3rd-party Trump candidacy could make 2016 a Wild West show


The collective gasps and amazement from “serious” pundits about the fact that Donald Trump is leading the Republican Party right now should be ignored.

Unless the would-be narcissist-in-chief actually runs as a third-party or independent candidate. Then, all bets are off. And the votes Trump would siphon off wouldn’t necessarily come only from the GOP candidate.

Let’s jump ahead 12 months. One year from now, both major parties will have wrapped up their conventions. Each party will have a nominee. We likely will be back where we are in the summers of most presidential election years: Two candidates, two running mates, lots of campaigning in swing states, lots of appearances on Sunday morning shows, endless polling, electoral vote projections, endless negative ads — the usual.

And most voting Americans will be firmly committed to voting for one of two candidates. Most likely, at least 45 percent on each side, with the rest still weighing their choices. Very few recent elections go against that prediction.

Trump? Jeb! Bush? Scott Walker? A committed GOP voter is going to vote for the party, no matter who the candidate is. Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders, if he upsets the electoral apple cart? Democrats will vote for the Dem candidate. No, the vote totals won’t be that different.

Unless there’s a third-party candidate.

Polling right now asks for a first choice and often a second choice in the crowded GOP field. With too many candidates, there are too many ways to split the vote to make such polling meaningful. Once the field gets whittled down, and voters vote in actual primaries or caucuses (and some candidates run out of money), we’ll see numbers that matter.

But by November 2016, a third-party candidate might be enough to throw all projections out the window. An independent Trump candidacy would throw a wrench into the electoral works — something the Donald has not ruled out.

In recent modern presidential elections, the percentages in the popular vote totals showed slim divisions, with a few notable exceptions. The Electoral College totals often were more lopsided. Popular vote percentages given here are rounded and don’t include third-party or independent candidates, except for 1980, 1992, and 1996, where John Anderson and H. Ross Perot captured a sizable percentage of the popular vote total despite capturing no electoral votes. There, the presence of a third-party candidate made a lot of difference. And in 1968, a third-party candidate really made a difference. These figures of the popular vote come from the online Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.

2012: Obama, 51 percent, Romney, 47 percent.

2008: Obama, 53 percent, McCain, 46 percent.

2004: Bush, 51 percent, Kerry, 48 percent.

2000: Bush 48 percent minus, Gore, 48 percent plus (yeah, we all know what happened that year).

1996: Clinton, 49 percent, Dole, 41 percent, Perot, 9 percent.

1992: Clinton, 43 percent, Bush, 37 percent, Perot, 19 percent.

1988: Bush, 53 percent, Dukakis, 46 percent.

1984: Reagan, 59 percent, Mondale, 41 percent (this was a Reagan “landslide”).

1980: Reagan, 51 percent, Carter, 41 percent, independent John Anderson, 7 percent.

1976: Carter, 50 percent, Ford, 48 percent.

In 1972, Richard Nixon walloped George McGovern, 61 percent to 38 percent. There was a similar lopsided result in 1964, with LBJ getting 61 percent to Goldwater’s 38 percent.

But 1968 was another stunner. Nixon got 43-plus percent, Hubert Humphrey got 43-minus percent, and George Wallace captured almost 14 percent of the popular vote and 46 electoral votes, winning five Southern states. One of several reasons that Nixon won the presidency that year.

Right now, Trump is polling well in both New Hampshire and Iowa as well as nationally. In New Hampshire, his supporters seem to be older, traditional conservative voters, with lots of Tea Party support. In Iowa, however, much of Trump’s support seems to be coming from younger voters described as “moderate” but who are disillusioned with politics and political choices. (The main characteristic Trump supporters share is a lack of college education.) Five-Thirty-Eight went so far as to call Trump the “Nickelback” of candidates — widely disliked, but with staunch supporters.

The same kind of supporters who voted for Perot in 1992 and in lesser numbers in 1996.

So who would be hurt by a third-party Trump candidacy? Polling right now shows it would hurt Republicans, but a year from now, a Trump candidacy also could very well draw votes away from a Democratic candidate, tapping into a peculiar brand of populism. If Trump appeals to at least some younger voters that Democrats count on, that could have a big impact on the election.

A lot can happen between now and next November. Trump could implode. Voters could decide he really is a jerk (even more than those who think so now). If Trump fades as a serious GOP candidate, would his ego and his billions keep him in the race?

It’s going to be an interesting election.


Chicago’s dubious honor: Most police fatal shootings


Its “second-city” moniker notwithstanding, this is not a No. 1 rating a city should be proud of: Chicago leads the nation in the most fatal shootings by police in the last five years.

According to figures from the Better Government Association, Chicago police shot and killed 70 people in the last five years — the most of any large city. In second place was Phoenix, with 57 deaths, followed by Philadelphia and Houston.

When measured in terms of per-capita killings, Chicago drops to fourth place, with Phoenix taking the top spot. Still, this is a large number, even as Chicago police are quick to claim that the figures have dropped this year — there have been only three police fatal shootings so far in 2015.

“The Chicago victims were nearly all male,” the BGA analysis says. “Most were black. More than half of the killings occurred in six South Side police districts.” One of those districts is Englewood, where film director Spike Lee is shooting a film about the violent neighborhood with the controversial working title of Chiraq.

Here’s another horrific statistic: Chicago police shot 240 people from 2010 through 2014, or an average of about one per week. That also was more than any other city, although some municipalities provided incomplete data to the BGA, either on police shootings overall or fatal shootings only.

Arthur Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago, says as part of the BGA report that he wasn’t surprised that the shootings were concentrated in specific pockets of the city. “The districts where police shootings are the highest are probably the districts where violent and gang crimes are the highest,” he says. “In those neighborhoods police are on higher alert. They’re more likely to feel threatened, and there’s a greater likelihood they’ll react more aggressively.”

The report didn’t break down the killings as far as victims who were armed or unarmed, and likely at least some of those shot and killed by police were armed gang members.

Police shootings are investigated by the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, and some controversy has arisen over the dismissal of an investigator for that group, Lorenzo Davis. Davis spent 23 years with the CPD but was dismissed from the IPRA after he refused “to obey orders to reverse his findings that police were not justified in shooting suspects six times in the past eight years,” says a story in The Daily Beast. “In three of those incidents, the suspects died.”

“As many as 5 percent of police shootings [that IPRA investigates] are problematic,” Davis told The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast details a recent case that cost a teenager his life and the city a lot of money. “The most egregious appears to be the case of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot 16 times last year by at least one officer after the teen was found with a knife near a junkyard,” the story reports. “Police said the officers were in fear for their lives, but an attorney for the McDonald family claims footage shows the teen walking away from police when they began firing.

“The video was apparently enough to prompt the city into a $5 million settlement with the family, on the condition that attorneys would not release the footage,” the story continues. “McDonald’s family has seen the video and expressed their wishes that it be withheld from the public, fearing its release would cause Chicago to riot.”

There were similar million-dollar settlements in two cases of police shooting and killing unarmed men in 2010 and 2012. “The settlements mean the details of police killings, including the identities of the officers involved, won’t be exposed to the public in court trials,” the Daily Beast story says.

Chicago hasn’t experienced the kind of widespread public outrage seen in other cities after a police shooting or death, such as that experienced in Ferguson, Mo., after the death of Michael Brown; in Baltimore, after the death of Freddie Gray; or in Cleveland, after the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. There are too many more to count. Those in Chicago certainly resonate with the communities involved, as friends on the South Side tell us.

One that has resonated nationally as well as locally is the death of Sandra Bland, a suburban Chicago woman who spent three days in jail in Texas after a traffic stop for not signaling a lane change. Texas authorities say Bland committed suicide in her cell with a plastic trash bag. But whatever the manner of her death, people remain skeptical and are angry that the situation was allowed to spin out of control.

At Bland’s funeral, her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, was the last to speak. She wasn’t convinced of the cause of her daughter’s death.

“I’m the mama, and I’m telling you that my baby did not take herself out. The fact is, I’m the mama. And I still don’t know what happened. You think you’re mad? I’m mad, too.”

Who knows what any candidate besides Trump is saying?

Photo from an online post, The Week, from The American Prospect

It’s easier to ignore the field and focus on the clown. (Photo from an online post, The Week)

Very few members of the public, that’s for sure. Because the media aren’t bothering to report anything else.

I can’t remember a time in political journalism when the media have been so fixated on one candidate. A candidate that they’re all quick to dismiss by saying “he’ll never get the Republican nomination” and “he’ll never run as a third-party candidate.” But Donald Trump gets non-stop coverage nonetheless.

Donald Trump gives a meandering speech where he once again released his inner 6th grader and starts calling other candidates nasty and degrading names, even giving out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number, and the star of Duck Dynasty loved it (and that’s newsworthy because … ? Oh, that’s right — because it’s about Trump). The speech is carried live on cable news and leads much of the political coverage that evening and the next morning.

Donald Trump goes to the border wearing a silly hat over his silly hair and repeats falsehoods about the U.S.-Mexican border. Local officials appear with him, even as they repudiate his false claims over border dangers — border city Laredo, Texas, has drastically lower murder and crime rates than other cities, as do other cities along the border, according to FBI figures. The event is again carried live on cable news and again leads the news cycle.

And the media can’t — or won’t — stop giving Trump air time or ink.

The usual caveats apply: “It’s like watching a train wreck.” On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart called Trump his “summer fling.”

Respected political prognosticator Charlie Cook has a piece in the National Journal not about the candidates as a whole, but some general scenarios about possible outcomes of the 2016 election. But the headline still had to be Trump clickbait: “Trump-Free Scenarios for 2016.”

“Time for some straight talk: We in the media love Donald Trump,” writes Paul Waldman of The American Prospect in an online post from The Week. “Trump being a jerk is a feature of his candidacy, not a bug — and we just can’t get enough.”

Why should anyone be surprised that Trump’s poll numbers still lead the pack, even after the media and other Republicans tut-tutted about his diss of Sen. John McCain’s status as a war hero because of his five years as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton? The public isn’t hearing about anyone else.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich jumped into the race, and his announcement was treated as an afterthought by most news organizations. Other candidates, desperate for attention to try to meet the top-10 threshold set by Fox News for the first GOP debate on Aug. 6, are trying new tricks like taking a chain saw to the tax code (Sen. Rand Paul), trying to guess the political affiliations of Star Trek captains (Sen. Ted Cruz), or showing multiple ways to destroy a cell phone (Graham). Dude — you could have just gotten a new number.

When’s the last time you heard of a policy position by Carly Fiorina? A proposal from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal? Others with day jobs in the Senate, like Sen. Marco Rubio, show up to slam the Iran nuclear agreement, then cut out. The most coverage candidates get these days is by giving their reactions to the Trumpster.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush got fleeting mentions when (a) his campaign announced it had raised over $114 million, mostly through his super PAC, and (b) he said he wanted to “phase out” Medicare. Not the best way to win senior votes, Jeb!

How about Democratic candidates? Sen. Bernie Sanders is drawing record crowds — more than any other candidate — and he still gets scant coverage, even when he makes serious proposals like raising the minimum wage. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is giving a series of speeches and answering questions on the economy, police actions against African-Americans, and racism. Those are usually buried on inside pages.

“So while the Republican Party is hoping desperately that somehow Trump will just go away,” Waldman writes, “he’s not going anywhere until he’s good and ready. And as long as he can turn on the news and see his face, he’s a happy man.” And nothing makes a narcissist like Trump happy like seeing his face everywhere, just like he sees his names on his buildings.

Just about every news organization is running stories about how the media are responsible for Trump’s rise. “Blame The Media For Donald Trump’s Rise In The Polls,” scolds Huffington Post. “How the Media Is Fueling Donald Trump’s Campaign,” reports NBC. “Why is Trump surging? Blame the media,” trumpets the Washington Post.

I’ve got another idea. Instead of running stories on his candidacy and whose fault it is that he’s become so omnipresent, why don’t you just ignore him — at least for a while? Or cover another candidate for a change?

Environment success story comes clean in Chicago

A rendering of the completed greenhouse atop the Method factory.

A rendering of the completed greenhouse atop the Method factory.

With the alarming news that even a two-degree Celsius rise in temperature could mean a rise of 10 feet in sea levels over the next 50 years, let’s look at some good news in the environmental arena.

In Chicago, an eco-friendly soap manufacturer is planning the world’s biggest rooftop greenhouse, according to a story in Business Insider. The manufacturing plant is owned by company called Method, and it already has a good environmental track record.

“This is no ordinary factory — the $30 million space is equipped with three solar ‘trees’ that move with the sun and a 230-foot-tall wind turbine,” the story says. “Combined, the on-site renewable energy sources generate a third of all energy for the building.”

Now the Method factory will have a 75,000-square-foot greenhouse that is set to be fully planted this fall. That’s bigger than both a city block and a football field. “Once it’s up and running, the greenhouse will produce a number of different kinds of pesticide-free greens, including kale, arugula, bok choy, and butterhead lettuce,” according to the story. “Gotham Greens [the company building the greenhouse] will distribute the produce to local stores, restaurants, and farmer’s markets.”

The Method factory is already the industry’s first LEED-certified plant. The company, with headquarters in San Francisco, manufactures a variety of home cleaning products, hand and body washes, laundry detergents, and dish cleaners — all with non-toxic ingredients. Method also uses recycled plastic in its packaging, both post-consumer plastic and discarded plastic collected from beaches in Hawaii.

Perhaps the best part is that the manufacturing plant, which just opened a few months ago, is on Chicago’s South Side in the historic Pullman neighborhood and thus has job openings for workers in a place otherwise known as a job desert. Indeed, the company’s website about the new plant describes it as a “south side soapbox.”

I’m sure the products are more expensive than conventional cleaning products, but a quick check with the website’s store locator shows that the products are available locally — around me, anyway. When a company is willing to do that much to help the environment and employ people on Chicago’s South Side, which has neighborhoods with sky-high unemployment rates, it’s worth it to pay a little extra to save a job and help save the planet.

GOP reaction to Donald Trump’s McCain diss a lesson in hypocrisy

Delegates to the 2004 Republican National Convention thought it was hilarious to diss John Kerry's Vietnam war service with "pulple heart" Band-Aids.

Delegates to the 2004 Republican National Convention thought it was hilarious to smear John Kerry’s Vietnam war service with “pulple heart” Band-Aids.

So Donald Trump dismissed John McCain’s war record, and Republican heads exploded. You only wish Republicans could be honest and apologize for the way they smeared Democratic candidates with military credentials, too.

In case you missed the latest brouhaha, Arizona Sen. John McCain and presidential hopeful Donald Trump got into a bit of an online tiff when McCain criticized Trump for making inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants. McCain said Trump had “fired up the crazies.”

(Keep in mind, McCain is the candidate who chose former half-term Gov. $arah Palin as a running mate. Speaking of firing up the crazies. … But we digress.)

Trump responded like a pouty child with a tweet calling McCain a “dummy,” referencing McCain’s last-in-his-class standing at the U.S. Naval Academy. Then he compounded his foot-in-mouth remarks at an Iowa event with fellow presidential hopefuls by slamming McCain again.

“He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said during an appearance at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, referring to the years McCain spent as a prisoner of war after his Navy plane was shot down in 1967 in Vietnam. “I like people who weren’t captured. Perhaps he’s a war hero, but right now he’s said some very bad things about a lot of people.”

Trump’s comments provided an opening for others in the GOP to diss the Donald. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, himself a veteran, said Trump’s remark made him unfit to be commander-in-chief. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, another veteran and a close friend of McCain, echoed the sentiment that Trump was not presidential material. “If there was ever any doubt that he should not be the #GOP standard bearer, his growing mountain of stupid statements should end all doubt,” Graham tweeted.

Hey, when you’re as far back in the pack as they are, you do what you do in politics: You go after the front-runner. Trump gave them an opening, and he started being hit from all sides.

The Republican National Committee chimed in with “There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.”

Oh, really. Let’s look back at how the RNC — indeed, many of these very same Republicans — treated the 2002 Democratic candidate for Georgia senator, incumbent Sen. Max Cleland, and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Max Cleland lost both legs and his right arm fighting in Vietnam. He was awarded a Purple Heart, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and several other medals for his service. He went into politics in Georgia and became a staunch advocate for veterans.

As the incumbent senator, Cleland was leading in the polls in 2002 until his Republican opponent, Saxby Chambliss, started questioning his patriotism, criticizing Cleland for “breaking his oath to protect and defend the Constitution” over a vote on an amendment to the Chemical Weapons Treaty. Chambliss ran a now-infamous ad juxtaposing pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein with Cleland, all the while making a false claim that Cleland was trying to thwart President George W. Bush’s attempts to set up the Department of Homeland Security.

Chambliss, who said he didn’t serve in Vietnam because of a “bad knee,” won the election by six percentage points.

In 2004, Texas billionaire Harold Simmons bankrolled a series of ads hitting John Kerry’s service in Vietnam, for which Kerry was awarded a Purple Heart, a Silver Star, and a Bronze Star. The ads from the group called the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” featured people who claimed to be serving with John Kerry in Vietnam, claiming that Kerry had lied about his service. In truth, most of the men in the ads were nowhere near Kerry during his service. Of course, Kerry lost to Bush, who was suspended from the Texas Air National Guard.

“There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.” That’s true, RNC.

I guess now we’ll see news stories soon with you and all of the other Republicans who wore purple heart-shaped Band-Aids on their faces during the 2004 Republican National Convention apologizing to the people of America for your disgraceful attacks on these two men.

And you might as well put Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, with his five deferments, as the first in line to start the apologies.


Clickbait trumps all: Why media are all in on Donald Trump


Unless you live in an underground cave with no cable or Wi-Fi, you can’t help but notice which presidential candidate is getting the most attention.

Donald Trump — real estate mogul, former reality TV show star, egotist, blowhard, and would-be narcissist-in-chief — is everywhere. There’s something about the Trumpster on every news channel and every online news source. And the media just can’t stop covering him or get enough of him.

A piece in the Christian Science Monitor wonders how much is too much — or if we’ve passed that point already. Its headline is “Has the media lost its collective mind?”

“The event that finally jolted us into reality is the realization that some media outlets are formalizing their constant Trumpian coverage into Trump sections,” the story says. “Salon has The Daily Donald, a column which summarizes Trump’s activities everyday in handy digest form.” So does Alternet, it turns out, although you’ll pardon me if I don’t supply live links.

“When some legacy mainstream publication starts a morning e-mail newsletter named ‘Trump Cards’ we’ll know things have gone too far,” the Monitor says.

Several media outlets published pieces last winter with advice on covering or not covering Trump, most not taking him very seriously even after a major speech in Iowa. Advice from Bloomberg, for instance, gave several choices, the first of which was “never, ever cover him.” (Hah!) The piece also quotes various news outlets saying that there’s “no reason to think that this man will run for president.”

A recent Politico story shows the media’s about-face. Politico tells the tale of CNN President Jeff Zucker sending a memo last spring to producers with the message: Don’t cover Trump. Now, since Trump’s announcement on June 16, CNN has covered Trump more than 400 times on TV and its website.

“The dilemma facing CNN is one facing every political media outlet: How much coverage should be given to a notoriously self-aggrandizing business mogul and reality television star who, despite reporters’ contention that he can’t win his party’s nomination, is drawing an enormous audience by offering the media sensational quotes and highly clickable fodder?” the story asks.

And it’s a subject that frustrates political journalists as well as the Republican establishment, even as Trump continues his rise in the polls.

“Many political journalists chafe at the way the media has helped to fuel Trump’s rise,” Politico says. “The outpouring of coverage is an example, some say, of how news outlets’ desire for ratings and traffic has diminished editorial judgment. Stories about Trump draw abnormally high viewership and readership, and many reporters fear that editors are commissioning Trump pieces solely to draw more eyeballs.”

Trump also is an overwhelming presence on social media. He’s by far the most mentioned candidate on Facebook, according to a compilation by Buzzfeed News. In the first week in July, there were 10 million unique pages about Trump, with more than 25 million interactions. Far down in second place was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with about 3 million unique pages and about 8.5 million interactions. In third place was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with about 2 million unique pages and about 7 million interactions. The rest of the Republican field was left in the dust.

“Imagine the Hulk doing a cannonball into a pool and, as a result, all the other people and water in that pool being catapulted from it, so that the only thing left is the Hulk,” the Buzzfeed story says. “But in this case, the Hulk is Donald Trump.”

Buzzfeed also measured public sentiment. It seems that positive sentiment about The Donald hovered close to 60 percent before Trump announced his run, dropped to under 50 percent after his infamous comments calling Mexican immigrants drug smugglers and rapists, then rose again until positive sentiment is approaching 60 percent once more.

Who are these people who have a positive view of Trump, you might ask. For that, let’s look at the Twitterverse, under the hashtag #DonaldTrumpforPresident. (We report so you won’t have to read the racist memes, all in 140 characters or less.)

There are many tweets making fun of Trump, and some from people scratching their heads who can’t figure out why anyone would support him. But most can’t wait for the Donald to slap his hand on that Bible on Jan. 20, 2017.

Here are a few examples — and there are many. I won’t include the names (some ironic examples are @CommenSenseGuy!), as those folks might look back on this someday with embarrassment and mortification:

@realDonaldTrump: “I Want To Make America Great Again” Amen! #WakeUpAmerica

No notes. No teleprompter. Only truth. #TrumpinPHX

TIME FOR MAJOR CHANGE If u live in this country & want it to fail-its time for you TO LEAVE!

DonaldTrump winning the GOP nomination would be the greatest thing…ever. Better than sliced bread.

A liberal just called me “hateful”. I said, “yeah, I hate you and you hate me. WTF is the difference?

Immigrants took our american dream when they took all our jobs

What card tops all cards EVEN the race card? The TRUMP card

Our last great president with our next president. (accompanied by photo of Trump and Ronald Reagan)

OK, that’s enough, my fingers feel soiled.

Until other candidates can figure out how to break through the dominance of the Donald, we’re stuck with all-Trump, all-the-time coverage. Maybe the worst fears of writers at the Christian Science Monitor are about to be fulfilled, and some media outlet will start publishing “Trump Cards.” But only if they’re not playing with a full deck.

UPDATE: Huffington Post has announced it will cover Trump as an entertainment story, not a political one. “If you’re interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette,” the online site posted.

We’ll see how long that lasts if Trump keeps topping the polls.

Iran deal a true breakthrough in nuclear weapons race

The Iran nuclear deal negotiators.

The Iran nuclear deal negotiators.

Seven years after then-presidential candidate Barack Obama proposed talking to Iran about ramping down its nuclear program, that idea has become a reality.

The historic agreement between Iran and six world powers freezes Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for gradual sanctions relief, President Obama said in describing the deal in an early morning announcement.

According to a White House summary of the deal, the agreement imposes new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites. It blocks Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon four ways — at each of two separate facilities, in its production of weapons-grade plutonium, and in covert attempts to produce fissile material. The agreement came after months of talks and seeming setbacks between Iran and the P5+1 — the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, and Russia, not to mention the European Union. International inspectors will be able to monitor Iran’s nuclear program every step of the way.

The Iran nuclear agreement will become binding once it is enshrined in an already written United Nations Security Council resolution. Obama stressed that the agreement is based on “verification, not trust.”

Of course, Obama had skeptics seven years ago, when he first proposed talking to Iran, and he’s got skeptics now. The partisan reactions to the historic agreement were quick and unsurprising, from Republicans in Congress to right-wing pundits to GOP presidential candidates.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush called the pact “appeasement.” It’s “a dangerous, deeply flawed, and short sighted deal,” said a statement from his campaign. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina equated it with “declaring war on Israel.” (This is after he complained on live TV about the bother of having to actually read the entire pact.) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he would “terminate the bad deal with Iran on day one.” And on and on.

GOP presidential hopeful and would-be narcissist-in-chief Donald Trump apparently didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to announce immediately that he wanted to bomb Iran — guess he’s still thinking about invading Mexico. More than an hour after Obama’s announcement, as other Republican candidates started denouncing and threatening, here was Trump’s tweet: “Let Pete Rose into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s time, he has paid a big and very long price!” Remember, Trump is now leading in some GOP national polls.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, author of a March letter signed by 47 Republican senators that tried to sabotage the nuclear talks ahead of time and that was described by many as treasonous — or at least stupid — came out swinging against the new pact. Cotton, who earned the derisive nickname “Tehran Tom” during the negative reaction to his letter, vowed that Congress would kill the deal.

Actually, not so much, Senator. In order for Congress to kill this pact, it would have to pass a bill (or attach such legislation to another bill) against the agreement. Obama has pledged that he will veto any bill that would torpedo this pact. Then Congress would have to override the veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. Which is not going to happen with 47 Democrats in the Senate.

Even Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will hold hearings to review the pact, admitted that scuttling the Iran nuclear deal would be tough.

In a statement from his office, though, Corker promised a “rigorous review” of the pact. “Whatever actions the House and Senate ultimately take, the American people will have a full and open debate that a national security issue of this magnitude deserves,” he said. Once the Obama administration submits the full agreement to Congress, Congress has 60 days for an initial review, 12 more days if the House and Senate send a joint resolution against it, and 10 days after that to try to override an expected veto.

Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed cautious optimism on the agreement. “This is an important step in putting a lid on Iran’s nuclear program,” she told reporters after meeting with House Democrats shortly after the pact was announced, according to a story in The Hill. Clinton added a caveat that “We have to treat this as an ongoing enforcement effort.” Other Democrats in that meeting, however, said Clinton was fully on board with the nuclear agreement.

Other Democrats also are voicing strong support. “I commend our negotiators for this critical effort,” said a statement from Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate minority whip. “Finding a diplomatic solution will make our country, our allies, and the world a safer place.” Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also came out in favor of the deal.

Around the world, the reactions were mostly positive, except, predictably, from Israel, which called the nuclear pact a “bad mistake of historic proportions.” Said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world.” Other Israelis, however, blamed Netanyahu for letting his relationship with Obama go south and thus not be in a position to affect the negotiations. Nevertheless, Netanyahu promises to lobby the U.S. Congress to try and stop the deal. He’ll likely have as much luck as Tehran Tom Cotton.

Reactions from other Middle East nations were muted, although Reuters and Politico reported that even Saudi Arabia gave a cautious endorsement to the deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent a slew of tweets celebrating the agreement and trying to reassure the rest of the Middle East. “Region’s security is our security. Region’s stability is our stability. Likewise, our progress is that of the region & will only benefit it,” said one tweet. Of course, he couldn’t resist adding in another tweet, “Do not be deceived by the propaganda of the warmongering Zionist regime.”

“It is a decision that can open the way to a new chapter in international relations and show that diplomacy, coordination, cooperation can overcome decades of tensions and confrontations,” said European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, who participated in the negotiations. “I think this is a sign of hope for the entire world.”

The details of the agreement will be discussed and dissected at length, and reactions probably will fall along party lines. The pact will continue to be a talking point throughout the presidential election.

But no can remove this historic agreement from Barack Obama’s legacy of accomplishments, which now include rescuing the country from economic collapse, saving the U.S. auto industry, overseeing the creation of millions of new jobs, allowing more than 10 million Americans to get health insurance, and getting Osama bin Laden. And that’s just a few items.

All in all, not bad for a lame-duck president, eh?

Biggest U.S. terror threats from right wing, not Islam

People like Dylann Roof are part of a growing right-wing terror threat.

People like Dylann Roof are part of a growing right-wing terror threat.

A new study confirms what many U.S. police officers already know: There are more killings in this country by white supremacists and other right-wing extremists than by Muslim terrorists.

According to the latest data in the study from the New America Foundation, right-wing extremists have killed 48 people in the United States since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, compared with 26 fatalities by Islamic terrorists in the U.S. over the same period. The killing of nine people while they were at prayer in a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., is just the latest incident. Don’t forget that admitted shooter and admitted white supremacist Dylann Roof said he wanted to start a race war.

The largest attack tied to Islamic terrorism was the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, in which 13 people, mostly troops, were killed by a Muslim Army psychiatrist. The killings by home-grown terrorists, on the other hand, span the nation, from Las Vegas in 2014 (three killed by two white supremacists, including two policemen) to Milwaukee in 2012 (six killed at a Sikh Temple by a neo-Nazi) to Knoxville, Tenn., in 2008 (two killed in a church service by a man who admitted that he hated “liberals and gays” and who got the idea for this shooting from a right-wing author’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America).

Too many Americans — especially those on the right — imagine an attack by Islamic jihadists or a “lone-wolf” attack by a member of the Islamic State when they think of a terrorist attack. Yet the nation’s police know better.

Two professors, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University, conducted a survey with 382 law enforcement agencies through the Police Executive Research Forum to measure what police saw as the greatest threats. While their study is about to be published officially, the two wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times that gave a clear picture.

According to the survey, law enforcement agencies reported that they were more concerned about the activities of right-wing extremist groups (74 percent) than Islamic extremists (39 percent) in their jurisdictions. This concern comes from the “menacing” rhetoric used by some of these domestic groups. Police are training officers to take caution when they see signs of potentially violent people and to recognize signs of anti-government extremism.

“An officer from a large metropolitan area said that ‘militias, neo-Nazis and sovereign citizens’ are the biggest threat we face in regard to extremism,” the op-ed says.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the same thing when he reminded people — correctly — that the shooting of nine people in the South Carolina church was a “wake-up call” about domestic terrorism.

In a story in The Hill, Holder said the U.S. has not focused enough on terrorism “in our midst to the degree we need.”

“What happened in Charleston has really touched the nerve of this nation in a way that few other incidents have,” he said in the Hill story. “Things large and small — everything from the questioning about the Confederate flag, the focus on these domestic hate groups — all of this stuff is going to be something that is going to have an impact long term on the nation.”

The Justice Dept.’s Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, first started after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, went dormant after the 9/11 attacks, when the focus turned to al Qaeda and other Muslim extremists. Republicans in Congress were critical when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a threat assessment report about right-wing radicals in 2009, and she was forced to backtrack. Holder finally resurrected the Justice Domestic Terrorism group in 2014.

But there’s no need to pick and choose; threats can come from all corners. This is not meant to downplay terrorist threats, no matter where they come from. “It should not be seen as an either/or,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project and an expert on extremism, told NBC News in 2014.

Yet the domestic numbers are much higher. The SPLC website lists “more than 100 domestic terror plots, conspiracies, and rampages” since Oklahoma City, the NBC news story says. The SPLC publishes what it calls a hate map with groups across the country — 784 in all.

Other research shows even higher numbers of fatalities tied to terrorism. But whatever the current definitions, it’s nothing new to people of color in the U.S.

In a story on Huffington Post, David Pilgrim, the founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University in Michigan, said the actions of ISIS and other extremist groups are “familiar — no better, no worse — than the historic stateside violence against African-Americans.”

“There’s nothing you’re going to see today that’s not going to have already occurred in the U.S.,” he said, speaking of people in the United States “who were lynched in this country; who had their homes bombed in this country; who were victims of race riots.”

Remember that next time you see a “Muslim terrorist” headline.


Why Donald Trump’s rise in polls should scare GOP

Independent presidential candidate H. Ross Perot with one of his ever-present economic charts.

Independent presidential candidate H. Ross Perot with one of his ever-present economic charts.

Many dismiss Donald Trump’s entry into the 2016 Republican presidential race as an ego trip or a joke. I offer one name as to why people should take him seriously: H. Ross Perot.

Trump, the real estate developer, reality TV show star, and professional blowhard, seems to be playing to a limited part of the base of the Republican Party that doesn’t care about insults, political correctness, or veracity. The voters who are choosing Trump as a preferred candidate — and polls show that their numbers are growing — are listening to what they want to hear, claiming that he’s a successful businessman who’s telling it like it is. Which sounds a lot like what people said about Perot, a billionaire businessman turned independent candidate in 1992 who won nearly 19 percent of the popular vote after all the ballots were counted.

Trump isn’t worried about offending people, as he clearly showed when he called Mexican immigrants drug smugglers and rapists when he announced his candidacy. Given multiple chances to backtrack on friendly news venues like Fox, he refused, instead doubling down on his criticism and insisting that others “know he’s right.”

Never mind that several business deals have fallen apart. NBC cancelled The Apprentice, telling Trump, “You’re fired.” NBC and Univision announced that they would not air the Miss USA pageant that Trump partially owns. Macy’s announced that it was phasing out its Donald Trump line of clothing. Of course, he’s threatened to sue, as he usually does.

No matter. A GOP megadonor named Stan Hubbard said the pageant will be shown on Reelz, a cable station at which he serves as CEO of the parent company, Hubbard Broadcasting. Hubbard Broadcasting gave $100,000 to GOP operative Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC in 2012, so it’s not surprising that Hubbard called Trump’s Miss USA pageant a “perfect fit” for Reelz. The pageant’s co-hosts have both dropped out, but I’m sure Trump will find new blood — or maybe he’ll just do it himself.

To be sure, some of Trump’s support in the polls is based on name recognition. “You’re fired” has become part of the American lexicon. But there are true Trump believers.

“Trump has found support from Republican voters looking for a successful businessman to jumpstart an economic renaissance — and someone who won’t be bullied by anyone,” said a story in the National Journal. There’s even a pro-Trump super PAC, Citizens for Restoring USA.

At first, Trump’s poll numbers rose only in one New Hampshire poll. Then it was a national poll by Fox. Now there are multiple polls showing the rise of the Donald, in multiple states. A new CNN/ORC national poll gives him 12 percent of the vote, behind former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush’s 17 percent. Trump is also tied for second in an new Iowa poll from Huffington Post, at 10 percent.

Those are still low numbers, given the plethora of candidates, and it’s way too early in the game to be worried about a Trump candidacy. Right, Republicans? Rove has repeatedly said the rest of the pack should just ignore Trump. But let’s hear from a few GOP voters.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki, one of the many would-be contenders who isn’t registering at all in any poll, tweeted, “Join me. Stand up now. Denounce Donald Trump’s comments today.” He included several other candidates who shared his low polling numbers, such as @JohnKasich, @GrahamBlog, and @GovChristie — Ohio Gov. John Kasich, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Boy, did he launch a Tweetnado, albeit an anonymous one. Here’s a sampling from Trump supporters:

@notmyname02: Absolutely not. He’s telling the truth. The man has balls.

@espowill123: Give it up. Trump is telling it like it is. We have enough empty suit Republicans.

@autgrind: I support Trump, because I support the truth. Have you ever heard of it? I doubt it

@FreedomHaawk: LOVE TRUMP. His statement is based on FACTS. FBI FACTS…

(Once again, showing that facts have a liberal bias.)

@cgroche: His criticism was aimed at the Mex Government. “That giant sucking sound” – Ross Perot.

@gforbespianist: Donald, if @GOP @GovernorPataki disses you, pls do what Lieberman did in ’06 CT election. We’ll vote #Trump!

I don’t think Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee come July 2016, and I don’t think he would waste money on a third-party candidacy. Another National Journal story said most political pollsters and experts believe that his support will fade, and I agree. But Republicans would do well to remember the lesson of Ross Perot.

Perot actually led polls in May 1992 in Texas and California over both incumbent President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. He led June polls nationally with 39 percent, over both Bush and Clinton. Perot’s famous line of “That giant sucking sound” of U.S. jobs leaving because of NAFTA became as well known then as “You’re fired” is now.

But Perot’s bizarre actions and campaign tactics sunk him as much as anything — he dropped out of the race in July, only to rejoin the campaign again in October. He didn’t air ads, reportedly telling his ad campaign consultant when he heard of the cost, “Why would I spend that when I could go on the Today show for free?” He did spend money on TV time toward the end of the campaign. Perot’s re-entry into the race took votes away from both Clinton and Bush (probably more from Clinton), but in the end it didn’t matter.

Trump’s presence on a GOP debate stage one month from now as he throws flame after flame should make the rest of the field ignore him at their peril. Unchecked, he will solidify the Republican Party’s reputation as one of bizarre conspiracy theories, racist immigration policies, and unworkable policy proposals. He’s already drawing support from fans who blog regularly on a neo-Nazi site called the Daily Stormer (sorry, not giving a link).

But maybe Trump’s antics will wear thin. Maybe he’ll have his own “oops” moment, as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry famously did at a GOP debate during the 2012 race (don’t forget, Perry once led the early polls, too).

Democrats can only watch with glee. Here’s a tweet from Democratic consultant Paul Begala:

“I am a person of faith — and the Donald’s entry into this race can only be attributed to the fact that the good Lord is a Democrat with a sense of humor.”

Media “analysis” on marriage equality ruling helping GOP is hogwash

Republicans really think they can move in here and continue to oppose marriage equality?

Republicans really think they can move in here and continue to oppose marriage equality?

At least a few media outlets have published pieces on how the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage really helps Republican candidates running for president.

It must be opposite day in op-ed land.

The logic, if you can even call it that, goes something like this: Because most Republican office-holders and all presidential candidates are against marriage equality, they could use the “we’re still against it” line to placate the most conservative members of their base. Every candidate criticized the Supreme Court decision.

Since then, some candidates have taken the “I disagree, but it’s now the law of the land” approach, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Others continue to throw flames, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who seems to be calling for civil disobedience, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who apparently thinks Supreme Court Justices are elected. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed cutting all funding for the Supreme Court.

But back to the non-logic. Consider CNN’s story, which gives these polling figures on marriage equality: “Polls show that nearly three quarters of Americans believe that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry — including almost 60 percent of Republicans under 50.”

So three-quarters of Americans — even a majority of Republicans under 50 — are fine with marriage equality, but somehow the issue will help the GOP, when they sound like Neanderthals?

“The divide is an early sign that same-sex marriage could emerge as one of the brightest fault-lines of the GOP primary battle,” CNN said. So apparently CNN thinks marriage equality will still be a battle for Republican hearts and minds in the primaries, but all of that animosity will magically disappear in the general election?

A New York Times news analysis takes a different tack. “But even as conservatives appear under siege, some Republicans predict that this moment will be remembered as an effective wiping of the slate before the nation begins focusing in earnest on the presidential race,” the Times analysis says.

Really? With 75 percent of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage, as more and more of us see friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, fellow church members, PTA presidents, etc., etc., in same-sex relationships and observe that the world hasn’t fallen apart, you really think those same voters are going to forget the venomous comments Republican candidates have been making about marriage equality for, well, just about forever?

“Collectively, this optimistic thinking would have it, June will go down as the month that dulled some of the wedge issues Democrats were hoping to wield next year,” the Times analysis says.

Just a hunch here, but I don’t think people will be so quick to forget the insulting and ridiculous comments GOP candidates have been making about marriage equality. After all, there are still issues LGBT voters face in many states, such as job discrimination. Several states, such as Texas, apparently think officials still don’t have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even though they know they’ll get sued over it. Some counties are just refusing to issue any marriage licenses at all. How’s that working out for heterosexual couples who aren’t able to get a marriage license, as their planned wedding approaches? You really think those voters are going to forget this silliness?

A story from the Washington Post also reported the optimism of some in the GOP. ” ‘Most Republicans look at what’s happening and think we’re watching a new stage of left-wing nuttiness,’ said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). ‘It’s just surreal,’ ” the Post story says. But at least the Post points out the trouble with this position.

“Democrats are hoping for just this approach,” the story says. “They argue — as many Republican Party elites in Washington fear — that if Republicans don’t moderate on issues such as gay rights and immigration and become more tolerant, they will be locked out of the White House. Asked how Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton could motivate voters, several top Democratic officials said: The Republicans may do it for her.”

So keep talking about the evils of marriage equality, Republicans, and see how far it gets you. After all, this is not 2004, when GOP operative Karl Rove worked to put initiatives on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage in 11 states — all of which passed — and got his boss, President George Bush, re-elected in the process. People’s attitudes have changed drastically since then.

” ‘When a young voter sees a Republican coming,’ ” the Post story says, ” ‘many of them roll their eyes and wonder why they can’t get with modern life,’ said Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under George W. Bush.”

That’s the question. Why can’t they get with modern life?


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