Thu, Jul

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].)


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.


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.)


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.)


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.


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.)


‘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.)


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.)


Attacks on Press Freedom: Nothing New in America

CONSIDER THIS--Recently, I’ve been catching up on episodes of “The Americans.” It’s a television program about Russian sleeper agents posing as a middle-class couple in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. in the Reagan era. In one show, a veteran KGB agent talks about a colleague who was declared an “enemy of the people” and taken away never to be heard from again. 

Donald Trump’s recent tweet referring to media as an enemy of the people suggests he may have picked up the phrase from his pal ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin. Though the rhetoric might be borrowed from Soviet-era Russia, presidential enmity toward the press has a long history in America. 

The first official action aimed at media was the Sedition Act of 1798. President John Adams and the Federalists were so put out by their opponents’ newspapers they passed a law making it a crime to “defame” the government. Punishment included fines and imprisonment. Although clearly unconstitutional, it would be five years before the Supreme Court established its right to review and rule on the actions of Congress. In any event, the law expired in 1801, at which time those in jail were released and those who had been fined got their money back. 

Jefferson and his successors understood freedom of the press was necessary to making democracy work. That didn’t mean they liked it. But they understood there was only one First Amendment and it protected them and their supporters the same as the opposition. 

It’s only in the last 80 years or so that technology has allowed presidents direct access to the American people. Franklin Roosevelt used the power of radio to reach out in a series of speeches called “fireside chats” to promote his programs and positions on events at home and abroad. 

Truman was often vilified by the press and once threatened to beat up a columnist who criticized his daughter, Margaret, who had embarked on a career as a professional classical singer. 

As president, Lyndon Johnson installed three televisions in the oval office so he could watch the major network news programs at the same time. If he didn’t like what he saw, he’d call network executives and complain about the coverage. 

Johnson understood the power of media (he owned radio and TV stations) and especially the credibility of news broadcasters like Walter Cronkite of CBS, often referred to as the most trusted man in America. When Cronkite criticized the war in Vietnam, Johnson said, “When I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” 

Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon, hated the media. Questions about Nixon’s relationship with campaign donors and acceptance of gifts started as early as the 1952 campaign, when Nixon was running for vice president. Ten years later, after losing the California governor’s race, Nixon famously told reporters, “You’re not going to have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

In 1969, comeback achieved, Nixon took the oath of office and sent his vice president, Spiro Agnew, out to declare war on the media. Calling them “nattering nabobs of negativism”, Agnew chastised TV networks and major market newspapers as out of touch with the average American. Nixon claimed to represent the “silent majority”, who didn’t like hippies, supported law and order, and were fine with whatever the government wanted. 

Mark Twain warned about picking fights with people who bought ink by the barrel. Instead of intimidating the press, Nixon invigorated them. The first major fight happened when the New York Times and Washington Post published secret Department of Defense documents critical of American actions in Vietnam. When the government tried to stop publication of “The Pentagon Papers”, the courts turned it down saying it could not engage in prior restraint. 

Along the way to Watergate, reporters wrote about systemic corruption involving shadowy figures engaging in bribery and dirty tricks. Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson was a particular thorn in the side of the Nixon administration. Ultimately, the burglary at the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic National Committee was the thing that broke open the Pandora’s box of wrongdoing by Nixon and much of his government. What ended it was Congressional committees, grand juries, independent prosecutors, and judges who brought the full weight of the law to bear on conspirators, high and low, who believed the ends justified the means. 

If there is a key to predicting the future of the Trump administration, this is it. Trump can refer to the press as an enemy of the people. He can deride the judiciary and claim to be above the law. He has the advantage that half of Americans have tuned out truth and embraced “alternative facts”. But he does not have enough to become a dictator. At least not as long as the First Amendment still guarantees freedom of speech.


(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.

It’s Time for Trump to Visit a Synagogue

GUEST WORDS--On Monday, NBC News reported that a wave of bomb threats had resulted in the evacuations of Jewish Community Centers in 10 cities across the country, from Milwaukee and Cleveland to Nashville and Birmingham. The new outbreak of threats makes 69 incidents at 54 centers in 27 states this year, according to the JCC Association of America. The FBI told CNN that, together with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, it is “investigating possible civil rights violations in connections with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country.”

Though Monday’s wave of threats were proven to be hoaxes, the anxiety felt by Jewish Americans is still very real. These bomb threats weren’t an isolated incident, coming amid the vandalizing of the grave sites of more than 170 Jews at a St. Louis cemetery. More significantly, these events came in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which became a magnet for white nationalists and neo-Nazis—the sort of people who would gather in Washington, D.C. with so-called alt-right leader Richard Spencer to throw up Nazi salutes in the Ronald Reagan Building and proclaim “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” That Trump forgot to remember the Jews in his official White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day certainly hasn’t helped quell those anxieties.

Under growing pressure from Jewish community and civil rights leaders, Trump on Tuesday morning denounced “age-old” anti-Semitism for the first time since he announced his candidacy in 2015. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible, and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he told the New York Times.

At the same time, the president quietly distanced himself from allegations that his campaign is somehow responsible for the uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes. “Anti-Semitism is just terrible. You don’t know where it’s coming from, and I hope they catch the people responsible,” he said in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday. “I think you maybe have had it for longer than people think, and it gets brought up a little bit more. Anti-Semitism is horrible and it has to stop.”

But given the fears of anti-Semitism that have dogged Trump’s campaign, these attacks raise the question as to whether it’s appropriate to saddle the president with responsibility for the rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes. Trump claims he denounces anti-Semitism at every turn, but until today, that hasn’t been the case. Consider Thursday’s presser, where Trump was questioned by Jake Turx of the ultra-Orthodox Ami magazine regarding the strains of anti-Semitism that permeated Trump’s unusual campaign. Trump’s answer was a simple but forceful dismissal: “Here’s the story, folks. number one: I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”

The truth is that the connection between Trump and the sudden uptick and anti-Semitic hate crimes is more complicated than most realize. Blaming Trump for anti-Semitism also ignores the fact that anti-Semitism has been here all along.

Despite the fact that Jews are the most positively received of all religious groups according to a recent Pew Research Center report (and also benefit from increasingly warm feelings among Americans toward religion in general), they’re also a major target of religiously-motivated hate crimes. Per FBI data, 56.8 percent of the 1,140 anti-religious hate crimes committed in 2014 targeted Jews; while anti-religious hate crimes saw a 22 percent increase in 2015 mainly due to an uptick in anti-Muslim bias, Jews still remained the victims of the majority of religiously motivated hate and harassment.

It’s also not as if there’s definitive proof of the election itself serving as a direct catalyst for a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes. Indeed, despite the vivid examples detailed by local media reports, there’s very little coherent statistical evidence that Trump’s election unleashed a rising tide of anti-Semitism versus a temporal wave of far-right enthusiasm.

Part of this is a methodological problem: As Quartz points out, the federal government doesn’t collect hate-crime data on a weekly basis (although cities do), and informal counts by places like the Southern Poverty Law Center rely on anecdotal evidence that, while powerful and persuasive, “do not comprise long-term, normalized data that can be used to track granular trends.”

Even the anecdotal data is lacking: An SPLC survey of almost 867 reports of harassment and intimidation in the 10 days following Trump’s electoral victory found 100 instances of anti-Semitic violence, a tally eclipsed by racist or anti-immigrant acts. One month after the election, anti-Semitic hate crimes had dropped off, replaced instead by anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim crimes.

Going by the SPLC survey, it’s white nationalists with an axe to grind against Muslims and immigrants who have disproportionately flocked to the Trump campaign. And the reality is that despite the ongoing rise of extremist groups across the country, neo-Nazis never became an organized, coherent force outside of relentlessly harassing journalists on Twitter and calling in phony bomb threats to local temples. According to the SPLC, organized and dangerous white nationalism during the 2016 campaign tended to coalesce around anti-immigrant xenophobia, while attempts to build coherent neo-Nazi coalitions failed miserably:

Aside from the rise of Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer site and its real-world “clubs” — new chapters that profited directly from the Trump phenomenon — the year on the neo-Nazi scene was marked by a number of attempts to build new coalitions among groups. Several of them, like the Coalition of Aryan Organizations and the United Aryan Front, collapsed almost as quickly as they appeared.

That left what was first called the Aryan Nationalist Alliance and then was rebranded as simply the Nationalist Front. The unity effort was spearheaded by Jeff Schoep, leader of the National Socialist Movement, Josh Steever of the Aryan Strikeforce, and Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker Party. 

The coalition peaked at 26 mostly tiny groups, but that had fallen by year’s end to 16, reflecting the perennial infighting that characterizes the neo-Nazi scene.

This doesn’t make the anxiety spreading through American Jewish communities any less real. This fear of anti-Semitism is best articulated by Rabbi Francine Roston, whose town of Whitefish, Montana, was menaced for months by neo-Nazis who threatened to parade through town to flaunt their newfound power. “It has been very depressing to accept the reality that Nazism and Nazi imagery and ideas are alive and well and raging in our country.” The virulent enclaves of vile trolling that comprise the nodes of the alt-right are just the latest manifestation of a sad truth Jews around the world have always known: They’re not always as welcome as they might feel.

Trump may be only somewhat responsible for emboldening America’s neo-Nazi elements, but he is fully responsible, as president, for doing something to bring an end to the fear sweeping through American Jewish communities. That’s why many assert it’s important for Trump to take the symbolic yet powerful step of actually attending services at a synagogue—as a show of solidarity with Jews navigating uncertain times.

As Anne Frank Center for Mutual respect executive director Steven Goldstein put it, the president’s remarks on Tuesday on anti-Semitism is “a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration … When President Trump responds to anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”

(Jared Keller is a contributing editor at Pacific Standard  … where this piece was first posted. His articles have been published in The Atlantic, Entrepreneur, LARB, Maxim, Slate, Smithsonian, Village Voice and CityWatch.)



TruMpISSION Impossible -- Border Wall

NEW GEOGRAPHY--While running for office, President Trump said the border wall would cost about $8 billion, a figure widely recognized as an unreasonably low estimate". This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated the cost of construction at $21.6 billion. Figuring out what the wall would cost has been a source of debate for longer than the last election cycle. In 2013, the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators set aside $1.5 billion for a plan to add 700 miles of wall - also a completely unrealistic budget.

In this edition of TruMpISSION: Impossible we examine the numbers behind building a wall along the U.S.- Mexico border. There are five main reasons why this mission is impossible.

  1. It will be hideously expensive. The un-walled portion of the border covers the most difficult terrain, a lot of which could cost $17 million per mile. Historically, building on flat land cost about $4 million per mile. The government spent $2.4 billion between 2006 and 2009 to build a stretch of wall along 670 miles of easy terrain (Secure Fence Act of 2006). A 2009 attempt to build along one rugged stretch of the border was budgeted at $58 million for just 3.5 miles.

Since most of the easier stuff is already built, I calculated that the cost for the next 1.289 miles could easily run $19.3 billion - I think the new DHS estimate is close to the mark. To put the number into perspective, the cost will be about seven times the entire 2016 budget of the U.S. Border Portal. Construction isn't the only expense. Section 10 of the Executive Order basically "deputizes" local law enforcement - at the expense of local taxpayers - to act as immigration officers for carrying out deportations.

  1. More than 1,000 of the open border is under water. Building a wall in the water would be wildly expensive and would have to be replaced frequently. In February 2012, construction began to extend began to extend an 18-foot high border fence 300 feet into the Pacific Ocean to seal off the gap that opened at the beach between Tijuana and San Diego during low tide. The private contractor who built it (Granite Construction Company, NYSE:GVA) gave the government a 30-year warranty. The budget for that Surf Fence Project was $4.3 million (I did not find the final cost in any public source). Based on that budget, the cost of building the wall in water could run $75.9 million per mile or about 4.5 times the cost of building on rugged land and nearly 20 times the cost of building the parts on more level ground. Building a fence on the water part of the border would cost close to $9 billion alone.
  2. Maybe Trump does not really mean to build on the border that lies underwater. The Executive Order defines the "Southern border" as only the "land border". To avoid the extra expense of building in the ocean, the gulf, and two rivers, we can build on the land outside the flood-plain/tidal-zone. It is likely the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto has heard of the "adverse possession". Along the border, state laws transfer rights to abandoned property to the possessor in 5 to 10 years. Building just one half mile from the rivers means the United States could relinquish at least 657 square miles to Mexico. Are we prepared to cede to Mexico an area 1.5 times the size of Los Angeles?

Fox News has noted that "[w]hile 1,254 miles of [the] borders is in Texas, the state has only 100 miles of wall". At least 65 miles of the 100 mile route proposed through Texas in 2008 sat a half mile from the border. In some places, like the McAllen area of Texas, the proposed track separated a water reservoir from the pumping stations that bring water to US citizens. Building up to a mile into the US side has already stranded the property of US citizens on the Mexico side of the wall.

  1. The border land that is not under water or already fenced is mostly in private hands. In a January 2016 story Fox News recognized that finishing the wall along the border in Texas could require hundreds of lawsuits by the federal government. The Washington Post also reported going into the 2009 expansion of the wall that much of the planned route would slice through private property. Private property adds an average of $61,491 per mile (based on actual costs in 2012).

During the 2009 expansion, 135 private landowners refused to let surveyors onto their property. Seventy percent of the landowners who held out were in Texas. Anybody remember Jade Helm 15 when part of Texas was labeled "hostile territory" during military exercises? The Governor ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercises. What do you think will happen if bulldozers show up uninvited to begin claiming 1,000 miles of Texan's private property? The federal government can use eminent domain, but it is costly, takes a long time and holds an uncertain outcome.

  1. There may not be enough brick and mortar to build a wall along the US/Mexico border, especially if Trump keeps talking it up. During the 2009 expansion of the wall, cost estimates ballooned as a Border States construction boom led to labor shortages and rising costs for construction materials (e.g., steel and cement). Try building more than 1,000 miles of border wall while re-building transportation infrastructure, the strain will be beyond the global peak in prices seen when shovel-ready projects were initiated under post-financial-crisis stimulus spending.

Sources various, including https://www.ibwc.gov/files/US-Mx_Boundary_Map.pdf

The Executive Order gave DHS 180 days (until about the second anniversary of Jade 15) to come up with a plan. DHS also has to figure out how to return deportable aliens “to the territory from which they came” – imagine millions of aliens lined up along the US/Mexico border. DHS has less time (until March 26) to figure out how to pay for the wall by withholding “all bilateral and multilateral development aid, economic assistance, humanitarian aid, and military aid” that the US may be planning to send to Mexico. That sounds like it could actually work to balance the budget outlay. Except that it won’t actually work. Total U.S. foreign aid to Mexico disbursed from all agencies in 2015 was $338.5 million (that’s “million” with an “m”). At that rate, it will take 54 years to recover the cost!

Aid to Mexico includes $215 million for international drug and law enforcement plus $50 million more for in-country drug enforcement. The other hundred million or so was for justice projects, legal reform, crime prevention and military support. According to former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, “…experience teaches that border security alone cannot overcome the powerful push factors of poverty and violence that exist in Central America. Ultimately, the solution is long-term investment in Central America to address the underlying push factors in the region.”

[After I calculate the costs for several more truMpISSIONs, I will calculate the cost of financing with debt. Just because something is impossible, doesn’t mean Trump won’t spend your money on it.]

(Susanne Trimbath, Ph.D. is CEO and Chief Economist of STP Advisory Services. Dr. Trimbath’s credits include appearances on national television and radio programs and the Emmy® Award nominated Bloomberg report Phantom Shares. This piece was posted first at New Geography.)


John Steinbeck’s Road Map for Resisting Donald Trump

GUEST WORDS--A recent blog post of the National Book Critics Circle asked members “at this time of cultural shift” in the dawning era of Donald Trump to identify their “favorite work of resistance literature.” The writer Paul Wilner identified John Steinbeck’s “quietly furious” strike novel In Dubious Battle as his personal choice. 

“We may not see the future lying before us,” Wilner explained, “but Steinbeck has provided a valuable road map to the lessons of the past. He may have fought kicking and screaming against the label of ‘engaged’ writer–he’ll never be confused with Sartre, to his credit–but he understood the power, as well as the perils, of resistance.” 

True enough, but my choice of road map for resisting Donald Trump would be The Moon Is Down, the play-novella John Steinbeck wrote during the early, dark days of World War II about anti-fascist resistance by the citizens of a Nazi-occupied country in northern Europe. Steinbeck’s little book inspired citizen resistance in Nazi-occupied territories from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It contains practical advice for Americans opposed to Donald Trump's attitudes and actions as president, 75 years after it was written. 

Set in a fictionalized version of Norway, The Moon Is Down tells the story of what residents do when alien soldiers—never named as Nazis, but unmistakable nonetheless—invade their peaceful coastal mining town by air, land, and sea. Hitler’s forces tried hard to suppress The Moon Is Down in Nazi-occupied lands (possession was punishable by death in Mussolini’s Italy), but contraband copies, printed and passed on by hand, were widely credited with sustaining anti-fascist resistance until Nazi occupation ended in 1945. Once World War II was over, John Steinbeck was awarded the Freedom Cross by King Haakon VII of Norway, that nation’s highest civilian honor. 

Magnified by an unforgiving winter, the passive bitterness of an occupied people morphs into active rebellion that begins quietly when the town’s mayor refuses to drink with the army officer who—unlike Donald Trump—is a moral man following orders from others. The refusal to cooperate eventually costs the mayor his life, but not before his example inspires numerous acts of rebellion, some violent, by residents of the town. 

Sanctuary-city mayors around the United Stats are setting a similar example by signaling their refusal to cooperate with federal orders to round up undocumented residents for deportation. Demonstrations at legislative town hall meetings, by citizens concerned about health care, are following a similar pattern. People are standing up to power. 

When U.S. Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis was interviewed on Meet the Press not long ago, he prepared the stage for official resistance by explaining to Chuck Todd why he felt Donald Trump was “not legitimate” and why he refused to attend Trump’s inauguration. “You cannot be at home with something that is wrong,” Lewis told Todd, citing the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.” 

John Steinbeck understood this principle but professed to be surprised that The Moon Is Down proved so popular, explaining that he wrote the book “as a kind of celebration of the durability of democracy.” When the mayor in Steinbeck's story says that he feels the will of the people and acts accordingly, he gives unspoken permission for their resistance, the ultimate result of which is left—in typical Steinbeck fashion—for readers to decide. As Steinbeck makes clear, however, the occupiers are flummoxed because they fail to understand the psychology of people brought together by crisis. Products of a top-down, authoritarian culture familiar to students of Donald Trump, they are unprepared for popular resistance and cannot cope when confronted with democratic dissent. 

As Steinbeck's mayor explains to the puzzled commandant who is trying to keep order, “Free men cannot start a war, but once it is started, they can fight on in defeat. Herd men, followers of a leader cannot do that, and so it is always the herd men who win battles and the free men who win wars.” John Steinbeck’s advice couldn’t be clearer: Once a bully picks a fight, resist. You may lose the battle, but you’ll eventually win the war.


(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He is a contributor to CityWatch and numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills. Follow him on Twitter @SteveCooperEsq. [[hotlink]] This piece was written for Steinbeck Now.  It is being published here with the author’s permission.)


Don't Think the Republicans Won't Impeach Trump Because Pence Is Next In Line

VOICES--One of the many compelling arguments for having Hillary Clinton pick Bernie Sanders as her VP running mate (at least what should have been an argument from her standpoint,) was that it would have dampened enthusiasm for impeaching her in the future -- a kind of impeachment insurance. Elizabeth Warren would have accomplished much the same thing. 

The current dynamic with Donald Trump is quite the opposite. If Trump were impeached, Pence is next in line, and the Republicans can live with that big time. 

At the moment, the Republicans see Pence as a kind of chaperone, which is why they are so upset that Pence was apparently out of the loop and last to know that Michael Flynn was lying about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Since Trump knows so little about either foreign or domestic policy, they figured they could control the White House through Pence, Dick Cheney style. 

But if that's not happening, all bets on standing behind Trump are off. 

Lots of people on the left are already screaming "Impeach, impeach!" And there may already be strong grounds for it. But has anybody actually thought this through? 

Most Republicans are officially disinterested in a dedicated Trump investigation. They don't have to be. As we pointed out yesterday the press is highly motivated (understatement?) to dig up something. Dark forces within the CIA and NSA infrastructure may even hand it to them on a platinum platter, and we'll talk more about that tomorrow. 

However it comes to them, if they dig up something big, and a scandal is exploding around Trump's ears, have no doubt that even the Republicans will be saying, "Sorry, Donald, you gots to go," in a hot Washington political minute. 

They are not married to Trump. At best this was an affair of convenience for them. As long as the rubes would turn out and vote for him they would go along with it, grumbling caveats and all, while allowing them to benefit in their down ticket races. But if Trump goes down, we'd get the same Supreme Court picks from Pence, or worse, the same extreme right wing policies…or worse, with Paul Ryan next in line after that. 

Trump's Achilles heel is his pathological lying. If he's going to survive at all, he's got to stop lying about anything and everything. Frankly, lying is so dyed in the wool with him we are skeptical he is even capable of stopping it. 

His lies are so blatant, and so easily debunked, it has to catch up to him. Friday he boldly proclaimed at his press conference that his election represented the biggest Electoral College margin since Reagan. There wasn't a reporter in the room who did not know the actual numbers there.


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

Blacks for Trump 2020 … The Prevaricator-in-Chief’s Latest Con?

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--They had the best, closest and most visible spot in the crowd behind Trump at his much-touted recent pep rally in Melbourne, Florida. They being the handful of blacks that enthusiastically waved the “Blacks for Trump” signs behind him. The black Trump boosters didn’t stop there. They promoted and ballyhooed their website primping Trumps presumed re-election campaign in 2020, complete with a re-election website Gods2.com. 

Now in case one thinks this is a recent Trump stunt or stunt by some black odd balls to get their 15 minutes in the bask of Trump’s presidential glow, it’s a little more involved. This bunch popped up at a Trump rally in Florida back in October a couple of weeks before his win. Their very conspicuous appearance on the political scene has prompted more than a few conspiratorial musings about whether and how much they’re being paid by Trump operatives, what does Trump know about them. This is coupled with some murky, even unsavory, facts about the one identifiable cheerleader of the Trump cause in the group, Michael the Black Man. 

He’s got a shadowy past that once garnered a lot of media attention when a few years back he emerged as head of a fringe black nationalist/religious cult in South Florida. He, and more than a dozen other members of the group, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder (not convicted). Since then he and other group members have been hauled into court several times on various charges, but nothing has stuck. He’s parlayed this notoriety into one of the biggest scams or beliefs depending on how one wants to look at Blacks for Trump on the political stage. 

This still doesn’t answer the dangling question just what Trump really knows about his vocal and suddenly media grabbing coterie of black boosters? Trump certainly didn’t have any problem snatching one of their placards at the rally last October and waving it around. Whether he knows or cares about the shady history of the principal organizer is unknown. However, the group isn’t slithering under the public radar. Its website is chock full of racial rants, homespun bizarre conspiracy concoctions about war, religion, and the secret global cabal that supposedly runs the planet. 

This stuff seemingly would be more than even a Trump could stomach. But that’s probably less important than the fact that they are out front, visible, and imminently promotable as being supposed proof that he’s got some blacks beyond the handful of ex-jocks and entertainers he’s met with who are willing to wave signs backing him. 

This also kind of, sort of, boosts the case that he makes that he’s got much more black support and votes than anybody ever believed he could possibly get. He actually did edge close to getting into double figures with black votes. His talk of blacks being used and spit out when no longer needed for votes by Democrats, underserved black neighborhoods that are supposedly a mess with lousy public schools, high crime and violence, and chronic joblessness and poverty got some traction. His non-stop trash of Hillary Clinton played to the latent and not so latent loathing by some blacks of the Clintons for allegedly there being the architects of mass incarceration, and the welfare gut. 

Trump also can trot out a bunch of black apologists and spokespersons to toot his line that he genuinely wants to be an inclusive President and harbors no racial animus toward blacks. This ploy finds a soft spot with more than a few blacks, most notably black conservative evangelicals, who are always deeply susceptible to GOP conservative pitches on some issues such as abortion. 

Now there is no evidence as of yet that any money has changed hands between anyone, or any group, connected with Trump to get black placard wavers into the stands in well-positioned posts behind Trump at public appearances. The only thing that really counts for the moment is that by being there they add an odd, curious, element to the usually overwhelming crowd of fevered shouting white Trump acolytes we see.  This is exactly the kind of element that would appeal to a Trump who revels in doing everything humanly and politically possible to ensure that his presidency is the most bizarre, contentious and controversial in the annals of American politics. Blacks for Trump 2020 fits neatly into that mold. 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst and 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.)


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