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URBAN PERSPECTIVE-Let’s get one thing out of the way. When I ask Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: Why Amazon is still listing on its site for sale Agatha Christie’s classic crime who-done-it, with its original racially offensive name, Ten Little Niggers, it’s not yet another PC screech for censorship of a beloved crime classic. In fact, I resolutely opposed the demand a few years back to get rid of Mark Twain’s timeless classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because it uses the word nigger countless times and one of its principal characters is “Nigger Jim.” 

I said then that it was much ado about nothing because Twain was not a racist. The goal in the book was to show the ugliness and evilness of slavery and to do that he had to use the rawest racist language of his day. Huck Finn reflected not only the times but was a beautiful poetic, literary gem that readers young and old could learn from and admire for its historic and artistic content and quality. And, in any case, to pull it from libraries and curriculum was censorship in its rawest and ugliest form. 

Christie’s Ten Little Niggers and Amazon’s sale of it, though, is a horse of a totally different color. The “n word” is not buried in the novel for added literary effect. It’s the cover title in bold letters. In some editions, in case the intent is missed, there’s a picture of an upper crust white couple with a look of fear and revulsion staring at a semi-naked black boy on a pedestal. In others there’s a circle of Sambo-caricatured blacks dancing around in a circle. Christie based the title on a racist poem with this ditty: 

“Ten little nigger boys went out to dine; 
One choked his little self and then there were Nine…

Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun; 
One got frizzled up and then there was One. 
One little nigger boy left all alone; 
He went out and hanged himself and then there were None.”
 

The title was clearly meant to shock and pander to the prevailing racist sentiment of the day. It had absolutely no relation to the story line of the novel. 

Christie’s unabashed racist views read like a “what’s what” of racial stereotypes, vilification, and condescension in her mystery novels when there’s even the faintest mention of blacks and other non-white characters. She seemed to have a special fascination with their hair, eyes, or other physical characteristics that she found odd, different and always disgusting. 

Now there’s Amazon. Amazon clearly states that it takes a close look at the appropriateness of items sold on its site that may “offend cultural differences and sensitivities.” It has pulled, or flagged, several items from its site -- from racially offensive DVDs to the Confederate Flag. To call for Amazon to pull Ten Little Niggers then is hardly a case of censorship, but purely a call for the world’s largest online buying and selling commercial product site to cease profiting off the sale of a horrid racially demeaning title. 

It’s also a case of a company doing what legions of other companies have done that have had to come square with the fact they were selling and thereby profiting off of a racially, sexually or environmentally degrading product -- and that’s to pull it. In doing that, they have simply done more than pay lip service to their oft-time stated pledge to be a good corporate citizen. The removal of Ten Little Niggers from Amazon would in no way prevent buyers and collectors of the work with this offensive title from buying it. There’s a plethora of online book sellers and sites that sell the book, and they’re readily accessible to one and all. 

Twain could not have conveyed the sentiment of the evil of slavery and racial bigotry that’s a part of America’s shameful racial legacy by sugar coating the language or guarding his vocabulary against racial epithets. Huck Finn, with all of its racial crudities, provided then and now an insight into a time and place in America that should not be forgotten. Nothing of the sort can be said of Christie’s Ten Little Niggers. There’s no redeeming literary value in the title -- a title that has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with pandering to crude and vicious racial stereotypes. By continuing to sell the book, Amazon is doing the same as Christie did, for profit and nothing more.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Let’s Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GUEST WORDS-As this election season comes to a full boil, we should remember the importance of civil disobedience to our history. It is one of the few tools ordinary people still have to organize for change. With corporations spending unlimited campaign cash, and states requiring photo ID at voting booths, it’s through protest that we loudly proclaim that we won’t be silenced. 

Where would we be if the colonists hadn’t staged the Boston Tea Party to protest their lack of representation? Where would we be without protestors sitting where they were told not to sit, marching across bridges and to our Nation’s Capital, and standing in solidarity fully aware of the physical, legal and financial consequences awaiting them? 

Speaking in Reno, Nevada, in late August, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could have listened to some advisors and refused to take the hate-bait that floods daily from Republican candidate Donald Trump. But to her credit, she decided to speak up. As OurFuture.org’s Terrance Heath wrote:  

“In a scorching takedown of Donald Trump and his alt-right allies, Hillary Clinton reminded Americans that silence never defeats hatred, but that it must be called out and exposed for what it is.” 

Her choice was a clear reminder that we cannot defeat hate by being invisible – it’s up to each of us to stand up and step forward. We must all confront a challenger aiming to make racism mainstream. We are called at this moment to make sure that never happens. Decency will defeat hate, but we must speak up and speak publicly. 

When I’ve confronted racism in my life, I didn’t do so by complaining about it to my friends and going home. I organized and took action. One way I did this was through protest. 

After finishing high school in Virginia, I went to college in Pennsylvania, where I was the only African American in my class. Coming from the state that prides itself as the home of the Confederacy, I didn’t expect Pennsylvania would be the first place where I’d protest for racial equality, but that’s what happened. 

One evening, I went with a group of friends to celebrate a classmate’s birthday at the local café. We waited patiently to get served even after others were served. My white friends didn’t know why service was so slow. I knew why. 

“It’s because of me,” I said. But they didn’t believe me because their experience of racism was limited to atrocities of hate groups. One of my friends approached the waitress, who told her the restaurant’s owner wouldn’t let her serve us. 

We protested. We staged sit-ins and lobbied our student government, which voted to boycott the restaurant. Finally, the restaurant changed its practices. 

More than 50 years later, one of the friends with me that evening recalled how painful it had been for her. Seeing the discrimination that I’d spent my young life steeling myself against opened her eyes to an experience she hadn’t seen before. 

Our protest was about more than vindicating the right of black and brown people to eat in a restaurant without discrimination. For me, protest was a way to exert my humanity and claim that I am a person exactly like everyone else in our free nation. 

That’s why, at the age of 70, I engaged in civil disobedience to support my friends who need a path to citizenship, and was arrested. I decided to stand with them, just as my friends stood with me. 

We need to do a lot of soul-searching, remember our history lessons – and stand together. 

When we’re willing to put our lives on hold and use our bodies to stand up for good, we demonstrate that we’re not afraid, and that we reject the politics of prejudice and paranoia. I’m willing to stand up for what is right, just like so many before me. Are you?

 

(Janice “Jay” Johnson is the board president of People’s Action, a national organization with members in 29 states advancing economic, racial, gender, and climate justice. Johnson is a longtime youth advocate and community activist in Hampton and Newport News, Virginia. Previously posted by Janice "Jay" JohnsonPermalink.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDITOR’S PICK--By most accounts and most polls, Hillary Clinton is headed for a landslide victory over the know-nothing/believe-in-nothing narcissist Donald Trump. 

That is true this weekend — the traditional Labor Day weekend campaign kickoff — despite Clinton being badly-damaged and reviled in the eyes of most Americans just like her rival. 

Still, she is acting like someone with a lock on the presidency and a great chance to win control of the Senate and weaken the Republican stranglehold on the House. She doesn’t meet with the press. She isn’t even campaigning, preferring to immerse herself in thousands of pages of cheat sheets and training with a large support group for the first debate at the end of the month. 

It’s a dream come true scenario for Democrats so what could go wrong? 

Trump in the third resurrection of his deranged campaign has turned to racists, fascists and ideologues of the dark side of the American political experience. He has placed his only hope in shocking revelations that would confirm for one and all that Hillary is the lying, crooked amoral self-server that Republicans and rightist fanatics have been claiming for so long. 

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, the accused rapist holed up in the Ecuador Embassy in London, says he’s got the dynamite ready to drop on Hillary just as he exposed how despicable the Democratic Party was in its treatment of Bernie Sanders. (Read the rest.)   

 

 

 

EDITOR’S PICK-Twenty-four years ago I was raped at gunpoint in the cold, dark backroom of the Payless shoe store where I was then working. Two years ago I signed on to a brilliant script called “The Birth of a Nation,” to play a woman who was raped. One month ago I was sent a story about Nate Parker, the very talented writer, director and star of this film. Seventeen years ago Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of sexual assault. Four years ago the woman who accused him committed suicide. (Photo above center: Gabrielle Union performing in the movie Birth of a Nation.)

Different roads circling one brutal, permeating stain on our society. A stain that is finely etched into my own history. Rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals. And for some of us the throbbing gets too loud. Post traumatic stress syndrome is very real and chips away at the soul and sanity of so many of us who have survived sexual violence.  

Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion. I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character, who remains silent throughout the film. In her silence, she represents countless black women who have been and continue to be violated. Women without a voice, without power. Women in general. But black women in particular. I knew I could walk out of our movie and speak to the audience about what it feels like to be a survivor.

My compassion for victims of sexual violence is something that I cannot control. It spills out of me like an instinct rather than a choice. It pushes me to speak when I want to run away from the platform. When I am scared. Confused. Ashamed. I remember this part of myself and must reach out to anyone who will listen — other survivors, or even potential perpetrators.

As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly. (Read the rest.) 

-cw

ALPERN AT LARGE--Watching the government pundits, I suppose we're all supposed to be singing that song, "Everything is Awesome" from the Lego Movie

But despite the Big Lie (the economy is better, things are improving,) there are enough Americans to respond by quoting that song from The Who, “We Won’t be Fooled Again!” 

Certainly, we all want things to get better, but we're killing ourselves with the self-destructive -- and self-inflicted -- wound of low, low, low expectations. Americans are, by nature, fiercely independent and willing to work hard to get ahead ... and most of are getting ahead, sort of ... but is that because or despite the efforts of our federal and state governments? 

So, while maybe the Huffington Post is (sarcasm!) "anti-Obama,” it's to be reasonably and realistically referenced when roughly 2/3 of polled Americans acknowledge we're on the wrong track. 

And maybe CNN (accused of being the "Clinton News Network") is also (sarcasm!) "anti-Obama" when it acknowledges that, while Americans are "vastly better off than they were eight years ago," we are still in a nation where "most are worried." 

1) Politically, this is the last Labor Day before the post-Obama era, and this means that Ms. Hillary Clinton will have to thread the needle of maintaining the support of Obama voters while distancing herself from what many voters (including those supporting the President) want to change after President Obama leaves office. The "Obama Economy" isn't exactly the stuff of legends. 

And of Mr. Donald Trump? He will certainly have no problem distancing himself from President Obama, and that same CNN article above notes that the low GDP growth (2%/year) during the entirety of this President's tenure is a real story. Furthermore, worker pay, student debt, government debt, and income inequality have also become very, very real stories. 

And perhaps those following the news have noted that Mr. Trump trashed the "Bush Legacy" on his way to winning the GOP primary race? So his big question will be, "We all hate President Bush, but after eight years, is President Obama also guilty of keeping the American Economy down?" 

Translated, that means, "If Bush was responsible for the Great Recession, is Obama responsible for the Second Great Depression?”   

After all, could President Obama have listened to former President Bill Clinton's suggestions to make it easier for large employers to come back home to the United States, and could President Obama have listened to GOP leaders to make "Obamacare" less painful for both employers and employees alike? 

While the 2008 election was an autopsy of the Bush Presidency, won't the 2012 election be an autopsy of the Obama Presidency? The President might have roughly half of Americans polled giving him a "favorable" rating, but stocks and housing prices being up doesn't really help Main Street as much as it does Wall Street and the better off. 

2) We hear that the Unemployment Rate is down, but isn't that just more smoke and mirrors? 

There's a high likelihood that Mr. Trump will raise this issue again, just as he did during the GOP primary debates, of distinguishing between the Unemployment Rate (4.9%) and the Unemployment and Underemployment Rate (9.6%). 

CNBC reports on the vital distinction of the U-3 rate versus the U-6 rate and it's hoped that the reporting of the U-3 rate of "unemployment" will be discarded by our next Presidential administration in favor of the U-6 rate of "unemployment plus underemployment.”   

Because if you're underemployed, life still sucks. 

And if you're working 2-3 jobs and 50+ hours a week, and still barely making ends meet, your life still sucks. 

And for those giving up on looking for employment, and don't even register in the "unemployment rate?” Your life really sucks! 

A quick look on various websites even those unsympathetic to Mr. Trump will acknowledge that our economy is very unhealthy. 

And the proof? Why else would the Fed keep rates so historically low for so many years in a row?   

3) So while some of us are doing well, perhaps we should be thankful for what we have while sparing a few moments for our less fortunate friends and neighbors. 

Are those who've given up looking for work, or who've remained underemployed for years, real people or just a figment of our imaginations? They are Americans -- human beings with real needs and real hopes and real dreams. Ignoring them is just inhumane for this (or any other) Labor Day. 

The freeways and roads and rails are filled with people spending money and going to or from work. But too often it's for lousy jobs without benefits. Furthermore, thanks to both state and federal shackling of employers, it's too often for jobs that are only 30 or less hours per week. 

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump have put the pharmaceutical industry on notice that we're paying too much for prescription medicines. The "Affordable Care Act,” despite its good intentions, was too politically-motivated and written by the health plans who helped cause our nation's growing crisis in affordable health care. This leaves health care still too darned unaffordable for too many. 

Utility costs are also too darned unaffordable for too many so that our quality of life is yet again impacted negatively while trying to make ends meet and actually (gasp!) afford a vacation. 

There's a limit that we all, as adults aware of the limitations of the real world and of physics, must confront with respect to infrastructure costs and the limits of "green" energy. Rebuilding our infrastructure is something we will have to pay big bucks for, but are we doing it wisely and efficiently, or just benefiting those in the energy industries? 

And let's not kid ourselves: a home is all but unaffordable for anyone making less than six digit figures in the major metropolitan areas of California. 

To conclude, Americans are to be commended for their never-ending fight for financial freedom and independence. Using our cars for Uber or Lyft, or using our homes for Airbnb, might be innovative and smart...but these "cottage industries" are not the cornerstone of an economy that favors the middle class as much as they help the rich while enabling a few smart, tough middle-class folks stay in their income bracket. 

So here's to American Labor! Hanging in there, despite and not because of Washington, D.C. or Sacramento. And it's probably a labor force that is collectively looking forward to shedding the Big Lie in favor of embracing the Big Hope.

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

AT LENGTH-Francis Scott Key, the author of the National Anthem for these United States of America, came from a prominent legal family in Frederick, Md. 

During the War of 1812, which some have called the Second War of Independence, Key was appointed to act as the prisoner exchange agent and was aboard the HMS Tonnant the night Fort McHenry was bombarded during the Battle of Baltimore. 

The British confined him to the ship that night. He had become familiar with the strength and position of the British units. The British were intent on attacking Baltimore. 

Key witnessed the attack, from which came the lines, “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” He was better known for his legal skills than his skills as a poet. After its first publication, more than a century would pass before the song was adopted as the primary national anthem for the United States -- first through an executive order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, then ratified by Congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover in 1931. 

The only reason this history is pertinent today is because of the action taken, or lack thereof, by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand during the national anthem, inviting criticism from all corners of the sports world. This followed the seemingly innocent act by Gabrielle Douglas of the Gold Medal-winning U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, who neglected to put her hand over her heart while the anthem played during medal award ceremonies. Both athletes are black. 

Kaepernick’s protest was not accidental. “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world,” he said. 

Kaepernick is not the first black American athlete to use his position as a platform to protest injustice -- think Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. 

What partially explains this perspective are the uncommonly sung lyrics of our National Anthem: 

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

The mention of “slave” is not entirely remarkable. Slavery was alive and well in the United States in 1814. Key owned slaves and was an ardent anti-abolitionist who once called black people “a distinct and inferior race of people.” At the time, the British offered freedom to any slave who chose to fight against these rebellious former colonials. 

This core issue of human bondage versus the expanded interpretation of liberty and justice for all would come to tear apart this nation in our bloody fratricidal Civil War two score-and-a-half years later. It is this fundamental crucible at the very heart of the American experience that shadows us these many generations later. This dichotomy is expressed by yet another American writer, Richard Henry Dana Jr., also a famous lawyer and the author of Two Years Before the Mast. 

Dana, who came from the blue blood Brahmin society of Boston, Mass., was a bit of a rebellious non-conformist. He left Harvard in his junior year and instead of taking a grand tour of Europe, as was the privilege of his class, signed on as a merchant seaman aboard the Pilgrim and sailed off to the coast of California. This turned out to be a pivotal life-changing experience that would color the rest of his life and career. 

His experience as a seaman in those years was not much better than that of a slave. After witnessing a flogging on board the ship, he vowed to help improve the lot of the common seaman and developed a lifelong dedication to fight injustice. 

In a recent biography on Dana, Slavish Shore—The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr., Jeffrey L. Amestoy wrote: “Dana’s sense of justice made him a lawyer who championed sailors and slaves and put him at the center of some of the most consequential cases in American history: defending the fugitive slave Anthony Burns, justifying President Abraham Lincoln’s war powers before the Supreme Court and the prosecution of Confederate president Jefferson Davis for treason.” 

Dana and Key are two prominent examples of the argument over abolition and racism that shaped the history of this nation -- an argument that continues this day. And, oddly enough that argument is held mostly by white people amongst themselves over the rights and actions of blacks -- just watch who’s criticizing Kaepernick. 

In Kaepernick’s defense, the words of Dana himself might be of some use: 

We have got to choose between two results. With these four millions of Negroes, either you must have four millions of disfranchised, disarmed, untaught, landless, thriftless, non-producing, non-consuming, degraded men [women had not yet been considered for suffrage at this point], or else you must have four millions of landholding, industrious, arms-bearing, and voting population. Choose between the two! Which will you have? 

Clearly there have been many eloquent black voices over these intervening decades arguing for liberty, equality and justice, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X to list just a few. 

However, it still remains an argument for white America to resolve with itself over the inherited and inherent injustices in this country -- a country that regularly pledges to support liberty and justice for all but falls short of this fundamental creed. 

What is needed at this point is a far more inclusive discussion about what it means to be a “patriot in the home of the brave and land of the free.” 

I think that those of us who side with Richard Henry Dana Jr. should thank Colin Kaepernick and all other voices over the generations who have demanded, protested and died asking, “if not now when?” 

Our nation’s most courageous patriots aren’t just ones in uniform fighting in some distant land for often-questionable political ends, but include ones without a flag, fighting for human rights and justice here at home.

 

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.  

SOUTH OF THE 10-Perhaps Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is more of a viable candidate than I thought. The persistent violence in the city of Chicago has forced this author to take a closer look at the laws that allow repeat offenders to re-enter society – many of whom offend again. 

Angelenos were sympathetic to Democrat pleas that jails are overcrowded and Prop 47 would provide much needed relief. In Chicago, instead of reducing certain crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor, lawmakers implemented an ankle bracelet monitoring system that has been flawed from inception. 

In 2013, nearly 33,000 inmates were released which equates to the total population of Northbrook, IL, according to an NBC-5 report. The station went further to report that a high concentration of released inmates migrate back into the South Side of Chicago. The Westside actually sees the largest number of released inmates in their zipcode. 

In 2014, Illinois State Rep. Lashawn Ford, who represents the Westside, vigorously defended the rights of ex-offenders. He pushed for having state applications remove the box asking if the applicant was convicted of a crime. At the same time, Rep. Ford was facing bank fraud charges. He ultimately had 17 felony counts dismissed and only faced a single misdemeanor count for a tax offense. He is still in office. 

2014 also revealed the flaws in Illinois’ monitoring program. 

Both police and probation departments were against lawmakers awarding a contract to Irvine, Calif. based Sentinel Offender Services, as opposed to having them monitor their own parolees.

The revelation that offenders were not watched on a full-time basis came to light when kidnapping and assault charges were filed against a 17-year-old, who was wearing a home monitoring bracelet at the time he allegedly assaulted a pregnant Chicago State University student. 

Apparently, Sentinel sends an email alerting the non-compliance, and with the two hour time difference, many wonder if Chicago authorities are being alerted in real time. Probation and Police personnel have publicly declared they don’t check their email when they are not on duty. 

Two years later, the problem still persists. 

NBA star Dwayne Wade’s cousin was killed by two men on parole, one of whom was wearing an ankle monitoring device. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on. Chicago lawmakers allow those who wear the bracelets to have “free time” from monitoring. It was during this “free time” that Nykea Aldridge was murdered while pushing her child in a stroller. 

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson expressed his frustration that city regulations allow criminals a certain amount of hours to be free from monitoring. 

“I’m frustrated. You should be frustrated. It’s time we change the way we treat habitual offenders in Chicago,” said Johnson. 

If Democrats are allowing repeat offenders back on the street, under the guise of prison overcrowding, only for them to continue to wreak havoc on innocent citizens, then what do we truly have to lose by voting for Donald Trump

(Melissa Hébert lives in Inglewood, CA, and blogs on community and political issues on 2urbangirls.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS-Research shows that adults make somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 choices on a daily basis. The comforting news is that we don’t need the really powerful part of our brains for most of them. That’s a good thing because, as anyone who has scrolled through a lineup of 1,000 cable channels or perused the cereal aisle in a major supermarket can attest, decisions – even the most seemingly mundane – can be agonizing. 

But there are many decisions we make every day that do have wide-ranging impact. Let’s start with a surprising one – the choices we make every time we open our wallets. Six years ago, on Labor Day, I decided to try an experiment for three months to focus my buying decisions on ethical choices that would help create jobs in my community, and around the country. I chose to see if it was possible to purchase only union-made products and services in America today. I found out quickly it wasn’t always easy for me to do. But it was the right choice, and I had plenty of resources. Having spent much of my professional life working for or within the labor movement, I knew which cereals, beers and cars were made by companies that treat their workers fairly. 

These are the choices that we enjoy as free market American consumers, and while we may occasionally debate over Coors vs. Budweiser, we don’t lose too much sleep over it. Heck, Americans spend more than $5 trillion per year on consumer products alone. Shopping is in our DNA. In 2015, consumers spent $770 billion on groceries, more than $780 billion in restaurant sales and nearly $100 billion on hotels and motels. 

What if we captured just a portion of that tidal energy to generate a revived American economy? 

Our purchasing decisions – if made with some consideration – can be focused into what I like to call an Ethical Consumer Movement. I’m talking about a national movement through which we use the power of our spending dollars to speak out in favor of responsible businesses and against those that do not pay their workers the wages and benefits that they deserve. 

During the primary season this year, Americans were treated to spirited discussions on both sides of the aisle about our country’s increasing problem with income inequality. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2015, CEO pay rose to 276 times the annual average pay for the typical worker. This is up from what now looks like a very reasonable 20-1 ratio in 1965. All the while, productivity continues to rise, but wages have stagnated. Consider, the federal minimum wage is still $7.25 in 2016, stuck at the same rate it’s been for more than seven years. 

One of the responses to this inequity, naturally, is to raise the minimum wage, and cities from Los Angeles to New York have taken action. I applaud this, as no one should be making poverty wages for an honest day’s work. But simply increasing the floor isn’t enough. Change doesn’t have to come from the top down, or from the ballot box. Change can begin at home, every day, and progress incrementally for a long-lasting impact. 

If we as consumers only spend our hard-earned dollars on high-road businesses, the “rising tide lifts all boats” argument would take care of the rest. American businesses that pay their employees fairly and treat them well would prosper, and the others would pass by the wayside. The middle class, and America, would strengthen, and that pesky income inequality problem would slowly shrink. This is grassroots at its simplest. 

All this comes back to making decisions. This Labor Day, and every day, when at the supermarket or looking to buy a car, an appliance or considering which hotel to stay at, keep in mind where your money is going, and how those people making a product or providing a service are treated. Consider if they’re being paid fairly and justly. 

How can you help? 

By making the right choice.

 

(Cherri Senders is the founder and president of Labor 411, a consumer guide to union-made goods and services.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

UNRAVELING RAPE-Over the last year, two serious threats students face on college campuses have made headlines. Young women are being raped at such an alarming rate -- one out of every five, according to a survey conducted by the Association of American Universities -- that the problem of sexual assault on campus is being described as epidemic. 

Young women aren’t the only ones under assault. Young men are being threatened by violence in another way. If they participate in America’s favorite sport – football -- they may incur repeated blows to the head, running the risk of suffering from a life-altering, progressive neurological impairment called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression and suicidal thoughts and can lead to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and even ALS -- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

But with both problems, university administrators, coaches and other officials charged with protecting students have been slow to respond or take serious measures to protect students. And aside from the fact that in these cases, we appear to have abandoned the least modicum of care for our young, there are other, deeper ways these issues are connected -- not only to our ideas of gender, but to an eroding democracy with a social order in which the wealthy have garnered inordinate power over the rest of us. 

The treatment of football players reflects an economy so driven by outsize greed that, in too many cases, individuals, institutions and corporations have forsaken the most elementary decency toward their fellow human beings. Football is perceived as a cash cow for higher education, attracting media coverage and thus drawing alumni to donate. Even if these programs lose money, potential donors are feted at games with elaborate parties, often held in luxurious rooms dedicated for this purpose. And while tuition rises, ever more impressive stadiums are being built. At the University of California at Berkeley, according to The Washington Post, the mortgage on athletic buildings rose from zero to $23.4 billion in just 10 years. 

Beyond financial gain, football plays another role in an economy ruled by ruthless aggression. This sport is a prime example of the triumph of physical power, a metaphor for the reigning ethos which, whether consciously or unconsciously, is based on the notion that might makes right. Watching a game in which young men batter each other feeds the sense that somehow the larger game -- in which a privileged few take up the vast majority of resources, leaving the rest to fight for what’s left -- is the natural order of existence. In this way, football acts as a live-action demonstration of social Darwinism. 

By this logic, it may seem like business as usual if young men’s bodies have to be sacrificed in order to witness the triumph of will played out in college games. So why should it be surprising that this drama is played out in other ways, too? 

News stories from California to Kentucky to Florida have alerted the public to a spate of rapes committed by football players, on and off campus. 

Indeed, the link between football and rape is more than anecdotal. On game days, the rate of rape on campuses goes up by as much as 28 percent, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Athletes are not by any means responsible for most of the rapes that occur on campus. But it is revealing that, according to a study conducted by sociologist and criminologist Laura Finley, athletes who play certain sports are disproportionately represented among the perpetrators of rape, attempted rape and assault, namely “power and performance sports” such as football, hockey, wrestling and boxing. 

Finley and others have recommended that we try to unravel what for decades feminists have called “rape culture” -- the idea, for instance, that football stars are entitled to bevies of women and the accompanying notions that women really never mean “no” when they say it and that, in fact, women like being raped. The perspective feminists brought to bear on the issue of rape in the 1970s has apparently not yet created the radical shift in consciousness they hoped for. 

Decades ago, feminists challenged conventional wisdom about rape, including the more liberal notions that rapists are sexually frustrated, lack impulse control or are propelled by an overwhelmingly strong sexual drive. Before this challenge, the typical perpetrator was often portrayed as a forlorn figure suffering from deprivation, or was secretly admired as a dashing character, one who, even if villainous, was also enviable. The conservative view tends to be more judgmental toward both the attacker and the attacked. Rapists are victims of seduction, it is suggested, except when not, and then they are simply monsters. Yet as diverse as these explanations are, one thing unites them: the assumption that rape is primarily motivated by physical desire, and that it is thus essentially a sexual act. 

Women who have been raped know otherwise. Though I have never been raped, in the course of researching a book I wrote about the subject, I heard many women’s accounts. What all of them had in common was the terror and pain the perpetrator inflicted. Far from taking pleasure in the assault, women who are raped are traumatized, suffering after-effects for years. Research conducted in the late 1960s and early ’70s by sociologist Menachem Amir supplied the other side of this disturbing picture. Studying a group of men serving time in prison for sexual assault, he concluded that they did not suffer from any sexual abnormality so much as an exceptional tendency toward aggression. 

Understanding rape as a cruel act of aggression has lifted the onus from the victim and helped restore dignity to women who have been raped. But it has done little to prevent rape. And perhaps this is because -- despite former Republican presidential candidate and current Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s recent suggestion that to prevent being raped, young women should not drink alcohol -- the problem does not lie with women but with the men who assault them. 

What, then, shall we do? I doubt most men or, for that matter, women believe that all men harbor an inborn tendency to rape. As Amir’s study makes clear, the qualities that differentiate rapists from others have little to do with either anatomy or desire. Rather, the motivations for rape often appear to stem from a toxic mixture of sexual arousal and aggression, desire shaped by the will to conquer, to take by force, to win and dominate. This formula becomes especially dangerous when coupled with pervasive ideas about women that cast them as objects willing, even wishing, to be dominated, to be taken by force. 

Yet it is clear that young women and men are being victimized in a similar way. Ultimately, despite all the fanfare, football players are treated like meat, commodities to be used up and discarded. Sound familiar? 

Creating a sense of connection between two groups that are exploited and abused will not be easy. This understanding does not excuse athletes who have raped women, nor does it constitute grounds for forgiveness. Rather, it offers a path to prevention, one that challenges the ways men and women alike are abused. Just as historically working-class whites have been pitted against African-Americans, when young men whose bodies are being exploited attack young women, ultimately they are serving the powerful by dividing the victims of a rapacious system. 

Moreover, for those brave enough to do so, to acknowledge our common cause offers a path of escape from damaging stereotypes about gender, including the idea that masculinity equals domination. And uncoupling brutal aggression from what it means to be a man could upend the entire social structure.

 

(Susan Griffin is the author of 20 books. In 1972, she published her groundbreaking essay, “Rape: The All-American Crime,” in Ramparts magazine. A Guggenheim fellow, she is also a recipient of the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. Her book “A Chorus of Stones,” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. “Woman and Nature,” a work that inspired the eco-feminist movement, will be issued in a new edition by Counterpoint in September. This piece was first posted on TruthDig.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--Let’s be clear. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has the first amendment right not to stand for the national anthem. There is no legal requirement for anyone to stand for the national anthem. In fact, the National Football League made it official when it issued this statement: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem,”

He showed guts in telling the world that he would not stand because of continued police abuse and killing of blacks. He plays in the pro sport that is the most rigid, quasi-military discipline, my way or the highway, pro sport run by some of the most conservative rich white guys on the planet; most with solid and deep GOP ties. He potentially could lose millions in contract money and endorsements now or down the line for his personal sit down.

So yes, he should be loudly applauded for having the courage of his convictions and for showing the world that there is some big name, big payday, pro athletes who are willing to speak out and take stands on controversial issues even at the cost of their jobs. The firestorm that he stirred up for that is way out of proportion to his action since there are 1700 players on the 32 team roster in the NFL and even with Kaepernick sitting during the anthem that still leaves 1699 or so players who will stand at rigid attention during the playing of the anthem.

But Kap’s actions aside, the script can easily be flipped and a case can be made for the millions of blacks who do gladly stand for the national anthem. Most know the brutal history of racial violence, exclusion, and poverty that trapped and still traps countless numbers of blacks. They watch and read almost daily of the police killings of mostly unarmed blacks, the mass incarceration numbers for blacks, the grim figures on job and housing discrimination, the gaping health care disparities, and the endless other big and small racial insults and indignities. The symbol of that is the flag that they are asked to stand at rapt attention to with their hand over their heart.

But, they also know that that tens of thousands of blacks answered the call to fight for that same flag and anthem in every major war the U.S. has ever fought, and despite the violence and discrimination black servicemen and women suffered, they still served their country honorably and wore the uniform proudly.

They know that civil rights leaders from W.E.B. DuBois to Martin Luther King, Jr. carried the flag and sang “My Country ‘tis of thee” at and during countless civil rights marches. They know that the landmark victories against racial oppression—the passage of three major civil rights bills, the Voting Rights Act, and legions of other civil rights initiatives and legislation passed by states and nationally were won under the banner of fulfilling the promise of American rights and liberties that the flag and the national anthem represent in theory, if not always in fact. It was their struggle to make the promise of freedom a reality for blacks and others victimized by racial injustice and violence.  

Blacks also know that despite the towering racial barrier and obstacles that the Constitution still stands as a powerful shield to protect the rights of all Americans, and for black Americans to continually use as a weapon to shame, embarrass, and cajole the nation to extend those rights and liberties to them too.

Finally, they know that blacks have paid with their blood and earned the right to lay as much, if not more, claim to the flag and the national anthem as theirs as those among the most rabid flag waving, phony super patriot bellowing crowd. This is their America, always has been, and it’s their flag and national anthem too whether they choose to stand when it’s played or not.

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Let’s Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

LEANING RIGHT--If you think this is a piece that will proclaim Donald Trump as the voice and the messenger this nation ideally needs, then it's best right now to state that this ain't that piece. 

Heck, I doubt that even Mr. Trump believes he's got the eloquence of Kennedy or Reagan or Teddy Roosevelt ... but there are many reasons why Trump's supporters stand behind him ... and NO, it's NOT racism! 

You want racism?  Then check out how racial divisions, and neglect of black and brown minorities, and lack of school choice and opportunities for these minorities, have worsened and even exploded under Democratic rule. Just ask yourselves if those black and brown Americans (many of them Democrats!) are "allowed" to speak up and complain about "the man". 

Particularly if "the man" is a Democrat.  Or maybe even an African-American Democrat. 

1) Enough of the New Racism, already--wherever it comes from! 

Are we past the era of race-baiting, opportunistic hucksters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, or are we now entering an era of a "race conscious" cottage industry (I refer to this industry as the New Racism) geared to establish a new generation of divisive, counterproductive and self-promoting "community leaders" to become and remain both powerful and wealthy? 

Having fought like hell for 10-15 years for an Exposition Light Rail Line to connect the Westside, Mid-City, and Downtown portions of Los Angeles, and having done so proudly with other Angelenos of all political, socioeconomic and ethnic stripes, and having done so in large part to bring the City and County back together after the 1992 riots, I can assure you that racism is alive and well here. 

That's right--in the City of the Angels--and present among white, black, and brown Angeleno leaders.  My experience engaging with civic and political leaders, who I presumed would be both intent and content with bringing communities together, proved this presumption dead wrong. 

But ENOUGH of this obsession with race!  I'm a dermatologist by trade, and I assure you that the issues of skin color mean virtually zero beyond the world of dermatology, in the same way that eye and hair color do.  If a white man marries a black woman (or even if they don't marry), there is NO biological obstacle to them having children.  We're all one race:  the human race. 

So when the founder of the "birther" movement, one Hillary Clinton, proclaims Trump's supporters to be neo-Nazis and racists who are all just right-wing nut jobs and "birthers" by nature, well, that's where Americans of all political stripes will have to learn to confront their own racism--especially and including the New Racism from the Left. 

Particularly the racism and frustrations that lead to national divisions stemming from a lack of economic opportunities.  Shall I ignore my fellow doctors, professionals and patients of ALL racial and socioeconomic backgrounds who acknowledge they're financially hanging by their fingernails, and that many of them (secretly, of course...GOTTA keep it secret!) support Trump? 

2) Just how much are we supposed to ignore and pretend isn't harming our nation? 

Shall we ignore the exploding costs of what should be dirt-cheap medicines, many of them manufactured by plundering pharmaceutical companies led by Democrats and others tied to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton campaign? 

Shall we ignore the "new normal" of disgusting creeps like overpaid Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers sitting down during the national anthem as a "protest" against wrongdoings against African Americans, and his team and the NFL being OK with that...while African American and other American military and police officers are fighting and dying for our safety? 

Shall we ignore the withering abuse that the Huffington Post, MSN, and Yahoo are hurling at its readers in their all-too-biased slant for the "correct" candidate--you know, that honest, easily-accessible, and idealistic candidate who is free of controversy? Or are these major news outlets ignoring the killing zone that is Chicago while belittling Trump ... not on the substance of his message, but the wording of his tweets in asking African Americans to vote for a better future? 

Shall we ignore the decades of calling for an end to the violence and bloodshed destroying African Americans' hopes and lives...and being told we're racists for even bringing it up?  How about the brown-on-black gang killings that get amazingly and frightfully underreported...is that racist to decry this new trend? 

Shall we ignore the reality that, were this nation to have the political will, we could bring back to our shores the manufacturing jobs that were once the mainstay of American middle-class economic strength? 

Shall we ignore the economic reality that "unemployment" being relatively low (based on how it's being measured) entirely masks the reality of double-digit underemployment, and that having multiple jobs without any guarantee of employer-paid benefits is now the new normal? 

3) So where the heck do independents, moderates, and conservatives fed up with both political parties go to find out just what on earth is REALLY going on? 

Well, we can forget the major news outlets (ABC, CBS, NBC, Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN), and we can forget the Clinton News Network (CNN) because they're hideously one-sided.   

And we can forget about Fox News, too--it's well-watched by conservatives disgusted by the overwhelming left-wing bent of our media, but it's no secret that Fox isn't as "fair and balanced" as they promote themselves to be. 

Enter the "alt-right" Breitbart.com, named after the conservative, media-savvy, and iconoclastic Andrew Breitbart who, unfortunately, died relatively early in his life of heart disease.  Enter the Drudge Report.  And to hell with the National Review and other old-school conservative news sources who did and still ram the Bush Family, John McCain, and Mitt Romney down our throats. 

Enough Americans were fed up with BOTH political parties selling out the American People while proclaiming to be their representatives that moderates and independents came out in droves to register Republican, and proceeded to boot out the Bush Family--both George W. Bush and his brother Jeb. 

Goodbye, namby-pamby career politicians who favored those here illegally over those citizens playing by the rules ... and especially a goodbye to those employers who should be in jail for breaking minimum wage rules and driving down wages to unsustainable levels.  It's easy to understand the plight of illegal aliens, but NOT their disgusting, exploitative employers. 

So what's on Breitbart.com lately, as of 8/28/2016? 

Well, let's see: the makers of the app used to destroy the Clinton e-mails are boasting about hindering the FBI investigation. 

...aaaaand Dr. Drew Pinsky's show on Headline News is being shut down after five years after he questioned Ms. Hillary Clinton's health. 

...aaaaand former Secretary of State Clinton's calendars as secretary of state won't be released until after the election. 

...aaaaand former Clinton Global Initiative moderator Adam Davidson, who hosts a show on NPR, slammed the Clinton Foundation, and said in a podcast that the Clinton's were "beholden to scumbags" because of their work with that Foundation. 

...aaaaand the entire Facebook "Trending News" team was fired after their progressive biases were revealed by Breitbart Tech last month. 

Kinda like Trump's tweets: brass, some poorly- and hastily- and inappropriately-phrased.  But if one focuses on whether they were TRUE ... well, maybe the truth hurts, but it's still the truth. 

Of course, in this age of political correctness, there are those who care more about what a person SAYS than what that person DOES.  I suppose that, if you're one of those folks, then both this President and his former Secretary of State must make you very happy and excited to be living in these times. 

If, however, you are old enough to remember President Nixon, and learned about how his lies (relatively mild, by today's standards) got him to resign under pressure from both parties, you must be wondering what kind of nightmarish era we're entering.  Presidential lies and media bias are now working together against the will of the democracy-trained, rule-abiding citizen. 

But if it makes you feel better, Trump DID take the GOP Establishment (and the Koch Brothers) down a few notches...and they're still not over it.  Trump attacked Bush's wars during the GOP primary debates, as well as Bush's actions that led to the Great Recession.  The Christian Moral Majority now follows the lead of the GOP presidential candidate, and not the other way around. 

And so how did that Bernie Sanders being undermined by Debbie Wasserman Schultz thing go...did the Democratic Establishment get taken down a few notches, too?  Justice incarnate for the little guy and gal trying to live in a free society?  Wall Street being forced to take a back seat to Main Street?  Are billionaire George Soros, Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban brought to bear, now? 

So maybe, just maybe, we have a moderate-conservative coalition led by Mr. Trump who feel more empowered than they've felt in decades.  

Maybe this coalition won't lean too far right or left, but will instead tread the middle ground to do the RIGHT thing, and won't fall to the free-market-without-rules, cheap-labor-at-any-cost-to-middle-class-America crowd that is the current GOP leadership, and won't fall to the let's-say-we're-for-the-common-man-but-really-we-love-the-monied-elites that is the current Democratic leadership, either. 

"Alt-right" is an abused term now meant to discredit those moderate to conservative Americans calling for a rule of law, and to establish rules of fairness and inclusiveness, and to make sure that all Americans, of all races, get a fair shot at the American Dream while promoting the Melting Pot paradigm that made this nation great. 

And for those of you still convinced and appalled that tens of millions of urgent and alarmed Trump supporters have turned to the Orange Man (and want others to do the same) as their last hope for a united America that's fair to the middle class, and are doing so because of sheer racism, perhaps there's something you should confront: 

Why are you equating love of country as constituting racism?

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

-cw

A MILLENNIAL PROJECT VIDEO REPORT—Here is an investigative look at the much covered … and debated … Clinton Foundation. What does it do? How does it work? Is there anything to be worried about?

 

Presidential candidate Donald Trump calls it corrupt and should be closed down. 

Candidate Hillary Clinton says of the Foundation: ‘It's a longstanding strategy when advocating for the rights of a historically underserved or oppressed community — drawing through-lines, showing how what's good for one can be good for all.’ 

Look at Andrew Davis report. You decide.

 

‘The Millennial Project’ founder Andrew Davis hosts this unique look inside the Clinton Foundation. This video report … and various other newsworthy videos … originated and are available for viewing at The Millennial Project’.

-cw

TOO MUCH IN THE NEWS-That’s right, my fellow Americans, buck up, because, at a minimum, it’ll be four years before Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s shocking hairdos – Trump’s reddish-fox-paprika hued weave and Lochte’s silvery blue-raspberry bubble gum concoction – and equally, their boorish behavior, will finally recede, from both our collective conscience and our national press. Only the most naïve and optimistic citizens can believe otherwise.

No matter how you slice it, Trump and Lochte are in the news, and in the news is where they are going to stay. For how long, many of you viscerally wonder from the depths of your souls? Four more years, I'd say, and, actually, if it’s just four more years, and not interminably longer, that would be good news.

Lochte’s Olympic-sized whopper about being robbed at gunpoint by Brazilian police is just too juicy; for journalists, it’s like how catnip is to most cats (or how cute cat videos are to most people): impossible to resist. This is because, at its rosiest, the true story is that Lochte, the pampered thirty-two-year-old man-child, all decked out in his swanky, super-expensive suede shoes, couldn’t by the end of his all-night partying at the “France House,” hold his liquor or contain his entitled, frat-boy-style antics, much less tell the truth. 

Lochte’s boneheaded buffoonery and its collateral shenanigans, characterized by many as a bona fide “international incident,” will undoubtedly surface quickly now (and possibly, and depressingly, forever, or at a minimum, at least until the start of the 2020 Olympic Games) in any extended discussion or commentary about the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. This will be so on TV, online, or in good, old-fashioned print – likely around the world – because ultimately, even Usain Bolt can’t outrun a story with the legs and unflattering optics of Lochte’s petulant, now way overly-public pee. 

The same is true of Trump’s sewage, and by that, I mean virtually every word that has come out of Trump’s mouth. Sadly, I submit, that Trump’s dump of bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic, and otherwise uninformed and unhinged views on life, society, and virtually every other subject of importance and nonimportance, will long stain our public and political discourse – and, will do so much more than Lochte’s gas station tinkle of entitlement. 

For how long will we continue to be sullied by Trump and all related Trumpisms (many of you plaintively cry out)? Like Lochte’s lunacy, at least four more years, I’d say, and I pray to God that it’s not even longer. Because come November 9, when Trump’s reality TV style candidacy for presidency confronts reality, no one rightfully and genuinely believes that we’ll stop hearing about Trump – or from him. 

Even when Trump embarks on his promised “very, very nice long vacation,” returning “back to a very good way of life,” he’ll tweet, he’ll call-in to radio and TV shows (perhaps even as he unwinds with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken on his twenty-four carat embossed “Trump Force One”). Trump can't resist a chance to opine, without any information or knowledge, on the current news and issues of the day, and, of course, to complain how the system is so “rigged.” 

Lochte and Trump are like two peas in a pod of putrid press: Expect to read and hear much more about them again. And, again and again.

 

(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

POT POLITICS--An appeals court has ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice can’t prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers for violating federal cannabis law as long as those individuals are in full compliance with state laws legalizing medical marijuana.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held unanimously that a 2014 budget measure “prohibits DOJ from spending funds” to go after such people. 

That’s bad news for the Justice Department’s increasingly controversial war on marijuana. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for medical purposes. 

In the 10 cases from California and Washington state before the court, the 9th Circuit ruled that the Justice Department must show that the defendants were in violation of their state marijuana laws before proceeding with the federal criminal prosecutions. The appeals court sent all 10 cases back to the trial courts to make such determinations.

But Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, writing for the court, pointed out the precarious nature of the federal block on these prosecutions. In a footnote, he said that “Congress could restore funding tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now, and the government could then prosecute individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding.”

The judge also noted that the next administration may “shift enforcement priorities” and place a greater emphasis on prosecution of federal marijuana crimes.

Nonetheless, “this really is a big deal,” said Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law who studies marijuana regulation.

“It’s an assertion by a court ― the largest federal circuit ― that federal prosecutors cannot enforce the Controlled Substances Act against those in compliance with state medical marijuana provisions,” he explained. “It’s not forever ... but it’s a lot more protection than was in place prior to the ruling.”

Kamin added that the panel’s unanimity shouldn’t give the Obama administration “much reason for optimism,” should it choose to appeal.

Tom Angell, chairman of the drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, was similarly exuberant.

“If the Obama administration is smart, they’ll drop this fight right now rather than risk an even more embarrassing defeat on appeal,” he told HuffPost.

DOJ spokesman Peter Carr told HuffPost that the department was reviewing the decision and declined further comment.

The defendants in the 10 cases had argued that the charges should be dismissed because of a bipartisan budget measure, passed in December 2014, that bars the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent states from “implementing” their own laws authorizing the “use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Last year, another Justice Department spokesman said it interpreted that provision as blocking prosecutors from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” but not from charging medical marijuana patients and businesses that violate federal marijuana laws. The measure’s sponsors, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.) expressed their profound disagreement at the time. 

The 9th Circuit is not the first federal court to say the Justice Department got it wrong. Last year a federal judge in an unrelated case ruled that the department can’t prosecute state-legal providers of medical marijuana and said that its interpretation “tortures the plain meaning of the statute.”

Besides the 25 states and D.C. that have already legalized marijuana for medical purposes, voters in nine other states are expected to consider some form of marijuana legalization this year.

Still, the plant remains banned under federal law. States’ efforts to legalize the drug in some form or another have worked only because of guidance from top DOJ officials urging frontline federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.

“I applaud the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for proclaiming the law as it has been intended by congressional legislation,” Rohrabacher said in an emailed statement to HuffPost. He called the court’s decision a victory for states’ rights, medical marijuana patients and “the constitutional process of establishing law.”

The Justice Department, Rohrabacher said, should “go on notice that there should be no more prosecutions and raiding of dispensaries in those states where the state government has legalized medical marijuana.”

And Farr told HuffPost, “California and many other states allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes yet the federal government still considers it as dangerous as heroin. While I’m pleased to see the amendment that I worked on with my colleagues being interpreted by the courts correctly, there needs to be a permanent change to federal policy to ensure medical marijuana patients aren’t criminalized in states that allow it.”

(Matt Ferner is a national reporter for Huffington Post [[huffingtonpost.com]] … where this piece was originally posted.)

-cw

FIRST PERSON REPORT--When the music comes on at a rave, a synergetic feeling of mass escape and euphoria runs through the crowd. But this unparalleled collective high has come at a cost.

In July, three people were found dead at the Hard Summer Music Festival near Los Angeles. During the two-day festival, which drew a record 147,000 attendees, an additional six people were hospitalized. Prior to these deaths, the Los Angeles Times counted 26 rave-related fatalities in the American Southwest since 2006. That doesn’t include non-fatal overdoses, a number which could easily reach triple digits if tallied across the country.

The reaction by lawmakers in cities like Los Angeles has been to clamp down on the events themselves, either banning them entirely or demanding strict control over the crowds. Promoters have instituted stricter security policies, while contending that at such large-scale events, drug use is inevitable. But the recent deaths suggest that these “solutions” haven’t solved anything.

Even though this latest tragedy is fresh, the problem is so familiar—and so unchanged—that a Los Angeles Times write-up of the Hard Summer deaths didn’t even bother to find a new doctor to talk to. They just recycled a quote from last year, in which a doctor frets that “there’s something about these events that leads to this rampant drug abuse,” but is unable to put his finger on why.

I’ve been going to raves for six years, and I don’t find the current approach to addressing the problem convincing. What I am convinced of is that it’s possible to have raves without any deaths at all.

Why has it been so hard to “fix” raves? Because we have not accurately identified the problem, which to my mind does not stem from kids disregarding their own lives, but rather from the fact that they never learned how to handle the spectacular, seductive freedom offered by raves.

The way I see it, the danger presented at raves stems from the fact that more than a few attendees are the products of our culture of over-protective parents. These ravers grew up highly supervised without the chance to be left to their own devices. Add to that the subtly influencing hand of teenage hormones and it’s almost surprising that there aren’t more tragedies.

Our society has become increasingly afraid of letting children run wild, and young kids today don’t have the same opportunities as previous generations to venture out into the world on their own, to learn how to handle the small freedoms of youth, to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. Instead, children are funneled from an early age into a myriad of adult-monitored activities such as team sports, school dances, and summer camps.

As teenagers, these hothouse kids begin to break out of their confinement. Raves are the perfect venue for youthful experimentation. Even the word “rave” sounds new and different from the “concerts” or “shows” of which adults hold fond memories.

Rave culture has always celebrated the illicit. The very definition of the word “rave,” meaning “to talk wildly or incoherently, as if one were delirious or insane” conjures intoxication. The first raves were born as a mutation of 1970s and ‘80s discotheques, the distinction being that raves were held in basements, lofts, and abandoned warehouses, rather than established venues. These parties often lasted for upwards of 10 straight hours, and people could bring in their own substances hassle free.

At raves, kids are given a shot at unmonitored social interaction, and the chance to finally partake in all sorts of risk-taking away from hovering parents. Unfortunately, these are not the baby-step risks of younger years. And without past lessons to guide them, it’s easy for bad choices to escalate without anyone realizing.

The question of rave safety is not a narrow one. In the past few years, the American electronic dance music (or EDM) scene has exploded, with longer, multi-day festival events routinely pulling in crowds of over 100,000 people. EDM has penetrated the heart of the musical world; it has its own category at the Grammys, and heavily influences the sound of contemporary pop music.

When I got into raving in 2010, I had always felt like a social outcast, but raves connected me with a group of likeminded people who I would never have met otherwise. It wasn’t long before I started going out more, getting into trouble with my parents, and having more fun than ever before.

Regardless of what the law says, the youth will continue to party on. The best thing we can do is to ensure the spaces they party in are as safe and nurturing as possible.

Since then, the rave scene has become firmly cemented in the realm of popular culture. But that didn’t mean the end of drugs or danger. Even as security checks have gotten stricter, drugs have been present at every rave I’ve ever been to. And security checks haven’t prevented deaths.

The good news is that thoughtful alternative approaches have emerged. Some raves are starting to protect their attendees, often by bringing together people who understand how raves work and getting them to work together in the crowds.

The Bunk Police, a group now a few years old, built a strategy on the insight that most overdoes happen after kids at raves take mystery drugs they bought from strangers. Many of these drugs are actually harmful chemicals masquerading as popular club drugs.

The Bunk Police show up at events armed with tests kits that can tell whether a bag of powder is real MDMA, or one of the countless synthetic chemicals that have flooded the rave scene since the popularization of online drug dealing websites, such as the fabled “bath salts” scare of years past. Since their existence acknowledges the presence of drug use, festivals have tried to ban groups like The Bunk Police. Despite this, members hop fences, bribe security guards and risk jail time so that they can keep other people safe.

At Steez Promo’s Moonrise Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, volunteers make sure attendees stay safe while they’re partying. They check on people who look sick or zoned out, and hand out gum, water, and fruit. The best thing about the volunteers is that they’re also ravers, and can be considerably less intimidating than the security staff. In the event of an emergency, a volunteer can help you feel better, whereas a security guard might just detain you. When things get too rough for volunteers, Moonrise is also equipped with two medical tents near high traffic areas, staffed by a team of emergency medical technicians.

While unsupervised spaces like raves inevitably invite dangerous activity, they also provide a place for youths to grow, experiment, and flourish, free to make mistakes away from the judging eyes of adult society. Regardless of what the law says, the youth will continue to party on. The best thing we can do is to ensure the spaces they party in are as safe and nurturing as possible.

(Louis Patterson is a senior at Occidental College studying English, and a summer fellow at Zócalo Public Square … where this perspective was first posted.)

 

EDITOR’S PICK--The Republican, white-nationalist Donald Trump slanders and insults Latinos, Muslims and women. He promotes violence. He mocks the disabled. He refers to himself as brilliant, citing his fortune—obscenely accumulated over decades of predatory business practices that cheat workers and consumers—as “proof.”

He feuds with the gold star parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, claiming that he too has “sacrificed” (like the dead soldier and his parents) by employing “thousands and thousands of people.” It was a remarkable comment: Being born into wealth and in a position to hire a large number of people is not a “sacrifice.” If Trump isn’t reaping profits from all those workers under his command, he must not really be the brilliant, capitalist businessman he claims to be.

A military veteran gives the Republican presidential candidate his Purple Heart medal, bestowed on soldiers injured in battle. Trump quips, “I always wanted a Purple Heart. This was a lot easier.” Unreal. Donald Trump, Mr. Sacrifice, used college deferments to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.

How is this noxious candidate even within shouting distance of Hillary Clinton? Let’s separate the fact from the fiction.

The Donald and the White Working Class

One easy, elite answer is to blame the supposedly stupid and racist white working class. It is common to hear mainstream (corporate) media talking heads proclaim that Trump is the candidate of the white working class and “low-income whites”—those that The Wall Street Journal and Trump himself like to call “the forgotten Americans.” These are who Barack Obama described in 2008 as people who “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

How accurate is this narrative? According to exit polls, the median household income of Trump’s primary voters was $72,000, $11,000 higher than the corresponding figure for Bernie Sanders’ and Clinton’s primary voters.

In his analysis of survey data gathered from more than 70,000 interviews in June and July, Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell found that Americans who favor Trump have incomes that are 6 percent higher than that of nonsupporters.

Trump is less popular with the white working class than Mitt Romney was four years ago. In 2012, Romney garnered 62 percent of votes by “non-college-educated whites” (researchers’ and journalists’ longstanding, if imperfect, stand-in term for the white working class). According to the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Trump isn’t even backed by a majority of this group, with just 49 percent on his side. Earlier this summer, his support among these whites hovered around 60 percent, suggesting that they are capable of processing information on his toxicity.

When you consider that the nation’s abysmally low voter-turnout rate falls the further one moves down the U.S. income scale, it seems highly improbable that Trump—currently behind Clinton in national polls—will ride some great wave of white-proletarian, Brexit-like sentiment to victory in November.

Still, Trump is doing better than Clinton with working-class whites. In the aforementioned NBC-WSJ survey, she trails him by 13 percentage points among whites without a college education and by 21 points among men in that group. In former union strongholds and deindustrialized, white working-class enclaves like Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County and Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, Arun Gupta recently reported on teleSUR English that voters are “flocking” to Trump.

Where did Trump do best in the primaries? A New York Times analysis found that his strongest base was in predominantly white areas where a proportion of workers toil in jobs that involve “working with one’s hands, especially manufacturing”; a big share of working-age adults are jobless; an unusually high number of people live in mobile homes; and all but a few residents told the U.S. Census Bureau that their ancestors were “American.”

Jon Flanders, a retired railroad machinist and former union leader, told me that he recently “asked a question about who the union workers in the railroad shops predominately supported. The question was asked on a Facebook page with about 1,000 members. The answer? Trump, overwhelmingly.”

Rothwell, the Gallup economist, determined that “the prototypical Trump supporter” is white, male, Christian (but not Mormon), heterosexual and without a college degree. He found Trump supporters significantly correlated with low intergenerational mobility, weak income growth and employment in “blue-collar occupations that have been exposed to competition with immigrants and foreign workers.”

The higher-income figures of Trump supporters relative to Democratic primary voters and non-Trump supporters is largely explained by race. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to be white, and whites receive considerably higher average incomes than nonwhites.

The Elite Liberal Thesis

So what’s this white working-class preference for the bombastic Trump all about? It might seem counterintuitive, even absurd, that a vicious, opulence-flouting, uber-narcissistic plutocrat and Republican like Trump garners more support than a Democrat from working-class people of any race. We can be sure that many residents of affluent, liberal enclaves nodded their heads in approval when Obama said this about Trump at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia: “Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice? ... If so, you should vote for him. But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, if you’re really concerned about pocketbook issues and … creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close. … You should vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Then why are so many white workers failing to vote in accord with their purported obvious economic interests, Mr. President? How do we explain this great anomaly? When it isn’t simply writing non-college-educated whites off as irredeemably racist, the standard, elite, liberal-Democratic, campus-town line is that all those poor, pitiful, xenophobic, gun-clinging white proles have been tricked into foolishly “voting against their own pocketbook interests” by clever Republican strategists who divert white workers with convenient scapegoats and social issues—inner-city black criminals and “welfare cheats,” Mexican immigrants, guns, gay rights, abortion and religion. All these ugly cards are played to prevent the white working class from fighting the selfish billionaires who profit from the plutocratic agenda of the Republicans, “the party of big business.”

There’s some truth in this venerable, liberal trope, of course. The divide-and-conquer Machiavellianism this “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (WTMWK) narrative points to has helped Republicans win white working-class votes since the days of Archie Bunker (at whom much of Trump’s rhetoric seems aimed) and through the age of blue-collar Reaganites and “Joe the Plumber.”

What’s the Matter With the Limousine-(Neo)Liberal Democrats?

Still, the prevailing, liberal, WTMWK narrative is plagued by four basic difficulties. The first and most obvious problem is that post-New Deal era, neoliberal Democrats are no less captive to the 1 percent than the GOP. Like the Bill Clinton and Obama presidencies, the likely presidency of the heavily Wall Street-backed Hillary Clinton will be loaded down with economic elites linked to the top financial institutions and transnationally oriented corporations and to elite corporate policy-planning bodies like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for American Progress and the Brookings Institution.

It’s true that the Sanders challenge and the broadly populist mood of U.S. voters in the current New Gilded Age of extreme inequality pushed Clinton’s rhetoric to the progressive-sounding left during the primary campaign. But this is just another example of what Christopher Hitchens once described, in his bitter and acerbic study of the Clintons, as “the essence of American politics”—“the manipulation of populism by elitism.” Clinton’s Wall Street backers have never been concerned about the populace-pleasing rhetoric she’s had little choice but to wield in chasing middle-, working- and lower-class votes. They know “it’s just politics.” They expect a President Hillary Clinton to drop her current opposition to the arch-corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as soon as possible.

Look at her first major action after locking down the Democratic nomination: She selected Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine is a financial-sector darling who backed fast-tracking the TPP and supported his state’s anti-union, right-to-work laws.

It is little wonder that top Wall Street operatives flocked to the Democratic National Convention after the Sanders specter advance-surrendered and Kaine was tapped. The large, socially liberal and economically neoliberal wing of the elite financial sector was pining to reunite with the more functional and effective of the nation’s two reigning state-capitalist political parties.

But the Democrats abandoned the working class and embraced the economic elite, including the professional elite (more on that below) long ago (as journalist Thomas Frank noted in his book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”). And Democrats of the neoliberal era are no less adept than Republicans at deploying the politics of identity to hide their captivity to the nation’s unelected dictatorship of money. They just play the other, more multicultural, side of the same identity-politics game. Both parties make sure that, in Chris Hedges’ words, “Goldman Sachs always wins,” since “there is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.”

Is it really all that clear that workers of any race have obvious and rational “pocketbook interests” in the presidential ascendancy of yet another identity-politics-wielding, hedge-fund Democrat like Hillary Clinton?

A Beast of a Different Sort

Second, Trump has hardly restricted his appeal to the white working class by pushing racist, sexist, nationalist, religious, gun-toting and nativist buttons. Making repeated overtures to Sanders supporters, he has mimicked the language of Franklin Roosevelt with denunciations of “big business” and its corruption of government and politics. He’s denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement and “free trade” more broadly, blaming multinational corporations for abandoning working people. He altered the Republican platform to include a plank calling for the breakup of big banks via the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act. He’s dropped standard Republican assaults on social-democratic “entitlements.” He’s attacked the globalism of the corporate elite and criticized related imperial entanglements the GOP has joined top Democrats in advancing for more than six decades.

Sincerely or not (his profile of advisers and top funders and his most recent economic policy addresses certainly suggest the latter), Trump has tacked further to the liberal-populist-social-democratic-sounding left on economic policy than any Republican presidential candidate in history. This is something the Democrats in Philadelphia seemed not to understand. In one Democratic convention speech after another, they depicted Trump as little more than the usual Republican monster spouting ugly, nativist, racist and patriarchal narratives to hide his allegiance to the wealthy Few. They showed little understanding that Trump is a different type of Republican beast.

Labor-Market Economics 101

Third, it is misleading to draw too firm a line between workers’ “pocketbook” concerns and nativist calls for immigration restriction. It doesn’t take an advanced academic degree to realize that the movement of poor and desperate workers from one part of the world capitalist system to another poses threats to the working and living standards of working people who are in the receiving nation. Of course, white workers have rational economic reasons to want to restrict the size of the “reserve army of labor” that employers can use against the working class in the “homeland.”

In a similar vein, it’s a mistake to think that white workers in, say, West Virginia coal territory or the North Dakota oil fields have no cogent pocketbook reasons to feel threatened by Democrats’ claim (more progressive fluff than serious environmentalist reality) that they will address climate change by cutting back on the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

Those who find such proletarian pocketbook calculations ethically horrifying might want to recall one of Bertolt Brecht’s more cutting lines: “Grub first, then ethics.” Times are desperate indeed in the burned-out coal fields of Appalachia and the ever more opiate-addicted and suicide-plagued provinces of deindustrialized, post-family-farmland, white America. The “forgotten” counties where Trump did best in the GOP primaries are the same counties in which middle-aged, working-class whites have been experiencing high death rates.

We Are Not the 99 Percent: Between Labor and Capital

Fourth, liberals making the WTMWK argument often seem to operate with a simplistic, two-class model dividing the U.S. into the superrich (let’s call them the 1 percent), linked naturally to the Republicans, and everybody else (the 99 percent), linked naturally to the Democrats. Besides deleting the Democrats’ captivity to the wealthy corporate and financial Few (really the 0.1 percent or even the 0.01 percent), this dichotomy provides undue privilege-cloaking cover to “lesser” elites—professionals, managers, administrators and other “coordinator-class” Americans in the nation’s top 20 percent.

The privilege and power of the professional and managerial elite is no less “true,” “real,” substantive or vital to contemporary hierarchy than that of the financial super-elite. In the U.S.—as across the world capitalist system and even in non- and anti-capitalist workplaces and bureaucracies—ordinary working people suffer not just from the private, profit-seeking, capitalist domination of workplace and society. They also regularly confront what longtime left economist and activist Mike Albert calls the “corporate division of labor”—an alienating, dehumanizing and hierarchical subdivision of tasks “in which a few workers have excellent conditions and empowering circumstances, many fall well below that, and most workers have essentially no power at all.”

It is through regular subordinate and often humiliating contact with the professional and managerial, or “coordinator class” (Albert’s and his fellow radical economist Robin Hahnel’s term), not the 1 percent, that the working class experiences class inequality and oppression in America.

I talked earlier this summer to “Big Frank,” a 40-something, white, graveyard-shift, parking ramp and parking lot cleaner at the University of Iowa. He doesn’t like “rich bastards” like Trump, but it’s not the financial and corporate elite he deals with daily. He sees Trump and other rich and famous Americans like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett on television. He carries out “ridiculous orders” and receives “idiotic” reprimands from well-paid, “know-it-all pencil-pushers who don’t give a flying fuck about regular working guys like me.” Frank is voting for Trump “just to piss off all the big-shot [professional-class] liberals” he perceives as constantly disrespecting and pushing him around.

Listen to Green Party leader Howie Hawkins, the Teamster union activist who got 5 percent of the vote in New York’s last gubernatorial election. “The Democratic Party ideology is the ideology of the professional class,” he says. “Meritocratic competition. Do well in school, get well-rewarded.” Unfortunately, perhaps, his comment reminds me of the bumper sticker I’ve seen on the back of more than a few beat-up cars in factory parking lots and trailer parks over the years: “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student.”

“The biggest threat to the Democrats isn’t losing votes to the Greens,” Hawkins says. It is losing votes to Trump, who “sounds like he’s mad at the system. So they throw a protest vote to him.”

It doesn’t help that the professional and managerial class is largely aligned with both the politically correct, pro-immigrant multiculturalism and environmentalism that many white workers have genuine economic (and other) reasons to see as threats to their well-being, living standards and status.

Members of this privileged class beneath the 1 percent may not ride in limousines, but they also don’t go around in the beat-up pickup trucks that “Big Frank” drives both on and off the job. We might designate some of its more liberal members as “Prius Progressives.”

A Trump victory in November seems ever more unlikely. The gaffe-prone and highly unprofessional nature of the candidate, the vastly superior ruling- and professional-class resources being marshaled around the de facto, moderate-Republican Clinton, the racial and ethnic demographics of the national electoral map, and the relative weakness and likely low turnout of his supposed “white working-class base”—all this and more points to a major defeat for “the Donald.”

Progressives should view the alleged threat of a great wave of racist, nativist, white, working-class anger ready to “Brexit” the toxic Trump into the White House with a healthy dose of skepticism. Trump’s white proletarian base is not big or energized enough to make that happen. The notion that it is seems calculated to scare left-leaning progressives into voting for the Wall Street-favored, right-wing Democrat, war hawk Clinton and to reinforce the very neoliberal and identity-obsessed politics that helps explain the existence of such white working-class Republicanism in the first place.

(Paul Street is an independent researcher, journalist, historian, author and speaker based in Iowa City and Chicago. This piece was posted most recently at TruthDig.) 

-cw

 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Back in the days of yore, when we Baby Boomers were coming on the scene, we were nurtured on values from comic books and TV. We all knew about “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” In grade school, we also heard about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I always thought that “the American Way” meant “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” So I and my fellow baby boomers blissfully grew up with a vision of America where no wrong went un-righted and happiness was our birthright. 

Just as we had picked up other phrases like, “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies…we all fall down,’” we proudly repeated, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” After all, it opened every episode of Superman. In our minds, the Man of Steel was always on the side of right and that’s how we believed the world to be. 

Many of us have never shaken ourselves free from the childish belief that, in America, truth and justice were The Way, and we all had the right to Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Oh, yes, the pursuit of happiness was very important as we became teenagers. Then, the deaths in Southeast Asia entered our world. In our minds, we could still hear the end of the rhyme, “Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down”dead. We heard that it referred to the Black Plague which had wiped out millions. That was an interpretation that fit the times. Rather than Happiness, Death awaited us. 

And, then The War was over and Nixon was gone and we could continue with the American Way. 

Decades later, as Baby Boomers, we enter retirement and look back to see our legacy catching up to us. We had been lulled into complacency and now we realize that our children will be the first American generation likely to do worse than their parents. Productivity increases have stopped going to those who produced them. Instead, 90% of all productivity gains since Obama took office have gone to the top 1%. Private pensions are following the path of the passenger pigeon and public pensions are purposefully under-funded. 

In 2016, we no longer see Truth Justice and the American Way. Rather, we see “Corruptionism.” The alliance of the wealthy and their pawns in Congress and elsewhere has departed from the path of truth and justice. In its wake, we see a string of multi-billion dollar thefts. Worse, there is no Superman to right the wrongs. 

First, there was the piddling Equity Funding Scandal in 1970. Then we had the significant Savings and Loans Scandals where millions of elderly Americans were fleeced of their life savings. Back in the 1980s, some efforts were made to hold the thieves accountable, and so the world of finance learned about Accounting Control Fraud. 

Later, we had the Dot Com Crash in 2000, followed by the Enron Bankruptcy in 2001. So, in 2004, we sent Martha Stewart to prison. Really, Martha? At least, there was a diluted notion of some type of justice, weird as it was to seize upon Martha Stewart.   

Then, we entered the world in which Rampant Criminality replaced Truth and Justice as the American Way. We got the Crash of 2008 which was due to the massive trillion dollar Credit Default Swap frauds of Wall Street executives. Gone was all pretense of holding the guilty parties liable. The government claimed that Wall Street executives had been merely careless, that nothing criminal happened. How does one carelessly bribe a rating agency to give top ratings to junk bonds? 

The government declared that the executives’ foolish risks were so huge that we had to give them back all the money they lost in the Crash, plus a few trillion more. Notice…the money went to the crooks and thieves who had crashed the entire economy, while the average Joe lost his home, lost his pension and ended up divorced, with his kids homeless. Yet the Administration continued to shovel trillions of dollars into the pockets of Wall Street thieves. Let’s remember…the Crash of 2008 began with criminality right here in Southern California with Countrywide and our courts choosing to look the other way. 

To make certain that Truth, Justice and the American Way were dead forever, Obama invented, “Too Important to Prosecute.” That’s right, Lex Luther and his minions are too important to Metropolis. Rather than let Superman imprison them in an ice cave, they became Los Angeles’ mayor and city councilmembers. 

And that brings us to the Los Angeles City Council and its criminal voting trading pact. Surely, a criminal enterprise that fleeces the city of billions of dollars is contrary to “Truth, Justice American Way.” If Mayor Luther wants anything, he takes it and all his City Council buddies agree to unanimously agree 100% of the time: “Yeah, we should tear down the homes of the poor people. Whadda ya gonna do about it?” 

Truth, Justice and the American Way no longer exist. Penal Code § 86, which forbids all vote trading on a city council, is apparently unenforceable unless all the city councilmembers write out their vote trading agreement in blood and post it on the front door of City Hall. Even then, could we ever find a judge who could figure out that 1,000 consecutive unanimous votes is indicative of a vote trading pact? Oh no, nothing amiss here…must be a coincidence or maybe the unanimity reflects how well the city is run?   

If the people who live in the Hills near Lake Hollywood do not find the nerve to reject Boss Garcetti’s choice for CD 4 councilmember, then watch for the resulting increase of tourism in the Hills. Don’t worry about the fire danger and the fact that tourists who are totally unaware of the extreme fire danger will toss cigarette butts into the underbrush. Let’s pretend the fires won’t occur. Let’s ignore the car crashes on the too narrow streets -- and the people who die because the paramedics cannot reach them in time in the too-congested hills. There’s a price to pay for crossing Boss Garcetti. For the people above Lake Hollywood, it’s the ever increasing danger of losing their homes and lives to fire. 

When the City Council votes unanimously 99.9% of the time, you know it is a criminal enterprise, but when Lex Luther’s niece is the DA, you won’t see any action. Don’t expect any Justice from the courts. In modern day Los Angeles, Justice, along with Truth and Superman, is in exile.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

AT LENGTH-I get extremely nervous when true believers start wrapping themselves in the American flag and then call others “unpatriotic” when they don’t stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. 

A “patriot,” by definition, is one who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country. 

Patriotism does not exclusively belong to those who serve in the military or those who recite the pledge, created 116 years after the founding of our republic. 

There are many more who have served this country bravely that never once donned a uniform or carried a weapon (read President John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage). 

What most of our super patriot neighbors don’t know about this common civic ceremony is that it was written in 1892 by the socialist Christian minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) with the hope that it would bind the open wounds of the American Civil War and unite the nation in a common creed of “liberty and justice for all”— healing a still divided nation.  

These same ideals were enunciated in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. 

The essential words of that founding document give both light and interpretation to the U.S. Constitution’s meaning, which reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

Note that Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers avoided the use of the word “God” in this document. The original Pledge of Allegiance written by a Christian minister, avoided making the same mistake, but we now find it inserted into this oft-recited 1952 version, a legacy inherited from the McCarthy Era witch hunts against communists, who by definition were atheists. 

It seems that once every decade I have to remind readers of this paper and others that the Pledge of Allegiance is not an expression of patriotism demanded by the state, or even legally required for entry into the discourse at our local neighborhood councils, several of which in San Pedro, are now turning the Pledge into a mandatory exercise. 

It has even been the ceremonial protocol for the opening of every chamber of commerce meeting -- as if patriotism was a necessary requirement for engaging in free enterprise in the ever-globalized marketplace. 

The list accompanying a new report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found some surprising information: Steve Jobs, the famous co-founder of Apple, is a child of an immigrant parent from Syria. 

Walt Disney was a child of a Canadian immigrant; the founders of Oracle are from Russia and Iran; IBM (Germany); Clorox (Ireland); Boeing (Germany); 3M (Canada); and Home Depot (Russia).

Not only do we not demand military service from the founders of this elite group of Fortune 500 corporations, we don’t even require their loyalty in business to this nation. 

The Pledge is not a requirement of law but has been adopted by custom. Saying the Pledge is reinforced by regimentation in schools and by protocols at some public ceremonies. But when the words are examined they are at best “aspirational” towards liberty and justice and they avoid pledging any loyalty to an underlying creed of this nation as expressed in both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Bill of Rights. It would be better, as I suggested back in the 1980s, for the Pledge to be updated as follows: 

A Patriot’s Pledge of Allegiance 

I pledge allegiance to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
Of the United States of America and to the ideals for which they stand;
Among these are the rights of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, with freedom and justice for all. 

There is no need to mention God or the flag, which is merely a symbol, or that we are indivisible. It goes without saying that we as a nation of people are often divided and take great liberty to express those divisions whenever and wherever we choose. The creed behind the symbol is what we as a nation should be pledging allegiance too, not a piece of cloth. 

However, it was an exquisite form of irony to see Muslim immigrant, Khizr Khan, father of a U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq in 2004, ask Donald Trump if he had ever read the U.S. Constitution. One might ask the same question to those who are now demanding that every meeting of a neighborhood council start with the politically outdated pledge. 

How many of you have a copy in your coat pocket that you could pull out the next time you are stopped by the authorities? Perhaps reading the Constitution should be a mandatory step for anyone wearing a uniform or elected to office.

 

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He was elected to the presidency of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in 2014 and has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDITOR’S PICK-Too many headlines about what Trump said about Clinton and the "2nd Amendment people" don’t explain what he meant or put what he said in political context.

Donald Trump’s comment on Tuesday about how “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton if she gets elected is hardly subtle. This is a clear provocation to commit murder, however he and his handlers may try to spin it. 

At a rally in Wilmington, N.C., Trump told the crowd that “Hillary wants to abolish -- essentially abolish the Second Amendment.” Of course, this isn’t true. This is how Trump and his NRA friends refer to people who want tougher gun control laws. But that wasn’t the most inflammatory thing he said. 

"Many of his comments are just stupid. But others are dangerous, and some may be illegal. Who draws the line? And what do we do to a public figure who crosses it?"

“And if she gets to pick her judges,” Trump went on. “Nothing you can do, folks.” 

Then his lack of impulse control kicked in: “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is,” he added. 

He was suggesting that “Second Amendment people” -- clearly, gun owners -- deal with Hillary before she gets to appoint Supreme Court justices who will permit strong gun laws. And he didn’t mean invite her to an NRA meeting. 

A week ago, reporters were writing about whether Trump’s invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails was treasonous or otherwise illegal. That was bad enough. But now this. As Ezra Klein pointed out in a Vox column and video last week, there are no words to describe this kind of behavior. “Abnormal” doesn’t do it justice. Nor does “monstrous.” 

“Sociopathic” might describe Trump’s condition, but it doesn’t describe our condition as we routinely hear such Trump statements on the campaign trail. 

The only thing that comes close is philosopher Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil.” She coined this phrase in her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, about the trial of Adolph Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, in an Israeli courtroom. If someone carries out unspeakable crimes often enough, he or she comes to accept them as “normal.” That was Arendt’s view of Eichmann. 

But the “banality of evil” also applies to an entire society. We can get used to outrageous things -- slavery, Jim Crow segregation laws, massive homelessness, widespread malnutrition, the frequent killing of Black men by police -- until we are provoked to view them as unjust. 

This is the dilemma now facing Americans -- and particularly American journalists -- in thinking about Trump’s presidential campaign. We’ve become so used to his daily outrages -- about Mexicans, about women, about Muslims, about NATO, about nuclear weapons, about “Mexican” Judge Curiel, about renegotiating America’s debt with other countries, about getting Mexico to pay for a wall on the border, about Melania Trump’s plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech, about his Trump University con job, about his ignorance of basic issues like Brexit, and many more -- that we’re almost numb to them. It is difficult to renew outrage day after day. 

Many of his comments are just stupid. But others are dangerous, and some may be illegal. They reflect a temperament and mental instability that makes him unfit to be president. 

It is a matter of what kind of words, and what kind of behavior, crosses the line so blatantly, and violates whatever standards of basic decency we have, that it is beyond contempt. But who draws the line? And what do we do to a public figure who crosses it? 

The New York Times’ media critic Jim Rutenberg, in his analysis in Monday’s paper, Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism”, did a good job of examining how difficult it is for the mainstream media, caught in the web of “he said/she said” reporting and admonitions to be “neutral,” to deal with Trump’s campaign and his almost daily outrages. 

Rutenberg wrote: “If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?” 

Reporters don’t want to be glorified tape recorders, just transcribing what Trump (or any other candidate) says without providing context and, if necessary, correction. 

Reporters faced this dilemma in 1950, when Senator Joseph McCarthy began giving speeches accusing the U.S. State Department of harboring Communists. In almost every speech, he used different numbers of alleged “reds” inside the department. Reporters who covered McCarthy knew he was lying, but they couldn’t write that. They couldn’t even say he was “inconsistent.” If they wanted readers to understand that McCarthy had gone overboard with his accusations, they had to find other politicians to say so. They had to be “balanced.” That’s what passed for “objectivity” back then. He said versus she said. 

We’ve made some progress since then -- allowing journalists to analyze as well as report -- but reporters and editors still find themselves in a journalistic straightjacket when covering Trump on the campaign trail. (I was going to write “someone like Trump,” but although there are many whackos in recent politics -- think Sarah Palin -- there isn’t anyone else really like Trump, and certainly no one who has won a major party’ s nomination for president.) 

The stories about Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment reflect this journalistic conundrum. How do you report a story about a candidate for president implying that people with guns might want to consider killing his opponent? Yes, that isn’t what he actually said but it is clearly what he meant -- or what he wanted his supporters to hear. That was his dog whistle. But you don’t need to be a dog to know what he was saying. Even so, reporters and headline writers couldn’t report what Trump meant, only what he said. They could call his comment “controversial” or even “inflammatory,” but they did say what was obvious to everyone in that room and anyone who watched the video. 

The headlines about Trump’s comment that appeared on-line within hours of his speech reflect how constrained the media are in reporting such an outrageous statement: 

  • “Trump Appears To Suggest ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Stop Clinton” (NPR) 
  • “Donald Trump Says ‘Second Amendment People’ Can Stop Hillary Clinton From Curbing Gun Rights” (Wall Street Journal
  • “Trump sparks uproar by saying ‘maybe there is’ a way for ‘2nd Amendment people’ to keep Clinton from naming justices” (Los Angeles Times
  • “Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton” (New York Times
  • “Trump suggests ‘Second Amendment people’ could stop Clinton” (Chicago Tribune)  
  • “What Ever Could Trump Have Meant With This Joke About ‘Second Amendment People’ and Clinton?” (Slate

“Trump ‘Second Amendment’ Quip Seen as Veiled Threat Against Clinton” (NBC) 

  • “Donald Trump says ‘Second Amendment people’ may be the only check on Clinton judicial appointments” (Washington Post
  • “Trump in trouble over ‘Second Amendment’ remark” (Politico). 

All these headlines are accurate but misleading. They don’t explain what he meant or put what he said in political context. The subhead on the Politico story -- “The campaign says he was referencing gun-rights voter mobilization, but the remark was widely interpreted as a joke about using guns against his Democratic rival” -- is about as close as any of them got to explaining the importance and the outrageousness -- and perhaps the criminality -- of what Trump said. 

Headlines or news reports suggesting that Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment was a “joke” reflect the “banality of evil” problem. A joke? Really? 

Where is George Orwell when we need him?

 

(Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

 

Tags: Peter Dreier, Donald Trump, Second Amendment, objective journalism, Hillary Clinton, Common Dreams

 

EASTSIDER- For me, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump goes way beyond the “lesser of two evils.” In fact, this is how we wound up with Hillary and Donald in the first place. We’ve had too many years of those kinds of choices. Somehow this madness has to stop. 

I think that a lot of my fellow progressives quietly agree with me, but are afraid to be brutally honest. They worry about getting spammed and flamed all over the internet. Yes, that’s how Hillary plays the game. And maybe I could get drummed out of the Northeast Dems, but … oh well, here goes. 

As a lifetime Dem, I voted for Bill Clinton and even gave him money, he talked so pretty. Silly me. In return, I got GATT and NAFTA, and "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It should also be noted that President Bill Clinton is the guy that put the wooden stake through the heart of the Glass-Steagal Act that protected us from the financial services industry after the Great Depression. 

While I know that Hillary is not Bill, she has made it clear that she views him as her economic and jobs “go to guy.” Goody. 

Then of course, there’s The Donald. The idea of voting for Donald Trump is pretty simple for me. I simply substitute the name P.T. Barnum for Donald Trump and the parallels are eerie. For those of you who may not remember, P.T. was a showman and promoter (of some hoaxes, as well as the Barnum & Bailey circus.) He was also a Connecticut Republican politician who has been (incorrectly) credited with coining the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Clearly, he was in it for the bucks. 

If you substitute real estate developer for showman, the business and ego traits of both are pretty similar. The biggest difference seems to be that The Donald has tapped into the overwhelming anger and disgust people have for both political parties that merrily sell us out in Washington without a qualm. PT was simply in it for the glory and the bucks, up front. 

Hillary Clinton is harder to characterize with a sound bite. There are so many Hillary Clintons that it’s hard to find a core beyond her incredible lust to become President of the United States. Evidently at any cost. 

What we do know is that the rhetoric of the Clinton Campaign evades the truth about anything Clinton…like the fact that she’s a card-carrying member of the 1/2 of the One Percent (via the Clinton Foundation). She is owned by Wall Street, as Bernie Sanders correctly pointed out during the primary. So is Bill and so is their daughter, who is on the Clinton Foundation Board and is married to a Hedge Fund investment banker. 

Hillary is also very hawkish for a Democrat, from the Iraq war forward. As it relates to Israel, she might as well be on the staff of Prime Minister Netanyahu. 

Finally, as I wrote some time ago in a CityWatch article, “While I’m at it, I have absolutely no idea what Hillary Clinton actually stands for -- there have been so many “nuances” and “pivots” and “shifting stances” between the primaries and the general election as reported by the 200 channels of electronic media. It makes my head hurt. Again, it may be true that this is “smart politics” like the pundits say, and proof of her political abilities, but what does it say about our electoral politics?” 

So these are the two candidates for President of the United States. 

A Third Way and Why--Somewhere in all this, “the lesser of two evils” loses all meaning for me. While I can understand why Bernie Sanders, a lifetime elected official, chose to live up to his pledge to support the Democratic candidate, I do not feel similarly obligated. 

I think the two visions of America represented by both candidates are too flawed for sale. Whether it’s Hillary letting Wall Street suck the last money out of our pockets until they tank the entire financial services industry again, or The Donald, who, like all real estate developers, seems to want to subdivide us into easily digestible pieces, we are faced with Hobbesian choices that don’t interest me. 

Here is what’s important to me about politics: Politicians are supposed to ensure that everyone in our society has a legitimate shot at a job if they want to work. Historically, that’s been a myth for our elected officials, this “underpinning” of the so-called social contract between the state and the governed. It’s the hype we have all been fed up through the 80’s. 

Well, it’s simply not true anymore. Huge swaths of our population can’t get any job, at all. Older people are routinely dumped in the wastebasket, never getting a call back or even an interview; and those convicted of almost any crime (other than snorting coke in Wall Street) have their resumes dumped in the same wastebasket. It’s the same for those less educated, the same for “people of color,” and the list goes on and on. If you go to Kings County in California’s Central Valley, the unemployment rate for working age white guys is over 50%!  

In addition to the money, which may or may not be enough to get by on, jobs offer a sense of self-worth, security and inherent pride. 

Back in the 60’s in Watts, another social worker and I ran some off-the-books group sessions for folks on General Relief. “Off the books” because the Welfare Department was absolutely uninterested in such ideas. The overwhelming majority of these people felt alone, isolated, believing that no one understood their circumstances. It was a total bummer. But in a group, they could share with each other and find out they were not alone. 

We went over basic skills like how to regularly get up on a schedule and how to arrive at a specific place, on time, each day. This is how beaten down people were. But we hustled some local employers and achieved over a 50% success rate in helping many of them get off General Relief. And once off, they tended to stay off. 

So, after then-president Bill Clinton went on TV to tell us there’d be no more “guaranteed jobs” -- that we would have to work for a number of different employers and constantly upgrade our “job skills” (whatever that meant) -- there really are no job guarantees. Period. 

Except, of course, for the professional political class, their hangers-on and the one-dollar-one-vote billionaires who own all of them. 

Well that just sucks. I have no sympathy for either political party or the politicians who dance to their tunes. It is they, not us, who have created the current “no job, no hope” class of Americans. And, as for the new “gig economy” that’s available for younger people, who can only look forward to intermittent employment, high rents, and permanent uncertainty, it’s no better. 

The Takeaway--For what it’s worth, I am supporting the national progressive candidates that Bernie endorsed -- and giving them money. Especially Tim Canova in Florida, who I pray will displace the toxic Debbie Wasserman Schultz once and for all. She can go back to fronting for PayDay Loans. 

And, no surprise here … I’m voting for Jill Stein.  

Something has to change and it has to be from the bottom up. It all starts with electing real, honest, progressive Democrats (or even Republicans, if there is such a thing.) Or how about an honest Green Party Candidate? You know, people who will really vote against the 1/2 of 1% who run the country. 

On the other hand, Hillary would be the first woman president... 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

EDITOR’S PICK--Yep, it finally happened. In early May, after a long, long run, the elephants of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were ushered into retirement in Florida where they will finish their days aiding cancer research. The Greatest Show on Earth was done with its pachyderms.  The same might be said about the Republicans after Donald Trump’s version of a GOP convention. Many of them had also been sent, far less gracefully than those circus elephants, into a kind of enforced retirement (without even cancer research as an excuse). 

Their former party remained in the none-too-gentle hands of the eternally aggrieved Trump, while the Democrats were left to happily chant “USA!  USA!,” march a barking retired four-star general and a former CIA director on stage to invoke the indispensable “greatness” of America, and otherwise exhibit the kind of super-patriotism and worship of the military usually associated with... no question about it... the GOP (whose delegates instead spent their time chanting “lock her up!”).

And that’s just to take the tiniest of peeks at a passing moment in what continues to be, without the slightest doubt, the Greatest Show on Earth in 2016.

My small suggestion: don’t even try to think your way through all this. It’s the media equivalent of entering King Minos’s labyrinth. You’ll never get out. I’m talking about -- what else? -- the phenomenon we still call an “election campaign,” though it bears remarkably little resemblance to anything Americans might once have bestowed that label on.

Still, look on the bright side: the Republican and Democratic conventions are in the rearview mirror and a mere three months of endless yakking are left until Election Day. 

In the last year, untold billions of words have been expended on this “election” and the outsized histories, flaws, and baggage the two personalities now running for president bring with them.  Has there ever been this sort of coverage -- close to a year of it already -- hour after hour, day after day, night after night? Has the New York Times ever featured stories about the same candidate and his cronies, two at a time, on its front page daily the way it’s recently been highlighting the antics of The Donald?

Have there ever been so many “experts” of every stripe jawing away about a single subject on cable TV from the crack of dawn to the witching hour?  Has there ever been such a mass of pundits churning out opinions by the hour, or so many polls about the American people’s electoral desires steamrollering each other from dawn to dusk?

And, of course, those polls are then covered, discussed, and analyzed endlessly. Years ago, Jonathan Schell suggested that we no longer had an election, but (thanks to those polls) “serial elections.”  He wrote that back in the Neolithic Age and we’ve come an awful long way since then. There are now websites, after all, that seem to do little more than produce mega-polls from all the polls spewing out.

And don’t forget the completely self-referential nature of this “campaign.” If ever there was an event that was about itself and focused only on itself, this is it. Donald Trump, for instance, has taken possession of Twitter and his furious -- in every sense, since he’s the thinnest-skinned candidate ever -- tweets rapidly pile up, are absorbed into “news” articlesabout the campaign that are, in turn, tweeted out for The Donald to potentially tweet about in a Möbius strip of blather.

What You Can’t Blame Donald Trump For

And yet, despite all the words expended and polls stumbling over each other to illuminatenext to nothing, can’t you feel that there’s something unsaid, something unpolled, something missing?

As the previous world of American politics melts and the electoral seas continue to rise, those of us in the coastal outlands of domestic politics find ourselves, like so many climate refugees, fleeing the tides of spectacle, insult, propaganda, and the rest. We’re talking about a phenomenon that’s engulfing us. We’re drowning in a sea of words and images called “Election 2016.” We have no more accurate name for it, no real way to step back and describe the waters we’re drowning in. And if you expect me to tell you what to call it, think again. I’m drowning, too.

You can blame Donald Trump for many things in this bizarre season of political theater, but don’t blame him for the phenomenon itself. He may have been made for this moment with his uncanny knack for turning himself into a never-ending news cycle of one and scarfing upbillions of dollars of free publicity, but he was a Johnny-come-lately to the process itself.

After all, he wasn’t one of the Supreme Court justices who, in their 2010 Citizens Uniteddecision, green-lighted the flooding of American politics with the dollars of the ultra-wealthy in the name of free speech and in amounts that boggle the imagination (even as that same court has gone ever easier on the definition of political “corruption”).

As a certified tightwad, Trump wasn’t the one who made it possible to more or less directly purchase a range of politicians and so ensure that we would have our first 1% elections. Nor was he the one who made American politics a perfect arena for a rogue billionaire with enough money (andchutzpah) to buy himself.

It’s true that no political figure has ever had The Donald’s TV sense. Still, before he was even a gleam in his own presidential eye, the owners of cable news and other TV outlets had already grasped that an election season extending from here to Hell might morph into a cornucopia of profits.

He wasn’t the one who realized that such an ever-expanding campaign season would not only bring in billions of dollars in political ads (thank you, again, Supreme Court for helping to loose super PACs on the world), but billions more from advertisers for prime spots in the ongoing spectacle itself.

He wasn’t the one who realized that a cable news channel with a limited staff could put every ounce of energy, every talking head around, into such an election campaign, and glue eyeballs in remarkable ways, solving endless problems for a year or more.

This was all apparent by the 2012 election, as debates spread across the calendar, ad money poured in, and the yakking never stopped. Donald Trump didn’t create this version of an eternal reality show. He’s just become its temporary host and Hillary Clinton, his quick-to-learn apprentice.

And yet be certain of one thing: neither those Supreme Court justices, nor the owners of TV outlets, nor the pundits, politicians, pollsters, and the rest of the crew knew what exactly they were creating. Think of them as the American equivalent of the blind men and the elephant(and my apologies if I can’t keep pachyderms out of this piece).

In this riot of confusion that passes for an election, with one candidate who’s a walking Ponzi scheme and the other who (with her husband) has shamelessly pocketed staggeringmillions of dollars from the financial and tech sectors, what are we to make of “our” strange new world? Certainly, this is no longer just an election campaign. It’s more like a way of life and, despite all its debates (that now garner National Football League-sized audiences), it’s also the tao of confusion.

Missing in Action This Election Season

Let’s start with this: The spectacle of our moment is so overwhelming, dominating every screen of our lives and focused on just two outsized individuals in a country of 300 million-plus on a planet of billions, that it blocks our view of reality. Whatever this “election” may be, it blots out much of the rest of the world.  As far as I can see, the only story sure to break through it is when someone picks up that assault rifle, revs up that truck, gets his hands on that machete, builds that bomb, declares loyalty to ISIS (whatever his disturbed thoughts may have been 30 seconds earlier), and slaughters as many people as he can in the U.S. or Europe. (Far grimmer, and more repetitive slaughters in Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, and other such places have no similar value and are generally ignored.)

Of course, such slaughters, when they do break through the election frenzy, only feed the growth of the campaign. It’s a reasonable suspicion, though, that somewhere at the heart of Election 2016 is a deepening sense of fear about American life that seems to exhibit itself front and center only in relation to one of the lesser dangers (Islamic terrorism) of life in this country. Much as this election campaign offers a strife-riven playing field for two, it also seems to minimize the actual strife and danger in our world by focusing so totally on ISIS and its lone wolf admirers.  It might, in that sense, be considered a strange propaganda exercise in the limits of reality.

Let’s take, for instance, America’s wars.  Yes, the decision to invade Iraq has been discussed (and criticized) during the campaign and the urge of the two remaining candidates and everyone else previously involved to defeat and destroy the Islamic State is little short of overwhelming.  In addition, Trump at least has pointed to the lack of any military victories in all these years and the disaster of Clinton’s interventionist urge in Libya, among other things. 

In addition, in an obvious exercise of super-patriotic fervor of the sort that once would have been strange in this country and now has become second nature, both conventions trotted out retired generals and national security officials to lecture the American public like so many rabid drill sergeants. 

Then there were the usual rites, especially at the Democratic convention, dedicated to the temple of the “fallen” in our wars, and endless obeisance to the “warriors” and the U.S. military generally -- as well as the prolonged Trumpian controversy over the family of one dead Muslim-American Marine. 

One of the two candidates has made a habit of praising to the heavens “the world’s greatest military” (and you know just which one she means) while swearing fealty to our generals and admirals; the other has decried that military as a “disaster” area, a “depleted” force “in horrible shape.”  For both, however, this adds up to the same thing: yet more money and support for that force.

Here’s the strange thing, though.  Largely missing in action in campaign 2016 are the actual wars being fought by the U.S. military or any serious assessment of, or real debate or discussion about, how they’ve been going or what the national security state has or hasn’t accomplished in these years. 

Almost a decade and a half after the invasion of Afghanistan, the longest war in American history is still underway with no end in sight and it's going badly, as American air power has once again been let loose in that country and Afghan government forces continue to lose ground to the Taliban.  Think of it as the war that time forgot in this election campaign, even though its failed generals are trotted out amid hosannas of praise to tell us what to do in the future and who to vote for.

Meanwhile, a new, open-ended campaign of bombing has been launched in Libya, this time against ISIS adherents.  The last time around left that country a basket case.  What’s this one likely to do?

Such questions are largely missing in action in campaign speeches, debates, and discussions; nor is the real war and massive destruction in Iraq or Syria a subject of any genuine interest; nor what it’s meant for the “world’s greatest military” to unleash its air power from Afghanistan to Libya, send out its drones on assassination missions from Pakistan to Somalia, launch special operations raids across the Greater Middle East and Africa, occupy two countries, and have nothing to show for it but the spread of ever more viral and brutal terror movements and the collapse or near-collapse of many of the states in which it’s fought its wars. 

At the moment, such results just lead to “debates” over how much further to build up American forces, how much more money to pour into them, how much freer the generals should be to act in the usual repetitive fashion, and how much more fervently we should worship those “warriors” as our saviors.  Back in 2009, Leon Panetta, then head of the CIA,talked up America’s drone assassination campaign in Pakistan as “the only game in town” when it came to stopping al-Qaeda.  Seven years later, you could say that in Washington the only game in town is failure.

Similarly, the U.S. taxpayer pours nearly $70 billion annually into the 16 major and various minor outfits in its vast “intelligence” apparatus, and yet, as with the recent coup in Turkey, the U.S. intelligence community seldom seems to have a clue about what’s going on.

Failed intelligence and failed wars in an increasingly failed world is a formula for anxiety and even fear.  But all of this has been absorbed into and deflected by the unparalleled bread-and-circus spectacle of Election 2016, which has become a kind of addictive habit for “the people.”  Even fear has been transformed into another form of entertainment.  In the process, the electorate has been turned into so many spectators, playing their small parts in a demobilizing show of the first order.

And speaking about realities that went MIA, you wouldn’t know it from Election 2016, but much of the U.S. was sweltering under a “heat dome” the week of the Democratic convention.  It wasn’t a phrase that had previously been in popular use and yet almost the whole country was living through record or near-record summer temperatures in a year in which, globally, each of the first six months had broken all previous heat records (as, in fact, had the last eight months of 2015).  Even pre-heat dome conditions in the lower 48 had been setting records for warmth (and don’t even ask about Alaska).  It might almost look like there was a pattern here.

Unfortunately, as the world careens toward “an environment never experienced before,”according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the two parties to the American spectacle continues to insist that climate change is a hoax.  Its politicians are almost uniformly in thrall to Big Energy, and its presidential candidate tops the charts when it comes to climate denialism.  ("The concept of global warming," he's claimed, "was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.") Meanwhile, the other party, the one theoretically promoting much-needed responses to climate change, wasn't even willing to highlight the subject in prime time on any of the last three days of its convention.

In other words, the deepest, most unnerving realities of our world are, in essence, missing in action in election 2016.

You want to be afraid? Be afraid of that!

The Shrinking Election Phenomenon

So you tell me: What is this spectacle of ours?  Certainly, as a show it catches many of our fears, sweeping them up in its whirlwind and then burying them in unreality.  It can rouse audiences to a fever pitch and seems to act like a Rorschach test in which you read whatever you’re inclined to see into its most recent developments.  Think of it, in a sense, as an anti-election campaign.  In its presence, there’s no way to sort out the issues that face this country or its citizens in a world in which the personalities on stage grow ever larger and more bizarre, while what Americans have any say over is shrinking fast.

So much of American “democracy” and so many of the funds that we pony up to govern ourselves now go into strengthening the power of essentially anti-democratic structures: a military with a budget larger than that of the next seven or eight countries combined and the rest of a national security state of a size unimaginable in the pre-9/11 era.  Each is now deeply embedded in Washington and at least as grotesque in its bloat as the election campaign itself.  We’re talking about structures that have remarkably little to do with self-governance or We the People (even though it’s constantly drummed into our heads that they are there to protect us, the people).  In these years, even as they have proved capable of winning next to nothing and detecting little, they've grown ever larger, more imperial, and powerful, becoming essentially the post-Constitutional fourth branch of government to which the other three branches pay obeisance.

No matter.  We’re all under the heat dome now and when, on November 8th, tens of millions of us troop to the polls, who knows what we’re really doing anymore, except of course paving the way for the next super-spectacle of our political age, Election 2020. Count on it: speculation about the candidates will begin in the media within days after the results of this one are in. And it’s a guarantee: there will be nothing like it. It will dazzle, entrance, amaze. It’s going to be... the Greatest Show on Earth. It will cause billions of dollars to change hands.  It will electrify, shock, amuse, entertain, appall, and...

I leave it to you to finish that sentence, while I head off to check out the latest on The Donald and Hillary.  (Include a reference to elephants and you’ll get extra credit!)

(Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com.) 

 

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