GOP Whining and the Mainstream Media

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Tim Wenger, the “Operations Manager at Entercom Radio/Director of Content & Digital Strategy” posted that series of Tweets last night during the CNBC Republican Presidential debate. Wenger is an employee of a publicly traded Pennsylvania-based media conglomerate that owns over 125 radio stations in 27 markets. Each one of these stations exists pursuant to an FCC license and is subject to byzantine federal regulations. In Buffalo, Entercom owns WBEN, which is the top-rated news talk station in this market, and second overall only to the FM country music station. As one of the most listened-to radio stations in western New York, it is without a doubt a member of the “mainstream media”.

Anyone whose voice is broadcast on WBEN – from Sean Hannity to Rush Limbaugh to Sandy Beach to Tom Bauerle on down – is part of the mainstream media. Likewise, Fox News Channel – a 24-hour cable news outlet owned as part of an Australian mogul’s worldwide media empire, is also the “mainstream media”. For the anemic ratings that these news channels get, Fox’s are generally highest.

The Republican Party’s decades-long descent from a reasonable governing coalition of conservatives and the center-right into an ultra right-wing nihilist activist movement could not have been sustained without an enemy; some vague “other” to embody and absorb all of the post-Goldwater conservative movements’ hatreds and fears. Today, the Republican Party is a pitiful shadow of what it once was, right down to the lightly informed tea party tail wagging an impotent but noisy establishment dog.

Just about every revolutionary activist movement needs a scapegoat – some “other” to hate – and on CNBC Wednesday night, the “mainstream media”, embodied by the three moderators you never heard of before and will never hear of again, fit the bill quite nicely. CNBC – a channel that caters to Wall Street types and day traders, which employs pretty hardcore wingers and generally promotes a viewpoint closely aligned with business executives and bankers. Indeed, repulsive reactionary Ted Cruz made news by defending his opponents against what he characterized as unfair questions lacking in substance. So did Chris Christie. Marco Rubio denounced the “mainstream media” as Hillary Clinton’s most effective “PAC”.

The audience cheered. The enemy – the liberal media – was getting its smack-down; its just desserts. You can see it in Mr. Wenger’s excited series of Tweets – statements that must immediately end any further doubt about WBEN’s palpable right-wing bias in not just talk and commentary, but also in news itself. If you come to the news party with your own bias hanging around your neck, it’s downright comical to attack the bias of others.

In anticipation of some criticism of this column, note that it’s labeled as “commentary”. I am biased, and that bias is the very stock in which I trade. I adopt an opinion and back it up with facts. I don’t generally do “news” or “reporting”. Indeed, although I’m liberal, I’m not a member of the “mainstream media”. Almost all of my material appears only online, under the umbrella of an independent alternative startup newspaper.

I don’t watch CNBC. It took me several minutes to even find it on my cable line-up. I have no idea who its hosts are, what its bias is, or why it was selected to host a debate of the likes of Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson. But what made big news during and after the debate was the supposed unfairness of CNBC’s questions. 

 

What were those questions? Let’s take a look at every single one.

The proceedings began with a typically corporate bullshit interview question, directed to all of the candidates:

What is your biggest weakness and what are you doing to address it?

Questions to Donald Trump

Mr. Trump, you’ve done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build a wall and make another country pay for it, send 11 million people out of the country. Cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit, and make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others. Let’s be honest, is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?

after some back-and-forth,

I gotta ask you, you talked about your tax plan. You say that it would not increase the deficit because you cut taxes $10 trillion in the economy would take off like…the economy would take off like a rocket ship. I talked to economic advisers who have served presidents of both parties. They said that you have as chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms.

Later on in the program,

Mr. Trump, let’s talk a little bit about bankruptcies. Your Atlantic City casinos filed for bankruptcy four times. In fact, Fitch, the ratings agency, even said that they were serial filers for all of this. You said that you did great with Atlantic City, and you did. But some of the individuals — the bondholders, some of the contractors who worked for you, didn’t fare so well. Bankruptcy is a broken promise. Why should the voters believe the promises that you’re telling them right now?

In round 3, after a similar question to Senator Rubio,

Mr. Trump, let’s stay on this issue of immigration. You have been very critical of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook who has wanted to increase the number of these H1Bs.

Trump denied this, yet it’s on his website. This came up later,

Mr. Trump, I want to go back to an issue that we were talking about before, the H-1B visas. I found where I read that before. It was from the donaldjtrump.com website and it says — it says that again, Mark Zuckerburg’s personal senator, Marco Rubio has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities. Are you in favor of H-1Bs or are you opposed to them?

Another question shortly thereafter,

Mr. Trump, you’ve said you have a special permit to carry a gun in New York. After the Oregon mass shooting on October 1st, you said, “By the way, it was a gun-free zone. If you had a couple of teachers with guns, you would have been a hell of a lot better off.” Would you feel more comfortable if your employees brought guns to work?

After saying he would, and saying that, “gun-free zones are a catastrophe. They’re a feeding frenzy for sick people.”, Trump was asked, 

We called a few Trump resorts, a few Trump properties that — that do not allow guns with or without a permit. Would you change those policies?

Later on, and this question was also directed somewhat awkwardly to Jeb Bush,

Mr. Trump says that he is capable of growing the economy so much that Social Security and Medicare don’t have to be touched. Do you want to explain how that is going to happen, Mr. Trump?

Perhaps a record, perhaps an indication of his character, Trump lied about Zuckerberg and visas, and he lied about his campaign’s funding. Trump also simply made up his statements about gun free zones being targets for “sickos”. 

Questions to Ben Carson

Dr. Carson, let’s talk about taxes. You have a flat tax plan of 10 percent flat taxes, and — I’ve looked at it — and this is something that is very appealing to a lot of voters, but I’ve had a really tough time trying to make the math work on this. If you were to took a 10 percent tax, with the numbers right now in total personal income, you’re gonna come in with bring in $1.5 trillion. That is less than half of what we bring in right now. And by the way, it’s gonna leave us in a $2 trillion hole. So what analysis got you to the point where you think this will work?

CARSON: Well, first of all, I didn’t say that the rate would be 10 percent. I used the tithing analogy.

QUICK: I — I understand that, but if you — if you look at the numbers you probably have to get to 28.

CARSON: The rate — the rate — the rate is gonna be much closer to 15 percent.

QUICK: 15 percent still leaves you with a $1.1 trillion hole.

CARSON: You also have to get rid of all the deductions and all the loopholes. You also have to some strategically cutting in several places.

Remember, we have 645 federal agencies and sub-agencies. Anybody who tells me that we need every penny and every one of those is in a fantasy world. So, also, we can stimulate the economy. That’s gonna be the real growth engine. Stimulating the economy — because it’s tethered down right now with so many regulations…

QUICK: You’d have to cut — you’d have to cut government about 40 percent to make it work with a $1.1 trillion hole.

CARSON: That’s not true.

QUICK: That is true, I looked at the numbers.

Round 2 to Carson:

Dr. Carson, in recent weeks, a number of pharmaceutical companies has been accused of profiteering, for dramatically raising the prices of life-saving drugs. You have spent a lifetime in medicine. Have these companies gone too far? Should the government be involved in controlling some of these price increases?

Round 3 to Carson,

Dr. Carson, we know you as a physician, but we wanted to ask you about your involvement on some corporate boards, including Costco’s. Last year, a marketing study called the warehouse retailer the number one gay-friendly brand in America, partly because of its domestic partner benefits. Why would you serve on a company whose policies seem to run counter to your views on homosexuality?

After denouncing same-sex marriage and claiming to not be a homophobe, Carson was asked,

One more question. This is a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a 10-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism, cancer, they paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas, and yet you’re involvement continued. Why?

Carson complained that this was propaganda, and although he likes and takes the product, he claimed to have no “involvement” with Mannatech.

QUINTANILLA: To be fair, you were on the homepage of their website with the logo over your shoulder —

CARSON: If somebody put me on their homepage, they did it without my permission.

QUINTANILLA: Does that not speak to your vetting process or judgment in any way?

From Rick Santelli,

Dr. Carson, you told The Des Moines Register that you don’t like government subsidies, it interferes with the free market. But you’ve also said that you’re in favor of taking oil subsidies and putting them towards ethanol processing. Isn’t that just swapping one subsidy for another, Doctor?

Later on, during a back-and-forth about Medicare,

You’ve said that you would like to replace Medicare with a system of individual family savings accounts, so that families could cover their own expenses. Obviously, that would be a very controversial idea. Explain how that would work, exactly.

Carson lied about being a seller and endorser of snake-oil. The conservative National Review called it a “bold-faced” lie. Carson is just another GOP grifter.

Questions to John Kasich:

That is, you had some very strong words to say yesterday about what’s happening in your party and what you’re hearing from the two gentlemen we’ve just heard from. Would you repeat it?

and

Well, let’s just get more pointed about it. You said yesterday that you were hearing proposals that were just crazy from your colleagues. Who were you talking about?

Later on,

You’ve called for abolishing the Export Import Bank, which provides subsidies to help American companies compete with overseas competitors. You call that corporate welfare. One of the largest newspapers in your state wrote an editorial, said they found that strange, writing, that if that’s corporate welfare, what does Kasich call the millions of dollars in financial incentives doled out to attract or retain jobs by his development effort — jobs Ohio. If subsidies are good enough for Ohio companies, why aren’t they good enough for companies trying to compete overseas?

And,

Governor Kasich, let’s talk about marijuana. We’re broadcasting from Colorado which has seen $150 million in new revenue for the state since legalizing last year. Governor Hickenlooper is not a big fan of legalization, but he’s said the people who used to be smoking it are still smoking it, they’re just now paying taxes. Given the budget pressures in Ohio, and other states, is this a revenue stream you’d like to have?

Later on,

Most people can’t get a college degree without going into debt. Over 40 million Americans have student loans and many of them cannot pay them back. This country has over $100 billion in student loan defaults. That’s billion with a b. What will you do to make sure that students, their families, taxpayers, won’t feel the economic impact of this burden for generations?

Questions to Sen. Marco Rubio:

You’ve been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s. You’ve had a big accomplishment in the Senate, an immigration bill providing a path to citizenship the conservatives in your party hate, and even you don’t support anymore. Now, you’re skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or least finish what you start?

Then

So when the Sun-Sentinel says Rubio should resign, not rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job, when they say you act like you hate your job, do you?

In round 2,

Senator Rubio, you yourself have said that you’ve had issues. You have a lack of bookkeeping skills. You accidentally inter-mingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced (ph) foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And just last year, you liquidated a $68,000 retirement fund. That’s something that cost you thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy. What do you say?

Rubio attacked the question and Democrats before adding how he didn’t inherit his wealth, leading to a follow-up:

Senator, I understand all of that. I had a lot of student loans when I got out, too. But you’ve had a windfall that a lot of Americans haven’t. You made over a million dollars on a book deal, and some of these problems came after that…but you liquidated that retirement account after the fact, and that cost you about $24,000 out of that in taxes and feed. That — that was after you’d already come into that windfall. That’s why I raised the question.

Round 3, 

Senator Rubio, Wired magazine recently carried the heading, “Marco Rubio wants to be the tech industry’s savior.” It noted your support for dramatically increasing immigration visas called H1B, which are designed for workers with the special skills that Silicon Valley wants. But your Senate colleague, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, says in reality, the tech industry uses this program to undercut hiring and wages for highly qualified Americans. Why is he wrong?

Later on,

The Tax Foundation, which was alluded to earlier, scored your tax plan and concluded that you give nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale. Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck-to- paycheck, don’t you have that backward?

Rubio lied about what the Tax Foundation said about his tax plan – that it would benefit the top 1% twice as much as it would the middle class.

Questions to Jeb Bush:

…it’s a question about why you’re having difficulty. I want to ask you in this context. Ben Bernanke, who was appointed Fed chairman by your brother, recently wrote a book in which he said he no longer considers himself a Republican because the Republican Party has given in to know- nothingism. Is that why you’re having a difficult time in this race?

In round 2,

Governor Bush, in a debate like this four years ago, every Republican running for president pledged to oppose a budget deal containing any tax increase even if it had spending cuts ten times as large. A few months later, you told Congress, put me in, coach, you said you would take that deal. Still feel that way?

Later on,

Governor Bush, the tax reform bill that Ronald Reagan signed in 1986 cut the top personal income tax rate to 28 percent — just like your plan does. But President Reagan taxed capital gains at the same rate, while you would tax them at just 20 percent. Given the problems we’ve been discussing, growing gap between rich and poor, why would you tax labor at a higher rate than income from investments?

Later still,

Governor Bush, daily fantasy sports has become a phenomenon in this country, will award billions of dollars in prize money this year. But to play you have to assess your odds, put money at risk, wait for an outcome that’s out of your control. Isn’t that the definition of gambling, and should the Federal Government treat it as such?

Questions to Carly Fiorina:

You are running for president of the United States because of your record running Hewlett-Packard. But the stock market is usually a fair indicator of the performance of a CEO, and the market was not kind to you. Someone who invested a dollar in your company the day you took office had lost half of the dollar by the day you left. Obviously, you’ve talked in the past about what a difficult time it was for technology companies, but anybody who was following the market knows that your stock was a much worse performer, if you looked at your competitors, if you looked at the overall market. I just wonder, in terms of all of that — you know, we look back, your board fired you. I just wondered why you think we should hire you now.

When Fiorina brought up how the guy who fired her, Tom Perkins, now supports her candidacy, this question:

[Mr. Perkins] said a lot of very questionable things. Last year, in an interview, he said that he thinks wealthy people should get more votes than poor people. I think his quote was that, “if you pay zero dollars in taxes, you should get zero votes. If you pay a million dollars, you should get a million votes.” Is this the type of person you want defending you?

Later on,

in 2010, while running for Senate in … California, you called an Internet sales tax a bad idea. Traditional brick and mortar stores obviously disagree. Now that the Internet shopping playing field has matured, what would be a fair plan to even that playing field?

Some time later,

Mrs. Fiorina, you were the CEO of a large corporation that offers a 401(k) to its employees. But more than half of American have no access to an employer sponsored retirement plan. That includes the workers at small businesses, and the growing ranks of Uber drivers and other part-timers in the freelance economy. Should the Federal Government play a larger role in helping to set up retirement plans for these workers?

Fiorina’s answers are fact-checked here, and the one about women losing jobs under Obama is “mostly false”.

Questions to Sen. Ted Cruz:

This is the question that led to his anti-media rant:

Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown and calm financial markets that fear of — another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?

Cruz’s rant read as follows:

You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — “Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?” “Ben Carson, can you do math?” “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?” “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?” “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?

After that, the moderator reacted, “OK. (inaudible) I asked you about the debt limit and I got no answer.” Cruz tried to answer,  but he had, “used [his] time on something else,” including a quip insulting the Democratic candidates as presenting a choice between “Bolsheviks” and Mensheviks”.

Later, Cruz was asked,

Senator Cruz, working women in this country still earn just 77 percent of what men earn. And I know that you’ve said you’ve been very sympathetic to our cause. But you’ve also you said that the Democrats’ moves to try and change this are the political show votes. I just wonder what you would do as President to try and help in this cause?

Round 4, from Rick Santelli, the guy who coined the phrase “tea party” (the same question was also posed to Sen. Paul)

Senator Cruz, let’s focus on our central bank, the Federal Reserve. You’ve been a fierce critic of the Fed, arguing for more transparency. Where do you want to take that?

Do you want to get Congress involved in monetary policy, or is it time to slap the Fed back and downsize them completely? What are your thoughts? What do you believe?

Ted Cruz lied about women earning less under Obama than before, incidentally. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2015/oct/28/fact-checking-republican-cnbc-debate/

Questions to Sen. Rand Paul:

Senator Paul, the budget deal crafted by Speaker Boehner and passed by the House today makes cuts in entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security disability, which are the very programs conservatives say need cutting to shrink government and solve our country’s long-term budget deficit. Do you oppose that budget deal because it doesn’t cut those programs enough?

When Paul complained about how Republican and Democratic compromise was really an “unholy alliance”, he was asked,

Senator, if what you just said is true, why did Speaker Boehner craft this deal and why did Paul Ryan, who has a strong reputation for fiscal discipline, vote for it?

Later on,

Senator Paul, among the leading conservative opponents to the creation of Medicare back in the 1960s was Ronald Reagan. He warned that it would lead to socialism. Considering the mounting cost of Medicare, was he right to oppose it?

Questions to Gov. Chris Christie:

In your tell it like it is campaign, you’ve said a lot of tough things. You’ve said that we need to raise the retirement age for Social Security. You think that we need to cut benefits for people who make over $80,000 and eliminate them entirely for seniors who are making over $200,000. Governor Huckabee, who is here on the stage, has said that you and others who think this way are trying to rob seniors of the benefits that they’ve earned. It raises the question: When it is acceptable to break a social compact?

Round 2 to Christie,

Governor Christie, there has been a lot of political rhetoric that some bank executives should have gone to jail for the 2008 financial crisis. But General Motors paid more than $1 billion in fines and settlements for its ignition switch defect. One hundred and twenty- four people died as a result of these faulty switches. No one went to jail. As a former prosecutor, do you believe the people responsible for the switch and the cover-up belong behind bars?

Later on, after Christie complained about a question to Jeb Bush about fantasy football gambling,

Governor Christie, you’ve said something that many in your party do not believe, which is that climate change is undeniable, that human activity contributes to it, and you said, quote: “The question is, what do we do to deal with it?”. So what do we do?

A quip Christie made about Senator Bernie Sanders was judged to be a “pants on fire” lie. Christie’s claim about how there’s a war on cops is also statistically false.

Questions to Mike Huckabee:

The first question came well into the program:

Governor Huckabee, you have railed against income inequality. You’ve said that some Wall Street executives should have gone to jail over the roles that they played during the financial crisis. Apart from your tax plan, are there specific steps you would require from corporate America to try and reduce the income inequality.

Later,

Governor Huckabee, you’ve written about the huge divide in values between middle America and the big coastal cities like New York and Los Angeles. As a preacher as well as a politician, you know that presidents need the moral authority to bring the entire country together. The leading Republican candidate, when you look at the average of national polls right now, is Donald Trump. When you look at him, do you see someone with the moral authority to unite the country?

Those are the questions that were asked. There were a few interruptions and candidate demands for time, but as far as actual questions from the debate moderators, the list above contains ever single one. Where the hell is the problem?

Let’s break it down even further:

  • Trump, Carson, Rubio, Huckabee, and Bush were asked specific, pointed questions about their tax plans and how they would fix perceived problems. (Tax plans, incidentally, that Politico and Slate characterize as existing only in an “oddly imaginary” world, “insane“, and  “an exercise in economic fantasy.”)
  • Trump and Rubio were asked about immigration.
  • Trump, Carson, Paul, and Christie were asked about Social Security and/or Medicare.
  • Kasich was asked about the state of the GOP, marijuana, and student debt. Carson and Kasich were asked about corporate subsidies.
  • Trump was asked about his companies’ bankruptcies, and the second amendment.
  • Carson was asked about a sketchy business relationship.
  • Rubio was asked about his relative youth and inexperience, and also about his business savvy.
  • Bush, Fiorina, Cruz, and Paul were asked about budget policy and the debt ceiling.
  • Bush was asked about the recent controversy over fantasy sports leagues.
  • Fiorina was asked about private retirement savings accounts.
  • Cruz was asked about equal pay for women.
  • Paul and Cruz were asked about the Federal Reserve and monetary policy.
  • Christie was asked about climate change and holding corporations accountable.
  • Huckabee was asked about values.

These questions were direct and almost completely substantive in nature. Given that CNBC is a business channel, many of the questions dealt with issues surrounding money – taxes, the Fed, subsidies, trade, and immigration. A few questions were outliers, like pot for Kasich and gambling for Bush, but for the most part, when you read the text of the questions alone, they’re all dealing with important issues that matter – if not to you, then at least to the people who watch CNBC.

What you’re missing here is the emotion. You’re missing the whining and complaining about the perceived hostile tone of the questions or the questioners.

That’s what happens when the GOP slate leaves the friendly and compliant bubble of the conservative media’s Bullshit Mountain, and find themselves confronted with substantive, challenging, probing questions. In the end, the whole things came out a bit of a mess, but the best way for the denizens of Bullshit Mountain to deal with the glare of reality is to simply attack the media. Their acolytes love it, because they, too, hate the liberal media!

Asking candidates about how their tax plans would work is “gotcha journalism”? Well, congratulations to us, since it would appear we’ve come a long way since “what newspapers and magazines do you read” was considered a “gotcha” moment. Immigration? Budget policy?

And all of these characters whining about media bias and a lack of substantive gravitas in the questioning – what sorts of important issues do they tackle up on Bullshit Mountain every day? The republic endured years’ worth of Orly Taitz / Donald Trump – style birtherism, but asking pointed questions about policy to Presidential candidates denotes elite liberal media bias? From Drudge to Limbaugh to Fox to AM radio on down, the right-wing movement and its activists have turned politics into a blood sport where trivial nonsense uttered by a member of the right-wing club is treated as something very important, but genuine issues affecting average Americans are denounced as gravitas-free evidence of journalistic prejudice.

These are the people who brought you “Planned Parenthood sells fetus parts”, or “President Obama is a Kenyan usurper”, or “the war on Christmas”, or “Saddam Hussein is actively manufacturing weapons or mass destruction”, or “Obama’s coming for your guns”, or “Obama won’t say the word ‘terrorism'”, or “Climategate”, or Michele Obama’s “Whitey Tape”, or “net neutrality is a government takeover of the internet”. They have the chutzpah to condemn CNBC after years of lies, mythology, and faith-based economics. To characterize what the Republican media do as lowest common denominator rumormongering would be insulting to math.

Last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave 11 hours of testimony before a mostly hostile Congressional Committee purporting to investigate the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. It was Mrs. Clinton’s second time testifying about this event. 11 hours of blistering insults and allegations from preening backbenchers, including an odd obsession with Mrs. Clinton’s exchanges with friends via email. 11 hours of Clinton’s relationship with Sidney Blumenthal, but ask Ted Cruz one question about the debt ceiling, and he crumbles into a self-righteous temper tantrum.

As for the supposed love-fest that the Democrats got at their debate, let’s consider for a moment the very first question posed, to Hillary Clinton:

Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency.

You were against same-sex marriage.  Now you’re for it.  You defended President Obama’s immigration policies.  Now you say they’re too harsh.  You supported his trade deal dozen of times.  You even called it the “gold standard”.  Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it.

Will you say anything to get elected?

If CNBC had asked a similar question of any of the weak-kneed, whiny, professional victims on stage in Boulder Wednesday night, the Republican National Committee would have aborted the entire program early.

If the Benghazi hearing was an 11-hour Republican paid advertisement for the Clinton campaign, then every one of these GOP debates – and the accompanying whinging – also have to amount to an in-kind contribution to the Democratic Party.

Waltergate

scandal

On Tuesday – on the eve of the WNED debate between incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz and his Republican challenger Ray Walter, City & State published this article:

That was it. Multiple sources were telling City & State that there was an ongoing investigation involving your typical western New York brand of petty corruption – bid rigging for road work projects. The article as it first appeared – reproduced above – didn’t go into many details, except to pre-emptively exonerate Poloncarz and his administration of any misdeeds.

The Republicans, however, pounced so quickly and so heartily, you’d almost suspect they knew it was coming.

Frantically trying to gin this up a bit more? Yep. But also giddy. They were giddy. Can you blame them? Whether you like or hate Poloncarz, his honesty as a political leader is his stock in trade. If he’s not likeable, he’s competent, and to poke holes in that perception would certainly help the Republican candidate, who is running to be County Executive of WBEN’s listenership (which is, on a good day, around 10% of all people listening to the radio at any given time). 

Literally within minutes of the City & State story being published, Ray Walter’s campaign was busy readying the hay, complete with an allusion to Watergate!

Ringing alarm bells isn’t serious leadership. It’s grasping for headlines and an effort to manufacture controversy and relevance. The meme was carefully crafted within moments of the City and State article’s appearance. Poloncarz is a crook! Poloncarz’s administration is under investigation! Why is Poloncarz covering up this investigation into his administration? Why won’t Poloncarz speak publicly about an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s office? Why all the secrecy? Why the cover-up? What is he hiding? 

City and State later updated its original story several times, resulting in this newer, more complete version that includes quotes from various and sundry people, including Poloncarz and a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Getting Schneiderman’s office to respond must have been quite the feat, you’d think at first blush. After all, it has a policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations. The trick here is that there is no ongoing investigation. It’s over. So, knowing what we know now, let’s examine the Republican quick-memes, and judge how well they’ve held up in under 24 hours’ worth of factual scrutiny: 

 

Poloncarz is a crook!

No, he’s not. 

 

This administration runs a clean administration,” Poloncarz said. “We became aware of certain potential improper actions leveled during the final years of the Chris Collins administration. We performed an internal investigation and we turned that information over to the state attorney general’s office for them to perform a more definitive investigation to determine whether inappropriate actions were taken in the Department of Public Works in 2010 and 2011.

 

 

Poloncarz’s administration is under investigation!

No, it’s not. 

 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Tuesday responded to a report of an ongoing probe, saying that the only investigation into the county Department of Public Works he was aware of stems from actions during 2010 and 2011, which predate his administration.

 

 

Why is Poloncarz covering up this investigation into his administration?

He’s not. It’s not. 

 

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office has confirmed that it investigated alleged bidding irregularities at the Erie County Department of Public Works, but Schneiderman’s office also said that its probe of the county agency is now closed. 

 

 

Why won’t Poloncarz speak publicly about an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s office?

Easy! Because (a) the investigation didn’t involve anything that happened during Poloncarz’s administration; (b) because Poloncarz is not the Attorney General and has no business commenting on or publicizing an ongoing investigation being conducted by a state agency; and (c) it’s not being conducted because it’s closed. 

 

Why all the secrecy?

 

Poloncarz, reached by phone, said his office began its investigation into bid processing shortly after he took office in 2012 and turned over the results of the probe to Schneiderman’s office in January 2013.

 

 

Why the cover-up?

 

On Tuesday afternoon after this story was published, the attorney general’s office said it had investigated the matter but had closed the case.

 

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works,” the Schneiderman spokesman said in an email. “After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

 

 

What is he hiding? 

 

Poloncarz, reached by phone, said his office began its investigation into bid processing shortly after he took office in 2012 and turned over the results of the probe to Schneiderman’s office in January 2013…

…On Tuesday afternoon after this story was published, the attorney general’s office said it had investigated the matter but had closed the case.

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works,” the Schneiderman spokesman said in an email. “After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

 

What did Poloncarz know and when did he know it? He knew that a Collins appointee had acted improperly when it came to roadwork contracts, and he knew in 2012. He then contacted the proper authorities – the Attorney General’s office. Not just because it was a matter for law enforcement, but because it would be unseemly for Collins’ successor and rival to investigate these specific allegations. 

Every single allegation – every attempted smear – turned out to have been completely false. But not only was it all false, but the overheated, reflexive over-reaction from Walter and his surrogates seems nothing less than childish now. In less than 24 hours it went from them screaming bloody murder to Bob McCarthy explaining that it was a Democratic-led probe into misdeeds under the previous Republican administration, with which Walter was closely aligned

 

The attorney general’s statement contradicted the Walter claim that a state investigation was currently in progress, which he based on a Tuesday report in City and State magazine.

“We know an investigation is going on; it’s been reported,” Walter claimed at a hastily called news conference Tuesday afternoon in Erie County Republican Headquarters.

When asked if he knew for sure an investigation was ongoing, he replied: “I know what I read in the article.”

Walter also suggested Schneiderman was working with Poloncarz to cover up a probe he said had been kept “secret.”“Is he protecting a political ally?” Walter said. “He very well may be.”

 

and 

 

Poloncarz said he didn’t further pursue the investigation himself, or publicize it, because he didn’t want to influence or compromise the Attorney General’s investigation, he said, and he didn’t want it to appear as if he was “kicking dirt” on defeated Republican incumbent Chris Collins.

Poloncarz noted that he changed the top leadership of the Department of Public Works after he took over, though the change was not precipitated by the probe.

To his knowledge, he said, no one in the department has been disciplined or fired for improprieties related to the Eden Evans Center Road project because the Attorney General’s Office has issued no finding of criminal conduct, and the county did not have definitive proof of wrongdoing.

 

It is a palpable testament to the competence and professionalism of the current administration that the best Walter can do is jump the gun and falsely accuse Poloncarz of a Watergate scandal before the facts are in; to reflexively try and make up a controversy where none exists.

 

It’s not so much Watergate as it is Waltergate – a scandal only in his mind. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The Republicans Push-Poll

propaganda

Households throughout western New York have received calls from area code 315 purporting to be an opinion poll from an organization that has “Liberty” in its name. The first question had to do with whom you would vote for if the Presidential election was held today: Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton?

An easy way to identify your voter, I suppose, and the choice of Rubio over, say, Trump, is notable.

A push poll is defined as “is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of voters under the guise of conducting a poll.” In other words, it’s a campaign advertisement masquerading as an opinion poll.

It would appear that desperate times call for desperate measures.

Opinion polling is a valuable tool for campaigns, politicians, and the general electorate. It’s a tough and competitive business that oftentimes comes under exquisite scrutiny and partisan condemnation. Push-polling, on the other hand, is little more than propaganda; rumor-mongering.

The push-poll that countless Erie County voters have received in recent weeks is Republican propaganda generally, and more specifically a negative campaign tactic against incumbent Democratic County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and in support of his challenger, Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter. Walter denied to me that his campaign had anything to do with it, and Nick Langworthy says his committee knows nothing about it. Some people on Twitter speculate that this might be the work of the Casale Group, a pro-Republican campaign communications firm, which is located in the 315 area code. DIsclosure reports reveal that Walter hasn’t paid Casale yet this cycle, but he’s spent $60,000 on their services in his 2011 Assembly race. but there’s no confirmation yet that it did the call. If Walter and Langworthy are telling the truth, the culprit may be some right-wing political committee; perhaps the state Republican committee.

How do we tell a push poll from a legitimate opinion poll?

For starters, this one was a dead giveaway because it refered to Poloncarz as the “Democrat Party” candidate, rather than “Democratic Party”. After asking me about my Rubio/Clinton preference, it went on to set up a question about Walter’s city vs. suburbs tax proposal by lavishing praise and slathering it with a schmear of undeserved equity before asking me if I agreed.

Here’s how it sounded, using a hypothetical example: “Ray Walter believes that kale is a disgusting, malodorous plant that tastes like poison, causes cancer, and should be eaten by no one. Do you support or oppose the eating of cancer kale? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no.”

Another question asked whether I supported a spending cap for Erie County. Another accused Poloncarz of personally transporting hundreds of Syrian refugees to basically live next door to you, go directly on welfare, and pose a “security threat” by throwing Sharia Law firecrackers at your head or something. It asked if the county does a good job maintaining roads, and whether I support towns getting more sales tax revenue, thus lowering my town taxes. It asked me my opinion of common core and testing of students.

The people or committee(s) behind this push-poll was not disclosed at the end; state law doesn’t require it.

In 2000, John McCain was the victim of vicious push-polls that George W. Bush and Karl Rove set up in South Carolina after McCain shellacked Bush in New Hampshire.

The rumors [about McCain] were spread through push polls—“really not polls” at all, according to Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and president of the National Council on Public Polls, but “more of a telemarketing device, where you’re actually calling people in the guise of a poll and you’re not gathering information as much as you’re disseminating it.” A push poll is further defined as solely intended to spread false, damning information; a pollster who asks your opinion about something negative but true in a candidate’s record is not push-polling. Tige Watts, a Columbia consultant and pollster who considers push polls unfair and doesn’t do them, said he understood some of the calls went like this: “They’d ask who you’re voting for. If you said Bush, they’d say, ‘That’s great. Be sure to vote.’ ” You’d hang up thinking it was just a normal get-out-the-vote (G.O.T.V.) call. “But if you said McCain, they’d ask a litany of questions: ‘Would you vote for McCain if you knew … ?’ Basically, they just threw the book at him.” Watts could tell when the calls peaked—about a week before the vote—“because everybody started talking about it. It was like a waterfall.”

Push-polling is cheap and easy to get away with. Watts estimated it runs “about a 10th of the price of a truly scientific” poll—as little as 25 to 30 cents a call—since what the voter says isn’t recorded or tabulated. “I doubt they even train the interviewers,” added Warren Mitofsky of the highly respected Mitofsky International polling firm. “They give them a script and tell them to read it.” Some states have laws regulating push-polling, but to little effect, and the American Association for Public Opinion Research investigates public complaints but can rarely trace who’s behind it. People who get push-polled seldom ask who’s calling or get a call-back number, and, Mitofsky says, “none of the campaigns ever admit” to push-polling.

All of this highlights one of the many problems with New York State election law – that campaign propaganda can be released anonymously. That’s a shame, because people have a right to know who’s trolling them. The fact that I don’t know who was behind that push-poll is a problem, in and of itself.

If we want transparency in campaigns and how they’re financed, we need to not only strictly enforce the laws we already have on the books, but also begin treating the whole issue as a consumer protection issue. If I have a right to know whether something posing as health food is actually packed with high fructose corn syrup, or whether a product actually accomplished the task it’s advertised for, then I deserve to know who is funding campaign propaganda, how that organization got its funding, and from whom and in what amount. Anything less than that serves to protect malfeasors and harm the electorate.

One way to combat poor name recognition and a popular incumbent opponent is to lay the propaganda on thick. Question now is: who’s behind it?

As it turns out, it appears from my social media timelines that people know when they’re being push-polled, and they don’t like it. I sure hope this year’s Erie County Executive campaign can be run on issues rather than negativity and subterfuge.

The Planned Parenthood Witch Trial

richards

Under the guise of a congressional “investigation”, Republican seat-moisteners lawmakers are trying to do to Planned Parenthood what they did to ACORN some seven years ago. This time, though, it isn’t working. This is mostly because Planned Parenthood has a broader and politically stronger constituency than ACORN ever did, and because the videos that anti-abortion activists have circulated that purport to show Planned Parenthood executives bartering for fetal body parts were so obviously doctored and unfairly edited.

It is true that fetal tissue from aborted fetuses is sometimes donated for scientific research. Research using fetal tissue has resulted in incredible scientific achievements.

The Congressional inquiry was chaired yesterday by Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, who, along with his right-wing colleagues, spent a great deal of time hurling insults and accusations but not at all a lot of time allowing the affiant, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, to testify.

The entire charade can be summed up in a chart that Chaffetz sprung on Richards at the end of his “inquiry”.  He hadn’t had the decency to show her in advance the chart he was going to use, so she was barely able to respond to it. But it was an especially – intentionally – dishonest piece of propaganda.

Chaffetz was trying to accuse Planned Parenthood of abdicating its role as a major women’s health care provider and instead making all kinds of money off of abortion. Here is the chart he showed:

The source is “Americans United for Life”, a radical anti-abortion lobbying group. Is this how these Republicans science and math? 

Notice that the vertical axes are not labeled. That’s because the two lines use different scaling. On the left side, cancer screening has a value of about 2,000,000; abortions, about 290,000. As you might expect, 2,000,000 is above 290,000. On the right, cancer screenings has a value of 936,000, and that is somehow below the number of abortions at 327,000. It’s also somehow below 290,000!

So, the chart is falsely designed to imply that Planned Parenthood now performs far more abortions than breast screenings, but that’s quite obviously untrue.

Kevin Drum went a step further in Mother Jones, showing how the charts should look:

He adds,

And why has the line for cancer screenings gone down? According to Cecile Richards, it’s because “some of the services, like pap smears, dropped in frequency because of changing medical standards about who should be screened and how often.”

More importantly, Drum adds that the suite of women’s health services that Planned Parenthood offers goes beyond mere breast cancer screenings, but includes things like STD testing and pap smears. If you include all of the non-abortion services that Planned Parenthood offers, the chart looks more like this:

This is standard Republican playbook stuff, but because of the sheer power and broad reach of the target, it’s not working out. The government isn’t going to be shut down over federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and the vast majority of Americans can see beyond the propaganda and value the important services that Planned Parenthood offers. It remains true that abortion services are never federally funded, and only make up 3% of what Planned Parenthood does. About 41% of the organization’s budget – just over $500 million – comes from federal funding for women’s health and contraception services.

The ACORN entrapment videos – all of which were deceptively edited, and none of which resulted in any illegality – targeted a group that worked to register mostly poor, mostly minority voters. This was supposed to be the sequel.

When Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina lies about a scene that doesn’t exist in any of the Planned Parenthood videos – a scene, incidentally, shot clandestinely without the mother’s permission or consent of a fetus that hadn’t been aborted, but was the victim of a miscarriage – it underscores that this Republican effort to destroy Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with abortion or “sale” of fetal body parts, but everything to do with interfering with women’s health and their ability to enjoy a safe and disease-free sex life. They’ve tried it before, and they won’t be satisfied until they completely alienate the female vote.

In the end, it’s about puritanism and denying to women their basic human rights. Here’s what that looks like:

Thankfully, there were reasonable people present:

It’s ok to be anti-abortion, and it would be great if abortions never happened. However, Planned Parenthood offers contraceptive services, the expansion of which would lower the number of abortions performed in this country. It’s ok to be anti-abortion, but it’s not ok to legislate a woman’s right to make that choice. But most importantly, because federal funds do not and cannot be used to finance abortion services, all of this is a lie. It is all a manufactured show-trial by men who cannot tolerate the idea that women be allowed control over their bodies and their reproductive rights.

I Watched the CNN Debate

These are my real-time reactions, at least until 10:20 when I had to get ready for work in the morning.

Trumpadino: Reactionary Juvenile Entitlement

trumpbaby

The Buffalo News’ editorial board and Carl Paladino talk about “reform” in Buffalo city schools. It’s important to understand how they define that term, which I’ve put in scarequotes. Their brand of “reform” isn’t about solving the generations-old socio-economic catastrophe among the poorest and least powerful in Buffalo’s inner city. It’s about crushing the teachers’ union and privatization of public education in Buffalo.

Expansion of charter schools (not to mention the introduction of vouchers) would represent an historic divestment from public education in favor of private and quasi-private, selective schools which would result in a new form of segregation. Not necessarily based on race, it would, however, segregate the kids who value (or whose parents value) education from those who don’t. It would also be a handy way to warehouse all the kids with special needs into some sort of rump public institution. The Buffalo school board has been dysfunctional for years, and the district itself is in shambles. It’s not about money, it’s about poverty, race, and class.

Park District voters unsurprisingly elected Carl Paladino to the Buffalo Board of Education in May 2013. Paladino’s candidacy and “reform” platform were all but explicitly endorsed by the pro-privatization Buffalo News editorial board.

The News praised Paladino for raising the profile of the 2013 school board election. Its editorial board didn’t endorse Paladino nor his opponent.

His quote in The News on his reasons for considering a run, “I think it’s time for change …,” is on the mark. But his followup, “I’m going to destroy them,” referring to the board members, “All nine of them,” is, well, 100 percent Paladino.

Having said that, Paladino doesn’t owe anybody anything, and that kind of independence is needed on the School Board.

On election day, the News exhorted its readers to vote, and to “bring a friend”.

Carl is the Buffalo elite’s Frankenstein monster. They unleashed him on the school district. Now, let them gaze upon their creation.

Paladino led the fight to fire former Superintendent Pamela Brown, who was replaced by interim Superintendent Don Ogilvie. Although Paladino practically hand-picked Ogilvie to replace Brown, when Ogilvie wouldn’t blindly do Carl’s bidding, Paladino led a fight to remove him, too. Paladino insisted on the retention of someone local to be Superintendent. Someone who could hit the ground running. Someone who, also, would know Paladino’s reputation and perhaps be more prone to follow orders. Even the Buffalo News’ editors thought that was stupid. Administrators, after all, have been leaving in droves.

It’s not unfair to recall that Pamela Brown was given about a year to try and turn around the massive school bureaucracy. Whether you liked her or not, she was never given a chance.

The Buffalo News’ editorial board has grown somewhat impatient with its creation, as set forth in yet another gently critical op/ed piece written in direct response to this email that Paladino sent around:

It doesn’t need to be pointed out that Paladino’s thoughts and language here are unbecoming an elected schools official. Paladino whines and complains about anyone who disagrees with him on anything – substantive or procedural. His hand-picked board President, James Sampson, is now “treacherous” and a “liberal equivocator”, whom Paladino accuses of being too stupid to tie his own shoes. Paladino’s colleagues on the board are, “incompetent idiots”. Schools Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who has worked in education as a teacher and an administrator longer than Paladino has been an attorney is a “rookie”. Cash was “rammed up [the school board’s] asses” and if Cash doesn’t follow Paladino’s commands and instead “mess[es] with” him, Cash will be “fitted for his career ending casket.”

The time for someone to publicly stand up and simply say, “fuck you” to Carl Paladino is nigh.

Just like the Buffalo News wouldn’t explicitly support Paladino for school board, Paladino never gave anyone a straight answer about whether he would support or oppose the appointment of new schools Superintendent Kriner Cash. One day, he’s praising Cash, the next he’s shopping for Cash’s casket (an appallingly disgusting and objectively offensive threat of violence).

But, on the day that the school board voted to appoint Cash as Superintendent, Paladino was absent; he was “out of the country”. WBFO reported that he was vacationing in Paris. Paris, France.

Put another way, while the Buffalo Board of Education was voting to hire the new Superintendent of its struggling school district – arguably the most important vote of Paladino’s tenure so far – its most vocal and combative member was recreating in gay Paree. Through his absence, Paladino was able to avoid actually taking a position one way or another on the appointment. Talk about a coward’s way out.

(And don’t complain that the trip may have been planned for a long time. So what? This is your job. People ` to do this. You’re a public official and you abdicated your duties when it really counted).

Now? You can’t come back and say Carl voted for Cash if it all ends up being a disaster! By the same token, if Cash is the unlikely savior of the Buffalo public schools, Carl will rush to embrace him, and everyone should remind him that when it really mattered, he was strolling along the Champs-Elysees, browsing the St-Germain, or enjoying the breezy shade of the Tuileries.

The Buffalo News’ editorial board chided Paladino for the content and tone of the email reproduced above. But what did they expect? This juvenile inability to lead, opting instead for a loud string of temper tantrums, has been Paladino’s hallmark for at least the last five years. He believes himself entitled to not only direct the pace, scale, and implementation of “reform” throughout the school district, but to do it without opposition or criticism. When someone stands in his way – even minimally so – Paladino overreacts with insults and threats that would get a schoolkid suspended. The entitlement is palpable. The behavior is inexcusable.

Carl Paladino has time and again proven himself unfit for public service. He is a constant embarrassment to our region. His brand of reactionary toddler-fascism is counterproductive.

But Donald Trump is Carl Paladino writ large. Trump and Paladino are two peas from the same pod. Both New York developers have egos and mouths bigger than the known universe, and the meme now is that they are attractive to a populace that is sick of, among other things, “political correctness”.

At an Iowa press conference, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos asked Trump a question before Trump had called on him. Trump eventually had his security goon forcibly remove Ramos from the room, while the candidate commanded Ramos to “go back to Univision”.  (Trump is suing Univision for pulling out of its deal to broadcast Trump’s “Miss Universe” pageant after Trump basically told all Latinos – and mostly Mexicans – that they’re rapists and criminals who should go back to where they came from).

On WBEN Wednesday morning, a media commentator noted that Ramos was “rude”.  I’ve seen others call what Ramos did, “advocacy journalism”.  OK. Let’s assume that Ramos was (a) rude; and (b) engaging in an act not so much of journalism as political activism. So what? That gives Trump the right to escort Ramos out of the venue?

When the Daily Caller’s Neil Munro interrupted President Obama in the middle of his remarks in the Rose Garden, Obama shut him down,  but didn’t have the secret service remove him by force.

When some forgotten backbencher from South Carolina yelled “you lie” at President Obama in the middle of a September 2009 address to a joint session of Congress, he was not escorted physically from the House chamber.

It bears mentioning that Munro and our South Carolinian backbencher both interrupted President Obama in the middle of remarks about immigration. This is not a coincidence. This is a targeted effort from the right to not only continue to paint Obama as somehow “foreign” and un-American, but also to accuse him of encouraging illegal immigration (the conspiracy goes that all of these undocumented immigrants will somehow magically manage to register to vote, despite not having proper identification, and they will all vote Democrat).

Let’s look at FactCheck.org: Trump says “birthright citizenship” is a huge draw for undocumented immigrants. It isn’t; economic opportunity is. Trump wildly overstates the cost to provide welfare services to undocumented immigrants, as well as the supposed number of crimes they’ve committed. Most visa overstays aren’t coming from Mexico. All of it is based on fear and lies; Die Meksikaner sind unser Unglück.

Trump also renewed his misogynist attacks on Fox host Megyn Kelly, which seems to be a fake, phony, fraud manufactured to bump Fox’s ratings and lead to an inevitable appearance by Trump on Kelly’s show. It’s also unintentionally hilarious because these sorts of assaults on strong, opinionated women comes right out of the right-wing resentment industry’s playbook.

If people like Trump and Paladino are the Republican id brought to life – anti-Obama, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, anti-regulation, anti-tax, anti-welfare, pro-gun, and anti-“political correctness” – what happened to those alleged conservative principles. These aren’t your grandfather’s Republicans – they’re not Eisenhower people, they’re contemporary Birchers.

“…a reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.”

It’s really about who’s boss, and making sure that the man in charge stays boss. Trump is admired for putting women and workers in their place, and it doesn’t matter if he covets his neighbor’s wife or demands trade wars.

 

Insulting the intelligence of your political opponents is akin to forfeiting the argument altogether: you lose. Ordering goons to forcibly remove reporters you don’t like and who aren’t threatening you is fascist cowardice. Trump’s phony war on Megyn Kelly, if it was legitimate, would be the most colossal example of being a sore loser in recent political memory. Like Elsa, let it go.

The politics of tantrum is the culmination of tea party politics – it’s not a traditional ideology, but one based on the emotion of resentment. Their hearts bleed, but only for people who feel put upon by “political correctness” – that radical leftist idea that people should be respectful to one another, and treat others with kindness and dignity.

They have, as it turns out, become a reactionary, emotion-based caricature of what it once meant to be conservative. What was once a mighty intellectual movement led by guys like Goldwater and Buckley is now an angry joke, cloaked in the language of white nationalism led by guys like Trump and Paladino.

People are shouting, “white power” at Trump rallies, and Trump’s campaign reacts by saying they, “want to be proud of being Americans”.

Trump reacts to any criticism by pointing out how well he’s doing in the polls. Bernie Sanders’ rallies boast bigger crowds, and he doesn’t have to stoke the fires of hatred to do it.

You watch this and tell me how this isn’t the equivalent of Mussolini’s blackshirts.

Birthright Citizenship: Start Packing

Two imbeciles from South Boston this past week pissed on a homeless man, and then beat the shit out of him. Get a load of what happened,

The homeless man was lying on the ground, shaking, when police arrived early Wednesday. His face was soaked, apparently with urine, his nose broken, his chest and arms battered.

Police said two brothers from South Boston ambushed the 58-year-old as he slept outside of a Dorchester MBTA stop, and targeted him because he is Hispanic. One of the brothers said he was inspired in part by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Forget, for a moment, the fact that “Hispanic” could mean the guy is Puerto Rican – an American citizen at birth from one of our colonial territories. Either way – regardless of his nationality – the victim is documented.  Here’s how Trump responded to this vicious assault done in his name,

When Trump was asked about the Aug. 19 assault in Boston, the billionaire New Yorker reportedly said, “It would be a shame … I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Get that? Trump spends weeks demonizing Hispanic immigrants, two numbskulls beat the shit out of one and invoke Trump’s name, and Trump calls them “passionate” people who “love this country…want this country to be great again.”

Calling that depraved isn’t nearly strong enough. This is incitement. Irresponsible. Un-American. Donald Trump is setting the US up for an anti-Hispanic pogrom. He tried to amend his reaction on Twitter:

Over the past couple of decades at least, Republicans have managed to pull off something of a public relations feat. They purport to love America – love our Constitution, think ours is the best country in the world. Except they don’t. That’s why Donald Trump, whose campaign slogan is synonymous with “America is horrible” is surging.

This has long been a right-wing trope hurled at liberals; that we hate America because we might seek certain changes to our society, politics, law, and economy. It’s just as ridiculous, incidentally, to accuse right-wingers of hating America because they might also seek changes that happen to differ. But Trump has taken the “America sucks” label and made it a campaign slogan.

As Matt Taibbi writes, it’s not funny anymore.

There’s a difference between saying America is great but has room for improvement, and Trump’s slogan-equivalent of “America isn’t great anymore”. Alas, his slogan hits a particular nerve with the people who feel threatened and afraid, and some are responding positively to him. Whether it’s Obamacare, same-sex marriage, or anything in-between, some people are nostalgic for an America that probably never existed.

But Trump’s initial explicit approval of racial violence isn’t funny. Inciting a pogrom isn’t funny. Trump is unlikely ever to be President, but with each passing day, he further disqualifies himself.

Substantively, Trump is calling for the end of birthright citizenship; the Latin phrase is “jus soli”, or “right of the soil”. Trump reveals himself as a typical right-wing cafeteria Constitutionalist, picking and choosing the parts he thinks are important and worth protecting.

Birthright citizenship is enshrined in the Constitution. So far not just Trump, but even Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker would abolish or amend it. Specifically, this “Party of Lincoln” wants to get rid of the 14th Amendment – one of the most important legacies of Reconstruction.

The 14th Amendment was ratified just after the end of the Civil War, and granted citizenship to, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including, most importantly, former slaves. The 14th Amendment also prohibits the states from denying, “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” It was a huge expansion of civil rights to all Americans.

Republican front-runners want it gone.

Pursuant to the 14th Amendment, any baby born on American soil is automatically an American citizen. It has been this way since at least pre-Revolutionary times and was first found in English Common Law. Jus soli applied prior to the 14th Amendment, but only to non-slaves. Jus soli is typical throughout the former colonies of the entire Western Hemisphere.

The alternative is “jus sanguinis”, which is citizenship based on nationality and blood. “American” isn’t a “nationality” in the historic sense. Americans are not bound by ethnicity or religion. Instead, our nationality comes from our citizenship and/or allegiance. Said another way, “French” is a nationality and also an ethnicity. A baby born in the US to two people of French ethnicity is entitled to American and French citizenship from birth. The same goes for most every European and Asian nation-state.

America started as jumble of European colonies, and we’ve continued to bring in immigrants of myriad ethnicities to make up our newfangled type of nation. The citizens of countries of Europe and Asia, by contrast, are bound not just by the contents of their passports, but also through ethnicity or language or religion. (There are, obviously, exceptions. Countries that had been colonized are not homogeneous – think Iraq, Afghanistan, or Burma. In Europe, there are a small number of multi-ethnic states such as Switzerland and Belgium).

As it stands, I’m entitled to Croatian citizenship through jus sanguinis. Under jus soli, I was an American citizen at birth, despite the fact that my parents were recent immigrants with Yugoslav passports.

So, in the event that one of these revisionist conservatives – including Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal, both of whom directly benefited from jus soli (Cruz in Canada) – becomes President, I’ve begun the process of dealing with the possible retroactive rescission of my American citizenship. Ted Cruz had better start looking for Canadian real estate, and Bobby Jindal’s opportunities back home in Punjab are likely better than they were in 1971, when he was born in Louisiana to recent immigrants.

Donald Trump – German by nationality with a fake, phony Americanized name – took to Fox News to rail against what he called “anchor babies”, which is a handy way of literally blaming infants for a crime.

Trump plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and he plans to implement this insane scheme by tripling the number of ICE agents, presumably because he’s going to need a lot of enforcers to round up all the families he needs to deport.

And last but pretty damned far from least, Trump says he’s basically going to either repeal or ignore the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, because he’s planning to end birthright citizenship. His plan doesn’t spell out exactly how he’d accomplish this, probably because he knows it’s never going to happen in the real world.

In fact, none of this is ever going to happen in the real world, and if Trump becomes president and actually tries to make it happen, it would involve turning the United States into a full-blown police state.

But I guess that prospect is attractive to conservatives.

So far the only thing missing is Huckabee telling everyone how jus sanguinis is part of Jesus’ plan for America.

Some on the ultra-right who think Trump has a great idea have convinced themselves that abolition of jus soli in America wouldn’t require a Constitutional Amendment.  Breitbartistan is all over this line of thinking. They point to the italicized text of this 14th Amendment clause, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” So, for instance, because a diplomat in the United States enjoys certain immunities pursuant to custom and treaty, he is not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, and any child born of a diplomat in the US is not entitled to jus soli. This is codified, in fact to apply not only to diplomats, but to heads of state and foreign POWs.

They extrapolate from this, (and use some earlier 19th century case law to do it), that this also applies to any foreign national whatsoever. If you are, “subject to any foreign power”; i.e., immigrant – legal or otherwise, dual citizen, your offspring is not entitled to jus soli. They also argue that foreigners are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the US, although that is patently false in both law and common sense. If a tourist can be arrested under American law for committing a crime, he’s “subject to the jurisdiction” of the US. If an immigrant must obtain a driver’s license to drive a car that he’s registered with a state DMV, he is “subject to the jurisdiction” of the US.

In 1898 the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, that everyone born in the United States is an American citizen.

By the way, Ted Cruz thinks you’re stupid. Here’s what he said about birthright citizenship in 2011 – just four years ago.

“The 14th Amendment provides for birthright citizenship. I’ve looked at the legal arguments against it, and I will tell you as a Supreme Court litigator, those arguments are not very good,” he said. “As much as someone may dislike the policy of birthright citizenship, it’s in the U.S. Constitution. And I don’t like it when federal judges set aside the Constitution because their policy preferences are different.”

So, you, too, may have to prepare for the day when the Republicans abolish the 14th Amendment and attempt perhaps retroactively to rescind millions of Americans’ citizenship. With that amendment out of the way, it could arguably done without due process of law. The possibilities are endless in terms of making the US just a little less ethnic. This may soon be the real prepper movement – 1st and 2nd generation Americans born to non-citizens making arrangements for deportation.

Over the last few decades, the Republican Party has become not so much a big tent of conservative economic theories and values, but a para-fascist, predominately Southern strain of white identity politics. It might be time for thinking conservatives to find a new home and leave the GOP to history’s dustbin, or perhaps to purge the more reactionary element from its mainstream. Not my problem, though – it merely reinforces my decision to abandon it over a decade ago. If I was a reasonable Republican, I’d be looking at this Trump surge and I’d be not at all happy by what it represents. If I happened to be a 1st generation American and a Republican, I’d be running for the damn hills.

Hey, maybe Canada will take us in?

The Democratic GOTV Party

clowns

Did you watch either of the two debates that Fox News held for the little league roster of Republican presidential candidates? I made it through the first hour of the frontrunners’ debate because anything more would have been masochism.

The reports this morning say that Trump dominated, but what I saw was an irrelevant 80s pop culture relic trying to make himself (a) relevant; (b) seem conservative; and (c) seem like less of a flip-flopper. What I saw seemed to me to be an embarrassment. For instance, if Trump was in favor of a single-payer health insurance scheme because, as he put it, it “works great” in Canada and Scotland, why would he deprive Americans of something that “works great”? In what way has Obamacare held back any putative effort to implement a single-payer (or partial single-payer) plan? Trump said he wants to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans, but Marco Rubio asked rhetorically about what happens when El Chapo buids a tunnel under the wall.

What we know is that Rand Paul is a miserable shit and everyone hates him.

Ted Cruz is a Bond villain. He is Blofeld and basically wants to kill all the ISIS with sharks, laser beams. Cruz seems to think that the key to defeating ISIS is to call them names. He’s a big fan of Egypt’s new, authoritarian military dictatorship.

Ben Carson seems like he has a nice bedside manner, should stick to medicine.

John Kasich seems sane, which means he has zero chance. As Josh Marshall put it, “he was the only person who seemed interested in governing. In context, a poor showing.” Ha.

Chris Christie livened it up when he took on Rand Paul, whom everyone hates. Paul is the annoying libertarian troll in the comments section; an unreasonable pest. Christie, unlike Paul, has actual experience as the chief executive of a governmental entity. I have mixed feelings about Christie – sometimes his brash outspokenness is good, when he defends the vast majority of law-abiding Muslim Americans, for instance. But scratch the surface, and he’s just as bad as the rest of them; perhaps worse.

Trump said that the Mexican government is “sending” all of its criminals to the US because they’re so much “smarter” than the US government. If Mexico’s leaders – who preside over a country that is now largely controlled by drug cartels and their corrupt government stooges – are so much “smarter”, wouldn’t Americans be flocking to emigrate south? The whole thing is idiotic.

Don’t forget that economic refugees from Mexico are easily demonized by GOP candidates, but economic refugees from Cuba are sacrosanct, entitled to citizenship by dint of reaching dry land. It’s a double-standard because someone thinks it’s ok to flee Communist dictatorship, but not ok to flee crushing poverty and narcoterrorism.

Huckabee is running to be President of fetuses. One thing I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that the right’s false and misleading ACORN-style assault on Planned Parenthood reveals how much more they value the life of a fetus than that of a living female. Planned Parenthood’s chief mission is women’s health, including cancer screening and treatment. All these men preening about how much they hate the Planned Parenthood and pledging fealty to fetus-Americans are willing to sacrifice the lives of women to cancer and disease. Scott Walker, for his part, would force a woman to give birth even if it kills her. Literally. It’s the “should’ve shut your legs” plan.

It doesn’t end there. When these children are born – in some cases by state force against a mother’s will – these same people will happily dismantle any semblance of a civilized society to help feed, clothe, nurture, and educate those children. They want to abolish Medicaid. They want to abolish SNAP. They want to privatize and abolish the public school system. They want to de-fund and abolish social security and make people rely on the market. They want to abolish Medicare. Forget Obamacare – these dinosaurs quite literally want to roll back every socio-economic gain this country has made in the last century and send us back into the pre-Teddy Roosevelt 1890s.

Fox’s Megyn Kelly called Trump out for some of his misogynist comments over the years. He turned it around into an assault on “political correctness”.  If you think that it’s acceptable to disagree with a female by calling her a “fat pig” or “dog” or “slob” or “disgusting animal” – that’s not being un-PC, that’s being a malignant asshole. Donald Trump obviously has no business being anywhere near elected office and makes for an entertaining sideshow. But like the miniature horse at the fair, there’s no there there.

But the whole spectacle really put on stark display how stupid our politics has become. The election is in November 2016. The Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary are in January. The moderators ask a candidate a question, and the candidate gets one minute to regurgitate a memorized set of talking points as quickly as possible. With a few exceptions, it was a canned set of little campaign ads. I think the Hill’s roundup of “winners and losers” is about right – I think Kasich was a breath of fresh air, and I’d put Bush as “mixed” and move Cruz to “loser”. Walker is weak, Carson seems uninformed, Huckabee is a snake oil salesman, and everyone hates Rand.

Help Us Obi-Wan Trumponi; You’re Our Only Hope!

Welcome to Buffalo, Mr. Trump!

I know you’ll enjoy your time at the Republican fundraiser at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens – its design sensibilities match your own. Not to mention there will be well-heeled Republican donors willing to shell out $100 – $500 to see and possibly meet you, as well as a ragtag group of not-so-well-heeled Republican activists demonstrating for your benefit outside in the parking lot. 

During the last few weeks, desperate New York Republicans have figuratively fellated you so sweetly and slowly, never breaking eye contact as they lovingly, sloppily caress your manhood. The official local party organ has given you a ton of sketchy massages with happy endings this week

It’s so wonderful to be so loved; to be feted and worshipped like a God. It’s like every western New York Republican is doing their best Princess Leia impression:  help us Obi-Wan Trumponi; you’re our only hope

I read with interest the local political reporter’s story about your 757 aircraft. I especially enjoyed the part where he transcribed a portion of the voice-over from a documentary about it. Reporting!

You are their God because you embody the ideal of Homo Republicanus. You’re wealthy beyond belief, and everything you do is done to excess. You’re on your second family, but at least you never kept it secret, unlike the last Republican to run for governor, who took to the radio this week to explain how much of a “family man” you are. How he arrived at that conclusion is a mystery. You detest Obama and gleefully call him an ineligible Communist. You can’t stand Andrew Cuomo and know you can defeat him, but you demand some sort of unity in the Republican Party as a prerequisite to running. This is clever, because a few county chairs and perhaps the state committee may oppose you, and this would give you an out. You’re a well-known brand, but because of your outspoken tea party politics, you’re not a particularly well-liked one. You hate the idea of people having access to affordable health insurance, your personal morality doesn’t match the party line, and you’re often combative and rude. 

But are we to believe that you’ll relinquish control of your companies to go to work in Albany, of all places? Let’s not forget that being governor isn’t some side gig you can do part of the day, and then traipse off to Manhattan to run an empire of tack. Politics is perfect for you, but if you win, you’d have to govern. The key to effective governing is compromise. Are you ready for that? I know you have experience cutting deals with business rivals, but can you translate that into policy? And what do you know of real people’s genuine problems? You don’t hear much from the 99% while ensconced in Trump Tower, or vacationing in Mar-a-Lago. Billionaire problems aren’t my problems, or most people’s. 

Also – that thing that Cuomo said about extremist right-wingers? You know that he was talking about right-wing politicians, not average people. You also know he was right about what extremist rightists believe; Paladino’s electoral outcome is something you might be able to surpass, but not enough to beat Andrew Cuomo. You are so far on the right-wing fringe with your politics that you’ll do great up here where the people aren’t. But downstate? Your politics suck and a great many people there already think you’re a bit of a nouveau-riche prat. 

Your visit to Buffalo tonight is the biggest speed dating event in WNY history. I think it’s great, because the disappointment will be so deep when you inevitably drop out because of work obligations, the fact that your lifestyle doesn’t need the headache of public scrutiny, or because you’ll have to disclose your financials and be expected to satisfy certain ethical obligations. 

Have fun at Salvatore’s! They have great steaks! 

Love, BP

Trump: An Exercise in Brand Destruction

Dear New York State ultra right-wing Republicans: 

Andrew Cuomo is right. 

The reason you’re so angry? You know he’s right. 

But I would say the state GOP is split into three distinct factions, not just two. 

In 2010, the Republican Party was divided between the wealthy, country clubby downstate moderate Republican hierarchy on the one hand, and a brash, obscene, bellicose, ultra right-winger who energized (and was energized by) the Palinist wing of the tea party.  The glibertarian Paulist wing of the tea party also backed Paladino, somewhat begrudgingly. What all this amounted to was a complete blow-out whereby Democrat Andrew Cuomo defeated Carl Paladino 61% – 34%. 

Paladino was largely self-funded, and could buy himself all the media attention he wanted. His only disadvantage was his own mouth. And the policies he espoused. New Yorkers rejected him convincingly. 

Now, the ultra-right Palinists are thisclose to recruiting Donald Trump to run for governor against Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is, I’m sure, not relishing the fight because Trump has many advantages over Carl Paladino; for instance, Trump has an international brand; Trump is reasonably well-liked by people, regardless of his weird politics; Trump knows how to make headlines, and do so positively for himself; Trump has been vetted in the media for decades; people know Trump for fun things that have nothing to do with politics; he is a known quantity downstate;  and, Trump has the New York Post in his pocket. 

Trump has some negatives, too, though; for instance, he has no filter between his brain and his mouth; he can be not just exceedingly rude and hostile, but downright vicious when dealing with people who offer him even mild criticism; Trump has been scrutinized as a tabloid celebrity, but not as a serious candidate for elected office; Trump does not play well with others, and is used to getting exactly what he wants (or can buy); Trump is likely to mirror Paladino’s bellicose attitude and alienate many voters; Trump’s utterly bizarre and inexplicably vocal birtherism will make Obama voters (62.6% of New Yorkers voted for Obama vs. 36% for Romney) reject Trump outright; and Trump has never, ever before paid a stitch of care or attention to anything west of the Hudson and/or north of Saratoga when it comes to New York State. 

If Republicans think that Trump can win (if he runs), they may be right – he has a chance. But it won’t remotely be the cakewalk they’re thinking it’ll be.  Cuomo isn’t warm and fuzzy, either, but he is a centrist Democrat. 

New York State is overwhelmingly populated by Democrats. The vast majority of New York voters are located within the New York City metropolitan area and media market. These people know Trump, and while upstate flirts with this pretty TV celebrity, he’s old hat downstate. Many of them are likely to not take him at all seriously. 

All of these hypotheticals are naturally based on the assumption that he’ll run. He won’t if there’s a primary, he says, and the country clubbers that run the New York GOP aren’t warming to Trump yet. I’m not so sure he’ll run – this is already a huge publicity stunt for him, and running is secondary. What a wonderful branding exercise. 

But is it? Is Trump ready to sacrifice his brand further by wading into hyperpartisan politics? As an Obama supporter, I’ve already resolved to avoid anything with Trump’s name on it like the plague; I see his relentless birtherism as thinly veiled racist xenophobia, and I see his rejection of irrefutable evidence as a huge character flaw that disqualifies him for public office, and the money I earn. If Donald Trump thinks that the President is a foreign national who is ineligible for the Presidency in the face of a certified long-form Hawaiian birth certificate, that calls his judgment and credibility into question. Now expand that aggressive ignorance into state politics, and he’ll alienate Democrats and moderate Republicans even more. 

Oh, and here’s a tip, tea partiers: stop calling Andrew Cuomo “il Duce”. He was duly elected, and you maintain a right to hate and criticize him. He is, therefore, not a fascist totalitarian dictator. But he is Italian. Your defamation of Cuomo with this false, childish, base slur will not ingratiate you or your candidates to New Yorkers of Italian descent. This bigotry is vile and beneath you; you might as well call him a mob boss or depict him as an organ-grinder as soon as you’d depict Obama as an African chieftain or with a watermelon

Because for all the bleating about the NY SAFE Act, this race will be decided in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. The rural areas will go for the Republican, the urban areas will go for the Democrat, and these key suburban swing counties could go either way. Right-leaning upstate counties simply don’t have a lot of people. 60% or so of New Yorkers are registered Democrats. 30% or so of New Yorkers are registered Republicans. The Conservative and Independence Parties are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party, so add another 5% on the Republican side. That’s the gap that Trump would have to win, and Cuomo made the point that he’s too extreme. 

Here’s what Cuomo had to say in remarks that enraged many New York right-wingers: 

You have a schism within the Republican Party. … They’re searching to define their soul, that’s what’s going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. It’s a mirror of what’s going on in Washington. The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.

… You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

If they’re moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate Republican; but not what you’re hearing from them on the far right.”

Republicans can take umbrage to that, but it’s a fundamentally true declaration. New York Republicans may enjoy the extreme hatenouncements of pretty billionaires and petty millionaires, but your average New Yorker is pretty middle-of-the-road. Pataki won because he wasn’t an extremist. Cuomo won because he wasn’t an extremist. It’s about the center in New York, and Trump may have had appeal there before the birtherism, but now he’s just Paladino with a cleaner outbox, a TV endorsement, and more money in the bank. 

Oh, by the way, the New York State Attorney General is suing Trump for defrauding students through a now-defunct “Trump University” which took money in exchange for nothing.  

So, my initial prediction is that Trump won’t win because (a) there would likely be a primary; and/or (b) he doesn’t need the headache. If I’m wrong and he does run, then I think he outperforms Paladino, but doesn’t defeat Cuomo. The reason why? Trump is being backed and promoted by a small minority of a small minority political party – a fraction of 35% of the state population. 

You guys are great at buying your own BS, and because you only credit right-leaning media and reject any sort of critical thought or debate, you think that you “surround us”. The problem is that the numbers are not in your favor, and the ease with which you descend into crass, ugly rhetoric doesn’t help. This is before we get to the actual policies you espouse, most of which would never fly in a cosmopolitan blue state like New York. 

So, good luck with this, but you might want to consider ways in which centrists and liberals might be attracted to Trump, rather than alienating them right from the start. Have a great weekend!

Love, BP

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