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, February 27, 2016

The Trump Tower of Egotistical Exaggeration and Lies

by Walter Brasch

      When the presidential primaries began more than a year ago, the two leading candidates were Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats and Jeb Bush for the Republicans. It seemed at that time that there would be another Clinton–Bush race in the general election.
      That, as any voter knows, has changed drastically.
      Sen. Bernie Sanders, officially an independent but running as a Democrat,  has shuffled off his one-digital support to being about equal to Clinton among Democrats, tying with Clinton in Iowa, beating her in New Hampshire, but losing in Nevada. Sanders’ supporters tend to be younger and are energized by his presence and persistence in pushing a liberal agenda that focuses upon individuals and how government can assist a broad spectrum of the population. His campaign is similar to the support for Sens. Gene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 and Sen. George McGovern four years later, both of whom energized those in their 20s and 30s and older voters who identified themselves as liberals. Sanders could still win substantial support from Super Tuesday, March 1, when voters of 11 states cast their ballots. However, several states are in the south and southeast, which lean heavily conservative, even among Democratic voters. Although Sanders has pushed Clinton more to the left, she might be able to go into the Democratic convention with a substantial lead and the nomination.
      Sanders is helped by the Republicans who have hammered Clinton’s failure to separate her personal and federal emails during the entire time she was secretary of state. The problem got traction from Clinton’s weakness early in her campaign to adequately defend the use of personal emails and not using an encoded federal system. Since that time, she has faced a Congressional hearing and had not only explained her reasoning for using one phone but managed to erase any doubt of her violation of federal laws. But the Republicans continued their attack, spreading distortion and half-truths, using the media to channel their message. A couple of dozen emails were classified confidential or secret, but only after Clinton left office.
      On the Republican side, the race has evolved from Bush as the leader in early polling to the presence of 15 candidates, all more political sounding than presidential. By the end of 2015, the candidates were shown in editorial cartoons as clowns clustered in cars. Donald Trump was portrayed by almost every stand-up comedian and in the media as just your average ordinary boisterous and egotistical billionaire with a hilarious hair-do to being the chief clown to being the possible Republican nominee.
      The nine Republican debates were mostly random acts of personal attacks rather than true debates. Several times Trump called out “liar” to Sen. Ted Cruz, but several political fact checkers point out that about three-fourths of Trump’s statements are half-truth, exaggerations, and outright lies. This would be the same Trump who numerous times said that President Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya, and has challenged Cruz’s citizenship, which has been constitutionality affirmed by having an American mother.
      Among his more outrageous proposals, he has repeatedly stated he said he would deport all 11 million undocumented foreigners in the U.S., and build a wall along the entire U.S.–Mexican border. But, Trump doesn’t address the issue of cost—and how a conservative could justify that cost for building and then monitoring it—or the more realistic probability there will be innumerable problems to round up even a fourth of the illegal immigrants and separate them from their parents, or ways to tunnel under, climb over, or just go around that wall by entering the U.S. by boat on two coasts or by planeloads of immigrants and refugees who would land in desolate air strips with no control towers. This, of course, is the same Trump who used about 150 illegal immigrants to help build the Trump Tower.
      He has played to the fears of a radical terrorist Muslim invasion by arguing for a moratorium on any Muslim trying to enter the country, an inane proposal that would require several million dollars to enlarge the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and support staff, already at 20,000, and would ultimately be shot down in the federal courts.
      Among all his boasts and braggadocio, with his name in giant letters on office buildings, hotels, casinos, and a questionable failure at Trump College, he has defaulted into bankruptcy four times. Trump’s speeches are accepted and applauded by voters who believe bar-room profanity laced into ignorant chatter is just the kind of speaking that they do, and see the billionaire as one of their own.
      By Super Tuesday, most of the Republican candidates and all of the moderate Republicans will have dropped out of the race, run over by the Trump express, fueled almost entirely by Trump’s own money and more media coverage than any other candidate. With the moderate Republicans out of the race, it appears the most conservative ones—Sens. Cruz from Texas and Marco Rubio from Florida have the best chance to defeat Trump. Trump has shown enough strength to capture the delegates in the conservative south and southeastern states on Super Tuesday, possibly making his nomination inevitable.
      Trump’s message appeals to those who see him favorably as an outsider to Washington politics and to those whom Trump has managed to play to their fears and paranoia.
      But none of that matters because he spews out what a traditional base of conservatives want to hear, and his rhetoric supersedes how he plans to carry out any of his proposals, but gets him the votes he needs to be the Republican nominee.
      Far more important, his rhetoric sounds as scary as anyone who began as a small voice of the people and then became their dictator.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Sick of Presidential Politicians Grubbing for Votes

by Walter Brasch

      Like millions of Americans in the middle of February I have the flu.
      Unlike millions of Americans I have a deadline.
      Forced to stay at home, sucking Vitamin C drops, I have read newspapers, listened to radio, and watched television as a source of diversion.
      Dominating the media is the campaign for the presidency.
      In Iowa, all of the candidates went to fairs, restaurants, and anywhere there was any sign of carbon-based organic life to grab votes. Because hogs and corn stalks haven’t yet been granted the right to vote, the candidates resorted to talking with humans, and making sure that everyone got more useless swag than the presenters at the TV awards shows. The newspaper reporters were doing their best to report interactions between candidates and humans; the TV reporters were reporting on the polls. Very few were asking the tough questions.
      When the votes in the caucuses were finally decided, Hillary Rodham Clinton barely edged Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket. However, it was a victory for Sanders who was getting single digit acceptance a few months ago; for Clinton, it was a hit in the head that she needed to revitalize her campaign.
      For the Republicans, Donald Trump, as expected, continued spewing insults at his rivals, shouting about immigrants and building something along the U.S.–Mexican border that would make the Great Wall of China look like a picket fence. Sugar-coating his own rhetoric, he somehow convinced Iowans that America was no longer great, but in his hands, which were holding up his ego, he would make America great again. One of his solutions was he “would bomb the shit” out of them. He never explained how he was going to do that with a nation and military that he thought wasn’t so great. Nevertheless, Iowa Republicans swooned over his carnival squeals and delivered him a blue ribbon victory.
      Minutes after the election results were announced, the candidates, trailed by a horde of byline hungry reporters, began their rapid descent upon New Hampshire, where they shampooed, rinsed, and repeated their assault upon anything with a heartbeat. The Republicans increased their attacks on President Obama, renewed attacks on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and erroneously called Bernie Sanders a Communist. Underlying their vitriol for Democrats was a pile of vitriol of each other, invoking the legacy of Ronald Reagan while grossly violating his 11th commandment that Republicans should not be attacking each other. For Clinton and Sanders, their own debate was more like a sharp discussion of issues rather than personal attacks. When the votes came in, Trump again got the plurality, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich surprised the media and the poll analysts by coming in second. Two candidates dropped out of the race; the rest scrambled their positions and staff trying to figure out why they no longer were second or third, and what to do to body-slam Trump who was scoring points by pretending to be an extreme conservative by launching an even greater fusillade of insults at what he believed were a bunch of wannabe losers.
      By the time the candidates and reporter menagerie made it to South Carolina, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump were basking in a love fest while Nikki Haley, governor of the third state in the primary shuffle declared her support for Marco Rubio and not Jeb Bush. To account for that insult, the former Florida governor brought in the heavy artillery—his father, the 41st president and his brother, the 43rd president, a reminder to the voters that the Bush genetic markers called for another Bush to surround the White House.
      Somewhere during the campaign, the candidates stopped long enough to pretend they were in a legitimate debate. For the Republicans, it was a case of Trump vs. The Other Guys, all of whom seemed to be trying to get media attention.      Sometime between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, Supreme Court associate justice Antonia Scalia died. Within minutes, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell declared he would block any nomination that President Obama presented for confirmation. The other Republican leaders and presidential candidates picked up the message and ran with it, declaring that a president in the his final year should not nominate a Supreme Court justice, fearful that any nominee would be a liberal whose presence on the Court would turn it from a 5–4 conservative majority to a 5–4 liberal majority. Barack Obama, backed by most elected Democrats, said he was still the president and would fulfill his constitutional responsibility to make nominations.
      By the time the gaggle of reporters and what’s left of the candidates limp into Super Tuesday, March 1, the public will be burdened by the last of the presidential swag and hoping that everyone—candidates, on-air reporters, and bloviators—get
      As for me, hopefully my flu will be over and I’ll be able to find amusement in something other than a flush caused by high volume egotistical hyperbole laced with half-truths and statements, all of which are enough to inflate my blood pressure.
     [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning columnist and author of 21 books; his latest book, published this week, is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit. Assisting on this column was Rosemary R. Brasch.]


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Marching Bands and High School PE

by Walter Brasch

      The Millard Public Schools in Omaha, Neb., will not allow its students to substitute marching band for its requirement that students take three semesters of physical education.
      The proposal would save about $75,000 a year, according to the administration. But, the administration also said if the proposal was implemented it would negate the district’s emphasis on wellness and promoting physical fitness.
      There are two issues here.
      First, as almost everyone who ever was a member of a marching band knows, it’s physically challenging. Every member must not only march, sometimes at a rapid pace, but also read music, do maneuvers and play an instrument at the same time.
      Some parades are a mile; the Rose Parade is 5.5 miles. Students train not just to march, but to march the entire distance.
      For majorettes, it means marching, throwing and catching batons, a feat not many can do if they are not physically fit.
      Waiving PE credit is reasonable.
      But, the second issue is physical fitness.
      Many school districts, dating back many decades, required physical education every semester. Exceptions were made for athletes.
      The reason for PE dates to the ancient Romans—Mens sana in sano corpora—a sound mind in a sound body. Until the past few years, junior high and high school students took PE classes every day for all semesters. For many, it meant frustration at not being able to climb ropes and accepting being hit and possibly injured by participating in dodge ball; it could also mean embarrassment and towel snaps in the locker room if the teachers weren’t paying attention.
      However, for a nation fixated upon iPads, smart phones, and video games, requiring PE makes sense. The classes also helped acquaint students with recreational sports—bowling, volleyball, swimming, and other activities they could enjoy long after high school.
      Requiring only three semesters seems to be a compromise between requiring PE every semester and not requiring it at all. Schools should require students to take PE, possibly every semester, just as they require students to take English, math, and history classes.
      However, requiring physical education classes in college may not make sense for students who are now adults. These classes—some colleges require three or four classes as part of graduation requirements—may sometimes be nothing more than a place to put varsity coaches who are better at blowing a whistle than delivering academic content in a classroom.
      But, give the high school students in marching band a break—they already are physically fit and contributing every bit as much as varsity athletes who get waivers from taking PE.
      [Walter Brasch was in his high school marching band and orchestra and was also a tennis player before beginning a career as a journalist and college professor. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit, available through greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, and local bookstores.]