Issue by issue comparison of 2 candidates: Most progressive program ever v. hodgepodge of rightwing economics & populism

Americans in the 21st century judge their presidential candidates on many parameters: Issues, party, character, demeanor (presidentialness, if I may coin a phrase), trustworthiness and experience. Often how the candidates say what they’ll do is as important as what they say they’ll do.

Let’s set aside all other aspects of the voting decision for a bit and focus exclusively on issues, which to a large extent means focusing on what the political parties stand for, especially for the Democrats who seem to be marching arm-in-arm towards a vision of government that follows and builds upon the successes of the New Deal and Great Society. By contrast, on some issues, Donald Trump is either to the right or to the left of the GOP establishment, while on other issues he follows long-time Republican orthodoxy.

As a long-time Social Democrat, I naturally favor the platform of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. But for the purpose of this article, I will restrain my snarky partisan comments and stick completely to the positions that each candidate has laid on her-his website and past statements. I will point out, however, when the candidates’ plans don’t add up or are based on false premises or misinformation.



Clinton: The net effect of Hillary’s tax proposals will be to create trillions of dollars in additional revenue for the federal government (which she plans to spend: see below) by increasing taxes on the wealthy and ultra-wealthy. She will provide a little tax relief for small businesses, the middle class and the poor. Key provisions include:

  • Make people who earn $5 million or more a year pay a surcharge tax on their income.
  • Make people who earn $1 million a year pay a minimum of 30% of their income in income taxes, no matter how many deductions they take.
  • Close a number of loopholes, so notorious that many have names, such as the “Bermuda Reinsurance loophole” and the “Romney loophole.”
  • Restore estate taxes to the higher level of 2009 and close certain estate tax loopholes.
  • Charge companies that want to leave the United States an exit tax based on their unrepatriated earnings.
  • Create a standard deduction and streamline tax requirements for small businesses.
  • Provide tax relief for excessive healthcare out-of-pocket costs, childcare and caring for an elderly family member.

Trump: The net effect of the Trump tax proposals will be to lower federal taxes for everyone, but only a little for the middle class and poor and significantly for the wealthy and businesses. Trump says he intends to prevent these tax cuts from causing a greater deficit by cutting government waste, but virtually every economic expert to weight in says that his numbers don’t add up. Key provisions include:

  • Reduce tax brackets from seven to three, with a lower than current marginal rate for the top bracket.
  • End both the Alternative Minimum Tax and the 2.8% tax on investment income to fund healthcare.
  • Lower corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%
  • Give companies a one-time chance to repatriate income at a mere 10% tax rate
  • End the estate tax, which only applies to individuals with more than $ 5.45 million in assets, or the richest 6/10ths of one percent of the population.



Clinton: Hillary is going to use the billions of dollars she raises by taxing the wealthy to stimulate the economy with the goal of creating millions of new jobs. The net effect of several of her proposals will be to suppress corporate profits in favor of more remuneration to employees. Here are major details:

  • Use grants, government contracts, tax breaks, low-interest loans and other standard government means to invest federal dollars in rebuilding our infrastructure of mass transit, bridges and roads, stimulate manufacturing, increase research and development, and stimulate the development and commercialization of clean energy.
  • Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
  • Strictly enforce trade agreements and make sure all future trade agreements set a higher bar for U.S. job creation, which translates to opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as it currently stands.
  • Use federal agencies to crack down on wage theft, enforce overtime rules and make it easier for unions to organize and bargain for their members.
  • Reward companies that share profits with employees.

Trump: Trump is selling the traditional nostrums of lower taxes and fewer regulations (which all available research demonstrate do not work), to which he adds protectionist trade policies. His details are fare sketchier than Clinton and a lot of what he is proposing consists of blowing up existing agreements and structures, some decades old. Details:

  • Review all federal regulations to see which can be dropped. Trump wants to target environmental regulations, and in particular restraints on coal production.
  • Renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements.
  • Go after China as a currency manipulator.
  • Rescind all Obama executive orders related to energy and the environment.
  • Resurrect the Keystone pipeline.



Clinton: Clinton’s environmental plans are truly impressive in their detail. She sets quantified goals, proposes specific actions to reach those goals and integrates the plan into creating more jobs, giving the lie to those benighted souls who incorrectly believe that cleaning up the environment is bad for the economy. She even takes time to talk about protecting wildlife and the traditional rural way of life. The details provided here only scratch the surface of what Hillary has in mind:

  • Install 500 million solar panels by the end of her first term.
  • Reduce American use of oil by one third by making more efficient cars, trucks, ships and boilers.
  • Cut energy waste in schools, hospitals, homes and offices by a third.
  • Do our part in reaching the goals of the Paris Accord, which includes reducing greenhouse gases by 40% in 2025, and 80% in 2050.
  • Protect wildlife by keeping public lands public.
  • Protect wildlife from illegal trafficking and farm animals from cruelty or abuse.
  • Support the continued operation of small family farms.

Trump: Donald Trump believes that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese for their own economic benefit. He has no proposals to combat global warming or resource management. He has explicitly stated that he will remove the United States from the Paris Accord.



Clinton: Hillary supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. She will end family detention and close private immigration detention centers.  She will let undocumented immigrants buy into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) medical exchanges and end the three- and 10-year bars which make the undocumented leave the country for a certain amount of time before returning.

Trump: Perhaps his signature issue during this presidential cycle is building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, which he somehow believes he can get Mexico to pay for.  For the past few months, Trump has been waffling concerning the fate of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the waffling has only been in tone, not substance. Even if he claims he will deport criminals first (as if that hasn’t already been done and be as humane as possible with those who are contributing, he remains vehemently against a path to citizenship. He will seek to prevent immigration, and perhaps even travel, from Muslim countries.



Clinton: All of the talk this election season has focused on Hillary’s proposal to provide tuition free education at our nation’s public colleges and universities to families earning less than $125,000 a year. But she has a top to bottom program that starts with preschool:

  • Establish universal preschool for all four-year-olds.
  • Double the current investment in Early Head Start programs
  • Provide funding to increase the teaching of computer science in public elementary and high schools.
  • Enhance the training of teachers and raise their salaries.
  • Double the “Build America Bonds” subsidies to modernize school buildings.
  • Make all public community colleges free.
  • Enable current college loan debtors to renegotiate their loans at current rates.
  • Crack down on predatory schools and lenders.

Trump: Trump has nothing on his website about education, but he recently announced plans to privatize all elementary and high school education, giving families money to make unfettered choices between public or private schools, despite the fact that recent data shows that public schools do a much better job at educating our youth than private schools, when you factor in income, food insecurity, learning disabilities, divorce and early childhood trauma (see The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools by Sarah Theule Lubienski and Christopher A Lubienski). Trump has said nothing about education past high school.



Clinton: It goes without saying, Hillary will defend the ACA from any attempts to end or downgrade it. But beyond support of Obamacare, Hillary has laid out an extensive health program that leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of less expensive, higher quality health care:

  • Implement a plan to provide non-punitive treatment to addicts
  • Invest $2 billion a year in Alzheimer’s research
  • Expand insurance coverage for autism services and conduct a national autism screening program
  • Support a woman’s reproductive rights, including the right to inexpensive birth control and abortions
  • Place a cap on out-of-pocket expenses paid by people with HIV and AIDS and on copays and co-insurance costs paid by anyone
  • Bring down the cost of prescription drugs
  • Make it easier to enroll in Medicaid
  • Double the current funding for community health centers.

Trump: Trump pretty much follows the Republican playbook on healthcare, starting with appealing the ACA and instituting a series of free market principles, which will benefit the wealthy more than anyone else since the wealthy have the most money to spend on healthcare:

  • Allow sale of health insurance policies across state lines
  • Allow individuals to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums and to open Healthcare Savings Accounts
  • Make federal support of Medicaid a block grant program, which means that the states will decide what to do with the money
  • Allow people to purchase prescription drugs from other countries

He also now follows the GOP line on abortion.



Clinton: Clinton will tend to use diplomacy, economic sanctions and coalition building to confront global hotspots, such as Iraq, Syria and North Korea, but she won’t be afraid to use military force as a last resort. In Syria and Iraq, she will use airstrikes and support of local armies on our side to defeat ISIS. Domestically, she will seek to tweak our current domestic security systems, build relationships with Muslim communities and try to pass a number of new laws that will keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists, such as a “nor fly, no buy” law and a ban on military assault weapon sales and possession.

Trump: Trump is both more hawkish and more dovish than Hillary. He seems to be appealing widely to non-interventionists and seems to believe that the United States can basically ignore the rest of the world. Yet at various times, Trump has proposed some very aggressive actions such as walking away from our NATO commitments, allowing South Korea, Saudi Arabia and other allies to develop their own nuclear warhead capabilities, dropping nuclear bombs on our adversaries, reinstituting the torture program and loosening the rules of combat for American soldiers so they are free to hurt civilians and commit atrocities. Domestically, he thinks keeping immigrants out—especially immigrants from Muslim countries—will do the job. He has declared his intention of firing most of the current senior American military staff. He says he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, but will give his new generals 30 days to come up with a plan of their own, after which he will select what to do from all his plan.



Clinton: Clinton’s focus is on making certain the police treat all citizens the same and that our civil rights are protected. Among other initiatives, she wants to spend $1 billion to identify and develop programs to train police officers to recognize and overcome racial bias; add funding to the U.S. Department of Justice unit that investigates civil rights abuses; and start a federal matching program to make body cameras available to all local police forces. She wants to reform the mandatory sentencing laws that have led to mass incarceration of Black males. She proposes to invest $5 billion in job-training programs for ex-cons and pass legislation that restores voting rights to them. She wants to end racial profiling.

Trump: Trump seems to think we are in the midst of a crime wave that requires us to allow the police to get tough. He is practically the only national American politician to want to toughen mandatory criminal sentences instead of loosening them. His past statements have tended to exonerate police from the use of unwarranted lethal force and blame the demonstrators against police brutality. He is fine with racial profiling. He is also in favor of reinstituting “stop-and-frisk” policies, which have been declared unconstitutional.



Clinton: Hillary wants to pass a large number of gun safety laws, including to expand gun checks, revoke the licenses of gun dealers who break the law, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals and the severely mentally ill, reinstate the assault weapons ban, and revoke laws that prevent people from suing gun companies.

Trump: Trump wants to expand the rights of gun owners, primarily by allowing anyone with a permit to carry a gun in one state to be able to carry it any in any state, even where concealed carry is banned. He doesn’t want to ban any type of weapon. He has expressed ambivalence towards the national registry: he thinks it doesn’t help protect communities because criminals would never buy a gun directly from a registered gun dealer, but he wants states to do a better job of putting mentally ill people on the list. He wants to allow military personnel to carry their own personal firearms on military bases.



Clinton: Clinton wants to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and pass a law making groups publicly disclose significant public spending; until such a law passes, she will direct all federal contractors to disclose. She wants to create a federal matching fund program for small donations to increase the power of individuals in elections.

Trump: He expressed an openness to campaign reform early in the year, but there is nothing on his website and no recent statement about the issue.


There you have it: The OpEdge Notes version of how the major party candidates stand on the major issues. For more information, the best place to start are the candidates’ websites.

In a normal year, I would advise readers to take a careful look at where the candidates stand compare to their own views and weight that analysis more heavily than personality or party.

But this year is different.

Because of Trump’s erratic and irrational behavior, racist comments, high propensity for lying, attachment to the fascistic alt-right, bromance with Vladimir Putin, past ethical and business lapses and ignorance on virtual every issue, I am asking even the most extreme proponents of free market capitalism and low tax rates for the well-off to vote for Hillary. The ultra-wealthy have had a pretty good ride in this country going on 40 years now. At worst or at best, depending on your perspective, Clinton will turn back the clock to 1975 as far as equality of wealth and income goes (which will be a good thing for 99.5% of the population). I know that the typical Reagan Republican will dislike that prospect. But it’s better than a nuclear war, a deep depression, or a foreign policy directed by the for-profit Trump organization or Vladimir Putin.

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Debate predictions: Media face 3 moments of truth & the “birther” becomes a quitter

The news media would like to cast the upcoming presidential debates as an Armageddon-like battle for the votes—and souls—of Americans, but objectively speaking, it will likely resemble a prize fight between Mohammad Ali at his peak and an out-of-shape, middle-aged couch potato who took one boxing lesson decades ago.

In this corner, we have an articulate, well-educated woman who has more experience in public service than anyone else ever to have run for the White House. She has well-defined, carefully detailed positions on every issue. She has proven to be an exceptionally competent debater in the past. She doesn’t get riled and thinks well on her feet. She has been subject to, and withstood with grace, more investigations than perhaps any other public figure in American history and yet has never been charged with a crime, censured by a Congressional committee or accused of a specific act of malfeasance—unless you think there’s something illegal about occasionally making the same mistake that your predecessors or peers made. Every time I have seen her, her demeanor has been friendly, concerned, caring, knowledgeable and open, but keep in mind that I am judging only on my experience of seeing on TV a large number of her speeches and other public interactions, without the filter of the carefully concealed sexism of mainstream and rightwing media pundits. Fact-checker after fact-checker has proclaimed her the most honest of all the 20+ candidates to declare for the presidency during this election cycle. She defines steadiness.

In the other corner, we have an ignorant blowhard who allows his pathological narcissism to emerge in insults, illogical statements, empty boasts and odious lies. His positions on most subjects are sketchy or built on one or two “big ideas” which turn out to be bad ideas, like building a wall between the United States and Mexico or creating a new child care benefit that primarily helps high-income families. His business record is deplorable, marred by four major bankruptcies, more than 3,500 lawsuits, many for nonpayment, documented racist business practices and evidence of legal and ethical lapses by both his businesses and his foundation. His debating style is to insult opponents and bait them in petty side-show arguments. Every fact-checker agrees that he is not only the biggest liar in this presidential election, but in every election ever fact-checked. He is the epitome of the erratic.

News reports suggest that the Donald has too little discipline to prepare for anything, while Hillary is putting a lot of time into shaping her answers to potential questions, analyzing potential traps, developing friendly and tasteful ways to goad the eminently goadable Trumpty-Dumpty and practicing zingers. I’m confident that there will be at least one “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moment because Hillary is going to have at least a dozen of clever comebacks lined up and she’ll know if and when to fire. I expect that at some point Hillary will say some version of, “You can insult me and my family all you want, but don’t insult the American people/working class Americans/African Americans/President Obama/the brave men and women who serve this country overseas.” I’m also reasonably sure that towards the end of the debate, the Donald will start to drag, out of a combination of exhaustion and boredom. He may even walk off the stage in a pretend of real pique.

By all objective criteria, I predict Hillary will slay Trumpty-Dumpty, posterize him like LeBron James slam-dunking against Danny DeVito. She will out-fact him, out-argue him, out-issue him and out-zing him, all the while smiling and staying in control.

The moderators and the rest of the news media will face three moments of truth. The first for the moderators will involve the development of their list of questions. Will they ask Clinton about her emails and will they ask Trump about his bankruptcies, many lawsuits, the case against Trump University, evidence of bribery against the Trump Foundation and his connections to the alt-right? I really have no answer to this one, but I hope the moderators and media do not decide to dredge Clinton’s non-scandals or to try to equate them with the many real scandals in Trump’s career.

At this point, asking about Trump’s “birtherism” seems to be unavoidable, and here the moderators, and later the news media, face the second moment of truth: When Trumpty-Dumpty once more gives his biggest lie to date—that Hillary started the “birther” rumor and he was the only one with the puissance and genius to put it to rest—how will the moderator handle it? Will she/he tell Trump to his face that he is lying? Will she/he say the “L” word or substitute some wishy-washy euphemism, like “stretching the truth” or “doesn’t correspond to the factual evidence”? Will she/he pull a Chuck Todd (always a bad thing), which in this case means letting the Hillary part of the lie stand and only correcting the part about Trump being the one to “finish off” birtherism?

And how will the media evaluate what the moderators do? They could applaud or condemn any of the possible ways the moderators decide to respond to what we know will be Trump’s pure and unadulterated, bold-faced, out-and-out, pants-on-fire lie about birtherism.

The third moment of truth will come after the debate is over. Will the news media admit that Hillary won the debate? Or will they grade her down because of non-existent style issues, or I should say, issues of style that would not be issues if she were male.

The media have often focused on style over substance in evaluating debates. I remember watching the 1980 elections as a television news writer and field producer with NBC’s West Coast political commentator of the time and thinking Jimmy Carter kicked Ronald Reagan’s butt; my commentator friend and everyone else in the mainstream news media said that Reagan won on style. Same thing in 2000, when the news media analyzed the candidates’ style so as to avoid the fact that the Republican was a know-nothing. I don’t think the media will be able to say that Trumpty-Dumpty won, but they could continue to promulgate all their false myths about Clinton’s lack of connection with people and untrustworthy demeanor. Say it enough times and people believe it—especially the people who don’t actually watch the debates.

Now I’m going to go out on a limb. I have no idea whether Trump will show up at the second debate, but I predict that he will make some excuse and duck a third KO by Hillary. I hope that any debate that Trump skips goes on without him, so that Hillary has three solid hours to explain exactly how the most progressive agenda by any political party in American history will help 99.5% of all Americans and show the American people that she deserves our votes on merit, and not as the lesser of two evils.

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Newsworthy: Quack gives a clean bill of health to conman.  Not newsworthy: HRC talks about real path to citizenship

Mark Twain would have changed the names and turned it into a hilarious short story: A charlatan physician interviews a charlatan businessman about his health.

For that’s what we’re talking about in the Mehmet Oz interview of Donald Trump. Oz, a medical doctor, has a television show on which he often touts unproved therapies and products, some of which he has a financial interest in. His current Wikipedia article notes “A study published in the British Medical Journal on the effectiveness of Oz’s medical advice found that 51 percent of his recommendations had no scientific backing and rationale, or in some cases contradicted scientific evidence.

Much has been written about Donald Trump’s business quackery, but let’s do a brief review: Four bankruptcies leaving investors holding the bag. 3,500 lawsuits, many of which are for bills he hasn’t paid. His many failed branding ventures, including Trump steaks, vodka, airlines, mortgage broker, magazine, water, game and university, plus a professional football team. The low return on his investments over time, much lower than what he would have made if he had invested passively in the stock market using funds that track stock indices. The criminal actions filed against Trump University and the investigation into the Trump Foundation that have revealed real wrong-doing (unlike the various investigations of Hillary and the Clinton Foundation, which have found nothing illegal or unethical).

A bogus doc and a bogus moneymaker. But on TV, Oz plays a successful physician and Trump plays a successful businessman.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huckleberry and the runaway slave Jim meet two conmen in their travels, one of whom claims to be a Duke, the other of whom claims to be a King. Much of the book, often cited as the greatest of all American novels (I favor Catch 22), details the various cons the Duke and King play on the residents of small towns along the Mississippi.

Oz and Trump. The Duke and the King. It would make a wonderful satire, but as a real life event, it is tragic.

Oz must have gone to the Matt Lauer School of Autocrat Adulation, because he was at least as sycophantic and obsequious towards the Donald as Lauer had been during the Commander in Chief Forum. Although Donald Trump’s body mass index of just over 30 qualifies as obese, Oz said that Trumpty-Dumpty was “slightly overweight.” Why Oz felt that toadying to a narcissistic blowhard running for president was more important than reminding his audience of the problem of obesity in America will remain a mystery to all but Oz and his financial advisors. It was a shameful moment for a physician, but then again, no more shameful than supporting psychic communication with the dead, devoting a show to reparative therapy for gays and calling green coffee extract a miracle, all of which Oz has done.

I thought that Matt Lauer had asked the easiest, most friendly question in the history of the American news media when he inquired of the Donald whether he was studying foreign affairs to learn more. But Oz managed to throw an even slower, easier pitch to hit when he asked Trumpty-Dumpty, “When you look into the mirror what do you see?”  Trump evidently has some uncorrected visual difficulties because he looked past the gray at his temples, the crow’s feet, the double chin and the 60 pounds of extra padding and said he sees a 35-year-old man.

Like Lauer, Oz avoided the tough questions. Trump has released his recent medical test results, including the results of a testosterone test. That he took such a test should have been a red flag to Oz. Testosterone tests are not a routine part of an annual physical and are not and have never been recommended by any medical association for a healthy person without a particular set of symptoms.

WebMD lists the following reasons to conduct a testosterone test on an adult male:

The release of testosterone test results provides highly circumstantial evidence that we did not get a complete list of the medicines Trumpty-Dumpty regularly takes. But Oz did not ask anything about the oddness of a healthy man with no complaints having this test.

Even Oz’s kid glove treatment would not have prevented the Donald from doing severe damage to his campaign and self-image if the producers had not edited the show. Missing in the version that aired on television is a creepy incident that will make you want to jump in the shower and wash off the filth immediately. At a certain point, the good daughter Ivanka appears and Donald gives her a kiss. Oz gushes sentimentally that “It’s nice to see a father kiss his daughter.” Trumps proudly trumpets that, “I try to kiss her as much as possible.” Sick, creepy, and reminiscent of Trump’s other disturbing comments about having an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter. But most people will never know because Oz and/or his handlers cut it out. We wouldn’t want to point out that the emperor is naked, would we?

The quack’s interview of the creepy conman vied with a number of stories about the election as the top news of the day, including (using the front section of the New York Times):

  • Trump still refuses to admit president Obama was born in the United States.
  • Trump vows to create 25 million jobs over 10 years (but gives no details).
  • A Times/CBS poll about voter attitudes, finding voters say Trump lacks the temperament to be president, but is a transformative figure.
  • Trump releases a new letter from his doctor (talk about creepy and quacky!).
  • Democrats make a strategy adjustment as the race tightens, deciding to go after Stein and Johnson supporters.
  • Hillary Clinton returns to the campaign trail.

As a former news writer, field producer and on-air reporter, I have a very strong opinion about what should have been the lead story of the day: At a speech in front of a Latino organization, Hillary laid out in detail her immigration plan and stated explicitly that she wants to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

A Google News search uncovered zero stories about Hillary’s bold and beautiful immigration plan, nor on the impassioned and inspirational speech she gave. Of course, any reporter who saw the speech could no longer be able to say or write with a straight face that Hillary is distant, doesn’t connect with people, doesn’t smile, has no empathy and all the other crap reporters like to say to denigrate Hillary’s style, statements of value that would never be applied to her if she were a he.

Her speech was a perfect platform for a media outlet to contrast the immigration policies of the two candidates. Hillary wants a road to citizenship, Trump wants a wall. Such a story might even bring up the fact that illegal immigration is down so much that at this point more illegals are returning to their former countries than sneaking into the United States, thus negating the panic that Trumpty-Dumpty wants to instill in the American people.

Day after day, the mainstream news media fail to question Trump’s lies; create false equivalencies between the trustworthiness of the candidate who lied the least in the current election cycle and the one who has lied the most in history; focus on personalities instead of issues; create a false narrative about Hillary’s health and trust-worthiness; and spend way more time and space trying to find something wrong in her emails than reporting all the wrong in the dealings of the Trump organization, university and Foundation. The public sees the constant hammering of Clinton and they never learn the full extent of Trump’s lies and lunacy. What should have been a landslide is turning into a close race, and it’s all the fault of the mainstream news media.

Why is the media easy on Trumpty-Dumpty and hard on Hillary? I have developed several theories and read of others to explain the media’s double standard: 1) A close race and a focus on the buffoon Trump is good for ratings. 2) The news media and the wealthy industrialists who own and control them fear or dislike Clinton. 3) They’re trying to “thread the needle,” which means make the race close enough that the Democrats don’t take back the Senate and win the House. 4) Reporters and editors, who so cleverly could find ways to support Bush II in 2000, the Iraq War at its inception, the Tea Party and the absolutely false notion that you solve a recession by balancing the federal budget, suddenly are helpless in dealing with a lying buffoon. 5) They really don’t want a woman to be president. 6) There may even be a class system explanation: that the news media always tend to like the candidate who was born to the manor, or the closest to it of the candidates.

Frankly, I still think it comes down to keeping taxes low for the wealthy. The wealthy elite who own and control most of the news media would rather risk giving the country over to a trigger-happy, sociopathic, racist, mendacious crook who has failed at everything he ever did that did not exclusively include self-promotion than to see their taxes go up.

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Let’s learn from mistakes made to respond to 9/11: no more torture, racism, stupid wars

The prevailing sentiment over the United States as we commemorated the 15th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 attack has been one of ineffably deep sadness, but of one kind: the sadness of loss. We have felt enormous loss individually and collectivity.

Missing has been the sadness of regret or remorse. For the most part, the news media and celebrations have not conjured the damage done to thousands of our soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as part of our reaction to the barbarism committed 15 years ago. We did not think of the global torture gulag we created in reaction to 9/11, nor of the physical pain and mental anguish we inflicted on hundreds of men—some innocent bystanders, others our sworn enemies, but all fellow human beings. We did not think of the irrational Islamophobia that rages among certain parts of our population, and which has led to domestic discrimination and violence. We did not think of our national degradation still operating in Guantanamo. We did think of the thousands of soldiers with terrible physical and psychic wounds still clogging our veterans hospitals, but we glorified them instead of viewing them as more victims of a senseless war.

To contemplate the brutal stupidity which characterized many of the actions taken in the name of the United States and individually by U.S. citizens as a response to 9/11 undercuts the image of the United States as an innocent country, a pure victim, which was a major theme of the commemorations.

But not to think about these ugly truths prevents us from learning from our mistakes.

If we factor out 9/11 from the statistics, we would find that deaths from terrorism in the United States are way down since the days of rage of the 1960’s and 1970’s. As it is, individual acts of terrorism are way down. This reduction of violence by those opposed to our government and/or our way of life fits neatly into the overall crime trends: Murders are way down compared to 50, 40 and 30 years ago. Violent crime is way down. The murder of police officers is way down. Except for the minority of Americans who keep firearms in our homes, we are much safer and live in a much less violent society than we used to.

And yet Republicans, and their reality TV candidate Trumpty-Dumpty, have managed to convince millions of people to cower in fear and consider irrational and sometimes un-American tactics. They present magic elixirs that will only make us less safe: loosening gun control laws, when in fact, those who live with guns are more likely to get hurt or killed by them than those living in the most unsafe neighborhood in America; reinstituting “waterboarding and worse,” as Trumpty-Dumpty put it, which doesn’t work, is illegal and will prove to many that what ISIS says about us is true; fomenting Islamophobia, Latinophobia and other forms of racism, which only further enrages those who hate us.

Generally speaking, the Republicans seem unwilling to learn any of the lessons from 9/11, mainly because they are unwilling to admit that violent crime and domestic terrorism are down and that throwing our military weight around internationally doesn’t work. When it comes to how we prevent and address terrorism in the United States, the Democrats have learned much from our mistakes following 9/11, as demonstrated by their platform, the inclusiveness of their party, candidates and convention and the measured words they use when characterizing our enemies.

Internationally, if the Republicans are D students, we can only give Democrats a C+ at best. The Dems won’t return to torture and are more likely to achieve a solid peace with Iran. But both parties accept the basic premises that have guided U.S. foreign policy since World War II. Both sides of the aisle seem dedicated to using our armed forces and our treaties to protect the business interests of large international companies, butting our noses into the business of other countries and playing a geo-political game for hegemonic control of other regions of the world.

Until we turn to a foreign policy based on engaging the world, not dominating it, we will not fully learn the lessons of 9/11. Another easy choice: Trumpty-Dumpy is dedicated to dominating; it’s in the essential nature of his dangerous narcissism. Hillary talks about engaging the world instead of dominating it, but her past actions and current proposals show she’s of two minds. Better than Trumpty-Dumpty and better enough to deserve our votes, but still not good.

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Hillary hits homers off Lauer’s fastball; Trump pops up slop

If the “Commander in Chief” Forum were a baseball game, moderator Matt Lauer would be an out-of-shape pitcher. His first few innings, against Hillary Clinton, he had a sharp fastball with good control. When Trump came on, Lauer started throwing slop—slow pitches right over the plate that were easy to hit.

But it didn’t seem to matter: Hillary hit every question out of the park, mixing facts with realism and reasoned analysis. Trump popped everything up to the third baseman, except when he struck out.

Let’s start with Lauer’s warnings to each candidate before he started pitching questions. He strictly told Hillary not to talk about her opponent, but to focus on what she would do. She pretty much followed his directives, except to point out that Trump had originally been in favor of the Iraq War. When it was Trump’s turn, however, instead of issuing a direct request, he sheepishly sort-of, kind-of made a wishy-washy supplication. Hillary pretty much followed his instructions, mentioning Trump for well less than a minute. Trump, however, put cork in his bat: forgetting he has spent months equating Hillary with President Obama, he spent virtually all of his time attacking the President, which, of course, meant he didn’t answer the questions.

Lauer’s questions to Clinton were tough, and he made sure she stayed on point. When Clinton needed to fill in some detail before answering a question, Lauer would insist she stick to the question, to which she replied she was but needed to give the background and then proceeded to make the necessary logical jumps to get to the answer. Lauer did not interrupt Trump or press him when he changed the subject of the question or refused to answer the question, which was pretty much all the time. He allowed Trump to go on and on about irrelevancies. For example, when asked what he would do once ISIS was defeated, Trump never broached the subject but attacked both Obama and Hillary. Lauer let it pass.

Lauer spent a third of Hillary’s time on her email scandal. In this part of the forum, Hillary hit a massive home run, similar to Mickey Mantle hitting the ball out of Ebbets Field and into the street to put the Yanks ahead for good in the 7th game of the 1953 World Series. (I give this comparison because Mantle’s feat is usually forgotten; a few innings later a psychopathic teammate Billy Martin made a flashy defensive play.) When Lauer, asking one in a series of very specific questions about the emails, commented that Federal Bureau of Investigation’s head James Comey said that her private server could have been hacked, Hillary correctly pointed out that there is no evidence it ever was hacked, whereas we know for a fact that State Department and other government email systems were hacked.

In fact, Hillary was pretty much Babe Ruth during her entire appearance. She answered every question directly and factually, corrected the mistakes Lauer and the questioners from the audience made—always in a nice way—and did not quibble or try to shape her remarks to the audience. In a short amount of time, we found out a lot about what she thinks:

  • She will not put ground troops into Iraq and Syria, preferring to combine our air force with aid and counsel to our on-the-ground allies to defeat ISIS.
  • She will always use force as an absolute last resort.
  • She will not privatize the Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare system.
  • She believes that people on the no-fly list should not be allowed to buy or own firearms.

She was definitely scoring points with the audience. One example: From the facial and body language of one man asking about the VA, you could tell that he disliked Clinton and believed the Kool-Aid about her. By the end of her answer, you could see his face softening its frown and his body getting more relaxed, less stiff, as he seemed to begin to realize that Hillary knows what she’s talking about and has an extensive history passing legislation and supporting organizations that help veterans and their families.

Although he was treated with kid gloves and asked softball questions, Trump essentially “took a collar,” which means he struck out or popped up all of Lauer’s easy pitching. Here are accurate paraphrases of some of the slop questions Lauer threw to Trump with the gist of the Donald’s answers, followed by my comment:

  • What have you done that qualifies you as commander in chief? I ran a successful (sic) company and have good judgment. A lie, since other than his TV show and brand licensing, his businesses have been failures.
  • Did you learn anything from the confidential briefings you have received? I learned that the people giving the briefings don’t like what the President and Clinton are doing. I hope someone contradicts Trump on this assertion, which must be a lie. Think about it: would every staff member giving briefings be disloyal, because that’s what it would take to keep hidden the disloyalty of even one in front of a candidate.
  • What about your praise of Putin? Here is the exact quote: “If he says great things about me, I’ll say great things about him.” A statement appropriate at a networking cocktail party for sales executives, but not about foreign affairs.
  • Are you studying foreign affairs to learn more? I’m studying sometimes when I have a spare moment from running my business and running for office, but I have a lot of common sense. Trust me, folks.

There’s something to fault with each of these answers. Looks like a lot of pop-ups and maybe a “can of corn,” which is an easy fly to the outfield.

Lauer’s presentation of this last question was obnoxiously obsequious. With the fearful demeanor and voice of a supplicant to the Pope, he said, “You can’t be expected to know the details…” Yes he can, should and must be expected to know the details of defense policy, and from day one. Why would we lower the standard for Donald Trump that we have set for every one of our presidential candidates since Harry S. Truman and Thomas Dewey?

Like an aging slow lefty called in to get one batter, Lauer did strike out the mighty Donnie on the matter of his “secret plan” to defeat ISIS. If he had a secret plan, Lauer asked, why did Trump want to give “the generals” 30 days to come up with a plan? In a series of half-completed jumbled-together sentences that would have done George W. proud, Trump never broached the subject of why he wanted the general’s plans, but said he might use his plans, the generals’ or a combination. It was classic sputtering, followed soon after by irresponsible aggressiveness when Trump insisted he would fire all the current generals. Lauer never connected the dots: Trump wants to give new generals who aren’t current with on-the-ground specifics a mere 30 days to work up a plan.

Trump seems to love channeling Richard M. Nixon. He is calling himself the “law and order” candidate, like Nixon did. He has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, just as Nixon had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. He has been caught and fined for a number of campaign giving violations, has bragged about buying politicians and may have paid off the attorney generals of several states not to pursue lawsuits against his eponymous university. Nixon, Watergate.

One more comparison. Maybe I inferred too much and I can only speak for myself, but by the end of her time, Clinton looked and sounded like a young Ernie Banks, ready to play a double header in the hot Midwest sun. Trump, by contrast, appeared to lose energy as his last minutes on stage ticked down. Some pundits have noted that Trump tended to make all his noise in the first half of the Republican debates. It could be Trump knew that viewers tend to dwindle away the longer a debate lasts. But it could also be that this 70-year-old professed fast-food fan with a large rubber tire around his middle was getting tired.

I come to the debates as a decades-long pacifist, so I reject many of the premises from which our defense policy has evolved over the past century or so. I would rather our candidate be more dovish than any of the candidates who ran for office this year of either party, except possibly Rand Paul. But between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as commander in chief, the choice is about as easy as that between Babe Ruth and Chuck Conners, who hit .238 with two homers for his pro career and later became a television actor. I’m with her.

Judging from the reaction when each candidate appeared, the audience of veterans agrees with me that Clinton is the better choice. The applause for her was both louder and longer than what Trump received. After seeing days of the media’s softball coverage of Donald Trump and their almost morbid fixation on emails that continue to show absolutely no wrong-doing by Hillary (except the admitted mistake of having a private server), it was gratifying to hear the many more vets in the audience voting with their hands for Clinton than for Trump. Now they—and we—have to vote for real on or before Election Day.

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How many people voting for Trump have been brainwashed by mainstream news media to dislike Hillary?

Yesterday evening I witnessed something frightening.

The masterful jazz trombonist Robin Eubanks was performing at Dizzy’s at Lincoln Center with his big band. In his introduction to a composition titled “Yes We Can—Victory Dance,” he put in a plug for Hillary and asked everyone to vote. Only about half the audience applauded. The other half sat on their hands grimly. I could see many frowns on the faces and some uncomfortable body language.

That means that about half the audience at an upscale jazz club on Labor Day in liberal New York City are either supporting Donald Trump or vehemently opposed to Hillary Clinton. Of course, some may have just objected to entertainers interjecting their political opinions into their performance, but the piece the band was going to play was political in nature and we’re talking about jazz, a musical art form whose practitioners are much given to political statements in their work. (I’m hopeful that one day soon National Public Radio (NPR) will invite Eubanks on “All Things Considered”  to discuss his political opinions, as it did the right-wing Merle Haggard four years ago to discuss why he hated President Obama.)

The frightening thing is that the large number of people not clapping—or cheering insanely—when Eubanks endorsed Hillary is that it suggests that Donald Trump may actually win, or at the very least that the mainstream media’s long campaign to make the country dislike Hillary Clinton has really succeeded (more on that below). Keep in mind that this audience was whiter and probably wealthier and more educated than the United States as a whole, but that means it was full of the educated whites who are supposed to be abandoning the GOP over Trump.

I would have hoped that, when faced with the choice between a poorly informed and compulsively lying narcissist who failed in business, cheated many people out of money and has a long history of racism on one side and a competent, educated public servant with a track record of achievement on the other, virtually everyone in the country other than unrepentant racists would embrace Hillary and that the crowd would have gone as wild over Eubank’s endorsement as they did over his wonderful music.

As the group played “Yes We Can—Victory Dance,” which at times required many of the group members to clap their hands in unison as if at a peace or civil rights rally, I surveyed the audience wondering about the motives for anyone supporting Donald Trump, even after his frequent inflammatory and often racist or sexist outbursts, his multitude of lies about the state of the country and his past, and the revelations that his real estate and casino businesses were mostly failures, that he is involved in 3,500 lawsuits and that he may have paid off at least two politicians to get lawsuits against his university dropped.

Based on months of following the Trump malevolence unfold, I have identified roughly five groups of Trump supporters, or perhaps I should write, five reasons to vote for Trump:

  1. Racists.
  2. Those who do not think a woman should be president.
  3. Supreme Court voters, those who will vote for Trump because he says he will nominate conservative Supreme Court justices (although I think virtually all people in this group primarily support Trump for one of the other reasons listed here).
  4. The ultra-wealthy and wealthy whose sole criteria for voting is who will lower taxes on the wealthy more, keep the minimum wage the lowest and impose the fewest regulations on their businesses.
  5. Those whom the news media have brainwashed to hate Hillary Clinton.

The last two groups have a causal relationship, as it is the ultra-wealthy who own the mainstream and right-wing news media that have demonized Hillary for the past 30 years, essentially holding her to a standard much higher than any other public official has ever been held. There are almost as many examples of the media treating Hillary differently from others as there are of Trump telling bold-faced lies:

  • While there was no investigation of the 13 terrorist incidents at U.S. embassies around the world during the Bush II Administration, millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent looking for something that Hillary Clinton did wrong to cause Benghazi or in the State Department dealings with the Clinton Foundation.
  • There has been no investigation of the millions of emails the Bush Administration destroyed. Likewise no investigation of the emails of Condoleezza or Colin Powell even though the U.S. foreign policy under their leadership was pretty disastrous. Powell, BTW, advised Hillary to destroy her emails, which she didn’t do. I guess that’s why the media is going after Hillary for a lack of transparency.
  • While conveniently forgetting Trump’s early support of the Iraq War and his many overt racist statements in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the news media continues to hammer Clinton over her vote to authorize the Iraq War and her husband’s support of the crime legislation of the 1990’s that proved to be de facto Jim Crow laws. The implication is that only Hillary among all those misled by the Bush Administration knew that the Bushies were lying and that among thousands including many civil rights leaders only Hillary understood the racial ramifications of tougher sentencing laws.

No one in the media mentions it, but when Hillary left her post as Secretary of State, she was the most popular person in the United States, if not the world.  It was then that the news media resumed its anti-Clinton campaign of the 1990’s.

If you want to see a case history of unfair treatment of Hillary over the years, read the article of two years ago by Oliver Willis and Hannah Groch-Begley detailing the New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd’s 21-year-long verbal war against Hillary, all based on misperceptions, assumptions and Dowd’s special brand of social-psychobabble. Dowd’s unfair and mostly fabricated definition of Hillary has become the playbook for a large part of the mainstream news media: Hillary is a weak candidate because she is a policy wonk (which means she has no passion), and is graceless, sneaky, secretive, devious and open to corruption. Earlier in the election cycle, the news media kept their anti-Hillary sentiments under control, preferring to focus on Trump’s many outrageous statements, rude insults and personal feuds. In retrospect, it seems as if the anti-Trump coverage was always about trying to help any other Republican (other than Ted Cruz) secure the nomination.

Since it began looking like Hillary could win in a landslide, the mainstream and right-wing news media have ramped up their anti-Hillary storylines. At the same time, the media has begun to treat Donald Trump with the softest of kid gloves. His trip to Mexico was taken seriously. Many reporters actually bought the line that Trump had made his immigration policy less Draconian and extreme than it actually was. While ignoring prima facie evidence that Donald Trump paid off elected officials in Texas and Florida, the news media continues to pore over Hillary’s emails, finding that neither she nor the Clinton Foundation did anything illegal or even unethical, which the news media has hidden under assertions of “the appearance of unethical conduct.” Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” has made it his life’s work to sell the country on the idea that Hillary’s handling of emails was illegal. The media has touted the false and baseless rumors that Hillary is physically incapacitated, despite the fact that she has a standard doctor’s letter that covers all the information given by former presidential candidates. By contrast, the issue of Trump’s health quickly faded, even though the letter he has is completely unprofessional and appears to come from a quack.  The media seems to have forgotten that Trump has still not released his taxes. For some reason the many bankruptcies, business failures, lawsuits and the fact that he has taken tax deductions available only to people with annual incomes under $500,000 have not compelled them to dig deeper or to probe further—they’re probably too busy trying to figure out how to spin the meeting of Secretary Clinton with a Nobel prize winner as part of a corrupt enterprise.

The day after Labor Day provides an excellent example of the mainstream news media’s stealth campaign against Hillary. NPR’s story on the campaign starts with what Donald Trump will be doing today, followed by a long quote by someone in the Trump campaign. The story ends with a short sentence on what Clinton is doing today, presented as an afterthought.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a front-page story that draws parallels between the two campaigns.  The article repeats the lie that there are “nagging doubts about her candidacy,” without specifying what those doubts might be. The writer presents Trump’s problems—primarily his lack of appeal to minorities—as a challenge that he is trying to overcome. Elsewhere, the Times prints a story about a Bernie Sanders rally for Hillary that focuses exclusively on the small number of Bernie supporters there who may not vote for Hillary. Near the end of the article appears the sentence: “Still, polls show that the majority of Mr. Sander’s former supporters, like Lauren Glass, 22, plan to vote for Mrs. Clinton.” The number of former Bernitians intending to vote for Hillary is actually 90%, making the statement “the majority” as close to a lie as a true statement can be. The angle for the story is completely misleading and meant to sow further “doubts” about Hillary.

The Times also carried a very positive story about the supposed influence of Norman Vincent Peale’s church on Donald Trump, despite the fact that Trump has never joined the church and never given it a contribution. Besides being a minister, Norman Vincent Peale was a religiously-based motivational speaker who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale’s optimistic conflation of doing well and doing good has made him a favorite of mainstream business-oriented Republicans since the 1930’s. If it wasn’t in the Times, I would swear that the article was part of the Trump campaign to appeal more to traditional Republicans, similar to his many speeches about helping African-Americans he has given to white audiences.

The Times also had a snarky story about Hillary, who on Labor Day let reporters ride with her on her jet for the first time in the campaign. This story continues the mainstream news media’s campaign to paint Hillary as unavailable just because she hasn’t held any news conferences. The “Hillary is not accessible” storyline demonstrates the underlying anti-Hillary sentiment in the mainstream news media. Hillary has given a tremendous number of one-on-one interviews. As a public relations professional for more than 30 years, I can state unequivocally that reporters prefer one-on-ones to news conference for several reasons: 1) They can ask more questions; 2) They can get into more depth on the issue(s) of most interest to them; 3) They are more likely to get exclusive breaking news, since by definition there can be no exclusive at a news conference attended by many. The news media should be happy that there are so many opportunities to talk to Hillary one-on-one, but instead they turn it around and make it part of a false narrative.

This news cycle also saw the announcement by one of the moderators of upcoming debates, Chris Wallace of Fox News, declare that he would not point out when either of the candidates makes a factual misstatement during his debate; Wallace must know he has given Trump carte blanc to lie as much as he wants in the debate.

This mainstream media support of Trump began in full swing as soon as the Khan controversy died down. And it seems to be having an impact. The latest polls show the race to be in a virtual tie. The latest CC-ORC poll has Trump up by two points, 45%-43%. Hillary still has a nearly insurmountable lead in the Electoral College, ahead in virtually every swing state and within striking distance in a number of historically Republican states. But still, it’s frightening to think that almost half the country now intends to vote for Trump.

As I have written before, you would think that the specter of a Trump presidency would induce the mainstream news media to skewer coverage in favor of Hillary, or at the very least to play it straight instead of helping the Republicans, as they usually do.  But it looks like I’m wrong.  Maybe the media corporate overlords figure that we’ve had psychopaths, the ignorant and liars for president before and have survived. Bush II and Reagan were ignorant liars, while Nixon was a lying psychopath.  And we’ve had racists in the White House, too, including Woodrow Wilson and Nixon.  Presidents with little experience have made some awful mistakes, such as Kennedy escalating the cold war and arranging for the replacement of the Vietnam government, Clinton’s handling of healthcare reform or Obama bending too far to compromise with the unrealistic demands of Republicans.

But only twice in our country’s history have we had a Democratic president who was a centrist leaning left with both houses of Congress Democratic and the Republic party in disarray. In both instances, the conditions lasted about two years. Coincidentally, virtually every piece of federal legislation that created more equality of income and wealth was passed during these short periods, under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. As of August 10, the polls suggested that the possibility of a third confluence of these factors could occur.  And that’s what the ultra-wealthy who own and control the mainstream news media are afraid of. They’ve spent more than 35 years undoing most of the damage that New Deal and Great Society legislation did to the ultra-wealthy’s self-imagined privilege to dominate the economy and exploit everyone else. They don’t want to see their efforts undone by the Democratic platform of higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for social welfare programs, lowering the cost of education, improving our infrastructure and promoting non-fossil fuels.

In short, they prefer the horrors of Trump to anything that affects their sizable fortunes, even if it helps the country and most of its inhabitants.

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Today’s public square: real & imagined mix freely in timeless drift, plus Trump’s illogical comments on Weiner

What can be more irritating than to see a news story that’s a week or month or even a year old appear on Google News, Yahoo! News or your Facebook feed? What’s worse is when days after it was originally published you ran across an early version of a news story—when maybe some of the facts were wrong or the accused had not yet completely exonerated herself (might as well be topical). When I find out I’m reading yesterday’s—or last year’s—news, it raises my blood pressure a little.

That is, if the story has a dateline attached to it and I remember to check it. Otherwise, I may believe it’s the latest news, or that the ideas or assertions that were already discounted are actually true.

This reappearance of stories that should be time-bound out of chronological context is one of the ways that the shift to the Internet for getting news and creating public forums has warped our sense of time.

Another way is the 24-hour availability of Internet news. In traditional news media, the reader, viewer or listener gets a chunk of the world at a given increment in time at the same time every day.  Here is how the world stands when the paper was printed at 1:00 am. Here is how the world stands right now at 6:00 pm. By contrast, the Internet purports to give us news to the instant 24 hours a day. Anyone who frequently checks news-oriented websites knows that it’s more like news every few hours plus whatever big event just occurred. But the very expectation that what you see is up-to-the-minute destroys the sense of chronology you develop by reading the newspaper or watching the 11:00 pm news every day and thus order events by the day they occur. In a sense, on the Internet everything happens at once in a timeless drift.

One thing hasn’t changed, though. Politicians, pundits, store-bought intellectuals and reporters continue to fill news media outlets with lies, false accusations, mistakes in logic and pure fantasy. I’m not talking only about the right-wing media. The mainstream frequently carries distortions, large and small. What was the media applause before the Iraq War, the intense focus on deficit reduction during a recession, the multiple Benghazi hearings, the “swift-boating” of John Kerry, the brouhaha over Planned Parenthood, the touting of the Tea Party in 2010 and the disregard of organized left-wing activity in that same year and this year if not distortions and fantasies. The best recent example of mainstream news media creating false news or a false take on the news is the Associated Press (AP) scandalously falsifying article which claimed that more than half of the people who met with Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state used the Clinton Foundation as a conduit to reach her. As it turns out, the AP was looking at a miniscule subset of visitors, and that in fact very few of the people with whom Clinton met during her reign as secretary of state had made contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Just as the case with every other media outlet that has pored over Clinton emails, the AP was unable to provide one example of a contract given, a policy changed or any other action taken by the State Department as the result of a request to the Clinton Foundation.  The AP is trying to create a scandal where there is none.

Now for a slight change of topic to Donald Trump’s latest inanity.

It seems as the Donald’s overactive imagination has been acting up again.  During the campaign, the Donald has imagined African-American life in the United States to be a wretched urban hell in which no progress towards a higher standard of living and a safer environment has been made over the past 50 years. He has imagined that crime is up when it’s really down, that unemployment is up when it’s really down and that illegal immigration is up when in fact it’s so far down that more illegals have left the United States than entered over the past few years.  Of course, these fantasies of Trump’s could also be out-and-out lies, like his many lies about his past successes as a businessperson or that he opposed the Iraq War early on or that Hillary Clinton has stated she wants to repeal the Second Amendment. (I wish it were true!)

Trump’s first statement about Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin leaving her husband, the notorious sexter Anthony Weiner, serves as a dismaying metaphor for the current state of public discourse.

Trump said that Huma “is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him. I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.

Trump turns a wild innuendo—that Clinton was “careless and negligent” about allowing Weiner to have close access to highly classified information—into a true statement which then serves as an example of a wild assertion—that Clinton exercises poor judgment. His conclusion is that we should be very worried that important state documents got into the hands of an Internet pervert.

Picking apart this statement is easier than walking away from your bills and making your vendors sue you for the money. It assumes that we believe that one or more of the following are true: 1) Clinton has control over the selection of her employees’ mates; 2) Clinton routinely shares state secrets with the significant others of her employees; 3) Huma Abedin told everything she knew about state secrets to her husband, on the advice or orders of Clinton.

Perhaps Trump is confused and thinks we’re still in slave times, when the boss, who was also the owner, tried to exercise complete control over the sex lives of his employees, who were the slaves. Or maybe he thinks that because Abedin has an Islamic background that she has no rights over her own body and voice and was forced to follow her Clinton Mafia family orders to marry that twerp.

So where was Clinton’s bad judgment? In hiring someone who is a high-achieving, hard-working and talented individual? Perhaps it was hiring someone with an Islamic background? That racist assumption may in fact be what Trump is really trying to communicate, just as his ostensible appeals to African-Americans seem meant to really communicate to whites that he endorses certain myths and lies about African-American culture.

It’s worth noting that Trump declares his expertise at the beginning of the statement: “I know Anthony Weiner” well. Is that any different from your run-of-the-mill Manhattan Institute or American Enterprise Institute pseudo-academic claiming expertise in the topic about which she/he is about to lie or distort? In fact, I could point to a number of Wall Street Journal Op/Ed pieces that take exactly the same structure as the Trump quote (for a few examples, see my analyses of Journal opinion pieces in OpEdge blog entries for February 11, 2016, December 8, 2015, August 4, 2015 and May 5, 2015):

  1. Establish false expertise
  2. Give false assumption
  3. Create a causal relationship based on the false assumption, sometimes using coded language
  4. Come to false conclusion.

The subject of the Trump quote on Abedin-Weiner symbolizes the degradation of the news media over the past 20 years. That the media thinks the separation of two prominent political figures rates top-of-the-news, first-page coverage degrades the marketplace of ideas. This kind of story traditionally was never front page news and often would not even make the Times; it was called “tabloid news” or a “page six” story, after the gossip column page of the scurrilous New York Post. That a political candidate would deign to comment on the private matter of an opponent’s employee further sullies the political discourse. The completely illogical nature of the comment suggests a mind that is both disorganized and deranged or a cynicism about the abilities of the American public to reason cause and effect, or perhaps both. In any case, this kind of logic further demeans discourse. (The hypocrisy of a serial adulterer taking an ethical stand has been par for the course in American political history, and is therefore less troublesome.)

In short, the Trump quote is a complete disgrace, from every point of view. If you want to know what’s wrong with our current public discourse on important issues, multiply this illogical, tasteless and irrelevant quote by about a billion.

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To paraphrase Elvis Costello, what’s so funny about liberty, equality & fraternity?

Since the revolution of 1789, the national motto of France has been “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” which translated into English and updated to remove any sexism translates to “Liberty, equality, solidarity.”

French beach towns are making a mockery of all three concepts by passing laws that forbid the wearing of burkinis.

The New York Times reports that more than 20 French towns, mostly along the Mediterranean, have banned the burkini, which is a head-to-toes beach garment worn by devout Muslim women. The municipalities’ reasons for passing these bans sound as if they come directly from the America right-wing dictionary of racial code: the garments are not “appropriate,” not “respectful of good morals and of secularism” and not “respectful of the rules of hygiene and security of bathers on public beaches.”

Just reading these odious racist excuses gives me the same yucky, skin-crawling feeling I get from rolling around in sand immediately after applying greasy sunscreen. The reference to hygiene was especially nauseating, because it reminded me of the ugly things well-bred white Americans used to say—and sometimes still do—about African-Americans during the days of legal segregation.

A few comparisons demonstrate the absurdity of banning a modest garment that shows nothing of a sexual nature.

First, let’s compare the burkini to the standard swimwear in France in the late 19th century. They look practically the same, except for the head covering on the burkini. 150 years ago, French women would likely wear wide brimmed hats on the beach. Back then, if a woman dared to show up in a bikini or topless, the authorities would haul her to jail for public lewdness and immorality. By the way, every French Mediterranean beach I’ve ever visited has allowed women to walk around topless.

Now let’s compare the burkini to a wetsuit, which is still allowed to be worn on the beaches banning burkinis. Again, there seems to be nothing to distinguish the two from each other. A few days back on Facebook, I saw side-by-side photos of a burkini and wetsuit in the same sleek green and black color-combination and I really couldn’t tell much of a difference, even in the way the material covered the head.

Evidently the police of these towns are patrolling the beaches and asking any woman wearing a burkini to leave. By the way, if a man or woman wearing a wetsuit on one of these French beaches also sported a very large cross around her/his neck, the local constabulary would ignore it. Evidently a Christian cross in not a religious symbol, whereas wearing clothes that cover your body and a head covering is. I’ve seen 2016 photos of nuns wearing their habits on Italian beaches. Although the habit resembles the burkini in many ways, I doubt the police will be hassling nuns on French beaches this summer.

These bans make a mockery of the French ideals of liberty, equality and the solidarity between human beings encompassed in the word “fraternity.” The French towns are denying the Muslim women the liberty to wear what they choose. They are making the women and their religion less equal than other religions and cultures. And instead of embracing this group as part of the family of man, they are differentiating them from the mass of humanity and creating laws specifically meant to impede their actions. In the United States, we call that Jim Crow.

One rational for these laws is to ensure the security of bathers on the beach. Really? How does wearing a long garment threaten other bathers? Are the authorities concerned that every burkini could hide a machine guns and grenades?

Far from making bathers safer, these bans make all of French society less safe for two reasons: The banning of burkinis inflames the more radical among France’s Muslims and gives them an additional shred of evidence that the West hates Islam. The banning also encourages the French alt-right because it communicates to them that the authorities, at least in these localities, agrees with them that there is something wrong with Islam and that France should control and mistreat their Muslim citizens and immigrants.

As Elvis Costello pointed out in his 1974 song, there’s nothing funny about peace, love and understanding. If the French are serious about domestic peace, they should show a little love to its Muslim population and some understanding that the overwhelming majority of them are law-abiding citizens who only want to express their liberty and live in equality in a community that shows solidarity to all its members.

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Emails reveal no conflicts of interest between Clinton State Department & Foundation. Controversy reveals double standard

As an owner of a small business I have been on both sides of requests for access similar to those at the center of the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State.  Anytime my company needs to make contact with a company or highly placed individual, the first thing we do is ask ourselves who might know someone we could reference. It’s called “six degrees of separation” marketing, based on the John Guare play. People who want to work for my agency or sell it goods or services often invoke the name of a business friend to get in the door.

The success of using contacts to gain access doesn’t always work. When I needed to reach out to the Justice Department on a sensitive matter for a client about 10 years ago, I called the former campaign manager for a former Pennsylvania governor and a former prosecutor because I thought they would know whom at DOJ I really needed to contact. Didn’t help me one bit.

I’ve been on the other side of the conversation, too. To get a job interview at my firm, one of my very best employees of all time used the name of someone whom she had gotten through another contact—that’s three degrees of separation.

Virtually every month, someone on my staff gets requests from business friends to interview someone or consider contributing our time or money to a charity. I don’t have much to do with these matters any more, but occasionally I get an email asking me about a request or letting me know we said “no.”

So if I wanted to contact someone at the State Department and I knew someone at the Clinton Foundation, damn right I would call the Clinton Foundation. And if I’m at the State Department, damn right I’m going to turn down all these requests. Except maybe sometimes, I might propose a short meeting if it seemed appropriate, just as I would if it were the chair of General Motors or the executive director of the NAACP.

And if I were the person responsible for fielding requests, damn right, I would occasionally write a memo to my boss. It sure would be embarrassing if HRC met Bono at a party and didn’t know the State Department had turned down his request for high-level help to arrange a live link to the International Space Station for his concerts.

Thus, the key fact in the controversy over whether Clinton Foundation donors got access to and favors from the Clinton State Department is buried in the fifteenth paragraph of the Washington Post’s expose:

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Monday that there is ‘no clear sign’ donors received access for their contributions.

The Washington Post article gives three examples of requests for access. In two cases, the answer was “no.” The third case was the Crown Prince of Bahrain, a country with which the United States has friendly relations. The Crown Prince also applied directly to the State Department. He participated in one Clinton Foundation event in 2005. In what way is setting up a meeting with the head of a foreign country that’s an ally corruption? Should a State Department turn down all requests for meetings from any organization in which a key executive has gone to college with the Secretary and Undersecretary? Worked for the same law firm? Served on the same board? Lived in the same town?

Corruption comes not in fielding these requests, but in approving a request for any reason other than its merits.

If there were any evidence—any slip of paper or veiled reference—of someone calling the Clinton Foundation and then winning a competitive contract with the State Department or getting their nephew a cushy job, the Washington Post would have published it. If a majority or even close to a majority of requests were granted, the Washington Post would have noted it and not had a “no” as the result of two out of the three case histories it detailed. That The New York Times article used the same Bahrain case history strongly suggests that there was nothing really problematic in the emails.

In other words, what the emails show incontrovertibly is that the system worked. Influential people tried to gain access to the Clinton State Department through the Clinton Foundation and none did, except in those instances that the Clinton State Department was going to say “yes” in any case to a meeting request.

As usual, the Clintons are under a much more careful scrutiny that has not been applied to others. No one has scrutinized the emails of the Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell State Departments. We swept the illegalities of the torture gulag the Bush-Cheney Administration created under the rug.  No one wonders about the millions of emails the Bush-Cheney Administration destroyed.

Let’s compare. A few people may have been able to meet with State Department personnel because they had a contact with a nonprofit organization that does wonderful work around the world. High-level officers in an Administration concocted a series of lies to convince the United States to begin a war that turned into a quagmire and then engaged in barbaric acts that were illegal under U.S. and international law. Who do we go after?

Or how about this double standard: Do we investigate Benghazi or do we investigate the 13 separate attacks of U.S. embassies during the Bush-Cheney years in which 60 diplomatic officers died?

The most recent of these comparisons comes this week. The right-wing media is putting out false and scurrilous rumors that one candidate has serious health problems and the mainstream news media is correctly telling us that the rumors are baseless—using the experts and facts that right-wing enthusiasts always doubt because it goes against what they know in their hearts must be true. This candidate released a letter from her physician that gives her a clean bill of health, while discussing past medical problems; the letter takes the form and uses the language that virtually every other letter about a candidate’s health has ever employed. The one exception to this standard format for medical letters is the other candidate in this year’s race, who released a letter that sounded as if it were written by an ignoramus, not a physician. The letter said all tests were positive, which is generally a bad thing and asserted that the candidate would be the healthiest president ever, which a physician would never say unless he had personally examined all the others. And yet except for Rachel Maddow and a few other journalists, no one is questioning the authenticity or veracity of this letter. And no one has wondered about the true state of health of this overweight 70-year-old who professes to love unhealthy food and whose primary exercise is riding a golf cart.

A double standard for Hillary? I would say so.

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Instead of doing push-ups, supporters of veterans should organize against war or staff suicide prevention lines

I first learned about the 22 push-up challenge on Facebook. Several of my 2,300+ Facebook friends are doing 22 push-ups a day for 22 days to commemorate the fact that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. The idea is to complete the 22 days and then challenge someone you know to do the same, all in memory of the 22 veterans added to our suicide rolls every day.

This morning I began seeing news stories on the 22 push-up challenge, about 127,000 in all in a Google News search, which is a relatively small number. The most prominent of the mostly minor media to cover the fad are Fox News and Inc. Most of the coverage focuses on the celebrities who have decided to drop and give 22.  They include Kevin Hart, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Kevin Bacon, Ludacris, John Krasinski and Dwayne Johnson.

The 22 push-up challenge was devised by, which looks like it’s a for-profit group with the lofty goal of raising awareness about the high rate of suicide among veterans. The website mostly sells a variety of rings, clothing and headgear with branding. Unlike the typical awareness-raising event such as a walkathon or last summer’s ice bucket challenge, the people aren’t trying to use the challenge to raise money, although I’m fairly certain they would be delighted if the campaign led to an uptick in the purchase of their merchandise. does try to raise money on its website, which it says will be allocated to a wide range of nonprofit organizations helping veterans. Donate a minimum of $22 for four months and you get a free honor ring. Two questions remain unanswered: 1. How much of your donation does keep and how much gets funneled to the real nonprofits? 2. Why can’t you cut out the middle man and give directly to these other organizations?

While many things about sound fishy, I am not going to condemn or accuse the group, as I don’t know enough about it. Besides, whether or not the group is legitimate does not affect the viability and potential impact of the campaign, which I view as a complete waste of time.

Over the next few days and weeks it is possible that the 22 push-up challenge will blaze across the Internet and the mainstream media, much like the ice bucket challenge did last year and twerking did in 2013. But so what? How does that greater awareness help veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder?

Only two things will reduce the incidence of veteran suicides:

  1. Spending more money to provide services that help soldiers adjust to the aftermath of war.
  2. Not sending soldiers to war.

In that context, doing 22 push-ups a day for 22 days with no donation is pretty meaningless. At 10 minutes a day, the total time spent doing the push-ups works out to more than 3.5 hours. The same time could be spent staffing a suicide line or at a table outside Walmart soliciting contributions for one of the many organizations that help veterans in trouble. Perhaps the best use of the 3.5 hours would be to send letters to our elected officials exhorting them to spend more on veteran’s mental health and psychological counseling. The 3.5 hours could also be converted into a contribution:  For example one person I know who is doing the challenge makes in excess of a half million a year; instead of doing push-ups, this person could contribute $875, which represents 3.5 hours of a $500,000 salary for a 2,000-hour work year.

While the 22 push-ups does nothing for veterans, it helps the participants in several ways. Obviously doing 22 push-ups a day improves the fitness of most healthy people. But doing the push-ups also makes the participants feel good inside in three ways: 1) They think they have helped an important cause; 2) They get to bond with other participants; 3) They enjoy the approval of the circle of their friends and associates who know about the challenge.

In short, doing something makes people feel good because they feel they are doing something. The premise is that people who participate in challenges, walkathons, marathons or dinners will give more money and be more committed to the cause than if they just wrote a check. People also like getting the various pins, water bottles, hats, tee shirt, mugs and other paraphernalia they typically receive when participating in nonprofit events. Many of my readers may not know that at the most expensive of these fundraising activities—formal dinners and cocktail parties for which the price of admission can be $150, $350 or even $1,000 a ticket—the gifts can be quite expensive and include vacation trips and spa memberships as door prizes. Like participants in the 22 push-ups campaign, those who walk, run or dance and those who sponsor them could give the money and donate their time directly to the nonprofit. But it wouldn’t feel as good.

In short, most fund-raising events and challenges appeal not just to our altruism, but to our inherent self-centeredness. In America, it can’t be good for someone else unless it’s also good for me.

Besides the typical self-centeredness I find in all of these challenges and events, I object to the 22 push-ups challenge for another reason. It does nothing to address the broader question of how we can help prevent veteran suicides. The answer, of course, is very simple: Don’t go to war.

War has always victimized a goodly number of soldiers. Anyone who has read any battlefield literature knows why: Seeing people wounded and die. Having to kill and wound others. Sleep deprivation. Living in ditches or other uncomfortable quarters. The regimentation of your life. The sound of bullets. The smell of blood and rotting corpses. The fear of bombs. Questions about the justness and fairness of the war. The guilt that you survived when comrades didn’t. The frustration of dealing with injuries. No wonder every war destabilizes the mental health of many soldiers.

At this point, we could broach a philosophical question: Is any war ever necessary or just? But in the United States, the issue of a just war has become moot. We have fought at least five wars in my lifetime that were absolutely unnecessary: Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq I and Iraq II; we could also make the case that our incursion into Afghanistan has also been a complete waste. From the standpoint of the home front, churning out PTSD-affected soldiers seems to be an American growth industry. (And let’s not forget the millions of people we killed or injured in the countries we invaded.)

Thus, the best way to reduce veteran suicides—which is the sole goal of the 22 push-ups campaign—is to not fight wars. Those who are doing push-ups would be better off working for and giving money to peace and disarmament organizations. And all of us should make sure that the next time a president or Congress wants to go to war and our territory has not suffered attack by an armed force that we send emails and letters against the war to elected officials and the news media and participate in anti-war demonstrations.

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