’s State Addresses. 

If Trump stays on script, the odds are that his address won’t do what these addresses are supposed to do, and that’s fine-tune and administration’s policy, draw a roadmap for the nation of where his administration is going, and add luster to the president’s image. Just look at how other Presidents have done that. President James Monroe announced the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln flatly called for the end of slavery in the rebellious states. This was the prelude to the Emancipation Proclamation he issued a year later. Woodrow Wilson warned of the dangers of impending war in 1913. Franklin Roosevelt outlined the famed Four Freedoms in 1941. 

Lyndon Johnson unveiled the outlines of his Great Society program to fight poverty in 1965. Bill Clinton unveiled his health care reform plan in 1993. George Bush in his State of the Union speeches in 2002 and 2003 prepped the nation for the Iraq invasion. Presidents quickly latched onto the media to give their State of the Union speech more exposure and political wallop. Calvin Coolidge gave the first radio broadcast in 1923. Truman gave the first televised broadcast in 1947. 

These were all conventional presidents and politicians who played within the system’s ground rules, respected the traditions of office, and gave a nod to bi-partisanship and the country in their addresses -- not to their party, let alone their egos and themselves. None of that applies with Trump. He’s picked fights with the Democratic Party leadership, the press, the courts, and even some in his own party. His string of accomplishments include trying to gut consumer protection regulations, pecking away at the Affordable Care Act, terrorizing lawful immigrants to the country, and loud threats to swiftly send anyone who sets foot in the U.S. without papers back to where they came. 

When he gets to his signature campaign issues of job creation, health care, and tax reform, don’t expect much in the way of details. Instead, Trump will fill up the teleprompter with his stock rhetorical fluff about bringing jobs back to America, whacking down taxes even more for the rich and corporations, and getting rid of Obamacare. 

There’s also not a lot he can really say about foreign policy besides bluster about making America a military muscle man that strikes fear in friend and foe alike, maybe making China the whipping boy on trade and currency, and claiming that he’s got ISIS on the permanent run. The one nation and leader that you can bet will get short shrift, if not be totally missing from Trump’s foreign policy diatribe, will be Russia and Putin. 

If one counts, Trump almost certainly will smash the “Guinness Book of Records” for the number of times he’ll use the pronoun “I” in referencing anything about his presidency and the nation. It will be a case study in how one man sees himself as the all-knowing, always right, font of personal and political wisdom. There will be no room on his throne to share even a sliver of limelight with anyone not named D. Trump. In this sense, it can rightly be said that Trump’s non-State of the Union will be an address not of the State of the Union, but the State of Trump.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst and a CityWatch contributor. He is the author of “In Scalia’s Shadow: The Trump Supreme Court” ( Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

As SEALs Fought For Their Lives, Trump Tweeted … MIA in the Situation Room

INSIDER REPORT--As a team of elite U.S. commandos found themselves under unexpectedly heavy fire in a remote Yemeni village last month, eight time zones away, their commander in chief was not in the Situation Room.

It’s unclear what he, personally, was doing. But his Twitter account was busy promoting an upcoming appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“I will be interviewed by @TheBrodyFile on @CBNNews tonight at 11pm. Enjoy!” read a tweet from President Donald Trump’s personal account on Saturday, Jan. 28.

Whether it was Trump himself or an aide who sent out that tweet at 5:50 p.m. ― about half an hour into a firefight that cost a Navy SEAL his life ― cannot be determined from the actual tweets, and the White House isn’t saying. Likewise, it’s not clear who deleted the tweet some 20 minutes later, or why the new president, just a week on the job, chose not to directly monitor the first high-risk military operation on his watch.

The CBN interview did not actually air until the following night, Jan. 29, and Trump or an aide may have realized the error and deleted the tweet for that reason. Alternatively, Trump or an aide might have realized that the Yemen operation was going badly and deleted the tweet to avoid looking callous. The tweet appears to have been sent via an iPhone, not via Android. Tweets sent from an iPhone are generally from the president’s staff, often taking his dictation, while tweets sent by Android are usually composed by Trump himself. 

The White House did not respond to The Huffington Post’s queries on the issue.

“He was obviously aware of the strike occurring,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the day after the raid. “He was kept in constant contact Saturday night of the status of the mission, both of the success that it had and the tragic loss of life that occurred to that member.”

Spicer, though, has not specifically said what Trump was doing between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, other than to say he was in the White House residence ― not in the Situation Room. That’s the hour ― 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. local time ― when the firefight in Yemen resulted in the deaths of some 30 people, according to news reports. U.S. forces had called in air strikes because of the ferocity of the resistance they encountered. At least 10 of those killed were women or children.

The last event on the presidential schedule released to the media for that Saturday was a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at 5 p.m. According to the White House pool reporter that day, Trump was on the phone with Turnbull at 5:11 p.m. when reporters were taken to witness the call through the Oval Office windows.

“Obviously, if a raid is only 20 minutes in, you should wait to see how it turns out before tweeting,” said one former National Security Council participant under former President Barack Obama. The staffer added that while Obama did not monitor every operation from the Situation Room (as he did during the one that killed Osama bin Laden), it seemed odd that Trump did not monitor this operation. “It is your first one.”

The timing of the CBN tweet and its deletion is the latest detail in the story of a military special operation that went not at all as planned.

Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the raid, and four U.S. service members were wounded. A $75 million Osprey aircraft was damaged and had to be destroyed to keep it from falling into enemy hands. Subsequent reports pointed out that Trump did not participate in a formal National Security Council review of the plan, but instead was briefed over a dinner meeting three nights before the raid.

Spicer on Feb. 2 said that Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, CIA director Mike Pompeo, then-national security adviser Mike Flynn, National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon took part in that dinner, as did Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“Doing it over dinner with Kushner and Bannon, without someone from the State Department present? I considered that a little odd,” said Luke Hartig, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the NSC under Obama. He added that more comprehensive planning might not have averted problems, but could have ensured that better contingency strategies were in place.

In any event, Spicer on Feb. 2 essentially described the raid as something planned and approved under Obama (a characterization that Obama aides dispute). That places it about midway along the evolution of the White’s House description of the operation ― from immediately afterward, when Spicer declared the raid a complete success, to the following week, when he accused anyone who questioned that assessment of dishonoring the fallen serviceman.

In the initial aftermath, Spicer said the raid had killed 14 fighters with the group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Within a few days, as reports spread of civilian deaths which the Defense Department acknowledged, Spicer said the whole point of the mission was “intelligence gathering,” in the form of laptops and cellphones that were taken.

By the following week, amid reports that Yemen had withdrawn permission for U.S. troops to conduct raids there and that the purported main target of the raid, AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi, had escaped and was now taunting Trump, Spicer denounced criticism of the raid of any kind.

“The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information that we received during that raid,” Spicer said on Feb. 8. “I think any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he took, full stop.”

(Shirish Dáte is a senior White House correspondent at The Huffington Post ... where this report was first posted. He's the author of five novels and two political biographies, including one of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.)

-cw

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