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.


Hey, media: Clinton Foundation is getting swift-boated, and you’re helping

The Clinton Health Access Initiative ensures that HIV-positive mothers can still have healthy children. (Photo from Clinton Foundation website)

The Clinton Health Access Initiative ensures that HIV-positive mothers can still have healthy children. (Photo from Clinton Foundation website)

The latest GOP attacks against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are centered on the global charity, the Clinton Foundation. Even as these attacks show new signs of desperation, Republicans are getting an assist from the media.

That’s right. We’re talking about a charitable foundation that has helped 11.5 million people around the world with HIV drugs and that gets an “A” rating from Charity Watch. The charity watchdog group also reported that only 12 percent of the foundation’s donations go to overhead rather than services — a darned good ratio, and better than many other charities.

Here’s how a CNN story explained the focus of the Clinton Foundation:

Bill Clinton set up the public charity after he wrapped up his presidency in 2001 with the idea of bringing government, businesses, and social groups together to tackle big problems. It was kind of a new idea at the time. … Clinton wrote in a post on Medium that the foundation is about “creating opportunities and solving problems faster, better, at lower cost so that more people are empowered to build better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.” …

The foundation is made up 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.

Hmm. Sounds suspicious. What else does it do?

Health is a big focus. In more than 70 countries, according to the foundation, it helps 11.5 million people, including 800,000 children, with HIV/AIDS get their medication at 90% lower cost — more than half the adults and three-quarters of the children getting treatment in the world today.

But it does all kinds of other work as well. For instance, it helps East African farmers get better seeds and fertilizers. It supported Nepal’s reconstruction after the 2015 earthquakes. And it has connected more than 500,000 Latin Americans to job training and entrepreneurship opportunities.

A story from the Associated Press that shows how cherry-picked data can give an inaccurate conclusion breathlessly reports that more than half of the people Clinton met with during her tenure at the State Department gave money to the Clinton Foundation. The story incorrectly implies a “pay-for-play” situation.

Of course, that’s only true if you discount the vast majority of the people Clinton actually met with as secretary of state — other foreign diplomats and U.S. government officials. Instead of half, the number who met with Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation is really only three percent. And it’s not like she benefited personally: No member of the Clinton family — Hillary, Bill, or Chelsea — was ever paid a dime for their work on the Clinton Foundation. The benefits went to millions and millions of people around the world who have been helped by the foundation. From the CNN story:

“It’s unfortunate that it’s become this punching bag, this political punching bag,” [Charity Watch’s Daniel] Borochoff said. “There’s a lot of things that are said that are false. If Hillary Clinton wasn’t running for president, the Clinton Foundation would be seen as one of the great humanitarian charities of our generation.”

Here’s the Clinton campaign’s response to the AP story, which has reached the brouhaha level in campaign coverage:

“It is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton’s basis for meeting with these individuals,” spokesman Brian Fallon said. He called it “a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Cue Republican and media outrage. Republicans and the media never met a Clinton “scandal” that wasn’t worth milking, even if there’s no there there, as Gertrude Stein once said. So Republican nominee Donald Trump is screaming for the foundation to be shut down. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is calling for a special prosecutor, even though there’s nothing to prosecute.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who should certainly know better after his experience as a prosecutor but loves to attack Clinton after he was too chicken to run against her for the Senate in 2000, is calling for racketeering indictments for the Clinton Foundation. I guess Giuliani didn’t make a big enough fool out of himself when he flogged the “Clinton is sick — just check the Internet” conspiracy theory.

Clinton defenders aren’t mincing words about these latest attacks. The never-one-to-hold back James Carville said that “somebody is going to hell” over the political attacks on the Clinton Foundation. According to a Politico story on his appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Carville discounted the idea that the foundation shouldn’t have accepted donations during Clinton’s tenure at the State Department:

“The bad would be you’d be out hundreds of millions of dollars that are doing good. What the Clinton Foundation does, it takes money from rich people and gives it to poor people. Most people think that’s a pretty good idea,” Carville said.

Carville also told CNN that “people will die” if the Clinton Foundation is shut down. Remember the number from the beginning — 11.5 million people have been helped through the Clinton Foundation.

We expect these attacks from political opponents, but the media should do a more thorough job explaining exactly what the foundation is and what it does, as the CNN story does.

But if you want to go along with the AP “scandal” story, go right ahead. Oh, and be sure to mention the Associated Press and how “professional” its research is next time you visit your dentist and he has to treat you for gum disease, because you believed its hyped story on how there’s no evidence that flossing — one of the most inexpensive of all dental products — helps oral health.

Why Clinton win over Trump may not be a game changer


Democrats feel optimistic about national and state polls in the presidential race, as they all point to a big win for Hillary Clinton and a major loss for Donald Trump in November. Team Blue hopes those votes seep into down-ballot races, giving control of the Senate back to the Democrats and picking up many House seats.

But anyone who thinks this portends a change in attitude in American politics is wrong. This will be an anti-Trump vote. It will not be a major shift toward the Democratic Party, nor does it mean the implosion of the Republican Party. The obvious huge effects of Supreme Court picks and the presence of the first woman president aside, Republicans in Congress will still be an impediment to anything Clinton attempts.

Trump’s instability, lack of ground game, insults to everyone short of Vladimir Putin, missteps, lies, hiring of a scorched-earth campaign management team, general craziness—all of the above, and more—mean he’s likely to get clobbered in the Electoral College. His unfavorable ratings are high enough that most voters are unwilling and even scared to put him in office. The latest NBC News/Survey Monkey poll puts his unfavorable ratings at 64 percent. Only 17 percent of Americans think he has the temperament to be an effective president. Many news organizations, FiveThirtyEight, and other poll trackers say the election could be in landslide territory.

Both Republicans and Democrats expect Trump to lose, which is “a powerful predictor of general election outcomes,” as explained in a story on Huffington Post.

Here’s the thing, though. As high as Trump’s negatives are, unfavorable ratings for Clinton are at 59 percent—the same as they were back in May. I write this as a strong Clinton supporter: Clinton’s win in November will be more about voters rejecting Trump than favoring her. What will that ultimately mean for her presidency?

Party identification may have inched up for Democrats and inched down for Republicans, but in the same NBC poll, voters identifying as independents leaned more Republican, a trend that continues over time (maybe they’re just embarrassed to admit their real political leanings—who knows?). So the overall party identification hasn’t changed that much.

As we’ve also seen in poll after poll, Trump’s numbers among minorities have tanked, down to 6 percent with African-American voters and 13 percent with Latino voters (likely lower than that and still dropping) in that NBC poll. Another poll shows that Trump has zero percent support among African-American voters in some battleground states.

Trump’s support is also way down among millennial voters. A USA TODAY/Rock the Vote poll shows Clinton beating Trump 56 percent to 20 percent among those under 35. A USA TODAY story reporting on that poll concludes that high Democratic voter totals among young voters in 2016 (as well as in 2008 and 2012) mean a new era of Democrats.

The findings have implications for politics long past the November election. If the trend continues, the Democratic Party will have scored double-digit victories among younger voters in three consecutive elections, the first time that has happened since such data became readily available in 1952. That could shape the political affiliations of the largest generation in American history for years to follow.

Don’t get your hopes up.

Young voters turned out in 2008 and 2012 to vote Democratic—66 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2012 voted for President Obama. But both the 2010 and the 2014 midterm elections showed less enthusiasm from young voters, few of whom bothered to show up. According to Pew Research, voters 18-29 made up only 12 percent of voters in 2010. In 2014, according to CBS News, 18- to 29-year-olds made up 13 percent of the electorate. A CBS News story breaks down voting by age for congressional races.

In 2012, a presidential election year, 60 percent of voters 18-29 backed the Democratic candidate for the House, and 38 percent backed the Republican candidate, a gap of 22 points. In the midterm years of 2014 and 2010, the percentages for the Democrat were 54 percent and 55 percent, respectively, while the Republican candidate won 43 percent and 42 percent in 2014 and 2010, respectively. The exit polls show young Republican voters, like young Democratic voters, also turn out in lower numbers during midterm years, but the drop-off is less dramatic.

Even younger Republicans vote at higher rates than younger Democrats. Young voters turning to Democratic candidates in presidential elections is nothing new, and it hasn’t yet created a generation of Democrats. From the CBS story:

Voters ages 18-29 have supported the Democratic candidate for President for six straight presidential elections. The last time young voters backed a Republican candidate for the White House was in 1988 when they cast their votes for George H.W. Bush.

So Republicans made major gains in midterms. The reasons for that are varied: Young voters might have been disappointed that an Obama presidency wasn’t all that they hoped for. Obama might have thought bipartisanship was possible when it wasn’t. The rise of the tea party motivated older right-wing voters. The state of the economy was bad enough that it turned people off. Whatever the reasons, it happened, and the GOP ended up controlling governors’ mansions, state legislatures, the House of Representatives, and even the Senate again by 2015. The 2010 Republican wave allowed the GOP to go on a gerrymandering spree, the effects of which will be felt through at least 2020.

Most millennials this year favored Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Even if most of them vote for Clinton in November, which seems likely, they’re not doing it out of a sense of solidarity with the Democratic Party or out of love for the nominee. It would be a mistake to call these voters automatic Democrats from now on, even if they tend to lean that way and reject the other party more.

The last true landslide was in 1984, when Ronald Reagan, touting his “morning in America” theme, handily beat Walter Mondale with 58.8 percent of the popular vote and 525 electoral votes. The only state Mondale captured was his home state of Minnesota. The “Reagan Revolution” with its so-called Reagan Democrats brought many voters into the Republican fold who stayed there. Many Republicans such as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell first were elected to Congress in 1984, saying they were inspired by Reagan. Other Republicans claiming a Reagan legacy helped to take over in the Republican wave of 1994.

So a Trump loss aside, Republicans aren’t going anywhere. The GOP still controls most states: 31 Republican governors and 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative bodies. In 24 states, the GOP holds both the governorship and a majority in the state legislature; there are only seven such partisan state strongholds on the Democratic side.

A Politico story offers a history lesson on the nation’s political parties and explains why so few end up in the electoral dustbin.

Since the Republicans formed in 1856, the two major parties have bent but not broken. But, as incredulous commentators consider the possibility that 2016 could be the end of the GOP, they are missing the issue about which they should be most incredulous: Our two political parties are still, in some sense, vestiges of the parties they were in the 1850s. Despite changes in coalitions and ideology — to say nothing of revolutions like industrialization, the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, two world wars, and the changing composition of the electorate — the two parties have proved immensely adaptable.

Asking whether the GOP is not long for this world is, in a sense, the wrong question. Here’s the right one: Are the parties too resilient for their own good?

The latest Trump campaign team (3.0? 4.0? Probably higher—it’s hard to keep track) will give Steve Bannon of Breitbart a chance to offer even more hysterical Clinton conspiracy theories, like the recent nonsense about Clinton’s health. Because these claims are coming from the Republican nominee, regular media will be forced to cover them, at least at some level. These conspiracies will give the public one more reason to doubt Clinton once she takes office, as if 25 years of conspiracies weren’t enough. If Trump-Bannon turns into a new media platform post-election after Trump loses, that will give them a voice to keep spreading the crazy, which will be lapped up and magnified by at least some of the public.

Even though Rep. Steve King told attendees of the Iowa State Fair that Hillary Clinton “is somebody I can work with,” it’s doubtful that he—or House Speaker Paul Ryan, or soon-to-be-Minority-Leader McConnell, or nearly any other Republican officeholder—is going to offer the new President Clinton much in the way of cooperation. It won’t be long before McConnell announces that his most important “job” will be to make sure she’s a one-term president. They’ll form the same obstinate Red Wall of obstruction that Obama faced throughout his presidency. And although Clinton might enter office more clear-eyed about Republicans’ intentions, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be any more successful working across the aisle with a foot-dragging Republican Party. There’s little chance the party that’s now chanting “Lock her up!” will start singing “Kumbayah.”

What does this all mean when it comes to voting this year and into the future? Those of us saying #ImWithHer will continue to sell a Hillary Clinton presidency on her accomplishments, strengths, experience, and ideas. She needs to be seen as more than the anti-Trump.

Certain truisms remain the same: We need to get rid of obstacles to voting, such as voter suppression schemes like voter ID laws. GOTV is the law of the land for Democrats, for down-ballot races as well as the top spot. And these efforts can’t stop on Nov. 9.

The conventional wisdom of “Trump is doomed” in 2016 won’t make any difference in the midterm election of 2018, especially when Democrats must defend 25 Senate seats to Republicans’ eight.

Originally published on Daily Kos on Aug. 21, 2016.

Trump pivots to a Breitbart scorched-earth campaign

Steve Bannon and Donald Trump: Two peas in a nationalist pod.

Steve Bannon and Donald Trump: Two peas in a nationalist pod.

Many Republicans hoped that with less than three months before the election, nominee Donald Trump would “pivot” to a more traditional, even identifiable campaign. Instead, the Orange Menace reached into a right-wing echo chamber and has all but ensured his defeat in November.

Trump’s latest picks for running his “campaign” (and we’re using that term loosely) are Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager and Steve Bannon, the combative, anti-establishment executive chairman of the conspiracy website Breitbart News, as campaign CEO. (Paul Manafort, facing increased scrutiny amid reports of Russian money laundering to Washington lobbyists and ties to the Russian government, has resigned.)

Bannon was once referred to as the “Leni Reifenstahl of the Tea Party movement,” the famous Nazi propagandist filmmaker. Other colorful descriptors of Bannon are flame-thrower, bomb-thrower, provocateur, and media firebrand. And those are the polite names.

Bannon has been informally advising Trump for months and has urged him to go whole-right-wing-fringe in his campaign. Under Bannon’s leadership. Breitbart has embraced the “alt right” schtick adopted by white supremacists. Breitbart runs with stories questioning the health of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Media Matters has a collection of some of Breitbart’s worst headlines: “World Health Organization report: Trannies 49 Xs higher HIV rate,” “Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew,” “Planned Parenthood’s body count under Cecile Richards up to half a holocaust,” and  “There’s no bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews.”

That approach will, I don’t know, alienate even more voters? “Let Trump be Trump” seems to be the campaign’s new mantra. And whatever Breitbart is, it specializes in sticking its thumb into the eyes of GOP leaders.

Trump’s numbers have been tanking since the GOP convention in July in nearly all voter groups. Polls put his unfavorable ranking at about 65 percent and put him seven or eight percentage points behind Clinton, according to the Huffington Post polling aggregate. The website FiveThirtyEight gives Trump a 13.8 percent chance of winning in November and says putting Bannon in charge is “doubling down on a losing strategy.” Most polls also say Clinton is over the needed total of 270 Electoral College votes.

The Washington Post called the choice of Bannon a “middle finger to the GOP establishment.”

In Bannon, Trump has brought in the head of the most unapologetically pro-Trump conservative media outlet in the country. Basically every time Trump has run into controversy, Breitbart has found a way to defend it. The conservative outlet has morphed into more of a virulently anti-establishment, pro-Trump news outlet than anything else. Critics have taken to calling it “Trumpbart” and the “Trump propaganda arm.”

According to the Post, Bannon has encouraged Trump to run as “an unabashed nationalist” — the kind of direction that will give the establishment GOP heartburn. A former Breitbart editor-at-large said Bannon ran the organization like “Trump Pravda.”

A story in the Washington Examiner said that with Bannon’s hiring, Republicans have given up all hope of the possibility of Trump beating Clinton. Trump’s insistence on keeping up the bullying, blowhard persona that got him through the primaries and won him the nomination is “the exact opposite of what Republican insiders were looking for from Trump, and for some, there’s simply no more patience or goodwill left in the tank.” As the Examiner reported:

“Well, it looks like the Trump campaign has gone full Monty,” said a dispirited Republican operative who is publicly supporting Trump and requested anonymity in order to speak candidly.

And speaking of the full Monty, statues of a naked Trump have gone on display (at least temporarily) in New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Seattle. The statues, by a Las Vegas-based artist who uses the name of Ginger, were sponsored by an anarchist collective called INDECLINE and had the title, “The Emperor Has No Balls.”

I don’t know about you, but the image of a naked Orange Menace going full Monty is one I can do without.

This is what Democratic enthusiasm looks like

 Could you stuff any more volunteers into that room? It's lucky that the life-size cutouts of Obama and Clinton are two-dimensional. (Photo courtesy Democratic Party of Oak Park)

Could you stuff any more volunteers into that room? It’s lucky that the life-size cutouts of Obama and Clinton are two-dimensional. (Photo courtesy Democratic Party of Oak Park)

There are volunteers for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton all over the country who are donating money, knocking on doors, making phone calls, registering voters, traveling to new states, or helping out at rallies. This is the story of one very enthusiastic group.

The volunteers at the Democratic Party of Oak Park in Illinois (it’s where I live, so I get to brag) are legendary for their hard work and dedication. In 2008, to help elect Barack Obama president, an email would ask for 30 volunteers—and 60 would show up, week after week. Obama himself once called the town “Obama Park.”

So when the Clinton campaign wanted to launch its Illinois phone banking effort in the Chicago suburbs for the general election, the obvious partner was DPOP, as it’s called (pronounced DEE-POP). An email went out asking for volunteers for Sunday afternoon, hoping for 30 volunteers.

They received 119 RSVPs in just a few hours. In all, they got 171.

What do you do with all of that enthusiasm? You split people into shifts. You set up tables and tents outside in the parking lot for the overflow. You have people sit in the office and kitchen areas, propping up laptops as best they can while calling on their cell phones. You plan how to incorporate volunteers into future calling schedules.

Let’s look at some of the facts and figures:

  • The youngest volunteers were 16. The oldest were in their 70s.
  • There were more women than men, but it was a mixed group by gender, age, and race. Some volunteers were dismayed because the campaign hadn’t given them a script in Spanish—yet.
  • Of all the RSVPs, some people weren’t able to make it, or saw that the destination was farther than they thought, so the total dropped. But there were still more than 100 volunteers from the original list. And that didn’t include the usual DPOP volunteers who just always show up to help.
  • In the three scheduled hours (which ran over a bit), volunteers made 2,500 calls to voters.

This was all just on the first day.

State Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Oak Park, Chicago’s west side, and other western suburbs, was at the DPOP office for the afternoon of phone banking. He said the abundance of volunteers was a “great problem to have.”

Although DPOP has a strong group of veteran volunteers, Harmon estimated that about 80 percent of the phone-banking faces were new, according to a story in the local paper, the Wednesday Journal. Harmon, who also serves as president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate as well as on the Oak Park Democratic Committee, said “the enthusiasm could be a mixture of people responding positively to Clinton and reacting in revulsion to the possibility of a President Donald Trump. President Obama’s surging approval ratings may be helping, too.”

“Obama plus Donald Trump equals Hillary Clinton,” said Harmon. “There’s a degree of honest enthusiasm for Secretary Clinton, but there’s clearly a degree of apprehension for the alternative, which has turned people from cheerleaders into activists.”

Activists? We’ll take ‘em.

The two 16-year-old volunteers, Julie Cozette and Graham Wielgos, who obviously can’t vote in November, said that the phone-banking event was “their first time helping out with any political campaign,” according to the Journal story.

“I’m excited about the first female nominee for president,” said Cozette. She was invited to attend the phone bank by Wielgos, who noted that many of his peers were Bernie Sanders supporters.

“Last school year, there were a lot of Bernie supporters, but on Facebook, I see more and more people turning to Hillary,” said Wielgos.

Karen Fischer is executive director of DPOP. The original hours for the phone bank kickoff were 1 to 4 PM. With the overwhelming number of RSVPs, she and others reached out to potential phone-banking volunteers and asked them to come at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. “Those we couldn’t reach came at 1. The work just flowed through the afternoon, with people coming and going.”

She said the high interest in helping the Clinton campaign is a combination of two factors: Clinton’s accomplishments and Donald Trump, an alternative she called “dismal.”

Overflow volunteers worked outside under tent awnings. They received encouragement from State Sen. Don Harmon, center. (Photo courtesy of Democratic Party of Oak Park)

Overflow volunteers worked outside under tent awnings. They received encouragement from State Sen. Don Harmon, center. (Photo courtesy of Democratic Party of Oak Park)

Fischer told the story of her two sisters, one a Bernie Sanders delegate and one a Bernie voter in the primary. The Bernie delegate is now supporting Clinton. The other sister recently returned from living in the United Kingdom. After the convention, she said, “You know, I didn’t know much about Hillary. But the convention has shown me everything she’s accomplished over the years. Now I’m firmly on board.” The convention helped “to convince those Bernie supporters that Hillary’s been out there working in the trenches for years,” Fischer said.

DPOP now holds its regular phone banking hours on Wednesday nights. “This will be changing soon,” Fischer said. “We’ll expand to include other nights for downticket Democrats.” They include statewide candidates such as Rep. Tammy Duckworth, currently leading incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk in the race for Senate, and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, running for state comptroller.

“We’re not going to weekends—yet,” Fischer said. But the level of interest and enthusiasm for this election is matching and possibly surpassing the 2008 presidential race. “People are really concerned. We weren’t at this stage in 2008.” Having this many volunteers was more like the height of the 2008 GOTV effort, she added.

Longtime volunteer and political activist Bob Haisman was part of the Sunday effort, and phone banks regularly. He also mans a booth for Democratic efforts near the local farmers’ market every Saturday. Haisman, a retired teacher, said it was common knowledge that DPOP phone banks were “legendary.”

“Did someone say ‘enthusiasm gap’?” Haisman asked. “I don’t see any.”

Originally published on Daily Kos on Aug. 14, 2016.

Second Amendment threat: How far must Trump cross the line before he’s dumped?

Threatening to assassinate Hillary Clinton was all a joke. Really!

Threatening to assassinate Hillary Clinton was all a joke. Really!

Will Donald Trump’s latest outrage — insinuating that his followers might find a “Second Amendment” remedy for the problem of Hillary Clinton and who she might nominate for the Supreme Court — be the final tipping point in his presidential candidacy? Or do we merely need to wait until the next day before he says something even worse?

Let’s assume that some Americans will vote for the Orange Menace no matter what, based on the fact that he’s feeding their sense of outrage and entitlement, no matter how skewed their logic. Let’s assume that some voters identify with his reality-show brashness and their sense that he “tells it like it is,” despite the fact that nearly all of Trump’s statements have been fact-checked as “lies” from the Pulitzer Prize-winning group Politifact. (Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has been found to be the most honest of those running this year. Look it up.)

Neither Hillary Clinton nor President Barack Obama has ever — ever — made a statement asking to take anyone’s guns away. Nor has either ever said anything close to wanting to “nullify the Second Amendment.” (More of Trumps “pants-on-fire” lies, as Politifact and others have rated them.) Yet Trump repeats those charges, and his Trumpeters keep eating them up.

It’s too easy to dismiss what Trump says as the outrage du jour, or the latest ploy to keep him as the lead story in every news cycle. He’s crossed the line over and over, no matter how much his people try to walk back his statements. He’s insulted women, immigrants, Hispanics, Muslims, people with disabilities, POWs, Gold Star families — everyone short of dictators. He has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

But insinuating that his followers should take up arms against his political rival if she wins? That takes hubris to an 11 on a one-to-ten scale.

The American Psychiatric Association has warned about the public or even psychiatrists making armchair diagnoses of Trump with terms such as sociopath or narcissistic personality disorder. But everyday Americans can clearly see when a candidate has grown dangerous, no matter what term is used. And Trump has.

Rolling Stone had a story about Trump’s Second Amendment comments, calling it an “assassination dog whistle.” What’s really disturbing is the description of how Trump’s comments fit into the definition of stochastic terrorism, or using language and other forms of communication to incite individuals to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are otherwise unpredictable.

We’ve already seen that in this country and around the world. We’ve seen it from “lone wolf” devotees of the Islamic State and of white supremacy. We certainly don’t need that kind of incitement from a presidential candidate.

Yet Trump is the official nominee of the Republican Party, or what’s left of it. Some Republican politicians see Trump as their best case for staying relevant, however cynical a ploy that is.

What will it take for GOP leaders to denounce him? House Speaker Paul Ryan called the Second Amendment comment “a joke gone bad.” And he’s still endorsing him.

A Politico story said Trump’s gun comments had GOP leaders “squirming.” Trump’s campaign called it a learning experience. “A lot of times when Mr. Trump speaks, it is not as artful as a lot of people might think,” said Trump campaign Co-chair Sam Clovis.

During the primaries, the website Talking Points Memo kept an updated list of those in the GOP who were endorsing Trump. The list started with zero elected officials (there were some has-beens such as half-term Alaska Gov. $arah Palin and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown), but it gradually grew as more and more Republican office-holders reluctantly boarded the Trump train.

Now, however, TPM has a new list of GOP officials jumping off that train faster than an indicted congressman fleeing from the media. There’s a growing list of GOP senators, congressmen, former office holders, officials in past Republican administrations, etc., saying they’re now #NeverTrump. Some have said they’ll vote for Clinton; some say they’ll back Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson; some aren’t saying at all. There’s also an interactive list at the Guardian with a great graphic; it’s worth checking out just to see Trump at the center with Republicans orbiting around him.

Trump once boasted that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I still wouldn’t lose voters.” Unfortunately, he’s probably right. Not even an outright murder in broad daylight would make some voters and the GOP to dump Trump.

For the good of the country and of humanity, let’s hope most of us have more sense.

How 2016 presidential players fit in Harry Potter world


With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child now in release and the play now the hottest show in London, it struck me that there are an awful lot of similarities between the 2016 election and the magical world of Harry Potter that J.K Rowling created. So let’s get down to it: Who is who?

Hillary Clinton is Hermione Granger. I don’t know how or where it started, but several online articles and websites have equated Hillary Clinton with Harry’s classmate and good friend Hermione. Whip-smart Hermione is the best student at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, possibly the smartest one they’ve ever had. She studies constantly and searches the library for new material to devour, even reading ahead in her texts before the school year starts. She masters every class, even History of Magic, which is taught by a teacher who was so boring that he died and no one noticed. Hermione is consistently praised by all of the Hogwarts professors (except Potions teacher Severus Snape). Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and Transfiguration teacher Minerva McGonagall trusted her enough to use a time-turner in book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, allowing her to take extra classes that meet simultaneously. As Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Remus Lupin says in Prisoner of Azkaban, “You’re the cleverest witch of your age I’ve ever met, Hermione,” echoing Harry’s earlier assessment.

Of course she is! Like Hermione, Hillary Clinton masters policy details. She’s never unprepared. Hermione always earned extra points for Gryffindor with her vast knowledge and answers to questions; Hillary boosted the United States’ standing around the world during her time as secretary of state, impressing other nations’ leaders with her expertise. Hermione wasn’t afraid to stand up for house elves; Hillary wasn’t afraid to stand up for women worldwide. “She does her homework like Hermione Granger on an Adderall bender,” opined one website. There’s even a Twitter hashtag: #ImWithHermione.

I have finished reading Cursed Child but I have not booked a flight to London to see it (I wish! Also, I understand that tickets are harder to come by than the ingredients for Polyjuice Potion), but in the timeline of the new play, Hermione holds the highest office in the wizarding world: She’s the minister for magic. Sounds about right, and it’s only a matter of time until Hillary Clinton reaches the same level in the muggle world—until Jan. 20, 2017, to be exact.

So what about Donald Trump? Which character in the wizarding world does he most resemble?

Donald Trump is Gilderoy Lockhart. It was a hard decision: Voldemort or Lockhart? But in the end, I went with Lockhart.

It’s tempting to equate Trump with Lord Voldemort, and you could make an awfully good argument why. Voldemort wanted only pure-blood wizards, in the same way that Trump has pushed nativism, attracting a fair share of racists and white supremacists. They’ve both shown themselves to be small-minded, mean, and cruel. But while Voldemort might be evil, he also was a smart, talented, and powerful wizard. Trump doesn’t share those qualities. Also, many Republicans are giving Trump the “Voldemort” treatment (He Who Must Not Be Named).

Yet another theory, from Arianna Huffington, is that Trump is a dementor, one of the ethereal floating black-ragged beings that guard Azkaban prison and suck all of the happiness out of the world. She suggests that certain GOP leaders, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and House Speaker Paul Ryan, were the victims of the dreaded “dementor’s kiss” when they endorsed Trump, losing their souls in the process (not that we disagree about that). Not a bad theory, but I think there’s a better parallel.

No, Gilderoy Lockhart it is. He shares two essential characteristics with Trump: They are both basically snake-oil salesmen and con men, and they both are masters at playing the media.

Lockhart was the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in book 2, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He has an oversize ego and he can’t stop bragging about himself, always inflating his own abilities. Lockhart has made his living by stealing other people’s stories and passing them off as his own. He didn’t perform any of the magic in his best-selling books, which could just as easily be called The Art of the Magic Deal. (There’s no mention in Chamber of Secrets if Lockhart had a ghost writer, as Trump did, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Lockhart conned some other wizard into writing the books and then performed a Memory Charm to make the writer wizard forget all about it.)

What does Donald Trump do? He takes people’s money with a lot of promises and gives them little in return. He buys and constructs buildings and uses other people’s labor, walking away after a bankruptcy and leaving others with the bill. He puts his name on everything, just as Lockhart put his name all over his books.

We’ve all seen how Trump leads the media along, launching new outrages just to keep himself front and center in every news cycle. Lockhart did the same thing with The Daily Prophet, grabbing Harry for a photo to ensure front-page treatment.

It’s obviously not a perfect parallel. Although they both have memorable blond (well, orange-blond in Trump’s case) hair, Lockhart is described as handsome, and Trump is no Kenneth Branagh. Trump’s support comes mostly from men, while Lockhart is swooned over by several female characters. While Lockhart is an obvious phony, he at least tries to be nice to people, until he’s exposed as a fraud. Trump doesn’t even bother with niceties.

So what other parallels do we see in 2016 politics and the Potter world, as we reach further into Potter geekdom?

Bernie Sanders: Xenophilius Lovegood, father of Hogwarts student Luna Lovegood and editor of The Quibbler. Lovegood is often thought of as eccentric and a loner. Much of what Lovegood publishes is considered nonsense until it turns out to be true in the end (OK, there’s no such thing as a Crumple-Horned Snorkack).

Tim Kaine: He’s definitely in Hufflepuff, probably Ernie Macmillan, who joined Dumbledore’s Army.

Paul Manafort: There’s no doubt that the Trump campaign chairman was in Slytherin. I see him as Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s father. Lucius always thought other foreign magical schools were superior to Hogwarts, such as Durmstrang, from the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the same way, Manafort was once (still is?) on the payroll of a Vladimir Putin plant in Ukraine.

Ted Cruz: Draco Malfoy. There’s no doubt that the Texas senator would be in Slytherin. Even though many hate Cruz, there’s likely a grudging recognition of his influence, just as there was for Draco, even if that came from his father’s money.

(Come to think of it, most Republicans would be in Slytherin. Except congressmen like Louie Gohmert. He’d be a Squib and wouldn’t even have made it into Hogwarts.)

Chris Christie and Marco Rubio: Also in Slytherin. They remind me of Draco’s sidekicks, Crabbe and Goyle.

Newt Gingrich: Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge. It’s probably the closest Gingrich would ever get to real power ever again.

Jeb! Bush: Poor Jeb! is Nearly Headless Nick, aka the ghost of Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington, who died in a botched execution that almost but not quite removed his head. Because of this, Nick isn’t allowed to join the Headless Hunt, despite his blue-blood background. Just like Jeb! was shut out of the Republican primary, spending some $40 million per delegate for the three votes he got at the convention.

Rudy Giuliani: Definitely a Death Eater. Perhaps Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf.

Barack Obama: Harry Potter. Because, come on.

Joe Biden: Neville Longbottom. Joe Biden experienced tragedy early in his career with the loss of his wife and child; Neville’s parents were tortured with the Cruciatus Curse and were lost to him forever. Like Biden, Neville is famous for “gaffes,” but in the end, there’s not a truer or more effective friend and wizard than Neville. Or Joe Biden.

Bill Clinton: Ron Weasley. President Clinton’s intellect is far beyond Ron’s, but remember that Ron is the best player of wizarding chess, as is shown in the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Bill Clinton always strikes me as someone who plays long-term strategy for long-term wins.

Maureen Dowd: Rita Skeeter, the Daily Prophet reporter with the Quick-Quotes Quill and acid-green ink, was famous for her sensational exposés throughout the wizarding world. In Goblet of Fire, she twisted Harry’s words and deliberately made up “facts” about him to sell her stories. Despite her years of experience and expertise at The New York Times, many are disappointed in the columnist for her obvious biases against the Clintons.

Just for fun, you might enjoy this take on which Democrats are which Potter characters, even if I don’t agree with all of the characterizations. The writer thinks Hillary Clinton is Albus Dumbledore, Bernie Sanders is Remus Lupin, Elizabeth Warren is Hermione Granger, Wendy Davis is Nymphdora Tonks, and Barack Obama is both Rufus Scrimgeour and Kingsley Shacklebolt.

If you’re forgetting your Potter lore, Scrimgeour takes over the Ministry of Magic in book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Shacklebolt becomes minister in the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, after Voldemort is defeated.

Plus, Kingsley Shacklebolt is just is the coolest guy in the entire Ministry of Magic. So that works.

Originally published on Daily Kos on Aug. 7, 2016.

NOTE: When this ran on Daily Kos, readers offered their own takes on parallels between presidential players and Harry Potter world. Here were a few fun ones: Bernie Sanders as Mad-Eye Moody; Carly Fiorina as Delores Umbridge; Sarah Palin as Moaning Myrtle; Elizabeth Warren as Professor McGonagall; Warren and Tim Kaine as Molly and Arthur Weasley. My favorite might have been Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as Fred and George Weasley.

#BlackLivesMatter in public health, too

 Eric Garner died at the hands of police, but his underlying health issues are shared by too many in the black community.

Eric Garner died at the hands of police, but his underlying health issues are shared by too many in the black community.

You don’t usually associate racism and the killing of African Americans by police with health disparities, but many in the nation’s health professions, especially those in public health, know that the effect is all too real.

This is not a new idea, nor is it new as it applies to the African-American community. For years, health leaders have evaluated the threat that racism poses to the health of the black community, usually discussing it in terms of health disparities faced by black patients. Those racial disparities include measures of infant mortality, life expectancy, obesity, incidence of cancer and other diseases, mental health, and many other health outcomes. The term “health care disparity” is usually used to describe issues such as access to care, insurance coverage, vaccination rates, and quality of care. But both factors contribute to overall health disparities.

Much has been written about those topics, and regular statistics are collected and published by academics, private groups studying health care, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast amount of data is too much (and too complex) to summarize in this short space, but here are a few examples (latest available figures, 2014) from the CDC:

  • Life expectancy in years: White men, 76.5; black men, 72.0. White women, 81.1; black women, 78.1.
  • Infant mortality rates per 1,000 live births: Whites, 6.9; blacks, 11.1.
  • Hypertension rates by percentage: White men, 30.2; black men, 42.4. White women, 28.0; black women, 44.0.

But killings of unarmed black men by police add a new wrinkle to the problem of disparity and public health. Yet even that isn’t new. It’s just getting more attention.

“Black Lives Matter: A Commentary on Racism and Public Health” is a commentary in the August 2015 American Journal of Public Health. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1998, the American Public Health Association (APHA) released a policy statement on the disproportionate impact of police violence on people of color. This statement recommended strategies for reversing the trends; however, to date, there has been no record whether these policy recommendations have been implemented. The relevance of the 1998 APHA statement to the most recent incidents of racialized police violence is chilling. Yet, almost two decades later, explicit conversations about racism remain glaringly absent from most mainstream public health discourse.

“Racism is a Public Health Problem,” reads the headline of an editorial in the January 2015 issue of the Harvard Public Health Review.

Eric Garner died after a police officer violently compressed his neck and chest. This officer’s actions severely limited his ability to breathe, which already had been compromised by asthma, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease—diseases that occur at substantially higher rates among Blacks than Whites. As the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has noted, the role of racism in undermining Black health is undeniable.

In other words, the added stresses of racial discrimination exacerbate already-present health disparities. Here’s another example from The Atlantic:

Racial profiling is not only a danger to a person’s legal rights, which guarantee equal protection under the law. It is also a danger to their health.

A growing literature shows discrimination raises the risk of many emotional and physical problems. Discrimination has been shown to increase the risk of stress, depression, the common cold, hypertensioncardiovascular diseasebreast cancer, and mortality.

For those who find health data more understandable from a non-academic source, here are some examples of other effects of racism and how it affects health in the African-American community. This from a story on Think Progress, with its explanations compressed:

Racial discrimination puts black Americans at risk for long-term health problems.

According to a new study, black teens who experience racial discrimination in adolescence are more likely to develop stress-related health issues that could put them at risk for chronic diseases later in life. Specifically, researchers found that they were more likely to have higher levels of blood pressure, a higher body mass index, and higher levels of stress-related hormones once they turned 20. The psychological toll that racism takes on adults has also been well-documented, and racial discrimination has been repeatedly linked to high blood pressure.

The majority of doctors harbor “unconscious racial biases” toward their black patients.

A 2012 study found that about two-thirds of primary care doctors harbor biases toward their African-American patients, leading those doctors to spend less time with their black patients and involve them less in medical decisions. Although doctors typically aren’t aware that they’re treating African-American patients any differently, this ultimately creates an environment in which black people often don’t feel welcome in the medical system — and may start avoiding it.

Black scientists are systematically underfunded.

According to a recent analysis of grant data from the National Institute of Health (NIH), black scientists — and not other types of minorities — are less likely to receive government funding for a research project, even when they have the same credentials as their white peers. In fact, a black researcher’s chances of winning an NIH grant is 10 percentage points lower than a white researcher’s chances.

Disparities in the health care sector continue to hit the African-American community the hardest.

Thanks to structures of racism and poverty that stretch back for generations, black Americans are still more likely to lack access to surgical and emergency medical care, more likely to patronize hospitals that employ less-experienced staff, and much less likely to receive high-quality primary care.

Besides the health costs in people’s lives, health disparities have an economic cost to society. “The Costs of Racial Disparities in Health Care” is from the Oct. 1, 2015, Harvard Business Review:

Racial health disparities are associated with substantial annual economic losses nationally, including an estimated $35 billion in excess health care expenditures, $10 billion in illness-related lost productivity, and nearly $200 billion in premature deaths. Concerted efforts to reduce health disparities could thus have immense economic and social value.

An online newsletter for the American Public Health Association features a recent interview with APHA President Camara Jones, MD, MPH, PhD. Here is an excerpt from that Q&A.

Q: You’ve helped APHA identify the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of the nation. Why does the United States have an urgent need for a national conversation on racism?

A: Many in this country consider racism to be a thing of the past. They see the progress in race relations that has been made on some fronts, including the election of our nation’s first African-American president, and conclude that racism was just an unfortunate chapter in our nation’s history that has no relevance today. However, recent events have reminded us — again — that racism is very much alive and well in this country.

But it is crucial to recognize that racism is NOT simply an individual character flaw or a personal moral failing.

Racism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks — which is what we call “race” — that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.

It is very important to acknowledge that racism is a SYSTEM that involves structures, policies, practices, norms and values. Our laws and our customs, even our inaction in the face of need, perpetuate historical injustices without the need for identifiable perpetrators. Racism manifests as more than the unjust killing of black men by a few “bad apple” police officers. It manifests as structures which do not include citizen review boards for police oversight; policies that require grand juries for indictments of police officers; practices like the over-policing of black communities; norms like the blue code of silence; and values that do not recognize the basic humanity and worth of black men.

The United States has an urgent need for a national conversation on racism — not simply race — because racism is sapping the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources. But conversation is just the starting point, not the goal. We need to clearly name racism as a threat to the health and well-being of the whole society, but then we need to organize and strategize to act.

The APHA offers a four-part webinar, “The Impact of of Racism on the Health and Well-Being of the Nation,” that is available to listen to online. The organization also has an online survey for webinar participants.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on July 31, 2016.

Hey, media: GOP never had a monopoly on patriotism

Ghazala and Khizr Khan at their appearance at the Democratic National Convention, suggesting Donald Trump should read the Constitution.

Ghazala and Khizr Khan at the Democratic National Convention, suggesting that Donald Trump should read the Constitution.

Now that both parties have finished the presidential nominating processes at their national political conventions, we can look at both parties’ take-home messages, and they couldn’t be more different. The Republicans warn of the coming of the apocalypse; the Democrats look to work together to make America better. The general impression from reports of the approximately 15,000 members of the media at both conventions was that the Democrats had more success than the Republicans.

But one of the most disturbing aspects of coverage of the conventions was the media conventional wisdom that by talking about religion and (especially) patriotism, the Democrats had somehow confiscated GOP talking points. “Over four flag-waving days in Philadelphia, Democrats stole the Republicans’ mojo,” led one CNN story.

As Democratic delegates chanted “USA! USA!” and military leaders celebrated America’s power, speaker after speaker at the Democratic National Convention struck themes that have long been hallmarks of Republican rhetoric: tributes to service, sacrifice, American leadership and, above all, a repeated reaffirmation of American exceptionalism. …

“The Democratic convention was a convention of patriotism this year,” wrote Erick Erickson, a conservative radio host and blogger. “Democrats were for you. If you want to be free, the GOP was doom and gloom.”

The praise echoed many of the reactions that followed President Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday night, when conservatives took to Twitter to praise its optimism and bemoan the fact that a Republican wasn’t making it.

In case conservatives, CNN, and other media outlets haven’t noticed, Democrats have been talking about these same issues and aspects of America for a long time. It’s just been easier for the media to buttonhole the two parties into two camps, one that supposedly was “patriotic” and one whose patriotism could be questioned. It’s a simplistic way of doing journalism, without doing any real analysis, and it basically repeats Republican talking points.

It’s always been a false dichotomy. There are plenty of people in both parties who have served their country in the armed forces and in community and public service. There are members of both parties who avoided military service with deferments during the Vietnam War-era draft. There were a lot of Republican “chicken hawks” who avoided service themselves with multiple deferments yet led the country into war once they got into office. There are people in both parties who stress their faith and those who are uncomfortable doing so. Yet the media insist on painting Republicans and Democrats with a broad brush on these issues.

Consider the 2004 election. The Democratic candidate was Sen. John Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran who was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his Navy service, despite the efforts of the “swift-boat” campaign to discredit that service. The GOP candidate was President George Bush, who had avoided active duty. Yet if the media were to be believed, it was the Republicans who were the party of patriotism, even as delegates shamelessly wore Purple Heart Band-Aids on their cheeks, mocking Kerry’s service. I don’t know about you, but it didn’t seem very patriotic to me to mock a guy who actually served while your candidate tried to get by with a little desk duty.

Probably the most searing moment of this year’s Democratic convention was the speech by Khizr Khan, whose son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed by a car bomb while serving in Iraq. Khan specifically addressed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has called for banning Muslims from coming to America. Khan delivered his remarks without a teleprompter and spoke from his heart. This account is from MSNBC:

Khizr Khan, the father of the fallen 27-year-old captain, told the audience in Philadelphia, “Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son, ‘the best of America.’ If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.”

Khan, standing alongside his wife, reached into his pocket and pulled out a copy of the U.S. Constitution. “Let me ask you,” Khan said, addressing Trump directly. “Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

It was a gripping moment for all who were watching and for all who watched and read his words later. Except for those watching Fox News, of course, because the channel chose not to air Khan’s remarks, lest its viewers be exposed to patriotism from a Muslim immigrant whose family had made the ultimate sacrifice.

No. To Fox — and to too many in the media — patriotism is a one-way street, for Republicans only.


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