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, October 22, 2016

Lies and Voter Rigging

by Walter Brasch

      Donald Trump, losing to Hillary Clinton in every major national poll, long ago brilliantly figured out how to continue to rally his base. Instead of dealing with issues, he attacks Clinton, the mass media, and calls the election rigged.
      The campaign rhetoric has been one not of issues but of personalities. Hillary Clinton calls Trump unfit to be president, so Trump retaliates by accusing her of being unfit. Most of their television ads are attack ads. In personal appearances, their speeches focus upon what’s wrong with the other candidate not what their own presidency will be about. The last time a presidential race was this vicious may have been in 1800 when Thomas Jefferson was challenging President John Adams.
      The Trump strategy is to make outrageous statements, talk over his opponent or anyone who questions his pseudo-facts, and then quickly change the topic to avoid having to present any evidence. That strategy was apparent during the three televised debates when he bobbed and weaved around questions. His entire campaign the past year has been loaded with lies, innuendoes, and attacks not only upon Clinton but also upon his fellow Republicans. Analysis by the independent Politifacts shows that that during the campaign, only 15 percent of Trump’s statements were true or mostly true. Politifacts determined that 51 percent of Clinton’s statements while campaigning were true or mostly true.
      Several top Republican leaders, including Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, refused to go to the Republican National Convention after it was obvious Trump had enough votes to be the party’s nominee.
      Between the convention and the last of three debates with Clinton, evidence began piling up that Trump, while married, groped and fondled women; evidence also exists that he committed adultery during his first two marriages. A videotape has him using foul and obscene language about women, and then claiming it was “locker room talk.” But when he tried to defend himself, the best he could do was to state that one of his accusers was too ugly for him to fondle. And yet he believes that no one respects women more than he does.
      One of the reasons he is behind in the polls, says Trump, is because of a corrupt media. As with everything in his campaign, he presents no evidence to back up his claim. But it is the media that helped propel him to the Republican nomination by giving him significant more air time and newspaper ink than any other candidate, and by not questioning or digging deep into the truth of his public statements.
      In the third debate, Trump said there is widespread voter fraud, which benefits the Democrats.  A data analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law reveals not widespread election fraud but that such allegations are highly exaggerated. The numbers are in the hundreds not the millions that Trump alleges.
      Trump claims he knows—absolutely knows—that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign have conspired to deprive him of the presidency.  He bloviates, gestures, and hopes to blow down the brick house of elections, but has provided no evidence. To expand his conspiracy claims, he says he will not concede the election—or, maybe, he will concede the election—if he loses. But, then again, he is keeping that decision a secret.
      He claims rigged elections were used during the primaries to throw his Republican rivals off their strategy. He claims Ted Cruz stole the election in Iowa. He claims the election in Wisconsin was rigged. The further the separation from likely voters casting the ballots for Clinton instead of Trump—or even Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party or Jill Stein of the Green party—the more animated Trump becomes.
      His hyperbole and paranoia extend beyond his political life. Trump previously declared that balloting for the Emmys is rigged, and that his show, “The Apprentice,” should have won an Emmy several times. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and its 20,000 members, disagreed with Trump’s opinion.
      Trump’s tactic is resonating with his hard-core base that see conspiracy and deception in every corner—in workplaces, in government, and under their beds. They are willing to be led by a demagogue who identified the many seeds of alienation and dissatisfaction, and watered and nurtured those seeds of discontent to amplify the people’s problems. In following Trump they have placed blinders upon themselves and see a reality and an explanation that Trump throws right back at them.
      [Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist, has covered government and politics for four decades. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pushing Politics to Extract Payments

by Walter Brasch

      My wife, Rosemary, a registered Republican, received a black and white poll in the mail. Plastered across the top of the sheet in bold black letters was the title: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” I wonder who that could be.
      On to the questions. All she had to do was to check the appropriate box and return the ballot. The survey indicated name, survey number, and a processing code, all with a bar code for identification.  She just had to check the appropriate box beneath a picture of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or “no opinion.” Seemed simple enough.
      First question: “Hillary Clinton is working hard to win the White House so she can carry forward Barack Obama’s disastrous policies—including increased taxes—which have been so harmful to our nation’s economy. Donald Trump is dedicated to lowering taxes and instituting responsible reforms that will create jobs, strengthen free enterprise and boost economic growth. Which candidate do you trust more to put America on a secure and prosperous economic path.”
      Gee, this is a hard one. Let’s think about it awhile. OK, time’s up. I guess, based upon the question, the demon Clinton wasn’t the right answer. Rosemary needed to check Trump as the one to keep the country moving forward.
      There were nine questions, all similar to the first one. The other questions had to do with the federal debt, foreign policy, the nomination of federal judges, immigration, environment, and ObamaCare. The ninth one asked the most vital question: “Are you willing to financially help the Trump Make America Great Again Committee in making sure our nation finally leaves behind the ruinous policies of the past eight years and elects a Republican president who will Make America Great Again?”
      Below that question was a form to fill out to donate. All my wife had to do was to check one of the boxes of suggested donations, starting with $35 and increasing to $5,000; fill in the boxes with her occupation, employer, phone number, email address, and credit card information, and mail it back in a postage-paid envelope. She could also call a campaign number and give them her personal information and make that donation. She chose an alternate procedure. She didn’t fill out the poll, which was a not-so-subtle way to withdraw money from her wallet, and sent them a bookmark for my latest book. (I do that for all junk mail that includes a self-addressed stamped envelope, especially one that wants money. I doubt anyone is really tabulating the results—or even cares about the answers.)
      What came in the mail was a “push poll.” The questions were designed to “push” the recipient to vote for the preferred answers, to make the politician’s supporters believe they matter, and to energize the base of the support. Most push polls are designed to attack an opponent in a political race. A legitimate poll is drawn from a random sample of voters, has no identification of whom the recipient is, has neutral questions, and doesn’t want money. The results are tabulated, analyzed, and published. But why analyze and publish the results when more than 90 percent of the recipients of the poll are going to be pushed in the direction that the not-so-independent campaign committee wants. The only real analysis of those who send out push polls is who gave what amount and is there a correlation to determine how many more attempts—by email,  by phone—the campaign committee should devote to getting even more money. Rosemary usually just trashes the myriad requests for money to help Republican candidates.
      Unfortunately, the Trump committee isn’t alone in using this tactic. The first push poll was in 1946 when Richard Nixon ran for Congress and used the technique by direct mail and phone “interviews” to drop fear that the sitting congressman, Jerry Voohis, who represented a southern California district, was a communist. Nixon began his political career; Voorhis, who wasn’t a communist, lost his. George W. Bush used push polls extensively in his first race for the governorship of Texas and again in his campaign for the presidency.
      The Democrats use it continuously, also sliding in huge globules of fear in each question, to solicit funds. The Democrats usually have space to enter comments. Usually, I don’t answer the poll. With Democrats, I will often write a note about the unfairness of the poll, ask them to contact me when they want my real opinions, and put a bookmark into the return envelope. So far, no one from the Hillary Clinton campaign or the Democratic National Committee has called to solicit my professional opinion or assistance—and to my knowledge, no one has bought any books.
      [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist who has covered politics/government and social issues for more than four decades. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]




Thursday, October 6, 2016

Path to the White House is Paved by Billions of Dollars

by Walter Brasch

      With a month left before the November general election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are trash-talking each other in a financial race to the White House.
      According to the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Clinton has raised about $516.8 million for her campaign. Total spending by outside groups and SuperPacs supporting her was an additional $31.7 million; the total spent opposing her was about $40.2 million.
      Trump has raised about $205.9 million. About 45 percent of his income is from individual contributors; one-third is from Trump himself. Total spending by outside groups and superPACs supporting Trump is about $69 million; opposition spending is about $139.7 million.
      Both Clinton and Trump are spending heavy on TV ads. Clinton and pro-Clinton outside groups have spent about $190 million, and Trump and pro-Trump outside groups have spent about $50 million, according to data compiled by Advertising Analytics. However, Trump has mitigated the difference by a barrage of Tweets to 12 million followers, and by constant calls to TV stations. In Pennsylvania, one of nine “swing states,” Clinton has outspent Trump, $17 million to $6 million.
      Trump’s problem isn’t a case of having less income than Clinton. Every time he opens his mouth, network TV and cable news stations are more than willing to air whatever he utters. His problem is a malignant case of braggadocio.  He brags about how great a businessman he is, and says he is smart because he doesn’t pay taxes but he uses every tax code loophole he, his attorneys, and accountants can find. This past week, the New York Times disclosed he took a $917 million loss in 1995, and could easily have written off income for every year since then. In a twisting logic that baffles even those who never studied philosophy, Trump blames Clinton because, he says, “Why didn’t she ever try to change those laws so I couldn’t use them?” His four bankruptcies helped assure his companies would have losses. However, because he refuses to release copies of his taxes, unlike every major party candidate in the past four decades, it’s difficult to determine if Trump is a great and experienced businessman or just a great and experienced juggler.
      Also within this past week, the New York attorney general issued a cease and desist order against the Trump Foundation for not registering with the state’s Charities Bureau and for violating state rules by making several donations from the Fund to politicians and political groups. The Washington Post reported that the Foundation probably violated IRS regulations by spending $20,000 for a portrait of Trump, and $12,000 for a jersey and a football helmet autographed by Tim Tebow. The newspaper previously reported that the Foundation has spent about $250,000 to settle lawsuits. His problems won’t end with New York. The Foundation wasn’t registered in the 40 states that require registration. It is possible that Pennsylvania, California, and Illinois, three of the states that are rigorous in enforcing rules for charities may file against the Foundation.
      A third problem that surfaced this past week is an Associated Press story, based upon statements by about two dozen crew members and contestants of Trump’s “The Apprentice USA” TV reality show. According to the AP, citing the sources, “Trump repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language,” including rating “female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he’d like to have sex with.” The cast and crew of his show also told the AP that Trump wanted his female celebrity contestants to show more cleavage and wear shorter dresses. Hope Hicks, speaking on behalf of Trump, called the statements “outlandish, unsubstantiated, and totally false claims fabricated by publicity hungry, opportunistic, disgruntled former employees [and they] have no merit whatsoever.” However, the AP’s story confirms that Trump has a history of demeaning women, something the Clinton campaign has seized upon in its TV ad campaign that has a series of comments by Trump who calls women pigs, fat, bimbo, ugly, and other names not suitable for a family-based newspaper. That and his frequent use of obscenity and disregard for civility alone makes him unsuitable for the presidency, according to the ad campaign.
      Trump has attacked Clinton for her e-mail scandal, something she should have acknowledged months before her public apology. In response to her attacks upon him not being suitable for office, Trump charges Clinton as unfit for office, and adds crook and liar to his definition of who she is.
      The independent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CFRB) analyzed each candidate’s economic plans and concluded that Clinton’s proposed budget would increase the debt during the next decade by $200 billion, and Trump’s business model proposal would increase the debt by $5.3 trillion. The CFRB noted, “Neither candidate has presented a proposal to address our growing national debt and put it on a more sustainable path, nor have they offered a proposal for shoring up the Social Security, Medicare, or Highway trust funds.
      By the election, each candidate, their SuperPacs, and outside groups will have spent more $1 billion to be elected to an office that pays $400,000 a year.
      By contrast, the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson raised about $8.5 million, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein raised about $1.9 million. Both have solid platforms and strong ideas that might benefit all Americans, but Americans don’t hear them. Neither candidate has the financial income the Democratic and Republican candidates have; they don’t receive the funds from numerous lobbyists; they don’t get the attention of the mainstream media. Just as important, Congress, made up of Democrats and Republicans, with Bernie Sanders as the only independent, are reluctant to pass campaign finance reform.
      And that is why a third party candidacy can’t survive at this time.
     [Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.]

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.]