Tag Archives: #USpoli

Dear Americans: Enough, Already

DEBORAH JONES: FREE RANGE
August 19, 2017

Lacking ear plugs strong enough to block the din from America blasting the world, or a mega-phone loud enough to counter the babble, I’m resorting to two letters.

Dear non-Americans:

A sign at the Women’s March protesting President Donald Trump’s inauguration in Vancouver, Canada, on January 21. © Deborah Jones 2017

There’s a big world out there. Please remember that fact as we remain transfixed on America’s latest horrific but predictable melt-down. Yes, a raging super-power warrants some global attention. It does not require us to gorge on outrage, 24/7.

We are riveted wholly on the United States at the expense of other things, many in desperate need of our attention. We risk burn-out, gawping at America’s raging inferno. Stuff, important stuff, is at risk elsewhere — and just as it demands vigilance, America’s freak show is diverting our eyes and minds, and crushing our appetite for the information we need.

Please, just for a moment, ignore America’s bigots, racists, Nazis, supremacists of all sorts, culture wars. Turn away from the anger and grief pouring out of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Choose any random sample of other urgent issues, and pay attention. Suggestions:

The deadly terror attacks in Finland and Spain; the hundreds who died in a landslide in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Venezuela imploding in  a political and economic crisis and seeking any kind of ally; Kenya’s explosive politics.

Note the trillion dollars, countless jobs and whole communities at stake in just-started talks between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Ponder the new twist on the peril facing Afghanistan, where America has now led a war for 16 years — foolishly helped by the professional militaries of many other nations. Afghanistan is still in ruins, arguably much worse. Now, American authorities have suggested sending in mercenaries to do what their soldiers could not. Think that will end well? At least, please, think about it.

Most of you who are reading this still live in democracies, albeit flawed. Most of us have voices that can matter — but only if we use them.

~~~

My dear American friends:

You have my sympathy, but I for one can’t bear witness 24/7. Even if I could, you don’t deserve my, or the world’s, attention.

The fact is, just-more-than 19 per cent of you in the US, of voting age, voted for your current president. Another just-less-than 20 per cent voted for Hilary Clinton, his only feasible opponent (after your undemocratic Democrats stomped on Bernie Sanders).

What of the more-than 60 per cent of you who sat out and allowed idiots* to take over your country? You, who were apathetic? You, who failed to get your point across and convince others? (ie, politics in a democracy). You, who were too divided to come together for the big stuff you’re now screeching about? You, yes you, have some ‘splainin to do.

But, please, explain and talk to each other.

The rest of us in the rest of the world are deafened by your noise. I’ve tried to tune you out and turn you off for most of each day, but now you have sucked all of the oxygen from everyone’s air. And, frankly, we need that oxygen to deal with very real stuff that’s not all about you.

Copyright Deborah Jones 2017

Contact: djones AT factsandopinions.com (including for republishing.)

*Idiot stems from the Greek idios; it refers to a private person who is, literally, ignorant, in a culture that values the body politic, or “politics.”

If you value this story, the author would appreciate a contribution of .27 cents, Canadian, to help fund her ongoing work and pay for this site. Click on paypal.me/deborahjones to be taken to Deborah Jones’s personal PayPal page.

Credible world news sites:

Reuters World news France24BBC; Financial Times; The Economist

~~~

DebJones in Spain

Deborah Jones is a founder of Facts and Opinions.

Her bio is here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations.

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Journalism Matters: F&O’s fresh sheet, from Newfoundland to Israel

Palestinian visitors gather at a look-out point on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in Jerusalem May 11, 2017. Picture taken May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Commentary:

Broad alliances trump Trump for Israeli security, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Israel lives in a hostile neighbourhood, and has always had trouble making and keeping trustworthy friends.

Nothing’s Happening, by Jim McNiven   Column

There’s an old saying around the stock market: ‘Sell in May and go away’. Basically, it means that usually nothing much financial happens in the summer. This year, that might also be the slogan for a lot of other parts of society.

Roger Ailes’ special place in hell, by Tom Regan  Column

When Roger Ailes died this month, response was mixed.It was Ailes’ personal foibles that led to his downfall. But I want to concentrate on his legacy in journalism, where he left a very dark mark, called “thug journalism.”

Why Donald Trump won’t be impeached, by Tom Regan   Column

For all the bad news that Trump faces, he will not be impeached: his fellow Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

India’s Maoist uprising morphs into women’s armed insurgenc, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Women guerrilla fighters are at the forefront of an emerging insurgent war in India aimed at protecting women from sexual violence and human rights abuse.

Why Ramadan is called Ramadan, by Mohammad Hassan Khalil

The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, started Friday, May 26, 2017. Professor Mohammad Hassan Khalil  answers six questions about the significance of this religious observance. The Conversation

Reports:

Newfoundland’s fourth offshore oil project set to sail, by Greg Locke

While Canada’s oil sands projects and the North America fracking companies are under scrutiny and financial distress, Newfoundland prepares to bring its fourth major offshore oil project online.

Israel marks 50 years of struggling, “United Jerusalem” by Maayan Lubell

A half-century after Israel captured East Jerusalem, the holy city remains deeply divided by politics, religion and ethnicity – and struggling with grim economic realities.

Real-life “Iron Man” has high hopes for jet suit, by Mark Hanrahan

The British inventor of an “Iron Man”-style jet suit has lofty hopes that his project, which started out as fun experiment, could become a practical tool for industries ranging from entertainment to the military.

Gulf States Curbing Opposition, by Sami Aboudi

Since the 2011 Arab Spring, Gulf states have stepped up efforts to curb dissent with tough new cybercrime laws, sentencing offenders to prison terms for Web posts deemed insulting to rulers or threatening to public order. But in the past two years, unnerved by low oil prices and the slow progress of a war in Yemen targeting the influence of arch foe Iran, Gulf authorities became even less patient with dissenting voices in the media, analysts and rights groups say.

UK investigates use of personal data in political campaigns, by Reuters

Britain said it was investigating how politicians and campaigners use data to target voters with online advertising to make sure they comply with electoral laws and do not abuse people’s privacy.

NOTEBOOK:

For some perspective on what will matter long after the latest political outrage has faded in Washington, London, or Moscow, set aside time, soon, for the sobering interactive feature by the New York Times on the melting of Antarctica —  and how changes to its vast ice sheets will affect the world. World leaders are urging the United States to stay the course on tackling climate change. But one academic has an interesting contrarian’s view of the Paris Agreement: the world would be better off if Trump withdraws from the Paris climate deal, argued Luke Kemp, of Australian National University, in Nature Climate Change. He explained his view here, in The Conversation: “Simply put: the US and the Trump administration can do more damage inside the agreement than outside it.”
Recommended read elsewhere: Kafka in Vegas, by Megan Rose, ProPublica/Vanity Fair

Fred Steese served more than 20 years in prison for the murder of a Vegas showman even though evidence in the prosecution’s files proved he didn’t do it. But when the truth came to light, he was offered a confounding deal known as an Alford plea. If he took it he could go free, but he’d remain a convicted killer.

Misc:  As the Cannes Film Festival wraps on May 28, check out stories on France24. For an “odd news”break, the BBC reports on “Why humans, chimpanzees and rats enjoy being tickled.”

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Why Donald Trump won’t be impeached

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
May 20, 2017

Masks of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are seen at Jinhua Partytime Latex Art and Crafts Factory in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, China, May 25, 2016. There's no masking the facts. One Chinese factory is expecting Donald Trump to beat his likely U.S. presidential rival Hilary Clinton in the popularity stakes. At the Jinhua Partytime Latex Art and Crafts Factory, a Halloween and party supply business that produces thousands of rubber and plastic masks of everyone from Osama Bin Laden to Spiderman, masks of Donald Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton faces are being churned out. Sales of the two expected presidential candidates are at about half a million each but the factory management believes Trump will eventually run out the winner. "Even though the sales are more or less the same, I think in 2016 this mask will completely sell out," said factory manager Jacky Chen, indicating a Trump mask. REUTERS/Aly Song

Masks of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Jinhua Partytime Latex Art and Crafts Factory in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, China, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song

The story goes that, in the 1970’s days of the Watergate crisis,, the editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradley, would walk around his newsroom yelling out loud to his reporters, “Don’t gloat, don’t gloat.”

It is tempting to fall into that trap today, with nonstop shocking headlines about United States President Donald Trump: the connections between Trump, his campaign team, and the Russians, the firing of FBI director James Comey, and the appointment of a special prosecutor, Robert Mueller. All of this has brought out a certain Captain Queeg (of The Caine mutiny) personality in Donald Trump, with wild claims about his being the most persecuted politician in American history.

Yet for all the bad news that Trump faces, for the long months of investigations ahead by the special prosecutor and by two Congressional committees into the Russian hacking of the United States election, for his decision to hire former Gen. Michael Flynn to be national security advisor when it seems he already knew that Flynn was under investigation for his failure to disclose that he was a foreign agent for the Turkish government, for all the times that Trump changed his story, he will not be impeached.

To our supporters, thank you. Newcomers, welcome to reader-supported Facts and Opinions, employee-owned and ad-free. We will continue only if readers like you chip in, at least 27 cents, on an honour system. If you value our work, contribute below. Find details and more payment options here.

The talk this week of impeachment by some Democrats was hasty, premature, and quite honestly just plain stupid. The only way that a president can be impeached, according to the U.S. Constitution, is for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” And that’s all that it says. It doesn’t define what high crimes and misdemeanors are. It appears the founders of the country left that open to interpretation for the generations that followed them. An American president has only been impeached twice: Andrew Johnson, the successor to Abraham Lincoln, and in more recent memory, Bill Clinton. While both were impeached in House of Representatives, the Senate failed to convict either man, and they remained in office.

The main reason that Donald Trump will not be impeached is that his fellow Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate. And while there have been an increasing number of Republican voices calling for a more thorough probe into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, the majority of Republicans, and this is certainly true of their leadership, have adopted a “there’s nothing to see here, move along, move along” attitude towards the entire debacle. The closest thing that any Republican leader has come to even criticizing the president was when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Washington could do with a little less “drama” coming from the White House.

It is a pure political calculation. While it may be true that many of us on the left are fighting the temptation to gloat, as I wrote just last week, there are parts of the country where Donald Trump remains incredibly popular.

Americans who support him see the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt,” and believe the mainstream media’s only goal is to bring Trump down. They see every negative story about him as “fake news,” and believe he is doing a great job. In almost every poll that’s been taken since Trump assumed office, the number of people that support Trump has barely wavered, ranging about 38-40 per cent.

This may be one of the reasons why Trump occasionally flees Washington to a campaign event somewhere in “Trump country,” where he can be surrounded by the cheers of the adoring fans that he seems to desire so much.

The two words any Republican lawmaker, or any American lawmaker for that matter, fear most, are primary challenge. Currently Republicans in the house and in the Senate are weighing the political calculus of just how much they can criticize Trump without invoking the fury of his supporters and the resulting primary challenge — when an incumbent is challenged in an upcoming primary election by a member of his own party.

Yet on the other hand, there are more than a few Republican congressmen and women who won in areas where Hillary Clinton was popular. They know that if they are seen as being too close to Donald Trump, those Clinton voters will turn out in droves and toss them out of office. Thus, we have the current  kabuki dance of Republican politicians, trying to walk a line so thin you need a microscope to see it.

But let’s hypothesize a bit.

Even if the Democrats took every contested seat in the House, and Nancy Pelosi again became speaker, there’s probably no chance the Democrats could regain control of the Senate considering the number of Democratic senators up for reelection in 2018.

The situation is so dire for Democrats that if they just maintain the current total of 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents (who caucus with the Democrats), it would be a minor miracle. So even if Trump were impeached in the house, if enough crimes and misdemeanors were found, there is very little likelihood that he would be convicted in the Senate.

So, love him or hate him, Donald Trump is here for a while.

On the one hand, as a journalist and columnist, this is the best of all possible worlds: there is never a want of controversial topics to write about.

For my country, on the other hand, it will be an ongoing nightmare. Seldom has there been a man so ill-prepared, so-ill suited, so wrong to be the president of the United States.

Yet in the end nothing can really be done about that. And gloating won’t help. It’s just temporary pain relief from a long-term headache.

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Correction: An earlier version of this column identified Andrew Jackson as a previously impeached US president. It was corrected May 21 to Andrew Johnson.

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Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Trying to listen in Trump’s America 

Signs like this one dot the American Mid-West. Photo by franleleon, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
May 13, 2017

In the heart of America, there are long, flat stretches of emptiness in the spring. Fields, only recently plowed and sown with the fall’s harvest, still look barren and soggy. No majestic fields of wheat or corn greet the eye.

I’m driving to Wisconsin to pick up my son from school, accompanied by my daughter. She goes to school in Canada, and so has been out for a couple of weeks. I asked her what she thinks of the landscape. She gazes out the car window, turns to me and says “The only thing I can compare it to is the ocean. So empty and flat.”

This is a trip to Trump country. West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin. All states that voted for Donald Trump. In fact, one might say they are the states that elected Donald Trump, particularly the latter three.

To our supporters, thank you. Newcomers, welcome to reader-supported Facts and Opinions, employee-owned and ad-free. We will continue only if readers like you chip in, at least 27 cents, on an honour system. If you value our work, contribute below. Find details and more payment options here.

The signs along the road tell me that this is a different country than the one I left back east. “Jesus is Real” proclaims one large sign. A few miles on another one reads, “Praise be to the Lord, “ and includes a notation of a Psalm from the Bible.

I pull into a gas station and mini-mart somewhere in Ohio. There is a rack of T-shirts supporting the Second Amendment. “Pro-Life, Pro-Gun, Pro-God,” reads one shirt. A small blonde woman in in a torn jean jacket is looking at a T-shirt that reads “I’m a God-fearin’, Bible Believin’, Gun Packin’, American Lovin’ Conservative.”

It’s not all religion and guns, mind you. On the return trip, as we cross from Pennsylvania into West Virginia, the first sign you see is for Jill’s Gentlemen’s Club. “Class acts” the sign assures me.

Maybe it’s just the time of the year, maybe it’s just because things haven’t started to grow yet, maybe it’s just because I’m only driving I-70 and not actually going into any town, but there’s a sense of decay along the highways in this part of the country. While modern, brightly-lit trucks stops cater to the endless ribbon of semis that drive across this country, more often than not the gas stations I pull into need a new paint job, and the pumps don’t always work properly.

The sense of disappointment, of being left behind, hangs in the air like fog. It’s those feelings that helped elect Donald Trump.

I’ve lived in the East my entire life, either in Canada or the United States. Middle America is not my world, and I do not feel at home here. I feel like I have driven into an entirely different country. I’m not sure how to navigate that. People are friendly, but wary. The day I wore my T-shirt with an evolution joke on the front people eyed me a bit suspiciously.

In a motel where we stay, in the free breakfast bar, the television is tuned to a news channel talking about the firing of FBI director James Comey, and the backlash that this has produced among Democrats, Independents, and some Republicans. I asked the person at the next table what they think of the whole thing.

“Well, it was a bit clumsy, but Trump did the right thing. Getting rid of Comey was part of cleaning up the swamp. It’s what the Democrats wanted, so I don’t see why they’re so upset,” he tells me. When he asks me what I think, rather than get into an argument, I tell him I want to wait and see what happens over the next few days.

The most interesting conversation, however, came the next day at the next motel. As we were checking out, a young fella came over to me and started to talk. A truck driver from Alabama, he and his wife were in town to take a safety course at the new company for which he would be driving. The conversation is pleasant and enlightening.

“No, I own my own rig,” he says when I ask. “It’s only way to do it. That way nobody can tell me what to do and what to haul unless I want to. As it is, everybody hates you. The dispatchers, the shipping clerks, the guys who work at the total booths. Everybody just wants to give you a hard time. I’m just trying to make a living.”

He tells me that there is a need for almost 300,000 truck drivers in America. I think back to the highway and that line of semis that seems to stretch from horizon to horizon. And they need more? He says it’s because most truck drivers only last about a year. And then they get fed up with being told what to, and the long hours, and the bad pay, and quit. And move on to the next company.

And as we’re talking it strikes me that he just wants someone to listen to his story. Maybe that’s the key to understanding Trump country. People just want to tell their story, and have someone listen to them. And take them seriously. They want to be valued for what they do, and what they believe.

Then my moment of understanding is shattered by my daughter. I tell her that I think that people around here just want someone to listen to them. “Yes, but they’re not listening either,” she says. “It’s not a one-way conversation.”

I realize that she’s right, and that makes me sad. We increasingly live in two worlds in America. Two different cultures, with different priorities, different beliefs, different ideas of what it means to be American. Once upon a time the idea of being American is what held everybody together. Not anymore. And I believe that gap is growing, and getting harder and harder to cross with every passing day.

We’re back on the highway again, headed towards Wisconsin. We pass a series of Burma Shave-like signs: “I have a gun.” “It’s pretty and pink.” “It makes an attacker.” “Stop and think.”

And again I think that we’re all just talking, and the only opinion that matters is our own.

 

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

 

~~~

Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Why America’s health care is so bad

Images Money, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
May 5, 2017

First, a personal observation. I lived under the Canadian healthcare system for my first 38 years, and in the American healthcare system for the past 22. Based on extensive experience in both, I say that, hands down, Canada’s system provides care every bit as good as in America, has far fewer hassles, and just plain works better.

Oh, I know, I remember the complaints I used to make when I lived in Canada. Sometimes you had to wait longer than you wanted for an appointment. Elective surgery might take a few months to get. In my experience, a lot of that depended upon where you lived. When I lived in rural Nova Scotia, near a hospital, I never had any waiting time. When I lived in the Halifax and Dartmouth urban area, there were occasional delays, but never anything outrageous. My mother said once, when I asked if she minded waiting two months for a procedure she needed, “Having to wait a while is better than not having it at all.”

Under the health care bill passed this week by the Republican Party in the House of Representatives – a bill which they did not read, did not have the Congressional Budget Office score, and obviously did not consider in light of the future consequences for their own political careers –  many people will “not have it at all.”

To our supporters, thank you. Newcomers, welcome to reader-supported Facts and Opinions, employee-owned and ad-free. We will continue only if readers like you chip in, at least 27 cents, on an honour system. If you value our work, contribute below. Find details and more payment options here.

But rather than go through this piece of legislation, that is a dead letter already, I want to talk about why the American system is so bad.

America is the only advanced nation in the world without a universal healthcare system. There are two reasons for this: 1) the companies that provide healthcare, and make billions and billions doing so, spend lots of money every year making sure politicians don’t mess with their golden goose; 2) the American notion of individuality.

Many Americans would tell you they see no reason why they should be responsible for the care of anybody else but themselves and their own families. They say they’d rather have the freedom to die than to have the government provide them with healthcare and live longer.

This is no joke. Conservative and far-right Americans have somehow convinced themselves that a single-payer system is “evil.” And the politicians who rake in the money from the healthcare companies that want to maintain this myth are more than happy to paint universal healthcare as a boogie man.

A variation on this attitude was illustrated this week by Republican Representative Mo Brooks, who told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview that “people who live good lives” don’t have pre-existing conditions.

Aside from the hint of religious bigotry implied in his comment (God-fearing folks don’t have to worry about getting sick), Brooks’ comments leave little doubt that far-right Republicans like him see no reason why they should help other sick people.

His comment made me think of a Canadian friend with a defective kidney. A single mother, she was able to get a kidney transplant without being shamed by people like representative Brooks for apparently not “living a good life.” She probably would not be able be able to afford such an operation in the United States in the first place.

There are other factors. The American system is clunky, riddled with inconsistencies, overwhelmed with paperwork, anti- rather than pro-healthcare, and so bad for business that it amazes me that American entrepreneurs and business people aren’t marching in the streets of Washington for a single-payer system.

Businesses in the United States, both large and small, are often forced to lay off much-needed employees so they can offer healthcare to remaining employees. (I know of cases where people have been laid off because the company considered them a financial burden because their healthcare costs were so high.) In other cases, they will charge employees outrageous amounts in order to purchase employer subsidized healthcare.

In Canada, Australia, England, France —  or just about any other first-world and many others as well,  businesses do not need to worry about healthcare, because it is provided by a single-payer system. In some cases, but not all, taxes can be higher to provide this benefit.

One would think that for the reduced paperwork, lower costs, and ability to help retain good people, more American businesses would be 100% behind the idea of universal healthcare.

Even Donald Trump spoke favorably about universal healthcare before he decided he would lie his way to the Republican nomination and later to the presidency. This week he also praised the Australian healthcare system as better than America’s. Australia has a two-tiered system that provides basic universal healthcare to all Australians, but they must purchase private insurance for some specialty medical services.

The flaws all come down to the never-ending American desire for profit: there is just too much money to be made providing Americans with an inferior healthcare system.

It’s the same reason why some argue for a different kind of system in Canada. There’s money to be made, and they have dollar signs in their eyes. All the other reasons they give you are just so much malarkey.

It’s hard to say where this healthcare fight in Congress will lead. It’s obvious that Americans are waking up to the reality that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is a pretty damn good thing. Republican representatives, especially from moderate or more liberal districts, who vote to replace it are putting their political futures on the line.

We can only hope that the Senate produces a better, fairer bill until the day comes when Americans wake up to the reality that what they need is a universal healthcare system and nothing else will do.

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

 

~~~

Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Trump Staffers’ Financial Disclosures

The White House Wouldn’t Post Trump Staffers’ Financial Disclosures. So We Did.

by Ariana Tobin and Derek Kravitz, ProPublica
April 1, 2017

Security personnel walk on the roof of the White House near Pennsylvania Avenue before Inauguration Day for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

In a remarkable Friday night news dump, the United States’ Trump administration made dozens of White House staffers’ financial disclosure forms available. But they did it with an extra dose of opacity.

These are important disclosures from the people who have the president’s ear and shape national policy. They lay out all sorts of details, including information on ownership of stocks, real estate and companies, and make possible conflicts of interest public.

But the White House required a separate request for each staffer’s disclosure. And they didn’t give the names of the staffers, leaving us to guess who had filed disclosures, a kind of Transparency Bingo.

Since the White House wasn’t going to post the documents publicly, ProPublica did.

ProPublica teamed up with The New York Times and The Associated Press, requested docs for every staffer we know and put them in this public Google Drive folder.

We’re continuing to look through them. And we want your help: If you see anything that merits a closer look, comment on the thread below or fill out our Google Form.

Among the things we’ve learned already:

Steve Bannon, President Trump’s hand-picked chief strategist, earned more than $500,000 last year through businesses connected to Republican donors Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah. The companies include the conservative website Breitbart News Network; the data-crunching firm Cambridge Analytica; the conservative nonprofit Government Accountability Institute; and the entertainment production company Glittering Steel. (Per an agreement with White House ethics attorneys, Bannon is selling his stakes in Cambridge Analytica and Glittering Steel. He made somewhere between $1.3 million and $2.3 million last year, according to the filings.)

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, resigned his positions in 266 different business entities in order to comply with federal ethics rules, White House officials said Friday. He and his wife Ivanka’s financial disclosure shows the scale of their wealth, largely through the family-run Kushner Companies: real estate and investments worth as much as $741 million.

And Kushner is holding onto more than 100 real-estate assets, including a Trump-branded rental building in Jersey City, New Jersey, which was financed with millions from wealthy Chinese investors through a visa program.

As part of Kushner’s financial disclosure, Ivanka Trump, who recently took an official post in the White House, had to disclose her assets. Ivanka Trump’s branded companies, including her clothing and jewelry lines, brought in more than $5 million in 2016 and are valued at more than $50 million. Her stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which opened in September, brought in income of between $1 million and $5 million. (She is putting her companies in a trust that she won’t manage while her father serves as president.)

There are other tidbits, too. Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs investment banker who now serves as director of the National Economic Council, has assets worth at least $253 million, including million-dollar or more stakes in several private companies. Omarosa Manigault, the reality-TV star who took a job as a White House communications staffer, has a 33 percent stake in a trust worth between $1 million and $5 million established by her late fiancée, the Oscar-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who died in 2012. Reed Cordish, a Trump family friend and Maryland real-estate developer who now oversees technology initiatives at the White House, reported assets of at least $197 million, including partnerships in Baltimore casinos.

So far, we’ve received less than half of the roughly 180 financial disclosures White House officials said they have processed. But the moment we get them, you will, too.

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Trump and Russia: “There is a smell of treason in the air”

Photo of the Kremlin by Larry Koester, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
April 1, 2017

As American presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said after the recent hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, when FBI director James Comey testified that the FBI is indeed investigating members of Donald Trump’s campaign for ties to Russia and its hacking program, there is a “smell of treason in the air.”

Or as new CNN analyst Chris Cillizza put it when he was still writing for the Washington Post, “Where there is smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke, there is fire.”

The story of Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election campaign and the role the Trump team may have played in that effort is the story that will not die, much to the consternation of President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Every day brings new revelations, which are coming so fast that it’s difficult to keep track of each one. As I write this, the major news outlets are reporting former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is willing to testify before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in exchange for immunity from prosecution. This news is, no doubt, causing heart palpitations at the White House, because no one asks for immunity from prosecution unless they are worried that they may have committed criminal acts. (In fact, Flynn himself made this same comment in 2016.)

Meanwhile, at yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, national security expert Clint Watts told the committee to “follow the trail of dead Russians.” He pointed out that “several Russians linked to the investigation into Kremlin disinformation activities have been killed in the past three months.” And he charged Donald Trump with using Russian tactics to undermine his political opponents.

Two Story lines

There are two elements to the story that are separate and yet connected. The first element is the Russian hacking of the election: the stealing of files from the DNC and their release at key moments designed to undercut Hillary Clinton, and continuing Russian efforts to undermine western democracies. The second element is the possible relationship between members of the Trump campaign team and Russians, officials and unofficial, and the roles they might have played in the Russian hacking campaign.

There is no doubt that the Russian hacking of the campaign took place. Numerous American intelligence agencies have confirmed this, and it matches the behavior of the Russians in other democratic Western nations. Even if the Trump campaign played no role in the hacking, it still took place and, as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have pointed out, it will severely affect our relationship with the Russians at a time when President Trump wants to be buddy-buddy with Putin.

Over the past few years Russia has relentlessly sought to undermine democratic elections in the Western world. It has also aggressively conducted disinformation campaigns about its illegal actions in the Ukraine and in Syria. Germany recently accused Russia of trying to undermine Chancellor Angela Merkel, and there is also some question surrounding Russian aid to the pro-Brexit side in the United Kingdom vote. It’s also known that Russia tried to promote anti-European Union presidential candidate Geert Wilders in the recent Netherlands’ election, and is promoting Marie Le Pen in France.

Only two months ago, Russia announced the formalization of this process when it publicized the creation of a specialized unit to engage in informational warfare. Until now most of the Russian hacking has been done by so-called “state actors,” which intelligence agencies around the world knew were under the command of the Kremlin. It was this kind of team that hacked the emails and information at the Democratic National Committee, and which organized their slow but steady release during the 2016 election campaign which helped undermine the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

A key part of this disinformation campaign was the role played by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Assange and Putin shared a common goal: the destruction of Hillary Clinton, reportedly because of perceived personal issues. It is likely, despite its denials, that WikiLeaks served as the broker for information hacked by the Russians. Although the Trump team’s connection to WikiLeaks is not well-known,  Nigel Farage (the anti-Brexit campaigner and friend of Donald Trump) visited Assange at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London (where Assange has taken refuge to avoid deportation to Sweden where he faces rape charges) after the November election. There is speculation that Farage was delivering a message from Trump to Assange.

There can be no doubt about Putin’s objective: he wants to make Russia a superpower again. In the same way class school bullies unable to achieve status through effort tear high achievers down to their level, Putin has crafted a campaign of innuendo, disinformation, lies, and intimidation to bring other countries down to his level. This is particularly true of his efforts to undermine the European Union and to diminish the power of the United States by covertly helping to elect actors, such as Donald Trump, who he feels he can manipulate.

Regardless of the question of whether or not members of the Trump team actively coordinated with the Russian “state actors” in their campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton, this issue of Russian interference in the elections of the United States cannot be overlooked.

Trump team

But the question of the role that several key members of the Trump team played in connection with the Russian activities is also important. Four men (Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn) deserve particular attention. It is interesting that the White House is madly trying to disconnected itself from the four men, which it now describes as “minor players” in the campaign. But as John Dean, of the Watergate scandal, said, “I know something about cover-ups and there is a cover-up happening here.”

The question of whether or not members of Donald Trump’s campaign team, or Trump himself, had knowledge of the Russian hacking successes, and helped to coordinate the release of information obtained in these break-ins, is now the subject of an FBI investigation.

We now know that despite repeated denials, many members of the Trump team met with Russian officials, in particular the Russian ambassador to the United States (including former national security advisor Michael Flynn, current Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, White House advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign advisors Roger Stone and Carter Page) during the 2016 election campaign. This despite the repeated earlier denials that there was no contact between any member of the Trump team and the Russians.

Important members of the Trump team also have long associations with Putin, Putin’s friends, or sketchy Russian business interests. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was described as “a gift to Putin” because of his long-standing personal and financial ties to Russia and Putin. Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary, has extensive ties to a billionaire friend of Putin and their shared interest in the national Bank of Cyprus. The New York Times recently reported that Donald Trump had business dealings in New York with Russians with alleged criminal connections.

Meanwhile the BBC reported earlier this week that that US officials “verified” a key claim in a report by former British intelligent agent Christopher Steele about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump’s election – that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy.

Pieces are falling into place faster and faster. Meanwhile, the US intelligence committee reports that Russia is still spying on the US and already has plans to influence the next American election.

This scandal, which it seems like has been with us forever, is only just starting to heat up.

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Further reading: 

 

Former FBI agent details how Trump and Russia team up to weaponize fake news

https://thinkprogress.org/clinton-watts-senate-intelligence-committee-trump-russia-fake-news-trail-of-bodies-1900e6fde054
Trump Russia dossier key claim ‘verified’

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39435786
Fired Trump aide Michael Flynn wants immunity to testify on Russia allegations

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39451358
Devin Nunes Is Just the Errand Boy in the Trump-Russia Scandal
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/31/devin-nunes-is-just-the-errand-boy-in-thes-trump-russia-scandal.html?via=desktop&source=twitter

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Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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America’s Republican Quandary

JIM MCNIVEN: THOUGHTLINES
Spring, 2017

There is a classic John Cleese TV comedy performance, as the owner/manager of a small British hotel called ‘Fawlty Towers.’

Cleese, as the bumbling hothead Basil Fawlty, is confronted with the arrival of a group of German tourists. He goes around warning his staff,  ‘Don’t talk about the War’ — referring to the Second World War when Britain and Germany were enemies.

In due course, Basil gets hit on the head by a moosehead falling off a hotel wall and, in a concussed daze, goes off on a mad rant in front of his guests, goose-stepping around and mocking them with some ‘Heil Hitlers,’ forty or fifty years after the War ended.

Washington, DC,  these days is not far removed from this Fawlty Towers episode.

The problem is this: America’s President seems to be going on a kind of Basil Fawlty rant with wiretapping claims that only embarrass his staff and alienate the serious politicians in his own party.

The more he is pressured to leave the issue, let alone apologize for it, the more he parades it out in front of the media, and the cycle goes on. At the same time, the Republicans would like nothing more than to have the issue of Russian interference in the US elections go away. But for that, they need a controlled President who can resist making relevant statements for the next year or two, and get on supporting party policies and legislation. That’s not likely, given his penchant for early morning tweets.

Here is the core of the issue: if the Republican majorities want to execute a major policy shift, they need their focus to be on that shift, not on Presidential fantasies or other distractions. They cannot count on keeping their majorities in 2018, in part because the massive restructuring of programs and finances they hope to make may not appeal to their voters, even if they would be, at least to Republican politicians, good for the country.

This is how Obama put through Dodd-Frank financial legislation and Obamacare, the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act.

The super-sized distraction bubbling below the surface is the role the Russian government played in the election, and how complicit the President and his campaign staff might have been in co-operating with its intelligence operatives, financial flows and the like.

It is not credible that the experienced Republican politicians who were critical or hurt by the President do not see the outlines of this cooperation. There are just too many Administration appointments of people with Russian ties to be overlooked. The hacking of the DNC and the coordinated release of files through Wikileaks is too heavy-handed to be ignored as well.

Like the famous Watergate scandal, this is beginning as a small thing involving relatively minor players getting caught. Nixon’s ‘plumbers’ breaking into the DNC headquarters almost 50 years ago, like General Flynn’s ‘consulting’ for the Russians last year, was a small event, but, with Nixon, things began to unravel, and the cover-up inflated the stakes and destroyed his Presidency.

The quandary facing the Republican majorities in the House and Senate is whether to go after this Russian connection ,or ignore it and push on with their agenda. Unfortunately for the latter option, the involvement of an adversarial foreign power in the federal elections presents them with a serious issue. It may be true that a number of countries, including the US, have played around in foreign elections, but this has generally been seen as the ‘big boys’ playing with minor countries.

Somehow, it seems like it should be insulting to American self-esteem to be placed on a level with Bolivia or Angola.

Further, if this interference practice is not stopped, and an example made of one or more people, then can we expect the Democrats to do a deal with Chinese hackers in the next election? This sounds ludicrous, but if American billionaires can play in politics with impunity, why shouldn’t American politicians not just sell out to the highest bidder, domestic or foreign?

I don’t for a minute feel that American politicians should go down this route, but it already seems to have begun with last fall’s election.

This is why Congress, possibly against its own wishes, but in terms of its individual and collective survival, cannot afford to ignore, and thereby legitimize, foreign interference by anybody in American elections.

Whether it was critical in the election result is irrelevant; the issue is one of patriotism and American identity.

Gradually, this whole scheme will come to light. It is inconceivable that this relationship just developed in an uncoordinated fashion among a variety of people who did not realize that others were also doing the same thing. Normally, things in politics, in my experience, do not happen like that.

Connections and permissions come from the top. Sometimes the top people get away with it, but often there is someone who, for whatever personal or public reason, spills the beans. All that is needed is for investigative pressure to exist before that someone decides to work with the investigators, rather than take the charge that they fear will destroy him.

Meanwhile, the investigators will gradually take over the media’s attention and the credibility of the President goes down. If there are crimes suspected, the whole issue will tend to consume the attention of Congress to the detriment of the political agenda—and we are back to the essential quandary.

How do you get your agenda through with a President, who might be implicated in the scandal and cannot exercise both discipline and silence? Diverting attention will at some time lose its efficacy, especially as we have seen in the wiretapping fantasy, when no one except the faithful believes a word of it.

As the Russian scandal develops—and I believe it will develop slowly but in fine detail—the temptation for the President to speak to it will prove disastrous, not least in part because he has conditioned all of us to not believe a word he says.

This president will not need a falling moosehead to set him into gear, ‘talking about the War.’

This is not going to end well.

 Copyright Jim McNiven 2017

Facts and Opinions, employee-owned, survives only on an honour system: please chip in (suggest at least .27 per piece) or make a sustaining donation. Details. 

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Jim McNiven’s latest book is The Yankee Road: Tracing the Journey of the New England Tribe that Created Modern America

Who is a Yankee and where did the term come from? Though shrouded in myth and routinely used as a substitute for American, the achievements of the Yankees have influenced nearly every facet of our modern way of life.

Join author Jim McNiven as he explores the emergence and influence of Yankee culture while traversing an old transcontinental highway reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific — US 20, which he nicknames “The Yankee Road.”

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Jim McNiven

James McNiven has a PhD from the University of Michigan. He has written widely on public policy and economic development issues and is the co-author of three books. His most recent research has been about the relationship of demographic changes to Canadian regional economic development. He also has an interest in American business history and continues to teach at Dalhousie on a part-time basis.

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Real journalism has value. Thank you for your support. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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America Reclaims Its Decency?

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
August 13, 2016

This sounds like a story from The Onion, but it’s not: “Decency” has entered the United States presidential race and its appearance has startled the news media.” Compared to the GOP race, the heated contest of ideas between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders feels almost jarring in its decency and intelligence,” runs a Rolling Stone cutline under an early July photo during the Democratic primary campaigns.

By United States Senate - http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/graphic/xlarge/Welch_McCarthy.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27839902

“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” — Joseph Nye Welch, chief counsel for the US Army, to Senator Joseph McCarthy, in 1954 at the Army-McCarthy hearings. The confrontation is seen as a turning point in the history of McCarthyism. Photo: United States Senate, public domain, via Wikipedia

After the Democratic convention, media kept coming back to the decency theme. Covering the nomination for Tim Kaine, running mate to Democrat presidential contender Clinton, CNN quoted Virgina Senator Mark Warner: “I think you’ll see somebody whose basic humanity and decency will come through.” The Economist noted, “Rarely in recent times have America’s fact-based media, on the left and right, its politicians, its armed forces and citizens’ groups seemed so united, in a face-off between decency and rancour, as they do now.”

Neil Gabler asked on the Bill Moyers website, “Did the media grasp the importance of the moment last night as the Democratic National Convention concluded? I don’t mean the importance of the first woman major-party candidate being nominated for the presidency. On that score, I think they did pretty well.

“I mean the moment of rescue that the convention constituted — the moment at which this country, now on a fulcrum, could either tip toward authoritarianism, hopeless division and chaos, or toward a more charitable and hopeful vision of the future.”

Gabler saw the Democrats making a clearcut “appeal to decency”: the text was “Stronger Together.” The subtext was that “we are a great people who must draw on our better angels even as Donald Trump appeals to our worst devils. ‘America is great,’ intoned Hillary Clinton last night in what may be the most succinct expression of this idea, ‘because America is good.’ This is a stirring idea, if a somewhat self-congratulatory one, and for those of us who want to believe that light beats dark, that hope beats fear, that good beats evil, that unity beats division, it should be a winning idea.” But, Gabler warned, America is not like that.

Bill Maher even teased Hillary Clinton for her new public emphasis on caring and mothering. “Sweet grandma Hillary” might have worked in 2008, he said, but not in 2016. “Since half the country will believe an evil cartoon version of Hillary Clinton, no matter what she says or does, she has to embrace it,” said Maher. Voters now want “a ruthless mafia boss who will protect their frightened souls.”

If media were surprised to see “decency” enter the conversation, they and the public were soon smacked in the face by the disrespect the Republican candidate showed Khizr Khan, a Muslim Gold Star parent. With his wife by his side on the Democratic National Convention stage, Khan called out Donald Trump for wanting to ban Muslims and Mexicans from entering the U.S.

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan asked. “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” In his usual style, Donald Trump responded by attacking Khizr Khan, suggesting his wife Ghazala hadn’t been allowed to speak. Khan handed him back the scorn. “He has no decency,” said Khan. “He has a dark heart.”

President Obama said something similar while addressing wounded veterans. He rebuked Trump for disrespecting a war hero’s family, and for his general ignorance. Looking back at the 2008 and 2012 elections, the President said that if John McCain or Mitt Romney had won, “I would have said to all Americans: this is our president and I know they’re going to abide by certain norms and rules and common sense, will observe basic decency, will have enough knowledge about economic policy and foreign policy and our constitutional traditions and rule of law that our government will work and then we’ll compete four years from now to try and win an election. But that’s not the situation here. And that’s not just my opinion. That is the opinion of many prominent Republicans.”

Billionaire Warren Buffet was among many who picked up the refrain: “I ask Donald Trump, ‘Have you no decency, sir?'”

After slurring the Khan family, the Republican born with a silver foot in his mouth then stumbled into offhand suggestions that Russia should hack into the former Secretary of State’s personal files, and that “Second Amendment folks” (ie, gun owners) should take care of his political opponent. The trickle of Republicans dissociating themselves from him rose to a roaring stream, and the party plummeted over a precipice in public opinion polls. Clinton opened double-digit leads in key states.

“Decency, today, doesn’t seem the strongest of words,” writes Steven P Murphy in Prospect Magazine. “We know it means moral behavior carried out for — and with respect for — other people. Yet the moments in America’s history of which we are most proud, those events when we have been compelled to join together to do the right thing, have not only been moments of triumph but also moments of decency. A culture of decency describes how we should wish to be seen by people of other nations.”

Decency and basic values as the central concerns in a U.S. election? No wonder the U.S. news media are confused. They’re used to talking about tax cuts and horse race comparisons. Age of Aquarius, anyone?

Copyright Penney Kome 2016

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome here

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Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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