• How Trump May Win Ohio and Pennsylvania

    September 18, 2016 // 52 Comments »

    weirton looming13


    The every-four-years parade of east coast journalists trooping out into the Rust Belt of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and their neighbors has begun.

    Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have run their stories. You can Google them (fine, here’s one), and the articles from smaller outlets that will follow, but I can save you some reading time, because they are all basically the same:

    Oh my God, the Midwest is a freaking mess. Nobody has jobs, middle-aged white people are doing heroin and meth, and everyone is on food stamps. These people are angry as hell at, well, they say the government.

    Trump and Hillary have been through (name the one small town you stopped in) and promised to bring back the old industrial jobs (Trump) or some hi-tech something (Hillary.) I stopped by a (diner, bar, waffle house, VFW hall) and talked to (name of the one guy you talked to.) He told me times are tough, but these people are tough. They built the mills, they pulled America up by its bootstraps. They’ll make it. Quote some Bruce Springsteen song you heard that afternoon driving east as fast as you could. Done.

    The reporter then rushes back to New York to bathe in Purell and drown his/her disgust in warm PBRs and Starbucks spiced lattes. Next story is about a new start-up in Brooklyn that is creating a social media platform for dogs or something.


    Understanding the Heartland

    Most reporters act shocked to find people “out there” so angry. They can’t understand why the “folks” take food stamps but think handouts are for lazy people. They can’t understand why someone without health insurance, coughing up chunks of the asbestos they breathed in every day at the factory, opposes Obamacare.

    The people the reporters speak with feel they got cheated. They worked hard, they paid taxes, they sent kids off to war (every small Midwest town has a memorial stone, if not three, to the local people who died in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq…) Then they got screwed by, well, someone. The lucky ones now work for minimum wage at a local Walmart full of junk made overseas. The rest visit the charity pantries and spend their food stamps not because they are lazy like “those people” (a code word for urban African-Americans; the few people of color in these towns tend to feel the same way), but because they are hungry. They wait like a cargo cult for the boom years to return, someday, somehow.

    Trump gets this at a visceral level. He tells them it is not their fault, or his, though both share blame. It was the Japanese, or the Chinese, or some mythical Big Government, or regulations, or even the unions that gave the same workers higher pay and good benefits. It doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to play to a crowd angry and confused looking every four years for some answer, and some hope.



    I Saw Them, The Ghosts of Tom Joad

    I grew up in Ohio during the 1970s and 80s, and watched the industrial heartland fall apart in front of my eyes. Our town had a huge Ford plant. It was sold to Toyota, who cut jobs by half before closing it all down because they got better tax incentives in Kentucky. I don’t know what happened in Kentucky, but I can guess.

    I wrote a book about all this, the last fifty years of the Midwest. When you look at it as a historical event, today’s state of things is as inevitable as sunset.

    The book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent. Close to four years ago I tried to sell it to a couple of the larger publishers in New York. No literary agent wanted it, no publisher was interested. As one put it, declining me, “You’re saying there’s poor people in Ohio?” Another was clearer: “Who wants to read a book about unemployed whites?”

    The first publisher outside of New York I approached, one located in Indiana, immediately took the book.



    How Trump May Win the Swing States

    I fully doubt Donald Trump has read my book, or many books at all for that matter. Someone on Trump’s team, however, is very aware of the unfocused anger in the Midwest I wrote about, and is working hard to use that to get some votes. If Trump takes the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, it will be because of that staffer’s insight. Maybe s/he’ll write a book about it.

    Until then, here’s more about my book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent:

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    Clinton, Trump, Lauer, All Lose Battle of the MSNBC CINC Forum

    September 8, 2016 // 13 Comments »

    lauer


    In the end, it was actually America who lost last night at the MSNBC Commander-in-Chief forum, because one of these people will be our president in a few months, and the other two will no doubt live forever on our TVs.


    Clinton

    Hillary Clinton dug her own hole that much deeper, failing in front of a skeptical audience of mostly military veterans to push aside any of their skepticism, or ours. Given, once again, the chance to swing for the fences and put at least some of her bad decisions and scandals behind her, Clinton went for the safe grounder every time.

    Clinton came off as defensive and lawyerly.

    She said her vote for the Iraq War in 2003 was a mistake but would not say in front of the assembled vets the war itself was a mistake. She added a new excuse to her litany of email excuses — none of the information typed into her unclassified system had classification headings on it (like TOP SECRET), as if someone who was knowingly typing in such information would, sure, also document the felony by adding the header. She said hundreds of people at State violated classification rules with email, so presumably she was OK doing it, too. She stressed her long years of experience handling classified without mentioning that she said “I don’t know” 40 times to the FBI in answer to questions about how to handle classified information. She noted that State’s unclassified email system was hacked, while there was “no proof” hers was also broken into, a very lame defense when her communications should have been nearly 100% on a classified system to begin with.

    Clinton finished her self-mutilation by telling a veteran who questioned her handling of sensitive information: “I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously, always have, always will.”


    Trump

    Trump then came out and did Trump, all Trump, hugely Trump, I can tell you, Trump, Trump, Trumpy Trumpster. He has a plan for ISIS, but won’t tell us what it is. He doesn’t like generals who lose. He thinks Putin is a helluva leader and Obama isn’t. He insulting female combat troops in remarks about sexual assault, and corrected a veteran with an incorrect figure about soldier suicides. Trump just kept Trumping and no one was very surprised.

    Lauer

    The major fail of the night was moderator Matt Lauer, to the point where #LaueringTheBar is trending on Twitter. Lauer tossed questions to the candidates and then took a nap as they answered, failing to follow-up or challenge most points. He was unable to control the length of answers given, and he allowed Clinton to violate her pledge to talk about herself and not use her answers to smear Trump. At one point Clinton actually stood in front of the seated Lauer, basically sending him off to bed while she handled the forum for awhile.

    Lauer also spent far too much time fishing for faux-controversy and ignoring the stated point of the forum, to explore how each candidate would act as commander-in-chief. And so we heard about the emails, we heard a lot of Trump’s man-boy love for Putin, and we had Lauer try and bait Trump into revealing something, anything, he’d heard in his classified briefings. When a veteran in the audience asked Clinton to describe her plan to defeat Islamic State, Lauer interjected “to keep it brief” before the candidate even began her reply.




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    FBI, Police ‘Visited’ Activists’ Homes Ahead of the Republican National Convention

    July 19, 2016 // 10 Comments »

    knock


    In another step towards the fascist state Donald Trump has warm dreams envisioning, FBI agents and Cleveland police officers “visited” the homes of local activists in an attempt to gather intelligence on possible planned demonstrations surrounding the Republican National Convention. Such actions step over the line of information gathering into the realm of seeking to chill free speech.


    Activists said they viewed the visits as intimidating. A spokeswoman for the local branch of the FBI acknowledged only that “community outreach” took place as law enforcement officials try to ensure the GOP convention is a “safe and secure” event. During their visits, officials asked activists about past addresses, political and social affiliations, and plans for the RNC. The questions appear on their face of dubious constitutionality.

    A spokesperson for the National Lawyer’s Guild, a group prepared to defend those arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights outside the convention, first reported the visits by teams of federal and local law enforcement officials.

    Some of the activists are involved with groups planning RNC demonstrations, while some aren’t, the spokesperson said. She also said that some of the people who were visited were among the 71 people who were arrested in May 2015 in the aftermath of protests that broke out following the acquittal of Michael Brelo, a then-Cleveland police officer who had been charged with voluntary manslaughter in connection with the 2013 shooting deaths of two Cleveland motorists following a police chase.


    The FBI and police made no attempts to hide what they were doing; in fact, quite the opposite.

    For example, in a June 8 public hearing, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba told members of City Council’s public safety committee that Cleveland police have “a real, real good idea of who we think is coming here and what their objectives are. And if we can deter those objectives, that’s what we’re going to do.”

    Cleveland purchased a $10 million “protest insurance” policy to protect against civil rights lawsuits resulting from the convention.



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    Burn It All Down

    June 29, 2016 // 10 Comments »

    Reichstag fire

    Here’s where things stand.


    The only mainstream candidate in recent decades to come along with new ideas, a model of not accepting big money with strings attached, and willing to address the critical issues in America of economic inequality and lack of health care for many, is done.


    Unless Lin-Manuel Miranda does a musical of his life, Bernie’s just a footnote in the history books. But the stigma that he won via a set of tricks to include the “superdelegate system,” some election fraud, and overt partisanship by the Democratic National Committee and much of the media, never mind what Obama does with the FBI report into her mishandling of classified information, lingers like the smell of ripe sh*t in a stadium toilet.

    The Republican candidate pulled in a helluva lotta votes via old-fashioned demagoguery, modern racism, and some clever Tweets. Trump is running strong in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. But his own party hates him, many refuse to endorse him, a lot of people are hoping he self-destructs, and many more want some magic process to replace him with one of the “good Republicans” who already failed in the primaries.

    And then Hillary. She has famously high negatives, is distrusted by a vast number of Americans, believed to be an actual criminal by large numbers, and has yet to answer for her emails and her corrupt Clinton Foundation. She is the textbook case of big money, big donor politics, and a lifetime Washington insider. Republican hatred for her assures Congress will do as little as possible for any agenda she puts forward if elected, assuming she has one other than to immediately start her campaign for a second term while further enriching herself.



    That all adds up to a miserable picture of America in 2016. We have a reality TV star and real estate developer running against the only candidate in American history seeking the White House while under an active FBI criminal investigation.

    What’s a voter with still intact critical thinking skills to do? Fall victim to the emerging meme of both candidates, vote for the lesser of two evils, pick me or you’ll get the other one? Are we really supposed to participate in an electoral process that is subtitled “Pick the One That Sucks a Little Less?”

    No. Let the whole damn thing burn down and collapse.

    Let Trump/Clinton take us into as many wars as they hope to, bleed our youth and our treasury dry. Stand back as three military personnel a day commit suicide. Fight the Russians, ISIS, the Chinese, militarize Africa like 21st century colonialists, set up more secret prisons, expand Guantanamo, torture, hell, rape the families of “terrorists” in front of them to force confessions on anything and everything and then use that info for a new war. Fake WMDs in Iraq? That was amateur work.

    Let them concentrate more and more wealth into a tiny group, such that the concept of the “One Percent” is quaint; let it be the .01 percent. Let them deliver cash and gold directly to the front door of the White House and stop pretending such things are “contributions.” Let people go hungry, make higher education only for the rich or those stupid enough to take on a lifetime of student loan debt. Watch people suffer from lack of basic health care. Stop wasting money on infrastructure that wealthy people never use anyway. Thin out the herd with lead-soaked water.

    Throw up billboards reminding everyone that the NSA is spying on everything they do, and make kids rat out their parents who smoke weed. Unleash the drones over America and stop wasting money “prosecuting” American terrorists. Keep the prisons looking like plantations.


    And then stand back and watch it all burn down. Turn us loose to eat each other. Make us fight for scraps and scavenge trash piles. If anything is left after all that, then maybe we can try again. If not, we should all just smile and welcome Chelsea Clinton to the White House in 2024.




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    Trump Exists Because We Wanted Him

    June 9, 2016 // 12 Comments »

    Trump_&_Clinton

    If not Donald, someone else would be Trump. America has been waiting for him.


    Trump Is…

    Trump is a racist, who feeds back to angry white America what it wants to believe, that its problems are the cause of Blacks, Latinos, women, immigrants and fill in the blank _____ and not related to a broad reorganization of American society into a tiny one percent of controlling wealth holders and everyone else. Trump’s supporters want to think those groups rose up to take their jobs, but instead do not realize they themselves were just pushed down into the same ranks America’s traditional oppressed occupy. Trump tells them they are victims of an unfair world, ironically true in a way that must make him snigger off stage.

    Trump is a fascist, who promotes an America at war with anyone who challenges its self-image. For the past 15 years politicians and media have fed the raw meat of revenge to Americans, so it should be no surprise that Trump’s shouts to invade and bomb and torture are so enthusiastically received (some may argue, and it is not a tough argument to make, that such war fever has been fanned from the day WWII ended and the war on terror is just the continuation of the war on communism.)

    Trump is a bully, literally making calling others names a cornerstone of his public discourse. The coarsening of American public life has been a steady factor in our lifetimes, beginning perhaps with Bill Clinton, whose ideas of how to act in the nation’s highest office made it a daily occurrence to hear the term oral sex on TV news. After calling the president a whoremonger, it is a straight shot to Little Mario. And of course, don’t the guys on late night TV use funny names for politicians anyway? And now the Democrats have picked it up, making up names like “Dangerous Donald.”

    Trump is an opportunist, knowing that social issues such as gun control bring in the crowds (no one is going to repeal the Second Amendment) while mattering not a whit to the world he and the other power brokers care about. What is really important is maintaining the military industrial complex and being able to manipulate the tax/economic/investment systems. In their minds, only stupid poor people worry about guns, gays, transgender toilets and the like, so feed them that as a distraction. We don’t need bread and circuses, we have a world of right wing talk radio that makes Fox look middle-of-the-road.



    Welcome to Weimar: America is Now Ready for Trump

    Others have tried to be Trump and failed. Nixon had most of the pieces in place, but fell victim to a media that still cared back then to do its job. That’s no longer a problem.

    Reagan came very close and set much in motion, but had America’s reliable Russian enemy pulled out from under him and could never get up enough fear over his signature wars in Central America. The various evangelistic candidates of the 80s and 90s also tried hard, but most fell victim to sex and money scandals.

    In 2016, America was ready for its little Hitler.

    The Bush years weakened the institutions of America (the press in particular; how’d that Iraq thing go? Ready to condemn torture yet? You guys realize more Americans get their news from TV comedians now than newspapers, right?)

    The Republican party, by pushing forward Caligula’s horse in the form of Sarah Palin, laid bare its contempt for the electorate.

    Obama, full of pretty words, cynically picked up his office and that Nobel while twisting the knife into the corpse of democracy with drones.

    The Congress threw away its Constitutional role and empowered a strong man executive because it could not agree on anything else.

    The 24/7 news cycle, which meant Americans were never without fear being thrust into their faces, combined with the “see something, say something” report-your-neighbors mentality and insured a population ripe for exploitation.

    The one percent nailed things after the 2008 economic crisis (Throw them in jail? They got the government to pay off their financial malfeasance for them), pretty much ensuring their hold forever on power, even as we down here argue over what level of poverty a minimum wage should allow us.


    A Man of His Time

    Trump sensed all this perhaps without even understanding it, like a predator catches a scent and knows it’s dinner. He added in his own amazing media skills. He realized he could say anything, and contradict himself from speech to speech. The media and public certainly wouldn’t care, they’d encourage it as entertainment. And of course if neither your public nor your journalists know any history, then you can lie to them to your heart’s content.

    All that said, no one should count Hillary out; she is armed with her own skills at manipulation, and has powerful backers. She indeed may end up as president. But that only means the next iteration of Trump, whoever he or she is, waits a bit longer. The broader processes of history, in this case the sad end of our democratic experiment, can be delayed but not denied.

    After all, Germany wasn’t built in a day.


    The Internet is a blunt weapon, so a few things: I do not support Trump in any way, and I am writing to understand his rise, not to agree with it. Any references to Hitler are not to create a direct Trump = Hitler meme, but to illustrate how processes of history work. Now relax, and enjoy the show.



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    Could This Be Donald Trump’s Vice Presidential Pick?

    May 2, 2016 // 14 Comments »

    joni ernst

    Meet Joni Ernst. Could she be Donald Trump’s choice for Vice President?


    The main attributes of a vice president are to balance the ticket, help raise money and then step back for four/eight years until it is her turn to run. You want someone good, but not too good, especially if you have an ego the size of Trump’s.

    And with Hillary Clinton as the likely Democratic nominee, a woman VP on the Republican ticket would be no small advantage. Ernst is the first woman to represent Iowa in the United States Congress and the first female veteran to serve –from any state — in the Senate. Those kinds of things will pull a lot of the air out of Hillary’s calls to empower women in politics.

    The Washington Post calls Joni Ernst, currently the Republican senator from Iowa, “a breakout star of the 2014 midterm election with her plain-spoken populism.” That matches some of Trump’s appeal, and plays well to the populism that fuels the Sanders campaign.

    Ernst has been critical of Trump’s comments about women, which could be a smart way to make Trump appear more open-minded, and pull in additional female votes. He could also use Ernst’s criticism to soften his comments going forward, explaining she has helped him better see the error of his ways.



    Ernst also aligns well with Trump and Republican positions.

    She’s proposed eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency to cut federal spending. She wants to eliminate the Department of Education “not just because it would save taxpayer dollars, but because I do believe our children are better educated when it’s coming from the state.” She is also no friend of Planned Parenthood, another signature Republican issue. In 2014, Ernst delivered the official GOP rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

    And a bonus — Ernst is a good friend of the Koch Brothers, and her being on the ticket could help them feel better about a President Trump. A lot of Koch money flowed into Ernst’s Senate campaign via the Koch-backed consulting firm Aegis Strategic. The brothers are known to be wary of Trump, and having one of their own people in the White House would go a long way to garnering their support.


    Keep an eye on Joni Ernst. She might make for some very smart politics by a guy who says he knows a good deal when he sees one.

    (NOTE to long-time We Meant Well readers. This article is a prediction, not an endorsement. We’ll return to our regular programming soon.)



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    North Korea Election Monitors Leave New York in Disgust (Satire?)

    April 20, 2016 // 6 Comments »




    A team of North Korean election monitors left New York City in disgust, claiming that democracy was “dead to them.”


    Following a long series of primary election issues across the United States, where local scams, manipulated caucuses and voter disenfranchisement ran wild, the United Nations requested the North Koreans provide a team of election monitors (above) to oversee the highly-contested New York primary. In choosing North Korea for the job, UN officials cited the “great similarities between the North Korean and American systems.”

    “You people make me sick,” said team leader Kim Young Hee, spitting onto a homeless man living inside LaGuardia Airport who was clawing at his socks for nourishment. “All we hear on your stupid Voice of America shortwave broadcasts and smuggled laser discs of old American Idol shows is democracy this, democracy that from you capitalist pigs. Then we arrive and what do we find? A paper ballot-based voting system right out of the 1950s, run by ignorant old people who have no experience, little training and too much free time. In Pyongyang, they’d be working in the uranium mines, not hassling first-time voters and African-Americans!”


    Comrade Kim went on to cite the unequal application of voter ID laws, the way polling sites were shifted around without notice, and the fact that some 150,000 registered voters in New York were left off the polling lists and were thus unable to vote. He also could not score Hamilton tickets after being promised by a guy in the men’s room “he’d be right back with change”, but said he would leave that out of his report to the UN.

    “And all this when less than half of your eligible voters even bother to show up? In North Korea, we have 100% voter turnout every election, and stuff runs like clockwork. The Party would be locking up whole families of the officials involved in this kind of clusterfutz. Now, I’ll admit, we have only one candidate running like your Republicans do, but seriously, you’re America, the people who found a way through your ‘fast food’ to feed the masses even cheaper than we do in North Korea. Jeez people, you don’t have this computerized yet? Hell, we do, using a 286 Gateway PC running a pirated copy of DOS 4.0. Losers.”


    Wiping a healthy dollop of dog crap off his shoe after having set foot on a New York sidewalk (“I’d eat the bastard for that if we were back home”) Comrade Kim reminded his American handlers that if for some reason Dear Leader Trump lost in November, he’d always be welcome in Pyongyang.



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    Explaining Trump and Clinton to a Global Audience (and to Americans)

    April 18, 2016 // 10 Comments »

    Trump_&_Clinton


    As the presumptive U.S. presidential nominees emerge, at least for now — Donald Trump for the Republicans and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats — more and more friends from abroad have started asking me to explain how a person like Trump could get so far, so fast, given utter lack of experience.

    A few also ask questions about Hillary’s qualifications, mostly centered around the money flow from Wall Street, and the “donations” from foreign governments into the Clinton Foundation. Many from places where corruption is more surfaced recognize what is happening perhaps more clearly than Americans.

    What I try to explain is that the success of Trump and Clinton, especially over the candidates they have defeated, is based on the same dark spot inside the American body politic now: our society is motivated by fear, and fear produced the 2016 versions of candidates Trump and Clinton.

    For its faults — referring more to the American Soul than the American government — the pre-9/11 United States was a relatively hopeful place. Despite the underbelly of prejudices and the crushing of the middle class, there was a sense that things might get better, or at least not worse. War? The last big one was Desert Storm in 1991. Nobody would claim society was perfect, or even uniformly good, but it was different than now.

    Then across the span of a day, September 11, 2001, America changed. We became, as a nation, afraid.

    We were afraid of enemies most Americans had heard little about. We were afraid of what might happen next. We were afraid of an attack against the shopping mall, the school, the tiny place in our tiny town that didn’t show up well on most local maps, never mind one bin Laden might use. Our fears were carefully curated by opportunistic people in two successive administrations, who used that fear to manipulate democracy itself. They turned America’s vast spying apparatus inward, imposed a global gulag archipelago of torture sites and secret prisons, and institutionalizing the drone wars.

    Amid the various causes and justifications, that it is all about oil, or empire, what it is all about at the root level is fear. Fear of the latest bogeyman, fear screeches of groups on YouTube are real, and that they are ready to strike what we now all call the Homeland. That word never existed in America prior to 9/11.

    America lost its guts. We’re scared of scary things we can’t see and can only identify as monsters, like a child alone at night who hears every noise and assumes the worst.

    So into that setting emerges the presidential candidates that had to emerge, our first true post-9/11 candidates, the ones who picked up on the fears of Americans as a predator catches a scent.

    Donald Trump speaks pointedly to America’s fears — Mexicans swarming to take our jobs, trade agreements that will hand China the keys to the store (“They’re killing us!”), and weaknesses that allow Islamic State, Putin, the Iranians, and all the rest, to wait coiled on our borders. Afraid? Then you need Trump on that wall, you want him on that wall, for it is only because of rough men like him that you’ll be able to once again (“Make America Great Again”) sleep peacefully.

    Trump’s form of fear-mongering is basically from the same toolbox every autocrat and dictator has used since government was invented. Trump plays on what one can call “positive fear,” fear of what will befall us if he is not there to stop it.

    While Hillary Clinton is no stranger to calling up global demons, the biggest fear she plays on is American’s fear of change.

    Clinton is well on her way to defeating Bernie Sanders by convincing Americans they do not want the same comprehensive health care system every other evolved nation on earth has, that they do not want the no-cost higher education most/all of Europe and Asia profits from, and that Americans do not want a political system less subject to influence buying. She told Americans she alone would continue decades of mediocrity, because there really was no other way. Convincing people to vote against their own self-benefit is not easy, but fear is a powerful motivator.

    Clinton’s fear-mongering is more subtle than Trump’s. The fear she sells is not so much of something (Islamic State, Putin), but fear of the unknown, a kind of “negative fear.” So, despite the often ineffective health insurance provided under the Affordable Care Act, she tells supporters her opponent might even see that taken away if he reopens a debate with Republicans. She brushes off concerns about big money influence saying if it was good enough for Obama, then why change that?

    The rest flows quite naturally. It is little surprise that both candidates are shaping a meme that while you may not like or even wish to support them actively, you should vote for them anyway, for fear that the other one will win.

    Barring any unforeseen circumstances, either Trump or Clinton will take the White House, and fan the flames; fear requires regular booster shots, each one bigger than the last. And that should in fact make the rest of us very, very afraid.




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    Hot Summer GOP Convention Coming Up After Appalling DOJ Report on Cleveland PD

    March 24, 2016 // 7 Comments »

    riot


    So summer is going to be lit in Cleveland.

    This July the GOP (Gasping Old Party) is going to hold its nominating convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Given the way things are headed, this may turn out to be a contested convention, where everyone but Donald Trump tries to make sure Donald Trump is not the Republican nominee. Trump, in a classy move, has suggested if he is not anointed there will be riots.

    And who will be in charge of security for all that rock and roll? The Cleveland Police Department.


    Yeah, that Cleveland Police Department.

    After the Clevo Devo PD gunned down child Tamir Rice in cold blood, the Department of Justice (DOJ) got out of its wheelchair and investigated the thuggery that passes for law enforcement in northern Ohio. As you read through some of their findings below, just allow yourself to imagine how that sh*t will work out with the sh*t Trump is talking about. Short answer: it’ll be a real poop storm.


    Here goes:

    — The DOJ found Cleveland police officers shooting at people who presented neither serious nor imminent threats. In a 2013 incident, a sergeant fired at a victim fleeing a home where he was being held against his will by armed suspects.

    — The report found officers striking suspects even after they had been handcuffed.

    — And using their tasers inappropriately.

    — Officers deployed unreasonable force against people with mental illness (careful Trump supporters, that means you)

    — Officers deployed unreasonable force against people needing medical care.

    Hah, hah. These stories don’t even touch on the DOJ’s other grave conclusion: the Cleveland Police Department and prosecutor’s office failed do much about such misconduct after it occurred.

    A long, hot summer ahead for people who just want to watch things burn.




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    Better Understanding Trump, A Man of His Times

    October 9, 2015 // 9 Comments »

    gluttony

    Demagogues come and go, and are certainly nothing new in politics in general (Hitler) and American politics in the specific (nearly every Republican candidate.)

    But Trump is special, a man of his times, as if evolution created him in match with his environment.

    Trump is a top-level predator, not smart enough to understand but somehow evolved enough to know: the myth of the American Dream is falling apart, and the angry low and middle class people who are experiencing the collapse are unable to understand what is happening to them, essentially that they got played in one of the grandest long cons in the history of grifting. Trump senses this, and tells them it is not their fault. Blame the immigrants, blame the Muslims and, even though the Dream dumped even harder on them, why not, blame the Blacks. It’s not you, folks. The deck is stacked, says Trump.

    Trump is of course right — the deck is stacked. But not in the way he says it is.



    The American Dream

    The myth of the American Dream has been the dominating factor in keeping most people mostly complacent in the United States for 150 years, and allowing most of us to blame a minority of us for shortcomings. You know it — work hard, and your life will improve. Well, maybe not your life, but your kids’, or at least your grandkids’. If that doesn’t happen, you probably didn’t work hard enough, try again next generation and it’ll most likely stick. And if that doesn’t work, it was the fault of the Irish immigrants, or the damn Chinese, or those welfare freeloaders.

    The thing that made the myth so powerful was that 10 percent of the truth that proves the 90 percent lie. As long as near-constant growth could be assured, enough pieces would fall to the the lower and middle classes to keep the Dream alive in their minds. It helped that a kindly media would promote the hell out of every exception, whether it was the shoeshine boy in the late 19th century who went to college, or the plucky guys who invented some new tech in their garage and became billionaires.

    Things did slip up from time to time, culminating in the Great Depression in the United States. The old economy, the heavy metal machinery and industrial one, had maxed out and financial scamming by the one percent of the day hit the tipping point. But some social programs to tamp down any real sense of rebellion and a timely world war reset the Dream. And better yet, the outcome of that war, with the U.S. emerging as the only superpower and the only intact economy, virtually in control of all the world’s natural resources, the newly-created monetary and trade system and, for a few years, as the sole possessor of the Bomb, created a new cycle of growth never before seen in human history.



    Growth Via Consumerism

    The new growth, based on all of the factors above, was fueled by consumerism, not big iron; the Dream would be succored by the recycling of the lower and middle classes’ own wages, upward of course. Earn more, spend more, need more, buy more. That sucking sound heard between 1950 until around 1975 was money moving upward, leaving a little trail of bread crumbly growth in its wake, just enough, but not too much.

    But a straight line is a straight line, and that movement of money had an end point, now fast approaching, where in 2015 one percent of Americans own some 43 percent of the wealth and through that, nearly all of the power. The cycle is accelerating, because, as proven by Thomas Piketty, wealth in capital form grows faster than wages. The race to one percent owning 99.9999999 percent is on.

    Now under certain circumstances such a situation would have people at the barricades armed with pitchforks. But myths die hard, and especially when the basic American Dream myth is backed by the additional proviso that if you are falling behind it is a) because you are not working hard enough or b) somebody is messing with your piece of the pie.

    No politician plans to tell lower and middle class people they aren’t working hard enough, though such prescriptions are nearly required to be spouted at folks already poor. Instead, it is that second part, blaming someone else, that has always been the tool smart pols use to cage votes.



    What is New

    No nothing new, right? Wrong.

    What is new is not the message Trump is promoting, but the America in which he is promoting it. It has become impossible for the lower and middle classes to not see that they are slipping behind. The industrial jobs are gone. People have been talked out of most union jobs, convinced somehow that organizing was not in their own interest. Food stamps and other need-based programs are finding more and more middle class audiences, as suburban people who once donated to charities are now lining up out front of them. The snowball is accelerating, downhill.

    And so there is Trump, a man of his times, telling people who still want to believe that it is OK to believe. Trump made it, so can they. America is f*cked up, just look around, but it is not your fault, voters. And it is certainly not Trump’s, squarely in the one percent, fault. Nope, it is someone else’s fault, and to people desperate to Believe, that is very, very powerful medicine.

    Watch out for this guy, Trump. He has tapped into something deep and fearful and motivating.



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    Trump Personally Re-Arrests Muslim Clock Kid (Satire)

    September 22, 2015 // 9 Comments »

    NMC_15MohamedAhmed2


    Last week was a notable one in terms what’s left of our political process.

    Texas stormtroopers saved everyone by arresting a ninth grade brown science nerd for building a clock that they wanted sooooo badly to be a bomb, followed by Obama inviting the kid to the White House to promote science (the Pentagon needs many bomb makers ahead of future wars with Muslims), followed by Donald Trump remaining silent in the face of one of his supporters announcing that Obama is a foreigner and a Muslim and that secret jihadi training camps no one can see are scattered all over America.

    (That was all sadly true; here’s the satire part.)


    CNN and other entertainment outlets all headlined a story earlier today showing Trump has personally flown to Texas and re-arrested the science nerd bomb making Muslim kid, charging him with not being fabulous, and with conspiring to make others think for no reason that he was thinking of considering creating a weapon of mass destruction that never would exist. Such a crime exists in the imagination of Trump, who stated “That was good enough for Ronald Reagan, and good enough for the Greatest Generation, so it is good enough for someone else.”

    “The key reason I knew I had to act,” said Trump from his hot tub attended to by scores of virgins, “was that visit to the White House. In these kinds of Islamic terror plots, you look to connect the dots. So look what we have — a Muslim builds the first half of a bomb, minus only massive amounts of explosives and a trigger. He escapes from law enforcement because of the liberal mass media. And then he just happens to show up the next day at the home of a prominent Muslim, and that home just happens to be right inside Washington DC, inside the White House itself!”

    “It was all red flags, red alarms and red scares as far as the eye could see,” frothed Trump. “So I acted. Any other paranoid raving lunatic would have done the same.”

    “And lastly, answer me this. Where was Hillary? Hmmm?”

    When reached for comment in Paradise, the ghost of Osama bin Laden chuckled to himself, and mumbled “The Americans, they are eating themselves now, my work here is done.”



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    Explainer: ‘Anchor Babies’ and the Law

    August 26, 2015 // 17 Comments »

    anchorbabies

    Thanks to brave presidential candidates Trump and Bush, et al, the term “anchor baby” is now the subject of interest and ignorance by a media preoccupied with whatever shiny object is held in front of it.

    Trump wants to tear up part of the Constitution he unilaterally proclaims is unconstitutional; no one is sure what the other Republicans plan to “do” about this issue, but they sure don’t support it somehow.



    Anchor Babies

    So what are “anchor babies” and which parts of American law affect them?

    An “anchor baby” (many find the term offensive, referring as it does to a child as an object) is a child born in the United States to a foreign citizen, legally or illegally present in the U.S., who, by virtue of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, automatically and forever acquires American citizenship. The child need only prove s/he was born in the U.S.

    The term anchor comes into play because at the age of 21 the child can begin filing green card paperwork for his/her extended family. The single American citizen in a family becomes the “anchor” through which all can eventually become legal permanent residents of the U.S. and soon after, citizens.

    Many conservatives feel conveying citizenship so freely cheapens the meaning of being an “American,” and especially object to the idea that a mother illegally in the United States can birth an American citizen. Others are troubled by a growing industry that sends foreign mothers to the U.S. specifically so that they can create such citizens, so-called “birth tourism.”


    The Law

    The concept that anyone born in the U.S. (one exception: those born not subject to U.S. law, which has been held to apply primarily to Native Americans and to children of certain accredited foreign diplomats exempt [immune] from U.S. laws, though there are loopholes even there) is automatically an American citizen is part of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the so-called Citizenship Clause.

    The 14th was adopted in 1868, in the aftermath of the Civil War as part of reconciling the status of millions of slaves forcibly brought to the United States. The Citizenship Clause specifically overruled the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford), which had held that Americans descended from African slaves could not be citizens of the United States. The Amendment cleared up any ambiguities, stating “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”

    The most significant test of the 14th Amendment came in 1898, via United States v. Wong Kim Ark. The Supreme Court upheld that a child born in the United States automatically became a U.S. citizen. At issue were laws passed after the Wong child’s birth that excluded Chinese citizens from entering the U.S. The decision in Wong has been understood to mean that the legal status of the mother, as well as any secondary immigration laws below the Constitution, have no bearing on the granting of citizenship.

    It can get complicated, and there have been unsuccessful efforts to overturn or reinterpret Wong in light of contemporary concerns over immigration.

    For those who like their law in Latin, the idea that anyone born in a certain country automatically acquires citizenship there is called jus soli (right of soil.) The opposite, that citizenship is derived only via one’s parents, is called jus sanguinis (right of blood.) No European nation offers unrestricted jus soli, and very few other countries outside the Western Hemisphere do either.



    Foreigners, Visas and Babies

    While some foreigners who give birth in the U.S. enter illegally by walking across a land border, a significant number of moms enter the U.S. on visas or the rough equivalent, the visa waiver program, which provides less fettered access to citizens from certain countries, mostly Europeans. Some give birth in the U.S.; is this legal?

    It is. There is no law whatsoever that prohibits someone from coming to the United States specifically to give birth here and create an “anchor baby.”

    Many uninformed commentators point to two visa laws that they feel may prohibit such an act, the “public charge” provision and the fraud provision.

    Public charge is codified in Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. It says an individual who is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible to the United States/can’t receive a visa. Some conservatives believe that moms coming to the U.S. to give birth, a country with the highest health care costs on the planet, should not be allowed in. They say many can’t, or won’t, pay, and are likely to have their maternity costs covered by American taxpayers.

    The problems in applying this law to so-called anchor baby moms are two-fold.

    First, the law is forward-looking; there needs to be information suggesting a mother plans to deliver at public cost. Proving the future is tricky business, even in regards to visas. In addition, the law states receiving public benefits does not automatically make an individual a public charge. In fact, many benefits are excluded from consideration, including Medicaid and other health insurance and health services, and specifically prenatal care. In short, a mom cannot be denied a visa or entry into the U.S. based upon public benefits she is legally eligible for. Immigration status — legal or illegal — generally is not considered when benefits are sought.

    The second visa law that comes up in conservative discourse is 212(a)(6)(C), fraud. The idea is that a women seeking a visa or to enter the U.S. may try and hide her pregnancy, or her intent to give birth in the U.S. She might say she intends only a short romp through Disneyland before returning home. So that’s lying, fraud, right?

    Well, it may be a lie, but it is not fraud as visas go. The fraud law requires a lie to be “material,” meaning if the truth were to be told, the visa would be denied. So, if someone says she is going to Disney but actually intends to rob a bank, that is a planned illegal act and the lie would be material. But since it is legal to give birth in the U.S., fibbing about it is not material.



    Birth Tourism

    The current issue of Rolling Stone contains a long article on “birth tourism.” Such “tourism” is a huge business in Asia, particularly in China where rising incomes coincide with existing interest in emigration. Companies arrange for everything; a mom need only provide money. The companies legally assist the mother in obtaining a visa, arrange for her to stay in the U.S. in an apartment complex (dubbed “maternity hotels”), usually in California for convenience for flights from Asia, full of other Chinese moms, and then give birth in a local hospital staffed with Chinese-speaking doctors.

    Such businesses have been around since at least the 1980s, and exist in most Asian countries. They are especially popular in China and Korea.

    Some birth tourism companies also offer VIP packages that include sightseeing and limousine service, and special accommodations for dads who want to fly in for the actual birth. The businesses operate openly, and advertise freely in Chinese-language media both here and abroad. It is big business: In 2012, according to Chinese state media, there were some 10,000 tourist births from China; more recent estimates have put the number as high as 60,000 a year.

    And since it is standard practice for the United States to grant a six month tourist stay for most visitors, the mother need not risk her or her baby’s health by traveling at the last minute. She can arrive around the end of the first trimester and stay on without incident. Once the baby is born, the birth tourism company helps mother obtain baby’s U.S. passport.

    There is absolutely nothing illegal about birth tourism under U.S. law.

    It is the active presence of such birth tourism out of China that lead candidate Bush to clarify that he was not speaking against Latinos, who are a huge voting block in America, but Asian anchor babies. “What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed in organized efforts — and frankly, it’s more related to Asian people — coming into our country, having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship.”



    Bottom Line

    Leaving aside the generally jingoistic and often racist arguments conservatives put forward against anchor babies and birth tourism, there is nothing illegal going on.

    Any desire to make such things illegal will require significant changes to the law, perhaps extending right up to re-amending the Constitution to reverse concepts that have been a part of America since the late 1800s. Despite all the rhetoric, in the end there is nothing really to see here.




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    Wanted: A Candidate for President We Can Vote For, Not Against

    August 24, 2015 // 10 Comments »

    Election 2016


    There is still time. Would a leader please stand up, someone people of good conscience can vote for? I am tired of voting defensively — better vote for Candidate A, or you’ll be stuck with B.


    I get Bernie Sanders, and personally support most/all of his positions. But electoral history is pretty clear what happens to outlier and third party candidates. And at this point supporting someone with good ideas, but who lacks his party’s support, lacks the funds sadly needed to run a national campaign and is unlikely to capture undecided and Middle America votes, well, that’s certainly a feel-good-about-myself symbolic gesture, but I don’t really feel good about things right now.


    Oh, Hillary. Can anyone be more of a worse enemy to you than you? Did you think no one would ever find out about your email mess, or did you think no one would care? Are you that cynical about America? About hiring Huma to work at State when she was already working for at least one private company and your Foundation? About all the money, known and still unknown, pouring through the Clinton foundation? The foreign influence buying via those juicy speech payments for you and Bill? That you could just let actual questions about Benghazi, Libya and your leadership (oh, they are not all partisan, spare me, read this list) hang indefinitely?

    Really America, do we want four, or eight, years of this? Because we will get it. Because the Clinton’s won’t stop doing actual bad things, and their opponents won’t stop looking for them, real or made up. Partisan attacks are nothing new in politics, dating back to the Greeks, but can anyone find examples as egregious as the Clinton history? She didn’t need a private server. She didn’t need the Foundation as it is run. She wanted them, and the fall out is nearly entirely self-inflicted. No one could criticize you for them, Hillary, if you hadn’t done them.


    Which leaves us to the several hundred Republican candidates. The current front runner is Donald Trump. Trump? The self-caricature guy from the reality TV shows? The guy who talks about women like it’s 1957? The guy who tosses out “ideas” like a Maginot Line along the Mexican border, or self-declaring parts of the Bill of Rights (i.e., 14th Amendment) unconstitutional? This is the person we want heading off to foreign countries representing us?

    The rest? A handful of odd ball fundamentalists who prey on people’s fears of race? Who think the most critical issues facing our nation have something to do with stopping same-sex marriage, stopping abortion and guns? Who as a group think health care is a luxury item?


    So, someone, please, save us from ourselves. None of the current candidates have deep support. The Democratic party in particular aches for someone who can represent a positive vision, instead of simply threatening “vote for me or it’s Trump and the nutters.”

    Anyone?

    Or this?






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    Meet You in Atlantic City: An Economic Fable

    July 21, 2015 // 4 Comments »


    As the New Economy starts to look more and more like the Depression Economy of the 1930’s, the divide between rich and poor clearer as businesses fade and fail, Atlantic City provides a layers of urban archaeology pointing where we’ve been and maybe where we’re going.

    We All Love Lucy

    Driving in on the older roads, there’s Lucy the Elephant. Not a real elephant of course, Lucy is instead a freakish wood and tin six story hollow statue. First built in 1881 to add value to some Jersey swampland, Lucy has been reincarnated several times after fire, neglect and storm damage. Along the way, she was used a tavern, a hotel, and for most of her life, simply an “attraction.” As owning a car, and the family driving vacations that accompanied ownership, became egalitarian rights in the 1950’s and 60’s, all manner of tacky attractions popped up along America’s roads: cement dinosaurs, teepee-shaped motels, museums of freaks, and spectacles such as the world’s largest ball of twine.

    Lucy—and Atlantic City—set the trend well into the early 1970’s. Between 1947 and 1973 actual incomes in the U.S. rose at the same level for everyone, more or less evenly spread across the societal spectrum. In 1932 Detroit produced 1.4 million cars, in 1950 it rose to eight million, then peaked at twelve million in 1973. America was a developing nation, in the best sense of that word. Yet as the U.S. economy changed, money began to flow out of the working class pockets that fed Lucy. From 1973 to 1993 the top one percent of Americans saw income grow eighty percent, and by 1989 the one percent owned forty percent of U.S. wealth. Atlantic City hurt. The famous Boardwalk (remember Monopoly? The street names are all from Atlantic City) became a crime scene, too dangerous for casual tourists, and drugs took over for tourism. It wasn’t different than the rest of America, just more intense.

    Atlantic City Rolls the Dice on Legalized Gambling

    Yet the first time I visited Atlantic City, some thirty years ago, things had again started to change. It was in the midst of a hyper national economy that gambling was legalized, and money poured into the area. The Boardwalk sprouted casinos and restaurants, and local business owners scrambled to find workers even as they considered early retirement based on the soaring value of the land they had held for generations. Everyone and everything felt alive, and billboards boasted of “rebirth.”

    Thirty Years Later, Does the Bet Pay Off?

    Thirty years later, a visit to Atlantic City once again reminds that life there isn’t any different than the rest of America, just more intense. On a twenty-story hotel tower, you can read the words “Hilton” in dirt shadow where the sign was removed as the place slammed shut. Trump Plaza, nothing if not a monument to excess and hubris from someone once admired as a business magician and pathetically now a presidential candidate, even before it closed was much of a caricature of elegance as the man himself. When I stayed there, the pillows smelled of sweat, the corner of doors were chipped, many areas needed paint and most of the bars and restaurants were as lonely as the former Greyhound bus terminal a few blocks away. People who appeared homeless harmlessly wandered in and out of the casino, itself tawdy and too dimly lit to inspire fun. It was like the air had been let out of the place.

    Outside along the Boardwalk, the famous rolling chairs are pushed by recent immigrants and not-so-clean older denizens of the City. Lots of people still took rides, but it seemed that paying the workers to push you while you sat felt cheap and sad, just a step aside of pushing dollars into the g-strings of the strippers in clubs just off the Boardwalk. It felt too much like buying and discarding someone’s self respect to be considered fun. The swanky mall built on one of the old amusement piers had more shuttered than open stores. The family restaurant I worked in thirty years ago is now a tiny dollar store run by a man angry that I was just looking for old times’ sake. Plenty of “We Buy Gold” and pawn shops nearby, however. Though touted as a nouveau cuisine destination in ads, the only lines I saw were for people challenging the economics of the $7.98 all-you-can-eat buffet.

    Where to Lucy?

    There are always things that hint at optimism. Atlantic City survived Hurricane Sandy with little damage. The Hard Rock was doing good business with three dollar Miller Lite’s. Caesar’s had set up a glitzy room for Asian gamblers, complete with Chinese-speaking dealers and table games from Macau. Everyone turned from the old guys pushing the rolling chairs to see where the young guy running across the hot sand carrying two ice creams cones was headed.

    The average American worker never earned as much again as in the peak year of 1973. Poverty rates also reached a historic low in 1973 and have risen steadily thereafter. One out of five American kids now lives in a household that cannot feed itself. Aside from it all, Lucy the Elephant still stands her post, unblinking and silent. She looks out over the Boardwalk, maybe America itself, and wonders where we are all headed.







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    Jesus to Trump: Drop Dead

    April 24, 2011 // Comments Off on Jesus to Trump: Drop Dead

    Jesus to Trump: Drop Dead Happy Easter: Trump demands long form resurrection certificate.







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