14
Fri, Jun

What to Do When You Hate Both Major Presidential Candidates: Reach for Your Johnson!

ELECTION 2016--For those of us struggling to pull ourselves from our summer distractions, and who are now confronting this November's elections, it's an easy choice. Some of us looooove Clinton, and some of us looooove Trump. Some of us love neither...and may even hate both of them. So what to do...what to do...hey, I know! We should reach for our Johnson! 

Gary Johnson, that is, the Libertarian candidate who also ran in 2012. Now which Johnson you'll reach for is up to you, presuming that this is a "protest vote.” (For those who genuinely like Gary Johnson and his political platforms, you might want to stop reading right now.) 

Many who claim to support Johnson (but really don't know which Johnson they're actually reaching for) may not be aware that: 

--Johnson not only favors "amnesty" for those here illegally, but strongly opposes the term "illegal immigrant" altogether. 

--Has viewpoints on legalization of drugs that place him further to the left than anyone else running for President. 

--Wants to cut the federal budget by approximately half, which includes education, the military, Social Security, and just about everything else...yet chose William Weld, known as a "Big Government" Republican from Massachusetts, as his running mate. 

But for the rest of us who are STILL enraged and/or disgusted and/or offended and/or put off and/or distrusting of and/or annoyed by and/or oblivious to BOTH Trump and Clinton, there's always the option of grabbing your Johnson. 

Will you grab your anti-Democratic Big Government Johnson, or will you grab your anti-GOP Christian Nation Johnson? 

Hillary Clinton's health got you concerned -- they've got a catchy tune for her coughing. No need to reach for your Advil...reach for your Johnson! 

Donald Trump's verbal antics got you down? They've got a catchy tune for that, too. No need for seizures...seize your Johnson instead! 

Sick of Clinton's endless claims of chauvinism and sexism?  Then take hold of your Johnson -- he's a dude and he won't accuse you of gender discrimination if/when you disagree with him! 

Sick of Trump's endless calls for "the wall?"  No worries, just grapple your Johnson instead -- he favors open borders and empathizes with our neighbors to the south! 

Hillary's laughing off the inquiries and accusations leaving you with the impression she's just too evil for your tastes? Then nab your Johnson! 

Donald's statements got you wondering if Hitler's been reincarnated? Then lay your hands on your Johnson, and never let go! 

Will Mitt Romney, both former Presidents Bush, and John McCain take hold of their collective Johnson and go third party this year?  

Will former Sanders supporters snap up their collective Johnson and vote third party this time around? 

Colin Powell and several other major political figures haven't taken a break on making their living from book-writing and the speaking circuit, and yet they still refuse to endorse either Trump or Clinton at this time. Are Colin Powell and the others each clutching their Johnson because they think the two main candidates are jerks, and they prefer a Johnson to a jerk? 

Certainly the two-party system appears to have devolved from a real choice to an oligarchy of the "same ol’, same ol’," with the base of each party having to figure out which political leadership listens to and cares about the needs and hopes and fears and goals of average Americans. 

Which means that each and every one of us, come Election Day, will have to choose between reaching for the lever to vote for the lesser of two evils...or reach instead for our own personal, private Johnson.

 

(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.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

Which is It, Hispanic or Latino?

LATINO PERSPECTIVE--Here in the United States September is Hispanic Heritage month, and I like to talk about what it means to be Hispanic or Latino in America. This subject is something that growing up in Mexico City I never really thought much about. 

In Mexico when it comes to identifying yourself in official government forms like the passport they don’t ask you whether you are Hispanic or not, they just ask what kind of skin shade or tone do you have. So it was either tez blanca or tez morena meaning white tone or brown tone or shade, none of these Hispanic, or white non- Hispanic classifications. 

Unlike America, Mexico is a very homogeneous country, and they don’t collect census data on ethnicity. But according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook Mexico is composed of mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 62%, predominantly Amerindian 21%, Amerindian 7%, other 10% (mostly European). You will never see forms asking you whether you are Latino or Hispanic, in Mexico that is irrelevant. 

However, here in the United States it is important being that our country is very diverse. So which is it? Hispanic or Latino? What are we? What does it mean to be Latino? Or, Hispanic in America? – The answer to this question depends on who you ask. The two words are most of the time used interchangeably. So which word to use? Ever since I started college at USC I have been asking myself this question, and here we are many years later still trying to figure this out. 

I did a little research online and I think I finally found a definition that I can settle with, and of all places I found it in The Tennessean, this paper is part of the USA Today Network and their Education reporter Jason Gonzales explained it very well when he said that “for those of For those of Spanish or Latin American origin, the terms describe a shared experience in the United States and by their definition includes a broad category of people with different cultures and heritage. Both words are to be celebrated because they represent our many differences.” 

He added “Latino means those from Latin America and includes Brazil, while Hispanic means those of Spanish-speaking origin and includes Spain.  The term Hispanic was first used by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1970 to describe the numerous Spanish speakers in the United States. And Latino was adopted by the U.S. Census Bureau in the 2000 count. Neither word specifies a certain ethnicity, but speaks more to a broader group of people.” 

A broader group of people who share the same experience of being Americans of Latin decent. The word Latin and Hispanic unites us in a common bond that in many ways is, ironically uniquely American. 

Let’s celebrate Hispanic Heritage month by remembering that we are Hispanics, we’re Latinos, and we are Americans. Whichever word you use to describe yourself be proud of it, and always keep in mind that no matter where we came from, or what’s our cultural heritage Latinos, Hispanics have made, and continue to make America great. Happy Hispanic Heritage month to all.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader and was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected].)

-cw

What Clinton and Trump Must Do to Win the Debates

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-There’s been a fierce debate about presidential debates. The debate is whether they really do make or break a presidential candidate. This starts it all over again in the run-up to the three scheduled debates between GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The hard political reality is that unless a candidate makes a whopper of a misstatement, looks blurry and bleary on stage, or is simply flat-footed, and grossly unprepared with his or her answers, they don’t mean much in deciding who ultimately bags the White House. 

Most voters cling to their party affiliations, political beliefs, and personal likes and dislikes of candidates no matter what the candidates say on the issues. The mass of voters just aren’t swayed by a candidate’s verbosity, good looks, or seeming erudition on the issues. 

However, this go around, the debates do have real significance because Trump and Clinton have a lot to prove to a lot of voters who don’t like either one of them, and are deeply uneasy about the prospect of either one of them in the White House. 

Trump’s high mountain to scale starts with Trump. He’s loathed by millions as little short of a stupendously unqualified carnival barker pitchman who parlayed wild and deliberately inflammatory “birtherism” and racist- immigrant- Muslim- and Obama- bashing into the top GOP spot. 

The added knock is that he got where he did in great part because of a slavish media that at times has acted as his unofficial PR team in shoving him down the public’s throats. His job is to try to undo, soften, or instill collective amnesia about his dubious history and ploys to get attention. His management team has already given a big hint at how he’ll try to pull off this Houdini trick. 

He palavered with the Mexican President. He went to two black churches. He went to Flint, Michigan. He talked about jobs and police abuse both places. He pithily back-pedaled from birtherism vis-à-vis Obama. He laid out a detailed policy position on child care, promised to lay out even more detailed positions on tax reform, foreign policy, health care and social security. He’s trying mightily to take off the table that he’s little more than a Klansman in a suit, has a zero policy program, less than zero ability to govern, and is totally incapable of being anything other than an arrogant, know-it-all blowhard. 

The charm image he’ll try to project is Trump the reasoned, thoughtful, stick to the script, disciplined, play by the established political rules candidate with the right temperament to work with Democrats, make sound political decisions, and show cool judgment on the thorny and at times crisis issues that confront all presidents. 

It’s a tall order. But in the debates and everything surrounding them, Trump must convince the independent conservatives and moderates in the handful of swing states that will decide the White House -- who don’t think much of Clinton, but just can’t bring themselves to pull the lever for a guy who they see as an overt racist and an egomaniacal political neophyte -- that he is neither one. 

Clinton has a high mountain to scale too. It also starts with Clinton. In the early going, the election seemed almost a forgone conclusion for an easy Clinton win given the trainload of baggage Trump dumped on the political platform. But the continued pulverizing of her over the emails, the Clinton Foundation doings, and now health questions all of sudden have turned a seeming rout into a real dogfight. 

Clinton’s bigger problem is the nagging perception that is shown in the polls, and that is that millions see her as everything from a congenital liar to a crook. The most charitable in all of this negative voter perception of Clinton is that she’s untrustworthy. 

Clinton must undo, offset, or instill collective amnesia about these negatives. She must play hard on her strengths, dependability, experience, and her cast iron grasp of the big ticket policy issues from the economy to foreign policy. 

She must tie herself to the Obama positives where needed and project a people friendly-no academic think tank policy wonk-plain English speaking demeanor when answering debate questions. When the inevitable questions come up about the emails and the foundation and her health, she’ll have to act and show physical vigor, look directly into the cameras, admit that she made mistakes with the emails, learned from the mistakes, and it will never happen again. 

And, while the foundation has done phenomenal work and improved conditions for legions globally, say that she’ll be completely out of the Clinton Foundation business, and that includes Bill and Chelsea too. 

There’s little margin of error for Trump and Clinton in the debates. Both have a lot of hard work to do to try to turn their mountain high pile of negatives into some semblance of positives. Millions will be watching to see if they can do that. This time the debates really do mean something.

 

(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. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

What Did the $5 Trillion Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Get Us?

INFORMED COMMENT--A Brown University political scientist estimates that as of 2016, The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have cost the American taxpayers $5 trillion. That number isn’t important when we consider the human cost: Some 7,000 US troops dead, 52,000 wounded in action; hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead who wouldn’t otherwise be, 4 million displaced and made homeless, etc.

Just to put that $5 trillion in perspective. Let’s say you chose five individuals.  Each of the five will spend $10 million a day.  That’s the cost of Heidi Klum’s mansion.  They’d be buying the equivalent of five of those each day.

They’ll do that every day of their lives.  All five of them.  And then each of them will be succeeded by one their children, who will spend $10 million dollars a day, and one of their grandchildren, and one of their great-grandchildren, until 270 years have passed and it is the year 2286.  That’s the equivalent of a stardate for Captain Picard of the Enterprise. 

Neta Crawford, a professor of Political Science at Brown University published the study for Brown University’s Watson Institute. 

Professor Crawford writes:

“As of August 2016, the US has already appropriated, spent, or taken on obligations to spend more than $ 3.6 trillion in current dollars on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria and o n Homeland Security (2001 through fiscal year 2016). To this total should be added the approximately $6 5 billion in dedicated war spending the Department of Defense and State Department have requested for the next fiscal year, 2017, along with an additional nearly $3 2 billion requested for the Department of Homeland Security in 2017, and estimated spending on veterans in future years. When those are included, the total US budgetary cost of the wars reaches $4.79 trillion.”

The US has spent $1.7 billion for combat and reconstruction.  I have a sinking feeling that first they spent half of it on destroying things and then they spent the other half on rebuilding them.

Through 2053, the US government owes the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans $1 trillion in medical and disability payments along with the money to administer all that.

Crawford adds:

“Interest costs for overseas contingency operations spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023. By 2053, interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion unless the US changes the way it pays for the wars.”

Of 2.7 million military personnel who served in those two theaters, 2 million have now left the military and have entered the Veterans Administration system.  Some 52,000 of them were wounded in action and many need care.

Because the Bush administration borrowed money to pay for the wars, we’ve paid half a trillion dollars in interest alone.

At least al-Qaeda had been based in Afghanistan.  Iraq had had nothing to do with September 11.  It was Bush’s invasion that brought al-Qaeda there, which later morphed into ISIL.

We were lied into that war, and it has weakened our economy.  If anyone can tell me what benefits that war brought the average American, I’d like to hear it.

The Iraq War was a government-led Ponzi scheme and as usual the little people are the ones who took a bath.

(Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.  He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s website.)  

-cw

Tweets, Twits, and Mainstream Media - Sheesh!

EASTSIDER-Full disclosure: I’ve always been a news junkie. Until lately, when I stopped watching for a week because it was all the same stuff and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had been channel surfing, and trying to figure out why all 200 news media outlets have the same 10 stories every day, like synchronized swimming. It used to be that local stations actually did local news, newspapers did investigative journalism, and it was only the one or two big national news items that got any system-wide attention. 

That’s all changed in the last decade. There are no real reporters anymore, because they all got fired to save money. Heck, even the old wire services like the AP, UPI & Reuters are going down fast. For those of you who don’t recognize any of these names, they are havens for journalists to sell their news stories to whomever is willing to buy them. They are great for avoiding the cost of having to pay employees to cover overseas events, with all that payroll overhead. You can read more about them here.  

One way to look at wire services is that they were the harbinger of the new cost cutting measures to provide no news at all. If you think about it, those brave wire service men and women were the first wave of our new “gig”, or “sharing” economy, where there are really no employers as such, hence no nasty overhead costs or liability for the big corporations who pipe out the news. 

Kinda’ like the Los Angeles Times of Chicago we have now, with under 400,000 subscribers and one centralized source of non-content. Leavened by a few casual help. Or the local television stations and cable networks, where all the money goes to the few talking heads, who have to fix their teeth and regularly visit the plastic surgeon to look just like their employers want, and spend hours just getting through makeup so we can adore them on air. 

So what happened to the news? Now we have the same formula across the 200 or so media outlets. Ninety percent of this “news” is the same identical regurgitation of every single shooting, mass protest, car chase or international terrorism event in the universe, plus a couple of the same national political events. This pablum is then bookended by stories about Tech and Social Media. 

The only way we can tell the difference between a national and a “local” show, is that the local news has traffic and weather. 

So what’s the new source of news? 

After a week away from the news, I tried again, and Eureka! I suddenly understood what’s replaced reporting. We now have TWEETS! It finally occurred to me that over time, all the faces we see on television have been paying more and more attention to their iPhones and tablets and laptops. They have shifted to tweets for their news to share with the masses who tune in with bated breath, albeit in fewer numbers. 

Tweets are perfect for the new news. They are cheap (free), mindless (at 140 characters or less, they can’t really convey much detail,) and by concentrating on what’s “trending,” you can leverage the burned out attention span of the masses to the folks who have zillions of followers. Yes sir, what’s trending now is the new mantra of the people who don’t want us actually thinking about the decline of our country by the corrupt politicians, their political parties, and the billionaires who own it all. 

In short, it’s the absolutely perfect environment for Donald Trump. Think about it. He’s all flamboyancy, tweets instead of talks, he has tons of followers, gets off on controversy and creates all kinds of groovy stuff that the mindless talking heads can riff off of everyday. Wow, in our 24-hour endless news cycle, he is the perfect tool to increase audience share. Heck, sometimes he even tweets a bunch and then we get updated news flash tweets. 

What a brilliant news concept. No cost here -- tweets are free. Even better, the personalities who inhabit the 200 news outlets don’t have to do any research, much less think. Just report the tweet, pump up the controversy and wait for the outrage. 

Perfect. The twits who give us the news can handle tweets. No danger of substance there. No nasty facts. Revenues up. The owners of the outlets are happy. More advertisers. 

Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand a chance. Character defects aside, the shortest sentence she knows is a paragraph. Face it, she’s a policy wonk at heart. She knows that this President stuff is complicated, darn it, and she is determined to share her expertise with us whether we want it or not. 

So even as they go say “oh my goodness, see what Donald has done now,” the media love him – he’s the absolute paragon of tweets for twits like them. Hillary is boring. Unless, of course, she gets sick or has the two hundredth “new” report come out about her email server. Then it’s hot news, at least as a soundbite. 

After all, the captains of industry who own the news media don’t really want to spend too much time talking about how she’s a member of the billionaire club. Not on air. After all, club members don’t rat each other out when it comes to money. 

Now I am not saying that all news media personalities are twits. Some are probably smart – smart enough to swap millions of dollars a year in their personal services contracts in exchange for being a professional twit. And increasingly, they have their own twitter handles, so that people can follow them as they follow .... 

Partly as a result of all of this pablum, and the shift away from print media, more people use smartphones than desktop computers these days. Recent studies would indicate that all this is simply increasing the gap between the haves and have nots when it comes to news.

­

These information shifts create all kinds of problems in terms of learning about what is really going on in the world that affects our lives and our money. People with crummy internet access, or none at all – something that is particularly prevalent in rural and low socioeconomic areas -- aren’t getting much real news at all. And the news that the rest of us get on our smartphones tends to be soundbite news -- most folks aren’t reading long articles on their phone. 

So, how do we get informed? 

The most important way to get informed is to have a population that has learned to learn and think for itself. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a big goal of the current educational system, which focuses on career choices and specific occupations, even though most of the jobs that this produces won’t be around in a decade. 

On the other hand, most people I know are pretty pragmatic and have at least developed a solid BS meter as they grow up. So let me share with you how I find the news. 

Reading CityWatch is a great beginning. You will get more truth here about the machinations of our local political elite and their lords and masters than you will ever find in commercial media outlets. At least until Ken Draper makes a bundle of money and sells the website to MSNBC or Fox News. 

More generally, given that we’re all time challenged, I use a news aggregator called Feedly.com, although there are lots of other web based sites that do the same thing. You take all the online information sources that you want to know about and these web apps deliver the summary content of each. That way I can look through the headers to choose which full articles to read. I also subscribe to the electronic editions of the LA Times (sigh) and the Sacramento Bee. Told you I’m a news junkie. 

This system allows me to skim the posts for issues I’m interested in to get different points of view. Instantly. It’s a handy way to sort the crud from solid information. Otherwise, the temptation for us is to only get information that simply reinforces our existing beliefs. I believe the growth of this kind of niche media marketing is how we got to the place where people are challenged to have a civil conversation about matters political. Everyone reinforces his or her own belief system. 

Honestly, to find out real information has never been easier. Even though we are all stressed with the realities of our everyday life -- making rent/mortgage/bills, trying to get/keep a job or series of gigs, kids and all that entails, figuring out health insurance, and a pension or anything that will allow us to retire – it’s important to take time to figure out the who, what and why of how we got into this mess. So that we don’t get surprised by the next financial meltdown, or at least get some notice to do our best to survive. 

We all know that politicians won’t suddenly take the pledge and get honest, and that the icons of the financial services industry and corporate CEOs who control the entire global economy aren’t going to suddenly get religion and start paying the taxes on what they’ve been hiding overseas. We need to get smart and learn how to see who’s doing what to whom for ourselves. 

Otherwise, it’s tweets, twits, and mindless mainstream media.

 

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

Why is Amazon Still Selling Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Niggers?”

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-Let’s get one thing out of the way. When I ask Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: Why Amazon is still listing on its site for sale Agatha Christie’s classic crime who-done-it, with its original racially offensive name, Ten Little Niggers, it’s not yet another PC screech for censorship of a beloved crime classic. In fact, I resolutely opposed the demand a few years back to get rid of Mark Twain’s timeless classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because it uses the word nigger countless times and one of its principal characters is “Nigger Jim.” 

I said then that it was much ado about nothing because Twain was not a racist. The goal in the book was to show the ugliness and evilness of slavery and to do that he had to use the rawest racist language of his day. Huck Finn reflected not only the times but was a beautiful poetic, literary gem that readers young and old could learn from and admire for its historic and artistic content and quality. And, in any case, to pull it from libraries and curriculum was censorship in its rawest and ugliest form. 

Christie’s Ten Little Niggers and Amazon’s sale of it, though, is a horse of a totally different color. The “n word” is not buried in the novel for added literary effect. It’s the cover title in bold letters. In some editions, in case the intent is missed, there’s a picture of an upper crust white couple with a look of fear and revulsion staring at a semi-naked black boy on a pedestal. In others there’s a circle of Sambo-caricatured blacks dancing around in a circle. Christie based the title on a racist poem with this ditty: 

“Ten little nigger boys went out to dine; 
One choked his little self and then there were Nine…

Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun; 
One got frizzled up and then there was One. 
One little nigger boy left all alone; 
He went out and hanged himself and then there were None.”
 

The title was clearly meant to shock and pander to the prevailing racist sentiment of the day. It had absolutely no relation to the story line of the novel. 

Christie’s unabashed racist views read like a “what’s what” of racial stereotypes, vilification, and condescension in her mystery novels when there’s even the faintest mention of blacks and other non-white characters. She seemed to have a special fascination with their hair, eyes, or other physical characteristics that she found odd, different and always disgusting. 

Now there’s Amazon. Amazon clearly states that it takes a close look at the appropriateness of items sold on its site that may “offend cultural differences and sensitivities.” It has pulled, or flagged, several items from its site -- from racially offensive DVDs to the Confederate Flag. To call for Amazon to pull Ten Little Niggers then is hardly a case of censorship, but purely a call for the world’s largest online buying and selling commercial product site to cease profiting off the sale of a horrid racially demeaning title. 

It’s also a case of a company doing what legions of other companies have done that have had to come square with the fact they were selling and thereby profiting off of a racially, sexually or environmentally degrading product -- and that’s to pull it. In doing that, they have simply done more than pay lip service to their oft-time stated pledge to be a good corporate citizen. The removal of Ten Little Niggers from Amazon would in no way prevent buyers and collectors of the work with this offensive title from buying it. There’s a plethora of online book sellers and sites that sell the book, and they’re readily accessible to one and all. 

Twain could not have conveyed the sentiment of the evil of slavery and racial bigotry that’s a part of America’s shameful racial legacy by sugar coating the language or guarding his vocabulary against racial epithets. Huck Finn, with all of its racial crudities, provided then and now an insight into a time and place in America that should not be forgotten. Nothing of the sort can be said of Christie’s Ten Little Niggers. There’s no redeeming literary value in the title -- a title that has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with pandering to crude and vicious racial stereotypes. By continuing to sell the book, Amazon is doing the same as Christie did, for profit and nothing more.

 

(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. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

If Trump Wins, You Lose

EDITOR’S PICK--Donald Trump has a zero percent chance of winning California in November, according to the reigning expert in presidential polling interpretation, Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com. He has the same chance to carry Los Angeles.   

But if he wins the presidency, something that Silver rates at a 30 percent chance of happening and rising, he would set himself up as the first Dictator in America. And a favored target of his hubris would be to attack California and its Democratic despots with all the force the federal government has at its disposal.

Clearly, as a man who blackened the eye of his fourth grade teacher who tried to stop him from bullying his fellow students and has gone on to establish himself as one of America’s most famous bully-cowards, Trump intends to act just like the autocrats he says inspire him: Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong Un and, of course, Muammar Gaddafi.

If he beats Hillary Clinton, he will be in a position to do just that.

He will pack the Supreme Court with a rabid pit bull like Rudy Giuliani, put the servile and corrupt Chris Christie in charge of the Justice Department and Joe Arpaio or someone like him as FBI chief. He has made it clear he will fire generals and anyone else who gets in his way of making America Great Again. (Read the rest.)

-cw

 

Challenging Hate: Our Protest Tradition and Why We Must Cherish It

GUEST WORDS-As this election season comes to a full boil, we should remember the importance of civil disobedience to our history. It is one of the few tools ordinary people still have to organize for change. With corporations spending unlimited campaign cash, and states requiring photo ID at voting booths, it’s through protest that we loudly proclaim that we won’t be silenced. 

Where would we be if the colonists hadn’t staged the Boston Tea Party to protest their lack of representation? Where would we be without protestors sitting where they were told not to sit, marching across bridges and to our Nation’s Capital, and standing in solidarity fully aware of the physical, legal and financial consequences awaiting them? 

Speaking in Reno, Nevada, in late August, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could have listened to some advisors and refused to take the hate-bait that floods daily from Republican candidate Donald Trump. But to her credit, she decided to speak up. As OurFuture.org’s Terrance Heath wrote:  

“In a scorching takedown of Donald Trump and his alt-right allies, Hillary Clinton reminded Americans that silence never defeats hatred, but that it must be called out and exposed for what it is.” 

Her choice was a clear reminder that we cannot defeat hate by being invisible – it’s up to each of us to stand up and step forward. We must all confront a challenger aiming to make racism mainstream. We are called at this moment to make sure that never happens. Decency will defeat hate, but we must speak up and speak publicly. 

When I’ve confronted racism in my life, I didn’t do so by complaining about it to my friends and going home. I organized and took action. One way I did this was through protest. 

After finishing high school in Virginia, I went to college in Pennsylvania, where I was the only African American in my class. Coming from the state that prides itself as the home of the Confederacy, I didn’t expect Pennsylvania would be the first place where I’d protest for racial equality, but that’s what happened. 

One evening, I went with a group of friends to celebrate a classmate’s birthday at the local café. We waited patiently to get served even after others were served. My white friends didn’t know why service was so slow. I knew why. 

“It’s because of me,” I said. But they didn’t believe me because their experience of racism was limited to atrocities of hate groups. One of my friends approached the waitress, who told her the restaurant’s owner wouldn’t let her serve us. 

We protested. We staged sit-ins and lobbied our student government, which voted to boycott the restaurant. Finally, the restaurant changed its practices. 

More than 50 years later, one of the friends with me that evening recalled how painful it had been for her. Seeing the discrimination that I’d spent my young life steeling myself against opened her eyes to an experience she hadn’t seen before. 

Our protest was about more than vindicating the right of black and brown people to eat in a restaurant without discrimination. For me, protest was a way to exert my humanity and claim that I am a person exactly like everyone else in our free nation. 

That’s why, at the age of 70, I engaged in civil disobedience to support my friends who need a path to citizenship, and was arrested. I decided to stand with them, just as my friends stood with me. 

We need to do a lot of soul-searching, remember our history lessons – and stand together. 

When we’re willing to put our lives on hold and use our bodies to stand up for good, we demonstrate that we’re not afraid, and that we reject the politics of prejudice and paranoia. I’m willing to stand up for what is right, just like so many before me. Are you?

 

(Janice “Jay” Johnson is the board president of People’s Action, a national organization with members in 29 states advancing economic, racial, gender, and climate justice. Johnson is a longtime youth advocate and community activist in Hampton and Newport News, Virginia. Previously posted by Janice "Jay" JohnsonPermalink.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The National Anthem, Slavery and the Meaning of Liberty

AT LENGTH-Francis Scott Key, the author of the National Anthem for these United States of America, came from a prominent legal family in Frederick, Md. 

During the War of 1812, which some have called the Second War of Independence, Key was appointed to act as the prisoner exchange agent and was aboard the HMS Tonnant the night Fort McHenry was bombarded during the Battle of Baltimore. 

The British confined him to the ship that night. He had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units. The British were intent on attacking Baltimore. 

Key witnessed the attack, from which came the lines, “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” He was better known for his legal skills than his skills as a poet. After its first publication, more than a century would pass before the song was adopted as the primary national anthem for the United States -- first through an executive order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, then ratified by Congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover in 1931. 

The only reason this history is pertinent today is because of the action taken, or lack thereof, by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand during the national anthem, inviting criticism from all corners of the sports world. This followed the seemingly innocent act by Gabrielle Douglas of the Gold Medal-winning U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, who neglected to put her hand over her heart while the anthem played during medal award ceremonies. Both athletes are black. 

Kaepernick’s protest was not accidental. “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world,” he said. 

Kaepernick is not the first black American athlete to use his position as a platform to protest injustice -- think Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. 

What partially explains this perspective are the uncommonly sung lyrics of our National Anthem: 

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

The mention of “slave” is not entirely remarkable. Slavery was alive and well in the United States in 1814. Key owned slaves and was an ardent anti-abolitionist who once called black people “a distinct and inferior race of people.” At the time, the British offered freedom to any slave who chose to fight against these rebellious former colonials. 

This core issue of human bondage versus the expanded interpretation of liberty and justice for all would come to tear apart this nation in our bloody fratricidal Civil War two score-and-a-half years later. It is this fundamental crucible at the very heart of the American experience that shadows us these many generations later. This dichotomy is expressed by yet another American writer, Richard Henry Dana Jr., also a famous lawyer and the author of Two Years Before the Mast. 

Dana, who came from the blue blood Brahmin society of Boston, Mass., was a bit of a rebellious non-conformist. He left Harvard in his junior year and instead of taking a grand tour of Europe, as was the privilege of his class, signed on as a merchant seaman aboard the Pilgrim and sailed off to the coast of California. This turned out to be a pivotal life-changing experience that would color the rest of his life and career. 

His experience as a seaman in those years was not much better than that of a slave. After witnessing a flogging on board the ship, he vowed to help improve the lot of the common seaman and developed a lifelong dedication to fight injustice. 

In a recent biography on Dana, Slavish Shore—The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr., Jeffrey L. Amestoy wrote: “Dana’s sense of justice made him a lawyer who championed sailors and slaves and put him at the center of some of the most consequential cases in American history: defending the fugitive slave Anthony Burns, justifying President Abraham Lincoln’s war powers before the Supreme Court and the prosecution of Confederate president Jefferson Davis for treason.” 

Dana and Key are two prominent examples of the argument over abolition and racism that shaped the history of this nation -- an argument that continues this day. And, oddly enough that argument is held mostly by white people amongst themselves over the rights and actions of blacks -- just watch who’s criticizing Kaepernick. 

In Kaepernick’s defense, the words of Dana himself might be of some use: 

We have got to choose between two results. With these four millions of Negroes, either you must have four millions of disfranchised, disarmed, untaught, landless, thriftless, non-producing, non-consuming, degraded men [women had not yet been considered for suffrage at this point], or else you must have four millions of landholding, industrious, arms-bearing, and voting population. Choose between the two! Which will you have? 

Clearly there have been many eloquent black voices over these intervening decades arguing for liberty, equality and justice, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X to list just a few. 

However, it still remains an argument for white America to resolve with itself over the inherited and inherent injustices in this country -- a country that regularly pledges to support liberty and justice for all but falls short of this fundamental creed. 

What is needed at this point is a far more inclusive discussion about what it means to be a “patriot in the home of the brave and land of the free.” 

I think that those of us who side with Richard Henry Dana Jr. should thank Colin Kaepernick and all other voices over the generations who have demanded, protested and died asking, “if not now when?” 

Our nation’s most courageous patriots aren’t just ones in uniform fighting in some distant land for often-questionable political ends, but include ones without a flag, fighting for human rights and justice here at home.

 

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

Labor Day: The Big Lie Vs. The Big Hope

ALPERN AT LARGE--Watching the government pundits, I suppose we're all supposed to be singing that song, "Everything is Awesome" from the Lego Movie

But despite the Big Lie (the economy is better, things are improving,) there are enough Americans to respond by quoting that song from The Who, “We Won’t be Fooled Again!” 

Certainly, we all want things to get better, but we're killing ourselves with the self-destructive -- and self-inflicted -- wound of low, low, low expectations. Americans are, by nature, fiercely independent and willing to work hard to get ahead ... and most of are getting ahead, sort of ... but is that because or despite the efforts of our federal and state governments? 

So, while maybe the Huffington Post is (sarcasm!) "anti-Obama,” it's to be reasonably and realistically referenced when roughly 2/3 of polled Americans acknowledge we're on the wrong track. 

And maybe CNN (accused of being the "Clinton News Network") is also (sarcasm!) "anti-Obama" when it acknowledges that, while Americans are "vastly better off than they were eight years ago," we are still in a nation where "most are worried." 

1) Politically, this is the last Labor Day before the post-Obama era, and this means that Ms. Hillary Clinton will have to thread the needle of maintaining the support of Obama voters while distancing herself from what many voters (including those supporting the President) want to change after President Obama leaves office. The "Obama Economy" isn't exactly the stuff of legends. 

And of Mr. Donald Trump? He will certainly have no problem distancing himself from President Obama, and that same CNN article above notes that the low GDP growth (2%/year) during the entirety of this President's tenure is a real story. Furthermore, worker pay, student debt, government debt, and income inequality have also become very, very real stories. 

And perhaps those following the news have noted that Mr. Trump trashed the "Bush Legacy" on his way to winning the GOP primary race? So his big question will be, "We all hate President Bush, but after eight years, is President Obama also guilty of keeping the American Economy down?" 

Translated, that means, "If Bush was responsible for the Great Recession, is Obama responsible for the Second Great Depression?”   

After all, could President Obama have listened to former President Bill Clinton's suggestions to make it easier for large employers to come back home to the United States, and could President Obama have listened to GOP leaders to make "Obamacare" less painful for both employers and employees alike? 

While the 2008 election was an autopsy of the Bush Presidency, won't the 2012 election be an autopsy of the Obama Presidency? The President might have roughly half of Americans polled giving him a "favorable" rating, but stocks and housing prices being up doesn't really help Main Street as much as it does Wall Street and the better off. 

2) We hear that the Unemployment Rate is down, but isn't that just more smoke and mirrors? 

There's a high likelihood that Mr. Trump will raise this issue again, just as he did during the GOP primary debates, of distinguishing between the Unemployment Rate (4.9%) and the Unemployment and Underemployment Rate (9.6%). 

CNBC reports on the vital distinction of the U-3 rate versus the U-6 rate and it's hoped that the reporting of the U-3 rate of "unemployment" will be discarded by our next Presidential administration in favor of the U-6 rate of "unemployment plus underemployment.”   

Because if you're underemployed, life still sucks. 

And if you're working 2-3 jobs and 50+ hours a week, and still barely making ends meet, your life still sucks. 

And for those giving up on looking for employment, and don't even register in the "unemployment rate?” Your life really sucks! 

A quick look on various websites even those unsympathetic to Mr. Trump will acknowledge that our economy is very unhealthy. 

And the proof? Why else would the Fed keep rates so historically low for so many years in a row?   

3) So while some of us are doing well, perhaps we should be thankful for what we have while sparing a few moments for our less fortunate friends and neighbors. 

Are those who've given up looking for work, or who've remained underemployed for years, real people or just a figment of our imaginations? They are Americans -- human beings with real needs and real hopes and real dreams. Ignoring them is just inhumane for this (or any other) Labor Day. 

The freeways and roads and rails are filled with people spending money and going to or from work. But too often it's for lousy jobs without benefits. Furthermore, thanks to both state and federal shackling of employers, it's too often for jobs that are only 30 or less hours per week. 

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump have put the pharmaceutical industry on notice that we're paying too much for prescription medicines. The "Affordable Care Act,” despite its good intentions, was too politically-motivated and written by the health plans who helped cause our nation's growing crisis in affordable health care. This leaves health care still too darned unaffordable for too many. 

Utility costs are also too darned unaffordable for too many so that our quality of life is yet again impacted negatively while trying to make ends meet and actually (gasp!) afford a vacation. 

There's a limit that we all, as adults aware of the limitations of the real world and of physics, must confront with respect to infrastructure costs and the limits of "green" energy. Rebuilding our infrastructure is something we will have to pay big bucks for, but are we doing it wisely and efficiently, or just benefiting those in the energy industries? 

And let's not kid ourselves: a home is all but unaffordable for anyone making less than six digit figures in the major metropolitan areas of California. 

To conclude, Americans are to be commended for their never-ending fight for financial freedom and independence. Using our cars for Uber or Lyft, or using our homes for Airbnb, might be innovative and smart...but these "cottage industries" are not the cornerstone of an economy that favors the middle class as much as they help the rich while enabling a few smart, tough middle-class folks stay in their income bracket. 

So here's to American Labor! Hanging in there, despite and not because of Washington, D.C. or Sacramento. And it's probably a labor force that is collectively looking forward to shedding the Big Lie in favor of embracing the Big Hope.

 

(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.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

I Cannot Take Nate Parker Rape Allegations Lightly

EDITOR’S PICK-Twenty-four years ago I was raped at gunpoint in the cold, dark backroom of the Payless shoe store where I was then working. Two years ago I signed on to a brilliant script called “The Birth of a Nation,” to play a woman who was raped. One month ago I was sent a story about Nate Parker, the very talented writer, director and star of this film. Seventeen years ago Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of sexual assault. Four years ago the woman who accused him committed suicide. (Photo above center: Gabrielle Union performing in the movie Birth of a Nation.)

Different roads circling one brutal, permeating stain on our society. A stain that is finely etched into my own history. Rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals. And for some of us the throbbing gets too loud. Post traumatic stress syndrome is very real and chips away at the soul and sanity of so many of us who have survived sexual violence.  

Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion. I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character, who remains silent throughout the film. In her silence, she represents countless black women who have been and continue to be violated. Women without a voice, without power. Women in general. But black women in particular. I knew I could walk out of our movie and speak to the audience about what it feels like to be a survivor.

My compassion for victims of sexual violence is something that I cannot control. It spills out of me like an instinct rather than a choice. It pushes me to speak when I want to run away from the platform. When I am scared. Confused. Ashamed. I remember this part of myself and must reach out to anyone who will listen — other survivors, or even potential perpetrators.

As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly. (Read the rest.) 

-cw

Hillary Clinton Should Step Aside — Before the Bombshell

EDITOR’S PICK--By most accounts and most polls, Hillary Clinton is headed for a landslide victory over the know-nothing/believe-in-nothing narcissist Donald Trump. 

That is true this weekend — the traditional Labor Day weekend campaign kickoff — despite Clinton being badly-damaged and reviled in the eyes of most Americans just like her rival. 

Still, she is acting like someone with a lock on the presidency and a great chance to win control of the Senate and weaken the Republican stranglehold on the House. She doesn’t meet with the press. She isn’t even campaigning, preferring to immerse herself in thousands of pages of cheat sheets and training with a large support group for the first debate at the end of the month. 

It’s a dream come true scenario for Democrats so what could go wrong? 

Trump in the third resurrection of his deranged campaign has turned to racists, fascists and ideologues of the dark side of the American political experience. He has placed his only hope in shocking revelations that would confirm for one and all that Hillary is the lying, crooked amoral self-server that Republicans and rightist fanatics have been claiming for so long. 

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, the accused rapist holed up in the Ecuador Embassy in London, says he’s got the dynamite ready to drop on Hillary just as he exposed how despicable the Democratic Party was in its treatment of Bernie Sanders. (Read the rest.)   

 

 

 

Might Doesn’t Make Right: How Rape Culture Plays Into Football Culture

UNRAVELING RAPE-Over the last year, two serious threats students face on college campuses have made headlines. Young women are being raped at such an alarming rate -- one out of every five, according to a survey conducted by the Association of American Universities -- that the problem of sexual assault on campus is being described as epidemic. 

Young women aren’t the only ones under assault. Young men are being threatened by violence in another way. If they participate in America’s favorite sport – football -- they may incur repeated blows to the head, running the risk of suffering from a life-altering, progressive neurological impairment called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression and suicidal thoughts and can lead to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and even ALS -- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

But with both problems, university administrators, coaches and other officials charged with protecting students have been slow to respond or take serious measures to protect students. And aside from the fact that in these cases, we appear to have abandoned the least modicum of care for our young, there are other, deeper ways these issues are connected -- not only to our ideas of gender, but to an eroding democracy with a social order in which the wealthy have garnered inordinate power over the rest of us. 

The treatment of football players reflects an economy so driven by outsize greed that, in too many cases, individuals, institutions and corporations have forsaken the most elementary decency toward their fellow human beings. Football is perceived as a cash cow for higher education, attracting media coverage and thus drawing alumni to donate. Even if these programs lose money, potential donors are feted at games with elaborate parties, often held in luxurious rooms dedicated for this purpose. And while tuition rises, ever more impressive stadiums are being built. At the University of California at Berkeley, according to The Washington Post, the mortgage on athletic buildings rose from zero to $23.4 billion in just 10 years. 

Beyond financial gain, football plays another role in an economy ruled by ruthless aggression. This sport is a prime example of the triumph of physical power, a metaphor for the reigning ethos which, whether consciously or unconsciously, is based on the notion that might makes right. Watching a game in which young men batter each other feeds the sense that somehow the larger game -- in which a privileged few take up the vast majority of resources, leaving the rest to fight for what’s left -- is the natural order of existence. In this way, football acts as a live-action demonstration of social Darwinism. 

By this logic, it may seem like business as usual if young men’s bodies have to be sacrificed in order to witness the triumph of will played out in college games. So why should it be surprising that this drama is played out in other ways, too? 

News stories from California to Kentucky to Florida have alerted the public to a spate of rapes committed by football players, on and off campus. 

Indeed, the link between football and rape is more than anecdotal. On game days, the rate of rape on campuses goes up by as much as 28 percent, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Athletes are not by any means responsible for most of the rapes that occur on campus. But it is revealing that, according to a study conducted by sociologist and criminologist Laura Finley, athletes who play certain sports are disproportionately represented among the perpetrators of rape, attempted rape and assault, namely “power and performance sports” such as football, hockey, wrestling and boxing. 

Finley and others have recommended that we try to unravel what for decades feminists have called “rape culture” -- the idea, for instance, that football stars are entitled to bevies of women and the accompanying notions that women really never mean “no” when they say it and that, in fact, women like being raped. The perspective feminists brought to bear on the issue of rape in the 1970s has apparently not yet created the radical shift in consciousness they hoped for. 

Decades ago, feminists challenged conventional wisdom about rape, including the more liberal notions that rapists are sexually frustrated, lack impulse control or are propelled by an overwhelmingly strong sexual drive. Before this challenge, the typical perpetrator was often portrayed as a forlorn figure suffering from deprivation, or was secretly admired as a dashing character, one who, even if villainous, was also enviable. The conservative view tends to be more judgmental toward both the attacker and the attacked. Rapists are victims of seduction, it is suggested, except when not, and then they are simply monsters. Yet as diverse as these explanations are, one thing unites them: the assumption that rape is primarily motivated by physical desire, and that it is thus essentially a sexual act. 

Women who have been raped know otherwise. Though I have never been raped, in the course of researching a book I wrote about the subject, I heard many women’s accounts. What all of them had in common was the terror and pain the perpetrator inflicted. Far from taking pleasure in the assault, women who are raped are traumatized, suffering after-effects for years. Research conducted in the late 1960s and early ’70s by sociologist Menachem Amir supplied the other side of this disturbing picture. Studying a group of men serving time in prison for sexual assault, he concluded that they did not suffer from any sexual abnormality so much as an exceptional tendency toward aggression. 

Understanding rape as a cruel act of aggression has lifted the onus from the victim and helped restore dignity to women who have been raped. But it has done little to prevent rape. And perhaps this is because -- despite former Republican presidential candidate and current Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s recent suggestion that to prevent being raped, young women should not drink alcohol -- the problem does not lie with women but with the men who assault them. 

What, then, shall we do? I doubt most men or, for that matter, women believe that all men harbor an inborn tendency to rape. As Amir’s study makes clear, the qualities that differentiate rapists from others have little to do with either anatomy or desire. Rather, the motivations for rape often appear to stem from a toxic mixture of sexual arousal and aggression, desire shaped by the will to conquer, to take by force, to win and dominate. This formula becomes especially dangerous when coupled with pervasive ideas about women that cast them as objects willing, even wishing, to be dominated, to be taken by force. 

Yet it is clear that young women and men are being victimized in a similar way. Ultimately, despite all the fanfare, football players are treated like meat, commodities to be used up and discarded. Sound familiar? 

Creating a sense of connection between two groups that are exploited and abused will not be easy. This understanding does not excuse athletes who have raped women, nor does it constitute grounds for forgiveness. Rather, it offers a path to prevention, one that challenges the ways men and women alike are abused. Just as historically working-class whites have been pitted against African-Americans, when young men whose bodies are being exploited attack young women, ultimately they are serving the powerful by dividing the victims of a rapacious system. 

Moreover, for those brave enough to do so, to acknowledge our common cause offers a path of escape from damaging stereotypes about gender, including the idea that masculinity equals domination. And uncoupling brutal aggression from what it means to be a man could upend the entire social structure.

 

(Susan Griffin is the author of 20 books. In 1972, she published her groundbreaking essay, “Rape: The All-American Crime,” in Ramparts magazine. A Guggenheim fellow, she is also a recipient of the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. Her book “A Chorus of Stones,” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. “Woman and Nature,” a work that inspired the eco-feminist movement, will be issued in a new edition by Counterpoint in September. This piece was first posted on TruthDig.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

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.)

-cw

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.)

-cw

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’.

-cw

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.) 

-cw

 

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.)

 

More Articles ...

Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays