About Wanderings

Each week I will post my current syndicated newspaper column that focuses upon social issues, the media, pop culture and whatever might be interesting that week. During the week, I'll also post comments (a few words to a few paragraphs) about issues in the news. These are informal postings. Check out http://www.facebook.com/walterbrasch And, please go to http://www.greeleyandstone.com/ to learn about my latest book.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Race Issues Dominate White House Race

by Walter Brasch
(part 1 of 2)

      Donald Trump, who is commanding all of 1 percent of Black voters, according to an impartial Quinnipiac poll, says he could get as much as 95 percent of the Black vote in a second term. In June 2011, he had said, I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.” It’s nothing less than political hyperbole in a campaign for a first term, and meant to get a few thousand more votes in key states. However, Trump’s past actions don’t mitigate whatever future plans he has.
      In 1973, the Department of Justice sued Trump Management for civil rights violations for refusing to rent apartments to Blacks and Latinos who wished to live in complexes that housed mostly whites. Trump, who was the corporation’s president at the time, agreed he would drop a $100 million counter-suit, would provide lists of vacancies in the 14,000 apartments Trump Management owned, and would cease discriminating against minority applicants in exchange for the Department of Justice dropping felony charges. Three years later, the Department of Justice again filed against Trump for not fulfilling his promise.
      Trump previously had declined invitations to speak to conventions of the NAACP, Urban League, and the National Association of Black Journalists. However, with Hillary Clinton’s polling numbers rising and his decreasing, he has begun talking with Black and Hispanic groups.
      He is outspoken in his hatred for President Obama, and is a leader of the “birther” movement that claims the president was born in Kenya and, thus, unqualified to be president. But, the birthers, who clinging to the flimsiest of all evidence to discredit the nation’s first Black president, refuse to understand that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was issued by a Hawaiian hospital and that his mother was an American citizen, making him an American citizen.
      Trump has called Black Lives Matter a “threat,” and vowed if he is president he would tell his attorney general to investigate the group. He didn’t say if he would investigate White Lives Matter or numerous militant white nationalist groups that support his campaign. He never repudiated the support of Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke or of campaign contributions by white supremacists and racists.
      Trump claims, with no evidence, that Afghanistan is “safer than living in some of our inner cities,” and vowed if he were president he would eliminate crime in the inner cities. He didn’t say how he would do that, but he may be hiding a team of magicians in his advisory cabinet.
      In a campaign appearance in Wisconsin last week, he told Blacks they should vote for him because, “You live in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?” He might just as well have smeared burnt cork on his face and called himself Rastus.
      On June 16, 2015, the day he announced he was running for president, Trump declared, “When Mexico sends its people [to the U.S.], they’re not sending their best. . . . They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” The first reality is that Mexico doesn’t send anyone to the U.S.; they come without government assistance or sanction. The second reality is that most immigrants from Mexico and central America countries are not criminals, rapists, or those who have problems; most are hard-working people who wish to improve their lives and live on the fringes of American society, often working in low-wage jobs, trying to blend into American culture, without drawing attention to themselves. They don’t receive welfare, food stamps, or free medical and hospital care. That’s because most don’t apply for those benefits because they don’t want to attract attention that could lead to their deportation. There’s a third reality. Trump and many of his followers don’t recognize that Mexico has significant restrictions on gun purchases, and most guns used by the cartels come from the United States. The criminals who do come into the U.S. come with American-made guns.
      Nevertheless, Trump’s solution to the immigration problem is to round-up and deport 11 million undocumented persons from many countries. To make sure the U.S. is safe from immigrants, he has trumpeted a call to build a 25–55 foot tall wall stretching almost 2,000 miles on the U.S./Mexico border, and have Mexico pay for the $15–25 billion construction cost. The estimate doesn’t include the yearly cost of adding border patrol agents and equipment or the cost of sending the undocumented workers back to their native countries. He also hasn’t addressed concerns about Mexican and central American workers digging vast and elaborate tunnels beneath the walls, nor illegal immigration by those who slip past the Coast Guard and enter the country by private plane or boats. There’s also no provision to fence off the northern border with Canada; apparently, Trump believes white-skinned Canadians are more acceptable than brown-skinned Mexicans. Of course, there’s another reality—Canadians, for the most part, have little desire to emigrate to the U.S.
      Trump said federal judge Gonzalo Curiel could not be objective in a case involving fraud charges against Trump University because “he’s a Mexican.” Curiel, a former federal prosecutor, was born in Indiana. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) called Trump’s statements “racist.” Other Republican politicians have begun distancing themselves from Trump. Nevertheless, trying to capture votes from the Hispanic community, on Cinco de Mayo this year Trump tweeted a photo of himself eating a taco bowl in a restaurant in Trump Tower, and said, “I love Hispanics.”
      The Mexican newspaper Milenio said Trump was “the man who managed to make us miss the Bush clan.”
     [Tomorrow: Part 2—Donald Trump’s views about Jews and Muslims. Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist who has covered government and politics at all levels for four decades. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Gain.]

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Quotable Contradictory Donald Trump

by Walter Brasch

      The man formerly known as The Donald is entwined in a ball of contradiction.
      He was a registered Republican until 2001 when he became a Democrat, and then eight years later switched back to the Republican party. He says he believes in democracy, but also says if he loses Pennsylvania in the November general election it will be because the election is rigged.
      He campaigns on a platform that boldly proclaims him to be an outsider to politics and a great business executive who will “Make America Great Again!” But Trump is not an outsider—he has the presence to command legislators, lobbyists, and business executives from the highest levels. Although he claims to be worth about $10 billion, companies under his control have filed for bankruptcy four times—Trump says it’s just good business practice; if he becomes president, he won’t have that option to reduce the nation’s debt. He believes the U.S. is the best place to live, but uses an empty campaign slogan to rally his hard-core ultra-right base of voters.
      He says he’s a “nice guy,” but this “nice guy” committed adultery with several women, constantly uses profane language, opposes unions and minimum wage, has refused to pay the full bill to dozens of contactors, and mocked a New York Times reporter who has a disability.
      He demanded seeing 10 years of tax returns of all finalists to be his vice-president, but has refused to release his own income tax filings.
      He once supported the ban on assault weapons and believed there should be “a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” But, in his run to the presidency he now says, “Government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own,” and basks in the glow of an NRA endorsement and NRA-sponsored TV ads. He erroneously claims Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to “take your guns away.” Early this year, while campaigning in New Hampshire during the primaries, had said, “The Second Amendment is so important, they’re not going to take your guns away.” In a campaign speech, he said he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn’t lose voters.”              
      He was pro-choice until he began his run for the presidency when he became pro-life. He says he would block funding for Planned Parenthood because it supports abortion, although federal law currently bans public funds being used for abortion; only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s budget goes to abortion expenses and only 10 percent of client services are abortion related.
      He said in 2011 he opposed same-sex marriage, but less than four years later said gay marriage is a reality, but each state should determine if it condones or condemns same-sex marriage.
      Trump never objected to the support he received from Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, but faced by a reality that a Washington Post poll determined fewer than 6 percent of Blacks say they would feel comfortable with him as president, now says, “No group in America has been more harmed by Hillary Clinton’s policies than African-Americans.” Using a racial stereotype, he asks Blacks, “What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
      He pompously claims his IQ “is one of the highest—and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” But, he disregards the voice of scientists and environmentalists, and planted himself in the corner with the ultra-conservative wing of the party when he tweeted in 2012 that global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
      China is also where most of his clothing line, and all of former wife Ivana’s clothing line are manufactured. Clothes not produced in China are produced in a dozen other countries. But, he invokes patriotism when he tells thousands of cheering supporters at his campaign rallies, “We need to bring manufacturing jobs back home where they belong.”
      He says he opposed the invasion of Iraq, but after George W. Bush ordered troops into Iraq, he supported the invasion. He says for several years he opposed invading Iraq, but now says it is sensible for the U.S. to send ground troops into Iraq to destroy ISIS, although Russia will find itself in a quagmire for its campaign in Syria to destroy ISIS. He says he is “a very militaristic person, but you have to know when to use the military.” Somewhere in his logic, Trump, who believes in reducing the national debt, says the U.S. should take $1.5 trillion from Iraqi Oil and give $1 million to every family who lost someone in that war. He doesn’t say how the U.S. will be able to get $1.5 trillion in oil sales.
      In 2008, Trump had praised Bill and Hillary Clinton, declaring, “Hillary is smart, tough and a very nice person, and so is her husband. Bill Clinton was a great President. They are fine people. Hillary was roughed up by the media, and it was a tough campaign for her, but she’s a great trooper. Her history is far from being over.”
      But in 2016, Trump calls the Democrats’ nominee for president “Crooked Hillary” and “Lyin’ Hillary,” and claims that “without the woman card, Hillary would not even be a viable person to even run for a city council position.” He says she is unfit to be president. Apparently, he overlooked her six years as a U.S. senator and four years as secretary of state, and the fact he and the Clintons were bosom buddies just two years earlier. Trump has never been elected to any office nor has he ever served in government.
      Trump once declared, “The world is excited about Barack Obama and the new United States. Let’s keep it that way!” A year after Obama’s inauguration, Trump was equally enthusiastic: “What he [Obama] has done is amazing. The fact that he accomplished what he has in one year is truly phenomenal.” But, he has also been an attack dog, tenaciously holding onto a bone called “birther,” calling on President Obama to release his birth certificate to prove he wasn’t born in Kenya and constitutionally ineligible to be president. When the President released his birth certificate, proving he was born in Hawaii to a mother who was a U.S. citizen, Trump and the ultra right-wing challenged its legitimacy.
      Trump supported Sen. John McCain in his 2008 campaign for the presidency, but never challenged his citizenship; McCain was born in Panama.
      Trump struts, puffs out his chest, and says he supports the military, but took four deferments from service and managed to party, enjoy the life of being a millionaire’s son, and rise up in his father’s company during the Vietnam War. He said of Sen. McCain, who was confined to a North Vietnamese prison camp and tortured for five years and walks with a limp, “He is a war hero because he was captured [but] I like people who were weren’t captured.”
      Danish foreign minister Kristian Jensen says Trump “changes opinions like the rest of us change underwear.” Trump’s underwear may be clean, but his opinions are definitely soiled.
     [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist who has covered government and politics at all levels for four decades. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Taking the Wind out of Trump’s Energy Policy

by Walter Brasch

      Black letters against a yellow background. Black letters against white. White letters against black. On yard signs. On T-shirts. On baseball caps. All with the same message: “Trump Digs Coal.”
      Donald Trump says there are “ridiculous regulations [on coal] that put you out of business and make it impossible to compete.” He says if he is president, he would reduce those regulations. Those regulations that Trump doesn’t like are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect miners and the public.
      In speech after speech in the coal-producing states, he has said, “We’re going to get those miners back to work . . .  the miners of West Virginia and Pennsylvania . . .  [In] Ohio and all over are going to start to work again, believe me. They are going to be proud again to be miners.”  He also says the voters in coal-rich states “are going to be proud of me.”
      As expected, his comments are met by extended cheers. However, other than splashing rhetoric to get votes, he doesn’t say how he plans to put miners back to work, nor does he address the issues of the high cost to create “clean coal,” or that a president doesn’t have absolute power to reduce federal legislation. But his words sound good to the mining industry in Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, the top five states in coal production.
      Trump is also a vigorous proponent of using fracking to extract natural gas and oil, a position that has led the American Energy Alliance (AEA) to endorse him for the presidency.  In 2012, Trump tweeted: “Fracking will lead to American energy independence,” a statement parroting a major argument of the oil and gas industry, but which is inaccurate. In March, he erroneously said, “Did you know, if they fracked in New York [which has a ban on fracking], New York would lower its taxes, would have no debt, would have made a fortune. Instead, Pennsylvania [which permits fracking] took all the money.” Like the AEA and Chambers of Commerce, he disregards the effects upon the environment and public health. But, he also sends a mixed message about fracking. He argues that local governments and voters should have the right to ban fracking. It is a position the oil and gas industry, as well as numerous politicians oppose, but which moderate environmental groups accept as a reality.
      Hillary Clinton is also trying to get votes and, like Trump, she sends a mixed message. She says she supports the use of fracking to extract oil and gas but has also said, “We’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels,” and that  she haslong been in favor of states and cities within states making up their own minds whether or not they want to permit fracking.” When she was secretary of state, she spearheaded the development of the Global Shale Gas Initiative, which promoted fracking and the use of fossil fuel as an energy source. In 2010, Clinton told a meeting of foreign ministers, “Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available for power generation today.” Two years later, she convinced Romania to overturn its ban on fracking and sign a 30-year mining lease with Chevron.
      Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian party’s nominee for president, supports fracking but wants increased regulation and oversight. He says he will  “keep an open mind” about fracking, and argues, “the fact that in Pennsylvania you could turn your faucet on and get water before fracking, and afterwards you could light it—that’s a concern. That’s a real live concern.” Both Johnson and Bill Weld, former governor of Massachusetts and the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential nominee, are strong environmentalists.
      Dr. Jill Stein, a physician and the Green Party’s nominee for president, is the only major nominee to oppose fracking and the use of fossil fuel energy. In the 1990s, as an environmental activist, she was a leader in the protests against coal plants in Massachusetts. She and her party demand a ban on fracking, and push for the development of renewable energy. “In the real world,” says Stein, “wells leak and pipelines spill. The supposed climate benefits of burning natural gas are being revealed as nothing more than greenwashing by the fossil fuel industry.” Fracking, she says, “is a national threat to our water, our health, and our future [and] it’s time to work for a national ban on fracking and a just transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030.” 
      Several states have placed moratoriums on the use of fracking. In June 2013, the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee approved a resolution to establish a moratorium, but the party leadership ignored the will of the delegates. The delegates to the Democratic National Convention in June rejected a resolution to support a moratorium or ban on fracking.
      Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s primary opponent, is adamant that fracking must be banned in order to protect both the environment and health. However, in the West Virginia primary Sanders took 55 percent of the Democratic vote to Clinton’s 29 percent. In May, he said, the U.S. needs “to combat climate change to make our planet habitable for our children and our grandchildren, [but] we cannot abandon communities that have been dependent on coal and other fossil fuels.” He proposed spending $41 billion to “rebuilding coal mining communities and making sure that Americans . . .  all over this country receive the job training they need for the clean energy jobs of the future.”
      Pandering for votes and to the fears that unemployment and bankruptcies in the fossil fuel industry will increase under any administration other than his own, Donald Trump overlooks a reality that workers are not melded to their jobs. If given an opportunity, as Sanders and others have proposed, most skilled workers in the fossil fuel industry would leave the mines and the oil and gas fields to be re-trained for jobs in the cleaner renewable energy fields. Jobs in the fossil fuel industry decreased by 18 percent last year, according to a study by the Brookings Institute. Long-term losses could be 226,000 to 296,000 drilling-related jobs, according to the Institute. While the fossil fuel industry is cutting back on employment, jobs in solar energy increased by 22 percent last year, and jobs in wind energy increased by 21 percent. For the first time, jobs in the renewable energy industry are more than for the entire fossil fuel industry, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
      Trump, other politicians, and the conservative Chambers of Commerce that support fracking should be looking forward to renewable energy employment rather than backward at fossil fuel employment. If they do so, they will capture the voters not from fear but from opportunity.
      [Dr. Brasch is a social issues journalist and professor emeritus from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. His current book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]

Friday, August 5, 2016

Free Speech Not Present at Some Universities

by Walter Brasch

        Like most Jews, Benjamin Aaron Shapiro, a respected journalist, is an advocate for social justice, following the Jewish concept of Tikun Olam, literally translated as “repair of the world.” Unlike most American Jews, Shapiro is a conservative whose views of the nation are closer to those of Ted Cruz than of Bernie Sanders.
        Shapiro is a summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, and an honors graduate from the Harvard University school of law. He backs up his views and political philosophy with facts, historical allusions, and a strong interpretation of the Constitution. His conclusions and opinions, however, often go far outside what even the far-right believe.
        He says “Sesame Street” and “M*A*S*H” are left-wing propaganda, and “Happy Days” has a theme of pacifism. He is a strong proponent of gun rights legislation and an opponent of the “Black Lives Matter” social movement. His speeches, syndicated newspaper column, and his radio commentaries sometimes lead to civil disorder, often begun by those who don’t share his ultra-conservative views.
        One of Shapiro’s six books is Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (2004), published shortly after he graduated from UCLA. What happened at a few universities affirms some of the argument in that book.
        In February, the president of Cal State/Los Angeles cancelled a forthcoming speech by Shapiro after students claimed what he had to say would be “hate speech.” President William Covina said Shapiro could speak at a time when a suitable opponent was found; however, Shapiro pointed out that Cal State allowed liberal speakers without having a conservative respondent. Covino reversed his position three days before the speech.
        On the day of the speech, several hundred students blocked the entrances of the Student Union Building, intimidating those who wanted to hear what Shapiro had to say, and blocking those inside the building from leaving. The Daily Caller, a conservative newspaper, reported there were several fights outside the building. Following the speech, students moved to the president’s office, held a sit-in, and demanded his resignation for allowing the speech. Cal State later charged Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), the sponsoring organization, $621.50 for additional security; it did not charge other organizations that brought speakers to the campus.
        In April, Shapiro spoke at Penn State; several dozen protestors shouted, banged on the doors to Sparks Hall, and played pre-recorded music at a high volume, trying to disrupt Shapiro’s speech, according to The Daily Collegian. The title of his speech was “When Diversity Becomes a Problem: The Fascist Nature of Liberalism.”
        Last week, DePaul University blocked an invitation by the YAF chapter to host Shapiro. Citing the Cal State and Penn State episodes, the 24,000 student Catholic university in Chicago, according to an official statement, “determined, after observing events which took place when Mr. Shapiro spoke elsewhere, that it was not in a position to provide the type of security that would be required to properly host this event at this time.” DePaul’s argument—one of safety—was a lame way to deflect criticism that it was blocking free speech. Certainly, a university with a large on-campus police force and a Campus Violence Prevention Plan and the ability to ask local community police for additional protection should not have been able to hide beneath the cloak that the words of one person threatened campus security.
        In 1644, before the English parliament, poet John Milton boldly spoke out against censorship, arguing that mankind is best served when there is a “free and open encounter” of all ideas. It was a revolutionary concept in an empire that required printers to get a license and be subjected to the whims not only of a monarch but the government as well. “Let her [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” Milton rhetorically asked.
        In the 18th century, Lord Blackstone, one of the kingdom’s most distinguished jurists, spoke against prior restraint of free speech and of the press. The views of Milton and Blackstone became a basis of The First Amendment, one of the most liberal parts of the U.S. Constitution. It was this amendment that assured freedom of the press, speech, and religion; that amendment allows people to peacefully assemble and, if they wish, to protest government actions; it gives the people the right to petition the government for a “redress of grievances.”
        During the next two centuries, others cemented this belief into American law. In the mid-19th century, philosopher John Stuart Mill stated, “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion, and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.” At the beginning of the 20th century, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that democracy is best served in “a marketplace of ideas.”
        The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, developed by the United Nations after World War II, declares “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion . . . [and] the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which implies the right . . . to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information regardless of frontiers, information and ideas through any media whatsoever.”
        America’s First Amendment applies only to government interference, and not to the suppression of free speech in the private sector. But, every university should be a place where all views are heard, analyzed, and debated. Professors in several departments—including history, political science, criminal justice, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and journalism—could have had discussions about Shapiro’s speech and made it a “teachable moment” within the confines of their own discipline.
        Instead of blocking opposing views, students should be aware that the solution to shutting down opposition beliefs is not by censorship or prior restraint, but in applying Milton’s belief that facts and civil discourse will allow truth to emerge.

        [Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist and professor emeritus of mass communications/journalism from Bloomsburg University, is a liberal Jew and an ACLU member and officer. For more than four decades, he has been an outspoken advocate in defending the First Amendment rights of all people, no matter what their political, religious, or philosophical views are. His current book is FrackingAmerica: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit. The book includes numerous examples of how local and state governments, working with the oil/gas exploration industry, have breached First Amendment rights.]

Friday, July 29, 2016

Division in the Nation’s Political Parties

by Walter Brasch

      Hillary Rodham Clinton limped into the Democratic National Convention with enough pledged delegates to claim the Democrats’ nomination for the presidency and enough hubris that forced her and her senior advisors to spend time and resources dealing with her own party rather than targeting Donald Trump.
      She had emerged from numerous Congressional hearings about Benghazi and the e-mail scandals with minimal or no culpability, but was sprayed by maximum venom by Trump, other Republican nominees for the presidency, and almost every conservative in the country who regularly watches Fox News and listens to partisan talk radio.
      Numerous polls had revealed about 58 percent of voters disliked both Clinton and Trump, with the numbers of voters favoring each of them trending downward.
      The Republican convention had been marked by a sharp division among Trump, Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and moderates who didn’t like either of the last two remaining Republicans for their party’s nomination. Many of Cruz’s both ardent supporters were thinking about voting for Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party.
      The Democratic convention, which closed this past Thursday, was also marred by a major split. Clinton—a child and social justice advocate, First Lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state—is seen as more conservative and less trustworthy than Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic Socialist who has led a major revolt against establishment politics and policies. During the primaries, he accumulated about 12 million votes and 1,894 delegates to Clinton’s 16 million votes and 2,807 delegates. For much of the campaign, while Sanders was drawing as many as 20,000 to his rallies, and was broadening his appeal to those who wanted to follow his leadership on liberal issues, the national media gave him significantly less coverage than they gave to the Tweeting Trump.
      Three days before the convention, Clinton, who would become the nation’s first female candidate from a major political party, announced that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who had been chair of the Democratic National Committee, 2009–2011, was her choice as vice-president, angering the Sanders’ supporters who saw Kaine as representing the established Democratic leadership.
      On the Sunday afternoon before the convention, a protest and a resignation furthered the division. The protest was carried out by more than 10,000 anti-fracking activists who marched a mile from City Hall to Independence Hall; the march was barely covered by the major national media. Clinton favors fracking as one part of an “all of the above” approach to energy exploration and delivery. Sanders is adamant there should be a ban on fracking and a greater push for renewable energy.
      The DNC platform committee closed some of the division between Sanders and Clinton’s supporters by accepting or modifying some of what Sanders and his 12 million voters were fighting for, including a federal minimum living wage of $15 an hour, plans to break up large Wall Street banks, free tuition for most students attending public colleges, and several policies that would protect the environment and enhance medical coverage for citizens.
      The resignation was from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the DNC chair who was caught in an e-mail scandal of her own. Among thousands of internal e-mails among Democratic politicians and senior staffers that were hacked, and then posted on Wikileaks, were those that had revealed a partisan campaign by DNC officials to discredit Sanders and to support Clinton. The release of the e-mails occurred three days earlier. The FBI said that cyber-tech experts hired by the DNC believed the hacking was done by Russians who preferred to deal with a Trump presidency.
      Trump, on the third night of the Democrats’ convention, grabbed the media spotlight by suggesting Russia could hack into DNC and Clinton e-mails and make them available to the American citizens. A senior campaign aide hours later said Trump was being sarcastic.
      Trump’s campaign staff had choreographed much of the Republican convention. Seeking to unify the party, they gave Cruz a speaking slot on the third night. Cruz, who was expected to endorse Trump, listened to his followers, spoke about Republican issues, did not endorse Trump, and told the 2,472 delegates they, and the nation’s Republican voters, should “vote your conscience.” There was only one day to counter the stinging rebuke by a large segment of the party that was divided before and during the convention, and is likely to remain divided for at least the next three months.
      The Democrats had learned a lesson. The liberal wing of a liberal party got prime-time speaking slots the first day of the convention. If there was any problem, it could be addressed the next three days and, hopefully, forgotten by Friday.
      Addressing the delegates during the prime-time first night, which carried the theme of “Unite Together,” were Michelle Obama, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.), all of whom enthusiastically praised Clinton, all of whom attacked Donald Trump, but didn’t mention his name. Sanders, who had previously endorsed Clinton and spoke on her behalf the first night of the convention, had angered many of his followers who wanted him to defect to an independent race or, at the least, support Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee.
      Nevertheless, the delegates pledged to Sanders were still largely loyal to the 74-year-old fiery politician who spoke of social justice and could be anyone’s nice Jewish crotchety grandfather. The delegates were still upset by party rules that favored Clinton, who Sanders’ supporters believed was too close to corporate interests and corporate money to earn their trust; many believed that Sanders, who enthusiastically endorsed Clinton and said he’d work for her, as a sell-out. When speakers mentioned her name, they booed. More important, they correctly perceived Sanders’ campaign as one of a bottoms-up political revolution, swelling from and empowering the grassroots masses, similar to the one carved out by Sen. Gene McCarthy against President Johnson in 1968; Clinton, they also knew, was a “top-down” politician. Their rebuke, and possible defection to the Green Party or staying at home for the general election, came not from the politicians, but from a comedian. Sarah Silverman, a strong supporter of Sanders, in one sentence on stage silenced many of them—“Can I just say to the Bernie or Bust people: You’re being ridiculous.”
      The Republicans paraded a couple of actors, Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato Jr., to praise Trump. The Democrats countered with Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver, Debbie Massing, Lena Dunham, America Ferrara, and the support of most of Hollywood’s “A-list.”
      Bill Clinton spent the first 25 minutes of his speech on the convention’s second day rambling about how he and Hillary Clinton met and were intertwined as a team, perhaps hoping to humanize the woman who constantly faced claims, by persons across a wide political spectrum, that she was cold, calculating, untrustworthy, and someone who was well-shielded by layers of gatekeepers who kept the public away from her except for photos.
      The stars on the third night of the Democratic convention were people the Republicans wished they had—the president and vice-president of the United States. The president told the delegates that “homegrown demagogues will always fail,” a blunt reference to Trump. He brought even more cheers when he talked about Teddy Roosevelt’s idea of a great leader being one who “strives valiantly, who errs, but who in the end knows the triumph of high achievement,” and said he knows Clinton is such a leader. But, even having Barack Obama and Joe Biden didn’t mend the Democrats’ division; the DNC revoked credentials of several dozen delegates who were pledged to Sanders, and walked out of the convention hall after the votes were recorded the day before.
      For three days, the TV cameras recorded a sea of delegates who reflected America—Christians, Jews, and Muslims; straight delegates and those who were part of the LGBTQ community; working class Americans who were supported by labor unions, and business executives who drew six-figure salaries; Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and persons whose parents came from Asia. No one had to say it, but the cameras showed a difference between Democratic and Republican issues and values.
      For much of the four-day convention, senior retired military officers, law enforcement officers, and the mothers of children killed by gun fire on America’s streets and mothers of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, told the delegates why they supported a Clinton presidency. For much of the convention, teachers, politicians, musicians, social workers, and middle-class union workers addressed the delegates. But, it was Hillary Clinton who brought the delegates to the feet, shouting and clapping and laughing in all the right places, and closing the last night of the last convention.
      Donald Trump has preached the doctrine of fear; Hillary Clinton has calmly explained her vision of strength and improvement. Trump, who egotistically proclaimed, “I, alone, can fix it,” was diminished by Clinton’s “It takes a village” approach to solving problems.
      And that’s just two of the major reasons the next president will be the first woman elected to the office—division or no division.
      [Dr. Brasch has covered politics and government for more than four decades. His current book, his 20th, is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lessons from the Trump-a-Thon

by Walter Brasch
      The four day Trump-a-thon, sometimes noted as the Republican National Convention, ended this week in Cleveland, with the Republican party still divided and Donald Trump’s ego inflated larger than a Macy’s parade balloon. Trump was all over the convention hall, the hotels, and in the media, chatting, arguing, scowling, and boasting. It was Trump’s convention, and he knew it.
      Trump had begun his run for the nomination with a simple but powerful campaign theme, “Make America Great Again,” refusing to accept the reality that most countries see the United States as the world’s most powerful country and its president is one of the world’s most respected leaders. Slipping into the campaign, promoted by the Tea Party wing, is a plea to “Take Our Country Back.” Back to what? To the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s and the House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunts of the 1950s? To the worst recession since the Great Depression that had begun in 1929? To the race riots of the late 1960s? The two slogans, appearing on almost every piece of campaign memorabilia, are part of what “communicologists” call “branding.”
      In his run to make America great, Trump used vulgar language to ridicule a Fox News female anchor, questioned the integrity of a judge who has Mexican parents, mocked a disabled reporter, declared he would build a wall on the U.S./Mexican border and require Mexico to pay for it, demanded that the U.S. block the entry of anyone who is a Muslim, declared if he was president he would abolish Obamacare, claimed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was no hero for enduring almost seven years in a Vietnamese prison camp, boldly stated he would be able to destroy ISIS, demanded that his potential vice-president candidates submit 10 years of tax returns while he refused to release any of his own financial reports, and juggled the facts worse than any circus clown with grease on his hands.
      State after state, Trump energized the disgruntled and disillusioned who believed they were ignored by the leadership of their party and who opposed just about anything the Obama administration tried to do. He got sustained applause when he attacked the “lyin’ lib’ral media,” but was adept at using the media to get his message to the conservative wing of the party. His speeches and constant Twitter messages established him not as a savior of Republican values, but as a populist demagogue. However, his greatest trick was to convince Republican voters that a billionaire real estate tycoon who had a small fleet of airplanes and boats, who once was a Democrat, and who once praised Hillary Clinton, was an outsider who could relate to them.
      In December, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) condemned Trump for his bigotry—which was embraced by several million Americans who had given him the nomination. “It’s not who we are as a people or a country,” said Ryan, who now in the convention gave Trump his endorsement. Ironically, while the conservative base refuses to accept LGBTQ individuals and condemns same-sex marriage, Trump has repeatedly said they have civil rights that must be acknowledged. There is just enough in Trump’s political beliefs to entice moderates and even liberals.
       On the first day of the convention, long after Trump had secured enough votes to be the party’s nominee, the Colorado delegation, which supported Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), walked out, showing disrespect for the leadership that wasn’t open to modifying party rules.
       Boycotting the convention were several prominent Republican leaders, including six governors and 21 senators, as well as former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Sen. McCain, the party’s nominee in 2008, and Mitt Romney, the party’s nominee in 2012, none of whom were pleased that Trump would be the 2016 standard bearer.
      Also missing was Ohio Gov. John Kasich. About one-fifth of the Ohio delegation told the Columbus Dispatch they would not vote for Trump under any condition; about two-fifths of the Ohio delegation said they would not campaign for him. About 85 percent said Trump—who has been married three times, who has committed adultery, whose profanity-laced rhetoric and outrageous comments about other Republicans in the primary race—was not the best choice to lead the self-proclaimed “family values” party into the November general election. To blunt those who wanted their candidate to reflect the family values that pervaded 1950s TV shows, Trump constantly praised his wife and children, something necessary to establish the nominee as a family member and keep any more delegates from defecting.
      The division became more hostile on the third night of the convention when Cruz, the last of a field of 17 major Republican candidates to seek the Republicans’ nomination, and a strong supporter of Tea Party politics, didn’t endorse Trump and asked the nation to “vote your conscience.” His declaration of separation was greeted by cheers, boos, and phrases that aren’t usually published or aired by establishment media.
      The prime-time speeches were short on substance and heavy with hyperbolic rhetoric, filled with fear-mongering and jingoistic appeals to a conservative base that is largely middle-class whites. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) summed up much of the Republican grassroots base when he claimed whites contributed more to civilization than any other group.
      Melania Trump’s first night speech was so well delivered that the speech writer resigned. The Trumps refused to accept her resignation, however, saying that all people make innocent mistakes. Her mistake, as reported by almost every reporter at the convention, was that she copied a few sentences from Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention. Trump spent almost two days denying plagiarism charges before acknowledging the problem.
      Most of the speakers, possibly lining up to get cabinet appointments and ambassadorships in a Trump presidency, reflected Trump’s views of society. They touted his business acumen as an indicator he would be far superior than anyone else in dealing with the economy, even though most economists from all political perspectives have debunked Trump’s economic plan, which would add about $30–35 trillion to the national debt, and would rival the recession of the last two years of the George W. Bush presidency. The convention speakers didn’t mention anything about Trump’s four bankruptcies, his proposal to give additional tax breaks to millionaires and corporations, or lawsuits filed by individuals and the state of New York against Trump for illegal business practices and for defrauding students who enrolled in Trump University, which was neither accredited nor gave college credits. 
      The speakers, facing TV audiences that varied from 20 to 30 million viewers, praised Trump’s philosophy that a livable wage of $15 an hour is too much for businesses to survive, and that a low minimum wage is desirable. They didn’t mention that during the primary campaign Trump pushed for American-made products while he outsourced much of his Trump-named products to countries where 12-hour working days, unsafe work places, and low wages are common. To thunderous applause, they did mention that Trump would curb the power of unions, something that the candidate has already done with many of his properties where workers don’t have unions to protect them.
      Conservatives emphasized that they, and they alone, are patriotic Americans. For those on the far-right of the political spectrum, being a patriot to conservatives means being willing to spend more than half of the nation’s budget on defense and having the power to send youth to fight wars half a hemisphere away. It doesn’t align with Dwight Eisenhower’s philosophy that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
      The conservative movement, represented by 2,472 delegates claimed they, and they alone, could be entrusted to defend the Constitution, although the part they know seems to be confined to nuzzling up to the NRA and the 2nd Amendment, and defending a non-existent right to own every kind of weapon short of a nuclear bomb, but were pleasantly secure within a gun-free zone that surrounded their convention.
      They frequently declared they, and they alone, would be the ones best able to lower crime, disregarding numerous studies that show a decline in crime during the the Obama administration.
      They also believe in creationism, question the theory of evolution, believe that merging religion and the state is acceptable, and Planned Parenthood isn’t. They oppose abortion, even if it’s to preserve a mother’s life, and then devote millions of dollars to oppose programs that help low-income families.
      Climate change is a liberal myth say a solid minority of delegates. Fracking is good and would make the U.S. energy-independent, they claim, skating around the facts that oil and gas corporations, which accept more than $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies a year, are exporting oil and natural gas. Fossil fuel is the past, present, and future, they claim, blindly ignoring the reality that there are more jobs in the renewable energy industry than in fossil fuels, and that most nations, especially those in the Middle East oil-exporting countries, are significantly increasing the use of solar and wind energy.
      They believe in private schools, private retirement plans, and want to sell off public land. They want to “reign in” the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, which they see as having too much regulatory power, apparently believing that oil and gas and food and pharmaceutical corporations will do what’s best for the consumer and not what’s best for the stockholders.
      Throughout the convention, the delegates and speakers unleashed their venom on Hillary Rodham Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent, calling her evil, corrupt, a liar, and someone who should be in prison. Many delegates compared her to Satan. Licking County (Ohio) Commissioner Duane Flowers said Clinton “should be hanging from a tree.” Clinton, said Al Baldasaro, a senior Trump advisor and a delegate from New Hampshire, “should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” Their statements reflected the far-right demeanor that has been guiding the party.
      Donald Trump, who can be charming, seldom smiles, his demeanor noted by his lips, which are constantly frowning or sneering, reflecting his party’s campaign strategy of bar-room profanity-laced anger rather than substance. He is the face of what the Republican party has become.
[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist and university professor, has covered politics and government for more than four decades. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]


Friday, July 15, 2016

Bathrooms are the New Battlefields for Politicians

by Walter Brasch

      When I was a junior at San Diego State, I had a sudden urge to need a restroom. The closest one was clearly marked, “Faculty Men Only.” The nearest one for male students was on the other side of the building.
      I did what any rational person would do—I used the faculty restroom.
      One of the professors, who was using a urinal a couple spaces away, told me the restroom was for professors only. (I assumed there were separate restrooms for staff.) “What department are you in,” asked the prof.
      In my deeper voice, I responded I was with sociology, hoping he knew little about the sociology faculty.
      “Just out of grad school?” he asked.
      “Yeah,” I replied, hoping that I looked much older than my 19 years. I wasn’t lying. I was “with sociology”—as a student, though. And, since I had no plans to go to grad school, I was truly “out of grad school.”
      The prof. said nothing more, apparently finished with emptying his bladder and, hopefully, needing to rush to the sink and then a class.
      That brief encounter burnished a memory into my mind.
      San Diego State no longer separates students from staff or faculty, but states do discriminate.
      Twenty-two states have filed suits in federal courts to block a federal government regulation requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms of whichever sex they identify with.
      The Department of Justice says the new regulation conforms to the will of the Civil Rights Act. The attorneys general of the states that filed the suit claim the government’s regulation is an over-reach that violates the authority of local school districts while also violating student, staff, and faculty privacy. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the regulation is enforceable. Jay Kaplan, an attorney with the Michigan ACLU, told the AP the suits are not only a waste of taxpayer funds but also “an assault on the dignity of transgender youth.” Perhaps society is best served by separating politicians from the public—straight male Democratic politician; lesbian female Republican politician; there could be 10 or so such restricted restrooms to identify most sexual and genetic orientation.
      Unlike gays and lesbians (who identify with persons of the same sex), transgender individuals—unlike actors and entertainers (many known as drag queens or drag queens) who portray persons of the opposite sex—are those whose fetal brains and gene structure, rather than external anatomy, identify them by gender rather than sexual orientations. Transitioning requires more than surgery; the anatomy and genetics are just a part of who an individual is.
      Both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the mid-1970s determined that LGBT individuals did not suffer from psychological disorders or mental illness and had to be “cured.”
About 6 percent of Americans (1.4 million) identify as transgender, with California, Florida, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Texas, having the highest proportion of transgender individuals, according to a study from UCLA.
Like gays and lesbians, most transgender individuals hide their identities until at least when they become adults because of the fear of discrimination. A study by Angela Dallaria for GLAAD revealed about 90 percent of all transgender individuals believe they are discriminated at work and in receiving health care. They are not protected under civil rights laws of most states. However, in 2010, New York extended equal rights to the LGBT individuals.
Numerous scientific and criminal justice studies have discredited the belief that LGBT individuals have any tendency toward bestiality, child abuse, incest, or pedophilia. “Such claims, innuendoes, and associations,” according to GLAAD, “often are used to insinuate that LGBT people pose a threat to society, to families, and to children in particular.”
      Discrimination against LGBT individuals because of dictates in the Bible or Koran are easily dismissed. As their societies have become enlightened, there are numerous verses and requirements of daily living that are no longer practiced by Christians and Muslims, nor any other religion. Both Jews and Christians, using the same Old Testament, have different interpretations of their religious literature. Most Jews, as well as several Protestant denominations, tend to be more tolerant and accepting of the LGBT community; most evangelical Christians tend to be more discriminatory. Pope Francis urged Catholics to be more tolerant and accepting of non-heterosexual individuals, writing, “A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws . . .  as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives.”
      And yet, 22 U.S. states have filed suits to force those who honestly believe they are a different gender than their external anatomy to use “gender-appropriate” restrooms.
      Pre-pubescent children of all sexual and gender identities play together—and accept each other. Discrimination later in life comes from parents, relatives, the media, and general society. Most children, probably from fears of bullying and harassment, will still use restrooms that are marked the same as their external anatomy.
      It is time to have teachers and school boards retrained, using psychological and medical studies, and for the federal rules to be implemented for those who identify as LGBT individuals. Perhaps in another generation or two, public restrooms for all individuals will be acceptable, unlike the classrooms that were once common and accepted at my undergraduate university, and are still accepted throughout the country. In the meantime, politicians should be focusing more on greater issues than who uses a bathroom.
      [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor emeritus from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]