Fake news has been around since news has been around. What’s different now is the assertion that alternate truths exist

For a few months in the early 1980’s my job was to rewrite the long stories from the 11:00 pm news of the night before into 30-second and one-minute versions for the morning news for the San Francisco affiliate of a national news network. Virtually every morning I discovered inaccuracies in the reporting of one particular night beat reporter—her versions always exaggerated the blood and guts, the violence and the horror. She often introduced fake elements into the news.

Around that time, Ronald Reagan in campaigning for president often invoked the image of the “welfare queen” and was never questioned by the news media. Virtually all mainstream news media allowed Reagan to make his racially tinged claim that welfare fraud was a huge problem without looking at the evidence, which demonstrated that the biggest fraud problem the federal government had in the 1980’s were false claims by physicians. By publishing a smear that could readily be disproven, the news media allowed the fake claim to disseminate across the country and for racism once again to enter a political decision.

Fast forward to the run-up to the Second Iraq War. All evidence suggests that New York Times reporter Judith Miller knew or at least had deep suspicions that the evidence she was reporting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was completely fabricated. It was fake news and it helped to get us into the most disastrous war in American history.

In fact, from the Civil War onward, we can find massive evidence in every generation of the news media routinely publishing the lies of government and large corporations without checking the facts, sometimes knowing they were distributing falsehoods and not caring. Sometimes these lies involved the foundational ideology upon which American society operates, such as American exceptionalism, the idea that everyone has an equal shot at success in life and the central importance of the two-parent nuclear family.

Thus, while I am disturbed and shaken by the damage wrought on the American people by fake news in the latest election cycle, I am not convinced that a Rubicon has been crossed. The quantity of false news has grown and the means by which it can be delivered directly to consumers have multiplied, but the problem of mendacious journalism is as old as town criers and public squares.

Through the years, both mainstream and tabloid media have disseminated several types of false news:

  • The out-and-out lie: In the mainstream media, only rogue journalists like Brian Williams tell an out-and-out lie or make up a story. When discovered, the profession usually punishes them harshly.
  • Letting an obvious lie pass: Journalists have always given politicians, business leaders and civic boosters a free pass on their overt lies, for several reasons: 1) Because they agree with what the liar is saying. For example, a basic agreement with the idea of cutting Social Security benefits to fund more tax cuts for the wealthy led many media to conceal the net effects of the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility & Reform in 2010. 2) To create or extend a story or a controversy, which explains why the news media didn’t call Trump on his incessant lying until very late in the presidential campaign. It also explains why they continue to publish the views of a handful of pariah scientists, many paid by corporations, who deny human-caused global warming. 3) To support the government and also ensure that they continue to be able to use government sources, as we can see in the run-up to the Iraq War, when the mainstream media published the ridiculously low government projections on the cost of the conflict, while ignoring the more accurate predictions of a variety of foreign policy experts and economists.
  • Selective coverage: Is it false news to publish so much about the fact that Hillary Clinton had a private server, while suppressing the fact that her predecessors also used private servers, that the Bush II administration consciously destroyed three million emails and that the contents of the Clinton emails exonerated her from any suspicious of unethical or illegal actions?
  • Spinning the coverage: Is it false news to focus on the part of a report or study that supports the media’s worldview while ignoring more significant parts that disprove what the media wants us to believe? Some examples: Headlines and reporting on a Pew study this past summer focused on the fact that four-fifths of the nation’s fastest-shrinking religious group, white evangelicals, were backing Trump, while ignoring the fact that the fastest growing religious group and one of the same size as white evangelicals—those who are atheists—favored Clinton by similar margins. Six years ago, the mass media reported that a National Center for Health Statistics study found that people who cohabit are a mere 6% less likely to be together 10 years after marriage than people who don’t live together before getting hitched.  The media either ignored or buried the real significance of the study: that more than 61% of all women now cohabit with someone else sometime in their lives. Is it false news to declare an ignoramus of the right an expert, while ignoring a widely published left winger considered the world’s top scholar in the field? In this regard, I agree with Mark Hertsgaard who in the Nation special issue on the Obama years states the mass media “deserve a special circle in hell for sustaining the lie that climate change is more a matter of political opinion than of scientific fact.”

Determining whether or when providing selective information, purposely misinterpreting the facts or communicating the lies of other people (with proper attribution, of course!) constitutes false news involves questions of ethics and epistemology, which is the study of meaning. In passing, let’s note that the United States government has often used false news reports to control or steer events in other countries. We have dropped leaflets full of lies and spread rumors of deaths or impending revolts. Now it appears that the Russians have victimized us with 21st century versions of our own Cold War weapons.

We should also keep in mind that it’s pretty much legal to lie in paid advertising or in an opinion piece that appears under one’s own byline. The mainstream news media while professing to have a firewall between the advertising and editorial departments, have often tended to blur the distinction between news and advertising, and between news and opinion. The Internet has given advertisers greater opportunity to pass off their shill as real news.

It used to be that the mainstream news media represented a consensus of what its owners—the ruling elite—believed. That consensus shaped the news we received, because there were few alternative ways to communicate to people on either the left or the right, and those alternatives—other print media and radio, were expensive and reached relatively small numbers. We could assume that most of the time the mainstream news media didn’t lie, and when they did, we knew what the lies were and why, because except for a brief instant during the late years of the Vietnam War, the mainstream media always supported the government or the collective ideology of the ruling elite. As G. William Domhoff and others have pointed out, that elite was not unified, as not every wealthy family and corporate overlord agreed to the basic compromise with labor made by the wealthy during the Roosevelt years, nor with the later push to give minorities and women equal access to the law and the economy.

To state the obvious, the growth of the Internet, especially social media, has increased the ways that we can inexpensively get both accurate and false information to others. The right-wing in particular has had a great deal of success spreading lies, false news and misleading interpretations directly to their constituencies. If it’s the right wing that has specialized in false news today, it’s mostly because the right is the side fighting reality, in such areas as global warming and the impact of lowering taxes on the wealthy, or using lies to shore up their argument as with voter suppression laws, government privatization and abortion.  With the facts firmly in the hands of those who once would have been called Eisenhower Republicans, the right has faced the choice of retreating or lying to hold back history and the truth.

But false news has turned elections before, most notably the elections of 1824, 1888 and 2000, all of which happen to have ended with the loser in the popular vote installed in the White House. False news has led us into wars and justified horrible acts such as dropping the atom bomb and constructing a global torture gulag.

It would take a massive research project to measure the percentage of news in any given era that involves lies, so we don’t really know whether there is more false news today than there used to be. We do, however, know that:

  • There are more ways to disseminate both false and true news than there used to be.
  • There is less real news being reported than in any decade since World War II, as the organizations that report shrink and those that merely disseminate—with or without spin—have grown.
  • Many fewer people get their news from the mainstream than used to, to the point that we know longer have a consensus as to what constitutes hard news, the news cycle, news authorities and news ethics.
  • 43% of Internet users have passed along false news; 10% have done so knowing what they were forwarding was full of lies.

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman presents study after study that demonstrate that people will believe an anecdote that supports their beliefs over a factual study that disproves them. The prevalence of false news, like rumors and urban myths, feed into the deep need of people to assert their perceptions as reality. What’s troubling in this context, is the kind of false news that predominates today.  Birtherism, voter fraud, Clinton illegalities, immigrant hordes—the racist, anti-science and misogynist explicitness of most false news is more troubling than the fact that false news exists.

The real question is whether we have reached a tipping point at which the amount of false new overwhelms truth and leads to a breakdown of the system. If that is what we are seeing, it merely reflects the amount of false information that currently determines government and industrial policy. People thinking that the Chinese invented the idea of global warming to hurt the West is not significant until our government and corporate leaders believe it and act on that false information.

The most alarming part of the rise of false news to my mind is not the increase in false ideas floating in the public sphere, but the growth in the idea that there are multiple truths, an idea first floated by the Bush II administration. I think it was Dick Cheney, but it may have been another Bush II henchperson who said that the administration made its own reality and by the time the world caught up, it would remake reality again.

As long as we agree that truth exists, truth will eventually win out, although often after a lot of pain and suffering by innocent people. But once we assert that truth can be constructed and that two or more truths can exist simultaneously when it comes to anything other than emotions, we are sunk as a society.


Donald Trump: Our accidental president is a national embarrassment & a national tragedy

In imagining presidential candidates at the beginning of 2016, if someone had said to me that an erratic and narcissistic sociopath would garner even a million votes, I would have considered it a national embarrassment, regardless of that candidate’s political stances.

Same feeling if even one million people had voted for a candidate without government experience who failed miserably at his profession of real estate development and casino management, be that candidate of the left or of the right. A national embarrassment that a million people would think such a failure to have presidential timber.

Same feeling of embarrassment if one million people had voted for someone involved in thousands of lawsuits, most involving other people suing him for nonpayment. Or if one million people had voted for a candidate who routinely slurred women, Hispanics and Muslims. Or if one million people had voted for someone who told bald-faced lies about his past and the state of the country in every speech. Or if one million people had voted for someone who used a charitable foundation to make private purchases and bribe government officials.

Or if one million people had voted for someone who admitted to sexual assault on camera and in doing so committed a serious violation of law by creating a hostile work environment for women.

Mainstream news media and Democratic politicians can wring their hands all they want about Russian hacking, FBI manipulation, voter suppression laws, the double standard applied to Hillary, fake news, the Stein effect (which turned Michigan and Wisconsin red), Hillary’s mistakes, the news media’s failure to call Trump on his lies and the unfair skewering of the electoral college in favor of rural states—they can harp about all the many unfortunate happenstances that had to align in some kind of disharmonic convergence for Trump to win the electoral college while losing the popular vote by an unprecedented (not “unpresidented”) 2.8 million votes—moan about it all as much as they like, but it does not change the fact that not one million, not ten million, but almost 63 million people voted for Donald Trump.

That’s a little more than a quarter of all Americans eligible to vote and 46% of actual voters who cast their ballots for someone documented to be an unethical, law-breaking, sociopathic, racist, erratic, misogynistic liar with no government experience. Law-breaking. Erratic. No Experience. Sociopath. Racist. Misogynistic. Lying. Unethical. Any of these eight traits should have disqualified him in the minds of voters.

No one knows the real reason we elected Donald Trump. Was it a “perfect storm” of coincidences, which besides the ones listed above also included the lack of any mainstream Republican candidate and the absence of Republican super delegates? Was it a moment of mass hysteria or mass anger at the establishment? Was it a brilliantly executed strategy that bypassed the news media by relying on revivalist meeting events and social media? Was it because the Democratic Party based too much of its program on identity politics, a popular explanation among self-loathing progressives and their mainstream media enablers? These self-flagellators seem to forget that walking away from asserting the rights of ethnic, racial and sexual minorities involves selling out the American dream and that the very term “identity politics” undercuts the legitimacy of the injustices that women and minorities still endure.

In my view, what elected Donald Trump was the merging of two evils which have poisoned the American body politics since the white rich merchants and slave owners whom we call our founders formed the country more than two centuries ago: racism and greed. Many people voted for Trump out of fear and resentment of blacks, Hispanics and Muslims. Many other people voted for him because they wanted to lower taxes, no matter what. The greedy ones have cynically financed a war against multicultural values and science to pander to the racist (and ultra-religious) ones. Rich folk supporting the beliefs of racist (and culturally conservative) folk in return for support of economic policies that hurt 99% of all Americans has pretty much described the Republican play book since the rise of Ronald Reagan. If the sleep of reason produces monsters, then the reasoning of the Republican Party has produced the monstrous Donald Trump. Or perhaps it’s the reasoning of consumer capitalism.

Let’s not forget, though, that both racism and greed run deep and long in Americwan history. In fact the white rich merchants and slave owners who created the Electoral College did so to keep real control of governance in as small a set of hands as possible. Other aspects of the Constitution in its original form show favoritism to both the propertied and slave owners. From its very inception, we can view most American history through the lens of either racism or the battle to divide the economic pie between the wealthy and everyone else.

No matter the explanation for the election of Donald Trump, we should all feel ashamed and embarrassed. That the ballots of one quarter of the voting population should elect such a dangerously unqualified president reflects poorly on our education system, our political parties, our news media, our system of checks and balances, the motives of the ultra-wealthy and our cultural norms. It is our national shame. And once Trump’s cabinet of crony capitalists, retired generals and ideologues springs into action, it will also be our national tragedy.

The American dream has proved to be weaker than the American original sins of racism and greed.


Adult infantilization may be a byproduct of social evolution, but it could lead to demise of humans

Nowadays adults collect My Little Pony dolls and play with Legos. They read Harry Potter and comic books. They go on sleepovers at museums and down Gummi Bear vitamins.

It’s called adult infantilization, adults maintaining hobbies and interests that are created specifically for children and which are relatively uncomplicated and unsophisticated compared to adult experiences.

I’ve written about the negative impact of infantilization a number of times, including most recently on June 30, 2016, October 27, 2014 and May 10, 2014. My concern with infantilization is that I believe it leaves adults not just acting like children, but thinking like them.

Bad for society, but good for advertisers. Advertisers want adults to behave like children because it makes them better consumers. Children are more self-centered and find it harder to think long-term, so they are more likely to make an impulse purchase for themselves. Children have less sophisticated thought processes and are therefore easier to convince to buy or believe something. Children have not had rigorous training in economics, the scientific method and logic and tend to engage in magical thinking. Children tend to believe anything an authority figures says.

We can see the trend of increased adult infantilization in the pandemic of popular movies focused on adults who behave like children over the past 20 years. A partial list: The “Harold & Kumar” movies,  “Old School,”  “Big,”  “Grandma’s Boy,”  the “Ted” flicks,  “The Wedding Crashers,”  “Billy Madison,”  ”Step Brothers,”  “You, Me and Dupree,”  “Dodgeball,”  “The 40-year-old Virgin,”  “Knocked Up,”  all three “Hangovers,”  the “Jackass” movies, “Bridesmaids,”  “Hall Pass”  and “Identity Thief.”

It’s easy to see why someone selling products and services—especially unneeded junk—might want to deal with children and not adults, or to be more precise, to deal with adults with the thought processes of children. But children make poor citizens and worse voters, as they are more easily swayed by fallacious thinking and more likely to see things in terms of good and bad, us and them, thereby missing nuances that are particularly important in a pluralistic society.

In reading Beyond Words by science popularizer Carl Safina, I’ve discovered that infantilization may be a byproduct of the evolution that humans have gone through since forming sedentary societies. In discussing the domestication of wolves into dogs and a decades-long experiment to domesticate foxes by letting only the less aggressive ones breed, Safina lists a set of physical traits that seem always to be tied to friendliness or a lack of aggression, the traits that humans prefer in dogs: droopy ears, splotchy or mottled coats, wagging tails, shorter legs, shorter faces with smaller teeth. As it turns out, all these physical characteristics are present in the young of the species, who then grow out of them.  As for behavior, to quote Safina, “As adults, the friendly foxes continue to behave like juvenile wolves, acting submissively, whining and giving higher pitched barks.” He and the research he references postulate that “genes resulting in invisible brain changes for friendly behavior also result in highly visible changes in how foxes look.” Safina points out that these changes are virtually the same ones that occurred in wolves as they became dogs. Safina concludes that researchers and farmers who have thought they were selecting for nonaggressive personalities were also selecting for juvenile versions of adults, “perpetual pups” as he writes.

Later in Beyond Words, Safina points out that the extremely social and peaceful bonobos have many physical traits that the highly aggressive and anti-social chimpanzee have as children but lose as adults, including skull shape, flatness of face, smaller teeth and the existence of the labia majora in females. Surprise, surprise, humans share these bonobo traits that adult chimpanzees lose.

Anthropologist Chris Boehm has postulated that over time, groups of humans may have eliminated many of those most prone to aggressive acts, such as rape, murder, cheat and other anti-social behavior because imprisonment, execution, death in war and banishment all impede procreation. What we’re talking about is not any millennium-long program of eugenics, but the adaptive superiority of civilized behavior once humans formed large groups. While blackguards still exist, the theory goes that there are fewer of them because of conscious selections by human beings.

Could it be that the more domesticated humans that populate advanced societies are also more prone to keeping their juvenile predilections? That the less aggressive a population is, the more likely that many of its members will not only maintain the traits of adolescence or childhood, but the mindset as well?

It’s depressing to think that we may be hardwired as a social species to have an overall decline in our ability to think clearly, which is what a wholesale reversion to juvenile thought process would entail. It could lead to more of the short-sighted selfishness that has led to policies that are boiling the oceans, overstuffing the atmosphere and water with carbon dioxide, destroying massive numbers of species and threatening the continued existence of humanity.

Let’s face it; everything we know about the natural history of the world and the physics behind its playing out over time is that the goal of evolution is the destruction of species. According to current evolutionary science, virtually all species that have existed have gone extinct. As levels of carbon monoxide and oxygen have varied through the ages so have the conditions of life, favoring some creatures for a while and then others. Moments of extreme change have produced five mass extinctions and it looks as if we are in the middle of a sixth one, caused primarily by humans. Thus, human self-domestication, which carries so many advantages for humans in society, may also have disadvantages which over time could lead to our demise.

The answer, however, is not to become more aggressive as a species again. Our future depends on greater cooperation, not less, on more peaceful resolution of conflicts, not on warfare.

What we need is an education system that trains children to be free-thinking adults and not good consumers. One example: when I was growing up, there was no such thing as young adult fiction, which is now the hottest fiction category. Children went right from the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew to adult fiction, which could sometimes be sloppy romantic novels, but could also be works of great literature such as most of Mark Twain, some Steinbeck, Gulliver’s Travels, Catcher in the Rye, the books of Sinclair Lewis, A Tale of Two Cities. The list of books with adult complications and psychologies that are appropriate for teenagers goes on and on. Young adult fiction such as the Harry Potter series should not be taught in schools, nor qualify as reading assignments. We should analyze all high school curricula for signs of unconscious infantilization, e.g., talking down and simplifying subjects as if teens were still children or using methodologies meant for elementary school students with high school students. We should also flush the system of the accretion of consumerism that has built up through the years, such as classroom material sponsored by corporations that sell to the public. I also believe that there are certain inherently infantilizing experiences which we should limit (not prohibit) to all children, such as video games, comic books and branded toys. A stuffed dog will help a child mature more than a stuffed animal from a movie. A child makes up her-his own fantasies about a generic Ruff or Ralph. A branded toy has already created the narrative for the child. The branded toy also teaches children to accept the authority of a brand as a value in and of itself instead of evaluating things on their own merit.

I’m also wondering if helicopter parenting is also leading to infantilization. Adults have gotten their fingers into a lot of children’s activities. We should give children of all ages enough free time to play in unorganized settings, free of adult supervision. When all activities are constantly monitored and organized by adults, children are more likely to stay in their role as children. When a child is used to parents’ too active involvement in meeting challenges such as negotiating high school and applying to college, the child may continue to think like a child.

If lame duck Congress doesn’t pass sentencing reform, thousands with minor offenses will stay in jail

People who complain that there is gridlock in Washington should understand that even with Congress and the President on the same page, the enactment of legislation is always an arduous process:

  • It has to go through committee in one chamber of Congress, which often means lengthy hearings.
  • It is then debated by the chamber, House or Senate.
  • It goes for a vote.
  • The other chamber of Congress sends it to committee, which lead to more hearings.
  • It is debated by the full body of the other chamber.
  • It goes for a vote in the other chamber.
  • A joint committee of both chambers reconciles all the differences between the bill that passed the House and the one that passed the Senate.
  • Both chambers vote separately on the reconciled bill.
  • The president signs it or lets it pass unsigned.
  • If the president vetoes the bill, the House and Senate can try to override the veto.

That’s a lot of process.

And what happens when a new Congress begins?

Every piece of legislation has to start from scratch.

Which brings us to a bill in Congress that is sponsored by 19 Democratic and 20 Republican senators, a bill that has the support of both a number of left-leaning and minority organizations and the Koch brothers and others on the right.

It’s Senate Bill 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The House has split the contents of the Sentencing Reform Act into two bills, both of which are sponsored by Republicans and co-sponsored by large numbers of Representatives in both parties.

The Sentencing Reform Act is the first step to reversing the pernicious effect that mass incarceration has on our minority communities and our economy. In the 1990s to fight a 30-year crime wave that was already ending, Congress and state legislatures everywhere passed a number of laws that mandated minimum sentences for many crimes, took discretion away from judges and inflicted much harsher punishment for victimless crimes that African-Americans tended to commit, like smoking cocaine, than for victimless crimes that whites tend to commit, like snorting cocaine.

The result: The United States is now the world’s leader when it comes to people in prison—some 2.2 million, five times as many as there were 40 years ago, even though the total population has grown by only about 1.5 times in the same period.

The inherent bias in these new laws has combined with the unfair and uneven application of existing U.S. laws to create a new “Jim Crow”—a set of laws that institutionalized unfair treatment of minorities and represented an explicit double standard under the law. One in three black Americans will serve time in prison at some time in their life. More to the point, blacks serve about the same amount of time for non-violent drug-related offenses as whites do for violent crimes.

Left-wingers and the minority communities see the unfairness of mass incarceration. Rightwingers are concerned about the rising cost of housing so many prisoners. Economic experts across the spectrum of opinion worry about the impact on our coming labor shortage of having so many people in jail for carrying an ounce of weed or puffing on a crack pipe.

The Sentencing Reform Act would:

  • Reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses
  • Reduce mandatory three-strikes-you’re-out life sentences to 25 years
  • Give judges greater discretion in sentencing low-level drug offenders.
  • Apply the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively to people currently serving long prison sentences for hitting the crack pipe; the law was passed in 2010 to reduce the disparity in sentences for possession of crack versus powdered cocaine. The House version allows those still in prison for crack cocaine to apply for a lesser sentence.
  • The Sentencing Reform Act is not a perfect bill and only goes part way towards correcting the inequities in the criminal justice sentence. But it’s a start. A start that’s stalled.

Someone affiliated with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (who provided a lot of the information in this article to me) was told on Capitol Hill that the Senate is waiting until the House moves, because individual Senators don’t want to get burned as they did when they supported immigration reform and were left hanging out to dry when the House politicized the issue. No one seems to know why the House is not advancing the bill, although I suspect that it has something to do with Speaker Paul Ryan’s inability to control the misnamed Freedom Caucus right-wingers. I also wonder whether Senators and Representatives of both parties are afraid of losing the votes of the racists who would just as soon see us lock up more minorities.

Here’s a bill that has widespread bipartisan support, and Congress can’t pass it! That’s my definition of gridlock.

Meanwhile, thousands of people remain in prison for non-violent and victimless crimes instead being productive members of society. And if Congress doesn’t act by the time the current session closes in a few weeks, sentencing reform will have to be reintroduced and go through the whole complicated rigmarole from square one.

I urge all readers to email, call, telegram or send a letter to your Congressional representative and Senators to pass the Sentencing Reform Act before they go home for the holidays. It would be an early holiday present for thousands of prisoners, their families, the American sense of fairness and our economy.

Ending voter suppression laws enough to overcome innate rural bias of Electoral College

Let’s be quite clear about who won the 2016 presidential election. It was Hillary Clinton, who is currently ahead by about 700,000 popular votes with the counting still underway. More significantly, when all the votes are counted, most estimates have the final total at 1.8 million more votes for Clinton than for Trump. That’s 1.5% of total votes, which while not a landslide, is a greater difference than many elections in which the popular winner also wins the Electoral College. The raw total of 1.8 million is roughly twice the difference between the winners’ and losers’ vote in all four previous elections in which the loser in the popular vote assumed the presidency.

Almost everyone knows that two peculiarities of the American system lead to the loser in the popular vote sometimes assuming control of the White House: 1) Voters vote for electors who then vote for the president and vice president. 2) Electors vote as a block according to state. Without an Electoral College, or with one that voted proportionately, we would have our first woman president embracing the most progressive platform in American history. It’s what the American people clearly wanted, but what we will get instead is a mentally unbalanced know-nothing political novice guided on social issues by the alt-right and on economic issues by the greed of his social class.

The stated reason that the founders of the United States—you know, that handful of rich white male merchants and slave owning gentry—preferred the Electoral College to electing a president via the popular vote was to balance the interests of the states with those of the national government in the same way that the Senate does. I also believe some of them feared the votes of the mob and thought they could manipulate the Electoral College to keep real power in the hands of the few, which worked for maybe two decades.

What the Electoral College really does is put more power in the hands of rural areas because it rations out votes based on geography. Rural areas are less populated than urban areas, so a state with a large rural population has greater influence on elections than one with an urban population. Note that in the entire recorded history of mankind in all parts of the earth, more densely populated areas have always without exception been more diverse, spun off more innovation and have had more rules governing interactions than less populated areas. The urban-rural divide goes back probably to the formation of cities. At the beginning of the 19th century, the U.S. voting population was primarily agrarian and either of Anglo-Saxon or German origins, so the urban-rural divide didn’t matter that much. Since about the 1880s, it has mattered a great deal.

Today’s situation is ridiculous. Let’s do the math: When you divide the number of electoral votes per state by the number of voters, we find that a vote by someone in Vermont, our smallest state in population and also one of our most rural, is worth more than twice as much as a vote by someone in California. (Vermont: 3 divided by 321,000 = .0000093; California: 55 divided by 13,600,000 = .0000040). Now in today’s topsy-turvy world, that’s a lack of taxation because of a lack of representation!

A significant ramification of the Electoral College is to make it seem at least in most instances that the presidential mandate to govern is stronger than it actually is. For example, while Lyndon Baines Johnson got 61.1% of the popular vote, his total in the Electoral College was in excess of 90%! This year while losing the popular vote, Trumpty-Dumpty (no, I will not give him the respect he doesn’t deserve and has not earned!) won the Electoral College with a landslide of 56.9%.

Looking at the other four instances of the loser winning the popular vote for president is very illuminating. Here is a chart with the essentials:

Year Popular Winner/Edge Declared President Electors/House
1824 Andrew Jackson (10.5%) John Q. Adams House
1876 Samuel Tilden (3%) Rutherford B. Hayes Electors*
1888 Grover Cleveland (.8%) Benjamin Harrison Electors
2000 Al Gore (.5%) George W. Bush Electors
2016 Hillary Clinton (1.5-3%) Donald Trump Electors

* After negotiation over disputed electors

In every case, the Republican won, and in all but the selection of the brilliant John Quincy Adams over the ruthless, racist and sometimes lawless Andrew Jackson by the House of Representatives, the decision led to mediocre or disastrous presidencies.  Only the unmitigated disaster—Bush II—was reelected. Every one of these elections had one or more third party candidates who siphoned off at least one percent of the vote and enough votes to turn the tide. In two of the elections, the loser assumed the presidency in the very next election.

The similarity that is most noteworthy for the recent election is the fact that in all the popular-loser-wins elections, disenfranchised voters would have gone heavily for the candidate who won the popular vote but lost the election. Remember that one of the strands of American history is the gradual enfranchisement of voters, from white males with property to white males in general to African-American men in theory to women to African-Americans in practice to expanded voting hours and voting days. This history takes an anti-democratic turn in the 1990s, when one of the major parties implemented a long-term campaign to suppress voting by minorities and the young by purging voter rolls, gerrymandering states to create safe districts for their party, decreasing voting hours and polling places, not allowing ex-felons who have paid their debt to society to vote, passing new laws that mandate voter IDs and using dirty tricks against organizations such as ACORN that work to get out the vote. The largest voter suppression efforts were in the so-called swing states.

Voter suppression paid off in 2000 and again in 2016. While the will of a majority of the states was to elect Donald Trump, the will of the people was to elect Hillary Clinton. The people were thwarted by the Electoral College.

I recently signed a petition that demands that the Electors vote for Hillary instead of Trumpty-Dumpty. I urge all readers to sign it, but only as a protest act. The Electors virtually never vote against the will of the voters in their respective states, even though they could in 24 states.  They are just too interested in maintaining the stability to which I alluded before.

It would be wishful thinking to think we can replace the Electoral College with popular voting in the short term. It would take an amendment to the constitution and those are getting harder to pass with each decade. But first one or both of the two major political parties would have to get behind a move to abolition the Electoral College, and, to quote my father, that ain’t gonna happen!

The reason: stability. Once the election is over, establishing a peaceful transfer of power and communicating the long-term stability of the United States usually becomes the most important goal of the losing party. It’s why Nixon didn’t raise a stink about possible voter fraud in Illinois and elsewhere in 1960, why Gore didn’t protest the Supreme Court decision that gave Bush II the election in 2000, and why Clinton and Obama are striking such conciliatory notes towards the Donald and not encouraging the wave of protest that has broken out all over the country. It’s also why Trump’s accusations that the election was rigged were considered so destabilizing by so many elected officials and political scientists of both parties. By magnifying the victory of the winner, the Electoral College helps to assure stability by giving a false mandate.

The smarter play for the left would be to work at the state level in two ways:

  1. Register voters and get them to the polls. We can’t limit voter registration drives to presidential election years.
  2. Elect state representatives who will repeal the recent wave of voter suppression laws.

The goal should be to control all state legislatures in swing states and as many as possible overall by 2020, when the country next sets Congressional districts.

The left can’t take back this country until we take back the states.

Recession, repression & regression: the likely results if Trump-GOP legislative program becomes law

Recession. Repression. Regression.

It seems fitting that 3R’s characterize the Trump-GOP legislative program since it was the lack of 3R’s—an old-fashioned, old-timey way to say education—that catapulted Trump to the White House, as uneducated white voters, and many educated ones, too, were so blinded by fear of “the other” that they believed Trump’s lies.

What we see in Trump’s legislative ideas is a wish list from the extreme right that will please very wealthy people and eventually disappoint everyone else accept those that think the function of government is to suppress minorities. If fully implemented, Trump’s legislative program will lead to a worldwide recession or depression, repression of civil rights and a regression backwards in time that erases the economic and social progress we have made over the past eight years.

Let’s take the proposals Trump and the GOP have put on the table topic by topic.


Trump and the GOP may engineer the largest tax break for the wealthy in American history, including the Reagan and Bush II cuts. If Trump gets his way, the tax cuts will skew in favor of those whose wealth is tied up in land, but those who own financial assets will also make out like bandits. Large multinational companies storing billions of dollars in profit abroad will be able to repatriate their earnings at a bargain-basement rate of 10%.

Lower taxes on the wealthy and less revenue for the federal government to dispense will eventually lead to a deep recession, as it did under Bush II.  Rich folk will invest their wealth in financial and collectible bubbles, as they always do. No new jobs will be created, because it is not money that is holding back big companies from investing in growth today, but the lack of market growth potential. That lack of a market derives because the middle class and poor have less money than they used to, partially because the government, starved of resources, does not funnel as much money to these groups—AKA the 99%–as they could if taxes were higher. Lower taxes on the wealthy means less money for education, infrastructure maintenance, food stamps, mass transit. Lower taxes on the wealthy also means more money to feed financial bubbles. We’ve seen this before, not just in the United States but throughout history. The asset bubble bursts and it always turns out badly for the economy.

Infrastructure Investment

Trump is living in a free-market dream world if he thinks that his infrastructure financing plan will work. He wants to provide tax incentives to the private sector, which will then rebuild our highways and bridges and expand our mass transit systems. How will the private sector make money on roads and trolley lines? Only by jacking up prices, ignoring the public benefit of building certain roads and routes because they’re unprofitable and hammering down employee wages. The private sector always goes after the money, which may result in rebuilding municipal water systems only in wealthy communities. We’ve tried private sector solutions to prisons and the military and failed miserably. Advanced studies show that when you take into account the wealth and disabilities of the student base, private schools underperform public schools in educating children.  There are just certain basic societal needs that government must finance, address and manage, and infrastructure is first among them.


Trump is still talking about funding a wall between the United States and Mexico and he still thinks Mexico will “reimburse” us for its construction. While he intends to have the private sector pay for roads, bridges, mass transit, waterways and sewers, he wants Congress to pass a law that has our taxes laying out the money for this unneeded monstrosity, this money pit that will provide no benefit save a temporary spike in construction jobs. I said “laying out money,” but only a died-in-wool, brainwashed Trumpsterite could believe that Mexico will pay even one penny for Trump’s folly. The rest of his immigration program presents new harsh penalties for breaking existing immigration laws, but nothing else.


If not stopped by healthcare industry lobbyists, Trump and the GOP could plunge the U.S. healthcare system into chaos, especially if they rescind Obamacare before replacing it. Getting rid of Obamacare will not only take away the health insurance of 20 million people, it will precipitously end three policies that helped everyone: 1) The removal of the cap on lifetime coverage; 2) the rule that someone cannot be denied insurance for a pre-existing condition; 3) allowing children to remain on their parent’s health insurance policy until age 26. Now if Congress should pass a law that keeps these important benefits but doesn’t mandate the kind of universal coverage that Obamacare does, health insurers will be forced to jack up rates.

As with everything else, Trump and the GOP favor what they call “market-based” and private solutions to address America’s healthcare needs. They think that making it easier for health insurers to cross state lines (they already do so, but with unique corporate entities in each state responding to the local regulations in each state) and letting people create tax-free Health Savings Accounts will bring down the cost of healthcare. It won’t happen, but it will shift the burden of paying for health insurance from the government and businesses to individuals. Another proposal, to let states manage Medicaid funds, will enable those in right-wing states to reallocate dollars from helping the poor to other uses.

Obamacare isn’t perfect, but building on it makes a lot more sense than ripping it up in favor of “market” solutions shown not to work. I’m guessing that once the healthcare lobby gets through beating up Congress that whatever they call healthcare reform will end up keeping just about all of Obamacare.


Trump wants to end the sequestration of funds that has automatically cut federal government spending every year since 2013 for the military only and begin expanding military investment. He doesn’t really have a plan for what he will do with the extra money, but we do know that the Pentagon wants to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons and continue development of robot weapons that would make seek-and-kill decisions. Narcissists like Trump always like shiny new toys. Congressional Republicans are still following the Reagan playbook, which consists of cutting taxes primarily on the wealthy while increasing defense spending to starve the social services part of the government and at the same time create enormous deficits which, when interest rates are high, translate into safe bond investments for the wealthy.  I will give Trump the benefit of the doubt and say that I am unsure whether he will ever want to use American military might, but there is no doubt that he joins fellow Republicans in wanting to build it up and never pay for it.

Safety and Security

This part is where the scary repression comes in. Trump has proposed a number of laws that he says will address “surging crime, drugs and violence.” Of course, crime is not surging, nor is violence, except in households that own firearms. But much of Trump’s demagoguery revolves around the notion that we are unsafe. Here is an area in which Trump could take ownership of Obama-era statistics and declare victory, but I believe that Congressional Republicans relish the opportunity to grab more civil rights, to create more selling opportunities for gun manufacturers by underwriting greater weaponization of local police and to encourage harsh police-state tactics in minority areas. The racist undertones of the Trump campaign, his own history of racism and the desire for Republicans to disenfranchise the African-American community may lead to a generation of federal Jim Crow laws that also affect Latinos and Muslims, all in the guise of protecting us from a non-existent crime wave.

The Trump legislative plan marks the apotheosis of the Reagan political strategy: Play on the racism, nativism and religiosity of working and middle class whites to make them believe that their best interests lie with the wealthy, pretend that the social service network being shredded only serves minorities, while pretending that tax cuts help everyone and not just those at the top.

The good, done, bad & ugly: much of Trump’s 100 day plan will hurt America economically & in other ways

Donald Trump has released an ambitious if highly general plan for the first one hundred days of his administration. He calls it a contract, and like virtually all contracts, its literary value is nonexistent. As a document for change, it should frighten everyone, those who didn’t vote for him and those who did.

The document consists of two parts, things he thinks can do as the executive and things he will ask Congress to do. This article looks at what he intends to do as head of a vast regulation-creating bureaucracy. In a different article, we’ll consider his program for Congress.

The executive’s part of Trump’s “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again” consists of four types of actions: 1) A few good ideas; 2) Things we already do and have done for a while; 3) General actions that are inherently bad because they deny his Administration the flexibility to address each problem in the best way possible; 4) Specific actions that will harm us economically or in other ways.

The good, the done, the bad and the ugly. Let’s look at these categories:

The Good

Trump wants to impose a five-year ban on White House officials becoming lobbyists after government service and a lifetime ban on lobbying on behalf of foreign governments; note he doesn’t include foreign corporations. He also wants to impose a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for any American election. He will propose a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress. All these moves will help reduce the influence of corporate and wealthy interests on our federal government, although none would help as much as appointing a Supreme Court justice who would vote to overturn the Citizens United decision.

He also proposes allocating funds to fix our water and environmental infrastructure,which is a good thing. Unfortunately he wants to fund it by cancelling financial obligations to United Nation climate change programs, which makes no sense for two reasons: 1) the UN programs are also important to address the climate change he claims is not occurring; and 2) the money we spend on these programs represent a small drop in a very large bucket as far as what we have to expend to fix our city’s aging sewer systems, secure our coastal regions and improve our ability to withstand future extreme weather events.

The Done

During the election, Trump made a number of false accusations regarding the way the federal government handles basic functions, such as searching for undocumented immigrants who are criminals and administering trade deals and regulations. He thus now has to make a big show of doing things the right way. His ego demands it. I’m sure that after a few months he’ll release statistics that show Obama era improvements, take credit for them and declare victory. Here are the actions he proposes that we are already doing quite well. In all these areas, we are already doing everything we can to the extent that the law allows. For Trump to attempt more, he would have to break the law and he would likely end up impeded by lawsuits and constraining orders:

  • Identify foreign trade abuses that unfairly impact American workers and use every means possible under current law to end any abuses uncovered.
  • Launch a program to identify and remove all criminal undocumented immigrants.
  • Suspend immigration from regions in which safe vetting of refugees cannot safely occur.
  • Implement “extreme vetting”  of immigrants and refugees from certain areas.
  • Cancel every unconstitutional action, memorandum and order issued by Obama: if any unconstitutional actions existed, the courts would have already canceled them!

The other thing Trump will do that has been done already is name a Supreme Court Justice to replace Antonin Scalia. If his appointment enables a new conservative majority on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, I wonder how the nine percent of white women who believe in a woman’s right to an abortion but who nevertheless voted for Trump will feel—they turned the election.

The Bad

Trump insists he will implement a number of very rigid actions that apply across the board to all Administrative branches. These actions represent management strategies that are known to fail because they are too inclusive and deny organizations the flexibility they need to address specific problems. Here are the bad management techniques Trump wishes to implement:

  • Freeze all federal hiring not related to the military or public health and safety to reduce the federal workforce through attrition.
  • Require that for every new government regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.

For Trump seriously to implement these two misguided principles he would have to cut into necessary and expected government services or to gut further the oversight that the government exercises over state governments and industries. Federal government employment is at a low point right now when we take a look at the post-World War II era. Many agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency are already seriously understaffed.

The Ugly

Most of the specific actions Trump wants to take will inflict short- and/or long-term pain on the economy and American workers.

The most damage derives by his actions related to energy policy. Trump says he is going to lift Obama roadblocks to oil and gas development projects like the Keystone Pipeline and lift restrictions on the domestic production of shale, oil, natural gas and coal.  By focusing on increasing domestic fossil energy supplies he makes a fateful decision: to develop fossil fuels instead of alternative energy and energy conservation. Let’s forget the deleterious impact on the environment that this decision will have and focus on the economic impact. There is currently a surplus of fossils fuel that has driven prices down significantly, in part as corporations and governments react to the global warming that Trump still denies. Figuring in inflation, American gas pump prices are the lowest in years. At this point, all the fossil fuel transmitted along the proposed Keystone pipeline will end up being sold to China, which will enrich the Canadian producers, but not Americans. If we want to sell more fossil fuels abroad, we will face some pretty stiff competition from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela and Russia.

By contrast, when it comes to competition in the emerging alternative fuels industry, only China can rival U.S. technical prowess. Pushing alternative fuels should be a major plank in any job-creation program of the early 21st century. Unfortunately, it’s a simple fact that anything that lowers the price of oil and natural gas hurts the alternative fuel industry, which is one of our major growth industries today and well into the future.

Three actions Trump promises in the area of trade could be disastrous. He wants to renegotiate the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA), walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and label China a currency manipulator. Whether you think NAFTA was a good or bad idea in 1992, let’s take a look at it today, when it supplies millions of jobs to American workers. Renegotiation in and of itself could be a good thing, especially if it leads to higher wages for workers in all three countries. But I have a feeling that Trump really wants to end NAFTA, which will put a lot of Americans out of work.  Walking away from TPP would drive our trading partners to make a deal with China that doesn’t include us. Instead we should renegotiate TPP to make sure that the countries party to it comply with wage, environmental and our product and workplace safety regulations and to make sure it does not give corporations the right to sue governments.

Labeling China a currency manipulator will get us off on the wrong foot with a country that could be a friend or a foe. Strange that Trump is making rapprochements to Russia while poking a stick into China’s eye. When we take a look at the two countries, the size of their armies, their intentions beyond their own borders, the business opportunities represented by their respective domestic markets, and the way their interests coincide or clash with ours, selecting Russia over China makes no sense at all. Unless, of course, those close to the Russian government have invested a lot into your companies.

The final specific action Trump will take chills free speech, hurts the economy and wreaks havoc on anyone who depends on city services like mass transit to survive. It is also likely illegal and will embroil the Trump Administration in a large number of lawsuits it is likely to lose: Trump says he is going to cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities, which are municipalities that adopt policies not to prosecute people solely for being undocumented. Imagine the economic chaos Trump will create by withdrawing all federal funding from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC, Seattle, Oakland, San Jose, Baltimore, the Portland on both coasts and other major cities that have taken seriously the concept of local control that Trump touts for education, wage rates and women’s health issues.

I suspect that if Trump really implements this hodgepodge of ideas—a few good but most not only bad but based on economic and governmental naivety—it will be enough to sink the U.S. economy with no help from Congressional Republicans.

Will all the King’s horses & men help yet another president conduct illegal activities?

Donald Trump by himself can’t get anything done. Like any president, he needs an army of managers, economists, engineers, attorneys, spokespersons and other professional foot soldiers to head and staff departments and agencies to get the actual work done and documented.

We already know that when it comes to getting his way, Donald Trump is amoral, unethical and in many cases unconcerned with the legality of his actions, as long as he doesn’t get exposed. What will happen when the new president asks one or more of his many supernumeraries to engage in illegal or dangerous activities? To create an enemies list? To spy on those who his thin-skin thinks has insulted him? To use the Internal Revenue Service and other branches of government to punish his enemies or reward his friends? To put pressure on someone suing him? To transfer U.S. assets to a Russian bank? To do something specifically for one of his many business ventures?

Let’s journey back to the early 1970s to learn what will happen when a professional in government is asked to do something illegal. Watergate, like the Iran-Contra scandal, the justification for the second war in Iraq and the creation of the torture gulag, required dozens of people to discuss and engage in illegal activities. But I want to focus on one incident, the Saturday Night Massacre.

Archibald Cox, the special Watergate prosecutor had decided to subpoena Nixon to get the tapes he had made of all Oval Office conversations. Those tapes would show that President Nixon knew about the Watergate break-in, other dirty tricks and the cover-up of said activities. Nixon naturally balked at handing over the incriminating material. On Saturday, October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered Elliot Richardson, the Attorney General, to fire Cox. Richardson, as rib-rocked and loyal a Republican as one could find, refused and resigned. Nixon then ordered the Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, another dyed-in-the-wool, lifelong Republican, to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also resigned rather than do it.

But there is always some careerist, some amoral technician, willing to do the dirty work of a powerful person. In the case of Watergate it was Robert Bork, the Solicitor General, who fired Archibald Cox.

The story has a relatively happy ending. A judge declared the firing illegal. Nixon had to resign. And Bork was rejected when Ronald Regan nominated him to the Supreme Court. The country got a modicum of election finance reform…at least until the Citizens United decision.

The broader point is that there is always someone willing to break the law for our leader. Always an Oliver North willing to buy and sell arms illegally and give the proceeds to an army that Congress had explicitly put off limits. Always a John Yoo to come up with complicated legal-sounding mumbo-jumbo to justify illegal torturing of other human beings. And what’s most scary, is that there are always honorable men like General Colin Powell or Vice President Hubert Humphrey who will place a single indelible stain on their reputation to follow the commander’s orders and treat what he knows are unsubstantiated or already disproven rumors as the truth.

In 1927, the French thinker Julien Bendel wrote in The Betrayal of the Intellectuals (in French, La Trahison des Clercs) that the intellectuals—the high level knowledge workers like attorneys, engineers, economists, writers—betrayed the ethics and principles of their professions to support the self-serving ideas and proposals of governments, politicians and the wealthy that they knew were wrong or unprovable. He wrote specifically about the many European intellectuals who became apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering and racism in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Be they historians, political scientists, economists, philosophers or theologians, they betrayed the very foundational principles of their disciplines with false arguments justifying racism or a particular war. The intellectual who sells out is a standard character in 20th and 21st century world fiction, be it the fascistic Willy Stark’s press secretary Jack Burden in All the King’s Men or the Jewish physicist Victor Strum in Life and Fate. In real life, we have Edward Teller, Kellyanne Conway and George Will.

Benda never got into why intellectuals betrayed themselves (and society), but today, we do it for money.

That’s why I fear for this country over the next few years. I fear that a lot of talented educated people will participate in a campaign to reign in our free press, harass the political opposition and further suppress the vote. I fear that when President Trump orders the military to drop a bomb—conventional or nuclear—because of a momentary whim he will find a general willing to implement the order. One whose family probably has access to a well-stocked bomb shelter.

But it’s only four years.

I expect Trump to be a one-term president. His past is just too littered with illegal or unethical actions for him not to do something so obnoxious or illegal that Congress is forced to impeach him. Or, the GOP may impeach and convict him quickly, to gain their revenge and install one of their own, Mike Pence, in the White House.  I reckon that the likelihood of Trump dying in office, or being assassinated, is very high. I do not believe the American government participated in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but I would wonder about the U.S. military’s involvement if Trump should take a bullet.

Even if Trump survives impeachment and assassination, he will rightfully be blamed for the world-wide depression that implementing ever one of his or the Republican platform’s half-baked economic ideas would cause. Unless Mike Pence is president because of Trump’s passing, the Republicans will likely have most of the country angry at them for one of any number of betrayals by 2020. African-Americans, Hispanics, the LGBTQ community and left-leaning Democrats and independents will likely have a good chance of turning the tide and beat back the politics of selfishness and racist nativism among whites that catapulted Trump to the presidency.

Shame on my fellow white people, but blame the news media that created Trump and distorted Hillary

Shame on us, white people.

We just rejected the most presidential, qualified candidate in history to vote for a mentally ill buffoon who spews hate speech and has no impulse control.

We voted against someone who has studied every issue and developed a reasoned approach to each so we could vote for someone who has displayed total ignorance and confusion on the basics of what constitutes abortion, foreign trade, contemporary business practices, military strategy and tactics and a wide range of other important matters.

Surveys say Americans want to protect and strengthen Social Security, yet white people voted for the candidate whose platform wants to gut this successful program. Surveys say we believe in a woman’s right to have an abortion, yet whites voted for someone who says he wants to restrict those rights. Surveys say we are wary of Russian motives, yet we voted for a Putin apologist.  Surveys show that a whopping 64% of all Americans worry about the effects of climate change, yet we whites voted for someone who denies that climate change is occurring.

In the 2016 election, whites have done what they—what we–have been doing since the election of Ronald Reagan—we voted against our own interests.


Because the majority of whites are racists? Because they secretly don’t think women capable of leading? Because we secretly want an autocrat, no matter how erratic?

I am ashamed of the color of my skin this morning, but I don’t place the primary blame on whites. I blame the mass media for manipulating the fears and prejudices of whites and putting profits above ethics.

It was the mass media that decided that a clownish failed real estate developer would play the role of a titan of business on TV. When Trump started doing “The Apprentice,” his real estate empire was in shambles. He was involved in thousands of lawsuits. The New York real estate industry considered him a buffoon. He had mismanaged his family’s fortunes so much that the Trumps were worth much less than if he had invested in mutual funds that track the S&P 500.  But the media bought into Trump’s narcissistic self-delusions of business genius and by doing so validated them to the world. Most importantly, the media created the “celebrity culture” that glorifies selfish consumption and reduces all issues to personal opinions, not the analysis of reality and facts.

The news media also bought into and publicized the inaccurate image of Hillary Clinton that Republicans assiduously created. It took years of bullshit investigations and false rumors, years of characterizing her speeches as unexciting and her program as uninspiring, never with any examples, since the examples would all prove the opposite. The news media followed the GOP playbook. It also applied a double standard that blamed Hillary for mistakes her peers also made and set a higher standard for evaluating her words and actions.

Once Trump announced his run, it was the mass media who took him seriously, giving his campaign far more coverage than what they gave to other Republicans and the Democratic candidates.  His insults and lies dominated the news pages.

Finally, until very late in the campaign, the news media refused to call Trump on his obvious lies.  Illegal immigration from Mexico has been negative for several years now, meaning more undocumented migrants are crossing back into Mexico than are sneaking into the United States. Crime is down. Police deaths are down. Acts of terrorism are way down. African-Americans do not for the most part live in warzones. There is no such thing as an abortion in the eighth month. Putin did invade the Ukraine. The list of Trump’s big and little lies go on and on and on and on. But until Trump made the outrageous claim that Hillary Clinton started the “birther” rumors and he ended them, the mainstream media reported what he said, but never told us it was a pack of lies. I understand that NBC producers were sitting on tapes which proved Trump assaulted women and showed him using the “n” word, but they never released them.

One of the network executives said during the primary campaign that Trump might not be good for the country, but he was good for ratings, and therefore made the networks a ton of money.

No consolation, but that worm is going to turn very quickly. Economists and pundits are already talking and writing about a Trump recession. By itself, any one of several Trump proposals will throw the country and the world into a deep economic crisis. Rounding up and kicking out 11 million people will do it.  Taking health insurance away from 20 million people—the net effect of rescinding Obamacare—will do it. Entering into a trade war with China or Europe will do it. Lowering taxes on the wealthy will do it. Building a wall on our southern border for hundreds of billions of dollars will do it. Withdrawing from trade agreements will do it.

In other words, it’s likely that the media moguls who put profits first will see their investment portfolios take a big hit and then take years, if not decades to recover. The media itself will find itself under much greater scrutiny during the administration of an autocrat, if Trump makes good on his revenge fantasies and his threat to pass libel laws that infringe on press freedom.

So the news media will suffer for their sins. Poetic justice, except the rest of us will also suffer.

And maybe we deserve to suffer, at least white people. Although I blame the news media for manipulating us, upholding the wrong values and turning its back on the truth, we swallowed the nonsense. We swallowed it because it confirmed the deep-seated racism, sexism and jingoism that it appears most white still have.  Because of voter suppression laws passed by Republican legislatures in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio and other swing states, there were not enough African-American and Hispanic voters to compensate for the failings of the white voter.

I would like personally to apologize to the African-American and Hispanic communities, who saw through the garbage and voted for Hillary. I would like to apologize to millennials, who will have to live a long time in the dystopic world Trump and the GOP want to create. It would be grandiose to apologize on behalf of all white people, so I do so for myself and my family.

This morning, I am as ashamed of my color and my nationality as I could ever be.

Russia & the FBI: strange bedfellows in dirty election tricks

In the last week we’ve learned that a faction of the FBI wants to elect Trump…

That, before deciding to announce he was looking into more emails that may not have anything to do with Hillary Clinton, the Director of the FBI quashed an announcement that Russia may have deep ties to the Trump campaign…

That a Fox News anchor admitted to lying when he said an indictment of Hillary Clinton was imminent…

That the National Enquirer bought a story of a Playboy model who had an affair with Donald Trump while he was married to Melania and then refused to publish it…

That the mainstream news media has completely ignored a rape charge against Donald Trump, the impending trial against Trump University and the whopper Trump told about Clinton’s immigration plans…

That an Ohio judge has ordered the Republican Party and the Trump campaign to cease and desist their voter suppression activities…

For the most part, the mainstream news media ignores the mounting negative news about Donald Trump in favor of features that downplay the enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton or explore the reasons that certain groups like the Donald.

And the polls are tightening, the result of what is no doubt the independent nefarious efforts of the FBI, the Russian government, the Republican Party and the mainstream news media.

We know what each of them wants:

A faction of the FBI, apparently including the Director, are “evil clown Republicans” (the equivalent of “yellow dog Democrats,” you know, will vote for any Republican, even an evil clown!) and seem more beholden to party than country. Perhaps the FBI is making a play to become the special security agency for a Trump Administration, seeing that virtually every former leader of the other agencies and departments of security plus every living ex-president is supporting Hillary. I’m not the first to smell the evil stench of J. Edgar Hoover.

Russia would rather have the vain and unstable Donald Trump as president of the nation serving as the largest impediment to Russian global aspirations.

The establishment wing of the Republican Party really doesn’t care what happens to the country, as long as taxes are cut even further on the incomes of the ultra-wealthy. They’re quite happy to continue bedding with racists and those who would deny women control over their own bodies if it means they can keep taking more and more of the country’s wealth.

As to the mainstream news media—I think their ultra-wealthy owners and operators realize that Trump is dangerously delusional, but fear Democratic control of both houses, which would bring the higher taxes on the wealthy that they would hate so much. They are therefore trying to thread the needle—say enough of the truth about Trump to keep him from winning, but falsely malign Clinton enough to keep her from achieving the landslide that will give Democrats control of the Senate and House.

You can see the mass media trying to get cute in the way they have adjusted their campaigns according to the changing spread in the polls. When Clinton had a healthy lead after the convention the mainstream media created false equivalencies, did not report Trump’s many lies, underplayed Trump scandals and gave Trump spokespersons free reign. When the race got close, they started calling the Trumpites on their lies and exaggerations, were more complimentary of Hillary Clinton and focused on Trump’s sexual assaults. After the debates in which Clinton trounced Trump and widened her lead to a landslide, the mainstream news media once again started giving favorable coverage to Trumpty-Dumpty and paying too much attention to yet the latest iteration in the longest running non-scandal in history, Hillary’s emails.

We know what the FBI and Russia want. We know what Republicans want. And we know what the news media wants.

The question is, what do the American people want?

A seasoned competent leader with the most progressive agenda in American history or a mentally unbalanced, racist sexual assaulter with no real knowledge of the issue whose program will bankrupt the country, send the global economy into a depression and gut the middle class?