Trump ‘temperament’ implodes for all to see


The audience members in the first presidential debate weren’t the only ones laughing at GOP nominee Donald Trump. So was nearly anyone else watching on TV. Except perhaps for his immediate family members and his campaign staff, who likely were cringing.

After spending most of the debate lying, mocking, whining, interrupting, gulping water, and sniffling, the Orange Menace actually uttered the words, “I have the best temperament” to be president.

What American voters saw in the debate was a candidate prepared to step onto the world stage, lead the country in facing its multiple challenges, and act as commander-in-chief. The other was Donald Trump.

It’s no secret that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton knows her stuff, and knows how to be ready. The run-up to the debate from media pundits was that, because expectations would be lower for Trump, he would “win” if he controlled himself and scored some points against her (which he likely did in the beginning, talking about trade). Clinton supporters complained that Trump would be graded on a curve.

A curve? As one commentator put it, “She got an A-minus and he got a gentleman’s D.”

Trump even claimed in the spin room afterword that his microphone was “defective.” On Fox & Friends the next morning, he denied that he sniffled. He disowned statements he made in the debate within hours, such as his cavalier comment on not paying taxes (“It made me look smart”). And that doesn’t even count his denials on previous statements about climate change, birtherism, and so, so many more.

Presidential debate shows you never bring a Cheeto to a knife fight,” wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke. His conclusion on how recent polls have showed a tightened race and how Trump’s dismal debate performance might stop that trend: “Trumpus interruptus.”

What people who have been wrapped up in this reality-show-like campaign often forget is that there are Americans who have yet to pay much attention to Trump or Clinton. For a good swath of the millions upon millions who watched the debate, this was a first look at Trump and Clinton in action.

That doesn’t bode well for Trump. Clinton sliced and diced him, lured him into traps, knowing his fragile ego can’t handle criticism.

And speaking of “interruptus”: We’ve all become accustomed to Trump’s bluster, walking all over his opponents, yelling loudly to get his points across, and interrupting others when they’re speaking, whether it’s a Democratic or Republican opponent or a member of the media. How did everyone do last night? According to a story in Vox, Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times, while she interrupted him 17 times. “It was a pretty stunning display, even for Trump,” the story said. “Counting the interruptions of both candidates by moderator Lester Holt, Clinton was interrupted a total of 70 times, and Trump was interrupted 47 times.”

Which shouldn’t surprise any woman in America — or anywhere. “There is no working woman in America who doesn’t recognize the pattern of interruption that Trump is using against Clinton,” tweeted author Laila Lalami.

So it’s one debate down, and three to go. The vice presidential debate is Oct. 4. The next two presidential debates are Oct. 9 and Oct. 19. At least Trump has nowhere to go but up … right?

Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani suggested that Trump might bow out. Of course, he blamed moderator Lester Holt, not the poor performance of his candidate. “If I were Donald Trump, I wouldn’t participate in another debate unless I was promised the journalist would act like a journalist, and not an ignorant fact check,” Giuliani said. Well, when your candidates tanks as badly as he did, you’ve got to blame somebody else.

Will all of this make any difference when people cast their ballots? It’s likely that die-hard Trump supporters, who haven’t minded his blatant lying and unpreparedness up to now, won’t feel any different about their candidate. A three-person voter panel speaking on NPR the morning after the debate (really, NPR? That’s your definition of analysis?) featured a Trump supporter who said his candidate “did what he needed to do.”

More telling, however, was the Clinton backer who is now fully on board with her candidate. “I am no longer a reluctant supporter of Hillary Clinton.” I have a feeling we’re going to hear a lot more of that sentiment in the weeks to come.



Clinton and Trump: A tale of two foundations

This portrait was bought with Trump Foundation money, yet it hangs in Trump's Doral Resort in Miami.

This portrait was bought with Trump Foundation money, yet it hangs in Trump’s Doral Resort in Miami.

One of the many differences between the two presidential candidates this election year is in the foundations that bear their names. One is a charity that has saved millions of lives around the world. The other is basically a scam that uses funds donated for charity as a personal piggy bank for the man whose name is attached.

The Clinton Foundation gets an “A” rating from Charity Watch and a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. It has helped 11.5 million people around the world receive reduced-price HIV/AIDS drugs. It consists of 11 nonprofit groups that work on four major issues: global health and wellness, climate change, economic development, and improving opportunities for girls and women.

Yet a baseless story from the Associated Press — now not even online anymore because of its inaccuracies — about supposed special access for Clinton Foundation donors who met with Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state kept the foundation in the headlines for weeks, delivering negative publicity and feeding into the media’s favorite “If it’s Hillary Clinton, it must be untrustworthy” meme.

The reporting on the Clinton Foundation has been so awful that when people answered questions in a UCLA survey about what the charity does, the answers ranged from booking speeches for the Clintons to handling the family’s money. Both of which are not even close to being true. From the story in The New York Times:

Among people who thought they could answer a question about what the foundation does, more than half (56 percent) think that setting up speaking engagements for the Clintons is one of its activities. This answer was chosen more than any other, including the charitable activities the foundation actually is engaged in, like combating AIDS in Africa (47 percent chose this answer), providing schoolchildren with healthful food choices (29 percent), and helping girls and women through education and training (43 percent). Although some money from the Clintons’ speeches ends up at the charity (and the Clintons may speak on behalf of the charity), booking speeches is not a central activity of the Clinton Foundation.

More surprising, 39 percent of registered voters think the Clinton Foundation manages the personal finances of the Clinton family, and 40 percent also think the foundation gives money to Democratic candidates. (It does neither of these things.)

American journalism is not at its finest in this election. Except, perhaps, from David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post.

So now let’s look at the Trump Foundation, which keeps its records so secret that it doesn’t have a website and obviously can’t match the good works of the Clinton Foundation. Trump and his surrogates repeatedly brag that he has given millions to charity out of his own pocket. Yet the Pulitzer Prize-worthy reporting from Washington Post reporter Fahrenthold, who has been digging into the Trump Foundation since February, shows that the foundation’s supposed donations to charity barely exist. Fahrenthold contacted 250 charities (he’s now up to 346) with ties to Trump since 2008 and found only one that received money from the Orange Menace.

Instead, the Trump Foundation has given money in the form of campaign donations to two state attorneys general. Miraculously, after the state AGs received the donations, they dropped their investigations of Trump University. Another Fahrenthold story explains how that worked, including the fact that Trump had to pay the IRS a penalty for the illegal donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

What else does the Trump Foundation do? It took over a quarter-million dollars from money donated by others for charitable purposes and used it to settle lawsuits facing Trump’s for-profit businesses. Another Farhenthold story gives the details. It’s a practice known as “self-dealing,” and, in case you were wondering, yes, that’s illegal. (And don’t forget the foundation money that was used to purchase a signed football helmet from Tim Tebow and paintings of the would-be narcissist-in-chief himself.) From the Post story:

More broadly, these cases­ also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Washington Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in awhile,” Tenenbaum said.

Several charity law experts told Talking Points Memo that Trump’s egregious use of foundation funds “are obvious violations of the law and even have the potential of getting the Trump Foundation shut down,” a TPM story said.

The tax implications are two-fold, according to experts. The charity itself benefits from a tax-exempt status, and those who contribute also get to deduct their donations from their taxes.

Private foundations — which rely on large contributions from a few donors — are bound by strict regulations so they do not become devices that wealthy people use to avoid paying taxes, the experts said. Beyond a reasonable salary for the work he or she does for the charity, a disqualified person cannot participate in any sort of financial transaction, charity law attorneys told TPM.

“Self-dealing is prohibited, and the kind of self-dealing with the Trump Foundation is somewhat remarkable in its breadth,” said Jim Fishman, a professor at The Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in New York, who teaches courses on nonprofit law.

The Trump campaign is claiming that Fahrenthold’s excellent stories have been “inaccurate,” although they have not been able to point to any details that were wrong. Trump was asked by a reporter in Ohio about the Foundation’s financial shenanigans, and Trump gave a word-salad answer worthy of Sarah Palin:

“The foundation is really rare. It gives money to vets. It’s really been doing a good job. We put that to sleep just by putting out the last report.”

Of course, a lot of questions about charitable donations could be answered if Trump would only release his taxes. Guess this is just one more reason why those taxes are still under wraps.

Women for Hillary Clinton: We get the job done

It's no surprise that there are baskets of women in crowds for Hillary Clinton.

It’s no surprise that there are lots of women in crowds for Hillary Clinton.

The headline is appropriating a line from “Hamilton” when Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette rap/sing about how they will win the Battle of Yorktown and ultimately the Revolutionary War: “Immigrants: We get the job done.” In this election, it’s going to be all about women power.

This goes beyond stating the obvious. It’s not just that many women want to see the first woman elected president when Hillary Clinton takes office. It’s not just that Republican nominee Donald Trump has alienated women voters, with 70 percent having a negative impression of him. And this doesn’t aim to negate the support men are giving and the work men are doing to elect Clinton.

Individual polling varies, but every poll shows that Clinton stomps Trump with women voters. A recent ABC poll shows that women support Clinton over Trump by 23 percentage points. Similar margins are seen in other polls taken over the last several months. A USA Today story quoted a June Pew poll showing Clinton up by 24 points with women voters overall, with 90 percent support among African-American women; 71 percent among Latinas; 69 percent among millenial women; and 62 percent among white female college graduates. An NPR story suggested that the gender gap might be the largest in 60 years.

Trump’s words are only making the case for Hillary Clinton stronger. A story in The Atlantic suggests that Trump’s actions might even make some Republican women leave the party permanently.

However Republican women vote in November, Trump could do lasting damage to the party as it attempts to win over women in future elections. “I think the party is losing an entire generation of voters, especially young women,” said Jennifer Pierotti Lim, the founder of an organization called Republican Women for Hillary. If Trump wins, even anti-Trump Republican women who want to remain in the party may find it hard to do so. “If Trump is elected and we become the party of Trump, and our leaders still aren’t able to push against him in terms of policy and rhetoric, then I can’t really see myself being part of a party like that,” Pierotti Lim said. …

The first woman to ever be nominated for the presidency by a major U.S. political party could be swept into the White House with unprecedented support from women voters, including a number of women who have traditionally voted Republican.

What’s taking those Republican women so long?

Let’s not forget about the effort from EMILY’s List, with its Women Can Stop Trump website. “Have friends who supported Bernie, haven’t decided who they’re going to vote for, or are saying they’re going to sit this election year out? Make sure they know what’s at stake.”

There’s also a video offering choice examples of Trump’s words about women:

The Clinton campaign scheduled 150 events in just one week to mobilize women voters, launch phone banks, hold roundtables, and help in the effort to register 3 million new voters. “Women have been a driving force behind this campaign since day one, and we are so grateful for the support and tremendous contributions they have made to this historic campaign,” said Mini Timmaraju, the campaign’s women’s vote director, according to the Washington Post. High-profile female surrogates such as daughter Chelsea Clinton, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, VP candidate spouse Anne Holton, and President Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, were all scheduled to attend various events around the country.

In a blog post on Medium, Timmaraju went further:

I’m proud to report the clear majority of Hillary for America’s donors are women, most of our voters are women, and women of all backgrounds — each with her own story — have driven our volunteer effort from the very beginning.

As someone who has traveled from state to state for Hillary, I can tell you first-hand — beyond just the numbers — that this is a campaign driven by younger women and older women; straight women and gay women; women of every race and immigration status. They’re our staff, they’re our fellows, and they’re our volunteers. They power this campaign. …

Look, I’m not someone who supports candidates just because they are women. But Hillary Clinton won’t just be the first woman president — she will be the first president with a record of fighting for women and girls her entire life. And she’s been dedicated to these causes at every step of her career, from the Children’s Defense Fund to secretary of state.

Okay, so that’s a Clinton staffer talking. And speaking of the Clinton campaign staff: According to an analysis of all the presidential campaign staffs this election season, Clinton’s campaign alone had more women (324) working for it than men (202). The average salaries between women and men were roughly equal. The overall average salary was $45,900, with average men’s salaries ($46,800) a bit higher than women’s salaries ($45,100). That’s likely because of the top 10 employees making the highest salaries, four were women and six were men.

Much has been written about Clinton’s uphill climb with millennial voters, but older women Democratic voters are strongly in her corner, especially African-American women. That same Pew poll from June showed that, overall, women over age 50 favored Clinton by 18 points. More recent polls show tighter spreads.

A few months ago, Melissa McEwan of Blue Nation Review wrote about what made Hillary Clinton appeal to older women, even as there’s no specific age range for that term:

Witnessing Hillary, an older woman, fight her way to get into the most exclusive boys’ club on the planet, and seeing her succeed, inching ever closer, is exciting. And more than that: It’s validating. …

And by simply refusing to go away, no matter how many times she’s been defeated or faced setbacks, Hillary stands to win the presidency as an older woman. She stands to be one of the most important people on the planet at an age when most women are struggling to be heard, to be seen. …

It’s the pleasure of an older woman being heard. It’s the heartbreak of knowing how rare it is. It’s the fear that she might not win. It’s the thrill that she could.

Clinton’s candidacy strikes a special chord for older women. This is a post from a favorite blog by two octogenarians, Margaret and Helen (Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting…), back in February, addressing a young female voter:

When my mother was your age, she wasn’t allowed to vote. When I was your age, journalists wouldn’t have even bothered to ask for my opinion. They would have wanted my husband’s instead. … Trust me when I tell you that my mother’s feminism became mine. … Feminism isn’t a vote. It’s a birthright. …

I am still fighting for the right for women to control our own bodies and sadly I have yet to see a woman be elected president. Are you sure you can wait? Forgive me in advance if I am offending you, but I didn’t put on my big girl panties for over 60 years fighting for this day just to have you ignore its importance. You don’t have to vote for Hillary but you have to at least recognize how significant this all is. …

A woman of my age got over having her opinion ignored a long time ago. I hope you never do.

A week ago — a complete generation ago in today’s political media timeline — we all saw Clinton leave a Sept. 11 memorial event and stumble. Later that day, her doctor said she had been diagnosed with pneumonia. A media feeding frenzy ensued, with more health conspiracy theories and more charges of secrecy. The doctor’s follow-up report was that Clinton had “mild, non-contagious bacterial pneumonia,” was recovering, and was headed back to the campaign trail.

Clinton’s excuse for keeping up a full schedule after the pneumonia diagnosis was that she thought she could “just power through it.” It’s a statement that many women can identify with. How many women have put their own health on the back burner while finishing a job? While caring for an aging parent? While cooking, cleaning, and making sure kids still got off to school? How many women have delayed or cancelled doctors’ appointments because they needed to tend to other tasks? We often avoid owning up to a mild illness — even a serious one — because there’s work to be done.

Strong — yet human at the same time. This last excerpt is from one of those Facebook posts that has gone viral for a good reason. It’s written by a Democrat from Brooklyn who admitted he was having trouble getting “revved up” about Clinton — until recently, and specifically because of her experiences as a woman and her illness, and what it demonstrates about connecting to Hillary Clinton. It’s long, but it tells a story that resonates.

I saw Hillary’s post on HONY — Humans of New York, in which she very frankly admits that in her life she hasn’t been able to act on her first impulse (like waving her arms when she’s excited) because when she does, people are intimidated. Women are held to different standards in this country, and as a trailblazing female politician, for decades Hillary’s had to walk a very, very fine line in order to both garner people’s approval and also wield power.

Reading the HONY post I realized that her solution to this balancing act has been to fashion for herself a mask that is as bulletproof as possible against the constant attacks she endures from both the right and the media, many of which are somehow related to the fact that she’s a woman. This mask has served her fairly well up until now, but I fear there’s a chance it could cost her the election. I believe that In order to trust her, in order to connect with her, people need to catch a glimpse the real Hillary. They need to see the real woman who made such a strong mask, rather than the mask itself. …

Then she got sick, collapsed, and had to be hoisted into a car and whisked away. The doctors announced she has pneumonia, and she has presumably been hiding this from the public.

Clinton did not want us to see that moment. She did everything she could to hide it, to appear strong — to keep the mask pulled over her face. But the mask slipped away and clattered on the pavement — if only for a second. And in that second, for the first time I felt as though I’d seen the real woman. She didn’t want me to see her then, but I saw her. And who I saw is a 68-year-old grandmother carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, a brilliant, tireless politician and public servant who is in the fight of her life against a hateful narcissist to become the first female president and the leader of the free world. A woman in a sprint to power where the nuclear codes and the Supreme Court and climate change and basic human decency all hang in the balance — and she did not want me to see her stumble. Why? Because she’s a fighter, a gladiator, and she knows the political cost of weakness.

But Hillary, in that moment when you stumbled, I became one of the Secret Service guys who picked you up. I became that stone pedestal you were leaning on. You don’t have to be perfect to be our president. There are a lot of folks just like me who will pick you up even if you stumble — in part, because you stumble, because you’re human. Let’s start a new world where you can be an imperfect woman in power. Let’s start that world now, together. And maybe when you win and that world gets stronger and stronger, you won’t need to wear that mask as much anymore, and neither will my mom, my sister, my fiancee, my female friends, and every woman who has ever sought to wield power in this country and beyond.

So no, you don’t need to be perfect. In fact, in this particular election, you can be far from it. But you do have to win. And to do that, you’re going to need my help, and a lot of other folks as well — despite your imperfections, and despite our misgivings. So my request for those who have struggled to connect with Hillary: meet her halfway. Understand that she’s a flawed person in a flawed society whose political survival has required her to hide both her weaknesses and her strengths. Has any male politician had to hide his strengths? I can’t think of one. So armed with that understanding, let’s do everything in our power to help her win. Why? Because she’s going to be one heck of a president — and way better than that loser she’s running against.

Yep. “Carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders,” for all the women out there who will be able to do it for themselves in the future.

This is our election to win.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 18, 2016.

Birtherism swindle shows how media follow Trump like Pavlov’s dogs

You fools don't even realize that you've been set up for 15 months.

These fools don’t even realize that they’ve been set up for 15 months.

In the latest chapter of America’s reality show election, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump managed — as usual — to turn attention away from anything that might affect him negatively and instead treat the nation’s media like the suckers they are.

The day before, the Trump offspring did a lousy job of optics, which is all that matters to the Orange Menace. Daughter Ivanka got flustered in a Cosmopolitan interview when confronted with Trump’s lies about family leave “policy,” and she walked out. A Trump minion ended an interview with Donald Jr. when he was asked about corruption in the Trump Foundation. Junior then used neo-Nazi language about the media and “gas ovens” in a later interview on a conservative radio talk show.

Quick! Distract the media from covering an actual issue that might be damaging! Trump announced a “major statement” about President Obama and birtherism. It started as basically an infomercial for his new Washington, D.C., hotel, since he was an hour late. Then he tried to shift the blame onto Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, saying she was the one who started the whole matter of questioning where Obama was born — a theory that has been repeatedly debunked. Media fawned outrage — then spent the rest of the day covering Trump’s statements, complaining that they got played (YA THINK?), then were forced to spend news time on the “Clinton started birtherism” theory. Trumpeters just kept adoring the Donald and spreading new Clinton conspiracy theories on Twitter.

Does anyone remember what the Trump offspring did wrong one day before? Is anyone talking about bribery in the Trump Foundation and spending charity money on six-foot paintings of Hair Hitler? Is anyone pointing out the holes in Trump’s family leave policy, or anything else he has “policies” about? Nope, nope, and nope.

CNN anchors decided that they had “finally had it with Trump’s lies,” said a headline on Huffington Post.

This response may have partly reflected a realization that Trump had manipulated the media once again, by getting the networks to break away from normal coverage in order to show some pretty routine campaign speeches ― and promote his new hotel along the way. After promising a big reveal, Trump began his appearance by bragging about his new hotel. He then let a parade of veterans sing his political praises, turning the event into a free advertisement.

“We got played,” CNN panelists admitted on air.

So naive. So driven by ratings and clickbait. So easy to be manipulated. And they’ll do it again the first chance they get.

By the evening, Trump was hinting once again the line Hillary Clinton might be assassinated. And the media dutifully covered the whole thing — rally, threats, and all — treating it like real news. His supporters cheered lustily.

The next time Trump says something just as outrageous, the media will be there with their cameras and their microphones. The would-be narcissist-in-chief will get the coverage he wants. And the American people will learn nothing about what they need to know in evaluating who the next commander-in-chief and leader of the free world should be.

It’s too late for the media to put anything negative about Don the Con on cable news or the front page and expect it to have an impact. That should have been done 15 months ago. Trump supporters hate the media anyway, so they’re not going to pay attention. A recent Gallup Poll showed that only 32 percent of the American public trust the media, and the lowest percentage came from Republicans who believe the media are “hyperfocused on on every controversial statement or policy proposal from Trump while devoting far less attention to controversies surrounding the Clinton campaign.” Let that sink in as you recall the months from cable TV, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and others spreading false memes about Benghazi, Clinton’s emails, and the Clinton Foundation.

Trumpeters will just eat up whatever the Orange Menace says, buy another “Deplorable” T-shirt, and start using even more white supremacist language.

Where was this media outrage in its coverage in June and July of 2015? Oh, that’s right. “Journalists” like Chuck Todd of Meet the Press were too busy saying that it “wasn’t his job” to challenge Trump on his lies. Instead, Trump got his $2 billion in free media coverage. And because of media malfeasance, we might get stuck with a President Trump.

Multiple fact-checkers have found that almost nothing Trump says is true. According to Politics USA, 91 percent of his utterances are false. Politifact gave a collection of his misstatements the “Lie of the Year” award in 2015 because it couldn’t pick just one. Some 76 percent of 77 Trump statements got the rating of False, Mostly False, or Pants on Fire. But the media have been too afraid to use the word “lie” when it comes to reporting on Donald Trump. The fact that they finally used it in September 2016 probably won’t make any difference.

Trump snaps his fingers. The media jump and plaster whatever he says all over the airwaves and news websites. Trump’s poll numbers go up. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I have never been more ashamed of American journalism than I am today in how political reporters have covered this election. We can only hope that at least a plurality of voters are smarter than they are.

Election 2016: More polarized than ever


This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but new poll results from Pew Research and other sources show that the American electorate is further apart than anytime in the last 25 years.

Pew did its usual comprehensive job, conducting more than 8,000 interviews and asking Americans about their political views. While the results are unsurprising, they also offer a peek into how the electorate has changed — and is changing still.

Both parties have been reshaped by demographic changes — “an aging population, growing racial and ethnic diversity, and rising levels of education,” Pew says. The Democratic Party is less white, less religious, and better educated than the country as a whole, and changing at a faster pace than the country. The Republican Party is older, less diverse, less educated, and more religious and is slower to change those characteristics even as the country does.

Yet despite all of these changes, party identification is roughly the same as it was four years ago. These totals include the party “leanings” of those who self-identify as independent.

The overall balance of party identification has changed little in recent years. This year, 48% of registered voters identify as Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with 44% who identify as Republican or lean toward the Republican Party. That is identical to the balance of leaned party identification in 2012.

Here are some of the more salient points of the research, from Pew’s summary:

  • Fully 58 percent of Republican voters are 50 and older; those under 50 has declined to 41 percent.
  • 48 percent of Democratic voters are 50 and older, while 51 percent are under 50.
  • Whites make up 57 percent of all Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, down significantly from 76 percent in 1992.
  • 86 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters are white, compared with 93 percent in 1992.
  • Republicans gained ground with white voters with no college education. Democrats gained ground with all voters with college education.

Even though Democrats have made gains in growing demographic groups, Republicans have offset that by boosting the party’s standing among older voters, men, and people with less education. “This has been especially apparent during Barack Obama’s presidency. … White voters age 65 and older are now 13 points more likely to identify as Republican or lean Republican than they were eight years ago.”

Remember that when people claim it has nothing to do with race.

While voters 65 and older have moved increasingly toward the GOP (51 percent to 42 percent), young voters (59 percent) remain Democratic in their partisan affiliation.

So there’s further alienation between parties, and it’s not just how we vote. It’s also where we live and whom we marry. compiled research on couples in 30 states that track party affiliation. To compare apples with apples, they included only male-female couples whose ages were within 15 years of each other.

In those results, 55 percent of married couples are Democratic-only or Republican-only. Only 30 percent of those couple were mismatched pairs, whether that’s party-party or party-independent. The research also showed that older couples tended to be more tied to the same party. That makes sense, as there is a higher number of self-described independents among younger voters.

There’s always been an urban-rural divide between the two political parties. This year, that divide seems to be sharper than ever.

Research from a real estate industry group shows that the accepted wisdom of “blue downtown-red suburb” and “blue city-red rural” is as true as it always was.

Home ownership is higher in more Republican areas, while more Democrats are renters. “Liberals like cities. Conservatives like the country. Liberals want ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Conservatives want neighbors who share the same religious faith,” according to the research by Redfin, which studies real estate trends, also using data from Pew Research.

In 2014, Pew asked people what they would look for in a community if they were planning to move. Three-quarters of conservatives wanted a neighborhood where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores, and restaurants are several miles away.” Liberals in similar numbers preferred smaller living spaces within walking distance of schools and shops, Pew found.

Some other points from the Redfin research:

  • Americans have long clustered themselves by incomes, race, education either by choice or circumstance. But rising ideological uniformity is a newer phenomenon that’s contributing to America’s growing political polarization.
  • The homeownership divide is making things worse by feeding the nation’s wealth gap, which increasingly is breaking down by race. Whites on average have twice the income of blacks and Hispanics but six times the wealth, according to Urban Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank. Uneven access to homeownership is one reason, and it’s a contributor to voter anger and frustration.
  • Republicans are the biggest beneficiaries of U.S. housing policy. High rates of homeownership and bigger houses allow them to reap the biggest benefits from mortgage-interest tax deductions and government-supported home loan progams. It’s surprising, then, that Republicans are leading the charge to scale back that support and do away with consumer protections established after the 2008 housing collapse.

What does all of this mean for the November election? Who knows? But don’t expect to learn anything from the media. The public doesn’t trust that information anyway. According to a new poll from Gallup, only 32 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in the media. That’s declined from 53 percent in 1997.

Make sure you vote in November. Please.

Women politicians owe a debt to … Phyllis Schlafly?

Schlafly and her army of "housewives" demonstrating against the Equal Rights Amendment in front of the White House in 1977. (Library of Congress)

Schlafly and her army of “housewives” demonstrating against the Equal Rights Amendment in front of the White House in 1977. (Library of Congress)

Phyllis Schlafly, the grande dame of the anti-feminist movement, has died. So she won’t be around to watch if and when Hillary Clinton is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president on Jan. 20, 2017.

Schlafly is being remembered in many ways: as a fervent anti-Communist; as the self-published author of A Choice Not an Echo, which got Barry Goldwater nominated in 1964; as a John Bircher; as the founder of her own personal national political organization, the Eagle Forum, which gave her a national platform that spanned decades; as an author of more than 20 books and editor of a monthly conservative newsletter; and as an extreme conservative activist against feminism, abortion, LGBT rights, the United Nations, arms control, etc. Most of all, she is remembered for killing the Equal Rights Amendment. Nothing to like from a liberal perspective.

Yet there’s no denying that Schlafly was a savvy and effective politician, even if we hated what she was effective at. She was wrong on nearly every issue. She did her best to set back the cause of women’s rights; she backed horrible candidates; and she spread paranoid conservative propaganda. But boy, did she do it well. Those who underestimated Schlafly in the 1970s learned that lesson the hard way.

Schlafly would be the last to admit it, but, ironically, her strong voice and presence in politics were made possible because of feminism (Schlafly would be spinning—nay, turning cartwheels—in her grave at the very idea). Schlafly touted traditional family roles for women even as she spurned them for herself. Because of her wealth, she could afford a lifetime of activism in Republican politics and a decades-long career outside the home touting conservative causes. As much as we hated her success, it paved the way for other women, both conservative and liberal, to be taken seriously.

There are certainly women political pioneers on the liberal side who have been active and effective for decades. The growing women’s liberation and women’s rights movements of the 1960s got the ball rolling. But Phyllis Schlafly was a master. Without her enormous success and prominence, there likely wouldn’t be as many women in office as there are today. Women’s voices in politics wouldn’t carry as much weight as they do now. There might not even be a woman as the Democratic nominee for president.

A storified tweet by historian and author Kevin Kruse concluded: “Even if you hate what she did, remember how she did it. Because she gave you a blueprint to do anything. Even to undo her work.”

A story in Slate is titled “Phyllis Schlafly Is Doomed to Represent the Feminism She Railed Against.” The author describes Schlafly’s loss in a 1967 contest for the presidency for the National Federation of Republican Women, in which she was beaten by a moderate candidate and criticized for the possibility of not caring for her six children.

Just over a year later [Schlafly] wrote an essay … about the ways Republicans took conservative women for granted; some of it would fit verbatim in an EMILY’s List appeal. “Women will continue to be ignored in the centers of political power until they hold a substantial percentage of public offices and are elected to party positions,” she wrote.

Schlafly, who died [Sept. 5], was the most influential anti-feminist in American history. She is single-handedly responsible for derailing the Equal Rights Amendment. Much of her life, however, could serve as a feminist parable, as she relentlessly maneuvered for power in a male-dominated world.

Said a story in Politico Magazine:

Perhaps the great irony of the most famous anti-feminist icon in recent history is that Schlafly couldn’t have done it without feminism. As she grew in influence, it was exactly the activist framework pioneered by feminists that she used in her long, and ultimately unsuccessful, efforts to stop them.

When the ERA passed in Congress in 1972, everyone assumed that ratification would follow quickly. At first, it did; 30 state legislatures ratified the amendment within a year, leaving only eight more for the necessary constitutional threshold. But Phyllis Schlafly had a different idea. Although she had been active in Republican politics, she hadn’t gained national influence on her pet issues against Communism. So the right-wing ideologue finally found a subject that gave her national prominence. She formed Stop Taking Our Privileges ERA, or STOP ERA, the group that eventually became the Eagle Forum.

It was a national fight, and Schlafly and her “housewife” volunteers mobilized across the country. In between trips to Washington and national media appearances, Schlafly also concentrated on preventing ratification in Illinois. Over several years, the “housewives” made multiple trips to the Legislature in Springfield, armed with signs, huge buttons, and home-baked goods for the lawmakers—sometimes homemade bread, sometimes cookies, sometimes pie. Schlafly and her cohorts would show up early for the cameras, crowding out college students who came to demonstrate in favor of the ERA on buses with hand-drawn signs. In the end, the ERA was three states shy of ratification.

A story in The Atlantic explains why Schlafly was so successful and suggests that other women could learn from her tactics. “It was impossible to look at the work she had done and not recognize the skill, savvy, and frankly, genius it took to build and market the STOP ERA movement.”

Schlafly was a veteran of politics with years of elite education and political experience (though little of it successful) to build on: She was an honors graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s program at Radcliffe. She twice ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress. She authored dozens of political (some might say conspiratorial) books and she was active in national Republican politics for decades before picking up the STOP ERA mantle.

Few that joined her STOP ERA cause could match her resume. … She described her volunteers as “housewives” who “didn’t even know where their state capital was.” She taught them how to give STOP ERA talking points at their local representative’s office and she taught them how to send thank-you notes afterwards. She taught them how to wear the “right colors for television,” and style their hair and makeup so that all STOP ERA representatives looked the same—looked like her. She held seminars where she played videos of herself speaking and would have them mimic her ability to give “20-second sound bites.”  She taught them to stay on message. She taught them how to smile.

I actually interviewed Schlafly in 1976 for my college newspaper, during the height of the fight over the Equal Rights Amendment. I traveled to her stately home on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois, across the river from St. Louis.

The first thing you need to realize about Schlafly is that she was wealthy—very wealthy. Her husband was a successful lawyer in St. Louis. She liked to say that she never held a paying job after she married, but she didn’t need to. Her home was beautifully furnished, and for our interview, she was dressed conservatively and tastefully in light blue in what was undoubtedly a designer suit. She sat beneath a portrait of herself over the fireplace. Her upswept hair was in the same recognizable style she wore for decades. An African-American maid in a white apron served us coffee and cookies (I swear I am not making this up).

I thought I would be able to trap her into admitting something positive about the ERA. I was totally out of her league—and frustrated.

She repeated many of her talking points: how women need protective labor laws, even if it means they make less money. She said the real heroes for women were inventors such as Thomas Edison, who brought electricity into people’s homes; Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine; and Clarence Birdseye, who perfected methods of freezing food. Her basic belief boiled down to: “Women have babies and men don’t have babies. There’s no way you can get away from that role.”

When it came to the ERA, she brought up her usual arguments: the horrors of unisex bathrooms, the fears that men could abandon wives with impunity; the dangers of women being drafted into the military. I asked if she valued her daughters’ lives more than those of her sons. “For those who feel a moral obligation to serve, I think they should go sign up,” she answered. “Did you see any women demonstrating during the Vietnam War for their rights to be treated just like men?”

Schlafly ran for Congress twice, in 1952 and 1970 (“I came very close in 1970,” she told me). She traveled constantly during the anti-ERA fight, testifying in 30 state legislatures against the ERA, even though the youngest of her six children was only 11. The woman who made her name touting the benefits of the traditional family left her family at home for her political work. But her wealth allowed her to hire household help and a personal assistant.

During the 1970s, Schlafly earned a law degree while sabotaging the ERA and working to elect Ronald Reagan president. Hillary Clinton also earned a law degree, but she was going undercover to expose segregated schools in Alabama. She was joining the board of the Legal Services Corporation and working for the Children’s Defense Fund. She was founding the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, teaching law school, becoming a partner at the Rose Law Firm, and serving as first lady of Arkansas.

There have been 29 Democratic and 17 Republican women senators. Nearly 300 women have served as representatives in the House. The total number of congresswomen was stuck in the single digits and low teens for each session until the 1970s, then it started climbing. There are 84 women serving in the House today, the vast majority of them Democrats.

On the whole, I think our side is winning.

The ERA never was added to the Constitution, but nearly every other policy Schlafly railed against is now ensconced in law. Marriage equality is legal across 50 states. Abortion is still allowed. Women are now eligible for combat. And yes, men and women sometimes use the same bathrooms.

According to Snopes, Schlafly never uttered the line that many are attributing to her right now: “There will be a woman president over my dead body.” She actually endorsed Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann in the 2012 election. Nevertheless, if and when Hillary Clinton takes the oath of office, Schlafly won’t be there to seethe.

And on one level, we can thank the political activist—and unwitting feminist—Phyllis Schlafly.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 11, 2016.

Media need 12-step program for Donald Trump addiction


It’s time for the media in this country to admit what the rest of us have known for more than a year: They are addicted to Donald Trump.

Not a day goes by that the orange face of the Republican presidential nominee isn’t featured at the top of the webpage of every news service at least once during the day. He leads nearly every cable news show. It doesn’t matter if what he says makes sense (it doesn’t). It doesn’t matter if he’s telling the truth (he’s not). It doesn’t matter who he’s insulting (just about everyone). All that matters is that when Trump opens his mouth, the media jump, focus the cameras, and aim the microphones.

Look at recent examples. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivered a substantive plan about mental health, with plenty of details. She gave a foreign policy speech to the American Legion and talked about American exceptionalism. Yet all the media could do was talk about Trump’s will-he-or-won’t-he fuzzy and flip-flopping approach to immigration. The media veered from “he appeared presidential” alongside Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on the whirlwind trip south of the border to “he’s taking a hard line again” when Trump repeated every immigration threat he’s made for 16 months.

It’s no secret, but this pattern of the Trumpeting of the news has been obvious for the entire campaign season. A report from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy detailed the over-reliance on Trump stories across the media (this particular study left out cable news, which was even worse). The Harvard study said Trump had won the “invisible primary” with a preponderance of coverage, most of it positive or neutral. And Trump received $2 billion in free media coverage, according to the tracking firm mediaQuant.

Don’t forget the money factor. Les Moonves, chief executive officer of CBS, told an investors’ conference in February that the all-Trump, all-the-time approach to campaign coverage was selling ads. “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” CNN’s Jeff Zucker bragged about how Trump is a ratings bonanza for the cable news station.

In an ironic moment (as if Morning Joe on MSNBC hasn’t been as bad as the rest with its over-the-top Trump coverage), Mika Brzezinski called out her co-host Joe Scarborough and the media in general for the Trump obsession, especially as it applied to speculation about immigration policy:

Look at this conversation! We’re talking about nothing! We’re talking about a guy who means nothing, who says nothing, who has no opinions. We’re talking about a speech, that will probably end up being something that he doesn’t mean. And we’re pretending to try and “translate strategy” out of it. … I don’t know what we’ve talked about, honestly. Nothing!

As the Republican presidential nominee, of course Trump deserves coverage, but not complete dominance of a 24-hour news cycle. It’s time for the media to join Trump-a-holics Anonymous. TA is for all members of the media who have forgotten what they learned in journalism school on how to cover an election fairly—which seems to cover everyone from Andrea Mitchell to Wolf Blitzer.

So with apologies to Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups that perform an important service for addicts with the 12-step approach, here is a reimagining of the organization’s program, tweaked to apply to the nation’s political journalists. Here’s a 12-step program for the media to come clean.

1. We admit we are powerless over our own decisions to run constant Trump coverage—that our news feeds have become unmanageable and our headlines have become nothing but clickbait. It’s not “breaking news” just because Donald Trump makes an announcement, even if it’s the outrage du jour. Why treat it that way daily, on top of a news web page or on the bottom of a TV screen?

2. We have come to believe that restoring good news judgment also could restore us and the nation to sanity. An interesting post from a former journalist and current journalism professor and blogger, Jeff Jarvis, takes journalists to task for this:

Imagine if even a fraction of the time we see wasted on cable news were devoted to educating the public about the issues and realities of immigration, refugees, criminal justice, the economy, infrastructure, education, health care costs, entitlement costs, security, the environment, taxes, jobs. … When was the last time you saw TV news do that? How much of any news organization’s work is devoted to doing this, to informing the electorate? Shouldn’t we ask before assigning every story and booking every TV discussion: How will this help the public better decide how to vote?

3. We have made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of honest journalism. From the Harvard study on how the media blew it and fed the beast:

[Journalists] are not in the business of sifting out candidates on the basis of their competency and platforms. They are in the business of finding good stories. Donald Trump was the mother lode. During the invisible primary, the press gave him what every candidate seeks — reams of coverage.

4. We have made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our shoddy reporting, and find it to be overwhelming. The Harvard study again:

Journalists seemed unmindful that they and not the electorate were Trump’s first audience. Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories. He didn’t have any other option. He had no constituency base and no claim to presidential credentials.

5. We will admit to ourselves, our viewers, and our readers the exact nature of our wrongs. We’re talkin’ to YOU, Associated Press. And The New York Times. And the Washington Post.

6. We are entirely ready to cover issues and not just horse-race polling. Members of the media know readers say they’re interested in candidates’ positions. But it’s so much easier just to keep reporting polls. Besides, the closer the race looks, the more relevant the publication or news channel—otherwise, why watch? Even more important: The closer the race, the more candidates need to advertise, and this has not been a profitable year for campaign ads on TV. According to industry figures, ad spending at this point in the presidential race is 60 percent lower than the comparable amount spent in 2012—$146 million this year compared with $373 million four years ago. And the Trump campaign is just now starting its general election ad buys.

7. We humbly ask the public to help remove all these defects of our news judgment. Again, from the Harvard study:

When critics have accused journalists of fueling the Trump bandwagon, members of the media have offered two denials. One is that they were in watchdog mode, that Trump’s coverage was largely negative, that the “bad news” outpaced the “good news.” The second rebuttal is that the media’s role in Trump’s ascent was the work of the cable networks—that cable was “all Trump, all the time” whereas the traditional press held back.

Neither of these claims is supported by the evidence. … Across all the outlets, Trump’s coverage was roughly two-to-one favorable.

8. We will make a list of all readers and viewers we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. That’s basically the entire American public at this point.

9. We will make direct amends to such candidates who became victims of false equivalency wherever possible, even when to do so would injure our ratings. Wouldn’t it be nice if reporters, anchors, and columnists dropped the “both sides do it” nonsense? There’s plenty of evidence, from academic studies to real reporting, that the media’s attempts at “balance” is way off kilter. Jeff Jarvis again:

These faux scandals become tokens in journalists’ well-documented insistence on finding balance. Let’s spend one block of our show talking about how Donald Trump demonizes Mexicans and Muslims and — because we need something to “balance” that — let’s spend the next block repeating the same, year-old allegations about Hillary’s damned emails. The hunt for balance is especially cynical this year, as any attempt to give balanced coverage to an unbalanced candidate can only mislead.

10. We will continue to take personal inventory, and when we are wrong, promptly admit it, run corrections when we screw up, and delete inaccurate tweets. Man, is this needed. Corrections need to be displayed prominently, not buried in a one-paragraph posting on an inside page. If an online story is corrected, not only does that correction need to be made, but the readers also must be told that there was a correction from an earlier version.

11. We will seek through good reporting to improve our conscious contact with our readers and viewers. The same Jarvis post referenced above criticizes coverage of and engagement with all voter groups.

Because of this election, we now know that the media has done a terrible job of reflecting the concerns and goals of underemployed, angry white men in the heartland. If media had done a better job of reporting — and then informing — their world views, would there have been an opening for them to be recruited by Trump and the forces of the so-called alt right?

Far more important than either of those examples, of course, is the experience of minorities in this country: African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, too often women, and too many others who are unseen in media.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to other journalists, and to practice these principles in all our reporting. Jarvis one last time:

We must create a journalism that mirrors the many and diverse communities and concerns in societies and convenes these communities in dialog so they can foster empathy and understanding. We must create a journalism that educates the public about the issues that matter to each other (so we must start by asking them what matters, not assuming we know). We must create a journalism that does not reduce people to numbers and colors but instead invites them into a substantive, intelligent, fruitful, and civil discussion as individuals and members of communities, not a mass.

Think anyone in the media will follow this advice? Nah, me neither.

And what will become of the news business if and when Trump loses the election in November? CNN must be hoping for another missing plane.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 4, 2016.

Trump’s immigration ‘softening’ came with a sledgehammer


Once again, Donald Trump hoodwinked the media into thinking he was doing something real.

After a hurried, last-minute visit and a staged photo-op with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the Republican presidential nominee returned to his hard-line message on immigration in what his campaign claimed would be a policy speech but was really just more of his hate-filled rhetoric. The media, suckers that they are, have spent the past weeks wondering if the Orange Menace was really going to “pivot” to a more humane message about immigration to appeal to a broader audience for the general election.

Looks like they got snookered again.

The words “Donald Trump” and “diplomacy” don’t fit well together. In his attempt at meeting with another world leader, Trump looked awkward when he claimed that he and Peña Nieto didn’t discuss who would pay for the mythical wall that has been the centerpiece of his campaign. The Mexican president and his aides quickly put that lie to rest by saying afterward that, no, the meeting started with Peña Nieto saying Mexico would not pay for such a monstrosity. Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine mocked Trump’s trip as “diplomatic amateur hour.”

But because Trump wasn’t — I don’t know, drooling at that point? — U.S. media again swooned that he was being “presidential.” A few hours is all it took to dispel that impression, as Hair Hitler reverted to his previous pack of nativist and xenophobic rantings about immigrants, facts be damned. If anything, he was worse, with his talk of a “deportation task force” and “criminal aliens.” Huffington Post reported that Trump confidante Corey Lewandowski (still being paid by both CNN and the Trump campaign) said the speech was “written to appeal directly to white men.” Guess we can check that off.

So Trump solidified his support with white supremacists. Former KKK leader David Duke and his alt-right buddies live-tweeted the whole thing. “Diplomacy in the morning. Nationalism in the evening. #Trump is back in a big way!” Tweets from right-wing hatemonger Ann Coulter were just as sickening: “I think I’ll watch this speech every night before going to bed so that I will sleep like a baby.”

Trump’s few Hispanic surrogates began to have second thoughts after his latest ravings. From Politico:

Jacob Monty, a member of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, quickly resigned after the speech. Another member, Ramiro Pena, a Texas pastor, said Trump’s speech likely cost him the election and said he’d have to reconsider being part of a “scam.” And Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in an interview that he is “inclined” to pull his support.

“I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately,” said Monty, a Houston attorney who has aggressively made the Latino case for Trump. “What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate.”

It doesn’t take much research to learn the facts about immigration: that illegal immigration has dropped since the 1990s; that immigration numbers have leveled off; that a lot more money is being spent on border enforcement; that the number of people being deported has risen; that laws are being enforced. But Trump gets more mileage with his white supremacist followers by ignoring real information and repeating his incendiary immigration talking points. Remember that Politifact has given him the highest rate of lies of any political candidate this election season, while Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has the highest rate of telling the truth.

Every fall, we see some version of the “Peanuts” cartoon in which Lucy swipes the ball away just before Charlie Brown kicks the football. The Charlie Brown media don’t seem to know how to learn that Trump-Lucy isn’t going to change and is going to keep swiping that “softer” image of Trump away from them over and over again.

In the comic, the worst that happens is that Charlie Brown lands flat on his back. With the hate speech from Trump and his supporters, real lives are at stake.

Mothers fighting Chicago gun violence one block at a time

Tamar Manasseh started a mothers' community group to combat gun violence in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. A year later, there hasn't been one shooting on the block where the group is active. (Photo used with permission from Andrew Gill/WBEZ)

Tamar Manasseh started a mothers’ community group to combat gun violence in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. A year later, there hasn’t been one shooting on the block where the group is active. (Photo used with permission from Andrew Gill/WBEZ)

It’s no secret that gun violence on Chicago’s South and West sides has reached horrific proportions. This is the story of how one mother organized a group to fight back.

The neighborhood of Englewood on the South Side, where Tamar Manasseh grew up, has high crime rates. A year ago, a friend trying to break up a fight was shot and killed on the 7500 block of South Stewart Avenue. So Manasseh decided to take action. She founded the group Mothers Against Senseless Killings, or MASK. The words “Moms On Patrol” are printed on the hot pink T-shirts the women wear.

With school out during the summer, the moms set up a safe place for kids in front of a courtyard of an apartment building near the corner of 75th and Stewart. They grill hot dogs or chicken and distribute bottled water. Sometimes the moms have fixings for ice cream sundaes. People sit on lawn chairs, kids play games, and music comes out of nearby speakers.

The moms from MASK are on duty every day. And there hasn’t been a shooting on the block all summer.

Several groups keep a daily running total of shootings in Chicago. As of this writing, there have been slightly more than 2,700 shootings since Jan. 1; the number is bound to grow by the weekend. The number of shootings is on pace to surpass last year’s already-high total of 2,988.

The reasons for the high number of shootings are varied and complex. There aren’t enough nearby jobs for residents, so too many people turn to gangs. Chicago police, wary of repercussions of actions caught on body cameras, are making fewer arrests (going “fetal,” as Mayor Rahm Emanuel put it). When gang leaders are arrested, it leaves gangs without anyone in charge so that other members are free to create more violence with less ability for the police to track it. Threats of violence spread on social media. And there’s still a huge influx of illegal weapons from neighboring states. The claim by Donald Trump that he could end violence “in a week” because a “top” Chicago police official told him “tough police tactics” were what it takes—a claim denied by the Chicago Police Department—is beyond laughable.

The MASK website describes the philosophy behind the organization:

I have a son and I do not want him to be killed. However, I do not know how to stop it from happening. In the very famous Bible story of the Exodus, we learn about Jochebed. She put her newborn son, Moses, into a basket and sent him down the river to find safety in the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter. I am certain her heart and her arms ached when her child left them. However, that ache would’ve been nothing more than a minor discomfort if her son would’ve been found and killed by the Egyptians. A piece of her would have surely been murdered along with her son. This is the pain that every black mother feels and sadly too many others as well.

There are no baskets or rivers for us. There is no one waiting and wishing to take care of our sons. There is nothing but cautious optimism, constant worry, and an abundance of prayer. That is all we have. We need more. We need a collaborative effort of mothers of every race, religion, color, creed, and of every educational, economic, and social background to help amplify the voices of those mothers whose wails, moans, and cries for help don’t seem to be loud enough for those that can affect change to hear them.

We believe the tragedies of Aurora, Colorado, and Sandy Hook Elementary School have done a great deal to show our society that senseless gun violence is not just the problem of poor people of color in the inner cities. This is an AMERICAN  problem. We are hoping that with the creation of M.A.S.K. we can start on a grass roots level to begin to come together and organize parents with an emphasis on mothers and the power of the mother, to become a presence in the fight against the violence. My hope is that we will become a support mechanism for one another.

In a way, the MASK organization is an outgrowth of Chicago’s long history of block clubs. A new book, Chicago’s Block Clubs: How Neighbors Shape the City by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor Amanda Seligman, describes how the Chicago Urban League created block clubs in the early 1900s during the Great Migration—the vast wave of African Americans moving to the city from the South. The block clubs originally were started as a way for blacks to avoid racial stereotyping and evolved into ways of keeping blocks safe. “When neighbors work together in block clubs, playgrounds get built, local crime is monitored, streets are cleaned up, and every summer is marked by the festivities of day-long block parties,” according to publicity material for the book, due out Sept. 12. If you drive through neighborhoods on the South and West sides, you’ll often see block club signs announcing rules such as “No drug selling,” “No gambling,” and “No drinking.”

Chicago’s public radio station, WBEZ, recently did a story on Manasseh and MASK.

“This is the most uplifting thing going on in the city right now because you see all this negative stuff over and over again every day,” Manasseh said. “And I see it and I say I left 75th and Stewart and none of that was happening. I was in Englewood and none of that was happening. It really restores your hope in humanity.”

Manasseh said you can measure the success: first, by the crowds, which vary day to day but can number in the dozens. But there’s something else, too.

“This is not a dangerous corner to be on. It’s not like that anymore. [This was] one of the most dangerous corners in Englewood.”

There’s still crime in Englewood. There were 3.0 violent crimes per 1,000 people in July. Its unemployment rate hovers around 19 percent, and the average income per capita is less than $11,500 a year. Keeping crime off one block might just move it to another block, but it keeps at least part of the neighborhood—and the children—safe.

In any case, there are no shootings at 75th and Stewart, and Manasseh plans to keep it that way. As she told WBEZ:

“This isn’t just about stopping violence. It’s about building community,” she said. “You want to know your neighbors. When you know your neighbors people don’t die. That’s how that works.”

At the beginning, the moms bought all of the food and supplies for the nightly cookouts themselves. Now MASK is receiving help from around the city and suburbs in the form of food, money, and manpower. The MASK website offers a way to make donations and volunteer. MASK also organized a school supplies drive for kids in Englewood and nearby neighborhoods. The group holds weekly planning and strategy sessions and support group meetings for those who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

Another project is inspired by the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat. It’s the Abel Project, which offers families who have lost someone to gun or street violence a chance to plant a tree in that victim’s honor.

Members of MASK are recruiting people in other parts of the city, so moms on other blocks can keep kids safe. The more safe blocks, the less gun violence. Some new chapters of MASK also are spreading to different parts of the country. The website lists the latest chapters in Evansville, Indiana, and Staten Island, New York. A related MASK group, Men Against Senseless Killings, also is active with community patrols.


MASK recently hit a snag with the use of the courtyard building. The building’s owner wants the group to move, and Manasseh was called in by the Chicago Police Department to discuss the matter. According to the WBEZ story:

Chicago police brokered a compromise: They said the moms could finish out this summer season on the sidewalk, but next year they would have to move their summer festivities across the street, to a lot which they could purchase.

Manasseh said she had to promise the city, police department, and the building owners she would never ever set up again in front of the 75th and Stewart courtyard building.

What will happen to MASK next summer? The suggested land is actually two lots, half owned by the city and half owned by a land trust that has not paid taxes on the property for five years. We’ll have to wait and see.

Oh, one other thing offered on the MASK website: Online voter registration.

This video about MASK is by Digital Producer Andrew Gill of WBEZ.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Aug. 28, 2016.

Clinton’s slam of Trump’s alt-right embrace is true ‘pivot’ of 2016


In a scathing yet 100 percent accurate speech, Hillary Clinton calmly served notice that the people of this country are sick of the racist rhetoric coming from Donald Trump. We’ve had enough. We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.

It’s been more than a year since the Orange Menace descended that escalator in Trump Tower to a paid, cheering audience of out-of-work actors and talked about how Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists. We’ve listened as his racist dog-whistles turned into a bullhorn. We’ve heard Trump use foul and insulting language against women, minorities, Muslims, refugees, political opponents, and people with disabilities — basically any group that doesn’t agree with him. We’ve watched Trump supporters at his rallies laugh at those insults, shout racial and misogynistic slurs, and resort to violence against protestors. We’ve been bombarded by tweets from Trump fans with some of the most disgusting language imaginable. We’ve read them because Trump retweets them — messages from Twitter accounts called “White Genocide TM,” and the like. What now passes for political discourse in Trump’s campaign has sunk to the depths of depravity.

Trump made his campaign of hatred official by hiring Steve Bannon of the radical right-wing website Breitbart News as his campaign CEO. This is the same Breitbart News that has openly embraced the alt-right, or alternative-right, movement, but is better called by its true name: white supremacy. It’s a “news” site that thrives on extremist conspiracy theories, white entitlement, and misogyny, and runs headlines meant to raise blood pressure.

Here are some of the Breitbart headlines Clinton gave as examples: “Hoist it high and proud: The confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.” “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.” “Gabby Giffords: The gun control movement’s human shield.” Not the kind of messages that make America great again. They’re the kind of ideas that turn your stomach, unless you’re one of Breitbart’s white supremacist adherents.

In her speech, the Democratic nominee for president delivered an indictment against Trump that his fellow Republicans should have given 14 months ago. Those running against him for the nomination and those in office who still don’t have the guts to call him out. Clinton delivered a truth bomb, except it was more like a truth bazooka.

An entire transcript of Clinton’s speech is here. If you didn’t see it, it’s worth your time to read the whole thing. And remember: Every word is based on something Trump said, or something that went online on Breitbart, or something that was uttered by a Trump supporter. Clinton said Trump is taking “hate groups mainstream,” and she’s absolutely right. Here’s the whole speech if you want to watch (she starts speaking 10 minutes in):

Clinton gave a roundup of Trump’s history of refusing to rent to minority tenants, for which he was sued by the Justice Department, to his years-long involvement in the “birther” movement, insisting that President Obama wasn’t born in America, “part of a sustained effort to delegitimize America’s first black President.”

“He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties,” Clinton said. “His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous. … A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military.”

The speech was both an accurate portrayal of Trump and a shrewd move on Clinton’s part to offer Republicans cover for disassociating themselves from their own nominee. You wonder if they’ll be smart enough to take it.

The media are desperately waiting for a “pivot” from Donald Trump to make him more palatable to the greater voting public. Any slight change in his demeanor gives them hope that he’s acting “presidential,” that the 2016 election will turn into a real horse race again, instead of Clinton having a large lead in national polls and counts of electoral votes. All this comes even as Trump’s position on his signature issue of immigration has devolved into an orange whirligig of confusion.

There’s no pivot. It ain’t happening. “Here’s the hard truth,” Clinton said. “There is no other Donald Trump. This is it.”

The Daily Beast, using the wonderful headline Clinton Microwaves Donald Trump’s Axis of Tinfoil, related the time Trump told InfoWars radio host Alex Jones, a major booster of Trump’s campaign, that “I will not let you down.” This is the same Alex Jones who claims that 9/11 was an inside job and that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was staged by the government, using child actors.

That’s who Donald Trump cares about. Not the average voter.

Actually, that’s not true. Donald Trump really cares about only one person.


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