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Topic: Political Power

A Stampede of Charities has Canceled Planned Fundraising Events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club
8/21/2017 6:44:52 PM

James Hohmann at the Washington Post has reported that charities are pulling away from Trump after his terrible remarks about Charlottesville where he equated neo-Nazis with those opposed to them. This will hurt Trump where it hurts. And the more this is advertised the more it will happen. So tell others about this, speak up against Trump in personal conversations. Have the courage to speak your mind. This is the only way the political context can be changed so that we can rid of this clown of a president.
Afraid of losing major contributors, a stampede of charities has canceled planned fundraising events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida:

On Thursday, the Cleveland Clinic, American Cancer Society and American Friends of Magen David Adom pulled out. On Friday, the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and Susan G. Komen joined them.

On Saturday, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach canceled its dinner dance that had been scheduled for next March. This alone probably represents a quarter-million in lost revenue.

On Sunday, the Palm Beach Zoo and an elder care organization called MorseLife both announced that they will not hold their annual fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago.

Both the Palm Beach Habilitation Center and the Kravis Center are calling emergency board meetings for early this week to discuss whether to keep their events at the club, per today’s Palm Beach Post.

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Trump is a Drama Queen: Weak and Sniveling; Whiny, Weepy, Self-Pitying. But Fox News Loves Him
8/11/2017 4:11:54 PM

Peggy Noonan is a prominent conservative columnist who was a speech writer for Ronald Reagan. On July 27, 2017, she published an article about Trump in the Wall Street Journal. It is an absolute, complete attack on the very character of the man. It should give every Republican in Congress a sense of the truth about this man so they can get rid of him as soon as possible. Here is a part of the column:
The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.

Half the president’s tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn. “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their president.” The brutes. Actually they’ve been laboring to be loyal to him since Inauguration Day. “The Republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is.” True, but neither does Mr. Trump, who seems unsure of its content. In just the past two weeks, of the press, he complained: “Every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!” Journalists produce “highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting.” They are “DISTORTING DEMOCRACY.” They “fabricate the facts.”

It’s all whimpering accusation and finger-pointing: Nobody’s nice to me. Why don’t they appreciate me?

Meanwhile, over at Fox News they are not listening to Peggy Noonan. Fox has become the Trump mouthpiece. Conservative commentator Max Boot writing at Foreign Policy says:
Fox is ever more firmly entrenched in the official echo chamber of Trump Nation — and ever more divorced from reality. The National Enquirer, owned by Trump friend David Pecker, is Trump’s Pravda (its recent cover story: “Hillary Framed Trump Family! How she set up Donald’s son with dirt file emails!”). Breitbart, once chaired by Trump aide Stephen Bannon, is his Sputnik. Fox is the jewel in the crown — Trump’s own version of RT. “A lot of people wish President Trump was a dictator,” Fox host Jesse Watters said on July 27. Perhaps at Fox “News.”

In fairness, there are solid, straight-down-the-middle reporters at Fox such as Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Shepherd Smith, and a few, increasingly marginalized, commentators such as Charles Krauthammer, Ralph Peters, and Steve Hayes who are critical of Trump. But their work is drowned out by the screeching chorus of Trump toadies that dominates Fox’s evening and morning schedule.

While other networks are covering Trump’s myriad setbacks and scandals, Fox presents an alternative reality in which the bumbling president is close to infallible (except when he splits with fellow populist Jeff Sessions), his critics are “snowflakes,” and the biggest threat facing America is, depending on the day of the week, either the Hillary Clinton email scandal, “the war on Christmas,” or “political correctness.” It’s all too reminiscent of the Soviet-era TV stations that ran stories about record grain harvests even as grocery shelves were bare.

Bill O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. time slot has been taken by Tucker Carlson, a smirking preppy with a perpetual look of befuddlement on his face as if he had just misplaced his bowtie. He is even more unpleasant than his blowhard predecessor, as I discovered when I appeared on his show July 12. It was, as I later wrote, like having “a barrel of raw sewage dumped on my head.”

Just before I came on, Carlson and his guest, Mark Steyn, had been chortling over the news that Donald Trump Jr. had eagerly met with Russian representatives promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Collusion with a foreign power to fix a U.S. election? What a hoot! When I tried to argue that Russia is actually a major threat to America, Carlson replied that it’s not even in the top five. I never did get to find out what he considers a bigger menace than a country with 7,300 nuclear weapons under the command of an anti-American dictator, because Carlson was too busy spewing ad hominem insults against me. I could barely get in a word edgewise. This is Carlson’s standard shtick and it gets ratings, but it makes his show utterly unwatchable for anyone who has not drank the Trump Kool-Aid.

It scarcely seems possible, but Carlson is exceeded in his devotion to Trump by the host of Fox’s 10 p.m. hour: Sean Hannity, the president’s de facto minister of information. Every night Hannity will peddle whatever line serves Dear Leader’s interests, no matter how risible or odious. Lately, for example, he has been accusing Robert Mueller — a decorated Marine combat veteran who is universally revered for his service as a prosecutor and FBI director — of committing crimes that would justify his ouster as the Kremlingate special counsel. Mueller’s biggest sin? Hiring a few prosecutors who donated to Democratic campaigns — even though Trump himself has given four times as much to Democrats as all of Mueller’s lawyers combined. The official party line, enunciated every night by Comrade Hannity, is faithfully echoed and extended every morning by the blow-dried apparatchiks on Fox and Friends, the president’s favorite morning show.

A vicious feedback loop has developed. Fox airs implausible claims, e.g., speculating that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that was guilty of interference in the U.S. election, or asserting that Russia was really rooting for Hillary Clinton to win. (So Putin helped Trump because he secretly wanted him to lose? Got it!) An inveterate TV watcher, Trump echoes Fox’s fantasies in his own tweets and remarks. Fox, in turn, cites the president as confirmation for its made-up stories. As Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan notes, it’s a “perpetual motion machine of bullshit.”

One of the most offensive stories ginned up by this propaganda apparatus concerned a Democratic National Committee staffer named Seth Rich who was murdered in Washington last summer. His case remains unsolved; D.C. police believe that he was the victim of a street robbery. Without an iota of evidence, Hannity and his fellow-travelers at Fox — including business anchor Lou Dobbs and commentator Newt Gingrich — suggested that Rich was bumped off by a DNC hit squad because he, rather than Russian hackers, was the source of leaked DNC emails. These cruel claims inflicted pain and suffering on Rich’s family, and were eventually retracted by Fox. But the purveyors of this fake news suffered no consequences.

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Disgusting: Trump Attacks American Institutions in Speech to Boy Scouts
7/25/2017 3:39:13 PM

After speaking about the country which cares about the rule of law rather than a banana republic where everything revolves around a single strongman, a Washington Post editorial goes on to say:
To list those basic expectations is to understand how low Mr. Trump is bringing his office. Just in the past few days, he urged Navy men and women to call Congress on behalf of his political goals and turned the National Scout Jamboree into an unseemly political rally, calling the nation’s politics a “cesspool” and a “sewer”and disparaging his predecessor and the media. Routinely he trades in untruths, even after they have been exposed and disproved. He has launched an unprecedented rhetorical assault on the independence of the Justice Department, the FBI and the special counsel’s office — and now he is again threatening his defeated 2016 opponent.
I watched part of his speech to the Boy Scouts. It was hard to hear. He attacked America's institutions, the free press, voting, and bragged about how he won the election. I just sat and grimaced as I watched this wretched man speak.

The people who voted for Donald Trump put an acknowledged serial sexual predator before America's youth. The country is in the midst of the most serious moral decline I have ever witnessed.

With the Washington Post I use a word for this: disgusting.

Over at Common Dreams the speech was compared to a Hitler youth rally. Julia Conley writes:
The annual Boy Scout Jamboree faced comparisons to a Hitler Youth Rally following President Donald Trump's speech at the event on Monday night. The president spoke to 24,000 Scouts ranging in age from 12 to 18, as eight presidents have before him. Unlike previous presidents, however, Trump appeared to view the event as an opportunity to slam his political opponents and the news media, call for "loyalty," and rail against the "cesspool" of Washington, D.C., as the audience cheered.

As he did in May while delivering a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Trump chose to focus on his own struggles in the White House and recall his victory in the 2016 election, turning an historically non-partisan event that generally focuses on public service into a campaign rally.

The Scouts, who Trump addressed as "young patriots," erupted in cheers of "USA! USA!" as the president brought up familiar talking points from his campaign and his first six months in office. He spoke about his effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the war on political correctness ("Under the Trump administration, you will be saying, 'Merry Christmas again'"), and interrupted his own recitation of the Scout's Law to bring up his well-documented need for loyalty from his administration: "As the Scout Law says: 'A Scout is trustworthy, loyal'...we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that."

In addition to breaking with tradition, Trump's speech appears to have broken the Boy Scouts of Amercia (BSA)'s long-standing rule regarding Boy Scout's participation in political events.

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Republicans Fail Entirely on Health Care; Trump Turns Against His Voters
7/18/2017 1:43:21 PM

The last serious health care plan to replace Obamacare has failed, yesterday, and today even the effort to simply repeal Obamacare is going to fail because three female Republican Senators have said they won't vote for that. The New York Times reports:
With their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in tatters, Senate leaders on Tuesday pushed to vote on a different measure that would repeal major parts of President Barack Obama’s health law without a replacement — but that plan appeared also to collapse. Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, all Republicans, immediately declared they could not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement — enough to doom the effort before it could get any momentum. “I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Ms. Capito said in a statement. “I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.” Senator Rob Portman of Ohio hinted strongly that he too would oppose it.
Then Trump tweeted that he would just let Obamacare fail. He would not follow the law, apparently, since Obamacare is the law of the land. And allowing it to fail means that Trump is not only breaking his promise to provide even better health care than Obamacare, but he would be taking away the program that is vitally necessary for millions of the people who voted for him.

His voters will know it when they get the notice from their health care plan that it is cancelled. They will know it when their child gets a serious illness, and the clinic informs them they are no longer covered. They will find out when all of a sudden they can no longer get the chemo treatment for their cancer. They will know it in rural areas when the local hospital closes down for lack of income to keep going. Obamacare, the expansion of Medicaid and the support for individual plans through the exchanges, makes a big difference in lives of millions who otherwise will not be able to afford medical treatment.

Republicans have been saying they are willing to take all that away for those people in order to lower taxes for rich people who will hardly notice the benefits that Republicans want to give them. Now, their effort is over and it is completely uncertain what will happen now.

We don't know yet exactly what Trump means by saying he will let Obamacare fail. Trump actually entered into what can only be called crazy talk: “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”

Trump apparently believes the American people do not know he is the president and Republicans hold the power in both the House and the Senate. They are going to know exactly who to blame when their health care plans break down because Trump refuses to follow the law. Many people voted for him because he promised better and cheaper health care. He is turning his back on them.

Trump likes to think of himself as a disrupter. Steve Bannon plots ways to "deconstruct the administrative state." Well, now the American people are learning what that means. Their lives, and the lives of their family members, are now at risk. This is not making America great.

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Trump Had Morality Hammered Out of Him by His Family History
7/14/2017 2:26:28 PM

David Brooks writes a remarkable article today in the New York Times. It gives some history of the Trump family, the grandfather from Germany, the father. The bible talks about the "sins of the fathers" being visited upon later generations. Well, the sins of these fathers have led to a very big, fat problem for the United States. It is stuck with a president with no moral sense, no guiding internal moral compass that tells him what is right and wrong, despite whether he may be winning or losing a deal.

After giving some of the family history Brooks says:
I repeat this history because I don’t think moral obliviousness is built in a day. It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing; to take the normal human yearning to be good and replace it with a single-minded desire for material conquest; to take the normal human instinct for kindness and replace it with a law-of-the-jungle mentality.

It took a few generations of the House of Trump, in other words, to produce Donald Jr. The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life.
In the 1980s there was a brief period when there was quite a lot of discussion of "business ethics" and "corporate social responsibility". It has been a long time since I have heard or read either of these terms. I look at books on my shelf with such titles and wonder whatever happened to the idea that when you work in business you still have to function with a conscience, as sense of right and wrong. You still have to act in a moral manner. Now, it seems, "finance" rules all; everything, absolutely everything, boils down to mathematics. Money is mathematics and in any deal I have to come out on top. No matter how many people are hurt, if I make money then I am all right. That's the business logic of the day. And such a person has been elected president. And now his son has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar of political corruption and Don Jr. says "its only business". Brooks writes:
Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.
A libertarian legal scholar by the name of Eugene Volokh has even argued at the Washington Post that it certainly can't be a crime to do what Don Jr. did. He starts his piece with an abstract analogy about a Hillary Clinton staffer being offered a juicy tidbit about a Slovakian Miss Universe contestant who claims to have been sexually harassed by Donald Trump. He says that the first amendment could not be interpreted to deny the staffer the opportunity to use this information, therefore, Donald Trump Jr. is complete free of legal liability here.

Note this is a "libertarian" lawyer. That tells you a lot. That tells you that the person has a mental mindset which says: whatever the individual person wants to do or has done is what is good and right and true. Now, that's an overstatement, but overstatements are what libertarian writers do all the time. It is almost always the case that the community, its infrastructure and institutions, are wrong, and the free-floating solitary individual is right.

Eugene Volokh uses his brain power to try to justify Donald Jr.'s actions. Yes, I know. He is talking about whether an actual crime was committed. But this is the point with libertarians today. If it's not a crime then it is OK. There is hardly any recognition of morality, that things may be wrong due to ethical considerations. It is that lack of recognition that leads to the need for more and more law, more and more legalism, because people don't have within themselves any longer an internal sense of what is right and wrong to do to others.

And ethics has everything to do with context. Eugene Volokh fails to reckon with the context of Don Jr.'s actions. What he did must be seen within the context of the Trump campaign receiving the active, substantial support from the Russian government. The analogy with a Clinton staffer has no logical standing as an argument here, it is just an abstract effort to clear Don Jr. of any crime. But when you consider Don Jr.'s actions in relation to many, many further actions taken by Trump's campaign team to be revealed in coming days and their collusion with the Russians all of a sudden a pattern emerges which may well be able to called "criminal".

I wonder why Eugene Volokh is so eager to excuse him so easily. I also wonder why the Washington Post is publishing this kind of libertarian nonsense. That may be because the new owner of the Post, Jeff Bezos, is thought himself to be a libertarian, has contributed to the libertarian magazine, Reason, but not a libertarian Republican or conservative. For example, he supports gay marriage and lives in a very liberal city, Seattle, Washington.

Volokh claims that his blog section is "conservative, libertarian, and centrist." But there are huge contradictions in all three of these terms. Volokh, and some of the other writers in his blog section, seem to me to be extremist libertarians. They ought to let themselves be informed by a real conservative, David Brooks.

And keep this in mind. If there was greater morality in business these days, there could be fewer rules, fewer laws. What makes the need for laws is immorality. Watch out now. With the immoral Donald Trump in charge we can expect that there will be much more law and government needed to keep him in check.

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Trump and the Russian Mafia
7/13/2017 4:36:28 PM

Years ago, in fact, many, many years ago, I remember reading an article about why it is that young girls jump up and down and squeal at rock concerts, such as the Beatles. The answer was that they, the Beatles, were rich. I thought it a little strange. It wasn't the music, what made them exciting was how rich they were. Most of us might disagree.

But there is no question that in this society wealth is worshipped. If everyone at a party knows you are wealthy and you walk into the room heads turn your way. Business magazines like to report on the richest individuals and how important they are.

But it is possible to ask questions about how rich persons have made their money. Donald Trump has a troop of people who worship him and jump up and down with glee at his political rallies. But do they know how he got so rich? Have they asked questions about the man they adore?

Trump claims he has had little to do with Russia over the years. No real connections, he says. But as with so much of what he says, these are lies. There is a great deal of information about Trump and the Russian mafia, how he helped them launder money in his various real estate deals. In fact, without Russian money Trump would not be where he is today.

Craig Unger has written a long article about this in The New Republic. I encourage you to read the whole article. You will find that Donald Trump is not worthy of worship.

Here is an excerpt:
A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part.

Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

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Trump Didn’t Win the Working Class. The Democrats Lost It
7/8/2017 8:04:30 PM

Over the fourth of July holiday we were able to visit with various younger folks we had never met before. If Trump's name was mentioned people tended to shake their heads with wonder and say something like, "how did this happen?" I have also read similar sentiment again and again.

In fact, I recently read that the reason House and Senate Republicans have not been able to come up with an alternative health care plan is that they didn't expect Trump to win; they didn't think they were going to be in the position of having to actually develop a serious proposal. Even though they have been hollering and screaming against Obamacare for years and claiming they had a plan the fact is they had no plan at all. In fact, Obamacare is the conservative approach to health care insurance.

So the Democratic Party did not propose a real Democratic approach to health care, which did not even include a public option. The "single payer" supporters, of which there were (and are) many, were not even allowed into the room for beginning discussion of Obamacare. For this, and a thousand other reasons, Democrats have been losing elections because they don't run candidates who can articulate the feelings and needs of real people and its working class base.

Paul Street at TruthDig has written an article about this based on analysis of voting data. It's wrong to say, as so many in the media do today, that the working class has moved to Trump. It mostly didn't vote at all. It's a good article. Here is part of it:
The dismal Democrats have been losing white working-class votes for decades across the long neoliberal era because the party has abandoned workers’ lunch-pail economic issues and the language of class in pursuit of corporate sponsorship and votes from the professional class. But there was no mass white working-class outpouring for Trump.

Clinton’s miserable, centrist campaign and Obama’s neoliberal legacy depressed working- and lower-class voter turnout, opening the door for Trump to squeak by—with no small help from racist voter suppression in key states.

Slate writers Konstantin Kilibarda and Daria Roithmayr got it right three weeks after the election. “Donald Trump didn’t flip working-class white voters,” they wrote. “Hillary Clinton lost them. … Relative to the 2012 election, Democratic support in the key Rust Belt states [Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin] collapsed as a huge number of Democrats stayed home or (to a lesser extent) voted for a third party.” The decline of working-class Democratic voters between 2012 and 2016 was much bigger than the rise of working-class Republican voters in the “Rust Belt Five.” Among those earning less than $50,000 a year there, the decline in Democratic voting was 3.5 times greater than the rise in Republican voting. Among white voters in general, the decline in Democratic voting was 2.1 times greater than the growth in Republican voting.

The most relevant factor behind Trump’s success in winning over the majority of “white working-class” voters was the decision by so many in the working class not to vote at all, given the neoliberal nothingness of the onetime purported “party of the people.” This is the truth behind Bernie Sanders’ recent statement to the People’s Summit in Chicago: “Trump didn’t win the election. The Democratic Party lost the election.”

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Politics is a Knife Fight with No Rules, Says Grover Norquist
6/23/2017 6:54:32 PM

Some things stay with you. Especially violence, either real or spoken. I remember reading years ago something that Grover Norquist said to a convention of young Republicans: "There are no rules in a knife fight."

Now, Norquist has been said to be the most powerful man in Washington D.C. He has forced nearly all Republican politicians in that city to sign pledges not to raise taxes. He has been at this for three decades or so. And those Republicans have been faithful to Norquist, they have not raised taxes and right now the Republican controlled Senate is about to take health care away from millions of lower income and elderly folks in order to give a huge tax break to the wealthiest Americans (the ones who paid those Republicans so much money for their campaigns in the first place). It is a racket, and lots of people get hurt.

But that's what Grover Norquist knows, politics does not have to do with principles, with ethics, with notions of right and wrong, or even with laws when it comes down to it. No, politics is a knife fight with no rules. It's violence. You do violence to your opponent in order to win, that's what Republican leaders are told.

So when an act of violence is done by someone from the liberal side of the political spectrum it is unusual. In fact, conservatives accuse liberals of being too "nice" and not doing what's necessary to get one's way. So when James Hodgkinson raised his gun and shot some Republicans playing baseball last week you would have thought that some of them, at least, would remember that politics is a knife fight, and would say Hodgkinson is just exercising his second amendment right to attack government tyranny.

But, no, on Fox News liberals were accused of being the violent ones. Here is Joshua Holland:
In the wake of the mass shooting in suburban Virginia last week that left House majority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others wounded, conservatives have been furiously waving the bloody shirt. With left-wing hate filling half the screen, Sean Hannity blamed Democrats, saying they “dehumanize Republicans and paint them as monsters.” Tucker Carlson claimed that “some on the hard left” support political violence because it “could lead to the dissolution of a country they despise.” Others have blamed seemingly anything even vaguely identified with liberalism for inciting the violence—from Madonna to MSNBC to Shakespeare in the Park.

This is all a truly remarkable example of projection. In the wake of the shooting, Erick Erickson wrote a piece titled, “The Violence is Only Getting Started,” as if three innocent people hadn’t been brutally murdered by white supremacists in two separate incidents in just the past month.

In the real world, since the end of the Vietnam era, the overwhelming majority of serious political violence—not counting vandalism or punches thrown at protests, but violence with lethal intent—has come from the fringes of the right. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project says that “if you go back to the 1960s, you see all kinds of left-wing terrorism, but since then it’s been exceedingly rare.” She notes that eco- and animal-rights extremists caused extensive property damage in the 1990s, but didn’t target people.
One of those incidents referred to above happened in my town, Portland, Oregon. A thirty five year old Neo-Nazi named Jeremy Christian, on a Max train, slashed the throats of three men who were trying to get him to stop harassing a young black girl and a young Muslim girl. Two of these men died, one with a four children, the other had just graduated from Reed College.

Jeremy Christian may not have heard Grover Norquist say politics is a knife fight, but that idea got into his brain somehow, and it is carried in right wing and Republican political banter. Here is a Tweet from libertarian Senator Rand Paul: "@Judgenap: Why do we have a Second Amendment? It's not to shoot deer. It's to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical! (9:48 AM - 23 Jun 2016)."

Last year I went to Burns, Oregon, when Ammon Bundy took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and called for armed men to come to the city and force the federal government to turn over public lands to the local county. I talked to many local residents and they hated the fact that armed men were parading around town trying to look like they were in charge because they carried guns and looked mean and nasty. These were not liberals being violent. These were hard right believers in the power of gun violence to get their way.

Incidents like these are a sign of the disintegration of the moral fabric of this nation. Too many people have given up on politics as it should be conducted. They agree with Grover Norquist, politics is just a knife fight. Too many people no longer believe in the very basic principles of the country, the rule of law. People vote for Donald Trump, a man who flips his middle finger at the law, the courts, the traditions of the country. People seem to want a big, strong, man willing to use violence to get his way.

Well, it didn't work for Jeremy Christian, he's in jail. It didn't work for James Hodgkinson; he was shot dead. It may be that Grover Norquist's time will pass and voters will put people who signed his pledge out to pasture. And Donald Trump himself may end up in jail if he keeps doing what he is doing.

Violence finally does not work. That's why there continues to be something called "church" still around after more than two thousand years. One called Jesus was killed by the power of the Roman empire on a cross of violence. But that empire is long gone. Those today who use violence in his name are really anti-Christians. Jesus reveals another way.
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This Should Happen All Over:  Union Ironworker Has a Plan to Beat Paul Ryan
6/21/2017 6:48:04 PM

Some years ago I learned that Rahm Emanuel, when he was in the position of choosing Democratic candidates to run for the House of Representatives, would not provide support from the national party for a candidate who ran on a platform of opposition to the Iraq war. Emanuel liked "corporate Democrats" like Bill Clinton, those who didn't really advocate for working people or peace or economic justice. And that's one reason we have the Democratic Party we have today. It left working people behind in favor of professionals with a college education and thus open to the charge of being elitist. Enough of those folks voted for Donald Trump to beat Hillary Clinton. Trump said he was going to be the voice of those who have been forgotten.

That, of course, is nonsense. Trump is a con man, a salesman who will say whatever is necessary to get what he wants. Working folks, people living in rural areas, are being snubbed by Trump and his priorities. They will lose their health care if he gets his way, they won't get jobs back, they will not enjoy adequate income policies.

And Democrats don't seem to know how to get decent candidates to run for office, candidates who are actually Democratic in their understanding of political philosophy and tradition.

So I have been encouraging people to run for office. Pastors and laypersons, people of faith, school teachers, social workers, and union organizers and members. We need lots of people running in Democratic primaries, pushing each other, debating the issues, coming up with new ideas. What we don't need is negative party professionals trying to decide who is the best candidate to run in a district.

That's why I was happy to see an article by John Nichols in The Nation.
Randy Bryce thinks Paul Ryan is vulnerable to a challenge that offers voters a genuine, working-class alternative to the gold-plated speaker of the House. The union ironworker, who is challenging the most powerful Republican in Congress, is onto something. He recognizes that Ryan, a political careerist who had spent the better part of three decades as a Republican aide and congressman, represents southeastern Wisconsin’s first congressional district in name only.

The speaker of the House is still officially identified as Paul Ryan, R-Janesville. But everyone who is paying attention knows that the congressman serves as Paul Ryan, R–Wall Street. Bryce has never run for Congress before. He is one of several Democrats who are either running, or looking to run, against an incumbent who will be lugging Donald Trump’s political baggage in 2018. But the veteran union activist has gained lots of attention, and substantial support, since the launch of a strikingly well-framed challenge to Ryan that goes to the heart of the speaker’s vulnerabilities.
If you are a young person looking for some way to make a difference, consider going to volunteer for someone like Randy Bryce. It's a whole new world in politics these days. We need a huge outpouring of people to overcome the terribly negative politics of the Republican Party and Donald Trump which are now literally wrecking the country.
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Trump is Too Ignorant to be President; Doesn't Even Know What Christians Believe
6/16/2017 1:29:54 PM

Max Boot, writing at Foreign Policy, says: "I’m starting to suspect that Donald Trump may not have been right when he said, 'You know, I’m like a smart person.' The evidence continues to mount that he is far from smart — so far, in fact, that he may not be capable of carrying out his duties as president."

Boot is a conservative columnist. He is not saying he disagrees with the policies of Trump. He is saying that Trump is literally dumb. Would you go to a doctor with a reputation for being stupid? And it's not just Max Boot. Mr. Conservative himself, George Will, thinks the same about Trump.

Notice how Trump will say things like "This is a great health care bill, just wonderful." But if asked to explain what is in the bill he stammers and changes the topic. Recently he actually said of the bill passed by the House that it was "mean spirited", and that was later after he held a big ceremony outside the White House to celebrate its passage.

But what especially caught my attention is that Trump does not even know that there are different forms of Christian faith. Here is what Boot says:
There is, for example, the story of how Trump met with the pastors of two major Presbyterian churches in New York. “I did very, very well with evangelicals in the polls,” he bragged. When the pastors told Trump they weren’t evangelicals, he demanded to know, “What are you then?” They told him they were mainline Presbyterians. “But you’re all Christians?” he asked. Yes, they had to assure him, Presbyterians are Christians. The kicker: Trump himself is Presbyterian.
Trump years ago attended the New York church of Norman Vincent Peale who didn't even preach Christian faith but rather what he called "the power of positive thinking." And the so-called "evangelicals" these days have given up most of the actual Christian faith in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation. If you ask them today what they believe they may well say "we are against abortion" or "we are opposed to gay people getting married" or "we are opposed to government and taxes because we want rich people to give their money to our churches." Well, Trump may know that he has to have these sorts of attitudes to appeal to the religious right today. But this is not Christianity.

Mainline Presbyterians, like the other mainline churches like the Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, and others, along with the Pope and Roman Catholics, all support "care for creation" and want governments to implement programs concerning climate changes. But not Trump, he doesn't know what his own church would urge him to do. Boot writes:
Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord apparently because he thinks that global warming — a scientifically proven fact — is a hoax. His speech announcing the pullout demonstrated that he has no understanding of what the Paris accord actually is — a nonbinding compact that does not impose any costs on the United States.
Trump has no intellectual core beliefs. The man needs praise and respect. And the more he fails to receive respect the more desperate he becomes. Steven Colbert is getting huge ratings every night with his jokes about Trump. Very large numbers of people are laughing at him. It's not just that he doesn't get respect, he is laughed at by lots and lots of people, and especially the young. This is, indeed, to me, to use one of Trump's favorite words, "sad". It's sad to have such a person in the White House. And dangerous. Dangerous because a president has a great deal of power that can hurt people. And a wounded person like Trump may well lash out at others. In fact, this seems to be what he is doing, only to further hurt himself.

The degree to which the man needs praise from others was demonstrated this week. Trump called a cabinet meeting and allowed the press to come in and record each department head speaking in glowing terms about Trump and what an honor it was to work for him. Trump claimed to have had more success than any other president, except for FDR who faced a depression. It was all so obsequious it made you want to barf.

The Presbyterian religious leaders Trump was talking to must be feeling rather bewildered that one who claims to be one of their own is so ignorant not only about faith but everything else as well. The man has been able to get through life by surrounding himself with people who will mouth their praise. Trump does have a keen sense about how to attack others, people who don't give him praise, and those who not so powerful, minorities, immigrants, refugees. I watched his stump speeches during the campaign. It is sickening to watch a person in a powerful position verbally attack the weak again and again.

At some point even some of those working in the White House who know him best may well turn on him, as David Remnick suggests in the New Yorker. Ignorance that is also mean and nasty deserves no respect.

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It Can Happen Here
6/13/2017 6:24:00 PM

A candidate for president of the United States formally launches his campaign by demonizing undocumented Mexican immigrants and demanding a 30-foot wall along the entire U.S.-Mexican border. He swells his following by attacking the free press as an enemy and hangs demeaning nicknames on all his rivals. He lies repeatedly about urban crime rates and urban voter fraud. He refuses all customary vetting of his taxes and financial holdings and conducts ugly rallies punctuated by violence.

He seals his triumph in the primaries by proposing to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. He urges his crowds to chant about imprisoning the Democratic candidate and promises to punish judges who oppose his illegal and unconstitutional mandates. He tells the Republican Convention that he alone can solve America’s problems. He praises dictators, especially Russia’s dictator, and denigrates democratic leaders. When charged by many women of sexual abuse, he claims that all are lying, even though he has boasted of sexually assaulting women.

In office, he governs as he campaigned. He uses the presidency to enrich his family, claiming he is above the law. He fills his cabinet with plutocrats and appoints a white nationalist as a top adviser. He bashes the news media. His rallies continue to feature crude repetitions, personal attacks on nonsupporters, and appeals to “the people” (meaning only the people who support him). Persistently he acknowledges as true or real only whatever serves his immediate interest. He fires the FBI director for investigating too vigorously Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
The above three paragraphs are the way Gary Dorrien begins his review in the Christian Century of a book by Timothy Snyder called On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Dorrien teaches at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. I read Snyder's 2010 book called Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. How dictators come about is his particular expertise. And the title of Sinclair Lewis's book "It can't happen here" is not true, it, that is, authoritarian government, can happen in this country. Just look at the current president who has utter disdain for representative government.

Dorrien writes:
Yale historian Timothy Snyder has been writing books for 25 years on how democracies perished in Eastern and Central Europe in the 1930s. He does not believe that history repeats itself or that the current American president is an outright fascist. On the other hand, he believes the nation has never been an exception to history and thinks believing in American exceptionalism at this moment is dangerous. The parallels between Europe then and the United States today are alarming to Snyder, so shortly after the 2016 election he posted a Facebook entry about how to defend liberal democracies from tyrants. He offered 20 lessons, the post went viral, and soon there was a book version...

Read the whole article here.

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Surprise Victory for Social Democracy in England
6/9/2017 4:18:13 PM

A decade ago, when we lived in the state of Washington, a friend of mine, Roger Erickson, and I were delegates from our county to the state Democratic convention. This is a gathering of the most active and interested Democrats involved in the party. There were a number of workshops for us delegates to attend. We went to one where a political consultant spoke. He told us that, unfortunately, when it comes to thinking about how to win an election for a Democratic candidate what we (active Democrats) thought did not mean much. There are Republicans and Democrats but the people who decide elections are the independents. So candidates have to design their campaign messages and priorities to what polls indicate are the concerns of the independents.

Wow, I thought, real politics isn't even concerned for actual Democrats and what they believe. The professional political consultants now control politics, what is said, what candidates run on. And as Republicans have moved more and more to the right, so have independents, and Democrats. The result is that Democrats moved away from their historic base, actual, real working people in cities and farms across the country. We saw the result in the last election. Enough of these folks voted for Trump to elect him.

But the opposite just happened in Great Britain. There also there has been a move to the right for decades. But in a special election yesterday, the labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn, ran a strong social democratic platform and won many more votes than expected creating a situation where the conservative party no longer has a majority which creates much more political uncertainty in the country. A significant shift has occurred, which I think can happen also in this country.

Bhaskar Sunkara at Jacobin magazine writes about how Corbyn did so much better than expected yesterday. Corbyn was like Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election here. He articulated a straight-forward social democratic vision for the county, not by focusing only on independents or the so-called "center". Here is some of the analysis in the article:
The Labour left remembered that you don’t win by tacking to an imaginary center — you win by letting people know you feel their anger and giving them a constructive end to channel it towards. “We demand the full fruits of our labor,” the party’s election video said it all.

If the immediate economic program of Labour was inspiring, the leadership also revived a vision of social-democratic politics that looks beyond capitalism. The most striking thing about Corbynism isn’t that it’s run-of-the-mill welfare capitalism in an era where neoliberalism rules supreme, but that its protagonists see the inherent limits of reforms under capitalism and discuss ideas that aim to expand the scope of democracy and challenge capital’s ownership and control, not just its wealth. What other post-Golden Age, center-left party has drafted plans to expand the cooperative sector, create community-owned enterprises, and restore the state’s control of key sectors of the economy?

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Montana Republican So Afraid of the Press that He Attacks Reporter
5/26/2017 1:54:01 PM

The fact that Montana Republican candidate Greg Gianforte was ready to physically attack a reporter for asking a question on health care reveals a characteristic of Republicans in general and how they get elected. (Gianforte won the election.) Gianforte had not taken a position on the health care bill the House has passed and sent to the Senate. He was hoping to get elected without having to take a position. He had been making the excuse that he was waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to come out with its "score" of the bill. Well, when the CBO released its report the reporter asks Gianforte, the day before the election, what he thinks about 23 million people losing their health coverage, as the report concluded.

This put Gianforte in a box, he couldn't get away with not taking a position anymore, and this made him mad. So he attacks the reporter who, on behalf of the electorate, is asking a very legitimate question.

The same thing has happened with Republicans on the abortion issue. When they actually are forced to clearly reveal their position the voters don't like it. We are now in a situation in this country that a small minority of men are trying to limit abortion for women, large numbers of whom want access to contraception and abortion. Republicans have been successful getting elected without letting people know their real positions.

A few years ago I was involved with a local state election in which a Republican candidate literally believed that the devil had taken over the public schools. When this became known he took the pages down from his website. He didn't want voters to know how opposed he was to public schools. He did lose that election.

This has gotten so bad that we have to say we have minority rule in this country. Leaders who get into office by systematically lying or not telling voters their actual positions will end up damaging the country in the end. We are well down that road now. We have a child president who literally doesn't have the ability to think beyond what he hopes is the devotion of others to himself. He can't make decisions based on what's best for the country or the people. He has no idea what that would be. He got elected by angry people who themselves don't know how best to organize society, they just want somebody to be tough. But voting for people who won't tell you what they are for is not going to lead to a country we want to live in.

Update: Health care became the number one issue in this campaign, even above the economy. This portends real trouble for Republicans in coming elections. They have been attacking Obamacare for eight years, yet when it comes to actually proposing an alternative they can't seem to do it. The fact is, they want to reduce taxes for the wealthy, and really don't want to provide health care to people who can't afford it. And why can't people afford it? Because business people take so much profit for themselves and don't pay their workers what they are worth. See The Inercept.
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Management by Terror: Stalin and Trump
5/10/2017 7:16:33 PM

One of the first newspaper headlines I consciously remember was in huge letters and read: "Stalin Dead." It was in 1953 and my father and I were in St. Paul, Minnesota. He had gone into an apartment complex to check on available rentals (we were in the process of moving to St. Paul; I was in the sixth grade). I was outside on the sidewalk and saw a newsstand with a paper with that headline. When my father returned I asked him who Stalin was and he told me he had governed Russia from about the 1920s. It was all a bit mysterious to me. When an important public figure dies he gets big print in the newspaper. Later on my first job was delivering that paper, the St. Paul/Pioneer Press.

I am thinking about Stalin because his administrative style may be similar to Trump's. Stalin did not give direct instructions to the people who worked for him. The reason was that then he would have had to share responsibility for what his staff did. Rather, the staff had to try to figure out what Stalin wanted, do it, and then Stalin would determine if he liked it or not. If he did, then the staff lived another day. If not, then that staff member went to Siberia or worse. That style, of course, created terror in the hearts and minds of his underlings. But for Stalin it worked well; he maintained absolute control over his people.

I have just read an account in the Washington Post entitled "After Trump fired Comey, White House staff scrambled to explain why" by Jenna Johnson. Apparently, Trump didn't bother to explain what he was doing to his communications staff. At least, when you read the article, poor Sean Spicer tries first to avoid the press entirely, then stammers and stutters incoherently trying to answer the obvious questions of reporters. He hasn't been told anything. He has to guess why Trump did what he did. He seems to make stuff up, trying to show he knows what he is talking about when he really doesn't.

Those of you who may have voted for Trump, you really do have some responsibility now to think about what Trump is doing to the country. He is acting like an authoritarian dictator who must absolutely control everybody around him. A person like James Comey acting independently according to the law is not tolerable for Donald Trump. And this is terribly dangerous for a democratic country. If those who voted for Trump turn against him they can help to raise citizen awareness and support for an impeachment process.
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Of Course Obama Wiretapped Trump
3/21/2017 1:53:32 PM

Several times now I have heard Donald Trump say that he likes to Tweet because he can send a message directly to his supporters without having to rely on the media to filter his words. He even said it at the disastrous press conference with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, where Trump himself conducted himself in such a way as to tell the world he hated being president. The look on his face was so anguished I wondered how long it would be before he will give it up and resign.

But the idea he can say anything he wants to his supporters and they will believe him raises a serious question about who these supporters are. Trump thinks of them as blind believers, willing to believe anything, as long as it stimulates anger and hatred at his opponents. That's what his believers need, partisan anger and hatred. They don't want thinking, they don't want logic, they don't want facts, they don't even want Trump to consider what is best for making their life possible, or what is best for the communities in which they live. They just want to "feel" anger and hatred. It's actually a chemical reaction in the brain which has long been stimulated by hate radio. Trump has learned to use it too.

That's why Trump had to use Obama's name in his Tweets about wiretapping. It's not that Trump was wiretapped by somebody, it's that it was Obama who did it to Trump and that is terribly unfair. Trump gripes all the time about being treated "unfairly". He is the complainer-in-chief, same as the people listening to hate radio. They are the worst complainers in the world, they love to complain about everything.

So when Trump tweeted about Obama wiretapping him in Trump Tower his followers say, "Of course Obama wiretapped Trump." It makes no difference that a president can't order a wiretap. It makes no difference that the FBI and NSA say there is no evidence for it. It makes no difference that Fox News has fired one commentator for making up a connection to British intelligence. It makes no difference that Trump is only hurting himself more and more, now refusing to back away for his lies for over two weeks. His believers believe his Tweets.

Jeet Heer at the New Republic writes about The Nixonian Strategy Behind Trump’s Obama Lie where he demonstrates how partisanship can be used to manipulate voters into believing things otherwise not even in their own best interest.
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Most of Trump's Voters are Not Poor, but Regular Old Republicans
3/18/2017 4:35:29 PM

In the popular media and public consciousness right now it seems as if the primary political "base" of Donald Trump is thought to be the white working class especially those in rust belt states. It is true that three blue states went for Trump and turned the election, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. But the margin of votes here was very small. That is, if you think of the extremely massive changes that Trump is trying to make in policy right now you would think that he thinks he has a huge mandate for such great change. Well, he thinks he has a mandate, the fact is that he does not. And it is not true that his "base" has much at all to do with the white working class, let alone the very large part of the working class which includes non-whites.

Jeet Heer writes at The New Republic that: "Trump's budget would punish the rural poor and working class. But his base is broader than advertised, and they're sticking with him for myriad reasons." That is, Trump may have talked in his campaign about the "forgotten people" and the "inner cities" but everything he is trying to do would make life much tougher for just these groups of people. Once they come to know the degree to which this is true, when they lose their health insurance, for example, they may turn against Trump and Republicans.

But the thing about this article that was most interesting to me was to realize that it is regular old Republicans who are the real base for Trump. And the fact is that the ordinary Republicans I know, friends and family members, are actually not the type of extremists which tend to be associated with the listeners of right wing talk radio or right wing religion. They are not haters, they are not racists, they want to preserve good public schools, they want fairness and compassion in terms of health care. But the Republican Party over the past years, since the end of the Communism in 1989, has become like the old John Birch Society, extremist capitalists, which even hated Dwight Eisenhower and wanted to destroy Social Security.

What I am hoping is that regular, ordinary Republicans, once they see what Trump is doing and how many people he is hurting, and how much he is damaging the environment, will turn on him in a big way. They voted for him but they are responsible people and will change, I hope.

Here is what the article says about the regular Republican voters:

Trump won the presidency not simply because he drew an increased share of the white working class vote, but because regular Republicans (who are wealthier than average white people) never defected to Hillary Clinton or abstained from voting en masse, as Democrats had hoped they would. Talk Poverty, a website from the Center for American Progress, notes:

"According to exit polls, Hillary Clinton won by 12 points among voters making less than $30,000 a year—53% to Trump’s 41% —and by 9 points among people making between $30,000 and $49,999. Trump’s support was the inverse. He won every group making $50,000 or more—albeit by smaller margins....Trump did perform a lot better than previous Republicans with low-income voters, who historically have supported Democratic candidates by large margins.  For example, Trump improved upon Mitt Romney’s margin with voters making under $30,000 a year by 16 points. But he still lost them—by 12 whole points."

These numbers make clear why a large chuck of Trump’s base won’t object to a budget that punitively targets the poor. Most of his voters are not poor, but regular old Republicans, for whom the budget released Thursday is just the latest version of policies they’ve supported since the Reagan era.

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Trump is Centralizing Power: Resist Fascism
1/30/2017 5:00:33 PM

Clint Schnekloth, a pastor in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has written this on Facebook. I add it here because it is a very succinct description of how Trump and his people may well try to centralize power in their hands and this is a clear step toward fascism.

As a Lutheran pastor myself I have had to study German Nazism since so much theology comes out of Germany and the question of how so many Lutherans allowed Hitler to rule is a serious one. The fact that Trump was elected by right wing religion, a false form of Christian faith, is of huge consequence. I think all pastors and mainline leaders must now begin to explicitly criticize in the most polemical ways both Trump and religious extremism.

Here is the statement by Pastor Schnekloth:
I will rejoice if I'm wrong, and will happily admit I was wrong, but I'm fairly convinced at this point that Trump/Bannon's goal is martial law.

"Combining all of the facts, we have a fairly clear picture in play.

1. Trump was, indeed, perfectly honest during the campaign; he intends to do everything he said, and more. This should not be reassuring to you.

2. The regime’s main organizational goal right now is to transfer all effective power to a tight inner circle, eliminating any possible checks from either the Federal bureaucracy, Congress, or the Courts. Departments are being reorganized or purged to effect this.

3. The inner circle is actively probing the means by which they can seize unchallenged power; yesterday’s moves should be read as the first part of that.

4. The aims of crushing various groups — Muslims, Latinos, the black and trans communities, academics, the press — are very much primary aims of the regime, and are likely to be acted on with much greater speed than was earlier suspected. The secondary aim of personal enrichment is also very much in play, and clever people will find ways to play these two goals off each other." (Yonatan Zunger)

We're all going to have to resist, and resist fast, and resist hard.
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Truth in the Trump Era
1/23/2017 4:48:37 PM

There has been lots of media talk about the first press conference in the White House Saturday when Trump's press secretary told five lies on his first day and made up numbers about the inaugural attendance. Then Sunday on Meet the Press Kellyanne Conway said the press secretary was just providing "alternative facts". Chuck Todd in an act of boldness I rarely see in journalists told her that "alternative facts" means, simply, falsehoods. The whole issue is now alive in discussion on Twitter and Facebook and other online venues.

So-called "low-information voters" will believe whatever Trump or his people say, of course. Famously many Republicans listening to Fox News believe Obama was a Muslim socialist not born in this country. And Republicans have set up a political narrative against the "educated elite" who actually know things and against higher education institutions such as public universities or colleges. It's as if it is a liability if one has gone to college; that makes a person an "elite" who is suspicious. So if you know some facts Trump and his people and Republicans in general don't want to hear what you have to say if is doesn't correspond to their ideological beliefs. It is very strange, what this Republican Party has become under Trump. Truth no longer matters.

But "truth" is a rather important matter to consider, especially in a democracy. If the people do not have access to truth it means they cannot govern themselves in a way helpful to themselves and others. Various government agencies have evolved over decades to provide for statistics for public decision-making. But if the data doesn't match what Trump and his people think should be true then they have the power now to just change these agencies.

Paul Krugman writes about this in his column today in the New York Times:
Will [Trump] respond to bad news by accepting responsibility and trying to do better? Will he renounce his fortune and enter a monastery? That seems equally likely. No, the insecure egomaniac-in-chief will almost surely deny awkward truths, and berate the media for reporting them. And — this is what worries me — it’s very likely that he’ll try to use his power to shoot the messengers. Seriously, how do you think the man who compared the C.I.A. to Nazis will react when the Bureau of Labor Statistics first reports a significant uptick in unemployment or decline in manufacturing jobs? What’s he going to do when the Centers for Disease Control and the Census Bureau report spiking numbers of uninsured Americans? You may have thought that last weekend’s temper tantrum was bad. But there’s much, much worse to come.

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"We Will Not Go Away, Welcome to Your First Day"
1/21/2017 5:12:28 PM

My wife is right now marching in the Women's March in Portland, Oregon the day after the inauguration. One of the chants was explicitly against Donald Trump: "We Will Not Go Away, Welcome to Your First Day". That sentiment is going to be so important in the next days, weeks, months, years. Find your own way to act in resistance to the racist, illegitimate Trump administration.

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Violence, Racism, Authoritarianism Characterize Trump's Inaugural Speech
1/21/2017 3:56:19 PM

Put your mind a few miles up in the sky over the United States, high enough so you can see the whole United States and all its cities, but low enough so you can see where moving trucks are moving people from place to space. Then fast forward a sort of movie film of what you see from about the second world war which ended in 1945. What you see is the "settlement patterns" of Americans over that period. And the primary pattern in cities would be blacks moving from the South to northern cities and then white people moving out of cities into suburbs and leaving the inner cities to black people.

I spent several years in black Chicago in the 1960s and 1970s. I was there when Martin Luther King came one summer to lead a "movement to end slums" which was not so successful as his campaigns in the South. I learned then that "slums are profitable," that lots of white people make lots of money from black slums, especially slum landlords. It is not black people who created slums, it was white people trying to make as much money as possible.

And white people have not wanted to do anything to make life better in the inner cities over these past decades. They have blamed blacks. The only thing whites will pay for are more and more police in black areas.

Now along comes Trump and in his inaugural speech the inner cities play a big role. He mentions them again and again and refers to them as "carnage" full of gangs and drugs. He is here making another racist appeal to white people, reinforcing the racist views of whites about inner cities, trying to portray himself as the great white savior, the one who will be able to save white people from the hordes of threatening black people, save white people from that terrible black president of the past eight years who Trump had claimed was not even a citizen of the United States. It was racists who voted for Trump, who responded to his racist rhetoric.

Racism is at the center of the history of the United States, the civil war, the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and the settlement patterns of cities across the country. And Trump talked about all this with very violent rhetoric, talk of carnage and blood.

And then, of course, he painted such a bleak picture of the United States left after the first black president that only he could save. Trump placed himself as the savior of the country. It is all going to stop right here right now, as he takes power. Wow, he has quite a high view of himself but it reminds me of authoritarian dictators. The facts are that immigration is down, there are more Mexicans going back to Mexico right now than are coming here. Crime is way down. Unemployment is way down. Lack of health insurance is way down. But Trump says Obama was a "disaster". And many white people agree emotionally, without thinking, based on their racism, reinforced by right wing radio every day all day for the last eight years. Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levine and the others talk racism constantly, filling the minds of white people with anger, hostility, fake news and political ideas actually opposed to their own self interest. Just listen to them, as I have done from time to time. You will hear talk about the inner cities all the time, just as Trump did in his inaugural speech, talk that is based on fear, fear of those terrible black people.

We actually, emotionally, are not far from the civil war and lynchings. White people really still hate black people and have elected a president based on racism. What is strange is that northern whites, whose forbears gave their lives fighting against slavery, respond so willingly to violent, racist talk against blacks. White people living around cities such as Detroit literally and viciously hate black people in the city, have allowed Detroit to become a wasteland in many ways. And then these whites, having moved away and refused to tax themselves in such a way as to help the city, even while they enjoy the benefits of living next to the city, blame black people for the conditions of the city. They allow their minds to be blinded by their racism to their own responsibilities and the way they have been benefitted by government and the city.

It is all very irrational. Racism is irrational. But that is what Hitler used to unite white Germans against Jews, blaming Jews for the problems of the country. Trump has blamed blacks and immigrants and this won him the election. But they are not our problem, just as Jews were not the problem in Germany. But it makes me worry because in this country we seem to be moving to an era of such a high level of irrationality that we will never be able to actually see and solve our real problems. Fascism is highly irrational. And now we have a president who is so irrational, who speaks in such a way that you cannot believe anything that the man says. Words don't matter to him. Only being the center of attention matters to him. In a majority white nation he has learned how to speak against blacks in a way to earn the adoration of whites. But in so doing he is going to literally wreck the country. His election is a very serious sign of the decline of the nation.

In his speech he used the phrase "America First". Steve Bannon is probably behind the use of this phrase; he knows what it means historically. It refers to a movement in the 1930s of those who admired Hitler, people like William Randolph Hearst, the media mogul, and Charles Lindberg. They didn't want Roosevelt to go to war with Hitler. They admired authoritarian leadership and nationalism. So that is what Trump apparently wants to associate himself with, he wants to be the "great leader". Only he can save the country from the carnage of the blacks and browns.

Dan Rather has been listening to inaugural speeches for a lot of years. Here is what he thought of Trump's speech.
And so it begins.

Of the nearly 20 inaugurations I can remember, there has never been one that felt like today. Not even close. Never mind the question of the small size of the crowds, or the boycott by dozens of lawmakers, or even the protest marches slated for tomorrow across the country. Those are plays upon the stage. What is truly unprecedented in my mind is the sheer magnitude of quickening heartbeats in millions of Americans, a majority of our country if the polls are to be believed, that face today buffeted within and without by the simmering ache of dread.

I have never seen my country on an inauguration day so divided, so anxious, so fearful, so uncertain of its course.

I have never seen a transition so divisive with cabinet picks so encumbered by serious questions of qualifications and ethics.

I have never seen the specter of a foreign foe cast such a dark shadow over the workings of our democracy.

I have never seen an incoming president so preoccupied with responding to the understandable vagaries of dissent and seemingly unwilling to contend with the full weight and responsibilities of the most powerful job in the world. I have never seen such a tangled web of conflicting interests.

Despite the pageantry of unity on display at the Capitol today, there is a piercing sense that we are entering a chapter in our nation's evolving story unlike one ever yet written. To be sure, there are millions of Donald Trump supporters who are euphoric with their candidate's rise. Other Trump voters have expressed reservations, having preferred his bluster to his rival's perceived shortcomings in the last election, but admitting more and more that they are not sure what kind of man they bestowed the keys to the presidency. The rest of America - the majority of voters - would not be - and indeed is not - hesitant in sharing its conclusions on the character and fitness of Donald Trump for the office he now holds.

The hope one hears from even some of Donald Trump's critics is that this moment might change him. Perhaps, as he stood there on a grey, drab, January day, reciting the solemn oath of office demanded by our Constitution, as he looked out across what Charles Dickens once called the "city of magnificent intentions", he would somehow grasp the importance of what he was undertaking. Perhaps he would understand that he must be the president of all the United States, in action as well as in word. Perhaps, but there has already been so much past that is prologue.

There is usually much fanfare around inaugural addresses. They are also usually forgotten - with some notable exceptions. I think today will be remembered, not so much for the rhetoric or the turns of phrase but for the man who delivered them and the era they usher us forth.

Mr. Trump's delivery was staccato and there was very little eye contact as he seemed to be reading carefully from a teleprompter. His words and tone were angry and defiant. He is still in campaign mode and nary a whiff of a unifying spirit. There was little or nothing of uplift - the rhetoric of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, or Reagan. We heard a cavalcade of slogans and one liners, of huge promises to "bring back" an America - whatever that really means to many who look at our history and see progress in our current society. The speech started with a message of an establishment in Washington earning riches on the back of struggling families across the country. It was an odd note, considering the background of many of his cabinet picks. President Trump painted a very dark picture of the current state of our nation, beset by gangs and drugs and violence, regardless of what the data shows. His words swelled with his economic populism and the nationalism of "America first." The applause was sparse, and I imagine many more being turned off, even sickened, rather than inspired by what our new President had to say. President Obama looked on with an opaque poker face. One could only imagine what he was thinking.

It bears remembering that one never can predict the arc of a presidency. It is an office that is far too often shaped by circumstance well beyond its occupant's control. Those challenges, wherever and however they may rise, now will fall on the desk of President Trump. We can only see what will happen. We hope, for the security and sanctity of our Republic, that Mr. Trump will respond to the challenges with circumspection and wisdom. Today's rhetoric was not reassuring.

Our democracy demands debate and dissent - fierce, sustained, and unflinching when necessary. I sense that tide is rising amongst an opposition eager to toss aside passivity for action. We are already seeing a more emboldened Democratic party than I have witnessed in ages. It is being fueled by a fervent energy bubbling from the grassroots up, rather than the top down.

These are the swirling currents about our ship of state. We now have a new and untested captain. His power is immense, but it is not bestowed from a divinity on high. It is derived, as the saying goes, from the consent of the governed. That means President Trump now works for us - all of us. And if he forgets that, it will be our duty to remind him.

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Newt Gingrich Gets Trump Wrong: Why Southerners Hate the Federal Government
12/27/2016 6:19:43 PM

In a remarkable speech at the Heritage Foundation Newt Gingrich tries to talk about Trumpism and gets it nearly completely wrong. The only thing he said that makes sense is that Trump, as a businessman, knows how to manipulate the media. And that, of course, is because the media is primarily a "corporate media" and business in general is in the business of manipulating the hearts and minds of Americans. Trump is a master of that.

Otherwise, Gingrich claims that Trump was elected because the American people are sick and tired of government in general. Here he is repeating the refrain of so-called "conservatism" since Ronald Reagan. And Gingrich claimed that Trump represents the third effort to reject the policies of FDR and the New Deal. The problem is, Trump explicitly promised he was not going to touch Social Security and Medicare, key programs of the New Deal tradition, and programs that vast majorities of Americans want to continue. If Trump destroys those programs he will face the wrath of the America people and literally wreck the economic viability of most communities in the country. Gingrich is wrong when he says that Americans don't want those "government" programs.

Trump got elected, of course, through lies. He cannot return the country to the 1950s. Many people voted for him because of nostalgia for a previous era when the country was "great" such as basking in the glow of victory after World War II. Those days are gone. Trump can only fail.

Gingrich comes from the South. His mind is clouded by the refusal to reckon with the fact that the South lost the civil war. In the 1960s the federal government went into Southern states and forced them, literally forced them, to change their ways of segregation in schools, public facilities, and voting. And white Southerners have ever since hated the federal government and took over the Republican party.

Trump himself is not from the South. He makes his money by manipulating government, not rejecting it. Even his hotels make money only because government gives corporations tax incentives for travel. Gingrich, along with the Heritage Foundation itself, gets Trump completely wrong.

Stock indexes are going up in anticipation of a raid on the federal treasury. The corporate hogs want to suck on the federal government tits, they want federal tax money for their charter schools, to build private prisons, to privatize roads and bridges, to privatize everything. Then the companies receiving the federal tax money can give donations to Republican candidates and they will rule forever. Unions, representing actual workers, will be destroyed. Trump himself will sell access and influence and make millions for himself and his family.

Gingrich gets Trump completely wrong. Trump is no real conservative. He is a corporate extremist. For evidence, just look at his cabinet choices. The only hope for the country is for Trump to be removed from office in some way and for the Republican Party to be publicly repudiated. Ordinary Republicans, those not enthralled by corporate power, should lead the way in this.

And no wonder Trump didn't want Gingrich in his cabinet.

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No Mandate for Trump, Says Jeff Merkley
12/22/2016 6:45:45 PM

My Senator in Oregon, Jeff Merkley, who attends a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, made some good points in an email I received today. See the quote below. I would add that no president-elect in history has had such a low approval rating at this stage in the process, only 40% of the people approve of Trump. He has no mandate, yet he is going to use the power of his office to try to make huge and massive changes to the structure of government in this country. Pastors and churches cannot stand by anymore and claim to be neutral. Too many people are going to be harmed by the policies of this man. I view him as an illegitimate president; the media created him, and promoted him, and he won through lies and false promises.

I’ve heard it again and again since Election Day. “I can’t believe we live in a country where so many people would vote for Donald Trump.”

But know this: Donald Trump lost the vote by nearly three million more people to Hillary Clinton – and if we include those that voted for a third-party candidate, more than ten million more Americans rejected his agenda than supported it on Election Day.

And the margin would have been much larger if not for Republican voter suppression efforts, an affront to our democracy. We believe in voter empowerment, not voter suppression.

And Trump would have lost by still more if Russia hadn't been hacking and an out-of-control FBI director hadn't been meddling in the last week of the campaign.

We must say it again and again, clearly and boldly: there is no mandate for Trump's policies. We need to buckle up and prepare to fight tooth and nail.

Trump's nominations tell you everything you need to know about how quickly he is abandoning his promises to "drain the swamp" and help people left behind in our economy. It's up to us to fight for working Americans, for justice and equality, and to get our country back on track.

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2010 Prediction: White People with Self-destructive Fantasies will Elect a Figure Like Trump
12/17/2016 5:56:44 PM

Over at Snopes, the fact checking website, it was judged to be true that the public intellectual Noam Chomsky predicted a person such as Donald Trump would be elected in the United States. After the election many people started referencing this 2010 interview at TruthDig where Chomsky says this:
The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.
Chomsky says the American people are losing confidence in themselves and their country:
I listen to talk radio. I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.
Trump spoke of the decline of this country and his rhetoric attacked specific groups of people as the cause of the problems. Chomsky compared this to an earlier era of economic troubles:
I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime. I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The [Congress of Industrial Organizations] was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.
My own belief is that politics has become a money-making enterprise for Republican politicians. They run for office and start new organizations not because they have strong beliefs about issues but because they can make lots of money based on the fear, fantasies, and anger of white people. They are merchants of hatred, making money on hate. This includes the television preachers and the evangelical pastors preaching against abortion and same-sex marriage. They make a lot of money preaching hate.

Trump is a businessman. His mind always asks first, how can I make money off this? It is not a matter of what's best for the country, what's best for the least well-off, what is the common good. The question is always, what is good for me? How can I profit from this. We face years of kleptocracy if the man is not impeached.

Of course, it was the Democratic Party which failed completely since both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to adequately address the facts of life for working Americans, failed to work for real economic justice. Barack Obama continued in the Clinton tradition, turning away from his followers who voted for him based on his promise of "change". The election of Trump presents a tremendous opportunity for Democrats to rethink their entire political philosophy.

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Trump Will Be Impeached within a Year
11/11/2016 5:24:12 PM

Before the election congressional Republicans were talking seriously about holding hearings against Hillary Clinton if she was elected, and some talked about impeachment. Well, now that Trump is elected it is interesting that there is actual serious talk about how he will be impeached, maybe within a year.

At the end of his column today the conservative writer, David Brooks, says: "After all, the guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year. The future is closer than you think."

And then there is this at The Hill:
A political historian and professor who predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidency has a new bet: Trump will be impeached.

“I'm going to make another prediction,” Allan Lichtman told The Washington Post Friday. “This one is not based on a system; it's just my gut. They don't want Trump as president, because they can't control him. He's unpredictable. They'd love to have Pence — an absolutely down-the-line, conservative, controllable Republican. And I'm quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook.” \ Lichtman isn't the first to predict that Trump could be impeached. University of Utah Law Professor Christopher Lewis Peterson wrote a 23-page article explaining the legal reasons Congress should impeach Trump. And on Friday, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore told MSNBC reporters he predicts Trump will either be impeached or resign before his term is up.

To date, no U.S. President has been removed from office by impeachment and conviction. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were successfully impeached but acquitted by the Senate, and Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

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An Anti-Trump Resistance Movement Begins with Protesters in Streets Nationwide
11/10/2016 2:40:58 PM

One of the positive results of the election of Donald Trump is that it will cause the formation of a much stronger resistance movement to current economic, social, and environmental policies. Obama has been governing within the the same centrist philosophy of Bill Clinton rather than actually supporting the interests of working people in this country. And Hillary Clinton may have supported even more hawkish war policies than Obama around the world. So change is needed.

But Trump is something else entirely. The change he represents is all in the wrong direction. If he actually tries to do what he said he would do there is extreme danger for the future of the country, not just for immigrants, blacks, gay people, and women, but for those very people who voted for Trump, the white working class.

So there will be a whole new motivation to support a much more massive resistance movement in this country against both political parties who have failed the American people. Such a movement began the day after the election as shown in this article by Alexandra Rosenmann at Alternet. "Not my president" was the contentious theme of rallies the night after the startling election results.
In 15 different American cities Wednesday, enraged voters marched, chanted and blocked major highways in response to Donald Trump's surprising election victory. From Los Angeles to New York (see image below), Indianapolis to Miami, citizens' signs drew attention to Trump's countless offenses, which would have barred any normal politician from the highest office. Even red-state cities saw protests, including Atlanta, Dallas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Protesters took to the streets condemning the "whitelash" of the majority of caucasian Americans voting for a xenophobic, racist, sexist bully who began his campaign by calling Mexicans "rapists" and proclaiming, "The American dream is dead."

In Trump's home city of New York, protesters were particularly vehement, starting at Union Square and marching to Trump Tower. Thousands of ordinary citizens opposed to Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and sexist behavior and statements, among other issues, were joined by not a few celebrities. The actor Mark Ruffalo was spotted, but refrained from including curse words in his chants since he had brought his young daughter along.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore attended the rally, and told the Huffington Post that the protests must go on and on. “We had all those big protests before the Iraq war and once the war started, everyone stopped protesting,” Moore said. “This time, we keep it up and we don’t stop till he’s out of there.”

According to the Washington Post, "In Oakland, Calif., two police officers were injured and two patrol cars burned as thousands of protesters took to the streets and chanted slogans against Trump, a police spokeswoman said. A few protesters threw objects at police dressed in riot gear, smashed windows and started small fires in the downtown area."

Protesters shut down California's Interstate 101 for a time and called for their state to secede, a movement now known as “Cal-exit.” Many of the demonstrators in Los Angeles who showed up were Latino, responding to Trump's racist vitriol against immigrants.

It's worth noting that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. And while Trump earned a significant portion of the millennial vote of 18- to 29-year-olds (37 percent), Clinton's 55 percent of that demographic would have delivered her a landslide win.

Ironically, after Tuesday night's results rolled in, "Make America Great Again" took on a whole new meaning. These anti-Trump protests in the wake of the election could signify a raucous beginning of a long wave of social action during a Trump administration.

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Very Serious National Decline
11/9/2016 5:09:45 PM

It will be impossible to believe anything Donald Trump says as president. Imagine what that means. There is a fundamental loss of trust in what is being said in public. The media calls for everyone to "unite" around his presidency are ludicrous; it was the media that promoted the words of a man who won by terrible acts of vile racism and bigotry, dividing people from one another. The election of Donald Trump is a very serious event in the decline of the nation. He and the Republican Party are now able to take actions against civil rights and voting rights which will destroy the nation as it has been known since the second world war.

David Remnick of The New Yorker says:
"The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy… It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering."

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James Comey Should Resign or Be Fired
10/30/2016 6:35:37 PM

Rabbi Arthur Waskow has sent the following to the New York Times:
To the Editor:

During the 1960s, under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had a strong right-wing political stance. I was one of nine Washingtonians who sued the FBI for its illegal and unconstitutional “COINTELPRO” project in using theft, forgery, and other crimes to damage the civil rights and antiwar movements. We won our case, and the verdict was upheld by a panel of the Federal Appeals Court that included then Judge Antonin Scalia. (See Hobson v. Wilson.)

The present director of the FBI [James Comey] has now twice gone beyond what even Mr. Hoover did, by nakedly interfering in a Presidential election. He has violated the FBI's own legitimate practices to deliberately damage the Presidential campaign of Hilary Clinton. He evidently seeks to elect Donald Trump, whose announced policies include creating a massive police force to expel eleven million people living peacefully in the United States and a change in libel laws to prevent the free press from criticizing public officials.

The coalescence of the FBI director’s authoritarian actions with Mr. Trump’s authoritarian politics bodes ill for American democracy. Mr. Comey should resign or be fired.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Has Got to Go to Unite Democrats Against the Racist, Trump
5/27/2016 4:06:12 PM

Mark Plotkin has written a quick piece at The Hill making clear why it is important for the current chair of the Democratic National Committee to resign. I encourage folks to send letters to the editor in local papers and emails to the DNC and your representatives saying that Wasserman-Schultz has got to go. The country really needs a united Democratic Party right now to be able to defeat a truly frightening candidate, the racist, "little money-grubbing" candidate, Donald Trump, as Elizabeth Warren called him.

Here is the article:

The role of Democratic Party chair is a high honor. Holding that position requires a combination of many attributes. Beyond being the face and chief messenger of the party, you must possess the skills of a consummate diplomat. Above all, the members of your party must trust you. This trust is most needed and required during the presidential campaign season.

One public posture is essential: that of being neutral. On that critical factor, the present chair of the Democratic Party has failed miserably.

From the very beginning of the campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination, the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), has violated the principle of neutrality. It started with her pushing for a very limited amount of debates, so that the challengers to front-runner Hillary Clinton would not be given the opportunity to express their views to the widest possible audience.

To make matters even worse, Wasserman Schultz arranged and scheduled the debates at the worst possible times and dates. Then there was the setting up of a joint fundraising committee of the DNC and the Clinton campaign. What could be more of a blatant act of collusion? How in any way could this be defined as being neutral? In addition, early in the campaign, Wasserman Schultz unilaterally suspended Sen. Bernie Sanders's access to the DNC voter database. Another act of neutrality? Until recently, she had packed convention committees with only minimal input from the Sanders campaign.

For Clinton to run a successful general election campaign and defeat Republican nominee Donald Trump, she needs to unite the Democratic Party behind her.

Having Sanders and his millions of loyal Democrats feeling excluded from positions of influence and respect will alienate this key constituency and lead to the party's defeat. Wasserman Schultz seems to be running her own campaign to ingratiate herself to Clinton so that Clinton will keep her on in her present position or, even better, will offer her a high-profile Cabinet job if elected president. Wasserman Schultz almost seems to be auditioning for this chance. The resentment and anger of the Sanders people is such that they are contributing to her primary challenger, Tim Canova. That's never happened before. (For the record, Sanders has endorsed Canova.)

As reported by CNN, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a Clinton supporter, "told CNN Wednesday that Wasserman Schultz is seen by supporters of Bernie Sanders as 'part of the problem.'" McCaskill went on to say that "The role of the DNC chair is always a supportive role, not a starring role."

Clinton has enough problems — and there will be more. The very best thing for her to do is to pick up the phone, call Wasserman Schultz and courteously thank her for past service and firmly request she resign immediately. She should then call Sanders and propose they jointly pick a new DNC chair. That new chair will preside at the Philadelphia convention.

That grand act of comity will be the first step in reconciling the Clinton and Sanders camps. It can't happen too soon. The departure of Wasserman Schultz will be good for the party and ultimately good for the country.

It might even be good for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as it will free her up to campaign in a primary she has a distinct chance of losing. In this scenario, everyone wins.
Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.
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Trump is a Fraud Who is Playing the American People as Suckers, Says Romney
3/3/2016 12:40:59 PM

It is one thing to endorse one candidate over another. It is something else when a political figure uses such emotionally strong language to reject one of the candidates in the favor of all the others.

That's what Mitt Romney did today at the University of Utah. Donald Trump showed on this past "super Tuesday" that he is far ahead of the other candidates in the campaign for the Republican nomination for president. That apparently caused Romney to feel he had to speak out. In the strongest possible language he rejected Trump and endorsed any of the remaining Republican candidates, taking the position that "anything is better than Donald."

Furthermore, he said that Republicans who would vote for Trump are "suckers." That is not a very high estimate of the Republican electorate by a former presidential candidate.

Romney attacked Trump as businessman, saying the billionaire had been "born into privilege" and "squandered his inheritance on frivolous business ventures." “He inherited his business, he didn't create it,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there's Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.” Romney called into question Trump’s temperament, condemning him for “the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”

“This is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter's questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity,” Romney said.

Read more about Romney's speech against Trump over at The Hill.

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Leading Republican Candidate Donald Trump: How Stupid are the People of Iowa?
11/13/2015 3:03:15 PM

It is actually a bit difficult for me to say that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are leading in the polls right now as candidates for the highest position of power and authority in the United States. Like most Americans, this country and its institutions are important to me; I want the best for the country. But how can it be that people like Trump and Carson are leading in the polls? What has the Republican Party become?

At Fort Dodge, Iowa, Trump got up in front of people and acted out how ridiculous the story is that Carson tells about himself, that he broke a knife on the belt buckle of a friend when he was trying to stab him. Trump then went on a tirade against Carson about his claim that the incident led him into the bathroom to read scripture and he came out a changed man. Trump asked "How stupid are the people of Iowa" to believe what Carson is saying. Carson, indeed, has been telling some whoppers, saying that the pyramids were built by the biblical figure Joseph to store grain for use during a famine. This is the kind of thing an "evangelical" audience might believe, they believe what their authority figures tell them to believe, but it is the sort of thing that makes you look ridiculous in front of a secular audience.

But it is not even a secular audience that is making fun of Carson, it is his fellow Republican, Donald Trump. Just watch this YouTube video "Trump Showing His Belt During Iowa Speech to Mock Carson: How Stupid Are The People of Iowa" on 11/12/2015:

The following is a summary of the video which was at the YouTube site:

During a rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa on Thursday night, Donald Trump briefly mimicked fellow GOP candidate Ben Carson's alleged stabbing incident. donald trump mocked and owned ben carson during his iowa campaign rally, watch trump imitate Ben Carson's suspect story of stabbing a classmate, I mean a friend, I mean a close relative. Donald Trump went on a tirade Thursday night. A few hours after claiming that Republican rival Ben Carson has an incurable "pathological temper" and comparing it to something else he says is incurable — "child molesting" — Trump escalated the battle, devoting over ten minutes of his rally to attacking Carson's personal narrative. He wrote a book and in the book, he said terrible things about himself," Trump said of Carson. "He said that he's pathological and he's got basically pathological disease ... I don't want a person that's got pathological disease." Trump first compared the two conditions on CNN and repeated them to a 1,500-person crowd at Iowa Central Community College: "I said that if you're a child molester, a sick puppy, a child molester, there's no cure for that - there's only one cure and we don't want to talk about that cure, that's the ultimate cure. No there's two, there's death and the other thing. But if you're a child molester, there's no cure, they can't stop you. Pathological, there's no cure." Trump said he doesn't believe Carson is telling the truth and questioned how a belt buckle could stop a blade. He stepped away from the podium and acted out how he imagined such an attack would happen, with his own belt buckle flopping around. He asked if anyone in the audience had a knife to try out his theory. His Secret Service agents, who just joined his detail this week, stood guard. Belt "Carson is an enigma to me," Trump said. "He said that he's 'pathological' and that he's got, basically, pathological disease... I don't want a person that's got pathological disease." Trump repeatedly said he doesn't believe there's any cure for such a disease, and he said he doesn't believe that Carson was truly changed by divine intervention, as he writes in his book. "If you're a child molester -- a sick puppy -- a child molester, there's no cure for that," Trump said. "If you're a child molester, there's no cure. They can't stop you. Pathological? There's no cure." And yet Carson is doing well in the polls, Trump said in disbelief. "How stupid are the people of Iowa?" Trump said. "How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?" Trump started the speech looking exhausted, his voice hoarse. This was his fourth state in four days. A sense of anger built as Trump listed off everything wrong with the country and everything wrong with his rivals. His voice got louder and stronger, his hands gripping the podium. He would be a unifier, he said, a winner. Then he wondered aloud if he should just move to Iowa and buy a farm.

"I've really enjoyed being with you," Trump said as he drew to a sudden but long awaited end. "It's sad in many ways because we're talking about so many negative topics, but in certain ways it's beautiful. It's beautiful."

Then there was the role playing.

Stepping back from the podium, Trump mimicked for the nearly audience the way Carson alleges the stabbing of his friend occurred: That the friend's belt thwarted any physical harm that may have been done.

But Trump doesn't buy that line.

"I have a belt. If someone hits, you not going in, it moves this way, it moves that way, he hit the belt buckle," he said as he showed his belt buckle.

Trump even asked the crowd if they wanted to "try it" on him because "believe me, it ain't going to work."

Trump's story continued: "And he plunged it into the belt and amazingly the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke."

Trump then plunged a rhetorical knife of his own to the Iowa crowd: "How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"

Not atypical of Mr. Trump, he didn't just have barbs for Dr. Carson. Trump also punched at the GOP's favorite target, Hillary Clinton.

But went further than his fellow Republicans saying: "she's playing the woman card. Outside of the woman card, she's got nothing going."

The GOP frontrunner also had words for President Obama, specifically his administration's accomplishment of killing Osama bin Laden.

"Pretend anybody is president," Trump said as he set the stage for the theoretical circumstance. "These great guys come in, general, 'Mr President, we have Osama bin Laden. So we have a choice, we can leave him alone Mr. President, or we can take him and bomb the hell out of him.'

"Who's gonna say leave him alone?" Trump exclaimed, intimating that the decision to go in was a no-brainer. "Is there anybody that would say it?"

Asked Thursday night to respond to Trump's comparison to child molesters, a Carson spokesman wrote, "The campaign has no comment."

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Tell Ben Carson to Give Up His Presidential Campaign
10/27/2015 8:21:13 PM

I have done some research on Ben Carson and am sorry to have to report that he is a whole lot worse than I had thought. He seems to be so soft-spoken and even rational. But the actual content of what he has said on health care, evolution, and lately about abortion, has been very extreme, so bad that one wonders where these ideas have come from.

So I want to encourage readers to go to his website and tell him to end his campaign. Tell your friends to do likewise, start a movement, literally. This man would make a really, really bad president.

I wrote the following as part of an article by David Corn which I placed on this website. It would help understand why I feel the way I do about Ben Carson.
Without an active sense of history it is impossible to adequately interpret or understand contemporary politics. I grew up during the Cold War when the public media was completely dominated by fear and attacks on Communism. This is the time when Billy Graham began preaching in Southern California to people who had left Southern states to work in the defense industries of California, people building the bombs to drop on the Soviet Union. Graham's sermons warned that if the country didn't turn to Christ the Communists would drop nuclear bombs on New York and Los Angeles. Graham got his start preaching fear and encouraging hysterical anti-communism.

Having watched the formation of the "religious right" over these years it all stems from this rabid anti-communism. That is, the Christian gospel of God's love for the world is not the message that has built the religious right, it is hatred and hostility, hatred and fears of Communism, and after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 the terrible enemies became liberals and homosexuals and now it is Muslims and socialists. The religious right can no longer be called "Christian", it has become an Americanized, commercialized, politicized religion used and exploited to further the interests of the powerful who already control the wealth of the country.

It is important to realize how extreme the right wing has become in this country. Now, to them, nearly everything the government does is "socialism" even things like the post office. The John Birch Society claimed that even Dwight Eisenhower was a Communist because he support Social Security. It is easy for the libertarian talk show hosts to holler and scream against government because they don't have to think about things seriously, they just attack everything government does. If these folks actually won all elections, taking over the House and the Senate and the Presidency, and implemented their ideas, then people would finally find out how radical they are, but they would create terrible chaos and suffering for the vast majority of the people in the country.

Ben Carson is a very gifted surgeon who is using his celebrity for purposes he himself cannot really understand. He is way out of his league, but it helps us understand why careful interpretation of history is so very, very important in our times. Good public policy will not come about because of paranoid, hysterical anti-communism. The Cold War is over, after all.

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Corporate-Funded Think Tanks have Created an Angry, Destructive Politics
10/24/2015 3:14:48 PM

Dave Johnson at Campaign For America's Future has written up some quick thoughts about the grilling of Hillary Clinton by Republican members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi this past Thursday. It's worth reading (see below).

I watched most of the hearing myself. The question that kept coming to my mind is what in the world has made these Republican congress people so angry? That is, they were really, really mad. Their lower lips trembled with emotional intensity. They hollered and screamed. They asked completely illogical questions. They assumed everyone else shared their silly preoccupations with matters having nothing to do with the otherwise serious questions about Benghazi.

I had the feeling all of these Republican House members had actually lost their sense of reality; they lived in some other universe of hatred and hostility. They actually seemed to be assuming that they themselves were the ones who really "cared" about the fact that four Americans were killed in Benghazi and that Clinton did not care at all for them. They seemed to be saying that Clinton caused these deaths, as if a Secretary of State is fully responsible for every last thing that occurs, not thinking about the fact that 9/11 happened during the George W. Bush administration as if he should therefore be blamed for that absolutely.

When I read Dave Johnson's piece it helped to point to the fact that the hearing represents the consequences of several long decades of corporate funded think tanks trying to create a mind-set/world view opposed to everything that has been created in this country since Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s and Johnson's Great Society of the 1960s.

The idea that Hillary Clinton might be elected president to continue that legacy is absolutely driving these hard-right Republicans (the only kind now around it seems) bonkers. It's not a very good way to run a country and if the American people don't start voting these people out of office they are going to find that Social Security will go away, Medicare for older people no longer available, no more of those terrible government post offices, no free public schools, and voting will be limited to white males only, and it won't be long before there will not be much clean air and water.

In a capitalist system money is everything, and the pursuit of money alone is now on the verge of destroying life as we know it, destroying the country, destroying decent human relationships. Hysterical anger is not the way to a viable future.

Here is the Dave Johnson article:

Thursday's Clinton-bashing hearing in Congress carried with it that "frog in heating water" feeling. The water is boiling and the country is the frog. This is a period where the country has gone crazy.

This has been slowly building since the ascendency of the corporate-funded "conservative movement" and then the presidential election of Ronald Reagan. The 24/7/12/365 drumbeat of corporate/conservative propaganda started then. The intentional defunding of government started then. The refusal to maintain our infrastructure started then. The continuing trade deficit that has drained our economy of jobs started then. The "volunteer army" perpetual-war machine got revved up then. The privatization of publicly held wealth started then. The collapse of the middle class started then. So many things started going wrong then. And after a slow, decades-long buildup, the country is threatening to collapse like an unmaintained bridge.

The planet is heating (the strongest western-hemisphere hurricane ever is heading toward Mexico as I write this). We are on the verge of a debt-ceiling crisis that could throw the world into something far worse than 2008 or the 1930s Depression. The corporate/conservative/billionaire money is flowing so freely into elections that almost all of the Republican candidates voice the concerns of the billionaires funding their campaigns and don't say a word about what the public needs. No wonder Republicans have turned to Donald Trump.

"Were You Alone All Night?"

The gerrymandered-into-office Republican Congress is completely dysfunctional for governing, and instead of addressing the country's problems we got this: An 11-hour long hearing asking a former first lady, senator and Secretary of State, "Were you alone all night?"

What the country experienced Thursday is SO FAR from any kind of normal, reasonable operation of a Congress or a country that I can't believe it could even happen. The Republicans have fallen SO FAR down into a hole of their own propaganda machine that reality is lost completely for them.

But it's like the alcoholic in the family that no one dares talk about. The elite pundit and news media class is so mired in a "both sides do it," and their careers are so tied to boosting Republican corporatism, that they can not scream about the situation.

Systemic collapse builds slowly and then happens very quickly. The water is boiling rapidly now. It's clearly a question of when, not if.

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Matt Taibbi on the GOP Clown Car
8/15/2015 6:14:32 PM

I am just finishing a book by Matt Taibbi about the two sides of the American criminal justice system, one side refusing to actually put in jail the bankers and others who regularly defraud the American people and the other side being huge numbers of black and other poor minorities who are sent to prison for very little reason. The book is The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. Taibbi's writing is not only fun to read, but insightful exposing the ridiculous reasoning of a racist society which idolizes rich people.

So when I saw that Taibbi has just published a piece in Rolling Stone on Donald Trump and the current Republican nominating campaign for president I wanted to read it right away. It's worth reading the whole article but here is the way it ends:

Politics used to be a simple, predictable con. Every four years, the money men in D.C. teamed up with party hacks to throw their weight behind whatever half-bright fraud of a candidate proved most adept at snowing the population into buying a warmed-over version of the same crappy policies they've always bought.

Pundits always complained that there wasn't enough talk about issues during these races, but in reality, issues were still everything. Behind the scenes, where donors gave millions for concrete favors, there was always still plenty of policy. And skilled political pitchmen like Christie, who could deftly deliver on those back-room promises to crush labor and hand out transportation contracts or whatever while still acting like a man of the people, were highly valued commodities.

Not anymore. Trump has blown up even the backroom version of the issues-driven campaign. There are no secret donors that we know of. Trump himself appears to be the largest financial backer of the Trump campaign. A financial report disclosed that Trump lent his own campaign $1.8 million while raising just $100,000.

There's no hidden platform behind the shallow facade. With Trump, the facade is the whole deal. If old-school policy hucksters like Christie can't find a way to beat a media master like Trump at the ratings game, they will soon die out.

In a perverse way, Trump has restored a more pure democracy to this process. He's taken the Beltway thinkfluencers out of the game and turned the presidency into a pure high-school-style popularity contest conducted entirely in the media. Everything we do is a consumer choice now, from picking our shoes to an online streaming platform to a presidential nominee.

The irony, of course, is that when America finally wrested control of the political process from the backroom oligarchs, the very first place where we spent our newfound freedom and power was on the campaign of the world's most unapologetic asshole. It may not seem funny now, because it's happening to us, but centuries from this moment, people will laugh in wonder.

America is ceasing to be a nation, and turning into a giant television show. And this Republican race is our first and most brutal casting call.

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Democrats Move to Encourage an Elizabeth Warren Candidancy
12/10/2014 4:25:14 PM

For several decades now the professional class advising Democratic candidates has not believed that they can be elected by articulating and governing on the basis of key Democratic values such as freedom and opportunity for all people, economic and social justice and equality and peace in the world through strong international institutions.

Bill Clinton was a "new Democrat" from the South and advocated business values over the interests of working people and the middle class. Barack Obama has essentially continued the policy framework of the Clinton tradition. In the 2014 election the South has been taken over completely by the Republicans. The strongest forces within the Republican Party are now Southern white religious conservatism and the interests of especially large corporations including Wall Street Banks. Another presidential candidate in the Clinton tradition is exactly what the country does not need.

Now two major organizations of the most active Democrats, and Democracy for America, are moving to actively create a support structure for a presidential candidacy of Elizabeth Warren who has risen to popularity precisely through her knowledgeable criticism of Wall Street and the domination of financial corportions over the economy. She is the only credible candidate who figures the possibility of turning the economy to be beneficial to real working Americans rather than the wealthy elite.

Watch this video to see why Warren would be an outstanding candidate:

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Teachers Turn Against Obama
7/12/2014 3:32:41 PM

I was surprised when Obama won his election to the presidency. I was amazed such a highly qualified person could be elected. The country would be in even much worse shape had his opponents been elected. But he has been such a huge disappointment in so many areas, including education.

Now teachers are turning against him in their summer conventions as described in an article in The Hill. Teachers are a major constituency for a Democratic president. So you would think that a president elected partly by teachers would listen to them and consider their views. But Obama put a person in charge of the Education Department that seems to be anti-teacher, a person who supports the kind of testing that is ineffective and that teachers hate. So now Obama and Democrats are losing the energy and support of teachers for political engagement in the election season of 2014.

It is strange. You elect a president. Then he does the opposite of what you want. There is something fundamentally wrong with the political reasoning of Obama and his brand of Democratic politician, the same brand represented by Hillary Clinton. Democrats must begin to choose and elect candidates who will do what the people want.

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Koch Brothers are Creating Their Own Political Party
1/26/2014 2:20:57 PM

An article in Politico reports that "The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are convening some of the country’s richest Republican donors on Sunday at a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., to raise millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come." The article goes on to describe the wide-ranging "network" of the Koch's political operations. It consists of not just one or two groups, but a whole system of affiliated agencies which the Koch's are trying to manage more tightly in order the control the whole operation and avoid mistakes which have damaged their effectiveness in political campaigns.

Reading this article it appears that the Koch brothers want to literally create their own political party in this country. That is, they are not satisfied to make contributions to the Republican Party, which means that that party would make the decisions about what candidates to field and how they would be funded. No, the Koch brothers want to decide those matters themselves. They want to be the ones to recruit candidates for state and federal offices and to decide how they are funded. The Kochs will be getting involved in primary Senate races in particular states, for example.

When Republicans say they want to reduce taxes on the rich they say that will mean those rich will invest their money in the economy which will then provide more jobs. The rich are the job-creators. That argument supported the vast tax cuts for the rich in the 1980s for example. But what have the rich actually done with those tax cuts? They have invested everywhere but in the United States. We have seen massive investment in China and overseas, not in manufacturing in this country.

And the other place the rich have invested is in foundations and political groups expounding "conservative" economic beliefs. There are now immense numbers of right-wing think-tanks that pay intellectuals to promote ideas beneficial to the rich themselves, over-against the rest of the community including the poor and unemployed (who then tend to be blamed for economic problems as if they were the ones in power). The people who work for the Koch brother's groups are prostituting their minds, selling their minds in order to have some sort of job. They must feel pretty badly about themselves.

I think it may be good that the Koch brothers are engaging so flagrantly in the political process now, trying to dominate everything. It means the American people may well be able to come to see that this is a huge problem for the country. If the rich are able to buy democracy in so obvious a way it may lead people to reolt against this at some point. But a great deal of damage is being done to our political institutions in the process.

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The Next President will be a Woman and a Methodist, but not Hillary
11/11/2013 7:36:47 PM

Noam Scheiber of The New Republic writes a fascinating article with the title: "Hillary's Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren". He doesn't think Warren will run for president if Hillary Clinton decides to do it. But Hillary might take a long time to make up her mind and lots of things can happen that might create conditions especially favorable for Elizabeth Warren to run.

I just have a deep feeling that Hillary is "so yesterday" as young people say today. She represents the Bill Clinton "new democrats" who turned the Democratic Party so far to the right that the primary constituencies of the party felt the party had left them behind. This includes union workers, teachers, and people of faith concerned for peace and justice. Barack Obama has been mostly terrible on all these issues. There is a great yearning in the party for a credible alternative candidate and Elizabeth Warren has acted and spoken in ways exciting for these folks.

So, reading this article I came to have quite a strong feeling that the next president will be woman, yes, but it may well be Warren not Clinton, though both are Methodists.

I checked on the religious background of Warren and found E.J. Dionne had done an interview with her when she was running for senator. Here is what she says about her religious faith:
Methodists believe in action. And that’s a part of goodness — a part of worship of God is to act.

I grew up in a Methodist church and I was a Sunday school teacher when we lived back in Texas. When I was making the decision whether to get into this Senate race, one of the important touch points for me was to read my bible. And it’s Matthew 25:40, you know the passage? For me, that passage is the heart of what I believe. Because what it says is “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these the least of these my bretheren. ...” (I still use the King James version, it’s beautiful).

It says three things: it says there is God in...the hungry, the poor, the stranger, there is God in each of us. Because. Remember, it says “you did it unto me.” And that’s saying God was in, God is in, the poor, the thirsty, the stranger.

But then part two is he never asks the question of going to heaven and hell, what your intent was, the question was: Did you act? And those who gave meat to the hungry, those who gave water to the thirsty, those who welcomed the stranger in, were the ones that God welcomed to heaven. ... It stresses the importance of community, because it says, in fact, it’s about action and it’s about action together.

And that’s how I read Matthew 25:40. And it’s why I’m in this race.

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Regular Republicans are Beginning to Reject Their Leaders
11/11/2013 5:24:36 PM

Something very interesting happened in the Virginia gubernatorial election this November. The partisan makeup of the electorate which actually came to the polls should have favored the Republican candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, but he lost to the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe. It was not that the Democrats got more of their natural constituencies out to vote, according to Stu Rothenberg, a conservative pollster, writing in Roll Call. More people in the Republican constituencies turned out to vote but they didn't vote for the Republican. Rothenberg says:
The 2013 Virginia electorate was older, wealthier, more married and, surprisingly, more male than the Virginia electorate during the presidential race just a year earlier. In other words, it was a measurably more Republican-looking electorate than the one that turned out in the commonwealth for President Barack Obama’s re-election, even with the impressive black turnout.

But Rothenberg uses his analysis of the makeup of the electorate to conclude only that Democrat analysts have been wrong in their own efforts to understand the election, by focusing on single women as a crucial factor, for example. He does not make the obvious point from his analysis, that an electorate with more Republican-leaning characteristics chose this time to NOT vote for the Republican candidate.

This has been my hope for some time, that regular Republican voters will begin to stop supporting the extremist candidates the Republican Party has been sponsoring. Ken Cuccinelli promoted especially extremist views against both abortion and birth control, for example. When people of both parties actually hear and see what some of these candidates are promoting they lose.

The regular Republicans I know, friends and family members, simply are not rabid in their views like the right wing talk radio hosts, Tea Party zealots, or religious right true believers. They don't want to destroy the public schools, they support some public aid to the poor and elderly. They want to lift people up, not engage in hate and hostility. It is possible to have different political views without resorting to violent language against others.

So I hope what happened in Virginia is a sign of a trend among Republican voters.
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When the Big Money Mafia Rule
10/1/2013 8:09:58 PM

In the last item here I wrote that the House Republicans are using mobster tactics by using a governmental shutdown to get their way. They are saying, "Do what I want or I will hurt you." These tactics are based on no respect for the other person or party. These tactics do not respect the fact that opponents have been elected in free and fair elections. No matter that President Obama was re-elected in a campaign that featured the Affordable Care Act as a central issue. No matter that Paul Ryan, the architect of the House Republican Budget, was on the Republican ticket that lost the election. House Republicans don't care about these elections. As I heard them say repeatedly in the debate on C-Span "the American people" hate Obamacare and want it delayed and defunded. How can they claim that all "the American people" hate Obamacare when Obama was re-elected? It's because they don't care about elections if the other party wins, they will use whatever power they can to get what they want. They will use blackmail and distortion. They will manipulate the media. They will lie about the Obamacare. They will threaten anyone who disagrees with them. They are, yes, acting like mobsters.

Then later today I happened to see a new issue of Dissent Magazine has been published. I read an article about how the mafia has taken over Bulgaria. I have been following some of what has been happening in Eastern Europe as societies turned from Communist rule to wide-open free market economies. What has happened there is interesting. In the wide open atmosphere the mafia has moved in, taken over major companies, gained lots of money, which has entirely corrupted the politics of the country.

Is this what happens when the institutions of a democratic government are turned over to the rich? They will rule with mafia, mobster tactics. There is a lot at stake in current debates.

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Obama Wins Shutdown Battle
10/1/2013 12:56:20 PM

Last night the House of Representatives refused to pass a resolution acceptable to the US Senate and President Obama to avoid a shutdown of the government. I watched a good deal of the debate in the House on C-Span over the past several nights. The Republicans have made a serious mistake by positioning themselves over-against Obama and Obamacare in a way that likens themselves to mobsters.

Just consider the emotional structure of the relation the Republicans have set up. They are saying, "you have to do what I want or I will hurt you." You have to stop or change Obamacare or I will shut down the government. The simple structure of this relation is the kind that mobsters or criminals try to use.

Obama has responded by saying to the Republican mobsters: "I will not let you try to force me to do what you want." He is this time, unlike the earlier fiscal cliff crisis, simply saying that he will not negotiate with a gun to his head.

He will win this fight in the minds of most of the American people. They will be responding emotionally to the basic structure of this relation, against those who are threatening the use of force to get their way. People don't like mobster tactics. Obama will win this fight in the end.

Some of this depends on how media portray the fight. At the last minute last night the Republicans in the House voted to establish a conference committee with the Senate to resolve the differences. This was after they had already voted on previous resolutions to deny funding to the Affordable Care Act and then to delay the individual mandate of the law for a year, which the Senate had rejected. For some time now both Obama and Senate Democrats have been saying that they will not negotiate any change in the ACA, Obama's signature accomplishment. So the Senate also rejected the proposal for a conference committee, there is nothing to negotiate. But this opens the possibility of media interpretation that Democrats refuse to negotiate and therefore should be blamed for the shutdown.

If you hear this interpretation from news sources like Fox News and right wing radio, consider this fact. The Senate adopted a federal budget six months ago and have been asking the House leadership for a conference committee to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budgets. This is called the "regular order" and is how the House and Senate have traditionally worked, by setting up conference committees within which compromises are made leading to a law both sides can live with. But House leadership for six months has refused to agree with the Senate request for a budget conference. It is Republicans who have systematically refused to negotiate through the regular process. They have not wanted to compromise, they have been waiting for the time to try to force Democrats holding a government shutdown (a gun) to the heads of the Democrats and Obama. Media reports that fail to inform everyone of this fact should be taken as false reports, as right wing spin.

So the last minute ruse to call for a conference committee is a tactic being used by the Republicans to pretend that they are the ones who want to negotiate and Obama will not. The truth is the opposite. The forty or so Tea Party true-believer House members have actually been looking for an opportunity to shut down that terrible thing called "government".

People will see what is happening here. Republicans are acting like mobsters.

One more thing. Last night I heard Nancy Pelosi say that Democrats had accepted the Republican "number" in the continuing resolution proposal. Today I read more about this. The number refers to the total budget number allowed by the continuing resolution. The Democratic number was set by the Senate at more than a trillion dollars. The Republican House number was much less than that and maintained the sequester lowered budget cuts. So Democrats actually already have "compromised" with House Republicans by giving in on the amount of the budget. But you will not probably hear much about that even in the regular media.

The media love conflict and tend to report on the loudest screaming voices. That is a very big problem for the rational governance of our society.

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Joining Obama Against Himself?
9/5/2013 4:45:43 PM

I want to join with President Obama in his quest to rid the world of chemical weapons. I believe he was genuinely moved at the horrendous images of children gassed to death, just as he was moved by the senseless killing of children at Sandy Hook School. He wants to do something about this, the world should not just turn away from this without consequences. I agree, something should be done.

And I also want Obama to succeed as president. It was amazing to me that a man of such great character could have been elected in this country in the first place, and then re-elected. The over-the-top hostility so many have for Obama I attribute to racism pure and simple. Many extreme conservatives and others who call themselves libertarians refuse to accept anything Obama proposes. This is small-minded, in fact, verges on literal mental illness. When people holler and scream in ways that damage themselves and their country they have lost their connection to reality.

I expect that Obama calculated that those who supported his election will tend to support him now since he has put forward such a strong moral argument against the use of chemical weapons. Many of us supported him because of his stance against the Iraq war. But that war too was sold to the American people on the basis of high moral purpose, to bring "freedom" to the Middle East. But that war was also sold on the basis that Iraq's dictator was a threat to this country, and had used and was threatening use of weapons of mass destruction. And just so, after Obama says the United States should engage in a moral and humanitarian effort in Syria, he then follows up by saying chemical weapons in Syria can be a threat to this country. He wants to use both moral and national security arguments. And this, of course, is just what the neoconservatives were doing when they made their arguments for the Iraq war.

Obama has now decided that only a big military strike will be able to turn the tide in Syria and serve to punish the Syrian president. Military power is efficacious. This is neoconservative dogma. It is what John McCain has been saying all along. Obama is now doing not that which Obama himself said was his preference, negotiation, even with the enemy; he is doing what the neoconservatives have been urging him to do, get tough, use the big guns, only "strength" will work against "those people". One way to say this is that Obama the president is acting against himself, the person Obama who said he believed in negotiated settlements of political questions.

In fact on a whole host of issues it seems that Obama talks one way and governs in another. He talks economic justice but then acts in ways wholly supportive of corporate interests. Obama is making his decisions on the basis more of politics than moral judgment. A couple days ago he held a think session, drawing many of his advisers together to discuss how to move forward on Syria. All of these folks were political and communication advisers. And such folks are not asking what is right and wrong, they are oriented to Obama's political opponents. They tend to discount Obama's own political base. So rather than do what his base wants, Obama ends up doing exactly that which his base does not want, in this case, talking tough on use of military force as if this will solve the problem.

This is Obama against himself.

It is especially ironic that the key to a negotiated settlement in Syria may be Russia. But in the Ed Snowden affair Obama has decided that arresting Snowden is more important than good relations with Putin. This means that Obama is not in a good position to discuss Syria with Putin. With his better self Obama the person probably agrees with the motives of Snowden, that the American people deserve to know more about how their government is involved in monitoring conversations in this country. But as president Obama is working against himself in his determination to use every means necessary to arrest Snowden. And this now is creating the conditions within which Obama thinks he has to try to use military violence to get what he wants in Syria. How much more evidence do we need to realize that violence begets more violence, which is exactly what will happen in Syria if Obama sends in the bombs.

Obama has not been faithful to himself, or the people who elected him. He could wake up, make a turn to peace, announce a new direction to his administration, risk meeting with Putin and the new president of Iran, and set a new direction for the world. But, alas, he is being driven by the old politics of empire, against himself.

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Obama Failed to Appoint Competent IRS Leaders
5/22/2013 3:51:45 PM

Last night I watched on C-Span a hearing on the IRS debate of the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Max Baucus (D, Montana). It became clear to me that President Obama has again failed to appoint people to high positions who represent his own policy orientations, and has, instead, tried to avoid controversy by keeping in place previous appointees of George W. Bush. In his effort to nearly always appeal to the other side, rather than act on the basis of his own core convictions, Obama has allowed a controversy to develop that is framed in the worst possible way for his own policy preferences or for the good of the Democratic Party which he should be representing since he was elected by Democrats who rightly expect him to be a Democrat and not a Republican.

The hearing included responses from three persons: Acting Commissioner Steven Miller (now relieved of that position), former Administrator Doug Shulman (who left the agency last November), and Inspector J. Russell George (who wrote the Inspector General report). They testified about revelations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had applied additional scrutiny to groups applying for tax-exempt status that had the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names. 

The primary framing of the issue fits right into the main talking point of the Tea Party and Republicans, that the IRS is unfairly going after or "targeting" Tea Party groups for political purposes, that this is an outrage, and that this demonstrates the government as a whole is always doing this kind of thing so that people can no longer trust the government on anything. (See columns by Rich Lowry and David Brooks). Obama himself has accepted this framing rather than support professional workers in the IRS. He has assumed that terrible deeds have been done by these workers.

From watching the hearing, the fact is that Obama has failed to appoint strong, competent leaders for the IRS. Not once did either Steve Miller or Doug Shulman say the obvious, that the Tea Party groups were themselves "political" groups and the IRS has a responsibility not to allow such groups tax-exempt status. Steven Miller seemed the better of the two because he was trying to reject the over-all framing of the issue as the Republicans were assuming in their questions. He did not accept the idea that IRS agents were "targeting" Tea Party groups, for example. But he could not articulate things in a clear way, partly because the agency has not itself adequately developed guidelines for handling these matters. This is a failure in itself of the agency. But who is responsible for that failure? The previous commissioner, Doug Shulman, a Bush appointee who Obama kept in place, a man who does not share the policy preferences of the president and the party the president represents. It is Schulman who failed to guide the agency in dealing with these matters; he let the problem fester and took no action to deal with the whole issue of tax-exemption of political groups. (See this article by Lee Fang for specific groups violating the principle that political groups should not be tax exempt.)

This became clear in questioning of Shulman by Max Baucus toward the end of the hearing. Baucus asked Shulman if he was aware that after the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case there were many groups who began to involve themselves in political activity and abusing their so-called status as social welfare groups. Baucus didn't say this but he was referring to groups such as Karl Rove's Crossroads which raised millions of dollars from a few rich donors for attack ads against Democratic candidates in the last election, money Rove did not have to account for by revealing the donors since his was a "social welfare" organization.

Doug Shulman refused to answer the Baucus questions, pretending he was not supposed to influence the agency since he was a political appointee; he said these were questions which should be dealt with by the career civil servants of the IRS. I thought this incredible. In fact, what Shulman said is an outrage itself. But apparently Obama just hoped that appointing Shulman would satisfy the Republicans and they would not be able to criticize the IRS since Shulman was a Republican appointee. Will Obama ever learn? If you don't support your own party, if you back away from hard decisions, if you fail to create a context in which your own policy preferences are clear, you are going to get caught in very bad situation sooner or later.

So Obama now is looking weak and indecisive because he has been acting, well, weak and indecisive. Both Miller and Shulman themselves appeared weak and indecisive, refusing to answer questions, giving lame excuses, which just made the mad-dog Republicans more angry. Mad dogs have a habit of sensing and going after weakness.

The Democratic Senator from Washington, Maria Cantwell, was one of the Democrats who said the real issue is how a tax-exempt group should be defined, what actually makes for "political" activity and why should a social welfare tax-exempt group be allowed any political activity at all. That is the real question. The real scandal is that Tea Party and other conservative groups have been pushing the envelope by engaging in obvious political activity.

But this framing of the issue will probably not prevail. It's interesting to me that the so-called "liberal press" and many Democrats have taken the lead from Obama and articulated the issue in the conservative framing, that the IRS did something terribly wrong. Obama and Democrats have got to stop doing that. Otherwise there is no way to understand why Lois Lerner, the IRS official most directly in charge of this section of the agency is doing what she did today, taking the fifth amendment, refusing to answer questions, in order to protect her own constitutional rights. This makes it sound as if she is guilty. And that will keep the mad dogs going after the IRS even more.

I think Lois Lerner had to do what she did, otherwise she exposes herself and others in the IRS to a terrible and vicious witch hunt. The Tea Party Republicans will not be satisfied until they see real blood on the ground. Only Obama can do something about this; he has to lead by changing the whole framework within which he talks about this. Only he, finally, is able to set the context within which this debate can be resolved. I am afraid he will just back away again and let the Republicans win again, which is very, very bad for the nation.

It can be argued that money in politics is the most important pressing issue in the country today. The very future of democracy is at stake here. Obama can start doing the right thing by holding a press conference and announcing why he supports a faithful government worker like Lois Lerner.

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The NRA: Southern Political Terrorism
5/14/2013 3:21:05 AM

Earlier this month at their annual convention the National Rifle Association elected a new president, an Alabama lawyer by the name of James Porter. His father had been president in the 1970s when the decisions were made to remake the NRA from an association of gun owners into what can only now be called a political terrorist organization. The NRA now uses guns, and relies on the threat of violence, to intimidate and terrorize the minds of any politician who will not support its extremist views about guns. It uses the money provided by gun manufacturers to buy political advertising to attack any politician who will not vote the strict party line of the NRA.

Many people in other parts of the country do not realize the degree to which the South continues to hate the North not only for the civil war but also for using the federal government in the 1960s to force the South to change its ways of segregation against black people. When a conservative Southern politician talks about "freedom" what he means is freedom from the federal government which demands equal treatment for all persons, both blacks and whites. It means "freedom" to dominate and oppress others, freedom for white people to terrorize the hearts and minds of black people. That is the true history of the meaning of the word "freedom" in the language of white racism. After the successful civil rights movement in the 1960s the South turned from Democrat to Republican and the NRA was taken over by anti-civil rights extremists.

James Porter in the video below speaks a lot about freedom. This presentation to a gun group in New York state before the last presidential election is very revealing. He actually says in front of this audience that down South they don't call it the civil war, they call it "the war of Northern aggression." Now, for the people in the North the civil war is history, but not for those Southerners who have refused to change. For them the civil war is at the top of their memory and political rhetoric. It continues to provide the energy and context for their current political activity. And when James Porter begins his talk about everyone there sharing the same values he is not being honest. Most folks in the North do not at all share the same values of Southern racists.

Notice how Porter speaks about the president of the United States, how the NRA as an organization was dedicated to keeping him from being re-elected. They didn't succeed, as we now know. But throughout his talk Porter talks about "fighting" for freedom. And he says clearly that the reason people should have guns is to be able to fight against "tyranny". What tyranny is this? It is the "tyranny" of the demand of the North that the South must treat black people equally. Porter is still fighting the civil war.

Many white people in the South have changed over these last few decades. But I am afraid that the old Southern attitudes have not gone away. Those good folks in the South along with those of us in the rest of the country should not allow those old Southern attitudes to influence politics through organizations like the National Rifle Association.

Our politics should not be determined by people willing to engage in political terrorism.

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Public Violence
4/17/2013 2:14:58 PM

On the day federal taxes are due, April 15, 2013, two pressure cooker bombs went off as the Boston Marathon was concluding. Legs were torn off. Three died. Many more injured.

Maybe there is a connection with domestic terrorism, maybe not. But there are very large numbers of people out there whose minds have already been terrorized by right wing talk show hosts about the evil of federal taxes. In fact, the most intense opposition to current gun control proposals in congress is from those who believe they should be able to own military style weapons to protect themselves not from terrorists but from government. Just think about that for a moment: there are very large numbers of mostly white men in this country who hate the government so much that they believe they must arm themselves to defend themselves from government officials who may use the police and the military against them. (The US Senate is so cowed by the intensity of hostility to government that it has just voted down proposals for expanded background checks and a ban on high-capacity gun magazines.)

Yet the most important effect of the public violence at Boston will be calls for more police, more surveillance by public authorities, more control by government of public events. The more violence there is the more police we must have. To say it clearly, the more violence the more police, and also, the more police the more violence.

The police carry guns; they represent official violence. The more people experience the terror of violence the more they want the police to protect them. Ever since the cities blew up in violence in the 1960s there has been a political response calling for more prisons, more police. And the more society relies on official violence the more it has experienced the backlash from those afraid of the power of the state.

This has now come to the point that public events will become less and less possible. It will cost too much to provide the police to control the violence. People will become imprisoned in their own homes watching violence on their television sets. It is time to think clearly about whether there is a better way.
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Why Does Romney Focus So Much On Apology?
9/12/2012 3:02:35 PM

Romney has now gotten himself in some real trouble by jumping the gun trying to interpret the meaning of a press statement from the Cairo embassy yesterday evening. Before a crowd was gathering at the embassy to protest a video trailer on YouTube about a movie mocking the Prophet Mohammed, the embassy released statement: "The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."

It is this statement that Romney calls an "apology" and says demonstrates that Obama has sympathy for rioters who later attacked the embassy. And then later still four Americans were killed in Libya. It is extremely important to realize that the Cairo embassy statement was released before any riot or violence occurred. Yet Romney even after he knew the facts later refused to adjust his remarks, saying the embassy was speaking for an administration which apologizes to its enemies.

Why can't Romney take back what he had said about apologies? Because this is a key belief of the apoplectic conservative right wing listening to right wing radio especially Rush Limbaugh. This is what Limbaugh has been drumming into his listeners for decades now, "liberals" are weak-kneed sympathizers with the poor and oppressed who are always apologizing for the economic and military strength of the United States.

It goes back especially to Vietnam. Most everyone who thinks just a little bit knows that war was a disaster, that it damaged this country, that it ended in utter defeat. But Limbaugh and those known as neoconservatives simply cannot stand to admit what everyone else knows to be the truth about Vietnam, so they say that to admit the truth is the same as apologizing for that war. And for Limbaugh the desire not to admit truth extends to slavery in the United States and the oppression of blacks for another hundred years. Liberals who want to remember the truth of the racial history of the U.S. are therefore "apologizing" when they recount that history. This is a very deep and significant emotional argument that resonates with enough people to continue to have political appeal.

But it is morally repugnant, it intentionly draws on the worst instincts of the American people and encourages the continuation of racial prejudice as a factor in the politics of this country. Romney and his advisors know what they are doing when they accuse Obama of apologies. They are encouraging racial prejudice in the minds and hearts of white people.

White people should have no sympathy for blacks, for Africans, for Asians, or for Muslims. Any person who shows any sympathy for such people should be attacked. Romney and his campaign are relying on this idea when they attack Obama for having any sympathy for others in the world. I believe there are enough people who see through this that it may mark a turning point in this campaign, when Romeny is viewed as not a serious candidate, as one who does not demonstrate the sense of calm rationality needed by a president in a very dangerous world.

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Romney Degrades Himself with Welfare Ad
8/28/2012 2:18:46 PM

Mitt Romney says he approves the ad (below) which claims that Obama wants to send out welfare checks to people without work requirements, a completely false charge. Romney's willingness to use this type of attack means that he is willing to engage in the worst form of political lying to appeal to those white voters who still harbor racial prejudices about welare.

Those who make their living at politics or follow it closely know that this welfare ad constitutes an intentional strategy to engage in racist appeals. The Republican operative, Lee Atwater, urged the use of such appeals in the campaign of the first George Bush, for which after he knew he was dying said he was sorry he had done so. To his credit John McCain refused to use such ads.

Romney campaign officials have said they must use these ads because they are working, they are effective. But for Romney to seek to be elected by appeal to racial prejudice of voters, whether South or North, is a disgrace. It encourages prejudice and divides the country against itself.

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Wall Street Occupation Protest - Live Video
9/26/2011 3:45:59 PM

Thousands have been protesting at Liberty Park in New York City against corporate greed represented by Wall Street. Eighty protestors were arrested this past Saturday. The major media are not covering these events, though they would certainly be there if it was a "Tea Party" event. This should help us all realize that the major media help literally create movements on the right. Click below to watch a live video stream of these courageous Americans exercizing democracy and public responsibility in the streets.

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

Here is information from the website Occupy Wallstreet.
Our Mission

On the 17th of September, we want to see 20,000 people to flood into lower Manhattan, set up beds, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.

Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America. We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants.

Who is Occupy Wall Street?

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.

The original call for this occupation was published by Adbusters in July; since then, many individuals across the country have stepped up to organize this event, such as the people of the NYC General Assembly and US Day of Rage. There'll also be similar occupations in the near future such as October2011 in Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C.

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Tens of Thousands Protest in Israel; Citizens of the USA Should Also Hit the Streets
8/7/2011 2:00:28 PM

Major protests are occurring in Israel (see video below). The people are hitting the streets there opposing the policies of Netanyahu. There have been 250,00 Israelis in the streets: On a per capita basis for the USA, that would be about 9.5 million people. The streets of the cities of this country should be filled every weekend with millions of enraged citizens demonstrating against flawed debt deals and the failure of Washington to address the real problems in this country: the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, the declining incomes of the working middle class, and the lack of jobs (14 million unemployed people, families starving, increasing poverty and food stamps). Barack Obama has demonstrated he will not lead, he will do whatever he is forced to do, even when it damages the economy, as this debt deal does. It is time he is forced to do what is right.

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Obama Punches Back
4/13/2011 3:13:44 PM

Many liberals and progressives were very worried about what President Obama was going to say in his big speech today on fiscal policy. Time and again, it has seemed to me, Obama has allowed very conservative Republicans, whose quite extremist views are not shared by the vast majority of Americans, to define the terms of the debate; he has not adequately exercized the kind of political leadership that only he can provide as the leader of the Democratic Party. He and his staff members have seemingly declared war against his own most committed supporters in chasing the so-called independent voters who political consultants today believe turn elections. I have thought that Obama needs to clearly articulate his goals and policy directions so that other Democrats and policy professionals gain a clear sense and context of the direction he wants to take the country and can work to help him implement his priorities.

Well, today the President did just that. Here is why I think the speech was so excellent:

1) He clearly expressed his view of political philosophy by saying that this country has a strong tradition of free enterprise and individual initiative and that this tradition is important. And he also said that the country also has a strong tradition of people looking out for one another, of social responsibility. He did not play one of these off against the other, both are significant. That is a view I also share. I think it wrong if one or the other party claims just one of these views for itself. All parties and persons can and should affirm both of these traditions and how they can contribute to a strong and healthy nation. Obama said caring for one another is what patriotism is all about. Good for him.

2) He clearly interpreted history, and on a factual basis, including the ways previous presidents of both parties have been able to solve big fiscal problems in a bi-partisan way. As I have said many times, much of what we call "politics" is a contest between different views of history. Obama made very clear where the big deficits have come from, including from large tax cuts which deprived government of the revenue necessary to pay its bills. Republicans in general don't want to engage in debates about real history because it exposes that the so-called "supply side economics" (cut taxes and revenues will increase) is what the first George Bush called it, "voodoo economics." The administration of the second George Bush proves it beyond question, cutting taxes just cuts revenues and creates big deficits, and during his administration jobs did not grow, the economy did not improve, the rich sent their tax savings to invest in China, not the United States. I do wish Obama had said more about that than he did.

3) Obama laid out a clear plan for the closing the deficits which included defense cuts, dealing with tax expenditures (money spent by the government through tax breaks), lowering health care costs rather than depriving people benefits, and increasing taxes on the wealthy. He said clearly that he will not turn Medicare into a voucher program where older folks have to pay more for services through insurance companies.

4) He clearly set his program over against the budget of Paul Ryan released last week which is based on wild assumptions about supply side magical beliefs and which destroys Medicare and Medicaid. He laid down a line in the sand that he will not again approve extension of tax cuts for the wealthy. The President appeared to be very certain and strong in how he talked about this in a way that he has not done in previous big battles.

Now the question is, of course, whether he will follow through. At the end of the speech he said Joe Biden will lead a process in May and June to put together the final proposal for legislation. This has to do with the impending vote on an extension of the debt limit which will have to occur in July. The devil will once again be in the details. But the President's speech is clearly an act of leadership setting the parameters of what will and will not be acceptable. Due to his past performance Obama had lost the trust of many of his most faithful supporters. It is necessary now to let him know that by punching back at crazy Republican ideas he is providing the leadership many of us were hoping for.
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Public Lies about Tax Cuts
2/10/2011 3:46:27 PM

A couple years ago I happened upon a C-Span presentation sponsored by the American Heritage Foundation of conservative economists discussing tax policy. What was fascinating to me was that not one of these economists would agree now with the so-called "supply side" argument that if you lower taxes the revenues to government increase. Now, these were not politicians, they were economists talking to one another, and though they were all in the "conservative" camp they could not just repeat what has become the prime credo of Republican politics.

Now, at one time this idea may have had some merit. Under Eisenhower in the 1950s the top rate on income taxes was 91 percent! When Kennedy reduced that rate there could have been a stimulative effect. But when rates are already very low in comparison a further decline won't make much difference, it will just mean that tax revenues decline so government cannot pay its bills. And that is what has been happening now for the past decades. Under both Reagan and Bush the deficits have exploded because of their tax cuts which did not produce the expected revenue. So history is absolutely clear now and conservative economists know it.

But the message hasn't gotten to the politicians. David Corn has written this at Mother Jones:
Moments before the new Republican House was to be sworn in, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the head of the House Republican Policy Committee and the chamber's fifth-ranking GOPer, was standing in the ornate Speaker's Lobby of the Capitol, near a roaring fire. In the celebratory hustle and bustle—new members rushing to pick up lapel pins and license plates, their kids noisily exploring the building—a reporter approached Price with a question: How could he reconcile the GOP's pledge to tame the deficit with its decision to dodge budget calculations about the costs of tax cuts and repealing health care reform? Without missing a beat, Price replied, "It doesn't cost the government money to decrease taxes. When you decrease taxes, as President Kennedy proved, as Reagan proved, you increase revenue to the federal government."
Now, what is this? Is it a complete delusion, a refusal to face facts caused by ideological blinders? Or is it intentional and literal public lying? Here you have a major Republican congressional leader saying something which is just completely untrue. If he is not lying, but just deluded, then public policy established on the basis of a false belief will be bad for the country, it can't accomplish what is being claimed. If he is lying then he is morally reprehensible and should be ejected from office. But wait a minute, this kind of thing is being said by a whole lot of Republican leaders today, so they are all either deluded or lying. Either way, a country being run by delusions or lies is not one which can be successful in the world today.

David Corn goes on in his article to report the views of David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's first budget director. Stockman thinks it is lying: "Republicans like Price were, in Stockman's view, misreading history—even perverting the Reagan message. As he saw it, they were guiding the nation toward financial ruin by pushing for tax cuts without having the guts to seriously slash spending—and dishonestly justifying their "flimflam" by citing his work."

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The People Own the Streets
2/2/2011 3:24:23 PM

Every once in a while the truth about political power is exposed in full view. That is the case now in Egypt after a week of popular demonstrations against the thirty-year regime of Hosni Mubarak. Today pro-Mubarak groups are on the streets engaging in violent clashes with the otherwise peaceful demonstrators. Live streaming of events is available at Al Jazeera. The truth is that people finally own the streets. All of a sudden, if the people decide, they can change their government. All of a sudden people refuse to affirm the legitimacy of their leaders. All of a sudden the rules are changed.

Yesterday I attended an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Portland, Oregon. Tom Bartlett, past President of the American University of Cairo, spoke of the context of what is happening in Egypt. He emphasized that the population there has exploded over the past few decades, now at 85 million people. The average age is 24 years old, so these demonstrations represent a revolt of the young against a regime that has not provided adequate economic and political opportunities. Bartlett also said that a key fact to realize about Egypt is that it has to import forty percent of its food. That means that it has to raise the income to buy this food from others, which it obtains through tourism and charges for use of the Suez Canal, among other sources. Even groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood realize this. Bartlett said the Brotherhood is only one and not a significant factor in political reconstitution of the country. Note this, because the neoconservative right wing in this country has already begun to raise great fear about this. Also, he said Iran will not have influence in Egypt, as Juan Cole explains in an article I placed on this website.

It may be helpful to keep three factors in mind as you watch the unfolding of these events. First on religion, Egypt is a Sunni Muslim nation, not Shia like Iran. The Sunni are more likely to affirm secular government than the Shia. That's why when George W. Bush began the war in Iraq he didn't really know what he was doing. The Shia are dominant in Iraq, Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, had kept the lid on the Shia in Iraq the years he was in power. With "democracy" in Iraq the Shia are now in power, just as the Shia are in power in Iran. (Iran is ethnically Persian, Iraq is Arab). This distinction between Shia and Sunni is critical to understanding the differences among Muslims. Egypt is much less likely to adopt an Islamist extremist government due to its history as a more secular and Sunni culture.

A second factor is the role of Israel. Policy in the United States tends to focus on Israel because of the strength of the Israel lobby and neoconservative propaganda. This is the source of hysteria over changes in the Muslim world, and why so many are expressing fear and worry over what is happening in Egypt. The various dictators in Arab countries have been able to keep their populations in check, and keep the oil flowing, through political repression, and the United States has supported these dictators since they maintained the power balance with Israel. A democratic Egypt would certainly change that equation; there would be a different orientation to Israel, and anything "different" is to be feared according to those who put Israel at the absolute top of their priorities. Egypt does not have a lot of oil, but it has been a leader in constructive relations with Israel. So when listening to commentators consider their views on Israel.

Thirdly, rising prices for food is a particularly significant issue since it has to do with world markets and how the economic policies and financial practices of the U.S. government can have tremendous impact on those prices. Since Egypt imports forty percent of its food, any increase in international food prices quickly has an effect there. This may have been a factor in the current outbreaks there since financial speculators have begun to play their casino games with food commodities (as they did with homes in the recent housing bubble). If people cannot eat they are going at some point to hit the streets because their government is failing them.

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Political Violence Works
1/13/2011 3:46:10 PM

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot by an armed gunman last Saturday outside a supermarket in Tucsan, Arizona as she was conducting a "Congress on the Corner" event for her constituents. Six people were killed, and fourteen wounded including Giffords, shot through the head. Last night President Obama spoke to the nation from Tucsan about the shooting. The same day, Sarah Palin put up a video which called the press "reprehensible" for suggesting that her campaign map with crosshairs on Giffords district, and comments about "reloading," helped create a public atmosphere encouraging armed violence against political opponents.

I would like to make some comments about this which you are not going to hear in the media. No one wants to admit something that has become entirely obvious in current political culture for some decades now: political violence works, politically violent talk works, it intimidates others, it forces others to extremes, it removes civility from political discourse and appeals to raw emotion, it demonizes others and justifies any means necessary to destroy them. And it makes a lot of money, lots and lots of money, for a whole industry of violent talkers.

When Obama calls for civility the liberals and progressives nod and say "yes, indeed," and Republican political operatives also say yes because they want liberals to continue their civility so the conservatives can keep winning elections through political violence. Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist tells young Republicans that politics is a "knife fight" so don't be taken in by any talk about ethics in politics.

And it's not true that both sides do it, as so many media persons say, trying to be neutral in the debate. Remember Watergate, for example, a Republican president, Richard Nixon, actually hires former CIA operatives to break into headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (located in the Watergate building) to dig up dirt against George McGovern in the 1972 presidential campaign. Nixon got elected again because the people couldn't believe a president would do such a thing. The people want to believe that their leaders are good and decent persons, especially a party which claims to stand for moral values, but Republican politics is absolutely corrupt. Just think of all those now sitting in jail, former congressional leader Tom Delay will now be joining them. Anybody who actually reads some books on politics of the last years can only come to one conclusion: Republican political tactics are corrupt, politically violent, they systematically lie, cheat, steal, and yes, "kill" in the way they talk and the images and associations they use in political discourse.

Even a "deranged man" knows this. Sarah Palin in her speech calls the Tucson gunman "deranged" again and again and says that Ronald Reagan taught us that only individuals are to blame for such acts, not society. Her speech offers no recognition at all that this incident demonstrates failures of those institutions responsible for mental health and education in current society. Such institutions require taxes and Republicans are opposed to taxes adequate for a complex society today; cut taxes but build prisons, that's been the conservative mantra for decades now. Use taxes for more and more police, more and more official violence, more and more military to go and kill others all over the world. Bellicose, violent talk is what we hear again and again from Republicans, big strong tough talk, the way to get what you want is to take it by force of arms, kill the evil enemy. Even a mentally ill person, especially a mentally ill person, is going to be influenced by that kind of talk, is going to hear what is taken to be a central belief of this society, violence works. This gunman in Tucson was doing exactly what a violent society taught him to do, a society which has become more and more violent due to the killing rhetoric of so-called conservative politicians. I say "so-called" because true conservatism teaches responsibility for others, not hatred of them. Current Republican rhetoric is not conservative at all, it is extremist politics just on the edge of what is known as fascism, a political philosophy that believes in violence, that's how Hitler became powerful, indeed. Hitler is the extreme example of the truth of the phrase: "political violence works."

Guns are at the center of it all for Republicans. It is interesting to me that Democrats have for over a decade retreated from the debate over gun control, have given in to extremely powerful gun lobbies, especially the National Rifle Association. But Republican rhetoric continues to keep the issue alive, it is such a successful political tactic they cannot give it up. They tell voters to vote against the Democrat because Democrats have in the past stood for gun control, they will "take away your guns" if you vote for them. The whole Tea Party movement centers on guns, the very meaning of "Tea Party" recalls the violence of the revolutionary war at the beginning of the country. More and more it is necessary for those who really believe in the constitution of this country to walk into public places carrying a gun demonstrating that you are a real man, that you are going to shoot anyone who gets in your way, that guns are the way to maintain one's personal security.

The Republicans have won the debate over gun control, yet they can't stop talking about guns, it's a topic that hits at the heart of everybody's concern for personal safety and thus an extremely successful political tactic. It wins elections again and again. The NRA has become, literally, a poltical terrorist group, threatening anyone who even begins to talk about a rational approach to the regulation of firearms in this country. The NRA has suggested in response to this latest incident that what is appropriate now is to pray for the victims, no discussion of any regulation of guns or ammunition is appropriate now. So the NRA is proposing prayer as the solution, as if it has become a church, a representive of God's will in the world today. This is a desecration of God's name, but "God and guns" is what Republicans talk about, an appeal to a violent god who settles things by violence.

So, the truth is, political violence works. A true political discourse would at least begin with acknowledgement of that reality.

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Democrats Elected a Republican President
12/9/2010 1:39:07 PM

The worst thing about the Obama tax deal with the Republicans is that it assumes that Republicans are right about how to promote economic growth. When the economy is growing Republicans say that cutting taxes will make it grow more. When the economy is in recession Republicans say that only cutting taxes will provide economic growth. Now Obama has even agreed to cut the payroll tax which supports Social Security, agreeing to a principle that will provide a precedent to the idea that Social Security is not able to pay for itself and therefore benefits should be reduced, which affects especially the least well-off in the country, as has even been already promoted by the deficit commission appointed by this very president. Obama in other words is acting like a Republican president, agreeing with Republican ideas.

What is really needed for economic growth is a massive federal jobs program. Corporations are sitting on mountains of cash right now, they are not spending it to create jobs. Investors have put their money under the mattress, they will not invest until they know for sure the direction of the economy (until the "herd" tells them what to do), except for those who will invest overseas, especially in China where the Communist government absolutely controls the workers and maintains low wages. In these conditions, when corporations will not hire enough people to keep people working and making money for their families, it is necessary for government to step in and put people to work. But Republicans cannot agree to such steps because that would make it necessary to admit that the magical "free market" does not always work to the benefit of all in society. Rather than do something that will really give people jobs, Obama has sided with the Republicans, which has the effect of screening out all serious policy proposals based on rational analysis and historical experience of the Democratic Party. Obama is betraying his party and the people who voted for him.

I think he is betraying his own good sense as well. I was early in my support for him. I was impressed with his full endorsement of unions in his Springfield speech announcing his candidacy. I too worked as a community organizer on southside of Chicago, in the mid-1960s some years before Obama, and a few miles north, in the Kenwood-Oakland community, from the far-southside where Obama did his own community organizing. I could not believe that a person working in community organizing would, when it came down to it, lose that basic sense of power and justice for the poor. But Obama has lost it, he is now betraying his own life and experience.

He says that he must compromise. But he is not compromising, he is given away the store, he is only doing tax cuts, and the whole deal goes onto the credit card again, so that he will later be blamed for increasing the deficit even more. Republicans will not raise taxes to deal with the deficit, they want to destroy the governmental support system that makes life possible for the millions of people who do not succeed in an economic system rigged against them. And this is now at real crisis levels. There are nearly fifteen million people officially unemployed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The line at the top represents fifteen million unemployed, the line at the bottom represents years between 1948 and 2008. And this doesn't count discouraged workers, those no longer looking for work. This economy is not doing its job of employing people, putting food on the table. The business class is failing the American people. The wealthy are willing to create vast swaths of surplus populations, people who don't count for anything, people who can be left behind.

And this graph represents the whole nation, in some places both urban and rural the unemployment rate is absolutely devastating. It has been Democrats who as a political party are concerned with workers and the poor. It is Republicans who don't care about these folks, who have been successful in destroying the union movement, who attack in right wing talk shows the poor and unemployed as welfare cheats, freeloaders, as people undeserving of any sympathy or compassion. In fact, right wingers blame the poor and unemployed for a bad economy, blame the weakest for the sins of the most powerful.

The Obama deal keeps unemployment compensation going for about two million people for thirteen months, but in the past Republicans have supported such measures under similar conditions without Democrats giving away the rest of the store. Obama gets very little in this compromise.

He is more a Republican than Democratic president. It is time for a new Democratic movement of some kind, the folks who work in the trenches at the local level are, most of the time, real Democrats, and they must now begin to come together in their local meetings and demand that their representatives become real Democrats too, especially the President they supposedly elected.

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A Deep Sense of Bewilderment and Betrayal
12/2/2010 4:15:27 PM

I still remain on a mailing list run through the Obama campaign website. On the list are 250 persons who worked very hard to elect him, spent hours and hours on the phone calling people, contributing money, very serious activists who research the issues, send emails, talk to others. But these folks are feeling bewildered these days, and even betrayed. The president they see now is not the one they thought they were working to elect. I think that a very wide chasm has been created between the regular folks who work in politics and the political establishment, the candidates, political consultants, the professionals who make money at the game of politics. This chasm has grown so wide as now to raise serious questions about the very legitimacy of the political process in this country. It is not just the normal cynicism shared by journalists and old political hacks, it is a sense that what is called "democracy" in this country fundamentally doesn't work, that participation in politics is not at all worthwile. When a good and decent person such as Barack Obama is elected and then is unable or unwilling to do what he said he would do, when millions of people go unemployed and under-paid and the wealthy get their way again and again at the expense of common folks, when so many are duped by corporate-sponsored tea parties to vote for politicians beholden to corporate interests, when the campaign cash from the wealthy dominates the public consciousness through the media, then it is understandable that people would come to believe that it is not worthwhile to participate anymore in politics.

When Obama was on his trip to Asia David Axelrod announced that there might be a compromise on tax cuts to the wealthy, the extension of the Bush tax cuts in the early years of this new century which have been a very large factor in creating the current budget deficits that Republicans are now so concerned about. The folks on the mailing list began talking about what other country they should move to, things were getting hopeless. Since then the mood is getting worse and worse. The word "betrayal" describes the consciousness of many of these previous Obama supporters. One of them just wrote: "I am having a sad because I don’t think the White House even wants to try."

She then says she was inspired by reading something in the Huffington Post by Senator Tom Harkin, D-IA, about the fact that Senate Republicans refuse to consider extending unemployment benefits until tax cuts are approved for the rich: "Have the Republicans lost all sense of fairness? Have they lost all sense of justice? Have they lost all sense of what's right and wrong? I mean, there ought to be moral outrage at the policies that permit million-dollar bonuses to these money manipulators on Wall Street, and yet they're telling the unemployed to get into the soup line for Christmas. We ought to be outraged at this -- at what the Republicans are doing to the unemployed in this country. And we ought to let the American people know just what the Mitch McConnell and the Republican leaders are doing here in the Senate."

If people are unemployed it means that the economic system is not working properly, but who does the right wing tea party spokespersons blame for this? They blame the unemployed. It is those terrible, lazy bums who want an unemployment check that are the problem. This is the kind of thinking that led to Republican victories in the past election. Blame the poor, blame people on welfare, blame the weakest members of society. This is just what the corporate oligarchs want people to believe, this is the message they try to promote through the media, this is what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are repeating hundreds of times every day. If there is a crash of the entire financial system of the country then who is to blame? It is Acorn, a coalition of poor black organizations, they are the cause, they are so powerful they can take down the big banks and hedge funds of the country. Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips thinks people who don't own property are to blame for the country's problems. He even proposes that the constitution be changed to end voting rights for those who don't own property.

This kind of ridiculous thinking is what now dominates the political process and Democrats don't seem to be able to speak against it, expose it, Obama seems willing to go along with it, compromise with it. At least Harkin is trying to talk about some morality, some justice, in how government should act.

The deep question we face in the country is whether things have gone so far that the very legitimacy of both our leaders and institutions is at question. Very large numbers of people don't even vote anymore. Very large numbers of people pray each day for the end of the world to come as fast as possible so they can be saved. Very large numbers of people are giving up. What is a pastor to say on Sunday morning? How can a pastor tell the truth? Who is finally worthy of faith and trust?
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Rand Paul Exposes Tea Party Racism in Libertarianism
5/20/2010 3:31:00 PM

John Judis has written a piece about the Tea Party movement at The New Republic which places it within the context of other conservative movements in the past in this country. It is a good piece. But he misses one very important element, the issue of race. Liberals in general hesitate to blame others for racism, to look racism square in the face, to use race as a critical factor in analysis of political movements. They do not want to be accused by the right of "playing the race card" even when the right itself plays that very same card over and over. Judis is a very good writer, and I recommend his article, but there is more to the Tea Party than he realizes.

That was exposed in an interview of Rand Paul on the Rachel Maddow show last night on MSNBC. Paul on Tuesday won the Kentucky Republican primary for the senate and somehow thought it would be a good move for him to appear on the Maddow show. He was wrong. Maddow asked him about civil rights, whether he approved of the 1964 civil rights law which opened public accomodations to black persons. Paul wouldn't answer the question directly, indicating he might have some trouble with the section of the law which requires that blacks be served at lunch counters of a "private" company. This, of course, means the government is telling a private company what to do, and Paul kept avoiding to answer the question directly, but Maddow kept pushing him to answer clearly. Paul kept saying over and over that he doesn't believe in discrimination but when it came down to it he did not want to admit that he opposed government enforcement of civil rights laws on so-called private institutions.

As the son of congressman Ron Paul, Rand Paul is a libertarian. Ron Paul has his own sorry history on questions of racism. The son may not be following the father on all aspects of the question, but the philosophy of liberatriansm was itself exposed in this interview. Rand Paul on election night associated himself directly with the Tea Party, that "he had a message from the Tea Party...."

The fact is that the political culture of the South continues to be driven by racism in many and various ways, it provides the underlying "energy" for the cultural power of conservatism in this country. The South absolutely hates and abhors the federal government, including the Supreme Court, for its role in forcing the South to change its ways of segregation. It cannot explicitly display racism in public so it comes out in relation to other issues such as abortion and gay rights for the religious right, and hostility to taxes (for education and social services to poor black people) and government for libertarians. The South's hostility to the federal government is the real energy of the more libertarian Tea Party movement.

Libertarianism is the political philosophy of most of the extreme right wing radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh. It is popular among these hosts because it does not require a lot of serious thought about what government is and how it should function. It is easy to be against anything government does, but it is also completely irresponsible. It is easy to say that government should not regulate business in favor of the free market, until an oil spill destroys the economy for lots of other folks along with the natural environment. It is easy to say that government should not regulate financial institutions, until they act in such a way as to destroy the economic functioning of the country and drastically reduce the wealth of millions of homeowners. The Tea Party movement is based on irrational rantings and ravings of talk show hosts who want to make their millions and then run away from any responsibility for what they have led people to believe. The fact that racism continues to be a major underlying factor in these rantings underscores how irrational and immoral are those media and political figures are who use this sort of rhetoric.

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The Political Use of Torture
4/25/2009 11:27:47 PM

In a column in the The New York Times Frank Rich summarizes current facts about the use of torture methods by the Bush administration. We had been told that such methods were necessary for purposes of national security. Now we are learning that these methods were used for political purposes, in order to try to get information which would link the 9/11 terrorists to Saddam Hussein thus justifying the war in Iraq. The Rich article is the best I have seen on this topic so far.
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The Significance of the Killing of Robert F. Kennedy
4/13/2009 3:03:13 PM

Last week Charlie Rose interviewed Robert Caro, the author of one of the best books I have ever read called The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. The book was published in 1975 and describes how the unelected Moses became the most powerful figure in New York City. Anyone at all interested in city planning, political power, and how cities develop should read this book. It is a classic.

Since then Caro has been doing meticulous research and writing books about Lyndon B. Johnson. I read his third volume called Master of the Senate which describes how Johnson was able to pass the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s by which the Democratic Party became associated with the cause of black people in the country and which resulted in the South turning to the Republicans to lead the fights against further gains for civil and economic rights for black people and the poor. I do not believe the politics of the last decades can be understood without a full appreciation for what Caro describes in this book.

Caro in the interview says he is most interested in how power actually works in this country, not how it is supposed to work, not about the legal structures of the government, but about how power is actually exercised. If the American people can better understand how power actually works then they can better pariticipate in a democractic society.

This man who has so closely studied power said something in the interview that was especially interesting to me. He talked about how both Lyndon Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy had great enmity for one another but shared a deep and authentic care for "the poor" of the country. Johnson had started out as a teacher of immigrant children in the hill country of Texas and never forgot that one reason he ran for office was to create better opportunities for such children to succeed in life. When he became president on the death of John F. Kennedy he was determined to initiate a "war on poverty" to create a more just society. Caro said that the Vietnam War kept Johnson from "transforming" American society, but many programs Johnson began are now taken for granted by people today such as Medicare. A full acounting of how Johnson improved American society has not been appreciated because conservatives over the past decades have been too successful in castigating the gains of the "Great Society."

But the comment that especially caught my attention was what Caro said about Bobby Kennedy. He said that if Bobby Kennedy had been elected president there would have been a real transformation in the country along the lines of what Barack Obama may be doing for the country today. That was interesting to me because I had in Chicago helped to begin a movement called "Citizens for Kennedy-Fullbright" to persuade Kennedy to run against Johnson in the 1968 election. Later he did enter the race and then was shot in California.

It will be interesting to read what Caro may have to say about all this in the fourth book on Johnson that he is now writing. Unfortunately, that book is three years from being finished, Caro said. Caro expressed deep respect for the brilliance of Kennedy as a politician. If Kennedy had been elected and the country had not gone into Vietnam we may not have had to endure the last decades of nasty Republican politics built on a backlash to the loss of the Vietnam War and the gains of civil rights in the 1960s.
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