Saturday, July 23, 2016

Top 4 Republican Plagiarisms of the Democrats

Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, waves as she speaks during the Republican National Convention. (photo: Reuters)
Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, waves as she speaks during the Republican National Convention. (photo: Reuters)

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment
22 July 16
he scandal over Melania Trump’s stealing Michelle Obama’s lines for her convention speech should make us recall the ways in which GOP strategists have on many occasions stolen a Democratic line but put it to the opposite purpose.

But first, it is worth noting that the lines Mrs. Trump took over from Michelle included a plea that people be respected. Her husband has disrespected more people in the past year than I think any presidential candidate in history has.

Here are some instances of sticky fingers or the even more insidious ‘sticky reverse fingers’. The Republican party is forced to behave this way because it primarily represents the rich, not a very attractive program.
  1. Teddy Roosevelt took over from the democrats a critique of big corporations, then called ‘trusts,’ and used it to make himself popular.

  2. Woodrow Wilson issued his famous 14 points on the right of people to self-determination and democracy after World War I. George W. Bush took up the line about other countries’ right to democracy, but used it as a pretext to invade and occupy Iraq. I don’t think he understood that ‘self-determination’ bit very well.

  3. In his 1970 State of the Union address, Republican President Richard M. Nixon shocked Democrats in the Senate by lifting their party’s talking points on several issues almost verbatim. The Democrats had put forward ideas on fighting crime. Nixon stole them. The Democrats had sounded the alarm about the environment. Nixon took over their rhetoric. But Democratic politicians pointed out that Nixon only wanted the facade of the Democratic proposals, constructing a sort of rhetorical Potemkin Village. He would not actually ask Congress for enough money effectively to implement these proposals, and where Congress anyway appropriated the money, he refused to spend it. So he only talked about fighting pollution, taking over a Democratic issue for himself, but did not actually do as much about it as he could have. Nixon gave us Earth Day, but the air and water could have gotten a lot cleaner than he made them.

  4. When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he signed the 2006 health care law that had been in part inspired by the demand of Democratic Party activists that the number of people without health care be reduced.. But Romney went on to disavow the very similar Obamacare in the 2012 elections, and to pledge to repeal it. You get the sense some politicians only want a program if they can take full credit for it; it isn’t about the lives saved.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Grifting USA: Snake Oil Salespeople Rule the Stage at the RNC

Florida attorney general Pam Bondi. (photo: Reuters)
Florida attorney general Pam Bondi. (photo: Reuters)

By Amanda Marcotte, Salon
21 July 16
Trump is a con man, so it's no surprise that his campaign studded the speaker's list with disreputable people
hile the second half of Wednesday night’s RNC programming was dominated by the usual professional politicians one expects at events like this (and fireworks thanks to Ted Cruz) the earlier parts of the evening were downright puzzling. After Laura Ingraham worked the crowd into an orgasmic frenzy of hate towards both Hillary Clinton and the press, the hard-won energy drained out of the room as the gathered were subject to one frankly weird speech after another.

Phil Ruffin, Pam Bondi, Eileen Collins, and Michelle Van Etten: These speakers ranged from uninspiring to being Ambien in human form. Bondi managed to look alive at parts and Collins confused the audience by talking about government having roles outside of cracking skulls and kicking hippies, but it was Ruffian and Van Etten that truly made no sense from an aesthetic or political perspective.

Ruffin was a trollish man whose speech was so boring that it started to feel like a human rights violation. Van Etten, portrayed as an entrepreneur, was somehow even worse, so bad that the cringe could be felt across Twitter.

Sure, the Trump campaign is scooping from the bottom of the barrel for convention speakers, but was this really the best he could do? The crowd, as evidenced by the ecstatic response they offered Ingraham, was primed and ready to go nuts at the drop of a hat. It took effort to bore and confuse them. So one has to wonder: Why these people? Why not roll out a few more talk radio demagogues like Ingraham, since that’s clearly who the crowd wants to see?

Perhaps the reason is that three out of four of these people — more than the pundits, family members or career politicians otherwise populating the stage — represent the true heart and soul of the Trump campaign. With the exception of Collins — who  didn’t endorse Trump — and whose presence simply makes no sense at all, what these speakers have in common is a certain affection for the hucksters and grifters of the world. 

Ruffin is a casino owner, albeit a more successful one than his buddy, Trump. Bondi ostensibly has a respectable job, as the attorney general of Florida. But she is also in serious political trouble, as it came out months ago that she dropped a lawsuit against Trump University, one Trump’s most obnoxious scams, after Trump donated $25,000 to her campaign. And Van Etten is not really an entrepreneur. She’s a grifter who made her money running a multilevel marketing scam selling useless vitamin supplements.

Between these three, we get a full eyeball of what Trump means by making America “great” again, which apparently means making America safe for sleazy operators who would rather make their money through grifts and bribery than through a hard day’s work.

There’s something telling about the Trump campaign’s willingness to trot out the kind of bottom-feeders  that most Republican politicians politely pretend are not the backbone of their party. Perhaps it is a sign of unawareness, a demonstration that Trump’s people have no idea that there’s something unsavory about being unsavory.

Or perhaps it’s a savvy move, to populate the byways of a respectable institution of the RNC with snake oil salesman, in order to make their candidate seem normal instead of what he is, a lazy reality TV personality who is so bad at business that his various ventures have performed less well than putting his money in basic investment account.

Of course, that is attributing savvy to a campaign so lazy that they allowed Melania Trump, who was supposed to humanize the candidate, go out on stage with a plagiarized speech.

No, the likelier explanation for this roster of embarrassments is that these grifters are just the kind of people Trump likes and the kind of people he wants to roll out as the best and brightest that his campaign has to offer as surrogates.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Republican Convention Is a Star Wars Barroom of Conspiracy Nuts

Robert Reich. (photo: unknown)
Robert Reich. (photo: unknown)

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Facebook Page
he Republican convention of 2016 is a Star Wars barroom of conspiracy nuts, white supremacists, nativists, Birthers, gun crackpots, paranoids, anti-science fruitcakes, old-time Hillary haters, gonzo isolationists, anti-Semites, homophobes, Latinophobes, misogynists, and other know-nothings who have spent their lives on the fringes of the Republican Party, and have now taken it over.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, the presidents Bush, and other sane Republican politicians are wisely staying away from the festivities in Cleveland, but it doesn’t matter. The Party is no longer theirs. It’s under the control of people who have learned everything they know from the darkest regions of the Internet, hate radio, and Fox News. It serves the GOP right. It's been bottom-feeding on all this for years.

Yesterday, for example, Trump advisor Roger Stone told the “Citizens For Trump America First Unity Rally” that, 23 years ago, Hillary Clinton ordered thugs to move the body of Vince Foster (the Clinton family friend who committed suicide). Then Stone introduced Alex Jones, the radio host who claimed that the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, and on whose show Trump is a frequent guest.

The inmates have taken over the asylum that the GOP used to run.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pence One of Most Extreme Right-Wingnuts in U.S.

Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Facebook Page

ike Pence -- Donald Trump’s pick for vice president -- is one of the most extreme right-wing officials in America. Let us count the ways:

  1. As governor of Indiana he signed the “license to discriminate” bill allowing Indiana businesses to deny service to gays.

  2. He has tried to halt the settlement of Syrian refugees in the state.

  3. His position on abortion is so extreme that, as a member of congress, he voted for legislation that would give “personhood” rights to embryos, and defund Planned Parenthood.

  4. He also voted against measures aimed at preventing LGBT discrimination, and he supported federal legislation prohibiting same-sex marriage.

  5. He also threatened to block Hurricane Katrina reconstruction unless the money needed was offset by cuts to Medicare and the national school lunch program.

  6. He has compared Obamacare to the 9/11 attacks (although later apologized for the comment).

  7. Pence is also a favorite of the Koch brothers.

Bumper-sticker nominees:


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Fear For Our Country!

Protesters march during a demonstration near the site of the Republican National Convention on July 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Protestors are staging demonstrations ahead of the start of the Republican National Convention which starts Monday. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Protesters march during a demonstration near the site of the Republican National Convention on July 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Protestors are staging demonstrations ahead of the start of the Republican National Convention which starts Monday. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News
18 July 16

leveland – I am safe. I’m in a heavily armed city that is preparing to host the nation’s elite. I have press credentials, so the police deployed all over the city will have my back. As I hear reports from Baton Rouge, I look out the window of the deli where I’m eating lunch and see police on every corner. I am safe, but I fear for my country.

Baton Rouge and Dallas will not be isolated incidents. Rage in the African American community is boiling over. I stood in a crowd of about 150 yesterday listening to militant black nationalists make a case for throwing off the chains of the oppressive “white” government.

While I don’t agree with their methods, I do understand their anger. I feel like I am watching the same dynamics that existed in the 60s. There are the black leaders who would have been aligned with Dr. King, and there is a new movement that would have aligned with Malcolm X.

The resurgence of a black nationalist movement should not be taken lightly. One speaker sent chills down my spine when he said we should not fear death, we are all going to die someday. The government is not threatened, but our personal security is. Al Qaeda and ISIS have shown that it doesn’t matter if you are outgunned – you can shatter the psyche of a country with terrorist attacks. Especially if those carrying them out are prepared to die.

Their target is a society that has oppressed them for 400 years. Many speakers pointed out that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson took up arms for much less than what we have put African Americans through for 400 years.

Back is the red, black and green flag. There is a new Black Panther Party. We won’t defeat them with force. Violence begets more violence. Look at what is happening in the Middle East. We have created a new generation of terrorists there.

We are creating a new generation of terrorists here. We need a real war on poverty and institutional racism. We don’t need a racist president like Donald Trump. As Cleveland honors Donald Trump and hosts his racist supporters, I fear for my country.

Monday, July 18, 2016

US-Mexico poll finds opposition to Trump's wall

image title
July 18, 2016

Survey from ASU's Cronkite News, Univision and Dallas Morning News also shows respondents find election politics damaging

The overwhelming majority of residents living along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are opposed to the construction of a wall between their countries, according to a major bilingual poll released Monday by Arizona State University’s Cronkite News, Univision News, and The Dallas Morning News.

The Cronkite News-Univision News-Dallas Morning News Border Poll found:
• 86 percent of border residents in Mexico and 72 percent of border residents in the U.S. were against building a wall between Mexico and the U.S.
• Compared to other border issues, 77 percent of border residents in Mexico and 70 percent of border residents in the U.S. described building the wall as “not important.”
In addition, a majority of residents along both sides of the border also see the tone of the U.S. presidential campaign as potentially damaging for relations between the two countries (Mexico: 69 percent; U.S.: 59 percent).

“As a journalist, I hope this poll serves as a bridge in bringing two countries closer by shining a light on the border, a vibrant, complex and often misunderstood region where people on both sides have more in common than the differences that are too often highlighted,” said Alfredo Corchado, the former Dallas Morning News Mexico City bureau chief who now serves as an editor on the borderlands desk at Cronkite News.

The poll surveyed 1,427 residents in 14 cities along the U.S.-Mexico border to assess attitudes and opinions on important election issues such as the local economy, immigration and border security. Part of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Cronkite News is the student-staffed, professionally led news division of Arizona PBS.

The survey was conducted in April and May by Baselice & Associates Inc., a public research opinion firm based in Austin, Texas, with extensive experience in the Southwest.

“While people in Mexico and the United States have opinions about the border, this unique survey explores the opinions of people who live along that border,” said pollster Mike Baselice, president of Baselice & Associates. “We have the benefit of having asked several of the questions in this survey 15 years ago. Therefore, this survey tracks similarities and differences along with the responses to new questions.”

In comparison to the 2001 poll, opinions on the status of the border region have become less favorable. In 2001, roughly 40 percent of residents on both sides of the border felt the region had gotten better. When asked the same question this year, less than 20 percent said the region had gotten better.

The 2016 poll, which had an overall margin of error of 2.6 percent, surveyed residents in seven pairs of “sister cities” stretching from California/Baja California to Arizona/Sonora and Texas/Tamaulipas.

It showed that residents in neighboring border communities were deeply connected. Both share similar concerns for their families on issues such as safety, jobs and education.

• When asked: “Do you like your neighbors in U.S./Mexico?” 86 percent of U.S. border residents said yes, as did 79 percent of border residents in Mexico.
• When asked: “Which of the following best describes how much your city depends on your sister city across the border?” 79 percent of U.S. border city residents and 69 percent of Mexico’s border city residents said their cities are either “somewhat dependent” or “very much dependent” upon each other.
• When sister city residents (such as those in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Chihuahua) were asked if they favored or opposed allowing workers to cross the border to work and then return home, 76 percent of U.S. border residents and 85 percent of border residents in Mexico were in favor.

“The U.S.-Mexico border is a major issue this election year,” said Christopher Callahan, Cronkite School dean and Arizona PBS CEO. “This extraordinary poll captures the voices of the people who actually live and work along the border, providing a critical component to the national discourse this election season and showing how united border residents are on many issues.”

In addition to publishing the poll’s results, Univision News has assigned a seasoned television reporter and a team of digital journalists to focus on its most relevant findings. Univision Network’s national newscast, “Noticiero Univision,” will feature their reporting during the week of the poll’s publication, while Univision News’ website,, will launch a permanent section dedicated to border issues that will include the poll-related stories, videos and graphics prepared specifically by its team of journalists as well as other stories dealing with life on the border.

“In the midst of an exceptionally contentious presidential election in which immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border have become hot topics, this poll provides a fascinating and underreported perspective that may surprise many voters,” said Daniel Coronell, president of News, Univision Communications, Inc. “Univision News has always given special attention to all aspects of the immigration debate, and now during the 2016 election cycle we are even more committed to being Hispanic America’s go-to source of information and analysis on border-related issues. This poll and our new dedicated digital section are two examples of this focus.”

The Dallas Morning News, part of A. H. Belo Corporation, will feature a multimedia package of stories on its website,, as well as a full print report in its July 18 and July 19 editions. The news package includes a close look at how residents in Texas towns from El Paso to Brownsville view life along the border.

“The Dallas Morning News is proud to be a partner in this project,” said Mike Wilson, editor of The Dallas Morning News. “Polling people on both sides of the border provides special insight into issues affecting both countries and gives readers — and political leaders — some of the information they need to make effective public policy decisions.”

The Cronkite News Borderlands team of students, led by award-winning veteran journalists Corchado and Angela Kocherga, has produced multimedia packages and reports for the Cronkite News nightly newscast, which reaches 1.9 million households in Arizona, and the Cronkite News website.

“This election year, a lot of people are talking about the border and the wall but not to border residents,” Kocherga said. “Those who live on the border know the issues firsthand, and they are directly affected by policies. This groundbreaking poll reflects their views.”

This summer, Cronkite News student journalists have traveled to the border, interviewing residents in English and Spanish about the Border Poll. Cronkite student Courtney Pedroza visited seven border cities between Nogales, Arizona, and Laredo, Texas, to interview people and document their issues and concerns.

“Working on this border poll opened my eyes to a community I hadn’t really seen before,” Pedroza said. “One I don’t think people understand well. With my camera, it gave me the opportunity to document their lives, hopes and frustrations.”

The Cronkite News-Univision-Dallas Morning News Border Poll was funded by the media partners and the public through the crowdfunding platform, Beacon, which matched the contributions.

Between the three news organizations, numerous stories and graphics are being produced for this project.

“Our Borderlands team is committed to telling stories of life in the region,” said Kevin Dale, executive editor of Cronkite News at Arizona PBS. “This project with our partners at Univision and The Morning News illuminates the issues and concerns faced every day by those residents.”

Top photo: Courtney Pedroza, Cronkite News

Sunday, July 17, 2016

4 Reasons Mike Pence Is the Absolute Worst

Trump's VP pick Indiana governor Mike Pence. (photo: Michael Conroy/AP)
Trump's VP pick Indiana governor Mike Pence. (photo: Michael Conroy/AP)

By Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone
Trump's potential VP pick may offer ballast to his ticket, but he clearly does not offer balance

onald Trump is likely to name Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a former Congressman, as his running mate Friday, according to the Indianapolis Star (though Trump could still surprise us and go with Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie).

A colorless politician with executive experience, Pence may offer ballast to the Trump ticket. But he clearly does not offer balance. On many of the most important issues of our time, Pence is a hard-line right-winger.

Here's why Mike Pence is a threat to progressives everywhere.

1. He signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
In April, Gov. Pence signed into law a bill that forbids abortion on the basis of fetal chromosomal abnormalities, including Down syndrome, among other factors. The law further bans fetal-tissue donation — requiring any aborted or miscarried fetus to be cremated or buried. And it placed onerous restrictions on abortion providers nearly identical to those that the Supreme Court recently found unconstitutional in Texas.

2. He signed a bill that made it OK for Indiana businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.In 2015, Pence signed a "religious freedom" law, whose sweeping language permitted Indiana businesses to refuse to serve LGBT Americans, much like Southern businesses used to discriminate against African-Americans during the days of segregation.

Backlash against the law was swift and intense. Pence was forced to quickly sign a bill amending the legislation, which the governor claimed had been subject to "mischaracterizations."

3. He blocked the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana — and illegally tried to cut off federal aid to existing refugees.In the wake of the massacre in Paris last fall, Pence issued an executive order to block the resettlement of Syrian war refugees in Indiana. Not content to keep new war widows and orphans out of the state, Pence upped the xenophobic ante by also trying to cut off federal aid to those already in the state. A federal judge blocked Pence's action, writing that the governor's order "clearly constitutes national origin discrimination" and "in no way directly, or even indirectly, promotes the safety of Indiana citizens."

4. He's an unreconstructed drug warrior.  At a time when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are tackling the nation's drug problems with less focus on incarceration, Pence signed a bill to reinstating a mandatory minimum drug sentence. Many drug users sell drugs on the side to support their addictions. Thanks to Pence, any Indiana resident convicted twice for selling meth or heroin is now sentenced to a full decade in prison. Expressing his pleasure at signing a law stripping judges of discretion in drug sentencing, Pence declared, "We need to make it clear that Indiana will not tolerate the actions of criminals."