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, September 24, 2016

Readers Want News Not Fluff


by Walter Brasch

      The New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch tabloid publication that isn’t likely to win a Pulitzer Prize anytime soon, splashed a full page picture of a smiling Jennifer Anniston on its Sept. 21 front cover. In the upper left-hand space it placed all-capitals text: “BRANGELINA 2004–2016.” Inside the Post were four full consecutive pages, and a half page and part of a column deeper in the newspaper, all devoted to one of the most critical social issues facing the country—Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are getting a divorce.
      People magazine put the multi-million dollar couple on its cover, and teased us with the text: “WHY SHE LEFT” and “THE REAL STORY.” US magazine had an “EXCLUSIVE.” ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, and NBC evening newscasts all devoted air time to the divorce. “Entertainment Tonight,” “TMZ,” dozens of entertainment-fueled TV programs, Reuters and AP news services, hundreds of daily newspapers and countless online blogs all had coverage of the epic event. The news also dominated the social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. 
      Barely covered that day by the establishment media was in-depth coverage and analyses of President Obama’s speech the day before at the United Nations general assembly. Also lightly covered was a petition to the UN Human Rights Council by
the Standing Rock Sioux sovereign nation to halt construction of a $3.8 billion 1,150 mile pipeline that would not only disturb that nation’s sacred burial grounds and could possibly pollute the Missouri River, but would be built on ground seized by eminent domain by Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas.
      Why there was negligible coverage of public affairs issues and maximum coverage of a celebrity divorce is based upon economics and poor business practices.
      Media profits, once running anywhere from 5 to 30 percent, depending upon the medium, declined significantly in the Great Recession during the last two years of the Bush–Cheney administration. Businesses significantly cut their advertising budgets; consumers stopped subscriptions.
      It wasn’t long before consultants, not editors, were making decisions about ways to increase profits. The consultants, some making $500 per hour, advised owners to compensate for the decline of profits, they needed to cut back on the news staffs, as well as the budgets for in-depth coverage and salaries. With the decline of newsroom positions came more work for those who stayed on news staffs but, overall, fewer locally-produced stories, and increase in errors because of fewer copyeditors. The cuts in circulation now came not just from those who couldn’t afford the newspaper or magazine, but from those who saw a diminished news product and turned to other media for their information. With the decline in circulation came a forced decline in the cost of an ad leading to further declines on advertising revenue. The consultants often recommended turning to syndicates for news and to increase entertainment and celebrity news. The consultants were wrong.
      Studies by the Pew Institute and the American Society of Newspaper Editors revealed that consumers wanted news not fluff. A Pew Study showed that during the first decade of the 21st century, only 17 percent of consumers who turned to mass media for news followed personalities, entertainment, and celebrity scandals “very closely.” Of the 19 categories, only coverage of other nations and science/technology ranked lower. Studies by the ASNE of interest in the current decade place celebrity news and scandals at the bottom of all categories.
      The evidence is obvious—Americans want, and need, news. Hard news and not fluff. They want to know about weather, crime, and politics. They also want to see and read stories about health, the environment, and social issues that directly affect them.
      But editors and media owners, for the most part, still believe entertainment and celebrity news is the way to restore circulation. And that’s why celebrity marriages, divorces, and scandals seem to be at the core of so many publications—and a major reason why circulation is declining for print newspapers and viewership in non-print media is not as strong as it could be.
      Journalists and owners can blame the rise of digital and social media for stealing readers, but they are wrong. When news returns to newspapers, readers will follow.
      [Dr. Brasch is professor emeritus of mass communications/journalism from Bloomsburg University. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]

      

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The 24/7 Sneeze Factor



by Walter Brasch

      Hillary Clinton is recovering from a mild case of pneumonia. However, shortly after she collapsed at Ground Zero while part of the 15th annual memorial of 9/11, her campaign staff said she was just exhausted and suffered heat exhaustion. It took a couple of days for her to reveal the extent of her medical issue.
      Donald Trump, who had many times this past year questioned Clinton’s health and suggested she should leave politics, now tweeted he was hoping his Democratic opponent would have a quick recovery. However, the Renegade Republicans, fueled by scandal-makers of the conservative media, think Clinton is a piƱata, and are hitting her hard—she has Parkinson’s disease; she suffered from a concussion; the Democratic National Committee is working on how to replace her because she is so ill; she is on her death-bed, and a body double is the one the public is seeing.
      Prior to Clinton’s bout with pneumonia, she had released a two page letter from her physician stating medical specifics about her health; he concluded Clinton is in excellent health.
      Donald Trump is still bobbing and weaving on releasing his medical records. Long after Clinton provided her medical statement, Trump released four paragraphs of juiced-up superlatives that read more like a campaign PR release than something a physician would write—Trump is “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency . . . [His] strength and physical stamina are extraordinary . . .  [his] laboratory test results are astonishingly excellent . . .  [his] his blood pressure and lab results were astonishingly excellent.” He followed that up with an appearance on the Dr. Oz TV show where he deposited more PR poop.
      Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who had said Clinton’s medical problems should not be an issue, declared, “I will be the fittest president of the United States ever.” Jill Stein, the Green party nominee, isn’t questioning anyone about personal health care problems, but may know more about medical issues than all the candidates—she’s a physician.
      All presidents had medical issues, but were still effective. Among the maladies, George Washington had recurring infections and malaria, Thomas Jefferson suffered from severe headaches, Woodrow Wilson had several strokes, Warren G. Harding had congestive heart failure, Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered from polio, John F. Kennedy had severe colitis and back problems, and Ronald Reagan had severe eye and ear problems, colon polyps, and early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease while in office.
      However, the 24/7 news media, desperate to fill time and pretending to be investigative journalists, have spent more time in the past decade peeling away layers of presidential candidate health histories than they have spent in asking tough policy questions. No matter who becomes the next president, one thing is clear—the media will be milking every detail for at least a week before finding some other story to report. Here is a scenario of how the media will probably deal with a president’s health issues.
 
      TV Anchor: This is Clyde Sparrow. The President sneezed about 2:45 this afternoon. We understand it lasted about three seconds. We have team coverage for this urgent and breaking news. We now take you live to the emergency room of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Standing by LIVE with an exclusive you’ll hear only on Eye Witless News is Lance Redux.
      Lance Redux: The President hasn’t yet arrived, but in the meantime we’ll be interviewing bystanders, orderlies, and maybe even a nurse or two. Security is extraordinarily tight, and only the 237 accredited reporters have been allowed into the ER at this point. Back to you, Clyde.
      Clyde Sparrow: With an exclusive live interview, heard only on our network, we go to Susie Sweetwater with Sen. Porkbelly Pineapple at the Capitol.
      Susie Sweetwater: Sen. Pineapple, we just heard that the President’s sneeze was in sympathy with the plight of Americans everywhere. Do you agree?
      Sen. Pineapple: While all of us Americans are concerned about the President’s health, this particular sneeze was the result of a President who has disregarded the wishes of the people and the Congress.
      Clyde Sparrow: For an opposing view, we turn to Rep. Horace Sludgepump.
      Rep. Sludgepump: While I don’t wish to disagree with my esteemed and most distinguished colleague from the other side of the capitol, I should point out that the cretins from the other party filibustered the death of so many of our great and glorious programs which were designed by our party to help the working class, and that’s why the president put a chicken in every pot in this glorious country, sneezed, and—.
      Clyde Sparrow (interrupting): The President’s personal physician is about to make an announcement. We now go live to the White House.
      Dr. Alfred Chiu: The sneeze was probably caused by a pollutant in the air, but we haven’t identified it as yet.
      Reporter 1: Harry Hotlips. ABC News. Doctor, can you identify that pollutant?
      Dr. Chiu: As I mentioned, we haven’t yet identified that pollutant.
      Reporter 2: Judy Jumpstart, CBS-TV. Just how serious is this pollutant?     
      Dr. Chiu: We can’t determine how serious the pollutant is until we can identify it, but we’re pretty sure the sneeze poses no problem to the president’s health or threatens anyone near the president. I classify it as insignificant.
      Reporter 3: Darla Dazzling, NBC-TV. Doctor, what kind of pollutant could that have been? And does it have long-term effects?
      Dr. Chiu: I don’t know, but we will try to find out.
      Reporter 4: Sid Serious, CNN. Doctor, could you indicate what you believe would be the world consequences of this particular sneeze, and is the president or the Secretary of State notifying world leaders?
      Dr. Chiu: The president doesn’t believe this is important enough to notify anyone.
      Reporter 5: Polly Prattle, New York Post. What kind of illegal drugs has the President been taking?
      Dr. Chiu: The sneeze doesn’t call for drugs at this time.
      Reporter 6: Suzy Tanktop, Fox News. Can you identify the illegal drugs? And, how long has the president been snorting cocaine brought into the White House from the Colombian cartel?
      Dr. Chiu: The president is healthy and no drugs are necessary.
      Reporter 7: Edie Excrement, TMZ. So, the sneeze is the result of taking too many drugs. Is it because the president is in the process of a divorce or is it because the president is nervous because of preparing for a screen test?
      Dr. Chiu: I think I’m becoming ill . . .
      Clyde Sparrow: We have breaking news. LIVE from Dubuque, Iowa is Pauly Populist.
      Pauly Populist. In an exclusive you’ll only hear on the Eye Witless News Network, we are live from Dubuque, Iowa. Again, we are LIVE in Dubuque with breaking news. With us is Creepshot Commoner, an assistant night shift manager at McDonald’s. The entire world wants to know your opinion of this cataclysmic event.
      Creepshot Commoner: I think this latest health crisis is so severe that the president needs to step down for the good of the country. And, whoever the vice-president is should not become president because he’s probably also been infected.
      Clyde Sparrow. We temporarily interrupt our own in-depth team coverage to return you to the White House where the president’s physician appears to be babbling incoherently.
      [Dr. Brasch isn’t making any guesses about anyone’s health condition. But, he does recommend his latest book: Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]

     


Friday, September 9, 2016

O Say Can You See the First Amendment?



by Rosemary and Walter Brasch



      Before a football game against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago, Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, refused to stand for the pre-game patriotic ceremony that is wound around the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Kaepernick later said he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” and said his stance, a quiet form of civil disobedience, was to him “bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Several professional athletes had previously protested what they saw as police brutality directed against Blacks; about 70 percent of NFL players are Black. However, Kaepernick’s actions received far more attention because he was the quarterback to a Super Bowl championship team and the 49er–Packers game was televised to a national audience.

      The NFL, many of Kaepernick’s team mates, and civil rights activists across the country supported his right of protest; that right was burnished into the First Amendment. Others said he was unpatriotic, a disgrace, and a hypocrite for taking a six year $114 million contract, with $61 million guaranteed and the rest based on various bonuses. The Santa Clara police union issued a threat—its officers might not wish to work at future 49er games if the team’s management didn’t discipline Kaepernick. About 70 police are security for each of the home games.

      Before the game against the San Diego Chargers this past week, Kaepernick said “The media painted this as I’m anti-American [but] that's not the case at all.”

      During the 1960s, hippies often sewed flag patches to their jeans to cover up holes. The establishment coiled up in fear that those who looked and acted different from them not only were unpatriotic but posed a threat to God, mother, and apple pie.

      Today, just about every sub-group of society, from homeless teens through affluent senior citizens wear T-shirts, shorts, bandanas, and every kind of clothing imaginable with the American flag depicted on it. At the Olympics, American athletes even wrapped themselves in oversized flags. And no one complained about their disrespect.
      During the late 1940s to the 1970s, thousands of persons, mostly in the arts, were subjected to Congressional hearings that were ways to ferret out those whose political beliefs did not match the two major political parties’ idea of what a “true American” should be. Businesses and numerous governmental bodies demanded workers to sign loyalty oaths. Those who had no allegiance signed; thousands who were patriots did not and stood up to the politicians and business owners, risking their own careers but knowing such oaths were unconstitutional and discriminatory.
      In the 1960s, a few million Americans sat down at lunch counters or on the streets to demand that state and the federal governments adhere to the Constitution to allow all citizens the right to vote and to receive equality under the law.
      In thousands of classrooms in 26 states, the day begins with an obligatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, written by a socialist in 1892 and adopted by Congress as the national pledge in 1945. Those who refuse to stand or who stand and remain silent or who don’t mouth “under God,” are exercising their First Amendment rights.

      Colin Kaepernick repeated his constitutional right of dissent this past week when he kneeled down during the ceremony. Next to him was safety Eric Reid who also took a knee rather than stand.

      Kaepernick did not rant and rave; he did not destroy property or threaten anyone’s life. He just refused to stand.

      Those who condemned him for what they mistakenly saw as his anti-American action might be the ones who defame the flag and American patriotism. Here’s are some questions that need to be answered.

      The Flag Code suggests that when the National Anthem is played, persons should stand and cover their heart with their right hand. There is no federal law that requires anyone to stand, but how many who do stand take off their baseball caps and put their right hand over their heart?

      How many Americans fly tattered and weather-worn flags in front of their houses, businesses, and municipal buildings, also Flag Code violations?

How many Americans get rid of the worn-out flags, according to the Flag Code?

      June 14 is Flag Day. How many American newspapers run full color, full page depictions of the flag—and tie advertising blocks to it?

During the first Gulf War in 1991, how many Americans flew the flag to show American pride, but were intolerant of minorities and those who rightfully protested that war or who didn’t put a flag in their house windows or by their mail boxes? It was during that war that thousands of businesses flew flags, believing the larger the flag, the greater the patriotism, but still treated their workers shabbily or outsourced jobs to other countries. Just how patriotic is that?

How many Americans are willing to send their youth to war, but when they return home don’t give them jobs, counseling, or adequate medical assistance? Shouldn’t that be unpatriotic?

How many Americans who flew flags after 9/11 thought it was acceptable to violate the Constitution by rallying behind a government that was engaged in overt practices to deny American citizens their First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights? How many Americans disregard the part of the First Amendment that protects freedom of religion, and attack American citizens who are Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, or any religion other than Christian?  

How many Americans don’t know much about history, political science, or current events, yet screech bar-room ignorance about what they think is wrong with the country, while doing nothing to improve it?

In the last two months of a presidential election, how many Americans follow politicians who stand in front of large American flags, wear tiny metal flags on their lapels or collars, and condemn other politicians who don’t wear flags?

      How patriotic is it when a millionaire politician hides money in an off-shore account to avoid paying his or her fair share of taxes?

About 94 percent of all American flags are produced in China, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. How many Americans buy flags and all kinds of merchandise made in other countries, while neglecting American-made products?

The American flag is material. It is not who we are or what we believe, nor is singing or standing for the “Star Spangled Banner,” which became the national anthem only in 1931, 155 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. The Constitution allows for divergent beliefs. Those who don’t recite the Pledge or sing the Anthem are no less of a patriot than those who are determined to make their voice the loudest in the room, while their own actions show them to be nothing more than jingoistic opportunists.

      Patriotism can mean standing up—or sitting down—for social justice.
      [Rosemary Brasch before retirement was a secretary, Red Cross family services national disaster specialist, and university instructor in labor studies. Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist, patriot, and professor emeritus of mass communications from Bloomsburg University, who refused to sign a loyalty oath to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Race Issues Dominate White House Race


by Walter Brasch
(part 2 of 2)

Donald Trump says he watched the destruction of the World Trade Center, and saw “thousands and thousands of people [who were] cheering as that building was coming down.” Every non-partisan fact-checking site and news medium debunks Trump’s faulty recollection. But 9/11 burnished an image in his mind of terrorism by Muslims. His solution is to issue an unconstitutional moratorium against Muslims who wish to emigrate to the U.S.

He plays to the fears of Americans by declaring President Obama has plans to bring 250,000 Syrian refugees into the country, and says, “We don’t know anything about them.” But, we do know about “them” because the vetting process for admitting persons to the U.S. is about two years; the U.S. in fiscal year 2016 plans to admit only 10,000 Syrian refugees.

The extreme right wing denounce President Obama for attending an elementary school in Indonesia where, they claim, he was indoctrinated in anti-American propaganda and became a Muslim. For the past 12 years, the right wing has referred to the president as Barack HUSSEIN Obama, emphasizing his middle name. What they don’t emphasize is that the Founding Fathers were adamant that there is a separation of church and state, and that no one religion is included or excluded from persons running for any office. Nevertheless, the President was baptized in the United Church of Christ and is a Protestant.

On the last day of the Democratic National Convention in July, Khizr Khan, the father of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in combat in Iraq, asked Trump if he “even read the United States Constitution. I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’” After pulling a pocket-sized Constitution from his suit jacket, he then asked, “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing—and no one.”

Some of Trump’s advisors claimed the Khans, who are Muslims who emigrated from Pakistan, could have been terrorists—Trump himself didn’t rebuke them for their comments—and then insensitively said he also sacrificed because he “created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.” He also challenged Ghazala Khan, Capt. Khan’s mother who, he said, had stood mute besides her husband and had “nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.” Ghazala Khan responded in a commentary in the Washington Post that she told her husband she could not overcome her grief to speak because “hearts of pain can never heal as long as we live. Just talking about it is hard for me all the time. Every day, whenever I pray, I have to pray for him, and I cry. The place that emptied will always be empty.”

There is also a strain of anti-Semitism in the base of Trump’s hard core supporters. With Hillary Clinton increasing her lead over Trump, according to several polls, Trump replaced campaign chair Paul Manafort with Steve Bannon, who had been CEO of Breitbart News, an extreme right-wing online news site that promotes white nationalism and opposes immigration of individuals who would be part of minority cultures in the United States. Bannon’s ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, accused him of anti-Semitism during a child custody fight in 2007. In a sworn statement to the court, she said Bannon opposed sending their twin daughters to the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles. “The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend,” Piccard said. She also testified that Bannon said “he doesn’t like the way they [Jewish parents] raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.” A spokesman for Bannon denied the truth in Piccard’s statements.

An individual created a print ad of a picture of Hillary Clinton, with a red Star of David over a stack of $100 bills; inside the Star in white lettering was “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” That anonymous person, who regularly posts anti-Semitic material, then posted the graphic on Twitter. Trump never disavowed the anti-Semitism of that graphic, and re-tweeted it to his 11 million followers. He later said it wasn’t a Star of David but a depiction of a sheriff’s badge, but sent out another tweet, this time with the words in a circle instead of the Star of David.

Several Jewish journalists who have covered the campaign and have written stories about Trump and his campaign report they have received anti-Semitic email from Trump supporters; Trump himself, while insensitive to Jews, may not be anti-Semitic.

A few of Trump’s advisors are Jews, and his daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism in 2009. However, most Jews are liberals who are willing to stand up for the rights of all minorities and are strong advocates of social justice. They see in Trump personality traits that that remind them of more than four millennia of anti-Semitism from numerous rulers, demagogues, and masses who believed their own problems were caused by Jews and other minority religions and cultures.

Hillary Clinton said Trump “is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.” She accuses him of being “xenophobic, racist, misogynistic,” and asked, “If he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?” Trump’s response was to criticize Clinton and the Democratic party for using race-baiting and fear mongering tactics. At a campaign rally this past week in Jackson, Miss., he blurted out, “Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human-beings worthy of a better future. She’s going to do nothing for African Americans. She’s going to do nothing for the Hispanics. She’s only going to take care of herself, her husband, her consultants, her donors—these are the people she cares about. She doesn’t care what her policies have done to your communities. She doesn’t care.”

Most of the 13.4 million Americans who voted for Trump in the primaries are White middle-class individuals who believe they are alienated from the political and business worlds, and are willing to follow a billionaire businessman running for the presidency who can channel their bar-room hate. Of the 2,472 delegates to this year’s Republican National Convention, only 18 were Blacks. Trump never protested or even discussed how the Republicans should be doing more to get diversity within the party. Trump’s campaign rallies are dominated by Whites. No matter what he says or does, that isn’t likely to change.

When many of the extreme right-wing look into mirrors, they see Donald Trump.

[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist, 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.]

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.]