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, June 18, 2016

Donald Trump v. The First Amendment



by Walter Brasch

      If Donald Trump should become president, don’t expect his administration to be a transparent one or one that tolerates dissent and believes in the First Amendment.
      At his campaign rallies, even those held at public venues, he forbids, according to his press advisories, “homemade signs, banners, professional cameras with a detachable lens, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, back packs or large bags.”
      The restriction on “professional cameras” is targeted to the media. Apparently, he doesn’t want unflattering pictures of him and his extra large baggage mouth to get to the public, although he is adept at positioning himself in front of the media for every possible story angle. If he were president, he would not have a choice of who can and cannot photograph him, because the First Amendment guarantees that public officials cannot invoke a “prior restraint,” which is what a restriction on photography would be.
      Why he doesn’t want “back packs or large bags” is probably because he fears weapons at his rallies. Of course, he has said numerous times that he believes in the Second Amendment right to own and carry weapons, even assault weapons like the handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles that were used to kill 26 at the Sandy Hook elementary school, the 14 killed in San Bernardino, and the 49 killed in an Orlando nightclub.
      Not allowing the public to make signs and banners is such a huge violation of the First Amendment that even the most rabid conservatives, and every judge—no matter what their judicial or political philosophy is—would laugh themselves silly at Trump’s belief that as a president he could control the message, like he is doing as a candidate.
      Trump also revoked the press credentials of several newspapers, including the Washington Post and the Des Moines Register, solely because he and his combed-over ego believe the publications didn’t treat him fairly or that they were inaccurate in coverage. If he were to become president, such restriction would also be unconstitutional because having a thin skin is not a reason to deny press credentials.
      Access to a president is critical for White House reporters. Legally, Trump may decide not to grant interviews or to allow certain reporters to accompany him on Air Force One, placing those he believes are unfriendly to him to a trailing press plane. To gain access, reporters may compromise their reporting.
      Trump follows the practices of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
      Nixon not only had an enemies list, but he also unleashed numerous unconstitutional First Amendment violations against dissenters and the media, including numerous “dirty tricks” against those opposing the war in Vietnam.
      The Bush–Cheney administration established “free speech zones” as far as a mile from where either Bush or Cheney were speaking. These zones were to keep dissenters and their signs and banners away from the media, most of which followed the president and vice-president, and ran stories and photos of friendly audiences, while not venturing off to write about and photograph the large crowds that disagreed with the administration’s policies.
      Trump will figure out how to skirt the First Amendment at his public speeches while crossing ethics guidelines.
      In 1789, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
      The First Amendment protects not just freedom of the press and speech, but also the freedom of religion, the right of people to peacefully assemble and support or dissent from government policy, and the right to petition government to address grievances. Most public officials, while running for office demand adherence to the First Amendment, but once in office try to suppress some of the rights of the First Amendment. If elected, Trump would probably be among the top five of 45 presidents to try to control the media and violate the First Amendment.
      [Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist is also a First Amendment scholar and advocate who taught media law while a university professor. As a reporter, he wrote about Nixon illegally reviewing IRS returns of other reporters and those on his enemies list; the following year, “coincidentally,” his own IRS return was audited. He was also thrown out of a Dick Cheney re-election rally at a public university, although he had press credentials issued by the Republican National Committee. The latest of his 20 books, Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Welfare for Short-Term Economic Benefit, includes numerous case studies of government violating the First Amendment.]
     
     

      

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Senators Embedded Within a Brain Fog



by Walter Brasch

      The U.S. Senate—under the leadership of Mitch McConnell who once said his primary mission was to see that the Senate didn’t agree with anything President Obama said or did, and to limit him to one term—continues to be one of the nation’s leading obstructionists. This time, the Senate isn’t meeting to advise or consent to the President’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
      Garland was valedictorian in his class at Harvard College and a magna cum laude graduate from the Harvard law school. He worked in the Department of Justice before becoming the chief judge on the D,C. Court of Appeals, having been confirmed by the Senate, March 1997.
      The reason for the judicial committee not to meet to even discuss the nomination to the Supreme Court, according to the Republican members, is not because of the judge’s qualifications—he is widely praised by plaintiffs and defendants, Democrats, Republicans, and most third parties—but because they don’t believe a president in his last year of office should nominate Supreme Court justices, even though six justices were confirmed by the Senate since 1900 in a president’s last year of office. The reality is that the Republicans by violating their constitutional responsibility for more than a year are hoping a Republican president will appoint a less qualified but very conservative individual to the Supreme Court.
      The following scene reflects what the Republicans apparently want in a Supreme Court justice.
      Facing the Senate Sub-Committee on Obstruction of American Life was President Obama’s latest choice for Supreme Court justice.
      “Have you now or have you ever led anything and did you ever have any opinions?” asked the committee chair, Sen. Porkbelly Pineapple.
     “I once led Boy Scout Troop 7 on a Wilderness hike,” said the nominee. “But I never told them they must be led or that they should follow my example or that they couldn’t have any opinions about the hike.”
      “That’s very good,” said Sen. Pineapple. “What is your value system?”
      “I believe in Rush Limbaugh, God, motherhood, the American flag, and apple pie,” said the nominee.
      “Did you say apple pie?” asked Sen. Harry Hazelnut.
      “No, no!” said a sweating nominee. “I meant to say cherry pie. Yeah, that’s it. I believe in cherry pie. It was George Washington’s favorite pie, and whatever was good enough for the father of our country is good enough for me. Unless he later disowned cherry pie. And if he did, then so do I.”
      Are you now or have you ever been a member of a left-wing Commie pinko organization like the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the Democratic party?” asked Sen. Lizzie Catscratch.
      “No, ma’am,” replied the nominee. “I believe in whatever it is that you believe in. I’m real loyal to anyone who votes for me.”
      “That’s very commendable of you,” said Sen. Catscratch,  “Do have some views about the Bill of Rights?”
      “I believe in the Bill of Rights,” said the nominee, “but not that persons who don’t believe in it shouldn’t be allowed not to believe in it. If they want to believe in the Bill of Rights, that’s fine, but no one should make anyone believe in anything they don’t believe in.”
      “Not even about the government’s role in the First Amendment?” asked Sen. Salamander Peachpit, “and those lying scumbags who spend a lifetime defending all that free speech nonsense?”
      “Oh, those people,” said the nominee. “I say if they can’t buy their own newspaper or TV station, they shouldn’t be talking about anything, except how great it is to own guns. Lots of guns. Pistols and rifles and assault weapons and even a few mortars.”
      “A fine philosophy,” said Sen. Oiltanker Oldsludge. “Do you have any views about the environment?”
      “None.” When no one said anything, and several senators began writing furiously on their Post-it notepads, the nominee quickly retreated. “What I meant was that I have no negative views of what has happened to the environment. As a Supreme justice, it would be my responsibility to make sure that the environment didn’t adversely affect the rights of corporations to make money and take all the loopholes in the IRS forms it can find, thus strengthening the economy and our American way of life.”
      “Excellent. What about pornography?” asked Sen. Backwood Grimweed.
      “I’m opposed to obscenity and pornography,” the nominee firmly responded. “Unless, of course, it can clearly be shown that paying for pornographic films or books was done solely as an investment in American business or a relative’s desire to make a few bucks, and not just to look at dirty pictures.”
       “I assume you also oppose that obscenity known as abortion,” stated Sen. Philip Fullterm.
      “Abortion?” asked the nominee. “I’m afraid I don’t know what that is. And, even if I did know what it is, which I assure you I don’t, I’d argue that abortion is an evil curse given to us by the Devil himself. Unless, of course, you gentlemen believe in abortion, or ever had an abortion, or ever had a mistress have an abortion, in which case I’d say it was acceptable, but only for senators.”
      “Do you hate anyone or any religion or any ethnic goup?” asked Sen. Roger Wilco.
      “No, sir. I don’t hate anyone or anything.”
      Again there was a silence, soon to be filled by the future justice. “What I meant to say is that I love to hate. Muslims. Jews. Anyone whose religion isn’t mine. And I should elaborate that there are many ethnics who need to be kept behind walls in order to secure America as a safe place for all Americans with white pasty skin or suntan parlor orange and blonde hair. Yeah, that’s what I really meant.”
      The silence was filled by applause from a majority of the committee.
      After another hour of questioning, Sen. Pineapple told the nominee the panel was unanimously impressed with his qualifications but, most important, his lack of any ethics and policy views. “One other thing,” he asked, “It’s not really all that important, and certainly won’t affect our decisions, but did you ever attend law school?”
      [Dr. Brasch is or is not a professor emeritus from Bloomsburg University. His views and opinions, if he had any, which he denies having, may or may not reflect the views and opinions of anyone else, including his university. He is also the author of Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit, which may or may not support the oil/gas industry or those who oppose the oil/gas industry or just about anyone who has a conviction of his or her beliefs.]

      

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Chewbacca and the World of Semi-Reality News Media



by Rosemary and Walter Brasch

      A Facebook video of a woman wearing a Chewbacca mask and laughing almost hysterically in her car has drawn more than 140 million hits from numerous sources in the past two weeks.
      Candace Payne, a 37-year-old mother of two from Grand Prairie, Texas, has had to hire a publicist to help field the numerous calls from the media—and, perhaps, wookies who want to have an affair.
      Why so many people have been intrigued by the three-minute video may be because people just need to laugh in a year in which political hate and the media have come together to annoy anyone with a temperature. It may also be because the people realize that the media have been abysmal purveyors of information, and the political conventions and what passes as TV news have become circuses of mediocrity.
      The presidential primaries are filled with candidates attacking each other, with lies and half-truths fogging the political debate, all of which are faithfully recorded, published and aired but seldom evaluated and challenged by the media.
      The mass media, especially television, have devolved from in-depth reporting to entertainment news, erroneously believing that’s what the public wants and needs. And so, TV leads off with whoever makes the most outrageous statements, with the opposition countering with even more outrageous statements. The media focus upon Trump’s outrageous statements and the protests by Hispanics and liberals at his rallies; for the Democrats, the media focus upon Hillary Clinton’s scandals, all of which are trumped-up exaggerations without facts.
      Only in the past few months has Sen. Bernie Sanders received any acknowledgement from the media. Still far behind in media coverage are Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party), Gary Johnson (Libertarian party), Bob Whitaker (American Freedom party), Darrell Castle (Constitution party), Gloria LaRiva (Party of Socialism and Liberalism), Jim Hedges (Prohibition party), Mimi Soltysik (Socialist party), and dozens of other candidates who have ideas that America should at least have a chance to hear, but are placed into a black hole by the media, which believe they have no chance to win the presidency.
      Because the media have become the megaphones for outrageous behavior rather than communicators of information, Donald Trump has spent very little for print or electronic media advertising.  As long as Trump puts on a big enough dog-and-pony show, he gets coverage, forcing his rivals to spend ad dollars to match the free TV time he wallows in. But, after Trump and Clinton finally secure their parties’ nominations, their campaigns, the Republican and Democratic National committees, and dozens of Super PACs, all proclaiming they want to cut governmental programs and spending, by the November 8 general election will have spent more than $2 billion on political advertising in the mass media.
      The pretend-journalists who cover the campaign lean to insipid “objectivity,” afraid to challenge the candidates and terrified of delving into substantive issues. Many just don’t have the intellectual depth to know enough to challenge the lies and half-truths, so they lob easy questions at the candidates and then believe that by tossing bland questions to the public, they are getting “the pulse of the people” who fulfill the media expectations by responding with equally useless answers—“Uh, like, I kinda like him [or her] because he [or she] says what I believe and what I, y’know, want to hear.”
      For most reporters and their editors, there is the fear that if they get too intellectual, if they challenge the candidates, those candidates will not grant them access while their audience tunes them out, preferring the reality entertainment that now passes as political coverage. It is a reality where a woman in a Chewbacca mask makes more sense than the political candidates and the news media that cover them.
      [Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, labor union grievance officer, and instructor of labor studies at Penn State and UMass. Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist, professor emeritus from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and author of 20 books; his latest one is Fracking America.]

      

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memorial Day Crocodile Tears from Those Who Create Wars

      


by Walter Brasch

      A few million Americans may be thinking about it, but won’t be celebrating Memorial Day. For them, there’s not much to celebrate or to remember.
      They’re the low-wage employees who may have to work all three days, without overtime; about three million workers earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Many work 30 to 35 hours a week, just low enough that their employers don’t have to pay for insurance, holidays, or sick leave. The corporate CEOs, of course, will be enjoying the long weekend at their alternate vacation homes in the mountains, or along the coasts, or at off-shore islands where they have found banks willing to hide their money and avoid U.S. taxes.
      Almost 600,000 persons are homeless on any given night. They are homeless for any number of reasons, but whatever reason, the reality is they are homeless—and the wealthiest nation in the world cheers $10 million a year pro athletes, but discounts social workers who have graduate degrees and are paid an average of about $46,000 a year.
      The homeless live beneath bridges, in subway tunnels, on the streets, or if the shelters aren’t filled, in protected areas with cots for beds, and grocery carts for what few possessions they have. In Atlantic City, the homeless live beneath the boardwalk, unseen by hundreds of thousands who go into casinos, buy expensive dinners, and think nothing of dropping a few hundred or a few thousand dollars at gaming tables and slot machines. In urban cities, those with jobs and families walk by the homeless, as if they are invisible, sometimes erroneously thinking that even if the homeless get a dollar or two, they’d rush off to buy beer, liquor, or more drugs.
      About 50,000 of the homeless on any given night are veterans, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Overall, more than 150,000 veterans are homeless during the year. The reasons for veterans being homeless are because of “extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care . . . lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks,” according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Under the Obama administration, which has focused upon assisting veterans, the number of homeless veterans on any given night has come down from about 80,000 six years ago, but even a few dozen homeless veterans are far too many.
      Hundreds of thousands of veterans won’t be able to march in Memorial Day parades, or stand and salute the flag. They don’t have limbs, their muscles have atrophied because of extensive bed confinement, or they have other debilitating illnesses. About 2.2 million American veterans were injured during their service; about 1.7 million of them were wounded in combat, according to a Pew Research Center summary and analysis. About 200,000 military personnel who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder of have major depression, according to a study done by the Rand Corp. About 285,000 of the veterans of America’s most recent wars have suffered from traumatic brain injury. Among other injuries, according to the VA are chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, hearing difficulties, hepatitis, malaria, memory loss, migraines, sleep disorders and tuberculosis.
      More than 120,000 Americans won’t celebrate Memorial Day; they died in combat during the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Iraq/Afghanistan wars.
      During this three-day weekend, Americans will grill steaks, burgers, and hot dogs; they will travel to relatives’ or friends’ houses, or take mini-vacations. The nation’s politicians—from small town council members to presidential candidates—will go from picnic to picnic, from rally to rally, and deliver poignant speeches about how much they care about the veterans who were injured or died for their country, and how much veterans mean to the country, while delivering the underlying message to vote for them in the coming election.
      But, it is these politicians who, without hesitation, will quickly send American youth into war, and claim that killing people a half-world away somehow protects American citizens. And once Americans are in combat, these same politicians will complain about the cost of war, and vote against providing adequate funds for decent medical and psychological treatment for those who come home damaged.

      [Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist and the author of 20 books, is co-founder of the Northeast Pennsylvania Coalition for the Homeless.]

Thursday, May 19, 2016

History Must Not Repeat Itself: How the Democrats Could Lose the Presidency



by Walter Brasch

      The anti-war movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was being forged by the youth, energetic and willing to stand up to establishment values. They were the peace-loving environmentally-friendly hippies, the more radical but fun-loving Yippies, and those who held weekday establishment jobs and resented the structure and rules of an older generation that had survived the economic depression of the 1930s, the war years of the 1940s and early 1950s, and now wanted the “Happy Days” comfort of the 1950s.
      But it was during this decade that the Cold War emerged; the right-wing surfaced and declared anyone with non-establishment views were Communists. The witch hunts of the 17th century colonies had morphed into the fear, panic, and undermining of the Constitution by the demigods of business and government who decided that anyone with liberal views, especially those in the arts and sciences, were anti-American and needed to be condemned.
      A string tied the country to Southeast Asia where a civil war had begun, one that led Americans to believe in a false political philosophy known as the Domino Theory—if Vietnam fell to the Communists, then Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand would next fall to the Communists—and then, like dominos, one country after another would fall until the Red Menace would eventually invade and overcome the United States.
      John F. Kennedy sent military “advisors” into Vietnam to save the south from Communism. And then, Lyndon B. Johnson escalated the war. By 1968, the U.S. was digging deeper into the war, more than 400,000 Americans were in combat, and the majority of civilians were cheering what they believed would be a successful end of Communism.
      From Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, a white-haired 51-year-old former teacher and college professor became the political leader of the anti-war movement, catching up to the political activism of the youth.
      The media, always behind the cutting edge of society, didn’t report about McCarthy—and largely ignored the increasing youth marches and rallies. After all, Johnson was president, soldiers were in Vietnam, and the youth—and the millions of anti-war, pro-civil rights, pro-environment liberals—were just rabble to be ignored.
      The establishment media were certain that McCarthy had no chance to defeat the incumbent president. But in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, McCarthy got 42 percent of the vote to Johnson’s 49 percent. That shook up the party and the media, and gave Robert F. Kennedy, an anti-war liberal, the motivation to enter the campaign. In the Wisconsin and Oregon primaries, McCarthy won even more delegates. Johnson, a Southerner who had pushed through Congress a liberal agenda, especially in Civil Rights, surprised the establishment by announcing that in the interest of the country, and because he didn’t wish to further divide it, he would not run for re-election.
      At the Democratic convention in Chicago two months after Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles, McCarthy faced Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, a long-time liberal with strong ties to labor and the civil rights movement, but tainted by having supported his president’s war record. The largely peaceful anti-war movement clashed with the political establishment and the largely-conservative police who wanted people to believe that the hundreds of injuries to the youth were caused by the youth deliberately banging their heads onto police billy clubs.
      Humphrey won the nomination, but lost the presidency to Richard Nixon, who would resign six years later, enmeshed within scandal. Had  hundreds of thousands of McCarthy’s supporters not become disillusioned with establishment politics, and not been nursing their own injuries from the convention three months before the general election, Humphrey might have become president, the nation might have been freed from the war sooner than 1975, thousands of Americans would not have died or sustained permanent war injuries, and Nixon’s unconstitutional attacks upon the opposition would not have added a blemish to American history.
      Flash forward almost five decades.
      From Vermont comes Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old white-haired liberal senator who is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Only the rabid right-wing, who believe lies are facts and propaganda is truth, doubt Clinton’s intelligence or her knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs. But, even within her own party, she is seen as the embodiment of establishment politics, with a moderate, even conservative, edge. Her wall of advisors protect her from the masses; she seems aloof, while Sanders seems to be the kindly, intelligent Jewish grandfather with a soul burning for social justice that liberals identify with.
      Sanders began drawing crowds of hundreds, and then thousands, mostly liberals and the youth who believe they are alienated from having a voice in the American system and who, like the youth of the 1960s, have an idealism that cries for social, economic, and political equality and justice, the same political agenda that defines Sanders.
      But the media of 2015, like the media of 1967, barely noticed Sanders. Although his rallies drew as many as 20,000, the media still ignored him, reporting about Clinton, the Democrats’ establishment candidate, while also acting as the megaphone for every ridiculous and absurd statement the Republicans’ eventual nominee, Donald Trump, uttered.
      Soon, like McCarthy, Sanders began winning primaries while also getting significant vote totals in those primaries that Clinton won. And the mainstream media still devoted significantly more air time and column inches to Trump than to most of the Republican contenders, or to Clinton, Sanders, or Gov. Martin O’Malley, who eventually dropped from contention.
      Hillary Clinton, not completely dissimilar to Hubert Humphrey, will likely be the Democratic party’s nominee, even though Sanders says he is in the campaign “to the end.” It’s probable that millions of Americans who would prefer to see Sanders become president will be justifiably disappointed. Many may vote for a third party candidate—perhaps, liberal Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee. Perhaps, they will stay home, disgusted by the process and not vote. To prevent that, the Democratic National Committee needs to incorporate much of Sanders’ political philosophy into its planks, the Clinton campaign needs to give Sanders and his senior campaign staff significant roles in the campaign and possible presidential administration.
      If that does not happen, and if history repeats itself because Sanders’ supporters vote for the Green party or sit out the election, Hillary Clinton will not become president, and Donald Trump and his Ego of Ignorance will occupy the White House for at least four years. This nation cannot succumb to the rule of the fool who is masquerading as a Republican leader.
      [Dr. Brasch has covered government and politics for more than four decades. He is the author of 20 books; his current one is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]


     


Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Art of the Double-Dealing Megalomaniac




by Walter Brasch

      Savannah State University in Georgia will offer a three-credit course this summer, “The Trump Factor in American Politics.” The professor is Dr. Robert Smith, who says the students will read Trump’s policy statements and excerpts from Trump’s books, and then discuss his political philosophies.
      Many people may believe this is a terrible waste of any student’s mind and tuition payments. Some may even claim there are other courses that have higher value in the American educational system. For example, Rutgers offers “Politicizing Beyonce,” Skidmore College offers “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” the University of Missouri offers a class to better understand Kanye West and Jay Z, and hundreds of colleges have courses that look at the lives and views of strange people known as philosophers.
      To understand Donald Trump, who may be the greatest political philosopher in recorded history, is as critical to understanding America’s future as it is to understanding the motivations and philosophies of the creature from the black lagoon.
      First, it is important to realize that Trump has gone beyond Freud in understanding the human mind. The father of psychoanalysis said the psyche has three parts—id, ego, and superego. Trump added The Donald as the fourth part, one level greater than the superego.
      Milton, Locke, and Mill believed mankind is rational and capable of great thought. Plato, Hobbes, and Machiavelli believed mankind is selfish and incapable of rational thought; they believed in the presence of a strong ruler to explain to the masses how wrong they are about the world and their own despicable lives. Trump, of course, the political genius he is, merged the two opposing philosophies—he listens to the far-right and usually-wrong masses, tells them what they want to hear, and then plans to subjugate them to the power and wisdom of Trumponian Law, a variation of Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism, which has humans weighing the good against the bad, and then selecting the good. Trump, of course, believes the Greater Good, a Trump theocracy, will always outweigh all other considerations.
      Another basic tenet in the Philosophy of Trump is that the affluent, with full access to all parts of the elite power establishment, lure the disgruntled masses to believe the philosopher-king, who claims to be an outsider, is one of them, thus solidifying the political base to rule and suppress the masses by continually flaunting his own superior knowledge of the universe.
      Most post-18th century philosophers believe ethics results from the rational mind, something not many Fortune 500 CEOs believe. Trump, as he explained in his major philosophical thesis, The Art of the Deal, believes all decisions do not come from the head or the heart, or from decency and a sense of justice, but must come from the gut. This is why he plans to make haggis and sausage the national dish after November.
      While pandering to the mass psyche, Trump believes in the divine right of kings, of which he is fairly sure he has been anointed by whatever god he currently has created. Thus, we can look forward to a new age of enlightenment, under the reign of Donald the One. There is no evidence he will select a vice-president since kings don’t have vice-kings. They do have courtiers.
      Trump’s advisor on the climate and energy is super-conservative Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who believes in fracking and doesn’t believe most scientists who say there is climate change. For his health advisor, Trump selected Ben Carson, a surgeon who doesn’t believe in evolution.
      Sarah Palin has already said she would not mind becoming Courtier for the Department of Education or the Department of Energy, both of which she says she would dismantle after playing with children and atoms. To those who don’t support the Divine Donald, Palin says she will wreak retribution upon their souls.
      Chinese philosopher Confucius believed political unity and stability must be at the core of any government. For most of his campaign to be king, Trump didn’t care about unifying anything; Trump’s philosophy is to upset DesCartes. But, the closer he gets to the coronation, the more he wants unity; his belief is that all elements of the universe must now unify behind his wisdom and power.
      Most dictator-kings develop a powerful military to protect their kingdom’s borders and to instill fear and compliance in their subjects. However, Trump has shown his wisdom by calling for more military while also calling for a lesser military, and then keep the military wondering about his sanity. His first attack was to declare that Navy pilots confined in enemy prison camps weren’t heroes. But, since America needs heroes, he plans to keep America in a constant state of war, mostly to justify increased spending for private business. Just in case the military decides that a four-year war isn’t good for anyone’s health and safety, Trump plans to destabilize the Veterans Administration by selling it off to private enterprise. (He also plans to sell off the national parks and forests to private enterprise, which would allow hunters to kill off all wolves, while neutralizing CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.)
      Trump wants to get the U.S. out of the UN and NATO, which almost every responsible politician and military commander says would destabilize the world. Sen. John McCain, a retired Navy captain, claims Trump is “uninformed and dangerous” when it comes to foreign policy and national security. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a retired Air Force colonel, says Trump’s philosophy is “gibberish.” None of this should detract from the reality that great minds, like the alchemists who turned lead into gold, may know more than all foreign policy experts.
      Many philosophers have expressed their belief in racial homogeneity, the need for people to be pure and, if possible, Aryan. To protect the United States against invasion of people who don’t have light skin and orange hair, Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, and then have Mexico pay for it. Trump doesn’t believe the $20–$50 billion cost would upset the Mexican government, which once owned much of the southwest until it was stolen from them. Although the Great Wall of China was breeched by the Mongols, Hadrian’s Wall was over-run by the barbarians from Scotland, and the Maginot Line was circumvented by the Germans, Trump is sure his wall will keep poverty-stricken Mexicans from invading the U.S., and stealing the remaining jobs as underpaid and exploited maids, cooks, and gardeners. To keep out Muslims, which he is sure are the root of all evil, he’ll nail a million slices of bacon to the wall; of course, it may also keep Jews out of the country, but since most of his followers believe Jews are the reason for every other problem in the country, it’s a side bonus. To keep Hindus and Buddhists out of the U.S., he’ll build a 2,000 mile moat filled with alligators, cattle, cowboys, and butchers. (Trump may one day decide to build a wall separating the U.S. and Canada, something the Canadians may be especially pleased to help build.)
      Trump plans to deport 11 million undocumented, and mostly Hispanic refugees, from the U.S. It will cost $150­–$300 billion, and destabilize millions of families, most of whom have parents and children who work, go to school, and have helped improve the quality of the work force. (To make sure people don’t think he’s a bigot, Trump rounded up dozens of news cameras to record him eating an $18 taco bowl, made by an Irish chef, for Cinco de Mayo.)
      To keep the population stable after he deports 10 percent of the country, Trump plans to contract with private enterprise to package fresh-frozen road kill, allowing the Southern Red Neck nation to prosper, reproduce, and own trailers.
      Trump’s brilliance in economic philosophy is best explained by the fact that since he amassed a billion dollar fortune by selling real estate and bankrupting several of his own businesses he is a better judge of how to spend everyone’s money.
      Prof. Smith’s students at Savannah State are fortunate to be at the forefront of studying the life and beliefs of this emerging mega-philosopher who has already shown greater wisdom than Socrates and Solomon, greater concern for the world than Schweitzer and Mother Theresa, and is at least as knowledgeable of economics as Scrooge McDuck, as competent in foreign and domestic affairs as Joe the Plumber, and shares as much empathy for tolerance, understanding, and human relations as Klan Grand poobah David Duke, one of his supporters.
      [Dr. Brasch has covered government and politics for more than four decades. His  latest book is Fracking America, the only comprehensive overview of the history, process, and effects of high volume horizontal fracturing. The book also looks at numerous social, economic, and political issues, including the relationship between the oil/gas industry and politicians.]
             
     


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Slow-Learning Retired Admiral with a Ph.D.

    

     Joe Sestak, a liberal Democrat with a commitment to social and economic justice, is a slow learner.
     It’s isn’t because he’s dumb—he graduated second in his class of 900 midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, one of the most rigorous colleges in the country; a decade later, he earned a Ph.D. in political economics from Harvard.
     It isn’t because he doesn’t have reasoning ability—as a Naval captain, he was director of defense on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton; as a rear admiral, he commanded a carrier battle group; as vice-admiral, he was the deputy chief of naval operations, with a specialty in warfare strategy.
     No, Joe Sestak certainly isn’t a slow learner when it comes to knowledge, reasoning ability, fighting for social justice, and helping people.
     The reason Joe Sestak is a slow learner is because he hasn’t learned to accept the floating rules of the political machine. He believes people in power should be able to justify their decisions, and he has a healthy attitude that dictates he should question authority when necessary. As a three-star flag officer, he listened to his staff and supported the thousands of enlisted personnel under his command, but he challenged those entombed within their own tunnel vision. Adm. Mike Mullen, the new chief of naval operations (CNO), with deep allegiance to defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush, didn’t like his deputy chief suggesting that it was possible to tighten the budget without affecting naval efficiency and preparedness. Adm. Vern Clark, the previous CNO, explained why Sestak was quickly reassigned: “[He] challenged people who did not want to be challenged. The guy is courageous, a patriot’s patriot.” When Sestak’s daughter developed a brain tumor, he retired from the Navy to help care for her—and to fight for better health care for all people, not just those privileged to have as good a health plan as he did.
     When Sestak first decided to run for Congress in 2006, hoping to give better representation than the 10-term incumbent Republican to a Philadelphia suburban district, the Democratic party establishment said he needed the approval of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a group he didn’t even know existed. Rahn Emmanuel, the head of the DCCC, who would become Barack Obama’s chief of staff, explained that the retired vice-admiral with a Ph.D. wasn’t ready for such a run, and that he had no chance to win in a heavily conservative suburban district. Sestak didn’t listen, infuriated the establishment, and won the election with a 56 percent majority against an incumbent. Two years later, he won re-election with 59.6 percent of the vote.
     In the first of his two terms as a congressman from a Philadelphia suburb, Sestak sponsored more significant legislation than any other member. Unlike many members of Congress, Sestak read and responded to all communications from his constituents, dealing with more than 10,000 items, about four times more than the average member of Congress.
     While in Congress, he burnished his concern for social justice and liberal issues. He was a strong supporter of health care reform, the environment, and labor. He pushed for a better tax code that would help the middle class and close holes that benefitted corporations and the wealthy. He spoke out for improvements in public education, preservation of the environment, and reasonable gun control. A Catholic, Sestak spoke against evangelical and Catholic dogma by defending a woman’s right to choose, and for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders. He opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, and had previously upset many in the military by opposing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that modified but still extended the ban on gays and lesbians from openly acknowledging and practicing their sexual preferences. He was also at the forefront of an investigation of anti-gay hazing within the military. He had a higher-than-average staff turnover because he pushed them hard and gave them little free time. But, he pushed himself even harder, not because of political ambition but because he wanted to help his constituents.
     Near the end of his first term in Congress, Sestak appeared on “The Colbert Report,” infuriating the party’s leaders who had decreed that no freshmen Democrats in Congress should appear on the late-night satire.
     In 2009, Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican who had served 30 years in the Senate, frustrated at the takeover of the party by right-wing extremists, and the probability he would lose to the far-right conservative Pat Toomey in the Republican primary, became a Democrat. The Democratic establishment embraced the popular senator. Joe Sestak didn’t listen to the party elders and entered the primary. The establishment, represented by Gov. Ed Rendell, President Obama, and the Democratic National Committee, raised money for Specter and tried to lure Sestak from running by extending alternative possibilities. Sestak didn’t listen, won the primary, and alienated the party’s political leaders, many of whom did little to help him in the general election. Corporations and PACs gave Toomey a 3-to-1 spending edge over Sestak, who lost by only 80,000 votes out of about four million cast.
     Less than six years later, the slow-learning Sestak thought he had a chance to take the Democratic nomination and defeat Toomey in the general election. For more than a year, Sestak maintained an all-out campaign for the nomination. As in his previous Senatorial race, he went to every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, spoke to Democratic clubs, visited political gatherings, and filled most of his days listening to the people and discussing the critical issues that affected them. When it appeared that Sestak could again become the party’s nominee, the establishment panicked, and desperately tried to find someone—anyone—who could defeat the man who wouldn’t play the game by the rules the “good ole boys” wanted.
     The machine selected Katie McGinty, who had run for—and lost—the election for governor in 2014, and then became the new governor’s chief of staff. Her beliefs and views were not as liberal as Sestak’s but, more important, she was loyal to the party’s functionaries, especially Ed Rendell, for whom she had been secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Unlike Sestak who opposed fracking, McGinty, who was now working with energy companies, didn’t want a moratorium on a practice that had been proven to cause health and environmental problems.
     The establishment put its support and its money behind McGinty, and the Sestak campaign began to falter in the last two months of the race, unable to compete against a candidate endorsed by Tom Wolfe, the state’s popular new governor; Rendell, the former governor who now represented oil and gas companies; numerous Democratic politicians; Vice-President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. McGinty, in her eight-month campaign, had received more than $4 million in campaign contributions, about $1 million more than Sestak’s two year campaign receipts. In addition, The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee spent about $2.5 million, most of it in the month before the election, April 26, in support of McGinty. However, the most damage to Sestak’s campaign was by Women Vote, a political action committee of Emily’s List, which spent about $815,000 for a TV ad that falsely claimed Sestak wanted to cut Social Security funds, increase out-of-pocket costs for those on Medicare, and raise the retirement age. Sestak contacted Pennsylvania TV stations, advising them the ad had numerous false statements; the stations refused to pull the ad or to run corrections. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires stations to run ads provided by candidates, even those with false information. However, the FCC also requires radio and TV stations to suspend or refuse to air commercial ads from PACs and other outside groups if the stations are aware those ads contain deceptive or false information. The Washington Post, the day after the election, fact-checked the ad and declared it to be full of lies, half-truths, and distortions, declaring it to be a “depressing example of how random statements can be twisted into sharp-edged attacks [and] a sleazy way to win a campaign.” Women Vote also spent almost $200,000 for a TV ad that specifically promoted McGinty’s candidacy.
     McGinty, who had trailed Sestak most of the campaign, won the primary, defeating not just Sestak but also Braddock, Pa., Mayor John Fetterman, a liberal and community activist who, like Sestak, was unafraid to speak out for social justice and protection of the environment.
     McGinty, who will receive massive financial and staff support from the Democratic National Committee, may not be able to defeat Toomey in the general election. However, one reality emerged from this primary race: Joe Sestak, the retired admiral with a Ph.D. and a strong social conscience, is a slow learner. Once again, he didn’t do what the political machine said he should do and, once again, he lost.
     Maybe, it’s time for more politicians to be “slow learners” and not bow to the dictates of a machine greased by money from special interests.
     [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist, multi-media writer-producer, and professor emeritus of mass communications from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. His latest book is Fracking America:  Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]



Monday, April 25, 2016

Disenfranchising Large Segments of Americans



by Walter Brasch
     
      Several hundred thousand American citizens won’t be voting in presidential primary elections—and it’s not their fault.
      In Pennsylvania, for example, a registered voter who needed an absentee ballot had to submit the request at least one full week before the election, and then return the ballot no less than four days before the election.
      But, what if circumstances changed? What if that person became injured or had to leave the state after April 19, but before the election, Tuesday? If it was April 20, you could not receive an absentee ballot. You could still vote in person, but if you couldn’t get to the polls, you would be disenfranchised. There’s nothing you could do. In one week, you lost the right to vote because bureaucratic rules blocked you from receiving a ballot—even if you could get that ballot to your county registrar of voters by the end of the day of the election.
      Let’s say you were injured a day after the deadline to request a ballot, and want to vote in person on Election Day. If you’re now temporarily in a wheelchair, can’t drive, walk, or get into a regular car, you’ll have to use a medical transport. That’s a minimum of $150 round trip from your home to the polls.
      Politicians and their political parties say they want all American citizens to register and vote. There are voter registration campaigns at colleges, in bars, at fire halls, and street fairs. But, the politicians really don’t care about your vote.
      In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order to allow felons who completed their sentences to be again given the right to vote. This affects more than 200,000 persons. But, the Republicans are crying “foul.” They say that felons might vote for Democrats, and on that basis alone they want to keep felons from voting rights. Of course, the Republican establishment has no basis for its assumption—especially since there are a lot of Republican politicians who have been convicted of felonies.
      Currently, only two states—Maine and Vermont—allow incarcerated prisoners the right to vote by absentee ballot. Twenty-four states allow felons the right to vote after they complete their incarceration and end of parole. Fourteen states allow felons on parole, but who completed their incarceration, to vote. In 10 states, anyone convicted of a felony permanently loses all right to vote, even if it’s decades after completing their sentences, even if they are now model citizens.
      Giving the vote to Hispanics also annoys the Republican right wing. They believe people with dark skin and black hair must be illegal aliens and, thus, shouldn’t vote. Even those with legal status who are serving in the U.S. military should be banned from citizenship and voting, say the extreme right wing. Like the Republicans in Virginia, the Republicans in the Southwest vigorously object to citizenship and voting rights for anyone who might vote for those who aren’t Republicans.
      It’s the same Republicans who have gone to great lengths to require all forms of identification in order to register and vote. They claim it’s to prevent voter fraud. But, the number of cases of voter fraud in the past two election cycles is about the same as the chance of being hit by a torpedo while rowing in the lake in New York’s Central Park.
      It has become obvious in the past few years that voting is no longer a constitutional right—but a political football.
      [Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking America, the only comprehensive overview of the history, process, and effects of high volume horizontal fracturing. The book also looks at numerous social, economic, and political issues, including the relationship between the oil/gas industry and politicians.]



Monday, April 4, 2016

What Lies and is Orange All Over? The Republican Finalists, of Course



By Walter Brasch


Donald Trump, whose ego is larger than Trump Towers, called  Sen. Marco Rubio “Little Rubio,” a derogatory reference to the Florida senator’s height.

Rubio responded by saying that Trump’s hands were too small for the size of his body. “And you know what they say about guys with small hands,” Rubio counterpunched, adding that Trump “doesn't sweat because his pores are clogged from the spray tan.” Trump, said Rubio, “isn't gonna make America great, he's gonna make America orange.” The pro-Rubio crowd in Salem, Va., loved it. Unfortunately, Rubio wouldn’t be able to zing Trump much more, dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination less than a month later.

During the past two weeks, just when the people didn’t think politics could sink lower, Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proved the people wrong.

Lyin’ Ted was behind the latest attack, said Trump.

“Was not.”

“Was so.”       

“Was not!”

The media circus had left Rubio in the Everglades and rolled onto the elementary school playground where Trump and Cruz, now the two leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, were squabbling and jabbing at air over pictures of their wives.

A photo of Trump’s wife, nude and alluring, first appeared in a 2000 GQ photo spread, and was widely spread by social media 16 years later, challenging voters to decide if that’s what they wanted in a First Lady. Later evidence revealed that a Cruz SuperPAC, officially unaffiliated with the campaign, was probably behind planting the salacious photo in front of the voters.

Retaliating, Trump tweeted side-by-side pictures of his wife and Cruz’s wife; the glam-photo of Melania Trump, a former model, was something that models send to agents to get photo shoots; Heidi Cruz was seen in a photo that made her look to be too ugly to even be a stand-in for the Hansel-and-Gretel witch.  When Cruz called Trump “classless,” the man once known as The Donald threatened to “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife. The beans, coated with the ink of the National Enquirer, sprung the news upon a public that salivates at every sordid allegation in the presidential race, that Cruz had multiple extramarital affairs. Cruz, as expected, denied the allegation and claimed Trump and his “henchmen” had planted the story. Trump denied it.  

About the same time the national media and every blogger in America had published the 75th rerun of the same story and were looking for something else to amuse themselves when ISIS terrorists killed three dozen and injured more than 150 persons in Belgium. The “Barnum & Bailey It Can’t Get Any Worse” political media circus took center stage, and the elephants began talking. President Obama was in Cuba on a diplomatic mission when the terrorists attacked. After the obligatory comments by the Tea Party wing of how the U.S. needs to turn the desert into glass and attach a monitor to the back of every Muslim who survives the genocide, even those who are U.S. citizens, they attacked President Obama, condemning him for being in Cuba when he should be in the White House leading the destruction of ISIS.

The right-wing, more concerned about TV lights and sound levels than reality, is unaware that the president of the United States doesn’t make policy and defense decisions for Belgium or that the president has full communications and dozens of civilian and military aides wherever he is, not just in an office in a building in the nation’s capital. It really doesn’t matter what the candidates and their own staffs believe, the reality is that the blathering was recorded by the media and then channeled to the public who are waiting to hear every syllable of every word that Trump, Cruz, and fellow politicians are spewing. The voices also follow the dictate that whatever President Obama or any Democrat says or does is wrong. Jimmy Carter stayed at the White House for six months during the Iran hostage crisis, and the Republicans said he was wrong to do so. George H.W. Bush vacationed in Maine during the beginning of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the Republicans backed the one-term Republican president for not being in the White House, knowing he had just as much capability to function in Maine as he did in Washington, D.C.

But, Obama is different. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell so decreed in 2008 that the primary function of the Republicans would be to block whatever Obama wants, even if it is good for the country.

So the past two weeks, the clowns were juggling attacks not only on a sitting president who isn’t eligible to run for any more terms, and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the two leading Democrats for the presidential nomination, but also on their own leading candidates, who are daily proving that hype will always trump the truth in a presidential election.

In Wisconsin, Trump demanded that Ohio Gov. Kasich drop out of the race, arguing that Kasich couldn’t get the nomination, even if he won every one of the remaining primaries. Kasich, a conservative who appears to be a moderate in a party that has been skunk-sprayed irrational by its Tea Party wing, declined Trump’s offer.  

So far, Clinton and Sanders have focused primarily upon policy issues and not resorted to bar room politics. If either expects to win the election, they now need to focus upon the greater issues of a campaign—their opponent’s appearance.


[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist who has covered politics at all levels for more than 40 years, is also the author of 21 books. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]