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“A Reality-Show Version Of An Actual Campaign”: Donald Trump; A Farce To Be Reckoned With

Anxiety-ridden GOP masterminds will eventually find a way to solve the Trump Problem. Until they do, however, the Republican Party threatens to become as much of a laughingstock as what David Letterman used to call “that thing on Donald Trump’s head.”

Suddenly, according to recent polls, the iconically coiffed mogul has to be taken . . . how, exactly? Obviously it’s not possible to take Trump seriously, since there’s nothing remotely serious about him or his “campaign,” which is nothing more than a reality-show version of an actual campaign. But if his poll numbers are going to place him in the top tier of Republican candidates, he can’t be ignored.

Let’s call him a farce to be reckoned with.

A CNN poll released Wednesday found that Trump was favored by 12 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationally, putting him in second place behind dynastic scion Jeb Bush, who was at 19 percent. Other recent surveys showed Trump trailing only Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Iowa and only Bush in New Hampshire.

Trump reacted to his rising political status with typical self-effacement and modesty, saying that “politicians are all talk and no action and the American public is ready for a leader with a proven track record of success.”

Trump’s track record would look a lot better without the corporate bankruptcies, and many doubt he’s worth anything near the $9 billion he claims. But let’s stipulate that he is a wealthy man who inherited a real estate empire from his father and displayed a talent for both making and losing huge amounts of money.

Let’s also stipulate that while Trump can’t win the nomination, he can be a significant factor in the race — and not, for the Republican Party, in anything resembling a good way.

Already, he has sent a clear message to Latino voters, whom GOP strategists desperately want to attract. Go away, Trump tells them; put as much distance between yourselves and this party as you possibly can.

In his announcement speech, which was really more of an extended improvised riff, Trump gave a description of Mexican immigrants that was both chauvinistic and xenophobic. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Note the magnanimity: Trump, a big man, is willing to take it on faith that some immigrants from Mexico are not rapists. He clearly believes that very many are, however. When pressed on the subject by CNN’s Don Lemon, Trump insisted, “Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don. I mean somebody’s doing it. Who’s doing the raping? Who’s doing the raping?”

Who, indeed? Trump will have some free time to get to the bottom of this mystery because his slurs led NBCUniversal, which has aired his reality show “The Apprentice,” to sever all ties with him and Univision to announce it will no longer carry his Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. The Macy’s department store chain decided to no longer carry Trump’s line of menswear, which was interesting news to me because I didn’t know he had a line of menswear. Hard to imagine that the combed-over-mogul look was ever a big seller.

But I digress. The point was how Trump had insulted men and women of Mexican heritage. It’s hard to stay focused when writing about him because there is no thread to grasp. Trump professes to know everything about everything and refuses to acknowledge a shred of evidence to the contrary. “I’m right because I say so” pretty much sums up his political philosophy.

But everyone knows who he is, which is more than can be said for many of the hopefuls buried in the GOP scrum. And nobody knows how to draw attention to himself better than Trump. If by some unimaginable fluke he did become president, does anyone doubt he’d try to put his name in big gold letters on the north portico of the White House?

Viewers will tune in to the Republican debates just to see whom Trump insults next. “The Chinese” will come in for a lambasting, of course. Perhaps he will tell us again what a great relationship he has with “the blacks.” Or maybe he will expound on his solutions for the turmoil in the Middle East, which all seem to involve taking other countries’ oil.

The one thing Trump can accomplish is to bring the Republican campaign down to his level. A party that allows such a travesty deserves to lose.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 2, 2015

July 5, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Bad For Consumers”: Merging Cable Giants Is ‘An Affront To The Public Interest’

When it comes to media, bigger is not better. And when it comes to the control of the infrastructure of how we communicate now, the trend toward extreme bigness—as illustrated by Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable and create an unprecedented cable combine—is accelerating at a dangerous pace.

In the aftermath of a federal court decision striking down net neutrality protections that were developed to maintain an open and freewheeling discourse on the Internet, and with journalism threatened at every turn by cuts and closures, the idea of merging Comcast and Time Warner poses a threat that ought to be met with official scrutiny and grassroots opposition.

The point of the free-press protection that is outlined in the First Amendment is not to free billionaire media moguls and speculators to make more money. The point is to have a variety of voices, with multiple entry points for multiple points of view and a communications infrastructure that fosters debate, dissent and democratic discourse.

When media conglomerates merge, they do not provide better service or better democracy. They create the sort of monopolies and duopolies that constrain America’s promise. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right when he decried “concentration of economic power in the few” and warned that “that business monopoly in America paralyzes the system of free enterprise on which it is grafted, and is as fatal to those who manipulate it as to the people who suffer beneath its impositions.”

Merging the two largest cable providers is a big deal in and of itself—allowing one company to become a definitional player in major media markets across the country—but this goes far beyond cable. By expanding its dominance of video and Internet communications into what the Los Angeles Times describes as a “juggernaut” with 30 million subscribers, the company that already controls Universal Studios can drive hard bargains with content providers. It can also define the scope and character of news and public-service programming in dozens of states and hundreds of major cities—including Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, DC.

That’s too much power for any one corporation to have, especially a corporation that has been on a buying spree. Comcast already controls NBCUniversal and a broadcast and cable empire that includes NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, the USA Network, Telemundo and various other networks.

It’s bad for consumers.

“In an already uncompetitive market with high prices that keep going up and up, a merger of the two biggest cable companies should be unthinkable. The deal would be a disaster for consumers and must be stopped,” says Craig Aaron, the president of the media-reform group Free Press.

It’s bad for musicians, documentary makers and other creators.

“Comcast’s proposed takeover of Time Warner would give one company incredible influence over how music and other media is accessed and under what conditions,” says Casey Rae, interim executive director of the Future of Music Coalition, who noted “the ever present danger of a huge corporation like Comcast—which already owns a major content company—disadvantaging competition or locking creators into unfair economic structures.”

And it is bad for the democratic discourse of a nation founded on the premise memorably expressed by Thomas Jefferson in 1804 when he wrote, “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press.”

The idea that “all the avenues to truth” would be controlled by a monopoly, a duopoly or any small circle of multinational communications conglomerates is antithetical to the understanding of the authors of a free press, and of its true defenders across the centuries.

So yes, US Senator Al Franken—the Minnesota Democrat who has proven to be one of the most serious and savvy congressional watchdogs on communication policy—is absolutely right when he says, “There’s not enough competition in this space; we need more competition. This is going in the wrong direction.”

Franken has written to the US Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, urging each of them “to act quickly and decisively to ensure that consumers are not exposed to increased cable prices and decreased quality of service as a result of this transaction.”

The FCC, in particular, has broad authority to review telecommunications-industry mergers, with an eye toward determining whether they are in the public interest. And watchdog groups have been pressuring the commission’s new chairman, Tom Wheeler, to assert the FCC’s authority. For Wheeler, a former president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the lobbying organization for the cable industry, this is will be a critical test of his leadership.

But challenges to this proposed merger must also come from the anti-trust lawyers at the Department of Justice and the congressional watchdogs over consolidation and monopoly issues.

“Stopping this kind of deal is exactly why we have antitrust laws,” says Free Press’s Aaron.

The congressional role cannot be underestimated. The Department of Justice, the FTC and the FCC get cues from Congress. And the voices of members of the House and Senate will play a critical role in determining whether the merger goes forward.

Some of the initial signals have been good.

“This proposed merger could have a significant impact on the cable industry and affect consumers across the country,” says Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, the chair of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, who announced: “I plan to hold a hearing to carefully scrutinize the details of this merger and its potential consequences for both consumers and competition.”

The ranking Republican on the committee, Utah Senator Mike Lee, supports the review, as do public interest groups ranging from Public Knowledge to Consumers Union.

But hearings will not be enough. The Senate, in particular, must send clear signals.

Former FCC Commissioner Mike Copps is precisely right when he says of the idea of creating an even larger telecommunications conglomerate, “This is so over the top that it ought to be dead on arrival at the FCC.”

Copps, who now serves as a special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, is also right when he says, “The proposed deal runs roughshod over competition and consumer choice and is an affront to the public interest.”

But the public interest will prevail only if the public, and its elected representatives, raise an outcry in defense of the robust competition that opens “all the avenues to truth.”

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, February 14, 2014

February 15, 2014 Posted by | Cable Companies, Consumers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Does Bigot Pat Buchanan Still Wield Influence?

For a number of years, Patrick J. Buchanan was considered “The Man” in the conservative movement; he took a back seat to no one. He ran for the GOP’s presidential nomination and attracted a large following; he hosted and appeared on several cable news shows, including being one of the original co-hosts of CNN’s “Crossfire”; his books have been bestsellers; and, perhaps most famously of all, Buchanan’s “Culture War Speech” at the 1992 Republican Party convention both enthralled his followers and chilled a good part of the rest of the nation.

In a recent column about the events in Norway, after a perfunctory condemnation of the bombing and murder spree unleashed by Anders Behring Breivik, Buchanan was classic Buchanan suggesting that, “Breivik may be right.”

Over the years, as Jamison Foser recently pointed out at Media Matters for America, Buchanan has expressed an, “almost unbelievable dislike of Nelson Mandela and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.”; took up the cause of John Demjanuk, who was”convicted earlier this year of complicity in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews while serving at a Nazi death camp”; defended the white supremacists beliefs of Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee, Harold Carswell; and,”praised Klansman David Duke for his staunch opposition to ‘discrimination against white folks.'”

In a June column posted at CNSNews.com, titled “Say Goodbye to Los Angeles”, Buchanan commented on the June soccer match at Pasadena’s storied Rose Bowl that saw the Mexican team beat the U.S. He wrote that fans rooting for Mexico should consider returning there and they should”let someone take his place who wants to become an American.”

Buchanan pointed out that “By 2050, according to Census figures, thanks to illegals crossing over and legalized mass immigration, the number of Hispanics in the U.S.A. will rise from today’s 50 million to 135 million.” Never one to miss an opportunity to be excessively dramatic/hyperbolic, Buchanan concluded: “Say goodbye to Los Angeles. Say goodbye to California.”

When Pat Buchanan spoke, many may have turned their heads, but his core audience, anti-immigrant, white nationalists perked up and listened, and later echoed his remarks.

Despite the reams of “culture war” commentary, including anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rage, for some inexplicable reason, the Washington Beltway crowd has always considered him”a good old boy.”

“A cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives”

“Although Buchanan doesn’t have the influence he did in the 1990s when he commanded a following inside the Republican Party, he remains an influential, even cutting edge figure among a significant sector of extreme paleoconservatives,” Leonard Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights told me in a telephone interview.

“His ideas may not be adopted outright, but they find their way into the mouths of others, that do have a following,” Zeskind, author of the invaluable Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, added. “Think of him as a cutting edge figure, with a following on television news and an influence on others who have larger followings,” said Zeskind.

Buchanan Hearts Breivik

Buchanan’s column about Breivik may in part be an attempt to grasp renewed relevance. The piece, “A fire bell in the night for Norway,”which was posted at WorldNetDaily, maintained that Breivik is an, ” evil … though deluded man of some intelligence, who in his 1,500-page manifesto reveals a knowledge reveals a knowledge of the history, culture and politics of Europe.” Breivik, perhaps unknown to Buchanan, also revealed an ability to purloin a chunk of the manifesto from other published sources and claim them as his own.

“He admits to his ‘atrocious’ but ‘necessary’ crimes, done, he says, to bring attention to his ideas and advance his cause: a Crusader’s war between the real Europe and the ‘cultural Marxists’ and Muslims they invited in to alter the ethnic character and swamp the culture of the Old Continent,” Buchanan maintained.

Now that the “atrocious” deed has been done, Buchanan is, as many other conservatives have been doing, attempting to disassociate Breivik from the conservative movement in the United States and Europe: “His writings are now being mined for references to U.S. conservative critics of multiculturalism and open borders. Purpose: Demonize the American right, just as the berserker’s attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson was used to smear Sarah Palin and Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing was used to savage Rush Limbaugh and conservative critics of Big Government.”

But, Buchanan wrote, the left will not get away with “guilt by association,” a methodology Buchanan charged, “has been used by the left since it sought to tie the assassination of JFK by a Marxist from the Fair Play for Cuba Committee to the political conservatism of the city of Dallas.”

While Buchanan admitted that there are, “violent actors or neo-Nazis on the European right who bear watching,” he declared that “native-born and homegrown terrorism is not the macro-threat to the continent.”

According to Buchanan,”Europe’s left will encounter difficulty in equating criticism of multiculturalism with neo-Nazism. For Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and David Cameron of Britain have all declared multiculturalism a failure. From votes in Switzerland to polls across the continent, Europeans want an end to the wearing of burqas and the building of prayer towers in mosques.”

Buchanan concluded by pointing out that “Breivik may be right,” in asserting that “a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries,” is coming down the pike.

Buchananism “will live long after [he] has departed this mortal coil’.

“Buchanan’s brand of Christian nationalist xenophobia has been picked up by others, guaranteeing it will live on long after Buchanan has departed this mortal coil,” Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans United, told me in an email. “That’s his true legacy. … The trail he blazed is now well traveled by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D’Souza and a host of others.”

Boston noted that: “The Breivik shooting is a textbook example of what’s wrong with today’s cultural warriors of the far right. An angry and hate-filled man killed more than 70 people — many of them young — in cold blood. Yet so many on the right seem unable to condemn this without adding a ‘but.’ That we have come to this pass — and that so few public commentators have the guts to stand up and call the right out for the cranks that they are — is a telling indicator of the great moral confusion these so-called guardians of public virtue have spawned.”

Leonard Zeskind pointed out that while Buchanan is not the Buchanan of the past, he still has a following: “Even if he does not have three million votes behind him, he still has [many] people who listen to [him] everyday. At the same time, he has been eclipsed by the Tea Partiers, who embody, in part, his constituency of yesteryear.

The Tea Partiers are the Buchananites of the past, moving into the future.”

By: Bill Berkowitz, Talk To Action, AlterNet, August 5, 2011

August 8, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Conservatives, GOP, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigrants, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Republican Supreme Court Sticks It To The Little Guy (Again)

Once again the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has shown the nation it will always favor corporations over people even if it means conjuring new law out of thin air.  Like Citizens United, the recent 5-4 ruling in AT&T’s favor gutting the power of consumers to file class-action lawsuits against giant corporations tips the scales of justice against the people and renders the enormous power of corporations even more enormous.

When I first heard about the case, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion there was little doubt in my mind that the Gang of Five — John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas would figure out a way to ignore Supreme Court precedent and again apply their judicial activism in service to the corporations, and by extension, to the oligarchy they apparently believe the “founders” intended.

It’s kind of funny when we see Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romeny, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich pandering to the “little guy” denouncing “elites” who are trampling on their rights only to remain mute on the fact that their beloved Republican Supreme Court never, ever rules in favor of the “little guy.”

The Republican president Ronald Reagan gave us Scalia and Kennedy; the Republican president George Herbert Walker Bush gave us Thomas; and the Republican president George W. Bush gave us Roberts and Alito.  This cabal has shown over and over again where its true loyalties lie, not to “the law,” not to “the Constitution,” not to “calling balls and strikes,” but to a 21st century version of corporate feudalism.  This new corporate feudalism that the High Court is determined to thrust on the nation is even more exploitative than the earlier brand of Medieval feudalism because it is absent noblesse oblige.

The serfs toiling on the corporate plantation can only continue to pay Chase and Bank of America for their underwater mortgages, ExxonMobil and Chevron for their $4 a gallon gas, and AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile and the rest for the privilege of communicating in a modern society.  And if the serfs seek redress the High Court will slap them down before they can get anything substantial off the ground.  With Citizens United placing a stranglehold of corporate power over our state, local, and federal system of elections, we cannot turn to our political “leaders” for redress, we can’t turn to the courts, and we certainly can’t turn to trying to morally persuade sociopathic non-human entities called corporations — so where does that leave us?

In the current context of unrestrained corporate dominance it’s unconscionable that the Obama administration has not done more to blunt its disastrous effects.  The Justice and Treasury Departments, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. could be doing a hell of a lot more in bringing balance to the equation of corporations versus people.  The administration’s lagging performance in holding Wall Street accountable is well known, but it won’t even lift a finger to block grotesque mergers like the one between Comcast and NBC Universal, and AT&T and T Mobile.  In all these mergers and acquisitions it’s always the consumers and the employees who lose, while the CEOs and a select few of shareholders and financiers make out like the bandits they are.

Nothing illustrates the corruption rampant in Washington more than the recent resignation of Federal Communications Commission member, Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican who Obama appointed to show how “bipartisan” he can be, who is now going to work as a lavishly paid shill for the very industry she was supposedly “regulating.”  Ms. Baker will now make the big bucks serving Comcast/NBC Universal after she voted for the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal.  Sweet.   And few in the Beltway see anything unsavory about it.

Our political leaders, our Supreme Court, our captains of industry and finance, are so out of touch it’s going to be a long, long time before ordinary working people see any relief.  All of our institutions, political, economic, even religious, social, and cultural, all of them, are failing the people miserably in pursuit of the Almighty Buck.  The cunning game of appointing young ideologues to the bench has paid off handsomely for the corporate power structure.  Someone should tell those people running around in tri-cornered hats and talking about the “founders” that it might be wise to save an ounce of their collective wrath for the Republicans who have appointed five Justices who are trampling on individual freedoms in service of corporations.

By: Joseph A. Palermo, The Huffington Post, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Businesses, Congress, Consumers, Corporations, Elections, Justice Department, Lawmakers, Politics, Regulations, Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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