Wed, Dec

Making Your Choices Count This Labor Day … and Every Day

DECISIONS, DECISIONS-Research shows that adults make somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 choices on a daily basis. The comforting news is that we don’t need the really powerful part of our brains for most of them. That’s a good thing because, as anyone who has scrolled through a lineup of 1,000 cable channels or perused the cereal aisle in a major supermarket can attest, decisions – even the most seemingly mundane – can be agonizing. 

But there are many decisions we make every day that do have wide-ranging impact. Let’s start with a surprising one – the choices we make every time we open our wallets. Six years ago, on Labor Day, I decided to try an experiment for three months to focus my buying decisions on ethical choices that would help create jobs in my community, and around the country. I chose to see if it was possible to purchase only union-made products and services in America today. I found out quickly it wasn’t always easy for me to do. But it was the right choice, and I had plenty of resources. Having spent much of my professional life working for or within the labor movement, I knew which cereals, beers and cars were made by companies that treat their workers fairly. 

These are the choices that we enjoy as free market American consumers, and while we may occasionally debate over Coors vs. Budweiser, we don’t lose too much sleep over it. Heck, Americans spend more than $5 trillion per year on consumer products alone. Shopping is in our DNA. In 2015, consumers spent $770 billion on groceries, more than $780 billion in restaurant sales and nearly $100 billion on hotels and motels. 

What if we captured just a portion of that tidal energy to generate a revived American economy? 

Our purchasing decisions – if made with some consideration – can be focused into what I like to call an Ethical Consumer Movement. I’m talking about a national movement through which we use the power of our spending dollars to speak out in favor of responsible businesses and against those that do not pay their workers the wages and benefits that they deserve. 

During the primary season this year, Americans were treated to spirited discussions on both sides of the aisle about our country’s increasing problem with income inequality. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2015, CEO pay rose to 276 times the annual average pay for the typical worker. This is up from what now looks like a very reasonable 20-1 ratio in 1965. All the while, productivity continues to rise, but wages have stagnated. Consider, the federal minimum wage is still $7.25 in 2016, stuck at the same rate it’s been for more than seven years. 

One of the responses to this inequity, naturally, is to raise the minimum wage, and cities from Los Angeles to New York have taken action. I applaud this, as no one should be making poverty wages for an honest day’s work. But simply increasing the floor isn’t enough. Change doesn’t have to come from the top down, or from the ballot box. Change can begin at home, every day, and progress incrementally for a long-lasting impact. 

If we as consumers only spend our hard-earned dollars on high-road businesses, the “rising tide lifts all boats” argument would take care of the rest. American businesses that pay their employees fairly and treat them well would prosper, and the others would pass by the wayside. The middle class, and America, would strengthen, and that pesky income inequality problem would slowly shrink. This is grassroots at its simplest. 

All this comes back to making decisions. This Labor Day, and every day, when at the supermarket or looking to buy a car, an appliance or considering which hotel to stay at, keep in mind where your money is going, and how those people making a product or providing a service are treated. Consider if they’re being paid fairly and justly. 

How can you help? 

By making the right choice.


(Cherri Senders is the founder and president of Labor 411, a consumer guide to union-made goods and services.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

As Donald Trump Says: What Do We Have To Lose?

SOUTH OF THE 10-Perhaps Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is more of a viable candidate than I thought. The persistent violence in the city of Chicago has forced this author to take a closer look at the laws that allow repeat offenders to re-enter society – many of whom offend again. 

Angelenos were sympathetic to Democrat pleas that jails are overcrowded and Prop 47 would provide much needed relief. In Chicago, instead of reducing certain crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor, lawmakers implemented an ankle bracelet monitoring system that has been flawed from inception. 

In 2013, nearly 33,000 inmates were released which equates to the total population of Northbrook, IL, according to an NBC-5 report. The station went further to report that a high concentration of released inmates migrate back into the South Side of Chicago. The Westside actually sees the largest number of released inmates in their zipcode. 

In 2014, Illinois State Rep. Lashawn Ford, who represents the Westside, vigorously defended the rights of ex-offenders. He pushed for having state applications remove the box asking if the applicant was convicted of a crime. At the same time, Rep. Ford was facing bank fraud charges. He ultimately had 17 felony counts dismissed and only faced a single misdemeanor count for a tax offense. He is still in office. 

2014 also revealed the flaws in Illinois’ monitoring program. 

Both police and probation departments were against lawmakers awarding a contract to Irvine, Calif. based Sentinel Offender Services, as opposed to having them monitor their own parolees.

The revelation that offenders were not watched on a full-time basis came to light when kidnapping and assault charges were filed against a 17-year-old, who was wearing a home monitoring bracelet at the time he allegedly assaulted a pregnant Chicago State University student. 

Apparently, Sentinel sends an email alerting the non-compliance, and with the two hour time difference, many wonder if Chicago authorities are being alerted in real time. Probation and Police personnel have publicly declared they don’t check their email when they are not on duty. 

Two years later, the problem still persists. 

NBA star Dwayne Wade’s cousin was killed by two men on parole, one of whom was wearing an ankle monitoring device. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on. Chicago lawmakers allow those who wear the bracelets to have “free time” from monitoring. It was during this “free time” that Nykea Aldridge was murdered while pushing her child in a stroller. 

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson expressed his frustration that city regulations allow criminals a certain amount of hours to be free from monitoring. 

“I’m frustrated. You should be frustrated. It’s time we change the way we treat habitual offenders in Chicago,” said Johnson. 

If Democrats are allowing repeat offenders back on the street, under the guise of prison overcrowding, only for them to continue to wreak havoc on innocent citizens, then what do we truly have to lose by voting for Donald Trump

(Melissa Hébert lives in Inglewood, CA, and blogs on community and political issues on 2urbangirls.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Righting the Write on the ‘Alt-Right’

LEANING RIGHT--If you think this is a piece that will proclaim Donald Trump as the voice and the messenger this nation ideally needs, then it's best right now to state that this ain't that piece. 

Heck, I doubt that even Mr. Trump believes he's got the eloquence of Kennedy or Reagan or Teddy Roosevelt ... but there are many reasons why Trump's supporters stand behind him ... and NO, it's NOT racism! 

You want racism?  Then check out how racial divisions, and neglect of black and brown minorities, and lack of school choice and opportunities for these minorities, have worsened and even exploded under Democratic rule. Just ask yourselves if those black and brown Americans (many of them Democrats!) are "allowed" to speak up and complain about "the man". 

Particularly if "the man" is a Democrat.  Or maybe even an African-American Democrat. 

1) Enough of the New Racism, already--wherever it comes from! 

Are we past the era of race-baiting, opportunistic hucksters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, or are we now entering an era of a "race conscious" cottage industry (I refer to this industry as the New Racism) geared to establish a new generation of divisive, counterproductive and self-promoting "community leaders" to become and remain both powerful and wealthy? 

Having fought like hell for 10-15 years for an Exposition Light Rail Line to connect the Westside, Mid-City, and Downtown portions of Los Angeles, and having done so proudly with other Angelenos of all political, socioeconomic and ethnic stripes, and having done so in large part to bring the City and County back together after the 1992 riots, I can assure you that racism is alive and well here. 

That's right--in the City of the Angels--and present among white, black, and brown Angeleno leaders.  My experience engaging with civic and political leaders, who I presumed would be both intent and content with bringing communities together, proved this presumption dead wrong. 

But ENOUGH of this obsession with race!  I'm a dermatologist by trade, and I assure you that the issues of skin color mean virtually zero beyond the world of dermatology, in the same way that eye and hair color do.  If a white man marries a black woman (or even if they don't marry), there is NO biological obstacle to them having children.  We're all one race:  the human race. 

So when the founder of the "birther" movement, one Hillary Clinton, proclaims Trump's supporters to be neo-Nazis and racists who are all just right-wing nut jobs and "birthers" by nature, well, that's where Americans of all political stripes will have to learn to confront their own racism--especially and including the New Racism from the Left. 

Particularly the racism and frustrations that lead to national divisions stemming from a lack of economic opportunities.  Shall I ignore my fellow doctors, professionals and patients of ALL racial and socioeconomic backgrounds who acknowledge they're financially hanging by their fingernails, and that many of them (secretly, of course...GOTTA keep it secret!) support Trump? 

2) Just how much are we supposed to ignore and pretend isn't harming our nation? 

Shall we ignore the exploding costs of what should be dirt-cheap medicines, many of them manufactured by plundering pharmaceutical companies led by Democrats and others tied to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton campaign? 

Shall we ignore the "new normal" of disgusting creeps like overpaid Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers sitting down during the national anthem as a "protest" against wrongdoings against African Americans, and his team and the NFL being OK with that...while African American and other American military and police officers are fighting and dying for our safety? 

Shall we ignore the withering abuse that the Huffington Post, MSN, and Yahoo are hurling at its readers in their all-too-biased slant for the "correct" candidate--you know, that honest, easily-accessible, and idealistic candidate who is free of controversy? Or are these major news outlets ignoring the killing zone that is Chicago while belittling Trump ... not on the substance of his message, but the wording of his tweets in asking African Americans to vote for a better future? 

Shall we ignore the decades of calling for an end to the violence and bloodshed destroying African Americans' hopes and lives...and being told we're racists for even bringing it up?  How about the brown-on-black gang killings that get amazingly and frightfully underreported...is that racist to decry this new trend? 

Shall we ignore the reality that, were this nation to have the political will, we could bring back to our shores the manufacturing jobs that were once the mainstay of American middle-class economic strength? 

Shall we ignore the economic reality that "unemployment" being relatively low (based on how it's being measured) entirely masks the reality of double-digit underemployment, and that having multiple jobs without any guarantee of employer-paid benefits is now the new normal? 

3) So where the heck do independents, moderates, and conservatives fed up with both political parties go to find out just what on earth is REALLY going on? 

Well, we can forget the major news outlets (ABC, CBS, NBC, Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN), and we can forget the Clinton News Network (CNN) because they're hideously one-sided.   

And we can forget about Fox News, too--it's well-watched by conservatives disgusted by the overwhelming left-wing bent of our media, but it's no secret that Fox isn't as "fair and balanced" as they promote themselves to be. 

Enter the "alt-right" Breitbart.com, named after the conservative, media-savvy, and iconoclastic Andrew Breitbart who, unfortunately, died relatively early in his life of heart disease.  Enter the Drudge Report.  And to hell with the National Review and other old-school conservative news sources who did and still ram the Bush Family, John McCain, and Mitt Romney down our throats. 

Enough Americans were fed up with BOTH political parties selling out the American People while proclaiming to be their representatives that moderates and independents came out in droves to register Republican, and proceeded to boot out the Bush Family--both George W. Bush and his brother Jeb. 

Goodbye, namby-pamby career politicians who favored those here illegally over those citizens playing by the rules ... and especially a goodbye to those employers who should be in jail for breaking minimum wage rules and driving down wages to unsustainable levels.  It's easy to understand the plight of illegal aliens, but NOT their disgusting, exploitative employers. 

So what's on Breitbart.com lately, as of 8/28/2016? 

Well, let's see: the makers of the app used to destroy the Clinton e-mails are boasting about hindering the FBI investigation. 

...aaaaand Dr. Drew Pinsky's show on Headline News is being shut down after five years after he questioned Ms. Hillary Clinton's health. 

...aaaaand former Secretary of State Clinton's calendars as secretary of state won't be released until after the election. 

...aaaaand former Clinton Global Initiative moderator Adam Davidson, who hosts a show on NPR, slammed the Clinton Foundation, and said in a podcast that the Clinton's were "beholden to scumbags" because of their work with that Foundation. 

...aaaaand the entire Facebook "Trending News" team was fired after their progressive biases were revealed by Breitbart Tech last month. 

Kinda like Trump's tweets: brass, some poorly- and hastily- and inappropriately-phrased.  But if one focuses on whether they were TRUE ... well, maybe the truth hurts, but it's still the truth. 

Of course, in this age of political correctness, there are those who care more about what a person SAYS than what that person DOES.  I suppose that, if you're one of those folks, then both this President and his former Secretary of State must make you very happy and excited to be living in these times. 

If, however, you are old enough to remember President Nixon, and learned about how his lies (relatively mild, by today's standards) got him to resign under pressure from both parties, you must be wondering what kind of nightmarish era we're entering.  Presidential lies and media bias are now working together against the will of the democracy-trained, rule-abiding citizen. 

But if it makes you feel better, Trump DID take the GOP Establishment (and the Koch Brothers) down a few notches...and they're still not over it.  Trump attacked Bush's wars during the GOP primary debates, as well as Bush's actions that led to the Great Recession.  The Christian Moral Majority now follows the lead of the GOP presidential candidate, and not the other way around. 

And so how did that Bernie Sanders being undermined by Debbie Wasserman Schultz thing go...did the Democratic Establishment get taken down a few notches, too?  Justice incarnate for the little guy and gal trying to live in a free society?  Wall Street being forced to take a back seat to Main Street?  Are billionaire George Soros, Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban brought to bear, now? 

So maybe, just maybe, we have a moderate-conservative coalition led by Mr. Trump who feel more empowered than they've felt in decades.  

Maybe this coalition won't lean too far right or left, but will instead tread the middle ground to do the RIGHT thing, and won't fall to the free-market-without-rules, cheap-labor-at-any-cost-to-middle-class-America crowd that is the current GOP leadership, and won't fall to the let's-say-we're-for-the-common-man-but-really-we-love-the-monied-elites that is the current Democratic leadership, either. 

"Alt-right" is an abused term now meant to discredit those moderate to conservative Americans calling for a rule of law, and to establish rules of fairness and inclusiveness, and to make sure that all Americans, of all races, get a fair shot at the American Dream while promoting the Melting Pot paradigm that made this nation great. 

And for those of you still convinced and appalled that tens of millions of urgent and alarmed Trump supporters have turned to the Orange Man (and want others to do the same) as their last hope for a united America that's fair to the middle class, and are doing so because of sheer racism, perhaps there's something you should confront: 

Why are you equating love of country as constituting racism?


(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)


Kaepernick’s Sit-Down Aside--The Case for Standing for the National Anthem

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--Let’s be clear. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has the first amendment right not to stand for the national anthem. There is no legal requirement for anyone to stand for the national anthem. In fact, the National Football League made it official when it issued this statement: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem,”

He showed guts in telling the world that he would not stand because of continued police abuse and killing of blacks. He plays in the pro sport that is the most rigid, quasi-military discipline, my way or the highway, pro sport run by some of the most conservative rich white guys on the planet; most with solid and deep GOP ties. He potentially could lose millions in contract money and endorsements now or down the line for his personal sit down.

So yes, he should be loudly applauded for having the courage of his convictions and for showing the world that there is some big name, big payday, pro athletes who are willing to speak out and take stands on controversial issues even at the cost of their jobs. The firestorm that he stirred up for that is way out of proportion to his action since there are 1700 players on the 32 team roster in the NFL and even with Kaepernick sitting during the anthem that still leaves 1699 or so players who will stand at rigid attention during the playing of the anthem.

But Kap’s actions aside, the script can easily be flipped and a case can be made for the millions of blacks who do gladly stand for the national anthem. Most know the brutal history of racial violence, exclusion, and poverty that trapped and still traps countless numbers of blacks. They watch and read almost daily of the police killings of mostly unarmed blacks, the mass incarceration numbers for blacks, the grim figures on job and housing discrimination, the gaping health care disparities, and the endless other big and small racial insults and indignities. The symbol of that is the flag that they are asked to stand at rapt attention to with their hand over their heart.

But, they also know that that tens of thousands of blacks answered the call to fight for that same flag and anthem in every major war the U.S. has ever fought, and despite the violence and discrimination black servicemen and women suffered, they still served their country honorably and wore the uniform proudly.

They know that civil rights leaders from W.E.B. DuBois to Martin Luther King, Jr. carried the flag and sang “My Country ‘tis of thee” at and during countless civil rights marches. They know that the landmark victories against racial oppression—the passage of three major civil rights bills, the Voting Rights Act, and legions of other civil rights initiatives and legislation passed by states and nationally were won under the banner of fulfilling the promise of American rights and liberties that the flag and the national anthem represent in theory, if not always in fact. It was their struggle to make the promise of freedom a reality for blacks and others victimized by racial injustice and violence.  

Blacks also know that despite the towering racial barrier and obstacles that the Constitution still stands as a powerful shield to protect the rights of all Americans, and for black Americans to continually use as a weapon to shame, embarrass, and cajole the nation to extend those rights and liberties to them too.

Finally, they know that blacks have paid with their blood and earned the right to lay as much, if not more, claim to the flag and the national anthem as theirs as those among the most rabid flag waving, phony super patriot bellowing crowd. This is their America, always has been, and it’s their flag and national anthem too whether they choose to stand when it’s played or not.

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Let’s Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)


An Investigative Look at the Controversial Clinton Foundation (Video)

A MILLENNIAL PROJECT VIDEO REPORT—Here is an investigative look at the much covered … and debated … Clinton Foundation. What does it do? How does it work? Is there anything to be worried about?


Presidential candidate Donald Trump calls it corrupt and should be closed down. 

Candidate Hillary Clinton says of the Foundation: ‘It's a longstanding strategy when advocating for the rights of a historically underserved or oppressed community — drawing through-lines, showing how what's good for one can be good for all.’ 

Look at Andrew Davis report. You decide.


‘The Millennial Project’ founder Andrew Davis hosts this unique look inside the Clinton Foundation. This video report … and various other newsworthy videos … originated and are available for viewing at The Millennial Project’.


4 More Years of Trump’s Phony Pompadour and Lochte’s Epic Pee

TOO MUCH IN THE NEWS-That’s right, my fellow Americans, buck up, because, at a minimum, it’ll be four years before Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s shocking hairdos – Trump’s reddish-fox-paprika hued weave and Lochte’s silvery blue-raspberry bubble gum concoction – and equally, their boorish behavior, will finally recede, from both our collective conscience and our national press. Only the most naïve and optimistic citizens can believe otherwise.

No matter how you slice it, Trump and Lochte are in the news, and in the news is where they are going to stay. For how long, many of you viscerally wonder from the depths of your souls? Four more years, I'd say, and, actually, if it’s just four more years, and not interminably longer, that would be good news.

Lochte’s Olympic-sized whopper about being robbed at gunpoint by Brazilian police is just too juicy; for journalists, it’s like how catnip is to most cats (or how cute cat videos are to most people): impossible to resist. This is because, at its rosiest, the true story is that Lochte, the pampered thirty-two-year-old man-child, all decked out in his swanky, super-expensive suede shoes, couldn’t by the end of his all-night partying at the “France House,” hold his liquor or contain his entitled, frat-boy-style antics, much less tell the truth. 

Lochte’s boneheaded buffoonery and its collateral shenanigans, characterized by many as a bona fide “international incident,” will undoubtedly surface quickly now (and possibly, and depressingly, forever, or at a minimum, at least until the start of the 2020 Olympic Games) in any extended discussion or commentary about the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. This will be so on TV, online, or in good, old-fashioned print – likely around the world – because ultimately, even Usain Bolt can’t outrun a story with the legs and unflattering optics of Lochte’s petulant, now way overly-public pee. 

The same is true of Trump’s sewage, and by that, I mean virtually every word that has come out of Trump’s mouth. Sadly, I submit, that Trump’s dump of bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic, and otherwise uninformed and unhinged views on life, society, and virtually every other subject of importance and nonimportance, will long stain our public and political discourse – and, will do so much more than Lochte’s gas station tinkle of entitlement. 

For how long will we continue to be sullied by Trump and all related Trumpisms (many of you plaintively cry out)? Like Lochte’s lunacy, at least four more years, I’d say, and I pray to God that it’s not even longer. Because come November 9, when Trump’s reality TV style candidacy for presidency confronts reality, no one rightfully and genuinely believes that we’ll stop hearing about Trump – or from him. 

Even when Trump embarks on his promised “very, very nice long vacation,” returning “back to a very good way of life,” he’ll tweet, he’ll call-in to radio and TV shows (perhaps even as he unwinds with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken on his twenty-four carat embossed “Trump Force One”). Trump can't resist a chance to opine, without any information or knowledge, on the current news and issues of the day, and, of course, to complain how the system is so “rigged.” 

Lochte and Trump are like two peas in a pod of putrid press: Expect to read and hear much more about them again. And, again and again.


(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Trumpism: Made in the United States by Republican Hate and Democratic Hypocrisy

EDITOR’S PICK--The Republican, white-nationalist Donald Trump slanders and insults Latinos, Muslims and women. He promotes violence. He mocks the disabled. He refers to himself as brilliant, citing his fortune—obscenely accumulated over decades of predatory business practices that cheat workers and consumers—as “proof.”

He feuds with the gold star parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, claiming that he too has “sacrificed” (like the dead soldier and his parents) by employing “thousands and thousands of people.” It was a remarkable comment: Being born into wealth and in a position to hire a large number of people is not a “sacrifice.” If Trump isn’t reaping profits from all those workers under his command, he must not really be the brilliant, capitalist businessman he claims to be.

A military veteran gives the Republican presidential candidate his Purple Heart medal, bestowed on soldiers injured in battle. Trump quips, “I always wanted a Purple Heart. This was a lot easier.” Unreal. Donald Trump, Mr. Sacrifice, used college deferments to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.

How is this noxious candidate even within shouting distance of Hillary Clinton? Let’s separate the fact from the fiction.

The Donald and the White Working Class

One easy, elite answer is to blame the supposedly stupid and racist white working class. It is common to hear mainstream (corporate) media talking heads proclaim that Trump is the candidate of the white working class and “low-income whites”—those that The Wall Street Journal and Trump himself like to call “the forgotten Americans.” These are who Barack Obama described in 2008 as people who “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

How accurate is this narrative? According to exit polls, the median household income of Trump’s primary voters was $72,000, $11,000 higher than the corresponding figure for Bernie Sanders’ and Clinton’s primary voters.

In his analysis of survey data gathered from more than 70,000 interviews in June and July, Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell found that Americans who favor Trump have incomes that are 6 percent higher than that of nonsupporters.

Trump is less popular with the white working class than Mitt Romney was four years ago. In 2012, Romney garnered 62 percent of votes by “non-college-educated whites” (researchers’ and journalists’ longstanding, if imperfect, stand-in term for the white working class). According to the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Trump isn’t even backed by a majority of this group, with just 49 percent on his side. Earlier this summer, his support among these whites hovered around 60 percent, suggesting that they are capable of processing information on his toxicity.

When you consider that the nation’s abysmally low voter-turnout rate falls the further one moves down the U.S. income scale, it seems highly improbable that Trump—currently behind Clinton in national polls—will ride some great wave of white-proletarian, Brexit-like sentiment to victory in November.

Still, Trump is doing better than Clinton with working-class whites. In the aforementioned NBC-WSJ survey, she trails him by 13 percentage points among whites without a college education and by 21 points among men in that group. In former union strongholds and deindustrialized, white working-class enclaves like Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County and Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, Arun Gupta recently reported on teleSUR English that voters are “flocking” to Trump.

Where did Trump do best in the primaries? A New York Times analysis found that his strongest base was in predominantly white areas where a proportion of workers toil in jobs that involve “working with one’s hands, especially manufacturing”; a big share of working-age adults are jobless; an unusually high number of people live in mobile homes; and all but a few residents told the U.S. Census Bureau that their ancestors were “American.”

Jon Flanders, a retired railroad machinist and former union leader, told me that he recently “asked a question about who the union workers in the railroad shops predominately supported. The question was asked on a Facebook page with about 1,000 members. The answer? Trump, overwhelmingly.”

Rothwell, the Gallup economist, determined that “the prototypical Trump supporter” is white, male, Christian (but not Mormon), heterosexual and without a college degree. He found Trump supporters significantly correlated with low intergenerational mobility, weak income growth and employment in “blue-collar occupations that have been exposed to competition with immigrants and foreign workers.”

The higher-income figures of Trump supporters relative to Democratic primary voters and non-Trump supporters is largely explained by race. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to be white, and whites receive considerably higher average incomes than nonwhites.

The Elite Liberal Thesis

So what’s this white working-class preference for the bombastic Trump all about? It might seem counterintuitive, even absurd, that a vicious, opulence-flouting, uber-narcissistic plutocrat and Republican like Trump garners more support than a Democrat from working-class people of any race. We can be sure that many residents of affluent, liberal enclaves nodded their heads in approval when Obama said this about Trump at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia: “Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice? ... If so, you should vote for him. But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, if you’re really concerned about pocketbook issues and … creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close. … You should vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Then why are so many white workers failing to vote in accord with their purported obvious economic interests, Mr. President? How do we explain this great anomaly? When it isn’t simply writing non-college-educated whites off as irredeemably racist, the standard, elite, liberal-Democratic, campus-town line is that all those poor, pitiful, xenophobic, gun-clinging white proles have been tricked into foolishly “voting against their own pocketbook interests” by clever Republican strategists who divert white workers with convenient scapegoats and social issues—inner-city black criminals and “welfare cheats,” Mexican immigrants, guns, gay rights, abortion and religion. All these ugly cards are played to prevent the white working class from fighting the selfish billionaires who profit from the plutocratic agenda of the Republicans, “the party of big business.”

There’s some truth in this venerable, liberal trope, of course. The divide-and-conquer Machiavellianism this “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (WTMWK) narrative points to has helped Republicans win white working-class votes since the days of Archie Bunker (at whom much of Trump’s rhetoric seems aimed) and through the age of blue-collar Reaganites and “Joe the Plumber.”

What’s the Matter With the Limousine-(Neo)Liberal Democrats?

Still, the prevailing, liberal, WTMWK narrative is plagued by four basic difficulties. The first and most obvious problem is that post-New Deal era, neoliberal Democrats are no less captive to the 1 percent than the GOP. Like the Bill Clinton and Obama presidencies, the likely presidency of the heavily Wall Street-backed Hillary Clinton will be loaded down with economic elites linked to the top financial institutions and transnationally oriented corporations and to elite corporate policy-planning bodies like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for American Progress and the Brookings Institution.

It’s true that the Sanders challenge and the broadly populist mood of U.S. voters in the current New Gilded Age of extreme inequality pushed Clinton’s rhetoric to the progressive-sounding left during the primary campaign. But this is just another example of what Christopher Hitchens once described, in his bitter and acerbic study of the Clintons, as “the essence of American politics”—“the manipulation of populism by elitism.” Clinton’s Wall Street backers have never been concerned about the populace-pleasing rhetoric she’s had little choice but to wield in chasing middle-, working- and lower-class votes. They know “it’s just politics.” They expect a President Hillary Clinton to drop her current opposition to the arch-corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as soon as possible.

Look at her first major action after locking down the Democratic nomination: She selected Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine is a financial-sector darling who backed fast-tracking the TPP and supported his state’s anti-union, right-to-work laws.

It is little wonder that top Wall Street operatives flocked to the Democratic National Convention after the Sanders specter advance-surrendered and Kaine was tapped. The large, socially liberal and economically neoliberal wing of the elite financial sector was pining to reunite with the more functional and effective of the nation’s two reigning state-capitalist political parties.

But the Democrats abandoned the working class and embraced the economic elite, including the professional elite (more on that below) long ago (as journalist Thomas Frank noted in his book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”). And Democrats of the neoliberal era are no less adept than Republicans at deploying the politics of identity to hide their captivity to the nation’s unelected dictatorship of money. They just play the other, more multicultural, side of the same identity-politics game. Both parties make sure that, in Chris Hedges’ words, “Goldman Sachs always wins,” since “there is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.”

Is it really all that clear that workers of any race have obvious and rational “pocketbook interests” in the presidential ascendancy of yet another identity-politics-wielding, hedge-fund Democrat like Hillary Clinton?

A Beast of a Different Sort

Second, Trump has hardly restricted his appeal to the white working class by pushing racist, sexist, nationalist, religious, gun-toting and nativist buttons. Making repeated overtures to Sanders supporters, he has mimicked the language of Franklin Roosevelt with denunciations of “big business” and its corruption of government and politics. He’s denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement and “free trade” more broadly, blaming multinational corporations for abandoning working people. He altered the Republican platform to include a plank calling for the breakup of big banks via the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act. He’s dropped standard Republican assaults on social-democratic “entitlements.” He’s attacked the globalism of the corporate elite and criticized related imperial entanglements the GOP has joined top Democrats in advancing for more than six decades.

Sincerely or not (his profile of advisers and top funders and his most recent economic policy addresses certainly suggest the latter), Trump has tacked further to the liberal-populist-social-democratic-sounding left on economic policy than any Republican presidential candidate in history. This is something the Democrats in Philadelphia seemed not to understand. In one Democratic convention speech after another, they depicted Trump as little more than the usual Republican monster spouting ugly, nativist, racist and patriarchal narratives to hide his allegiance to the wealthy Few. They showed little understanding that Trump is a different type of Republican beast.

Labor-Market Economics 101

Third, it is misleading to draw too firm a line between workers’ “pocketbook” concerns and nativist calls for immigration restriction. It doesn’t take an advanced academic degree to realize that the movement of poor and desperate workers from one part of the world capitalist system to another poses threats to the working and living standards of working people who are in the receiving nation. Of course, white workers have rational economic reasons to want to restrict the size of the “reserve army of labor” that employers can use against the working class in the “homeland.”

In a similar vein, it’s a mistake to think that white workers in, say, West Virginia coal territory or the North Dakota oil fields have no cogent pocketbook reasons to feel threatened by Democrats’ claim (more progressive fluff than serious environmentalist reality) that they will address climate change by cutting back on the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

Those who find such proletarian pocketbook calculations ethically horrifying might want to recall one of Bertolt Brecht’s more cutting lines: “Grub first, then ethics.” Times are desperate indeed in the burned-out coal fields of Appalachia and the ever more opiate-addicted and suicide-plagued provinces of deindustrialized, post-family-farmland, white America. The “forgotten” counties where Trump did best in the GOP primaries are the same counties in which middle-aged, working-class whites have been experiencing high death rates.

We Are Not the 99 Percent: Between Labor and Capital

Fourth, liberals making the WTMWK argument often seem to operate with a simplistic, two-class model dividing the U.S. into the superrich (let’s call them the 1 percent), linked naturally to the Republicans, and everybody else (the 99 percent), linked naturally to the Democrats. Besides deleting the Democrats’ captivity to the wealthy corporate and financial Few (really the 0.1 percent or even the 0.01 percent), this dichotomy provides undue privilege-cloaking cover to “lesser” elites—professionals, managers, administrators and other “coordinator-class” Americans in the nation’s top 20 percent.

The privilege and power of the professional and managerial elite is no less “true,” “real,” substantive or vital to contemporary hierarchy than that of the financial super-elite. In the U.S.—as across the world capitalist system and even in non- and anti-capitalist workplaces and bureaucracies—ordinary working people suffer not just from the private, profit-seeking, capitalist domination of workplace and society. They also regularly confront what longtime left economist and activist Mike Albert calls the “corporate division of labor”—an alienating, dehumanizing and hierarchical subdivision of tasks “in which a few workers have excellent conditions and empowering circumstances, many fall well below that, and most workers have essentially no power at all.”

It is through regular subordinate and often humiliating contact with the professional and managerial, or “coordinator class” (Albert’s and his fellow radical economist Robin Hahnel’s term), not the 1 percent, that the working class experiences class inequality and oppression in America.

I talked earlier this summer to “Big Frank,” a 40-something, white, graveyard-shift, parking ramp and parking lot cleaner at the University of Iowa. He doesn’t like “rich bastards” like Trump, but it’s not the financial and corporate elite he deals with daily. He sees Trump and other rich and famous Americans like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett on television. He carries out “ridiculous orders” and receives “idiotic” reprimands from well-paid, “know-it-all pencil-pushers who don’t give a flying fuck about regular working guys like me.” Frank is voting for Trump “just to piss off all the big-shot [professional-class] liberals” he perceives as constantly disrespecting and pushing him around.

Listen to Green Party leader Howie Hawkins, the Teamster union activist who got 5 percent of the vote in New York’s last gubernatorial election. “The Democratic Party ideology is the ideology of the professional class,” he says. “Meritocratic competition. Do well in school, get well-rewarded.” Unfortunately, perhaps, his comment reminds me of the bumper sticker I’ve seen on the back of more than a few beat-up cars in factory parking lots and trailer parks over the years: “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student.”

“The biggest threat to the Democrats isn’t losing votes to the Greens,” Hawkins says. It is losing votes to Trump, who “sounds like he’s mad at the system. So they throw a protest vote to him.”

It doesn’t help that the professional and managerial class is largely aligned with both the politically correct, pro-immigrant multiculturalism and environmentalism that many white workers have genuine economic (and other) reasons to see as threats to their well-being, living standards and status.

Members of this privileged class beneath the 1 percent may not ride in limousines, but they also don’t go around in the beat-up pickup trucks that “Big Frank” drives both on and off the job. We might designate some of its more liberal members as “Prius Progressives.”

A Trump victory in November seems ever more unlikely. The gaffe-prone and highly unprofessional nature of the candidate, the vastly superior ruling- and professional-class resources being marshaled around the de facto, moderate-Republican Clinton, the racial and ethnic demographics of the national electoral map, and the relative weakness and likely low turnout of his supposed “white working-class base”—all this and more points to a major defeat for “the Donald.”

Progressives should view the alleged threat of a great wave of racist, nativist, white, working-class anger ready to “Brexit” the toxic Trump into the White House with a healthy dose of skepticism. Trump’s white proletarian base is not big or energized enough to make that happen. The notion that it is seems calculated to scare left-leaning progressives into voting for the Wall Street-favored, right-wing Democrat, war hawk Clinton and to reinforce the very neoliberal and identity-obsessed politics that helps explain the existence of such white working-class Republicanism in the first place.

(Paul Street is an independent researcher, journalist, historian, author and speaker based in Iowa City and Chicago. This piece was posted most recently at TruthDig.) 



Drugs! Death! Why It’s So Hard to Fix LA’s Raves

FIRST PERSON REPORT--When the music comes on at a rave, a synergetic feeling of mass escape and euphoria runs through the crowd. But this unparalleled collective high has come at a cost.

In July, three people were found dead at the Hard Summer Music Festival near Los Angeles. During the two-day festival, which drew a record 147,000 attendees, an additional six people were hospitalized. Prior to these deaths, the Los Angeles Times counted 26 rave-related fatalities in the American Southwest since 2006. That doesn’t include non-fatal overdoses, a number which could easily reach triple digits if tallied across the country.

The reaction by lawmakers in cities like Los Angeles has been to clamp down on the events themselves, either banning them entirely or demanding strict control over the crowds. Promoters have instituted stricter security policies, while contending that at such large-scale events, drug use is inevitable. But the recent deaths suggest that these “solutions” haven’t solved anything.

Even though this latest tragedy is fresh, the problem is so familiar—and so unchanged—that a Los Angeles Times write-up of the Hard Summer deaths didn’t even bother to find a new doctor to talk to. They just recycled a quote from last year, in which a doctor frets that “there’s something about these events that leads to this rampant drug abuse,” but is unable to put his finger on why.

I’ve been going to raves for six years, and I don’t find the current approach to addressing the problem convincing. What I am convinced of is that it’s possible to have raves without any deaths at all.

Why has it been so hard to “fix” raves? Because we have not accurately identified the problem, which to my mind does not stem from kids disregarding their own lives, but rather from the fact that they never learned how to handle the spectacular, seductive freedom offered by raves.

The way I see it, the danger presented at raves stems from the fact that more than a few attendees are the products of our culture of over-protective parents. These ravers grew up highly supervised without the chance to be left to their own devices. Add to that the subtly influencing hand of teenage hormones and it’s almost surprising that there aren’t more tragedies.

Our society has become increasingly afraid of letting children run wild, and young kids today don’t have the same opportunities as previous generations to venture out into the world on their own, to learn how to handle the small freedoms of youth, to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. Instead, children are funneled from an early age into a myriad of adult-monitored activities such as team sports, school dances, and summer camps.

As teenagers, these hothouse kids begin to break out of their confinement. Raves are the perfect venue for youthful experimentation. Even the word “rave” sounds new and different from the “concerts” or “shows” of which adults hold fond memories.

Rave culture has always celebrated the illicit. The very definition of the word “rave,” meaning “to talk wildly or incoherently, as if one were delirious or insane” conjures intoxication. The first raves were born as a mutation of 1970s and ‘80s discotheques, the distinction being that raves were held in basements, lofts, and abandoned warehouses, rather than established venues. These parties often lasted for upwards of 10 straight hours, and people could bring in their own substances hassle free.

At raves, kids are given a shot at unmonitored social interaction, and the chance to finally partake in all sorts of risk-taking away from hovering parents. Unfortunately, these are not the baby-step risks of younger years. And without past lessons to guide them, it’s easy for bad choices to escalate without anyone realizing.

The question of rave safety is not a narrow one. In the past few years, the American electronic dance music (or EDM) scene has exploded, with longer, multi-day festival events routinely pulling in crowds of over 100,000 people. EDM has penetrated the heart of the musical world; it has its own category at the Grammys, and heavily influences the sound of contemporary pop music.

When I got into raving in 2010, I had always felt like a social outcast, but raves connected me with a group of likeminded people who I would never have met otherwise. It wasn’t long before I started going out more, getting into trouble with my parents, and having more fun than ever before.

Regardless of what the law says, the youth will continue to party on. The best thing we can do is to ensure the spaces they party in are as safe and nurturing as possible.

Since then, the rave scene has become firmly cemented in the realm of popular culture. But that didn’t mean the end of drugs or danger. Even as security checks have gotten stricter, drugs have been present at every rave I’ve ever been to. And security checks haven’t prevented deaths.

The good news is that thoughtful alternative approaches have emerged. Some raves are starting to protect their attendees, often by bringing together people who understand how raves work and getting them to work together in the crowds.

The Bunk Police, a group now a few years old, built a strategy on the insight that most overdoes happen after kids at raves take mystery drugs they bought from strangers. Many of these drugs are actually harmful chemicals masquerading as popular club drugs.

The Bunk Police show up at events armed with tests kits that can tell whether a bag of powder is real MDMA, or one of the countless synthetic chemicals that have flooded the rave scene since the popularization of online drug dealing websites, such as the fabled “bath salts” scare of years past. Since their existence acknowledges the presence of drug use, festivals have tried to ban groups like The Bunk Police. Despite this, members hop fences, bribe security guards and risk jail time so that they can keep other people safe.

At Steez Promo’s Moonrise Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, volunteers make sure attendees stay safe while they’re partying. They check on people who look sick or zoned out, and hand out gum, water, and fruit. The best thing about the volunteers is that they’re also ravers, and can be considerably less intimidating than the security staff. In the event of an emergency, a volunteer can help you feel better, whereas a security guard might just detain you. When things get too rough for volunteers, Moonrise is also equipped with two medical tents near high traffic areas, staffed by a team of emergency medical technicians.

While unsupervised spaces like raves inevitably invite dangerous activity, they also provide a place for youths to grow, experiment, and flourish, free to make mistakes away from the judging eyes of adult society. Regardless of what the law says, the youth will continue to party on. The best thing we can do is to ensure the spaces they party in are as safe and nurturing as possible.

(Louis Patterson is a senior at Occidental College studying English, and a summer fellow at Zócalo Public Square … where this perspective was first posted.)


Appeals Court Tells DOJ to Back Off … Leave Medical Marijuana States … Like California … Alone

POT POLITICS--An appeals court has ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice can’t prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers for violating federal cannabis law as long as those individuals are in full compliance with state laws legalizing medical marijuana.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held unanimously that a 2014 budget measure “prohibits DOJ from spending funds” to go after such people. 

That’s bad news for the Justice Department’s increasingly controversial war on marijuana. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for medical purposes. 

In the 10 cases from California and Washington state before the court, the 9th Circuit ruled that the Justice Department must show that the defendants were in violation of their state marijuana laws before proceeding with the federal criminal prosecutions. The appeals court sent all 10 cases back to the trial courts to make such determinations.

But Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, writing for the court, pointed out the precarious nature of the federal block on these prosecutions. In a footnote, he said that “Congress could restore funding tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now, and the government could then prosecute individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding.”

The judge also noted that the next administration may “shift enforcement priorities” and place a greater emphasis on prosecution of federal marijuana crimes.

Nonetheless, “this really is a big deal,” said Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law who studies marijuana regulation.

“It’s an assertion by a court ― the largest federal circuit ― that federal prosecutors cannot enforce the Controlled Substances Act against those in compliance with state medical marijuana provisions,” he explained. “It’s not forever ... but it’s a lot more protection than was in place prior to the ruling.”

Kamin added that the panel’s unanimity shouldn’t give the Obama administration “much reason for optimism,” should it choose to appeal.

Tom Angell, chairman of the drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, was similarly exuberant.

“If the Obama administration is smart, they’ll drop this fight right now rather than risk an even more embarrassing defeat on appeal,” he told HuffPost.

DOJ spokesman Peter Carr told HuffPost that the department was reviewing the decision and declined further comment.

The defendants in the 10 cases had argued that the charges should be dismissed because of a bipartisan budget measure, passed in December 2014, that bars the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent states from “implementing” their own laws authorizing the “use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Last year, another Justice Department spokesman said it interpreted that provision as blocking prosecutors from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” but not from charging medical marijuana patients and businesses that violate federal marijuana laws. The measure’s sponsors, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.) expressed their profound disagreement at the time. 

The 9th Circuit is not the first federal court to say the Justice Department got it wrong. Last year a federal judge in an unrelated case ruled that the department can’t prosecute state-legal providers of medical marijuana and said that its interpretation “tortures the plain meaning of the statute.”

Besides the 25 states and D.C. that have already legalized marijuana for medical purposes, voters in nine other states are expected to consider some form of marijuana legalization this year.

Still, the plant remains banned under federal law. States’ efforts to legalize the drug in some form or another have worked only because of guidance from top DOJ officials urging frontline federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.

“I applaud the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for proclaiming the law as it has been intended by congressional legislation,” Rohrabacher said in an emailed statement to HuffPost. He called the court’s decision a victory for states’ rights, medical marijuana patients and “the constitutional process of establishing law.”

The Justice Department, Rohrabacher said, should “go on notice that there should be no more prosecutions and raiding of dispensaries in those states where the state government has legalized medical marijuana.”

And Farr told HuffPost, “California and many other states allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes yet the federal government still considers it as dangerous as heroin. While I’m pleased to see the amendment that I worked on with my colleagues being interpreted by the courts correctly, there needs to be a permanent change to federal policy to ensure medical marijuana patients aren’t criminalized in states that allow it.”

(Matt Ferner is a national reporter for Huffington Post [[huffingtonpost.com]] … where this piece was originally posted.)


Goodbye to ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’

CORRUPTION WATCH-Back in the days of yore, when we Baby Boomers were coming on the scene, we were nurtured on values from comic books and TV. We all knew about “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” In grade school, we also heard about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I always thought that “the American Way” meant “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” So I and my fellow baby boomers blissfully grew up with a vision of America where no wrong went un-righted and happiness was our birthright. 

Just as we had picked up other phrases like, “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies…we all fall down,’” we proudly repeated, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” After all, it opened every episode of Superman. In our minds, the Man of Steel was always on the side of right and that’s how we believed the world to be. 

Many of us have never shaken ourselves free from the childish belief that, in America, truth and justice were The Way, and we all had the right to Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Oh, yes, the pursuit of happiness was very important as we became teenagers. Then, the deaths in Southeast Asia entered our world. In our minds, we could still hear the end of the rhyme, “Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down”dead. We heard that it referred to the Black Plague which had wiped out millions. That was an interpretation that fit the times. Rather than Happiness, Death awaited us. 

And, then The War was over and Nixon was gone and we could continue with the American Way. 

Decades later, as Baby Boomers, we enter retirement and look back to see our legacy catching up to us. We had been lulled into complacency and now we realize that our children will be the first American generation likely to do worse than their parents. Productivity increases have stopped going to those who produced them. Instead, 90% of all productivity gains since Obama took office have gone to the top 1%. Private pensions are following the path of the passenger pigeon and public pensions are purposefully under-funded. 

In 2016, we no longer see Truth Justice and the American Way. Rather, we see “Corruptionism.” The alliance of the wealthy and their pawns in Congress and elsewhere has departed from the path of truth and justice. In its wake, we see a string of multi-billion dollar thefts. Worse, there is no Superman to right the wrongs. 

First, there was the piddling Equity Funding Scandal in 1970. Then we had the significant Savings and Loans Scandals where millions of elderly Americans were fleeced of their life savings. Back in the 1980s, some efforts were made to hold the thieves accountable, and so the world of finance learned about Accounting Control Fraud. 

Later, we had the Dot Com Crash in 2000, followed by the Enron Bankruptcy in 2001. So, in 2004, we sent Martha Stewart to prison. Really, Martha? At least, there was a diluted notion of some type of justice, weird as it was to seize upon Martha Stewart.   

Then, we entered the world in which Rampant Criminality replaced Truth and Justice as the American Way. We got the Crash of 2008 which was due to the massive trillion dollar Credit Default Swap frauds of Wall Street executives. Gone was all pretense of holding the guilty parties liable. The government claimed that Wall Street executives had been merely careless, that nothing criminal happened. How does one carelessly bribe a rating agency to give top ratings to junk bonds? 

The government declared that the executives’ foolish risks were so huge that we had to give them back all the money they lost in the Crash, plus a few trillion more. Notice…the money went to the crooks and thieves who had crashed the entire economy, while the average Joe lost his home, lost his pension and ended up divorced, with his kids homeless. Yet the Administration continued to shovel trillions of dollars into the pockets of Wall Street thieves. Let’s remember…the Crash of 2008 began with criminality right here in Southern California with Countrywide and our courts choosing to look the other way. 

To make certain that Truth, Justice and the American Way were dead forever, Obama invented, “Too Important to Prosecute.” That’s right, Lex Luther and his minions are too important to Metropolis. Rather than let Superman imprison them in an ice cave, they became Los Angeles’ mayor and city councilmembers. 

And that brings us to the Los Angeles City Council and its criminal voting trading pact. Surely, a criminal enterprise that fleeces the city of billions of dollars is contrary to “Truth, Justice American Way.” If Mayor Luther wants anything, he takes it and all his City Council buddies agree to unanimously agree 100% of the time: “Yeah, we should tear down the homes of the poor people. Whadda ya gonna do about it?” 

Truth, Justice and the American Way no longer exist. Penal Code § 86, which forbids all vote trading on a city council, is apparently unenforceable unless all the city councilmembers write out their vote trading agreement in blood and post it on the front door of City Hall. Even then, could we ever find a judge who could figure out that 1,000 consecutive unanimous votes is indicative of a vote trading pact? Oh no, nothing amiss here…must be a coincidence or maybe the unanimity reflects how well the city is run?   

If the people who live in the Hills near Lake Hollywood do not find the nerve to reject Boss Garcetti’s choice for CD 4 councilmember, then watch for the resulting increase of tourism in the Hills. Don’t worry about the fire danger and the fact that tourists who are totally unaware of the extreme fire danger will toss cigarette butts into the underbrush. Let’s pretend the fires won’t occur. Let’s ignore the car crashes on the too narrow streets -- and the people who die because the paramedics cannot reach them in time in the too-congested hills. There’s a price to pay for crossing Boss Garcetti. For the people above Lake Hollywood, it’s the ever increasing danger of losing their homes and lives to fire. 

When the City Council votes unanimously 99.9% of the time, you know it is a criminal enterprise, but when Lex Luther’s niece is the DA, you won’t see any action. Don’t expect any Justice from the courts. In modern day Los Angeles, Justice, along with Truth and Superman, is in exile.


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. 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.

The Election from Hell

EDITOR’S PICK--Yep, it finally happened. In early May, after a long, long run, the elephants of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were ushered into retirement in Florida where they will finish their days aiding cancer research. The Greatest Show on Earth was done with its pachyderms.  The same might be said about the Republicans after Donald Trump’s version of a GOP convention. Many of them had also been sent, far less gracefully than those circus elephants, into a kind of enforced retirement (without even cancer research as an excuse). 

Their former party remained in the none-too-gentle hands of the eternally aggrieved Trump, while the Democrats were left to happily chant “USA!  USA!,” march a barking retired four-star general and a former CIA director on stage to invoke the indispensable “greatness” of America, and otherwise exhibit the kind of super-patriotism and worship of the military usually associated with... no question about it... the GOP (whose delegates instead spent their time chanting “lock her up!”).

And that’s just to take the tiniest of peeks at a passing moment in what continues to be, without the slightest doubt, the Greatest Show on Earth in 2016.

My small suggestion: don’t even try to think your way through all this. It’s the media equivalent of entering King Minos’s labyrinth. You’ll never get out. I’m talking about -- what else? -- the phenomenon we still call an “election campaign,” though it bears remarkably little resemblance to anything Americans might once have bestowed that label on.

Still, look on the bright side: the Republican and Democratic conventions are in the rearview mirror and a mere three months of endless yakking are left until Election Day. 

In the last year, untold billions of words have been expended on this “election” and the outsized histories, flaws, and baggage the two personalities now running for president bring with them.  Has there ever been this sort of coverage -- close to a year of it already -- hour after hour, day after day, night after night? Has the New York Times ever featured stories about the same candidate and his cronies, two at a time, on its front page daily the way it’s recently been highlighting the antics of The Donald?

Have there ever been so many “experts” of every stripe jawing away about a single subject on cable TV from the crack of dawn to the witching hour?  Has there ever been such a mass of pundits churning out opinions by the hour, or so many polls about the American people’s electoral desires steamrollering each other from dawn to dusk?

And, of course, those polls are then covered, discussed, and analyzed endlessly. Years ago, Jonathan Schell suggested that we no longer had an election, but (thanks to those polls) “serial elections.”  He wrote that back in the Neolithic Age and we’ve come an awful long way since then. There are now websites, after all, that seem to do little more than produce mega-polls from all the polls spewing out.

And don’t forget the completely self-referential nature of this “campaign.” If ever there was an event that was about itself and focused only on itself, this is it. Donald Trump, for instance, has taken possession of Twitter and his furious -- in every sense, since he’s the thinnest-skinned candidate ever -- tweets rapidly pile up, are absorbed into “news” articlesabout the campaign that are, in turn, tweeted out for The Donald to potentially tweet about in a Möbius strip of blather.

What You Can’t Blame Donald Trump For

And yet, despite all the words expended and polls stumbling over each other to illuminatenext to nothing, can’t you feel that there’s something unsaid, something unpolled, something missing?

As the previous world of American politics melts and the electoral seas continue to rise, those of us in the coastal outlands of domestic politics find ourselves, like so many climate refugees, fleeing the tides of spectacle, insult, propaganda, and the rest. We’re talking about a phenomenon that’s engulfing us. We’re drowning in a sea of words and images called “Election 2016.” We have no more accurate name for it, no real way to step back and describe the waters we’re drowning in. And if you expect me to tell you what to call it, think again. I’m drowning, too.

You can blame Donald Trump for many things in this bizarre season of political theater, but don’t blame him for the phenomenon itself. He may have been made for this moment with his uncanny knack for turning himself into a never-ending news cycle of one and scarfing upbillions of dollars of free publicity, but he was a Johnny-come-lately to the process itself.

After all, he wasn’t one of the Supreme Court justices who, in their 2010 Citizens Uniteddecision, green-lighted the flooding of American politics with the dollars of the ultra-wealthy in the name of free speech and in amounts that boggle the imagination (even as that same court has gone ever easier on the definition of political “corruption”).

As a certified tightwad, Trump wasn’t the one who made it possible to more or less directly purchase a range of politicians and so ensure that we would have our first 1% elections. Nor was he the one who made American politics a perfect arena for a rogue billionaire with enough money (andchutzpah) to buy himself.

It’s true that no political figure has ever had The Donald’s TV sense. Still, before he was even a gleam in his own presidential eye, the owners of cable news and other TV outlets had already grasped that an election season extending from here to Hell might morph into a cornucopia of profits.

He wasn’t the one who realized that such an ever-expanding campaign season would not only bring in billions of dollars in political ads (thank you, again, Supreme Court for helping to loose super PACs on the world), but billions more from advertisers for prime spots in the ongoing spectacle itself.

He wasn’t the one who realized that a cable news channel with a limited staff could put every ounce of energy, every talking head around, into such an election campaign, and glue eyeballs in remarkable ways, solving endless problems for a year or more.

This was all apparent by the 2012 election, as debates spread across the calendar, ad money poured in, and the yakking never stopped. Donald Trump didn’t create this version of an eternal reality show. He’s just become its temporary host and Hillary Clinton, his quick-to-learn apprentice.

And yet be certain of one thing: neither those Supreme Court justices, nor the owners of TV outlets, nor the pundits, politicians, pollsters, and the rest of the crew knew what exactly they were creating. Think of them as the American equivalent of the blind men and the elephant(and my apologies if I can’t keep pachyderms out of this piece).

In this riot of confusion that passes for an election, with one candidate who’s a walking Ponzi scheme and the other who (with her husband) has shamelessly pocketed staggeringmillions of dollars from the financial and tech sectors, what are we to make of “our” strange new world? Certainly, this is no longer just an election campaign. It’s more like a way of life and, despite all its debates (that now garner National Football League-sized audiences), it’s also the tao of confusion.

Missing in Action This Election Season

Let’s start with this: The spectacle of our moment is so overwhelming, dominating every screen of our lives and focused on just two outsized individuals in a country of 300 million-plus on a planet of billions, that it blocks our view of reality. Whatever this “election” may be, it blots out much of the rest of the world.  As far as I can see, the only story sure to break through it is when someone picks up that assault rifle, revs up that truck, gets his hands on that machete, builds that bomb, declares loyalty to ISIS (whatever his disturbed thoughts may have been 30 seconds earlier), and slaughters as many people as he can in the U.S. or Europe. (Far grimmer, and more repetitive slaughters in Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, and other such places have no similar value and are generally ignored.)

Of course, such slaughters, when they do break through the election frenzy, only feed the growth of the campaign. It’s a reasonable suspicion, though, that somewhere at the heart of Election 2016 is a deepening sense of fear about American life that seems to exhibit itself front and center only in relation to one of the lesser dangers (Islamic terrorism) of life in this country. Much as this election campaign offers a strife-riven playing field for two, it also seems to minimize the actual strife and danger in our world by focusing so totally on ISIS and its lone wolf admirers.  It might, in that sense, be considered a strange propaganda exercise in the limits of reality.

Let’s take, for instance, America’s wars.  Yes, the decision to invade Iraq has been discussed (and criticized) during the campaign and the urge of the two remaining candidates and everyone else previously involved to defeat and destroy the Islamic State is little short of overwhelming.  In addition, Trump at least has pointed to the lack of any military victories in all these years and the disaster of Clinton’s interventionist urge in Libya, among other things. 

In addition, in an obvious exercise of super-patriotic fervor of the sort that once would have been strange in this country and now has become second nature, both conventions trotted out retired generals and national security officials to lecture the American public like so many rabid drill sergeants. 

Then there were the usual rites, especially at the Democratic convention, dedicated to the temple of the “fallen” in our wars, and endless obeisance to the “warriors” and the U.S. military generally -- as well as the prolonged Trumpian controversy over the family of one dead Muslim-American Marine. 

One of the two candidates has made a habit of praising to the heavens “the world’s greatest military” (and you know just which one she means) while swearing fealty to our generals and admirals; the other has decried that military as a “disaster” area, a “depleted” force “in horrible shape.”  For both, however, this adds up to the same thing: yet more money and support for that force.

Here’s the strange thing, though.  Largely missing in action in campaign 2016 are the actual wars being fought by the U.S. military or any serious assessment of, or real debate or discussion about, how they’ve been going or what the national security state has or hasn’t accomplished in these years. 

Almost a decade and a half after the invasion of Afghanistan, the longest war in American history is still underway with no end in sight and it's going badly, as American air power has once again been let loose in that country and Afghan government forces continue to lose ground to the Taliban.  Think of it as the war that time forgot in this election campaign, even though its failed generals are trotted out amid hosannas of praise to tell us what to do in the future and who to vote for.

Meanwhile, a new, open-ended campaign of bombing has been launched in Libya, this time against ISIS adherents.  The last time around left that country a basket case.  What’s this one likely to do?

Such questions are largely missing in action in campaign speeches, debates, and discussions; nor is the real war and massive destruction in Iraq or Syria a subject of any genuine interest; nor what it’s meant for the “world’s greatest military” to unleash its air power from Afghanistan to Libya, send out its drones on assassination missions from Pakistan to Somalia, launch special operations raids across the Greater Middle East and Africa, occupy two countries, and have nothing to show for it but the spread of ever more viral and brutal terror movements and the collapse or near-collapse of many of the states in which it’s fought its wars. 

At the moment, such results just lead to “debates” over how much further to build up American forces, how much more money to pour into them, how much freer the generals should be to act in the usual repetitive fashion, and how much more fervently we should worship those “warriors” as our saviors.  Back in 2009, Leon Panetta, then head of the CIA,talked up America’s drone assassination campaign in Pakistan as “the only game in town” when it came to stopping al-Qaeda.  Seven years later, you could say that in Washington the only game in town is failure.

Similarly, the U.S. taxpayer pours nearly $70 billion annually into the 16 major and various minor outfits in its vast “intelligence” apparatus, and yet, as with the recent coup in Turkey, the U.S. intelligence community seldom seems to have a clue about what’s going on.

Failed intelligence and failed wars in an increasingly failed world is a formula for anxiety and even fear.  But all of this has been absorbed into and deflected by the unparalleled bread-and-circus spectacle of Election 2016, which has become a kind of addictive habit for “the people.”  Even fear has been transformed into another form of entertainment.  In the process, the electorate has been turned into so many spectators, playing their small parts in a demobilizing show of the first order.

And speaking about realities that went MIA, you wouldn’t know it from Election 2016, but much of the U.S. was sweltering under a “heat dome” the week of the Democratic convention.  It wasn’t a phrase that had previously been in popular use and yet almost the whole country was living through record or near-record summer temperatures in a year in which, globally, each of the first six months had broken all previous heat records (as, in fact, had the last eight months of 2015).  Even pre-heat dome conditions in the lower 48 had been setting records for warmth (and don’t even ask about Alaska).  It might almost look like there was a pattern here.

Unfortunately, as the world careens toward “an environment never experienced before,”according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the two parties to the American spectacle continues to insist that climate change is a hoax.  Its politicians are almost uniformly in thrall to Big Energy, and its presidential candidate tops the charts when it comes to climate denialism.  ("The concept of global warming," he's claimed, "was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.") Meanwhile, the other party, the one theoretically promoting much-needed responses to climate change, wasn't even willing to highlight the subject in prime time on any of the last three days of its convention.

In other words, the deepest, most unnerving realities of our world are, in essence, missing in action in election 2016.

You want to be afraid? Be afraid of that!

The Shrinking Election Phenomenon

So you tell me: What is this spectacle of ours?  Certainly, as a show it catches many of our fears, sweeping them up in its whirlwind and then burying them in unreality.  It can rouse audiences to a fever pitch and seems to act like a Rorschach test in which you read whatever you’re inclined to see into its most recent developments.  Think of it, in a sense, as an anti-election campaign.  In its presence, there’s no way to sort out the issues that face this country or its citizens in a world in which the personalities on stage grow ever larger and more bizarre, while what Americans have any say over is shrinking fast.

So much of American “democracy” and so many of the funds that we pony up to govern ourselves now go into strengthening the power of essentially anti-democratic structures: a military with a budget larger than that of the next seven or eight countries combined and the rest of a national security state of a size unimaginable in the pre-9/11 era.  Each is now deeply embedded in Washington and at least as grotesque in its bloat as the election campaign itself.  We’re talking about structures that have remarkably little to do with self-governance or We the People (even though it’s constantly drummed into our heads that they are there to protect us, the people).  In these years, even as they have proved capable of winning next to nothing and detecting little, they've grown ever larger, more imperial, and powerful, becoming essentially the post-Constitutional fourth branch of government to which the other three branches pay obeisance.

No matter.  We’re all under the heat dome now and when, on November 8th, tens of millions of us troop to the polls, who knows what we’re really doing anymore, except of course paving the way for the next super-spectacle of our political age, Election 2020. Count on it: speculation about the candidates will begin in the media within days after the results of this one are in. And it’s a guarantee: there will be nothing like it. It will dazzle, entrance, amaze. It’s going to be... the Greatest Show on Earth. It will cause billions of dollars to change hands.  It will electrify, shock, amuse, entertain, appall, and...

I leave it to you to finish that sentence, while I head off to check out the latest on The Donald and Hillary.  (Include a reference to elephants and you’ll get extra credit!)

(Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com.) 


The Donald and The Clintons: This Madness Has to Stop

EASTSIDER- For me, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump goes way beyond the “lesser of two evils.” In fact, this is how we wound up with Hillary and Donald in the first place. We’ve had too many years of those kinds of choices. Somehow this madness has to stop. 

I think that a lot of my fellow progressives quietly agree with me, but are afraid to be brutally honest. They worry about getting spammed and flamed all over the internet. Yes, that’s how Hillary plays the game. And maybe I could get drummed out of the Northeast Dems, but … oh well, here goes. 

As a lifetime Dem, I voted for Bill Clinton and even gave him money, he talked so pretty. Silly me. In return, I got GATT and NAFTA, and "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It should also be noted that President Bill Clinton is the guy that put the wooden stake through the heart of the Glass-Steagal Act that protected us from the financial services industry after the Great Depression. 

While I know that Hillary is not Bill, she has made it clear that she views him as her economic and jobs “go to guy.” Goody. 

Then of course, there’s The Donald. The idea of voting for Donald Trump is pretty simple for me. I simply substitute the name P.T. Barnum for Donald Trump and the parallels are eerie. For those of you who may not remember, P.T. was a showman and promoter (of some hoaxes, as well as the Barnum & Bailey circus.) He was also a Connecticut Republican politician who has been (incorrectly) credited with coining the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Clearly, he was in it for the bucks. 

If you substitute real estate developer for showman, the business and ego traits of both are pretty similar. The biggest difference seems to be that The Donald has tapped into the overwhelming anger and disgust people have for both political parties that merrily sell us out in Washington without a qualm. PT was simply in it for the glory and the bucks, up front. 

Hillary Clinton is harder to characterize with a sound bite. There are so many Hillary Clintons that it’s hard to find a core beyond her incredible lust to become President of the United States. Evidently at any cost. 

What we do know is that the rhetoric of the Clinton Campaign evades the truth about anything Clinton…like the fact that she’s a card-carrying member of the 1/2 of the One Percent (via the Clinton Foundation). She is owned by Wall Street, as Bernie Sanders correctly pointed out during the primary. So is Bill and so is their daughter, who is on the Clinton Foundation Board and is married to a Hedge Fund investment banker. 

Hillary is also very hawkish for a Democrat, from the Iraq war forward. As it relates to Israel, she might as well be on the staff of Prime Minister Netanyahu. 

Finally, as I wrote some time ago in a CityWatch article, “While I’m at it, I have absolutely no idea what Hillary Clinton actually stands for -- there have been so many “nuances” and “pivots” and “shifting stances” between the primaries and the general election as reported by the 200 channels of electronic media. It makes my head hurt. Again, it may be true that this is “smart politics” like the pundits say, and proof of her political abilities, but what does it say about our electoral politics?” 

So these are the two candidates for President of the United States. 

A Third Way and Why--Somewhere in all this, “the lesser of two evils” loses all meaning for me. While I can understand why Bernie Sanders, a lifetime elected official, chose to live up to his pledge to support the Democratic candidate, I do not feel similarly obligated. 

I think the two visions of America represented by both candidates are too flawed for sale. Whether it’s Hillary letting Wall Street suck the last money out of our pockets until they tank the entire financial services industry again, or The Donald, who, like all real estate developers, seems to want to subdivide us into easily digestible pieces, we are faced with Hobbesian choices that don’t interest me. 

Here is what’s important to me about politics: Politicians are supposed to ensure that everyone in our society has a legitimate shot at a job if they want to work. Historically, that’s been a myth for our elected officials, this “underpinning” of the so-called social contract between the state and the governed. It’s the hype we have all been fed up through the 80’s. 

Well, it’s simply not true anymore. Huge swaths of our population can’t get any job, at all. Older people are routinely dumped in the wastebasket, never getting a call back or even an interview; and those convicted of almost any crime (other than snorting coke in Wall Street) have their resumes dumped in the same wastebasket. It’s the same for those less educated, the same for “people of color,” and the list goes on and on. If you go to Kings County in California’s Central Valley, the unemployment rate for working age white guys is over 50%!  

In addition to the money, which may or may not be enough to get by on, jobs offer a sense of self-worth, security and inherent pride. 

Back in the 60’s in Watts, another social worker and I ran some off-the-books group sessions for folks on General Relief. “Off the books” because the Welfare Department was absolutely uninterested in such ideas. The overwhelming majority of these people felt alone, isolated, believing that no one understood their circumstances. It was a total bummer. But in a group, they could share with each other and find out they were not alone. 

We went over basic skills like how to regularly get up on a schedule and how to arrive at a specific place, on time, each day. This is how beaten down people were. But we hustled some local employers and achieved over a 50% success rate in helping many of them get off General Relief. And once off, they tended to stay off. 

So, after then-president Bill Clinton went on TV to tell us there’d be no more “guaranteed jobs” -- that we would have to work for a number of different employers and constantly upgrade our “job skills” (whatever that meant) -- there really are no job guarantees. Period. 

Except, of course, for the professional political class, their hangers-on and the one-dollar-one-vote billionaires who own all of them. 

Well that just sucks. I have no sympathy for either political party or the politicians who dance to their tunes. It is they, not us, who have created the current “no job, no hope” class of Americans. And, as for the new “gig economy” that’s available for younger people, who can only look forward to intermittent employment, high rents, and permanent uncertainty, it’s no better. 

The Takeaway--For what it’s worth, I am supporting the national progressive candidates that Bernie endorsed -- and giving them money. Especially Tim Canova in Florida, who I pray will displace the toxic Debbie Wasserman Schultz once and for all. She can go back to fronting for PayDay Loans. 

And, no surprise here … I’m voting for Jill Stein.  

Something has to change and it has to be from the bottom up. It all starts with electing real, honest, progressive Democrats (or even Republicans, if there is such a thing.) Or how about an honest Green Party Candidate? You know, people who will really vote against the 1/2 of 1% who run the country. 

On the other hand, Hillary would be the first woman president... 

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

Donald Trump and the ‘Banality of Evil’

EDITOR’S PICK-Too many headlines about what Trump said about Clinton and the "2nd Amendment people" don’t explain what he meant or put what he said in political context.

Donald Trump’s comment on Tuesday about how “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton if she gets elected is hardly subtle. This is a clear provocation to commit murder, however he and his handlers may try to spin it. 

At a rally in Wilmington, N.C., Trump told the crowd that “Hillary wants to abolish -- essentially abolish the Second Amendment.” Of course, this isn’t true. This is how Trump and his NRA friends refer to people who want tougher gun control laws. But that wasn’t the most inflammatory thing he said. 

"Many of his comments are just stupid. But others are dangerous, and some may be illegal. Who draws the line? And what do we do to a public figure who crosses it?"

“And if she gets to pick her judges,” Trump went on. “Nothing you can do, folks.” 

Then his lack of impulse control kicked in: “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is,” he added. 

He was suggesting that “Second Amendment people” -- clearly, gun owners -- deal with Hillary before she gets to appoint Supreme Court justices who will permit strong gun laws. And he didn’t mean invite her to an NRA meeting. 

A week ago, reporters were writing about whether Trump’s invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails was treasonous or otherwise illegal. That was bad enough. But now this. As Ezra Klein pointed out in a Vox column and video last week, there are no words to describe this kind of behavior. “Abnormal” doesn’t do it justice. Nor does “monstrous.” 

“Sociopathic” might describe Trump’s condition, but it doesn’t describe our condition as we routinely hear such Trump statements on the campaign trail. 

The only thing that comes close is philosopher Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil.” She coined this phrase in her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, about the trial of Adolph Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, in an Israeli courtroom. If someone carries out unspeakable crimes often enough, he or she comes to accept them as “normal.” That was Arendt’s view of Eichmann. 

But the “banality of evil” also applies to an entire society. We can get used to outrageous things -- slavery, Jim Crow segregation laws, massive homelessness, widespread malnutrition, the frequent killing of Black men by police -- until we are provoked to view them as unjust. 

This is the dilemma now facing Americans -- and particularly American journalists -- in thinking about Trump’s presidential campaign. We’ve become so used to his daily outrages -- about Mexicans, about women, about Muslims, about NATO, about nuclear weapons, about “Mexican” Judge Curiel, about renegotiating America’s debt with other countries, about getting Mexico to pay for a wall on the border, about Melania Trump’s plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech, about his Trump University con job, about his ignorance of basic issues like Brexit, and many more -- that we’re almost numb to them. It is difficult to renew outrage day after day. 

Many of his comments are just stupid. But others are dangerous, and some may be illegal. They reflect a temperament and mental instability that makes him unfit to be president. 

It is a matter of what kind of words, and what kind of behavior, crosses the line so blatantly, and violates whatever standards of basic decency we have, that it is beyond contempt. But who draws the line? And what do we do to a public figure who crosses it? 

The New York Times’ media critic Jim Rutenberg, in his analysis in Monday’s paper, Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism”, did a good job of examining how difficult it is for the mainstream media, caught in the web of “he said/she said” reporting and admonitions to be “neutral,” to deal with Trump’s campaign and his almost daily outrages. 

Rutenberg wrote: “If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?” 

Reporters don’t want to be glorified tape recorders, just transcribing what Trump (or any other candidate) says without providing context and, if necessary, correction. 

Reporters faced this dilemma in 1950, when Senator Joseph McCarthy began giving speeches accusing the U.S. State Department of harboring Communists. In almost every speech, he used different numbers of alleged “reds” inside the department. Reporters who covered McCarthy knew he was lying, but they couldn’t write that. They couldn’t even say he was “inconsistent.” If they wanted readers to understand that McCarthy had gone overboard with his accusations, they had to find other politicians to say so. They had to be “balanced.” That’s what passed for “objectivity” back then. He said versus she said. 

We’ve made some progress since then -- allowing journalists to analyze as well as report -- but reporters and editors still find themselves in a journalistic straightjacket when covering Trump on the campaign trail. (I was going to write “someone like Trump,” but although there are many whackos in recent politics -- think Sarah Palin -- there isn’t anyone else really like Trump, and certainly no one who has won a major party’ s nomination for president.) 

The stories about Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment reflect this journalistic conundrum. How do you report a story about a candidate for president implying that people with guns might want to consider killing his opponent? Yes, that isn’t what he actually said but it is clearly what he meant -- or what he wanted his supporters to hear. That was his dog whistle. But you don’t need to be a dog to know what he was saying. Even so, reporters and headline writers couldn’t report what Trump meant, only what he said. They could call his comment “controversial” or even “inflammatory,” but they did say what was obvious to everyone in that room and anyone who watched the video. 

The headlines about Trump’s comment that appeared on-line within hours of his speech reflect how constrained the media are in reporting such an outrageous statement: 

  • “Trump Appears To Suggest ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Stop Clinton” (NPR) 
  • “Donald Trump Says ‘Second Amendment People’ Can Stop Hillary Clinton From Curbing Gun Rights” (Wall Street Journal
  • “Trump sparks uproar by saying ‘maybe there is’ a way for ‘2nd Amendment people’ to keep Clinton from naming justices” (Los Angeles Times
  • “Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton” (New York Times
  • “Trump suggests ‘Second Amendment people’ could stop Clinton” (Chicago Tribune)  
  • “What Ever Could Trump Have Meant With This Joke About ‘Second Amendment People’ and Clinton?” (Slate

“Trump ‘Second Amendment’ Quip Seen as Veiled Threat Against Clinton” (NBC) 

  • “Donald Trump says ‘Second Amendment people’ may be the only check on Clinton judicial appointments” (Washington Post
  • “Trump in trouble over ‘Second Amendment’ remark” (Politico). 

All these headlines are accurate but misleading. They don’t explain what he meant or put what he said in political context. The subhead on the Politico story -- “The campaign says he was referencing gun-rights voter mobilization, but the remark was widely interpreted as a joke about using guns against his Democratic rival” -- is about as close as any of them got to explaining the importance and the outrageousness -- and perhaps the criminality -- of what Trump said. 

Headlines or news reports suggesting that Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment was a “joke” reflect the “banality of evil” problem. A joke? Really? 

Where is George Orwell when we need him?


(Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.




Tags: Peter Dreier, Donald Trump, Second Amendment, objective journalism, Hillary Clinton, Common Dreams


What it Really Means to be a Patriot

AT LENGTH-I get extremely nervous when true believers start wrapping themselves in the American flag and then call others “unpatriotic” when they don’t stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. 

A “patriot,” by definition, is one who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country. 

Patriotism does not exclusively belong to those who serve in the military or those who recite the pledge, created 116 years after the founding of our republic. 

There are many more who have served this country bravely that never once donned a uniform or carried a weapon (read President John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage). 

What most of our super patriot neighbors don’t know about this common civic ceremony is that it was written in 1892 by the socialist Christian minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) with the hope that it would bind the open wounds of the American Civil War and unite the nation in a common creed of “liberty and justice for all”— healing a still divided nation.  

These same ideals were enunciated in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. 

The essential words of that founding document give both light and interpretation to the U.S. Constitution’s meaning, which reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

Note that Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers avoided the use of the word “God” in this document. The original Pledge of Allegiance written by a Christian minister, avoided making the same mistake, but we now find it inserted into this oft-recited 1952 version, a legacy inherited from the McCarthy Era witch hunts against communists, who by definition were atheists. 

It seems that once every decade I have to remind readers of this paper and others that the Pledge of Allegiance is not an expression of patriotism demanded by the state, or even legally required for entry into the discourse at our local neighborhood councils, several of which in San Pedro, are now turning the Pledge into a mandatory exercise. 

It has even been the ceremonial protocol for the opening of every chamber of commerce meeting -- as if patriotism was a necessary requirement for engaging in free enterprise in the ever-globalized marketplace. 

The list accompanying a new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found some surprising information: Steve Jobs, the famous co-founder of Apple, is a child of an immigrant parent from Syria. 

Walt Disney was a child of a Canadian immigrant; the founders of Oracle are from Russia and Iran; IBM (Germany); Clorox (Ireland); Boeing (Germany); 3M (Canada); and Home Depot (Russia).

Not only do we not demand military service from the founders of this elite group of Fortune 500 corporations, we don’t even require their loyalty in business to this nation. 

The Pledge is not a requirement of law but has been adopted by custom. Saying the Pledge is reinforced by regimentation in schools and by protocols at some public ceremonies. But when the words are examined they are at best “aspirational” towards liberty and justice and they avoid pledging any loyalty to an underlying creed of this nation as expressed in both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Bill of Rights. It would be better, as I suggested back in the 1980s, for the Pledge to be updated as follows: 

A Patriot’s Pledge of Allegiance 

I pledge allegiance to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
Of the United States of America and to the ideals for which they stand;
Among these are the rights of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, with freedom and justice for all. 

There is no need to mention God or the flag, which is merely a symbol, or that we are indivisible. It goes without saying that we as a nation of people are often divided and take great liberty to express those divisions whenever and wherever we choose. The creed behind the symbol is what we as a nation should be pledging allegiance too, not a piece of cloth. 

However, it was an exquisite form of irony to see Muslim immigrant, Khizr Khan, father of a U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq in 2004, ask Donald Trump if he had ever read the U.S. Constitution. One might ask the same question to those who are now demanding that every meeting of a neighborhood council start with the politically outdated pledge. 

How many of you have a copy in your coat pocket that you could pull out the next time you are stopped by the authorities? Perhaps reading the Constitution should be a mandatory step for anyone wearing a uniform or elected to office.


(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He was elected to the presidency of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in 2014 and has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

My Mother, Stopped for Driving While Black

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL-When the police pulled their guns on my middle-aged mom, a white motorist pulled up to tell them what a good job they were doing. 

When the police pulled their guns on my mother, I reached for my phone and told her to be calm and do as they say. 

My parents and I had just been swarmed by police cars, sirens blaring, as we drove on I-64 through Virginia. Shock and fear consumed my family as we came to a stop and were ordered out of the vehicle at gun point. A third car even showed up to stop traffic. 

The officers then arrested my mother without any explanation. I felt helpless. 

As I questioned the police about why they stopped us, a family of three just driving along and minding our own business, a passing white motorist stopped his car. He gave the police officers a thumbs-up and told them, “We support the great job you’re doing.” 

I was stunned. 

My parents sought asylum in the United States from Eritrea many years ago. We work hard and obey the rules. But that’s not enough. In a sad twist of fate, our family has stumbled into institutional injustice in a new form. 

Eventually the arresting officer accused my mother both of going too slow and eluding his siren for 10 miles. Three police cars, guns, and handcuffs for my middle-aged mom, apparently for going too slow on a highway. Being too cautious seems to be yet another thing that can get you stopped for driving while black. 

Two weeks later, police in Minnesota stopped Philando Castile for an alleged broken taillight. When Castile reached for his identification, he carefully told the cop his every move. To avoid any wrong assumptions, he explained that he had a license to carry a concealed weapon, which he had in the car. 

Castile was then shot several times and killed. What was his crime? Is a broken taillight a reason to be shot? Is driving too slow a reason to be handcuffed at gunpoint, surrounded by three cop cars?

The mistreatment of black people by police officers isn’t new, nor is it surprising. According to the Justice Department, black people are almost four times more likely than whites to experience the use of force during police encounters. 

Before Castile’s slaying by the St. Anthony Police Department, he’d been stopped by police over 50 times and acquired thousands of dollars in fines and fees. Castile’s mother had encouraged her son to complain about the police’s racial profiling.  But like many black people, Castile chose not to. 

Why bother reporting police harassment, they reason, to the very people who commit the assault?

During our eight-hour drive to Alleghany County Court, I remember being so confident that the judge would be on my mother’s side. The police had no evidence at all, and they’d plainly exposed my family to unnecessary emotional and financial hardship. Surely, the judge would see that. 

I was wrong. Not only was my mother found guilty of both counts, they also revoked her driver’s license. Our lawyer refused to press our case, demurring, “I’m not in the business of suing police officers.” 

We are but one of thousands of black families in America who are targeted, profiled, fined, incarcerated, and — as we saw with Castile — sometimes killed by unaccountable police officers and a justice system that supports them. 

The American dream can’t be a reality if the very color of our skin makes us criminals in the eyes of the law.


(Milen Mehari is a Next Leader at the Institute for Policy Studies, where she researches the criminalization of race and poverty. Distributed by OtherWords.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

What Khizr Khan Said That Wasn't About Trump and You Probably Won't Hear

MEDIA OMISSIONS-As the United States this week expands its bombing campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) to Libya, Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who gave a powerful anti-Donald Trump speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), has criticized U.S. wars in Muslim nations as leaving us in a "quagmire," "more vulnerable," and creating "chaos for ourselves." But Khan's take on the war on terror is unlikely to be amplified by corporate media, as one political writer points out. 

Khan, a Muslim, Pakistani-American, and father of a U.S. Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004, made waves last week for his speech at the DNC. Standing beside his wife, Ghazala, he directed his criticism at the Republican presidential nominee, and said, "You have sacrificed nothing and no one," and asked, "Have you even read the United States Constitution?" 

As the New Yorker's Amy Davidson wrote, "Khan, though his speech centered on the loss of his son, had made the case against Trump more powerfully than almost any other speaker." 

Since the convention, Khan "has become something of a media celebrity," writes Ben Norton, politics staff writer at Salon. The portrayal often used in these accounts, Norton continues, focuses on patriotism. One such example can be seen here, as posted on CNN Money on Tuesday:

Here was an in-the-flesh example of Muslim assimilation—a man who had lost his son, yet who espoused patriotism to the point of literally brandishing a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution. Not only was the couple's grief universal and relatable, but the Khans put a face on Muslims who are pursuing the American Dream just as countless other ethnicities have done. 

On Monday, the same day the U.S. started its new campaign in Libya -- a move one antiwar group said will only further "entrench divisions and intensify violence" in the region -- the Khans gave an interview on MSNBC's "Hardball." 

Asked by host Chris Matthews, "What do you think when you, or feel, when you see us attack Iraq or go into Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden, or we go attack with bombs Libya? We're bombing Syria now -- all Islamic countries. What do you feel as an Islamic man?" 

Khizr Khan replied, "As a Muslim-American, not just as Islamic man -- as a Muslim American, I feel that these policies are not in the interest of United States of America, and we see the result of it. We are more vulnerable now. We have created a chaos and -- for ourselves." 

"Well, you know you're speaking to the choir," Matthews responded. (In fact, "Matthews’ record isn't entirely consistent" on being against either the war in Iraq or on avoiding a military approach to confronting ISIS, Norton notes.) 

"I wish this country would have listened to Chris Matthews when he was talking, when he was preaching," Khan said, "we could have saved ourselves from this quagmire." 

This section of the interview, Norton points out, "is not included in the isolated clips for the episode on MSNBC’s website. One has to watch the full episode to see it." 

The situation may remind some of how the corporate media chose to portray Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel laureate and children's education advocate who was attacked by the Taliban. She met with President Barack Obama at the White House and told him that "drone attacks are fueling terrorism." Yet, as Peter Hart wrote at FAIR in 2013, that "didn't register in a corporate media that followed Malala's visit, and her story, very closely." Hart continued: 

This is in keeping with other media patterns we've seen. Earlier this year, Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni writer and activist, came to Washington to deliver moving testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the effect of drone strikes on his country: “What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America.” His words received scant coverage in the US media (FAIR Blog, 4/24/13).  

If Americans wish to understand how US wars are experienced by those on the other side of the military attacks, it is important to hear these voices. But will US media allow these voices to be heard? 

Meanwhile, the US-led coalition's strikes on ISIS continue with deadly consequences. According to the transparency group Airwars, July 2016 had the highest number of reported civilian deaths in Syria from coalition strikes since the bombing campaign began nearly two years ago. 

Also this week, the U.S. has said it will begin, based on credible evidence, a second probe into whether its strikes near Manjib, Syria killed civilians. 

The second formal investigation centers around a July 28 strike, which, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, left at least 28 civilians dead.  

The first formal investigation, which the Pentagon announced last week, will look into a July 20 strike which, according to the monitoring group, may have killed scores.

(Andrea Germanos is senior editor and a staff writer at Common Dreams.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Riverside DA Promotes His County’s Infatuation with the Death Penalty

DEATH PENALTY POLITICS-The Riverside County D.A.'s office likes seeking the death penalty so much it was featured by the BBC in December in a chilling article called, “Why is one county handing down one in six US death sentences?” The BBC darkly observed: “The number of death sentences handed down in the US dropped by a third in 2015, continuing a long-term trend, but one county in California seems to be going against the grain.” 

Defensively, Riverside County D.A. Michael Hestrin, who took office at the beginning of 2016, told the BBC: “Of the 11 new cases that came in this year, where I was the first to make a determination, I am only seeking the death penalty four times.” Realizing (perhaps) that this grim statistic still makes Riverside County an outlier (in California, the United States, and the world) in its steadfast bear hug of capital punishment, Hestrin said: “the people of Riverside support the death sentence to [a] greater degree than other counties” because “there is a certain feeling of how they want criminal justice to operate.” 

Barely a half-year later, D.A. Hestrin is now, in an opinion piece he has had published around the state (see, e.g., Times of San Diego), seeking to export Riverside County’s zeal for state-sponsored executions to all of California. An unsurprising cheerleader of Proposition 66 (a terribly flawed ballot initiative that ghoulishly and fecklessly seeks to “speed up” executions), Hestrin has been mischaracterizing Riverside County’s infatuation with the death penalty – macabre enough, as described above, to draw the unseemly attention of the foreign press – as an infatuation possessed by all Californians. It’s not. 

Conscientious Californians are horrified by the very real prospect our criminal justice system might someday execute an innocent person – if it has not already – because, as any consumer of news or the casual courtroom TV drama knows, DNA evidence and other emerging scientific disciplines continue to expose flaws in how we administer justice in this country (even with the great legal system that we have). Californians are equally revolted – and have been for some time – by the disproportionately unjust imposition of capital punishment on poor people of color. 

We are tired of the constant acerbic legal and public relations battles that will always surround capital punishment – unless it’s replaced with a penalty of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). We plain don’t want to hear about the death penalty in the news in our state anymore. And, we don’t want precious time and scarce resources diverted from the rest of our criminal justice (and our court system generally) because of continued fighting over the imposition of death sentences.  We’ve had enough. 

That’s why I’m confident that Californians will overwhelmingly vote against Proposition 66, which D.A. Hestrin champions. Instead, I believe they’ll vote for the competing ballot initiative, Proposition 62, which will replace capital punishment in California with a sentence of LWOP – just like other civilized, peaceful, justice-minded people the world-over have done. 

Proving how out of touch D.A. Hestrin’s views are with mainstream Californians, his recent op-ed pooh-poohs the savings Proposition 62 is projected to yield by replacing the death penalty with LWOP; Hestrin writes: “Even at an estimated $150 million reduction in annual costs, one would still have to concede that the savings is a paltry drop in the bucket compared to the vast size of California’s budget and hardly the worst use of taxpayer funds.” 

Excuse me? Is that the standard by which Californians should judge the spending of $150 million dollars by the state of our hard-earned tax dollars each year – that we shouldn’t care about it because $150 million is a “paltry drop in the bucket?” – or, because it is, “hardly the worst use of taxpayer funds?!” 

It’s a good thing Hestrin is not running California’s economy because $150 million dollars could do a lot of good for California schools, including schools in Riverside County. Consider for a minute if the state invested even a portion of the projected $150 million a year (from the savings that ending the death penalty in California is projected to yield) on a school near your house? 

If we vote for Proposition 62 (and maybe give that extra money to schools) and against Proposition 66 (which throws more money down the drain on a barbaric, antiquated punishment that demeans us all and that the civilized world rejects), wouldn’t that be an investment we could truly claim, as Hestrin’s op-ed puts it, as an investment that is “hardly the worst use of taxpayer funds”? 

(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

11-Year-Old Boy Challenges Pence to Explain Why He Covers for Trump (Video)

Adults say the darndest things--Which is why at a political rally featuring Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence in North Carolina on Thursday, it was an 11-year-old boy named Matthew who forced the adult on the stage into an awkward situation by asking him to explain exactly where he stands when it comes to his running mate Donald Trump.

"I noticed that you’ve been softening up some of Mr. Trump’s policies and words, is this going to be your role in the administration?" asked the young boy when called upon – a question that despite its apparent earnestness drew immediate laughter from the crowd.



In response, Pence first complimented Matthew—"this boy's got a future," he said—but then answered the question forthrightly by saying, "I couldn’t be more proud to stand with Donald Trump, we are shoulder to shoulder in this campaign, my friend." He went on to say that Trump is someone "larger than life" but that "sometimes things don't out like you mean."

The exchange between young Matthew and the Republican governor of Indiana comes as much political reporting indicates the Trump campaign is in tatters following a week of fallout over the billionaire candidate's attacks on the parents of a U.S. soldier killed in action in Iraq, disputes with key members of his own party, and new rounds of poll numbers showing rival Hillary Clinton increasing her lead both nationally and within key swing states.

On the other side of that coin, new fundraising numbers for Trump released Wednesday show a surprising level of grassroots giving to his campaign and progressive critics continue to warn both the Clinton campaign and media figures of dangers associated with bashing Trump too much or repeating the idea that Trump can't possibly win.

(Jon Queally writes for Common Dreams … where this video was most recently posted.)


Why Isn’t The Republican Party Supporting Medical Marijuana?

POT POLITICS--Considering Donald Trump has said he supports medical marijuana, and so have several other top Republicans, it seems strange to me that medical marijuana is not part of the Republican Party’s platform this year. That’s not to say there weren’t efforts to make it part of the platform, but they failed for the worst reasons.

After Maine legislator and delegate Eric Brakey submitted a measure that would add medical marijuana support to the Republican platform, the measure received criticism from people who clearly know little-to-nothing about marijuana.

According to the Huffington Post, some party leaders claimed marijuana causes mental health issues, mass murders smoke marijuana, marijuana caused the opioid epidemic and more absurdities. Some prominent Republicans tried to fight back, but they ultimately failed. 

“It’s not like we’re talking about Cheech and Chong here, folks. We’re talking about allowing people with debilitating conditions to ease their suffering,” Maryland delegate Ben Marchi said during arguments.

The strangest thing, to me, about the Republican Party’s failure to endorse medical marijuana is just that it’s so popular. A Harris poll from last year found a whopping 81 percent of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana nationwide. If you can’t get behind something that 8 out of 10 people support, it’s hard to imagine what you can get behind.

If we want to take this a step further, it’s also pretty surprising that legalizing recreational marijuana doesn’t seem to have been discussed at all. I can understand why the party might be hesitant to support marijuana legalization, as there’s still some concern around recreational use in some circles and support for legalizing nationwide is closer to 60 percent, but it’s pretty shocking there’s no evidence of the idea being mentioned.

Furthemore, states that have legalized medical marijuana are raking in millions in taxes. You would think a party that is always talking about the debt and the government not having enough money would want to get in on that.

Not to play favorites, but the Democrats have endorsed marijuana in a major way. The Democratic platform includes language supporting a “pathway to legalization“ and supporting immediately rescheduling marijuana. You can almost surely thank Bernie Sanders for that, because he made his millennial followers swoon by being the first major candidate to support legalization while Hillary Clinton was arguing that marijuana should be a Schedule 2 drug.

So why haven’t the Republicans decided to endorse medical marijuana? Either they really do believe some of these more ridiculous claims about what marijuana does to people and society, or they may have Big Pharma, police unions, private prison companies and other peddlers breathing down their necks. You’d imagine the Democrats have at least some of the same pressures, but apparently they were able to get around them to some degree.

(420 Times is a medical marijuana and natural healing magazine where this piece was originally posted. It was most recently posted at Huff Post)


The New Manchurian Candidate

PERSPECTIVE-Growing up, novels and films about political intrigue and international conflicts were my favorites. 

To an extent, they still are. There just haven’t been enough of them; the last notable one was “Bridge of Spies,” about the real-life negotiations to free downed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers during the height of the Cold War. Coincidentally, the hero, James Donovan, graduated from the same school I attended in the Bronx – way more than a few years before I entered its doors. 

Ian Fleming, who created James Bond, sparked my interest in the espionage genre. I binge read all twelve Bond novels before freshman year in high school. 

My all time favorite thriller, though, was The Manchurian Candidate, a novel by Richard Condon, and released as a film in 1962. Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey were the leads, but Angela Lansbury stole the show with her portrayal of a conniving, cold-blooded conspirator – a far cry from Jessica in Murder, She Wrote. The 2004 version was disappointing, but that is usually the case with a remake of a classic. 

In the novel and the film, a seemingly ultra-conservative demagogue and his wife are part of a communist plot to win the presidency. 

My memories of the story have been reawakened by the potential subterfuge involving Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Julian Assange. I can’t help but project those three against the fictional plot: Trump as the blabbering demagogue serving as a front for the communists, Putin as the Soviet handler responsible for enabling the conspiracy and Assange as the one who pulls the strings (Lansbury’s role). The plan entails playing on the emotions of the nation in order to achieve the sinister objective. 

Am I allowing my imagination run wild? 

You bet, but I just can’t pass this stuff up. It has all the components of the film: deceit, conspiracy and reprehensible characters. 

Can life imitate art? 

Yes, but with limits. 

Although it is true that Putin and Assange would dearly love to embarrass the United States by exploiting the DNC and Clinton e-mail fiascoes, it is far less likely that Trump possesses the planning skills to make it work in his favor. His campaign, after all, is a series of spontaneous outbursts. Encouraging Putin to continue hacking the Clinton campaign e-mails, while disgusting, is not a crime. It is more like irrational bombast. If he did go as far as to conspire with them, his next reality show would be broadcast from inside his cell at a federal prison. 

That’s not to say Trump will not benefit from Putin’s caginess and Assange’s willingness to release potentially embarrassing e-mails about Clinton, but any gains will be offset by his ongoing diatribes against any person or group who possess any sense of moderation. More than 20 Republican senators, not to mention a fair handful of Members of Congress and governors, as well as key party figures, did not attend the RNC. They have followers who will sit this election out, if not cross over and vote for Clinton. 

But this nation has never before experienced such an asymmetrical campaign strategy. No one can reasonably estimate the degree of emotion, especially among voters who have stayed on the sidelines in other presidential elections, doing so out of disgust with the establishment. 

Last December, I wrote an article describing Trump as America’s Putin, emphasizing the destructive synergy that could result if both men were in power. However, I concluded that Trump would not win the Republican nomination. 

Boy, was I wrong. The Manchurian Candidate still has a chance.


(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Superbugs, Sewage, and Scandal: Rio Olympics Poised for Disaster?

OLYMPICS POLITICS--A biology professor has simple advice for athletes and tourists descending on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Olympics' start on Friday: "Don't put your head underwater."

Dr. Valerie Harwood, chair of the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of South Florida, remarked on the dangers posed by Rio's water to AP, which reported Monday that a 16-months-long study revealed that "the waterways of Rio de Janeiro are as filthy as ever, contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria."

The wire service adds that superbugs—bacteria resistant to most forms of antibiotics—were not the only cause for great concern. Shockingly high levels of viruses have alarmed scientists:

[T]he AP investigation found that infectious adenovirus readings—tested with cell cultures and verified with molecular biology protocols—turned up at nearly 90 percent of the test sites over 16 months of testing.

"That's a very, very, very high percentage," said [Dr. Harwood]. "Seeing that level of human pathogenic virus is pretty much unheard of in surface waters in the U.S. You would never, ever see these levels because we treat our waste water. You just would not see this."

Swimmers risk serious illness by competing, experts say. "According to a study by the University of Texas School of Public Health, athletes who ingest just three teaspoons of water from the contaminated bay in Brazil have a 99 per cent chance of being infected," the National Observer noted.

"Dead animals, plastic, garbage, and furniture are only a sample of the vile items reported to pollute its waters," the newspaper added, "and the athletes competing this August have been told to swim with their mouths closed to avoid contracting serious illness from the water."

The National Post reported: "Untreated hospital waste is the probable cause of waterborne superbacteria, but chemical waste from factories is another culprit. However, the chief reason that Rio's waterways are such a petri dish of contaminants is the torrent of untreated human feces that spews out of open sewers such as one located at the east end of the Guanabara Bay, where it is hemmed in by apartments where many of the city's wealthiest citizens live."

"Contracts for everything from stadium and train-line construction to port renovations have funneled billions of dollars in taxpayer-subsidized revenues to a handful of Brazil’s most powerful, well-connected families and their companies."
—Alex Cuadros, The Atlantic And it is those wealthy denizens who stand to benefit the most from the Olympics, while the region's poorest have been displaced by the tens of thousands, their homes demolished to make room for massive sports stadiums.

An investigation published Monday in The Atlantic by Alex Cuadros detailed the schemes, grafts, and bribes that have gone on behind the scenes to construct the Olympics infrastructure, while many of the city's impoverished favela residents are rendered homeless and the region's battered ecosystem is further degraded.

Cuadros wrote, "Contracts for everything from stadium and train-line construction to port renovations have funneled billions of dollars in taxpayer-subsidized revenues to a handful of Brazil’s most powerful, well-connected families and their companies." He continued:

[M]ost of the government's Olympic budget has been poured into the wealthy suburb of Barra da Tijuca, home to only 300,000 people. [...]

[A] flood of public money is benefiting the coterie of men who own most of Barra's land. One of them, a 92-year-old billionaire named Carlos Carvalho, controls some 65 million square feet of property in the area. His most famous project for the Olympics is the so-called Athletes' Village. After the games are over, all 31 of the Village's 17-story towers will be transformed into luxury condos featuring multiple swimming pools, tropical gardens, and an unobstructed view of Jacarepaguá Lake.

[...] Carvalho is also a partner in construction of the nearby Olympic Park, a sprawling spit of concrete sprinkled with a billion dollars' worth of sporting facilities. Here, the city handed over lakeside land that Carvalho is expected to develop into a whole new neighborhood, once the economy rebounds and demand picks up again.

As scarce as resources are in Brazil, such subsidies are common for well-connected businessmen. But they are no guarantee of quality. For Olympic athletes arriving this month, Carvalho delivered apartments with blocked toilets, leaky pipes, and exposed wiring

Of all the contradictions between Olympic vision and reality, perhaps the most glaring is in Carvalho’s choice of partners, the construction firms Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez. These companies are at the center of the multibillion-dollar corruption scandal that has plunged Brazil into political chaos, and investigators now believe they skimmed bribes from Olympic projects, too. Both companies are cooperating with investigators. As recently as May, Paes surreally claimed the Olympics were free of corruption, even though his own party is deeply implicated in the wide-ranging bribery scheme.

And the Olympics golf course, Cuadros discovered, was constructed by a wealthy businessman on stolen public lands, and in what had formerly been an environmental protection zone where construction was forbidden. The area was deemed no longer a protected zone when a nearby sand-mining operation was found to have "degraded" the ecosystem. The sand-mining operation was owned by the same businessman who built the golf course.

Cuadros also reported that over 20,000 residents of the city's favelas have been removed, their homes demolished, to make way for roads and Olympics stadiums.

Meanwhile, the weekend before the Olympics' start saw competing protests sweep Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, underscoring the political turmoil gripping the nation. In Rio de Janeiro, protesters ostensibly demonstrated against corruption—but also voiced support for the ruling neoliberal, pro-business elite, and called for the impeachment of embattled Workers' Party president Dilma Rousseff.

In São Paulo, a competing rally drew crowds calling for workers' rights and an end to the right-wing takeover of Brazil's federal government.

The Senate is expected to vote on whether to impeach Rousseff in late August.

"Since 2009, when Rio won the bid to host the Olympics, more than 2,600 people were killed by the police in the city."
—Amnesty International

Last week, protests in Rio were more locally focused: the Brazil chapter of rights group Amnesty International displayed 40 body bags in front of the office of the Local Organizing Committee for the Olympics to draw attention to the city's fatal police shootings, which have increased significantly in the months leading up to the games.

"Since April, Amnesty International has been raising concerns around the increased risk of human rights violations in the context of Rio 2016 Olympics, as it happened before in other mega sporting events such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2007 Panamerican Games," the organization noted. "Since 2009, when Rio won the bid to host the Olympics, more than 2,600 people were killed by the police in the city."

Renata Neder, human rights advisor at Amnesty International, commented: "Brazil failed to learn from past mistakes. In the month of May alone, 40 people were victims of homicides committed by the police, a 135% increase in comparison to the same period in 2015. These numbers are unacceptable and compromise the Olympic legacy."

Indeed, as political and environmental turmoil threatens the Rio Olympics, Cuadros observed in The Atlantic that "perhaps the best Olympic legacy that Brazilians can hope for is that the event will serve as a cautionary tale to future generations."

(Nika Knight writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)


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