Saturday, May 28, 2016
Those rallying to Donald Trump's standard seem to be divided into two camps. One is motivated by hate and racism and a desire to go backward in time both in terms of restoring white privilege and unchallenged supremacy and to when progress had not shaken what was viewed as the status quo. The other camp, perhaps in a wild gamble seems to believe that Trump will usher in a new Gilded Age - long a goal of many in the GOP establishment, in my view. Both camps want to under value progress and the benefits that modernity has brought. This is especially true of Christofascists and blue collar workers who feel they have lost the deference and respect they believe they once enjoyed. A column in the Washington Post looks at this possible motivation - and the danger it poses for the nation. 1930's German's wanted to Germany restored to past power and prosperity and what they got was ultimately a nightmare. Here are column highlights:
Some theories of Trumpism — or of Austria’s Hoferism or Britain’s Brexitism — emphasize voters’ misfortunes: conventionally measured, middle-class incomes are stagnant. But this theory of populism’s rise is not fully convincing. Standard measures of incomes leave out the eye-popping array of stuff we don’t actually pay for — the technocopia of free Internet searching, messaging services, selfie apps, exercise programs, YouTube videos and so on. What’s more, populism afflicts countries where even conventional measurement shows progress. Poland and Hungary have both seen gross domestic product per person roughly triple since 2000. But both countries are in the grip of populist strongmen.
A more convincing theory of populism is that it can sometimes be the product not of stagnation but of progress — particularly the sort of progress generated by the disrupters of techland. Like migration or globalization, fast technological change is both positive and disorienting; it clutters life with minor stresses, like bewildering TV remotes and dual-key passwords, but also with existential ones, like the specter of intelligent robots stealing all the jobs. Of course, the grumbling about these costs may be illogical, given technology’s huge benefits. But people aren’t logical.
[T]he biases identified by behavioral economists tell you plenty about Trump. Why are his backers so resentful of a world in which incomes, properly measured, have probably done respectably? Well, a classic behavioral game involves offering a player $1 on the condition that another player gets $9. Even though a “rational” actor would accept the $1 gain in income, most real people resent others doing better, and they feel that resentment passionately enough to reject an offer that would make them better off.
Then there is the strange matter of people’s attitude to loss. Behavioral economics finds that people suffer “loss aversion” — they fear losing $10 more than they celebrate a gain of the same size. This helps to explain why Trump’s supporters fear threats more than they welcome opportunities — whether these arise from migration, globalization or technology. At the same time, however, “prospect theory” suggests that, once people have suffered losses, they will gamble recklessly to recoup them. This insight is usually wheeled out to explain why investors hang on to stocks that have lost value, or why losing football teams attempt “Hail Mary” passes.
There could be no greater Hail Mary gamble than voting for Trump. given the populist crisis, the world needs a response of an equivalent size. Policies that promote growth and efficiency must be balanced with policies promoting fairness and security. Just as banks now hold more capital, even at the expense of their return on equity, so society must be prepared to tax more progressively, curb runaway executive pay and fix the gaps in social safety nets. Schemes such as wage insurance, which pay subsidies to displaced workers when they move into lower-paying occupations, may seem dauntingly expensive. They are a lot less expensive than electing populist firebrands.
The Southern Poverty Law Center ("has released a new report on "ex-gay" conversion therapy and the frauds and quacks who advocate for and psychologically torture - and sometimes physically, as well - gays who more often than not are forced into the therapy by their parents, the majority of whom view themselves as "godly Christians." For those unfamiliar with the SPLC, it was founded in 1971 by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. to work to ensure that the promise of the civil rights movement became a reality for all. Originally focused on the civil rights of African Americans, SLPC later expanded its focus and now works to ensure civil rights of children, women, the disabled, immigrants and migrant workers, members of the LGBT community, and many others who faced discrimination, abuse or exploitation. In the process it identifies and works to oppose hate groups of all stripes, including those who hide behind the cloak of religion. A number of so-called "family values" Christian organization which are sadly provided a platform by a lazy mainstream media have been certified as hate groups because of the deliberate lies and hatred they promote against the LGBT community and others.
This past week, SPLC released a report of the fraudulent and potentially deadly "ex-gay" conversion therapy industry which is financed by hate groups and involves unscrupulous quacks and religious extremists. The lengthy report, which looks at some of the leading quacks of the "industry," can be found here. It is crucial to remember that behind the support for "ex-gay" conversion therapy, there is the anti-gay political agenda of those I call Christofascists and other right wing religious groups. It is also important to keep in mind, that such therapy is very lucrative for the parasite like practitioners who promise to do the impossible. For my part, I am proud that I helped expose Michael Johnston as a fraud and also first unearthed Arthur Goldberg's criminal record. Here are some report highlights:
Will standing in a circle of naked men deep in the woods turn gay men straight? Is disrobing in front of a mirror alone with your therapist and then touching “your masculinity” a cure for homosexuality? Does beating a pillow representing your mother really help develop “healthy” relationships with other men?
The men and women who people this industry known as “conversion,” “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapists are like modern-day phrenologists, the “experts” beloved by the Nazis who thought they could identify inferior human beings by measuring their subjects’ skulls. They employ theories that have been thoroughly debunked by virtually all relevant medical associations. They cite bizarre studies that were shot down decades ago as key documents. They use techniques that were described in court by one expert as “worse than snake oil.” They are quacks.
[T]he promotion of conversion therapy has a cynical side. If being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is merely a chosen behavior, one that can be “fixed” with the right mental health treatment, then criticizing LGBT people for their sexual choices is akin to simply criticizing bad behavior. Unlike attacking someone for their skin color, reparative therapists can condemn the gay “lifestyle” and still claim that they are not LGBT-hating bigots.
The real science is perfectly clear. A consensus of the vast majority of psychiatrists, psychologists and other counselors and their professional organizations agree that homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality. Likewise, they condemn reparative therapy and other attempts to change sexual orientation.
This report is built around revelations that emerged from a lawsuit that was tried in New Jersey last year. Represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other attorneys, several gay plaintiffs sued Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH (formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), under a state consumer fraud law.
The case did not go well for JONAH. The judge in the case barred almost all testimony from the six experts proffered by the defendants, saying that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it instead is outdated and refuted.” In the end, the plaintiffs won a hands down victory and JONAH went out of business. But in depositions and the trial itself, the creepy world of reparative therapy was laid bare.
Based on this study, the SPLC recommends several steps:
· At a minimum, states and localities should outlaw the provision of conversion therapy to minors. Already, four states and two cities have passed such laws. Many more are considering similar action.
· Congress should pass the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act introduced last year by U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) A companion bill was filed in the Senate this April by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The legislation would classify conversion therapy as a fraudulent practice under the Federal Trade Commission Act, making it illegal to advertise or sell.
· Professional associations licensing psychiatrists, psychologists and other counselors should sanction members who engage in it.
· Insurers, both private and public, should refuse to reimburse claims made by reparative therapists.
If these things are not done, if the quacks who make up the reparative therapy business are not stopped, lives will continue to be ruined.
James Phelan, Joseph Berger, Christopher Doyle and Joseph Nicolosi all key figures in the conversion therapy movement wrote lengthy reports to the judge outlining their purported expertise. Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. barred them all.
Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy, is on the ropes. Virtually all relevant U.S. medical associations plus, just this March, the world’s largest professional association of psychiatrists have condemned it. In the last four years, four states and two cities have outlawed its use with minors. One after another, both secular and religious ex-gay groups have been embarrassed by gay sex scandals involving their founders or top officers. And the civil suit against JONAH which produced hair raising testimony about nude counseling sessions, group cuddling exercises, bizarre re-enactments and other “therapy” exposed the creepy world of the conversion therapy industry and the quacks who run it.
But there was a more cynical reason as well. If being gay, lesbian or transgender was a “choice,” as most of the religious and secular right contended, then criticizing the LGBT community would be akin to simply criticizing bad behavior. It was, in other words, fundamentally different than skin color, over which people have no control. The tactic was seen as a firewall against being attacked as gay-hating bigots. While reparative therapists might condemn the gay “lifestyle,” they could still claim to be simply trying to help people clean up their unhealthy and unhappy lives.
At the same time, with the rise of many types of religious fundamentalism, growing numbers of young men and women felt painful conflicts between their own urges and the prohibitions of their faiths. As a result, there was an enormous market of Christians, Jews, Mormons and others who faced condemnation by their co-religionists if they acted on their attractions to members of their own sex.
In 1998, the drive to portray homosexuality as changeable culminated in a $600,000 newspaper ad campaign, entitled “Truth in Love,” that was funded by 15 religious-right groups “the Normandy landing of the culture war,” according to a Family Research Council official. The poster children of this campaign were John and Anne Paulk, who said they were formerly gay but now happily married. A photo of the couple ran on the cover of Newsweek under the headline “Gay for Life?”
After the religious right’s expensive 1998 ad campaign brought the reparative therapy movement to national attention, things went from bad to worse.
John Paulk, who had been the ex-gay poster boy for the 1998 ad campaign, was removed from his position as Exodus board chairman after LGBT activist Wayne Besen photographed him in a Washington, D.C., gay bar. Although Paulk initially dissembled about his reasons for being there, some 15 years later, in 2013, he would divorce his wife and say, “I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.”
Paulk’s fellow ad campaign star, Michael Johnston, soon ran into trouble of his own. Johnston, who had been featured in 1998 TV ads touting reparative therapy and was the founder of “National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day,” was accused in 2003 of infecting men he met via the Internet with HIV. The American Family Association, which had partly funded the ad campaign, acknowledged that Johnston, who was featured in its “It’s Not Gay” video, had had a “moral fall.” Nevertheless, the group, after initially stopping, soon resumed distributing its video.
In 2010, NARTH officer and scientific advisory board member George Rekers was exposed for traveling abroad with a male prostitute. He denied sexual contact with the man, saying he was merely helping to carry luggage, but the man told a wholly different story. Rekers resigned from NARTH’s board a week later.
The reparative therapy movement was also seriously damaged as professional organization after professional organization followed the lead of the American Psychiatric Association in declassifying homosexuality as a disorder.
In November 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against JONAH, founder Arthur Goldberg, affiliated counselor Alan Downing, and Alan Downing Life Coaching LLC. Although the suit would not go to trial until 2015, the 2014 depositions of JONAH’s would be experts already foreshadowed problems in the courtroom.
Some of what came out in those depositions was astonishing. One of the purported experts had cited a study by a “therapist” who turned out, unbeknownst to him, to be a massage therapist. Another’s articles had been published in a “journal” that charges authors $35 a page. Most cited studies that dated back to the 1960s and before and had long been discredited; one of them was a 1947 article on extrasensory perception. One man denied news reports that he had claimed success rates of 75-90%. Another described how clients needed to insist on taking female dates to the restaurant they chose to assert their masculine authority or risk finding themselves attracted to a waiter. The practice of a New Guinea tribe that encourages young boys to consume as much semen from older men as possible was cited with approval as an exercise in building heterosexuality.
And it came out that Goldberg, who had allowed himself to be addressed as “doctor” and “rabbi” although he was neither, was a convicted con man. In 1989, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in a $2 billion municipal bond scheme. The prosecutor said Goldberg, who was later disbarred, was a man who “habitually took advantage of people” and “did not hesitate to lie or cheat or cover up.”
On June 24, 2015, the jury in Judge Bariso’s courtroom unanimously found JONAH had committed consumer fraud and engaged in unconscionable commercial practices under New Jersey law by selling services that it claimed could change clients from gay to straight. In December, as part of a settlement, JONAH agreed to close its doors and its principals promised to cease all related commerce and to resign any leadership posts in ex-gay groups. The plaintiffs were awarded $72,400, and JONAH agreed to pay some of their legal fees.
Friday, May 27, 2016
|Anti-gay extremist, Rep. Allen|
Sometimes I get accused of going too far when I equate Christofascists with Islamic extremists, the argument being that the Christofascists do not commit terror attacks and/or kill people. Even that defense is not true, although to date murders by Christofascist, thankfully, have been in relatively small numbers. What is totally the same between both groups is their willingness to cling to the writings of uneducated - and arguably mentally unstable - individuals from centuries ago and advocate for the murder of others. Shockingly, we saw this happen in the U.S. House of Representatives Georgia Rep.
House Republicans at a conference meeting heard a Bible verse that calls for death for homosexuals shortly before the chamber voted Thursday morning to reject a spending bill that included an amendment barring LGBT discrimination.
Whether the freshman member who gave the prayer intended to condemn members of the LGBT community has left Republicans and Democrats deeply divided. What's certain is that the Energy-Water appropriations bill ( HR 5055 ) that came to the floor later in the morning was defeated on a resounding 112-305 vote, with a majority of the GOP caucus in opposition.
Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen led the opening prayer by reading from Romans 1:18-32, and Revelations 22:18-19. An aide to Allen told CQ that Allen did not mention the upcoming vote on the Energy-Water spending bill or an amendment it included from Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York that would prevent federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Passages in the verses refer to homosexuality and the penalty for homosexual behavior. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet,” reads Romans 1:27, which Allen read, according to his office.
Maloney, who heard about the Republican conference prayer from another representative, said the prayer and the vote should tell Americans about the values Republicans hold.
“To suggest that protecting people from being fired because of who they are means eternal damnation, then I think they are starting to show their true colors,” Maloney said.
“I think we are living in a new world of Donald Trump and a Republican Party that is driving itself further and further away from common sense and further toward a radical approach to government,” he said.
I have written frequently about my "coming out" journey - the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of it, including two serious suicide attempts. It's an experience that heterosexuals cannot contemplate since they have never had to admit to others who they are and then wait to see if they will be rejected -or fired, in the case of coming out to employers. I have come out to past employers and was fired for being gay in 2004 by a sizable local law firm. The economic fall out was catastrophic and included a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. Sadly, those of us in the LGBT community find ourselves faced with having to "come out" over and over again. Case in point, while I was at a doctors appointment today, the doctor kept referring to my wife even though all of my paperwork cited my husband. Thus, I was faced with having to correct the narrative by in effect "coming out" yet again. Marriage equality has helped a great deal, but the issue remains alive and well. A piece in The Advocate looks at this sad - and sometimes emotionally draining - reality. Here are excerpts:
We talk about coming out as if it’s something you only do once. In my experience it’s an ongoing part of life. Sometimes it’s easy, and other times it makes my stomach flutter.
I first came out as a lesbian 30 years ago, when I was still in college. Initially I was very careful about who I shared this tender information with. In 1985 being gay felt both like being part of a special club and living in a freak show. Over time, I widened the circle of people I told. Sometimes I was praised for being courageous, and other times I was treated with contempt or confusion. One of the more memorable responses to my coming out was when my sister-in-law’s 60-year-old mother said, while we were cooking Thanksgiving dinner, “I’ve seen that on the Phil Donahue show, but never met one before.”
In 1991 my partner, Rinda, and I had a service of commitment in our Unitarian Universalist Church. Most of our family members came, and as far as I was concerned I was out to the world. It was a done deal.
Little did I know that becoming a parent would force me to be out in whole new way. It started at the birth in the hospital where I had to justify my relationship with my own child at every change of shift. Some nurses were tickled pink to be working with an “alternative” family. But others were confused, offended, or outright hostile. Looking back, I wonder how well I explained the situation, sleep-deprived as I was.
At restaurants, waitresses would casually ask, “Who’s her mother?” Rinda and I would stare at each other, unprepared at first. Eventually we learned to say, “We both are. We’re a couple.”
So I learned to say enough without saying too much. And I learned to uncover what I was really being asked. And I learned when to give a 10-second explanation and when to have a longer conversation. And I learned to let our children take the lead as they grew older. And I learned to say the word “wife.”
I never expected to be a wife or have a wife, but now I am one and I have one. It’s turned out to be the best thing ever, because that single word conveys so much, so clearly. Without any further explanation, total strangers understand my relationship to Rinda. “Girlfriend,” “partner,” “life mate” require more sentences to be certain that I’m being understood. But “wife” is completely clear.
The federal legal recognition that came last year brought more ease and clarity to my life than I had expected. After all, we’d been married in our hearts and souls since 1991. And our marriage was recognized in the state of California. What could a federal blessing of our marriage give us that we didn’t already have?
It turns out, a lot. Now that we were “out” to the federal government, when we got a mortgage we knew how to hold title. In the past we had long conversations with the title company, and all of us were just making a guess about the best way for us to hold title as a couple who were legally married in California, but not at the federal level. We only have to fill out one joint federal tax return, which can be used for our state return.
The potential cost of coming out is rejection. But the cost of being hidden, of living in shame, is far greater. And the opportunities that coming out affords are enormous. Coming out as a lesbian has given me the courage to come out as an artist, a writer, a Black Lives Matter activist, and a person of faith. It’s allowed me to be more of my authentic self in so many ways, and hopefully gives others the courage to do the same. And it’s given people permission to tell me their stories of spiritual and personal growth, connecting us across differences, but reminding us of our shared humanity.
I spent the bulk of my life in self-deception, self-hatred and denial of reality. Coming out proved to be a financial catastrophe. However, the sense of freedom and long underachieved self-acceptance has been priceless. Would that more in the straight community had a clue of the pain and emotional harm that they inflict daily on LGBT individuals. Sadly, the "godly" Christofascist care nothing about the harm they do or the lives they destroy.
By all reports, today Donald Trump secured enough delegates to win the Republican Party 2016 presidential nomination. This event confirms that the debasement and decline of the GOP into moral bankruptcy is now complete. What is equally disturbing is the manner in which far too many Republicans are rallying to Trump, motivated, of course out of self-promotion rather than a shred of concern about the good of the nation. Disgustingly, Marco Rubio today joined the ranks of those prostituting themselves to Trump. Tawdry whore have more integrity and virtue than those in the Republican Party pledging allegiance to Trump. Again, the parallels to what happened in 1930's Germany are chilling. The good of the citizenry and the good of the nation means nothing compared to self-promotion. A piece in New York Magazine looks at both the lies and hypocrisy of Trump and, by extension, those seeling their souls to him. Here are highlights:
On February 7, Donald Trump told an audience of supporters in New Hampshire that he would represent their interests, but Jeb Bush would not, because Bush was in the pocket of special interests. Trump singled out Woody Johnson, the heir to a pharmaceutical fortune, owner of the New York Jets, and contributor to Bush. Trump suggested, not unreasonably, that Johnson’s support would ensure that Bush would never allow the federal government to negotiate for lower prescription-drug prices. I don't get any money from any of these special interests, and I know the special interests — I know them better than anybody. But I don't want their money,” he said. “So tell me, let me ask you: Do you think Jeb Bush is going to make drug prices competitive?” he asked. The crowd shouted, “No!”
This week Trump announced that Johnson would serve as vice-chair of the Trump Victory Fund. “He’s a terrific guy, he’s been a friend of mine a long time,” Trump announced. It was a head-spinning move — the very man Trump had held up as the embodiment of corruption, and whose funds he pledged never to accept, would now take a prominent role as a Trump fund-raiser. Donald Trump is a wildly promiscuous liar. He also has disturbing authoritarian tendencies. Trump’s many critics have seized upon both traits as his two major disqualifications for the presidency, yet both of them frustratingly defy easy quantification. All politicians lie some, and many of them lie a lot, and most presidents also push the limits of their authority in ways that can frighten their opponents. So what is so uniquely dangerous about Trump? Perhaps the answer is that both of these qualities are, in a sense, the same thing. His contempt for objective truth is the rejection of democratic accountability, an implicit demand that his supporters place undying faith in him. Because the only measure of truth he accepts is what he claims at any given moment, the power his supporters vest in him is unlimited.
The normal rules of political lying hold that when the lie has been exposed, or certainly when it has been confessed, the jig is up. You have to stop lying about it and tell the truth, or at least retreat to a different lie. Trump bends the rules of the universe to his own will, at no apparent cost. His brazenness is another utterly unique characteristic. His confidence that he can make the truth whatever he wishes at any moment, and toggle back and forth between incompatible realities at will, without any cost to himself, is a display of dominance. Possibly Trump’s most important statement of the campaign was his idle boast that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue without losing any votes. Finally, there is Trump’s habit of settling all disputes with his own peculiar form of ad hominem. He dismisses all criticisms of his statements and his record with an array of put-downs, and likewise confirms all endorsements with praise. Anybody who disagrees with Trump is ugly, short, corrupt, a loser, a habitual liar, a total joke, and so forth.
Truth and reason are weapons of the powerless against the powerful. There is no external doctrine he can be measured against, not even conservative dogma, which he embraces or discards at will and with no recognition of having done so. Trump’s version of truth is multiple truths, the only consistent element of which is Trump himself is always, by definition, correct. Trump’s mind is so difficult to grapple with because it is an authoritarian epistemology that lies outside the democratic norms that have shaped all of our collective experiences.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Related to the theme in the last post is a historical review in a piece in Salon that looks at the way in which progressive policies - democratic socialist policies, if you will - save America from the fate that befell Europe in the 1930's and 1940's. Sadly, since the Reagan era, the very policies and political norms that made America great socially and economically have been seriously eroded - mostly because of policies pushed by the right/Republicans and too often acquiesced in by Democrats. The solution to America's funk and the economic stress faced by more and more Americans is not Donald Trumps calls to fascism, but instead more progressive policies that can undo the damage wrought on the middle and working class. Here are article excerpts:
About a year after the launch of both Sen. Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns, it’s easy to conclude that the anti-establishment backlash of 2016 was somewhat inevitable. The incredulity that many in the establishment felt when these two candidates first climbed the polls and took their respective primaries by storm has passed, and now that Trump has locked up the Republican nomination, nothing seems beyond the realm of possibility (including, terrifyingly enough, a Donald Trump presidency).Both Sanders and Trump have tapped into a widespread discontent with the political system, as well as a decline in economic prospects that many Americans have experienced since the Great Recession. But while the media has labeled them both “populist” (which is fair enough, populist can be an ambiguous term), the two candidates have diametrically opposed worldviews, with very different solutions (And I’m being generous by suggesting that Trump actually has any kind of real solutions).
Sanders is a democratic socialist, Trump is a right-wing nationalist (although some mainstream commentators have simply gone with “fascist”). The one thing that they do have in common, however, is that they are both leading revolts against the neoliberal status quo, which has prevailed for the past several decades.
The neoliberal era began sometime in the 1970s, following what is commonly called the Keynesian era, i.e. the post-War period (1945-1970s), which saw unprecedented economic growth and prosperity in the West, along with the spread of Social democracy in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States. During this period, the capitalist system became gentler and friendlier towards the proletariat, which was not an accident.
By the time Keynes published his epochal book, Hitler and the Nazi’s had destroyed Germany’s short Democratic experiment, while Stalin had attained autocratic control in the Soviet Union. The capitalist system was being threatened from both sides, and its volatility and excesses had made it vulnerable to radical movements and revolt from below.
Keynes wanted to save market capitalism from itself by curbing its inequities and limiting the instability of the business cycle to help stave off extreme political movements that were threatening its very existence.
And in America and Europe this is exactly what Social democracy did. FDR’s New Deal rejected laissez-faire capitalism and promoted a mixed economy with strong labor unions and safety nets, which helped avert radical movements — particularly from the left. Economic inequality steadily declined during this period and wages increased proportionately with productivity. The proletariat became the middle class, and capitalism became an economic system that promoted widespread prosperity (of course, in America, minorities — especially African Americans — were largely excluded from this prosperity for decades). There was no longer any need for radicalism, and right-wing extremists were pushed to the fringe of the GOP (Dwight Eisenhower was the first Keynesian Republican).
Economic deregulation, corporatist trade deals, massive tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization, welfare reform, union busting; these reactionary policies were embraced to an extent by both parties, and as the Democrats shifted to the right, the Republicans went even further.
Since this era began, labor unions have been decimated, while corporations have acquired unprecedented economic and political power. This is the direct opposite of what happened in the post-war period, when labor unions and workers managed to secure great political power and stand up to their employers, i.e. capitalists. Not surprisingly, the majority of workers have seen their wages — even as productivity has increased rapidly — while the top one percent of income earners have seen their compensation surge. Additionally, since the recession, the top one percent of earners have .
Now, some may be thinking: what does this all have to do with the 2016 election? . . . . Donald Trump has ridden a wave of right-wing populism that is reminiscent of another popular movement of Keynes’ time. In his widely shared column in the Washington Post, “,” Robert Kagan describes Trump’s strongman appeal, which is frighteningly similar to the appeal of 20th century fascist leaders.
[R]ather than offering real solutions, Trump has employed the same kind of scapegoating of minorities and foreigners that fascist leaders once used. Even on trade, instead of directing his rhetoric at the real foes — i.e. corporations and their incessant drive cheap labor and intellectual property expansions — he has gone after foreign countries and their impoverished citizens, who are exploited by American corporations.
History seems to be repeating itself, as it is apt to do. Over the past 40 years, the capitalist system has reverted back to being a highly unequal and unstable economic system, engendering widespread discontent; and in the wake of the Great Recession, both the left and right have made a political comeback. Neoliberalism has failed, and is now facing widespread revolt. The election of Trump is a terrifying prospect, but even more terrifying is the neo-fascist — otherwise known as the “alt-right” — movement that he has helped create.
Eighty years ago, Social democracy provided an alternative to the volatile and exploitive system of laissez faire capitalism, and warded off extremist politics; . . . . today’s era may require even more radical solutions (especially when considering the existential threat of climate change). But it seems clear after 2016 that neoliberalism is no longer viable for the long term health of America.
In a number of posts I have drawn parallels between the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of Adolph Hitler in early 1930's Germany. Both men share the traits of egomania and both saw opportunity in playing upon economic grievances, pushing statements once deemed unthinkable, and targeting segments of the population as "enemies" to be confronted and destroyed. There are also parallels with the current far right in Europe where extreme right parties - some with Neo-Nazi ties and history are advancing by using the same tactics as Trump here in America. Thus, the irony is that the "America first" crowd is actually rallying to European imports of bigotry and misogyny. A column in the Washington Post looks at these frightening parallels and how too many looked the other way and failed to oppose the forces of hate. Here are column highlights:
Here’s the irony of Donald Trump’s “America First,” immigrant-bashing, free-trade-averse, make-us-great-again nationalism: It is a European import.
The American right has typically been anti-government, reverent of the Constitution, suspicious of political strongmen and resolute in insisting that “American exceptionalism” makes us different from other nations.
But Trumpism is not an American original. Almost every plank in the candidate’s vaguely defined platform is derivative of the European far right. It is gaining ground on the basis of opposition to immigration, fears of terrorism and crime, economic nationalism, and promises of a government wielding a muscular hand against the forces of disorder.
While one would like to think that the copycat nature of Trump’s ideology will, in the coming months, make it increasingly less attractive to American voters, his rise is no less disturbing for being emblematic of what’s happening across so many democracies.
The weakness of these parties was brought home dramatically this week in Austria where Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the far-right Freedom Party that has explicit roots in the Nazi past, nearly won the country’s presidency.
Yes, it was good news that Hofer was edged out by Alexander Van der Bellen, who was backed by the Green Party. But Van der Bellen’s margin was unsettlingly small — he won 50.3 percent of the vote to Hofer’s 49.7 percent.
The fact that the alternative to the far right came from the Greens reflected the decline of the two parties dominant in Austrian politics since World War II.
The voting patterns in Austria closely resembled those visible on our side of the Atlantic. Polls commissioned by ORF, Austria’s public broadcaster, showed that Hofer (like Trump in the primaries and in the polls) led handily in rural areas, among men and among manual workers. Van der Bellen swamped the right-wing candidate in the big cities and among women, while also leading him among white-collar workers.
Mainstream parties, which can be infected by complacency, certainly bear some responsibility for what’s happening. The defection of working-class voters to the far right is a cross-democracy electoral phenomenon that reflects a serious failure on the part of social democratic and progressive parties whose historical task had been to represent citizens in blue collars.
At the same time, the moderate conservative parties have seen some of their own natural constituents drawn away by rising anti-immigrant feeling.
Here again, the Trump analogy holds: Mainstream Republicans winked and nodded toward a hard line on immigration; Trump has embraced it whole with his calls for a border wall and a temporary ban on admitting Muslims to the country. . . . . another cross-Atlantic similarity: Opinions that were once far outside the normal political discourse on immigration and nationalism are now expressed routinely.
Trump’s relentless attacks on “political correctness” are intended to break the barriers against what had once been beyond-the-pale sentiments on immigrants and race. His crude approach to campaigning . . . . reflects an indifference to norms that reinforces popular contempt for politics and traditional politicians.
Standing up against the new far right should be a shared task across the old political divides in all democracies. But Republican politicians are falling in line one by one behind Trump, choosing to ignore the threat he poses to political decency and his challenge to democratic values themselves.
The United States should not look to the European far right as our model. The land of opportunity and freedom with a long tradition of welcoming newcomers should be leading the resistance to the new authoritarianism.
We are living in very dangerous times and it is crucial that people wake up and learn from the past where demagogues like Donald Trump may lead the nation. In the early 1930's far too many Germans were complacent and they - and millions of others who died in Hitler's wars - paid a terrible price. Bad things can happen in America too if we don't stop them.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
One of the big lies being advanced by Christofascists and the parasite of the "professional Christian" class is that LGBT rights and non-discrimination protections infringe on their religious liberty and, therefore, can be freely ignored. It's an argument that would have left the Founding Fathers dumbfounded since their concept of religious freedom was very straight forward: all could worship in the church or temple of their choice, no one would be forced to financially support a church body of which they were not a member, and one's religious beliefs could not disqualify you for office. Nowhere in this concept was religion viewed as giving one a license to ignore whatever law one disliked and/or restricted your right to discriminate against or abuse other citizens. Now, in addition to the flood of Republican/Christofascist "religious freedom" laws, one sees increased efforts by schools and colleges to seek an exemption from compliance with non-discrimination laws while still sucking on the tit of taxpayer funding. A piece by blogger friend - and fellow LGBT blogger summit attendee - Karen Ocamb in Huffington Post looks at the growing efforts of Christofascist to place themselves above the law and an effort underway in California to de-fund educational institutions engaging in discrimination. Here are highlights:
The LGBT community has been dealing with social conservatives and the anti-gay religious right blatantly killing or circumventing LGBT equality since 1977 when Anita Bryant and the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority overturned a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida, then the 40th such gay rights law in the country. The Bryant-Falwell “Save Our Children” crusade painted gays as sinful perverts and sexual predators who threaten children. That effort was stopped in California with the defeat of the anti-gay Briggs Initiative in 1978, which halted the initiative-focused momentum until 1986 when the AIDS crisis resurrected simmering anti-gay hatred.Today, after much work on the ground and through the state legislature, California stands as a shining beacon for LGBT equality — but the religious right has not given up its crusade. After the Human Rights Campaign revealed last year that a number of religious-based colleges and universities applied for exemptions from Title IX that would enable them to blatantly discriminate against LGBT students and employees, out California Assembly member Evan Low and State Sen. Ricardo Lara authored legislation to require academic institutions that receive state funds to not discriminate (AB 1888, authored by Low and sponsored by Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights) and reveal their applications for “religious liberty” waivers (SB 1146, authored by Lara and sponsored by Equality California).
But stealth attacks and unfettered LGBT-bashing in the name of “religious liberties” seems to be the new normal by forces determined to overturn any progress made on the LGBT equality front — as evidenced by the stunning display of arrogance in Congress on Thursday.
“Speaker Ryan chose to disregard his previous promises of regular order and held the vote open so that he could convince some in his party to change their affirmative votes. It’s shameful that some would go to such great lengths to attack the LGBT community,” said California Rep. Ted Lieu in a statement. “[A]llowing discrimination in the workplace doesn’t encourage productivity, it drastically harms it. As history consistently illustrates, those who support forms of discrimination are always proven wrong.”
The anti-LGBT congressional sneak attack comes on top of strident reaction from a plethora of states to the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education May 13 guidance instructing the country’s schools that they must ensure transgender students and teachers equal access to educational opportunities and facilities that match their gender identities — or risk federal funding or other repercussions.
“Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX,” says the DOJ press release.
The response from Republican governors has not been pretty. As Think Progress points out, governors or top elected officials from Kentucky, Utah, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Idaho, Mississippi, Michigan, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, as well as, famously now, North Carolina (the DOJ has sued the University of North Carolina) all look at the guidance as federal overreach they will ignore.
In addition to the “states rights” argument, social and religious conservatives argue that “religious liberty” trumps federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT rights.
The bill that has some religious-based universities and colleges gasping for divine help is Low’s AB 1888, described by Equality California as “the Cal Grant Disinvestment in Discrimination.“ That bill would deny Cal Grant funding to colleges and universities that seek a “religious liberties” waiver from Title IX in order to circumvent federal LGBT protections. Students who apply to an explicitly religious-based discriminatory school will not be eligible to receive financial Cal Grant aid to attend that specific school and the school could also face substantial financial loses.
“This bill would require, commencing with the 2017-18 academic year, each Cal Grant participating institution, ... to certify ... that the institution shall not subject a student or employee of the institution on the basis of, among other things, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and that the institution shall not apply for, or receive, a waiver by the United States Department of Education from nondiscrimination requirements for the receipt of federal funds,” the AB 1888 summary reads.
Similar measures are need in every state in America. It is far past time that the Christofascist demand for special rights be defeated and institutions need to decide whether they want to engage in discrimination and bigotry or receive taxpayer funds. No taxpayer should be required to indirectly fund institutions that discriminate against them.
Hate and bigotry continue to be the unifying theme of Donald Trump's presidential campaign: hatred of non-whites, hatred of immigrants, hatred of Muslims, hatred of non-Christians, etc. - and now, hatred of LBGT individuals. Indeed, the only people seemingly not targeted for hatred the uneducated, racist whites who make up the core of Trump's constituency. If nothing else, Trump's candidacy has shown just how ugly a sizable portion of the Republican Party base is in fact. As Right Wing Watch reports, Trump is now scheduled to meet with a veritable who's who of anti-LGBT hate group leaders, a group that has been in the forefront of disseminating lies and untruths about LGBT citizens and, when possible sought to criminalize LGBT Americans. Here are highlights:
Next month, Donald Trump will host a meeting with some of the country’s most radical anti-LGBT and anti-choice leaders in New York City. Trump, who has already recruited a variety of far-right activists and conspiracy theorists to his campaign, is set to take part in a convening organized by Ben Carson, a former rival turned campaign surrogate, aimed at bringing reluctant Religious Right leaders to his side.
According to a copy of the invitation to the event obtained by the National Review, Trump will be joined by Religious Right activists including Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Penny Nance, Jim Garlow, Rick Scarborough, Phil Burress, Ken Cuccinelli, Lila Rose, E.W Jackson, Harry Jackson, Tim Wildmon, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Cindy Jacobs.
The meeting will be co-hosted by the Family Research Council [a certified hate group], Vision America and AFA Action, the political arm of the American Family Association, [a certified hate group] three of the most vicious anti-LGBT hate groups in the country.
Trump has already pledged to use nominees to the Supreme Court to pave the way for the reversal of the landmark rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality and has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, key priorities of right-wing activists.
The piece also gives a run down of some of the hate merchants who will be in attendance. Having followed some of the groups involved for well over a decade and a half, it is noteworthy that many have very strong white supremacist tendencies. Indeed, Tony Perkins has documented ties to white supremacist groups.
Some had predicted that the feckless mainstream media ("MSM") would seek to boost Donald Trump and deflate Hillary Clinton because of a desire that the presidential race be a "horse race" with more suspense and increased viewing and support for media coverage. Stated another way, the MSM is all about money and is only too happy to help foist a disaster on the country if it lines its pockets with cash in the process. A piece in Salon looks at the problem of the MSM's normalization of Trump and willingness to over look his endless stream of lies and policy free bloviating. Here are article excerpts:
It’s only May, which means we have about five months before the presidential election. There are conventions to be had, running mates to be selected, debates to be overhyped, and an obscene amount of money to be spent on an equally obscene quantity of advertising. The general election campaign hasn’t even really begun yet, on account of it being so damn early in the cycle still. Hell, we don’t even have official nominees yet for either major party.And yet, we find ourselves in a peculiar situation. Specifically, the presumptive nominee for one of the major parties has already given a soft endorsement to a long-since discredited theory that his likely opponent is complicit in the covered-up murder of a political associate. When you strip all the names from this situation and view it through the lens of established political norms, that looks crazy and desperate.
[W]e’re talking about one candidate backhandedly making the allegation that his opponent was an accessory to murder, and the press reaction is “boy, that Trump sure can drive headlines – better watch out, Hillary!”
This is precisely what I was talking about I about the danger in normalizing Trump. He wants all the craziness to be taken in stride, and he’s succeeding. He’s being abetted in this by a Republican Party establishment that is happy to bite its tongue so long as they get their tax cuts and conservative judicial nominations. But that’s no reason for the press to buy into Trump’s game and treat his crazy mudslinging as a mere campaign tactic rather than a disqualifying character flaw.
This is no longer Trump on reality TV. We are talking about the future of the country. Yet the MSM is again proving itself as useless as it did during the Iraq War buildup that was all based on lies that the MSM could have exposed had it been responsible and not acting as a platform for liars.And it’s only going to get worse as the election cycle wears on. Trump met a few weeks ago with , an infamous source of salacious and discredited Hillary Clinton bullshit. Just this week, Trump Klein’s latest book, which is . None of this is normal, so stop treating it like it is.
While Bernie Sanders continues his ego driven campaign that cannot be won, the other darling of liberal Democrats, Elizabeth Warren, recognized the battle that needs to be won is the one in November against Donald Trump. Thus, while Sanders continues his tantrums, Warren is in attack mode stressing all of the negatives and false statements and positions of Trump. And the woman definitely knows how to pull out the barbs. Politico looks at Warrens's justified attacks on Trump leaving one to wonder if an when Sanders will get his head out of his ass and focus fire at Trump rather than Clinton. Here are article highlights:
Elizabeth Warren is taking her war with Donald Trump to a new level, and it goes well beyond her usual 140-character Twitter attacks on the likely GOP presidential nominee.The Massachusetts senator on Tuesday night dedicated a speech to rallying opposition against Trump — calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who she said is "kissing the fannies of poor, misunderstood Wall Street bankers."
"He inherited a fortune from his father, and kept it going by scamming people, declaring bankruptcy and skipping out on what he owed," Warren said in prepared remarks, calling into question Trump's bona fides as a populist champion.
The assaults on Trump are becoming Warren's signature contribution to the Democratic Party's attempt to retake the White House. The speech was the second time Tuesday that she stepped into the national political fray, a sign that she's becoming increasingly vocal in the presidential race, positioning herself as a power player for the progressive left. Warren is expected to play a big role in uniting the party after the presidential primary.
The speech marked an escalation in the fight that Warren and Trump have been waging over social media since it became clear that the real estate developer and reality TV star had a clear path to the Republican nomination. Trump has called her "goofy" and has tried to revive controversy from her 2012 Senate campaign related to what she has said is her Native American heritage.
Warren cited Trump's comments that he is planning to dismantle the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that overhauled the regulation of banks and markets in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. She questioned whether he can "even name three things" the law accomplished.
"Now that he's sewn up the Republican nomination, Donald Trump is dropping the pretense" of being tough on Wall Street, Warren said. "Now he's kissing the fannies of poor, misunderstood Wall Street bankers. But the American people are not looking for a bait and switch."
Warren suggested Trump is not releasing his tax returns because he is a "lousy businessman who doesn't want you to find out that he's worth a lot less money than he claims." She cited Trump's 2007 comment that he was "excited" about the prospect of making money during the real estate market crash.
"What kind of a man does that?" she said. "I’ll tell you exactly what kind — a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure moneygrubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes some money off it. What kind of man does that? A man who will never be president of the United States."
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
One of the most partisan and hypocrisy filled mouth pieces of today's hate and bigotry filled Republican Party is Rush Limbaugh. Together with Christofascist professional Christians, Limbaugh has exerted undue influence over the GOP and has provided legitimacy to some of the ugliest elements and most insane conspiracy therapists of the lunatic far right. Now, thankfully, it appears that Limbaugh may be in trouble in terms of radio stations broadcasting his nut job propaganda and that his oce successful business model if you will is crumbling. A piece in Politico looks at Limbaugh's potential fall. Here are highlights:
Earlier this year, as that unmistakable bass line of the Pretenders’ My City Was Gone faded into the background, Rush Limbaugh opened his daily three-hour broadcast with characteristic bombast. “[According to the] latest research data,” he intoned, “the audience is expanding at near geometric proportions, as people seek guidance, answers, explanations, information, and an answer to the basic question, ‘What the hell is happening out there?’"
Whether “what the hell is happening out there”—in particular, the remarkable political rise of Donald Trump—has been good or bad for the Republican Party, or the country at large, there’s no denying one thing: It’s been great for talk radio. Ratings are finally ticking up, after a moribund four years. And conservative radio gabbers are driving the political conversation in a way that they didn’t when allegedly mushy moderates like John McCain and Mitt Romney were the standard-bearers of the country’s conservative party.
This has been particularly true for Limbaugh . . . . And yet, there are signs that all is not well in the Limbaugh radio empire. Because even as his influence is sky high and his dominance at the top of talk radio remains unchallenged, as a business proposition, Limbaugh’s show is on shaky ground. In recent years, Limbaugh has been dropped by several of his long-time affiliates, including some very powerful ones: He’s gone from WABC in New York, WRKO in Boston and KFI in Los Angeles, for example, and has in many cases been moved onto smaller stations with much weaker signals that cover smaller areas.
won’t touch him. He suffers from what talk radio consultant Holland Cooke calls a “scarlet letter among national brand advertisers.” And for someone who has said that “confiscatory ad rates” are a key pillar of his business, that spells trouble. (Limbaugh ignored multiple interview requests.)still
Limbaugh’s extremely lucrative eight-year contract—estimated to be worth roughly $38 million a year—is up this summer. What will happen to “America’s Anchorman,” as Limbaugh quasi-ironically refers to himself, once the contract is up, is anybody’s guess. Because as he is learning, political power does not necessarily a stellar business make.
But for all his business acumen, Limbaugh’s show has been a harder sell since 2012—even if he does still impishly refer to commercial time-outs as “obscene profit timeouts.” If you had to pinpoint a moment when Limbaugh’s business model began to turn, you’d have to look to the Sandra Fluke incident, when he referred to the Georgetown law student who spoke in front of Congress in favor of the Obamacare contraception mandate as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” It was a self-inflicted error that Limbaugh has never recovered from.In one fell swoop, he had done both. The backlash was swift and unforgiving—including from Fluke herself, who rejected Limbaugh’s multiple on-air apologies. (It didn’t help matters that Limbaugh said he was sorry for “acting like … leftists” by attacking her in such personal terms.) Politicians, including not a few Republicans, scorched Limbaugh.
The anti-Limbaugh faction came up with the social media-friendly slogan “Flush Rush.” The group’s efforts met considerable success in the months that followed. Dozens of companies, including Netflix, JCPenney and Sears, announced they would boycott Limbaugh’s show. Most have yet to return. And the increasing popularity of platforms like Twitter, which can be used to stoke outrage and promote boycotts, makes it highly unlikely they ever will.
The Sandra Fluke incident “did a lot of harm to talk radio,” Darryl Parks says. “Thirty-eight percent of revenue disappeared overnight.” . . . . after the Fluke incident, entire stations—or indeed, the entire format of talk radio—were deemed no-go zones by blue chip brands.
JCPenney PR executive Kate Coultas explains this via email. “We [now] have a general ‘no run’ policy in place to not advertise on any kind of political program,”
In the end, the collateral damage was significant. The Wall Street Journal Radio Network, for example, which broadcast news updates on stations across the country, could not withstand the loss of ad revenue from brands like Penney. It shuttered completely in 2014—a decision directly attributable to the Fluke fallout, says one talk radio consultant.Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that talk radio ad revenue was falling and that “advertising on talk stations now costs about half what it does on music stations, given comparable audience metrics.”
Rush Limbaugh Show. Instead, most of Limbaugh’s spots are so-called “direct-response ads” (“enter the promo code Rush”) from the likes of home security companies, gold and silver purveyors and flower delivery outfits.
The move to smaller stations in big markets has apparently hammered Limbaugh’s syndicator. In the old days, Premiere Networks “could make a lot of money through fees—a million [dollars] a year or more from single stations,” says John Mainelli, a long-time radio executive who was WABC’s program director when Limbaugh made the move from Sacramento to New York.
Now, because Limbaugh has been moved to so many smaller stations that pay much smaller fees, Premiere is “not collecting anywhere near what they used to collect in fees,” says Mainelli. And Mainelli points out that with the decline in ad revenue since 2012, the fees have become even more important: Their reduction has only added insult to Premere’s injury. . . . On top of that, it stands to reason that if Limbaugh is moved to enough lower-watt stations, his ratings will eventually suffer. None of his show’s woes have hurt Limbaugh personally, of course. He has a guaranteed contract dating back to 2008 that runs into July. But with his deal coming to an end in a few months, it’s an open question what the future will hold for the “Doctor of Democracy.”
Limbaugh has been a toxic influence on America's politics and political discourse. Candidly, the collapse of his "empire" and the demise of his toxic influence would be an extremely welcome development.