Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Some Afterthoughts

Postmortems are inevitable after an election. The shocking result of this race brought out more should-haves than most: the Clinton campaign didn’t devote enough time and energy to the white working class, especially in the Midwest; the Comey letter was a killer; etc. I’d like to add my two cents — no, three cents.

One: Why did 43 percent of eligible voters stay home? The outcome was decided by only a little more than half of the electorate. Since voting in the U.S. is voluntary, there are always stay-at-homes. But 43 percent is staggering. Some eligible voters were probably turned off by a seemingly endless and brutal campaign. Others didn’t care for either candidate. Then there are the endless efforts by Republicans to reduce the turnout by fraudulently claiming that they’re trying to combat fraud at the ballot box. Not coincidentally, their targets were predominantly Democratic-leaning, mostly minority, areas.

The U.S. ranks 31st of the 35 countries in the Organization for Cooperation and Development, most of whose members are developed democracies. Belgium ranks first, with 87.2 percent having voted in its 2014 election. It is one of several countries in which voting is mandatory. It wouldn’t be easy getting mandatory voting through Congress, but there’s no good reason we can’t change elections to the weekend, as is the case in many countries. This won’t get us up to Belgium’s standard, but making voting more convenient will certainly increase turnout.

Two: Why Trump? Whatever shortcomings there were in the Clinton campaign, they don’t compare with Donald Trump’s outrageous campaign. Not since George Wallace has there been a candidate more blatantly racist, sexist and xenophobic. He went from lie to lie, insult to insult, and outrageous promise to outrageous promise. Yet he garnered some 60 million votes.

Yes, there were a “basket of deplorables” supporting him: white nationalists, Nazis, anti-immigrationists. But the vast majority were expressing discontent with “the system.” The improving economy and decreasing unemployment somehow didn’t reach them. The brash “outsider,” Donald J. Trump, would turn it all around. They felt so strongly about it that they were willing to overlook his sickening bigoted behavior. So what if Hillary Clinton made more sense and had the qualifications to be president? She was part of the “establishment” — political jargon that has no meaning, but which has been hammered home to the populace as a pejorative — and consequently she is for the elites and not for “us.” And no doubt some men were simply not ready to vote for a woman to be president.

Three: Democracies are defined by the proud standard, one person, one vote. But the Electoral College undermines that standard; it should be laid to rest. Twice in 16 years, and five times since the 1830s, a candidate lost the election despite having a majority of the vote. It’s time we told our Founding Fathers that we have more faith in the people than they did when they conceived that elitist idea.

Would I still feel as I do if a Republican candidate got more votes than the Democrat but lost due to the Electoral College? Yes, I would. As long as the popular vote is fair I’m bound to accept the result. Would Donald Trump feel the same way? Hmmm.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Shapes of Discontent


There’s a word for the ages. Who has never been discontented at one time or another? In fact, it’s what makes the world go ’round. If not for discontent there’d be inventions, no explorations, no revolutions — in short, no progress. And election time is a bellwether for discontent.

Throughout this campaign for president we’ve heard that word a thousand times: The Sanders supporters are discontented; the Trump supporters are discontented. True enough, but the reasons for discontent go from A to Z. There are laudable reasons to be discontented: unemployment, low wages, housing shortages, racist oppression, inadequate health care, etc. And there are bad reasons — which include hatred and fear: racism and xenophobia to name two.

Based upon Trump’s campaign — which was a mishmash of populist proposals as well as insults, bigotry, and obviously crazy ideas like building that wall on the Mexican border — I must conclude that those who voted for him either overlooked or agreed with his outrageous statements and behavior. That is very troubling.

It is one thing to be understandably discontented, but quite another to be indifferent to or in favor of hateful ideas that create division, not unity; that augur chaos, not progress.

We will be making a big mistake if we overlook the evil aspects of Trump’s drumbeats, which made hatred an integral part of his campaign. We must take seriously the embrace of Trump by David Duke and his racist ilk, by the so-called “alt-right,” a neo-fascist crop from which Trump appointed Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart News, to be his campaign manager.

I could not agree more with the following excerpt from a post-election statement issued by Elizabeth Warren:

“The Democrats’ first job in this new era: We will stand up to bigotry. There is no compromise here. In all its forms, we will fight back against attacks on Latinos, African Americans, women, Muslims, immigrants, disabled Americans – on anyone. Whether Donald Trump sits in a glass tower or sits in the White House, we will not give an inch on this, not now, not ever.”

We are stuck with four years of Donald J. Trump as president. How those years play out must not be left to him. There's no question in my mind that there will be much disillusionment among many, if not most, of those who voted for him. It's up to all of us to channel that discontent and move the country forward, despite the man with the funny hair.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Deplorable Situation

A few weeks ago, in a letter to the New York Times, the writer was critical of those who support Donald Trump based on their economic circumstances. He wrote, “Hard times is no excuse for ignorance.” In a similar vein, the theme of Thomas Frank’s book “What’s the Matter With Kansas” was that election after election working- and middleclass Kansans vote against their self-interests, supporting Republicans who promise them the moon but deliver only Earthly hardship.

Millions of voters are supporting a candidate who is not only unqualified but is more blatantly evil than any we’ve ever seen. In the GOP primaries, Trump's playground epithets alone should have made him the first to bite the dust: “Little Marco,” “Lying Ted,” “Low Energy Jeb,” etc. And now, as the Republican nominee, he treats to “Crooked Hillary,” who should be “locked up.” None of the other Republican hopefuls was a bargain. But Trump's overt racism, misogyny, xenophobia and insults are in a class by themselves. Why did so many primary voters select him over so many less virulent rivals?  

As we enter the final weeks of this outrageously long and long-winded campaign, the polls indicate that Trump will be defeated. But we must be concerned about the state of the electorate, now and after the elections are thankfully over. The attitudes that motivated millions to support him must be addressed; they will not disappear upon his defeat. If not for her too generalized phrase that “half of Trump’s supporters” were a “basket of deplorables,” Hillary Clinton hit the nail on the head as she was actually referring to the white supremacists, xenophobes and Nazis who have enthusiastically jumped onto Trump’s grotesque bandwagon. (To get a frightening glimpse of those groups, hundreds of which are scattered throughout the country, I recommend the material issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Check out the SPLC Website.) 

While there's no way to know how many of Trump's supporters belong in that “basket,” we can assume that most of his supporters are simply feeling disgruntled with “Washington” — for whatever reason — and are voting for Trump less out of conviction than out of anger — or that many of them just hate Hillary Clinton, thanks to the 30-year hatchet job by Republicans and right-wing media. And as we near the finish line, we're treated to the spectacle of a presidential candidate whipping up that anger, accusing the elections of being “rigged,” the media of being biased against him, and encouraging actual insurrection if Clinton wins.

It's vital that Donald Trump not only be defeated but trounced in every state, and — equally important — take his down-ballot candidates to defeat with him. Only with a Democratic turnover in Congress will it be possible to move the Clinton administration forward, with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the forefront of that movement. That's the only path toward assuaging whatever grievances are motivating masses of  Trump's supporters, and it's the best weapon to crush the actual deplorables.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


It began with the televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. For the first time in history we were able to see the candidates up close, not just hear their voices. The arguments each one made were vital, of course, in helping the viewing public decide which candidate they preferred. But what historians speak of most when referring to that debate was the way the two looked: Kennedy, relaxed and handsome; Nixon, sweaty and nervous.

Perception played no small role in deciding which of the two came across as more likable, and, therefore, more “presidential.” So it has been ever since.

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump started out as a minor slugfest, dealing mostly with the issue of trade, but became a rout when Clinton began reciting Trump's many insults and refusal to release his tax returns, and he couldn't hold back his anger. His many interruptions — including his outrageous reaction that he was “smart” to avoid paying taxes — came across as childish and revelatory of the very unpresidential Donald J. Trump. He lost that debate handily not solely on the issues, but also on the perception of him as a playground bully.

Unfortunately, I felt that in the vice-presidential debate Tim Kaine did not do his solid presentation of the issues any service by his intemperate interruptions of Mike Pence, whose demeanor — like JFK's in that first TV debate — was relatively relaxed and respectful. Pence's transgressions — if we can them that — were lots of headshaking during the split screen coverage of Kaine's presentations.

Fair or not, in our days of expansive social media and extensive TV coverage, perception counts.

I remember a monologue by the comedian Don Adams before he became Maxwell Smart in the TV series “Get Smart.” He posed as a defense attorney addressing the jury during a murder case. His client was a beautiful woman. Thrusting his arm out in her direction, he urged the jury to look at her legs. “Are these the legs of a homicidal maniac?” he asked.

I don't know whether it worked, but don't sell perception short.       

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ghost on the Tower

(With apologies to Shakespeare)

Scene: The roof of Trump Tower. 3 a.m. The door opens and Donald Trump walks out.

Donald: Twas here upon their nightly watch my guards did see a form so like a man they drew their guns, at which the form did vanish as if swallowed by a breeze. Upon their strange report I bade them stay outside my rooms this night and I alone would venture here to test the air for such a thing.

(An apparition of Fred Trump appears and draws closer to Donald.)

O God, upon my soul it is in form and like my dear departed father!

Fred: Aye, my son, tis I, a wretched insubstantial shape who was your father, doomed to walk the nights till all my sins are burnt and purged away.

Donald: Sins, father, what sins?

Fred: Sins most foul as in the best they are.

Donald: What say you of sins? I know of no sins in your exemplary life.

Fred: In my time upon the Earth I learned as a child upon my father’s knee that one must be strong to survive the whips and scorns of competition. And so I persevered, gaining wealth and fame without regard to honor and civility. Too well I passed to you this creed of greed, which you ignobly advanced.

Donald: Not I, father, not I. Only sound business practices do I perform as you conveyed them.

Fred: Sound as to wealth, yes, but unsound to commonwealth. It pains my spectral form to hear you speak so. Even in death I grieve that you so callously disregard the plight of those you’ve cheated through the years, and in your quest for high office you hurl insults and ridicule to those in opposition .

Donald: I shudder at your pronouncements. My means and methods have followed the course you taught me, a course of success beyond your wildest dreams — success to the point where now I stand at the threshold of the greatest success the world has ever known: the presidency of the United States!

Fred: O my son, my faithful but misguided son. That is the reason I come to you now to urge that you repent before you make the greatest mistake for yourself, your family, your country and for the world. But hark, I sense the morning air, and I must depart. But ere my spectral form fades this night I beseech you to reflect and reform your ways. The hours of your greatest aspiration are winding down. So hear me, Donald, my beloved son. Hear me before it is too late. Reform, reform… (He starts to fade.) and remember me, remember meeee… (Disappears)

Donald: (alone in the dawn) Aye, remember you, dear father, I will, I will. And as I remember you and choose my path ahead, I will not shrink as chooser. I’ll remember you in life as a winner, but in death as a loser.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Confident is good, scared is better

When Donald Trump said, “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and I wouldn’t lose any votes,” the scariest thing about it was not his audacity but his accurate reading of his base. Every day there is a new revelation of Trump’s chicanery, bigotry, etc., but none of it seems to make a dent among his “Alt-Right” followers. After a boisterous Trump rally, a TV reporter pointed out to one of the attendees that most of what Trump said was untrue. She thought a moment then replied, “Yes, but he’ll get things done.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

One of the best and scariest publications I’ve ever come across is the magazine “Intelligence Report,” issued twice a year by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It details the activities of hundreds of Nazi and white supremacist groups across the country, hardly any of which gets into the mainstream press. Its summer issue featured an article titled “Hate in the Race,” about such groups rallying around Trump — sought or not.

Trump famously denied knowing anything about David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, when informed that Duke was supporting him. Trump belatedly disowned Duke’s support, but Duke hasn’t withdrawn his support for Trump. The “Intelligence Report” article notes that Duke praised Trump’s immigration plan, and he said that Trump “has really said some incredibly great things recently.”

The article also cites a group called the White Genocide Project, “which promotes the myth that white people worldwide are being subjected to mass murder.” It states that members of this group have started a petition to honor Trump for “opposing white genocide.”

Another white-supremacist group, the American Freedom Party, has gone one better. Its leader, William Daniel Johnson, founded a political action committee, originally named the American National Trump Super PAC then renamed the American National Super PAC. It started rolling out robocalls for trump, and was joined in those calls by a racist named Jared Taylor, who said, “We don't need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture.”

Yes, confident is good — which is the essence of Hillary Clinton’s campaign speeches — but there is good reason to be scared enough by the gutter rats who have swarmed around Donald Trump to make sure that he never sets foot in the Oval Office.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fear Itself

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

I thought of FDR's famous statement during the recent spate of human stampedes at our airports and malls. With the actual terrorist attacks at airports in Brussels and Istanbul fresh in people’s minds, it didn’t take more than some loud noise to cause panic at a mall in Raleigh on Aug. 13, the next day at JFK in New York, at a mall in Michigan on Aug. 20, at another mall in Orlando on Aug. 25, and then, the latest, at Los Angeles International Airport on Aug. 28.

There were no cries of “Fire!”, no explosions, no gunshots. We have become so sensitized to actual terrorism that a sudden noise can start a panic in a crowded area, such as an airport terminal or a mall. Those who would commit terror are probably having a good laugh at us.

Unfortunately, the emergence of terrorism makes it difficult to assuage our fears. Can we be unduly critical of that handful of  travelers or shoppers who, for whatever reason, became frightened and began to run, setting off a wholesale panic? This problem is not easily solved by Roosevelt's dictum.

But there is a great difference between his statement — a call for sober reflection on dealing with difficulties — and the stoking of fear by Donald Trump. His mantra is that we are doomed if we don't elect him president. He capitalizes on every violent incident that may or may not be related to terrorism — such as a shooting in Chicago. He would have you believe that crime is rampant across the nation, when, in fact, it has been declining for the past several years.

I believe that the leaders of ISIS would like nothing better than to see Trump elected president. It would create the perfect atmosphere for massive recruitment by ISIS and al Qaeda. Terrorism would multiply, both in the Middle East and in countries around the world, including the United States.

So how do we combat terrorism and the fear of it at the same time? First, we must not elect Donald Trump president. Second, we must intensify commitments with and by other countries — especially those in the Middle East — to defeat ISIS and al Qaeda. Third, we must increase our efforts to curb terrorist recruitment. As for the fear factor, uniformed security forces at airports, malls, and other places of large gatherings, must be increased. The more their presence is felt the less likely it is for either an actual terrorist incident to be carried out or for “false alarms” to result in panic.

Donald Trump's bluster notwithstanding, there is no easy solution to eradicating terrorism from the planet; it has all but replaced warfare between countries. But while FDR's statement may be somewhat simplified — spoken during the pain of the Great Depression — it certainly trumps Trump's cure: “We're gonna bomb the shit out of ’em!”    


Friday, August 19, 2016

Special Privileges

After reading a column in the Washington Post about a move in Congress to excuse taxation on the medals won in the Olympics — the winners of which receive not only the medals, but $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze — I thought back to my two-year stint in the Army during the Korean War, from 1950 to 1952.

My last of three Army bases was Fort Eustis, Virginia. In my company were several noted sports figures — Willie Mays the most notable. Among others were Ed Roman, the center for the City College basketball team — which a year before had won both the NCAA and NIT tournaments, but then became enmeshed in a betting scandal; Vernon Law, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Fran Rogell, fullback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I remember one other sports luminary: Sandy Saddler, the world's featherweight champion. While I was in the base hospital, having undergone a minor operation, Saddler, dressed in fatigues and sporting an enormous ring, paid us a cheering-up visit. He regaled us with stories about his career and answered questions about boxing.

Although there was a military draft — through which I came to serve, thankfully not in battle — all these stars had been recruited with assurances that they would not be sent overseas, that their primary duties would be carried out in their respective sports.

But the scandal of providing safe service to sports luminaries hit the fan, so to speak, and an Army investigation into the situation resulted in reassignment of the officer in charge of this charade to Fort Knox, where he apparently served nobly guarding our gold bullion, and genuine basic training for the sportsmen in my company.

Special privileges may be found in almost every aspect of our culture, from business to sports, to entertainment. I, too, benefited from it: I had the privilege of playing catch with Willie Mays on a bright afternoon in the fall of 1952.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Guilt by Accusation


In 1898 that word shook France. It was the headline of an open letter to a Paris newspaper by the French author Emile Zola, accusing the French military of framing Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army, as a traitor. Zola accused the military of using anti-Semitism to gain the conviction.

At the time of Zola’s letter, Dreyfus had already begun serving a five-year sentence on Devil’s Island. But thanks in no small measure to Zola’s letter, new evidence was uncovered which revealed that another officer was the culprit. Dreyfus was retried in 1899, and in a strange legal decision, he was re-sentenced to 10 years, then pardoned!

Dreyfus resumed his military career. He was promoted to major, fought in World War I and died in 1935.

Such is the power of accusation. But unlike Zola’s use of it on the side of justice, today it is the common currency for nefarious purposes in politics — especially in the campaign of Donald Trump.

Not a day has gone by when Trump or his surrogates have not accused Hillary Clinton of every evil imaginable — including suspicions that she may have had something to do with the death of Vince Foster, deputy White House counsel during the first few months of Bill Clinton’s first term.

Trump called Foster’s suicide “very fishy.” (Well, that’s not exactly an accusation; let’s call it an innuendo — accusation’s slippery cousin.)

Remember his debating delicacies: “Little Marco,” “Lying Ted,” “Low Energy Jeb”? His favorite these days is “Crooked Hillary.” And the other day he added “bigot” to his list of epithets for her. But the most egregious accusation that Trump's warped mind cooked up was that President Obama and Hillary Clinton “founded ISIS.”

Proof? You don’t need any for the unquestioning supporters of Mr. Trump. And where did he call her a bigot? At a rally in almost all-white West Bend, Wisconsin, about 40 miles away from Milwaukee, which is 40 percent African-American.

My voice is not as powerful as that of Emile Zola, but let me make an accusation. Donald Trump is a bigot, a misogynist, a sleazy human being — and, oh yes, a crooked businessman. Where’s my proof? It’s in every report of his numerous business dealings and in every one of his campaign speeches. As they say in court, I rest my case.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Gold Medals and Lead Balloons

I’ve been watching the Olympics and election campaign coverage alternately on TV. The difference is striking.

No, I’m not referring to the fact that one is a feast of fantastic sports events and the other is a race for the presidency. I’m referring to character. Aside from my jaw-dropping admiration for the athleticism on display in Rio, I’ve actually found myself choked up by the camaraderie and good will displayed within teams, between teams, and by every nation — East, West, North and South. The closest thing to animosity was the questioning by a U.S. swimmer as to whether a Russian swimmer should have been allowed to compete based on a doping charge.

The world I witnessed at the Olympics is nowhere to be found in the inflammatory, isolationist and dangerous campaign of Donald Trump.

Sometimes a confluence of disparate events — such as these two — brings truth into sharp focus; in this case, how the beauty and brotherhood displayed in Rio shatters the dire depiction of our nation and the world by Mr. Trump.

Remember Paper?

Time was when you would write a letter on a sheet of paper — with pen, pencil or typewriter — place it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and send it off to someone who would be the only person able to read it — unless he or she wanted to show it to someone else. No hacking, no cherry-picking for partisan purposes — ergo, no scandals. Ahh, the good old days.

Now just the mention of emails sends shivers down the spines of those in government or business who send and receive loads of emails daily. The email hot seat is currently occupied by Hillary Clinton, who happens to be running for the presidency. We don't know at this writing how greatly her email problem will affect her candidacy. I suspect that she will overcome it, and, on January 20, 2017, she will occupy the Oval Office. At least I hope so, given the alternative.

But the problem goes deeper than the hacking of emails for political dirt. With all its marvels, computer technology has opened the way for scams, pornographic seduction, robbery of bank accounts — and there is even a call by some in government to return to paper ballots as a guarantee against digital interference with voting machines.

I realize we can't go back to the old days and old ways — nor should we — but the advent of  sophisticated computerized chicanery is frightening. It's a Pandora's Box that Pandora never dreamed of.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Answer

This is a poetic version of the piece below.

I don’t know the answer —
mayhem followed by magic.
First Baton Rouge, then Falcon Heights,
followed by a coda of death in Dallas.
Then, as if to send in the clowns,
the young female gymnasts —
white, black, Hispanic —
twirling themselves through the air,
swinging on bars like monkeys,
landing firm on their feet,
statuesque to loud applause,
then coming off to embraces by teammates.

I don’t know the answer
to mayhem followed by magic,
to hatred followed by love.
Perhaps it lies in the question
if asked and asked and asked again
by millions demanding an answer.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Dose of Sanity

After Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas, I thought my TV would turn blood red. I needed a dose of sanity. So on Sunday night I watched the women's gymnastic Olympic trials. 

For me the horror of the week-that-was ended on an up note. Not only did I sit in awe of the incredible feats these girls performed, but what they did after each one turned a remarkable routine brought me that dose of sanity I needed: Hugs all around. The young contestants — white, black, Hispanic — hugged each other in a display that at any other time would have seemed to be nothing more than team spirit, but coming on the heels of the racism and hatred that resulted in seven deaths, it seemed ironic and was a welcome counterpoint to those tragedies.

And yet watching those incredible young women perform and relate so warmly to each other was a dose of sanity, it wasn't a cure. There will be more racial animosity and more deaths before we fully live up to our Declaration's most famous line: “All men are created equal.”

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Donald's Hair

A word or two about his hair,
that golden carpet fore and aft,
a miracle of tonsorial craft
unique in style not seen elsewhere.

How does he secure it when abed?
Perhaps it's covered with a net
to keep its strands safely set —
kingly crown on kingly head.

And when he struts his regal way
his gleaming coif stands out a mile —
so different from the rank-and-file
they spot the man who's holding sway.

He wears his crown for pride and show
while managing his shady deals,
not caring that his hair reveals
the ego that's encased below.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Guns Without Roses

There are many examples of the rapacious nature of capitalism — its democratic trappings notwithstanding — but none so blatant as the so-called gun debate. I use the term “so-called” because it isn't really a debate; it's inhumanity vs. humanity.

To begin with, no one advocating greater control over the manufacture and distribution of firearms is calling for repeal — or even modification — of the Second Amendment. I'd like to note, however, the historical context in which that amendment was written. It was post-revolution, a still fragile time for our new nation. That's why the amendment begins, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and then follows with, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So let's leave the Second Amendment out of this “debate,” and consider why the National Rifle Association, gun manufacturers and their mouthpieces in Congress want to keep the doors to gun sales wide open. It has nothing to do with self-defense, or the right “to bear arms.” It has everything to do with sales. With profits. In the case of members of Congress — mostly Republicans — it's called “reelection.”

Weapons that fire many bullets in a matter of seconds were intended for military and police use, not for bringing down a burglar in the middle of the night. If those weapons were outlawed for civilian purchase, and if background checks were more strict before anyone could buy a gun, no one could argue that it wouldn't have made a difference in the number of mass slaughters which have plagued this country over the last few years.

As long as there are lethal weapons — whether they be guns or knives — there will be killings. No one disputes that. But neither could anyone dispute the obvious truth that greater control over manufacture, sales and background checks would minimize such horrific events as the slaughter of 20 school children and six teachers in Newtown or 49 people in Orlando.

Yes, Mr. La Pierre, people kill people. But need they be so efficient at it?  

Monday, June 27, 2016

‘Is the wall here yet?'

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently published a report on the “profoundly negative effect” that Donald Trump's candidacy is having on our nation's schools and children. The report was based on an online survey by Teaching Tolerance. While it notes that the survey of approximately 2,000 K-12 teachers was not scientific, it shows “a disturbing nationwide problem, one that is particularly acute in schools with high concentrations of minority children.”

The report says that more than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students, “mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslims,” expressed concerns about “what might happen to them or their families after the election.”

“My students are terrified of Donald Trump,” says one teacher from a middle school with a large population of African-American Muslims. “They think that if he's elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa.”

In Tennessee, a kindergarten teacher says a Latino child — told by classmates that he will be deported and trapped behind a wall — asks every day, “Is the wall here yet?”

The other side of the coin is equally disturbing. One teacher reported that a fifth-grader told a Muslim student he was supporting Donald Trump because “he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he became president.”

In Merrillville, Indiana, students began chanting “Build a wall!” during a basketball game against a rival team made up mostly of Latino players.

At this writing, Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. There is a movement within the GOP, however, to prevent that from happening at its convention in late July. But that movement is based more on embarrassment than conviction. Despite denials by GOP leaders that Trump's behavior doesn't reflect their own views, an examination of their positions reveals otherwise — albeit in subtler form.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A word from our sponsor…

First, a word of praise. The imagination and computerization that goes into the creation of today’s commercials hawking skin creams or peanuts is astounding. Despite my distaste for commercials generally, I’m often mesmerized by the incredible productions involved. That being said…

According to Section 5 of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, there are limits on how much time may be spent for commercials. Depending on the time of day, it ranges from 13 to 16 minutes per hour. That’s one-quarter of the show. And who do you think pays for those very expensive commercials? We do, in the price we pay for the advertised products.

Excuse me?

Frequently, when I select a column in the Internet edition of the Washington Post, a video commercial would appear before the column does. It either gives me the option to click onto an “X” in the upper right-hand corner, thereby cancelling the commercial, or it informs me that the commercial will end in 15-or-so seconds. I grit my teeth and wait to read the column.

Bad enough. But one morning, while reading a Post column, a video commercial popped up in mid-sentence. For a split-second I thought a virus had taken over. It’s one thing to have commercials at the top, on the side, and sometimes right in the middle of the column, but to be reading when, without warning, a video pops up is the last straw.

I suppose it’s legal, and that a lot of money is involved, but while we tolerate commercials as the price we pay for watching “CSI” or “Survivor,” the intrusiveness of commercials has gotten out of hand.

Now hear this

There is an act called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act — the CALM Act. This act ostensibly prohibits advertisers from raising the decibel level of their ads higher than that of the program. This is as useless as prohibition was.

First of all, decibel levels rise and fall with the type of sound being delivered. An actress letting out a scream is far different than the sound of two lovers whispering sweet nothings to one another. It’s the same with commercials. I’m hard of hearing, so I watch TV with headphones. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to take them off when a blaring commercial comes on. The ad agencies that create those commercials know how to get your attention, both with sound and content, even while staying within the rules of the CALM act.

What’s this about?

Something strange has happened to commercials. Time was when a commercial would introduce a product, tell you how good it is, and urge you to buy it. They were straightforward: “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot, twelve full ounces, that’s a lot…” Today the expensive scenarios of most commercials have little or nothing to do with the product; their aim is to get you to remember the product’s name, which is flashed on the screen at the end of the commercial. Example: one of the many different GEICO commercials features a hobo chicken. The chicken has left the farm and is seen first in a photograph held by the farmer, and then aboard a train heading for who knows where. Nothing to do with insurance. On TV these days a product’s logo is not necessarily an abstract design, it’s a duck, a gecko — or a chicken.

Wanna buy a warplane?

Then there are a bunch of commericals with no product for sale. Well, not the kinds of products on store shelves. “My mom works at GE,” says the cute girl after screen images of airplane engines and other contrivances made by GE. What’s this all about, I wondered. Why, of course, invest in the company!

The airplane manufacturer Northrup-Grumman has come out with a number of mysterious-looking commercials featuring sleek military aircraft, with ominous percussive sound effects accompanied by imaginative lighting. Anyone in the market for an enormous deadly airplane? I didn’t think so. Again, investment is the aim.

This tirade is over. But, like Howard Beale in the film “Network,” I’m mad as hell. Until there’s a successful movement against all this nonsense, I guess I’ll have to take those tedious, barely comprehensible commercials — plus two Aleves…or should I stay with six Tylenols?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Danger Time

I’m concerned about recent developments in this election campaign, developments that endanger the possibility of defeating Donald Trump, the GOP’s “presumptive nominee.”

The ruckus that occurred at the Nevada Democratic Party’s convention was scary. And Bernie Sanders’ reaction to it made it scarier. Yes, he condemned whatever violence may have been triggered by his supporters, as well as subsequent threats against the party’s chairwoman and her family, but that was overshadowed by his emphatic criticism of the Nevada Democratic Party.

What did or did not occur at that convention may be arguable, but as we draw closer to the last primaries and the two national conventions, it’s time for reality to subdue animosity. Bernie should continue his vital campaign, stressing his relatively revolutionary program. But he should not do it at the risk of undermining the critical need of defeating Trump. In short, Sanders should tone down, not ramp up, his criticism of Hillary Clinton — who, according to the math, will be the Democratic nominee. He has already served the positive role of pushing her leftward in her pronouncements. And he should fight for his program at the Democratic Convention.

Bernie constantly reminds his audience that polls show that he would have a better chance of defeating Trump than Hillary would. Perhaps he would, perhaps he wouldn’t. At this stage of the campaign that can’t be assured. Nevertheless, it’s all the more reason for him to lend to her campaign all the political heft he has earned. I disagree completely with the attitude expressed by Sanders supporter Mayor Bao Nguyen of Garden Grove, California, who was quoted in The New York Times (5/19) as saying: “Senator Sanders isn’t obliged to help Secretary Clinton if she wins.”

A powerful column against Trump’s candidacy appeared in the Washington Post (5/19), written by Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The headline read: “This is how fascism comes to America.” No more quotation is needed.

In any struggle — electoral, generally political or labor — the imperative aims must dominate all other considerations and actions. In this case, it’s making sure that Donald Trump doesn’t occupy the Oval Office. We should not be complacent about the danger he represents. He has stirred up deep dissatisfaction among large sections of the population — some of it warranted by economic inequality (Bernie’s major thrust), but much of it xenophobic and racist. (Didn’t they laugh at Hitler during his early rise?)

It’s time for Bernie to direct his main fire on the main enemy, and to do all he can to encourage his supporters to do likewise.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

No Laughing Matter

One thing is clear about this election campaign: Donald Trump does not have the qualities of a decent human being, much less those required to be president of the United States, and today’s Republican Party is more concerned about taking over the government than about the country’s welfare.

While some voices within the GOP and among conservative pundits have been raised against a Trump candidacy, the party has begun to fall into line behind the man with the funny hair and neo-fascist bluster. Even Ted Cruz, who called Trump a “pathological liar,” refused to say he would not support Trump if he became the GOP standard bearer in the presidential race. The GOP uber alles!

The first step on the path to Trump was taken well before this campaign. It began by Mitch McConnell in 2010 when he declared that the GOP’s top priority was to limit Obama’s presidency to one term. Not to legislate for the good of the nation, mind you, but to prevent a second term for Obama when his first term had barely gotten off the ground!
That “priority” sowed the seeds for the obstructionism by Congressional Republicans, which in turn led to popular discontent with “Washington” — or, its synonym, “the establishment.”

And so along comes “The Donald,” a bull in the China shop of politics. No candidate has ever appeared to be more “anti-establishment” than this heir to a real estate fortune. Do we care that he’s one of the one-percent? That he’s all slogans and no substance? Nah. He hates “the establishment;” that’s good enough for us. In an interview with a Trump supporter after he had delivered one of his trademark tirades, she was reminded that much of what he said was not true. Her response? “Yes… but he’ll get things done.”

In the Democratic corner, the same nationwide discontent that underpins Trump’s rise has also given the Sanders campaign a heft to the left, which surprised everyone — probably even the senator himself. But while the two campaigns have been built on discontent, there’s a big difference between them. Trump’s campaign is one of xenophobia, isolationism, racism, sexism, and even anti-intellectualism. Sanders, on the other hand, in his role in Congress and in his campaign for the Democratic nomination, stands firmly on the side of middle- and workingclass Americans.

So here we are, in a campaign that is giving the GOP fits, causing sharp splits among the American people, and frightening foreign leaders who fear the damage a Trump presidency would do internationally.

It is imperative that unity against Trump must be swift and strong — and that includes independents as well as Republicans who care more about their country than they do about their party.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Repeat after me…

I solemnly swear…
that as I respect myself…
I will respect all others…
however different they are from me…
in race, religion, nationality…
or sexual orientation…
recognizing that self-respect is justifiable…
only in the context of universal respect.
I further swear…
that at no time will I countenance…
any act or action…
that demeans, degrades or punishes…
any individual or group…
absent evidence of wrongdoing…
and that I will fight against…
obstructions or laws…
that restrict the rights…
of individuals or groups…
who pose no threat…
to other individuals or groups…
these rights to include…
the right to vote…
the right to protest injustice…
and the right to equality.
This oath I swear as the true path…
to self-respect and dignity.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Money and Half-Truths

Probably the most famous linguistic redundancy is the oath taken by witnesses before they take the stand in court: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Wouldn’t one “truth” be sufficient? Not according to the jurisprudential smartypants who came up with that oath. Nothing like a legal mind to feel it necessary to dot every I and cross every T three times over.

However, an oath of that kind should be given to political candidates the moment they declare their candidacy. Half-truths abound in their pronouncements. For this diatribe, forget about outright lies and wild distortions. Those are usually exposed in the course of a campaign. It’s the half-truths that may not be brought to light and sully political discourse, even in the best candidates.

Take the claims by those politically polar opposites, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Bernie repeatedly boasts that he has no super PAC funding his campaign, that it is financed solely through average donations of $27. That may be true, but when he chastises Hillary Clinton for taking money from the fossil fuel industry, shouldn’t he also admit that individuals from that industry have contributed to his campaign? And Donald Trump keeps telling us that no one but he is financing his campaign. I have read that he has actually lent his campaign a huge sum and that he expects to be reimbursed — if not for all of it, at least a big chunk. And he is also receiving donations from individuals with Trumpian venom.

But money aside, my main concern is that Bernie and Hillary not damage each other so with half-truths and innuendos that they endanger whichever one wins the Democratic nomination. Instead of ramping up assaults on each other — which they are doing — they should continue to promote their programs as being better for our country, and ramp up their assaults on the dangerous crew under the banner of the GOP (Gangsters On Parade).

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Everyburg Address

Too many months ago our major political parties brought forth upon this nation a campaign to elect the next president of the United States.

We are interminably engaged in this epic battle to determine which candidate is best qualified to attain the highest elective office in the land.

Many candidates in one party have fallen, not having sufficiently enticed a besieged public to their pseudo-patriotic bluster. In the other party, where a modicum of sanity can be detected, three candidates entered the fray, one of whom has bitten the dust.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we see this campaign through to November. But it is questionable whether this nation, conceived on democratic principles, can withstand the battering of those principles by candidates whose standard bearer was our beloved sixteenth president.

Let us pray that somehow the electorate will survive the lies, hypocrisy, racism, xenophobia, and sleazy discourse of those candidates, and that we, now suffering this destructive display, will overcome it, and that this nation — of the people, by the people, and for the people — shall not perish after January 2017.