“When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

It’s unfair to Richard Nixon to be compared to Donald Trump. Nixon was ashamed of his behavior and proved it when a British game show host got the best of him in an interview that resulted in the incredibly incorrect statement Nixon uttered above. I’m not sure Trump is capable of feeling shame, but we can’t ignore how similarly the Trump Administration is unraveling like the Nixon Administration did as a result of Watergate.

The Trump/Nixon Differences

Nixon was more popular than Trump is or has been. Trump limped into the White House thanks to the Electoral College. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by two percent (48.18 percent to 46.09 percent). Nixon, however, won reelection in 1972 in one of the biggest landslides in American political history (60.67 percent to 37.52 percent). So these two Presidents started from vastly different measures of popularity.

After winning reelection, Nixon’s job approval rating according to Gallup was 50 percent. Trump entered his first term as President with a job approval rating of 45 percent, but his post-midterm job approval rating is just 38 percent—falling six percentage points in less than a month. That sudden drop is no doubt in response to Trump coercing the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s potential participation in Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Trump replaced Sessions with former ambulance chaser and potential defrauder of veterans, Matt Whitaker, Sessions’ former Chief of Staff, which is apparently legal, even though the order of succession at the Department of Justice doesn’t include the Chief of Staff on the list. The executive order Trump signed on March 31, 2017, doesn’t list the Chief of Staff as a potential successor either, but does state that “the President retains discretion, to the extent permitted by law, to depart from this order in designating an acting Attorney General,” which was the case when Barack Obama was President, too.  

Nixon’s job approval rating dropped eight points between Dec. 11, 1972, and Jan. 12, 1973, as a result of The Washington Post’s continued reporting on the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel that occurred June 13, 1971. But it wasn’t until Nixon’s Attorney General, Richard Kleindienst, resigned, along with top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, on April 30, 1973, that Nixon’s job approval rating reflected his guilt.

Attorneys General can Smell Guilt

It’s generally not a good sign for Presidents when U.S. Attorneys General resign amid scandal, whether coerced to do so or not. Attorneys have a pretty good sense of people’s guilt and tend to be pretty good at covering their asses. Kleindienst wrote the playbook Sessions is simply following in an attempt to avoid the fate of John N. Mitchell, the Attorney General who ran Nixon’s 1968 and 1972 Presidential campaigns and was imprisoned for 19 months due to his involvement in the Watergate break-in and cover-up. And Trump is trying to improve upon the playbook Nixon wrote on covering up election fraud, but Trump is leaving his friends out to dry just as Nixon did.

Gordon Liddy, leader of the group of five men who broke into the DNC headquarters, told Attorney General Kleindienst that the break-in was directed and funded by the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), and that Kleindienst should arrange the release of the burglars to reduce the risk of exposing CREEP’s involvement in the break-in. But Kleindienst refused and ordered the Watergate burglary investigation to proceed like any other. He resigned April 30, 1973. Nixon's approval rating had dropped 19 points in roughly three months.

Just like Trump failed to ask Sessions if he would be willing to undermine Mueller’s investigation prior to appointing him Attorney General, Nixon failed to ask Kleindienst’s replacement, former Secretary of Defense Elliot Richardson, if he would do what Kleindienst wouldn’t and undermine the Watergate investigation. When ordered to fire the top lawyer investigating the Watergate scandal, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, Richardson responded by resigning on Oct. 20, 1973—five months into his tenure as Attorney General. Like Sessions, Richardson had promised Congress he would not interfere with the special prosecutor’s investigation. At this point, Nixon's approval rating was 27 percent—down another 21 points since Kleindienst's resignation.

Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox, the original Mueller. He refused and also resigned. Nixon then ordered the third-most-senior official at the Justice Department, Solicitor General Robert Bork, to fire Cox. Bork considered resigning after firing Cox, but Richardson convinced him not to in order to ensure proper DOJ leadership. Bork served as acting Attorney General until Nixon appointed William B. Saxbe to the position on Jan, 4, 1974, his approval rating still hovering at 27 percent.

You could say Trump has avoided some of the mistakes Nixon made, but he’s still mired in scandal and using any opportunity afforded him as President to undermine Mueller’s investigation into his campaign’s potential participation in Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election. The appointment of Whitaker is to Trump as Bork was to Nixon; Whitaker just hasn’t fired Mueller yet, and might not have to if his idea to slow the investigation to a halt by cutting its funding works.

Sessions smelled guilt on Trump when he recused himself from the Mueller Investigation. That was Sessions covering his ass, and that odor has only worsened as Mueller’s investigation has resulted in indictments or guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies...so far. Some suspect a big announcement coming from Mueller, as eight members of his team worked Veteran’s Day—a paid day off for federal employees.

Barring White House Reporters a Tell-Tale Sign of Guilt

On Wednesday, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House press pass was suspended indefinitely. Acosta asked Trump whether he thought his calling a migrant caravan in South America an “invasion” demonized immigrants. The President answered “no,” adding that he wanted the immigrants to come to this country but do so legally, and that Acosta’s definition of invasion differed from his. Trump then went on to tell Acosta that he should focus on running CNN and let him run the country, and if he did, their ratings would be much better.

Trump attempted to take a question from NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander, but Acosta withheld the microphone from a White House intern and asked if Trump was concerned about the Russia investigation, to which Trump responded by calling it a “hoax” and told Acosta to “put down the mic,” stepping away from the podium when Acosta asked if he was worried about indictments. Acosta yielded control of the microphone to the intern, and Trump told Acosta that “CNN should be ashamed” to have him working for them, calling him “a rude, terrible person.”

Alexander defended his fellow free-press member: "In Jim's defense, I've traveled with him and watched him, he's a diligent reporter who busts his butt like the rest of us.” Trump responded by saying, “Well I'm not a big fan of yours either.” Trump continued to insult reporters during the press conference, calling a question from PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor “racist.” She asked if Trump thought calling himself a nationalist emboldened white nationalists. Trump also told April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks to “sit down” repeatedly.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now being accused of circulating a doctored video of Acosta’s interaction with the White House intern. Sanders originally cited Acosta “placing his hands on” the woman as reason for his barring, but in defense of a lawsuit brought by CNN, the White House is now citing Acosta’s “disruptions” as reason for the suspension of his press pass.

If these aren’t the nervous actions of a guilty man’s administration, I don’t know what is. Nixon barred Washington Post reporters from the White House for everything but press conferences on Dec. 11, 1972. This was long after he sued The New York Times for publishing stories citing the leaked “Pentagon Papers,” a classified study of the Vietnam War that revealed the Nixon Administration had escalated the war despite knowing it couldn’t win the war. The Post came to The Times’ defense and published stories from the “Pentagon Papers” on June 18, 1971...just like NBC News and even Fox News is coming to the defense of Acosta and CNN today.

It took a year and a half for The Post to wear out its welcome at the White House with its Watergate coverage. Mueller’s investigation has been ongoing for a year and a half.   

How Long Until the End of Trump?

Democrats will have the votes to impeach Trump in the House of Representatives when the new Congress is convened on Jan. 3. House Democrats already introduced five articles of impeachment in November 2017, and only need a majority vote on one to force a Senate trial overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. Impeachment doesn’t mean Trump is removed from office, however.

Nixon’s Senate trial lasted two months, and it was a full two years between the Watergate break-in and his resulting resignation, so if Trump’s timeline is as similar as it has been thus far, if he’s to be removed or if he’s to resign from office, it’s likely to happen sooner rather than later, but unlikely to happen at all. In fact, Congressional Democrats and Democratic Presidential candidates would likely prefer to run against a Trump White House rather than a Mike Pence White House, who is beloved by the Koch Brothers.

It’s not likely that Congress will remove Trump because two-thirds of Senators would have to find the President guilty in order for Vice President Pence to take over. Unless Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2020 (there are at least 20) feel they’d be better served running under a Pence Presidency than the Trump Administration, don’t expect Congress to remove the President. But Congress didn’t need to vote for Nixon to resign, and similar pressure on Trump—like criminal charges brought by Mueller—might bring similar results.

The more Mueller digs, the more he seems to be digging Trump’s political grave, so don’t be surprised if come February or March of 2019, Trump is doing what Nixon did on Aug. 9, 1974—resigning. But if there’s any shame to be pried from Trump’s soul to give us what we all need to heal as a nation, it’s going to require one hell of a game show host.


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Published in Politics

With Democrats winning a majority of seats in the United States’ House of Representatives and Republicans retaining a majority in the Senate, a Republican-controlled Congress with an approval rating of just 21 percent entering the 2018 Midterm Elections will be split when new members of Congress are sworn in on January 3. Here are some of the bipartisan issues a split Congress could address, in order of likelihood.

1) Impeachment of Donald Trump

It would be negligent not to acknowledge that Democrats now have the votes to impeach President Donald Trump. House Democrats already introduced five articles of impeachment in November 2017 and could again. Now that Trump has forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Matthew Whitaker, the man who on CNN floated the very idea of replacing Sessions with a temporary Attorney General who could cut funding to Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential involvement with Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Sessions wasn’t well-liked by Democrats, but he did recuse himself from the Mueller investigation to the chagrin of Trump. A day after the 2018 Midterm Election, as to not adversely affect election results, Trump convinced Sessions to resign, but instead of promoting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to whom Mueller currently reports, Trump installed Whitaker, a Trump loyalist.

If Whitaker acts on the idea he floated on CNN, expect House Democrats to respond by filing articles of impeachment, eventually voting on those articles, and forcing Senate Republicans to decide between protecting their own political careers or that of their party’s President. Removing him would take two-thirds of all Senators.

FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich writes that Democrats would need to retain Doug Jones’s seat in Alabama, defeat both Susan Collins in Maine and Cory Gardner in Colorado, and pick up a seat in a red state. The best bets would be in Arizona, where Jon Kyl is not seeking reelection, and in Iowa, where Democrats flipped two House districts and came within 40,025 votes of installing a Democratic Governor. Of course, if Democrats win the Presidential Election, they’d need to win one fewer Senate seat for a majority, as the Vice President would break a tie.

2) Transportation and Infrastructure Reform

The issue upon which both Congressional Democrats and Republicans can most likely agree is the nation’s need of vast infrastructure updates. U.S. infrastructure was given a D+ grade by the American Society of Structural Engineers in its latest Infrastructure Report Card, and despite efforts to address this, America hasn’t come close to making up for the estimated $2 trillion in needs over 10 years.

New House Committee Leader for Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio, appears to be willing to work with the President to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and subways, and perhaps expand access to high-speed internet. A blueprint for doing so has already been provided by Senate Democrats, requiring an estimated investment of $1.6 trillion.

DeFazio has suggested raising the gas tax in line with inflation to pay for some of the updates. With gas prices at their lowest in six months despite sanctions limiting Iran’s oil exports, addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure could be a means to comfortably introduce new members of Congress to Washington politics, bridge the widening gap between the parties, and deliver a win for both parties, their constituents, and the President, who promised “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.” If Democrats and Republicans are actually going to do what they said they will after the elections and work together, infrastructure investment is probably the best place to start.

3) Middle Class Tax Cut

One issue for which House Democrats could get enough support from Senate Republicans is a middle class tax cut that was mostly absent from the corporate tax cut Congressional Republicans passed. At the very least, House Democrats could use their newly won majority in the underchamber of Congress to force Republicans to vote on a middle class tax cut and show where Republicans really stand and whom they really represent when it comes to taxes.

Regardless, there are probably five votes Democrats could get from Senate Republicans on a middle class tax cut if it doesn’t also include an increase in taxes for the richest Americans and corporations. Any legislation passed by House Democrats will almost certainly include a tax hike on the richest Americans and corporations, however, so the Senate will have to draft legislation agreeable to Senate Republicans and appeasing House Democrats.

4) Ending Federal Cannabis Prohibition

Ending federal prohibition of marijuana does not require Congress, but it does require a U.S. Attorney General willing to initiate the process of executive reclassification. With Trump convincing Sessions to resign, the best opportunity for him to boost his approval ratings going into the 2020 Presidential Election might be by appointing an Attorney General willing to initiate this process so Trump can take all the credit for being the President who legalized weed...or at least tried.

Trump doesn’t seem to be considering his Attorney General appointment as an opportunity to improve his approval ratings via cannabis reform. Neither Chris Christie and Pam Bondi have expressed interest in ending marijuana prohibition, but Alexander Acosta as Labor Secretary urged employers to take a “step back” on drug testing so cannabis users could fill the many open employment opportunities.

Still, executive reclassification requires the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which consults the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This is where Trump’s self-proclaimed business acumen might have to reveal itself, because the DEA affirmed its hard stance against reclassifying cannabis in 2016, it seized $20.5 million dollars in assets through its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in 2017. But it did loosen restrictions on cannabis with regards to research.

5) Gun Control

There was yet another mass shooting resulting in the deaths of 12 people in Thousand Oaks, California, this time by a war veteran whose very actions seemed motivated by Congress’s lack of action in response to gun violence in America. In a Facebook post prior to the attack, the mass shooter wrote “"I hope people call me insane... (laughing emojis).. wouldn't that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah.. I'm insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is 'hopes and prayers'.. or 'keep you in my thoughts'... every time... and wonder why these keep happening.”

Democrats elected gun control candidates throughout the nation, and with a majority in the House, can finally pass gun control legislation that would force a vote on gun control legislation by Republicans in the Senate, 20 of whom are up for reelection in 2020, and perhaps more pending results of runoffs and recounts.


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Published in Politics

Popular Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova became the fourth journalist killed in the European Union (EU) since 2017. The 30-year-old was found unrecognizable, brutally beaten while she was raped and then strangled to death. 

Marinova had just started her own news talk show called “Detector.” In her final show on Sept. 30, she interviewed Bulgarian journalist Dimitar Stoyanov and Romanian journalist Attila Biro. Stoyanov and Biro were arrested by Bulgarian police while investigating GP Group, a private construction company suspected of carrying out scams with EU funds.

While one journalist from Marinova’s network said they had never received any threats regarding Marinova’s work, Bivol.bg owner Asen Yordanov told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that his journalists had received credible information that they were in danger of being assaulted because of the investigation aired on Marinova’s show.

Police don’t think Marinova’s murder was instigated by her reporting because she was raped, which is already a crime of passion. But if a man was or men were willing to murder Marinova over her work, he or they would have likely been as willing to rape her as murder her, if not more so. It wasn’t long ago that journalist Kim Wall, also 30, was sexually assaulted and murdered after interviewing Danish inventor Peter Madsen.

Wall’s dismembered remains were found on Aug. 21, 2017, 11 days after she interviewed Madsen aboard his submarine. Madsen, 47, said he had planned to murder Wall either by suffocating her or cutting her throat. He was found guilty of premeditated murder and sexual assault after admitting to dismembering Wall’s body and throwing her remains overboard. He intends to appeal the conviction.

Less than two months after Wall’s remains were found, investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb. She was going to the bank to try and access her funds frozen by the Maltese government minister. Her killer remains at large as far as we know.

The latest killing of a journalist in the EU was back in February, when Jan Kuciak, 27, and his fiancé were shot dead in Slovakia. Jan was investigating alleged political corruption linked to Italian organized crime. His unfinished article published after his death alleges that businessmen in eastern Slovakia with links to Calabria's notorious Ndrangheta mafia are embezzling EU structural funds. Kuciak’s murder forced the resignation of Slovakia’s then-Prime Minister, Robert Fico.

Whether Marinova’s murder was “a warning” like Yordanov believes or simply a case of an attractive woman being alone around a man or men worse than animals doesn’t mean there isn’t an active effort to shut up journalists in the EU.

President Donald Trump expressing his disdain for journalists not working for Fox News certainly isn’t making matters better for journalists stateside or otherwise. While the worst attack of a journalist stateside recently is U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte’s (R-Mont.) assault of Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs a day before he WON election, Trump’s words and tweets reverberate internationally. His often-advertised attitude towards people simply doing their jobs of seeking the truth is partially responsible for the deaths of these journalists in the EU.


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Published in Opinion

You don’t have to be college-educated to figure out how the Republican Party feels about women. They’ve made it crystal clear throughout Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. President Donald Trump punctuated his party’s stance with an uncharacteristically reserved albeit unsurprisingly ignorant comment that should have every American woman voting for anyone but a Republican male this November and beyond.

“It’s a very scary time for young men in America,” Trump said after seeing and hearing the testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. Ford alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when he was 17; Kavanaugh denies the allegations. It’s a situation this country’s seen before, which shows how little has changed in 27 years.

Despite 90 to 98 percent of sexual assault allegations found to be accurately reported according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the President thinks it’s men who should be scared while “women are doing great” making 80 cents to a man’s dollar and so scared of men it took a movement of high-profile women accusing high-profile men of sex crimes for less than half of victims to report sexual abuse. An estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to police, and one in six women have been a victim of rape or attempted rape.

So it might be a scary time for up to 16,093,000 American men (10 percent of 160.93 million American men), but it has been and continues to be a scary time for almost twice as many American women (27,915,666 to be more precise). Trump’s opinion on this subject is not unlike his and his party’s opinion of voter fraud. Neither has a foundation based on facts. Instances of voter fraud are even rarer than instances of false sexual assault reports. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, commonly known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, was quick to educate the President via Twitter.

Trump called the testimony of Ford “very compelling,” adding that “she looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman.” I don’t know if Trump was commenting on Ford’s appearance or her integrity, but, as usual, it took him a few seconds of rambling before the words with which he should have led managed to sneak by the foot in his mouth. “Credible witness” was all Trump had to say of Ford; words he didn’t use to describe his Supreme Court nominee.

Frankly, none of Kavanaugh’s testimony should be considered truthful until he does what Ford did: take and pass a polygraph test, the use of which he actually supported in writing just two years ago. In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Andrew Manuel Crespo revealed that Kavanaugh recommended polygraphs be used to “screen applicants” for “critical” government positions. There are few governmental positions more critical than Supreme Court Judge, but Kavanaugh isn’t practicing what he preached. Apparently, Kavanaugh thinks his position as an “honorable” judge entitles his non-polygraphed testimony equal consideration to Ford’s polygraph-passing testimony.

Have we learned nothing in the 27 years since Anita Hill accused then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in the workplace? Like Ford, Hill passed a professionally administered polygraph test, and like Kavanaugh, Thomas didn’t take one. But Thomas’s performance in 1991 was Oscar-worthy, while Kavanaugh’s was Razzie-worthy. I might not be a Hollywood director, but I have a Bachelor’s degree in filmmaking and know a good performance when I see one. Ford’s testimony seemed realistic. The moments, or beats, she was emotional were moments you’d expect to make someone emotional; they were motivated by the dialogue being delivered. She gave honest testimony, and had she not taken a polygraph, I’d still believe her over Kavanaugh.

Not only was Kavanaugh’s performance unconvincing but unmotivated, except for the brief moment he channels Thomas in talking about the allegations being a political hit by “left-wing opposition groups.” Of the 5,294 words in Kavanaugh’s prepared statement, he convincingly delivered 51 of them. It was as close as Kavanaugh would come to channeling Thomas.

You can tell Kavanaugh tried to use Thomas’s testimony as a template, but he strayed from that proven playbook as if he was Tobin scrambling behind his offensive line in high school. Tobin, the “great quarterback” at Kavanaugh’s high school (which has its own nine-hole golf course), used to workout with Kavanaugh. Tobin’s dad ran the workouts, the thought of which made Kavanaugh cry. That sort of reaction made me wonder if Kavanaugh had been molested by Tobin’s dad, or if Tobin or his dad died tragically. That would have motivated tears, not working out with high school friends.

Kavanaugh also choked up over calendars that doubled as his dad’s diaries, which he started keeping in 1978. He wept over these calendars as if his father was dead or as if they were responsible for his fondest childhood memories (Kavanaugh was 13 when his father started keeping the calendars). John Oliver quipped that Everett Edward Kavanaugh Jr. is not only alive, but was seated behind his son hiding his disgrace better than his son was hiding the truth.

Trump seemed to be more shocked by Kavanaugh’s testimony than Ford’s, and for good reason. Not only did we have a good idea of what Ford was going to say, but we thought we had a good idea of what Kavanaugh was going to say and how he would say it. He could have and should have emulated the example provided by Thomas 27 years earlier — posturing unmitigated strength and voicing emphatic anger in response to the accusations, the accuser, and Congress for allowing this “circus,” “national disgrace,” and “high-tech lynching for uppity-blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kow-tow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.”

Kavanaugh couldn’t play the race card like Thomas, so he played the politics card instead. It’s a much weaker hand, but any hand played properly can win the pot. Kavanaugh just doesn’t have Thomas’s poker face, and worse yet, he’s probably a sexual molester of at least one woman if not more.

Whether he’s guilty or not, Kavanaugh’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee provided ample reasons why he’s not fit for the Supreme Court. He repeatedly said he likes beer, as if he was trying to placate to the committee’s beer-drinkers. He was extremely rude to Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar when asked if he’d ever drank to the point he couldn’t remember events. Despite spending 28 years in courtrooms, Kavanaugh responded to Sen. Klobuchar’s question with a question of his own: “Have you?” He must have been tired of lying, but that probably wouldn’t have been his response had a man asked the question. I think this moment is most indicative of Kavanaugh’s treatment of women. He bullied Klobuchar, going on the offensive when he’s supposed to be defending himself and his reputation.

It’s worth noting that it took three years for George W. Bush’s nomination of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to be confirmed. During that time, Kavanaugh was downgraded from a rating of “well qualified” by the American Bar Association, its highest designation, to simply “qualified,” after conducting more interviews in 2006. He’s not even good at his job, and there are 20 or so more candidates Republicans can confirm who will overturn Roe v. Wade just like Kavanaugh would. Why Republicans are willing to die on this hill with this lying snake is the most mind boggling move they could make with the midterm elections upcoming. The last thing they need is to give women more reasons not to vote for them, and their unwavering support of Kavanaugh is doing just that.

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Published in Opinion

Not only is Hollywood remaking and retelling the same fictional stories, but stories based in fact are also being retold because we keep repeating history. Exactly nothing has changed since Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was released in 1989 except, maybe, racial tensions becoming more tense. Black Americans are still being killed by racist cops and white supremacy groups are growing in numbers, getting mainstream support from the President of the United States and are killing way more Americans than Islamic Extremists. The Klan is back with a vengeance, and BlacKkKlansman isn't shy about sharing that fact.

BlacKkKlansman tells the true story of a black police officer in Colorado, new to the department and first of his kind, going “undercover” as a Ku Klux Klan supporter to investigate the “organization.” After cold-calling the Ku Klux Klan utilizing “white voice” not unlike black comedians Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle, Ron Stallworth boasts to his precinct chief that he can speak both “the King’s English” and jive in order to infiltrate the local chapter of the Klan and determine the organization’s intentions and dangerousness while also getting an inside look at the college’s Black Student Union, who invited a Black Panther to speak in town.

The year is 1979 in Lee’s rendition of this true story, but the actual events occurred in 1972. Changing the date allowed Lee to reference then trendy blaxploitation movies and the KKK’s supposed support of President Richard Nixon’s re-election. It might look like 1979 on screen, but if you read just the script’s dialogue, you’d wonder whether it was 1979, 1989 or 2019.

Lee makes multiple references to current events throughout the film, making a comment on our time more so than a comment on the times in which it’s set. Stallworth is accused of naivety by a fellow officer when he says, “People would never elect a man like David Duke President.” Yet people elected Donald Trump, who called some white supremacists at Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally “good people.” Good people, however, don’t discriminate as to whom they are good.

Duke, satisfyingly portrayed by Topher Grace, has a gullibility and all-around lack of awareness about him that somehow makes him not only tolerable but hilariously cartoonish. Duke was obviously concerned with how the film portrayed him, afraid that he’d come off as stupid. Lee didn’t care even though Duke told the real-life Stallworth that he “always respected Spike Lee.”

Duke also delivers a line drawing from current events in one of his many phone conversations with Stallworth, saying he wants “America to achieve its greatness again,” another obvious reference to the President's popular, campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” I suspect Duke and Trump share the same idea as to what constitutes this country’s greatest greatness, and if it’s not pre-Civil War, it’s at least a time when white people didn’t have to share anything with black people except the air they breathe.

Do the Right Thing, like BlacKkKlansman, was inspired by actual events. Black kids were indeed chased out of a pizzeria in New York City. Whether the boycott of said pizzeria actually occurred and resulted in a riot destroying the pizzeria is unknown. What is known and is made abundantly clear in BlacKkKlansman, is that the hostility and contempt underlying race relations in America have persisted if not worsened since 1989 despite BlacKkKlansman taking place 10 years prior. BlacKkKlansman transcends time in that sense, but it doesn’t attempt to transcend race despite an obvious opportunity to do so.

Stallworth is portrayed by John David Washington, who does the character justice by conveying both the gumshoe’s greenness and opportunistic, entrepreneurial spirit despite an obvious internal struggle between the black cop walking the beat and the black man longing for and working toward justice for his black brothers and sisters being killed in the streets by racist cops.

Stallworth doesn’t let anything stop him from pursuing his passion project. He is not the easily distracted Mookie of Do the Right Thing. Stallworth is as motivated as they come, and to him, the fact he’s black doesn’t mean he can’t infiltrate the local KKK chapter. There are more than enough white officers to serve as his stand-in, but it would take the right kind of white officer to infiltrate the Klan. Sure, the Colorado Springs Police Department, like most American police departments at the time, had more than its fair share of racist cops. But a racist cop could still give himself away as a cop despite the depth of his racism.

Enter Flip Zimmerman, a Jewish detective who wasn’t raised Jewish. Zimmerman is aptly portrayed by Adam Driver, who is almost too cool when accused of being a Jew at gunpoint by a member of the local KKK chapter. The Klansman is so concerned over Zimmerman’s bloodlines that he demands he take a lie detector test, but Zimmerman’s partner comes to the rescue just in time. Or does he? Zimmerman later alludes to the fact that he’s never really given his Jewish heritage much thought until now, but that doesn’t mean he could pass a “Jew detector” test at gunpoint, even if he wasn’t raised Jewish.

Despite the engaging performances of Washington and Driver, Lee misses an opportunity to make BlacKkKlansman a little more enjoyable and, dare I say, feel-good, by focusing on growing relationships between characters at the expense of others, and that’s likely by design. Lee doesn’t make many feel-good films, but Do the Right Thing certainly does a better job developing the relationship between Mookie and Sal than BlacKkKlansman does for Ron and Flip. Washington and Driver give fine individual performances, but their time on screen together isn’t ample or dramatic enough for their characters’ relationship to grow throughout the film like Mookie and Sal’s relationship does in Do the Right Thing.

Besides length, there’s really no reason not to give Ron and Flip a few moments to convey the growth of their work relationship. Any good film requires a hero to overcome conflict and grow as a person. The same goes for the relationships between characters. They too need to grow and motivate the action and change of the characters, and the relationship between Ron and Flip leaves much to be desired.

Not once do I remember Flip irate despite the danger Ron’s created for him. He’s the one risking everything while the “Black Klansman” sits safely at the other end of a telephone making friends with the grand wizard of the KKK. In fact, the film should have been called BlacKkKlansmen, because Flip is one half of the Black Klansman and has more at risk than Ron.

At first, Stallworth is completely careless when it comes to his new partner’s life, and there’s never really a moment where Stallworth shares a realization of and appreciation for the white man taking all the risk while the black man remains safe on the other end of a telephone. Just because Zimmerman’s white doesn’t mean the Klan won’t kill him. This missed opportunity for Lee to display the dynamics influencing the relationship between Stallworth and Zimmerman is one that could have contributed to the film’s drama and the characters’ respective growths throughout the film.

But Driver seemed emotionally unavailable and barely vulnerable throughout the film, whether he was undercover or not. He had his guard up at all times, and that could be his interpretation of the character, as an undercover detective should probably have his guard up at all times. Or his lack of emotional range could be due to a lack of chemistry with Washington, which would explain Lee's limiting their relationship's screen time. Washington doesn't give Driver much to work with in Flip's most vulnerable moment, but if the scene in question is not ad-libbed, the script doesn't give Driver much to work off of either.

Driver might be a victim of pigeon-holing on a Napoleon Dynamite scale, where regardless of Driver's role in a film, he will always be Kylo Ren to some people, which isn't fair to him, but a role like that is sometimes inescapable and can be detrimental to any other performance at no fault to Driver except for being iconic. Driver's demeanor as Flip was almost as if he was inwardly lamenting his performance knowing audiences would disconnect themselves from the viewing experience at the shock of seeing a Star Wars character in a Spike Lee Joint.   

For whatever reason, and I'm leaning toward creative choice, Lee focuses our attention on the relationship between Stallworth and his love interest, Patrice Dumas, a militant, student leader he meets on his first day working undercover. Her disdain for “pigs” only grows that evening when she’s harassed by one of Stallworth’s peers while he waits for her to meet him at a bar. Stallworth doesn’t let his secret profession stop him from making a rookie mistake and getting personal.

Lee’s focus on the fragile relationship between Stallworth and Dumas instead of the underdeveloped relationship between Stallworth and Zimmerman robs viewers of a relationship that could have provided them a reason for hope, which is something Lee’s films tend to struggle conveying due to subject matter and history. Black Americans’ relationships with police, or lack thereof, have been and continue to be shaped by a very warranted lack of trust. Police have been and continue to be employed to further hinder black Americans, who in 2018 still feel the financial and social effects of slavery. That doesn’t scream hope, but neither do Spike Lee Joints. Spike Lee Joints mirror reality more so than most filmmakers in history.

Lee’s choice to focus on the relationship between black man and black woman and the struggles they experience despite sharing a skin color instead of focusing on the black man and white man and the struggles they experience working together in spite of their differing skin color might indicate that Lee believes black Americans still need to unify before all Americans unify. In Do the Right Thing, Mookie and Sal’s relationship isn’t cheated like Ron and Flip’s, but Mookie still pitches for his home team regardless of who’s signing his checks.

Mookie’s boss isn’t responsible for the death of Radio Raheem, but Sal’s already short and shrinking temper in the summer and pizza oven heat, and his growing defensiveness and displeasure with race-related questions posed as if he’s on trial for being racist because of the pictures of Italian-Americans he hangs in the pizzeria, escalate the incident to violence before white cops ever get their murdering hands on Raheem.

An argument over music and its volume in Do the Right Thing and the resulting response by police sounds eerily similar to recent smartphone videos taken of police brutalizing a minority amongst a crowd of minorities pleading for the police to stop. Again, not much has changed in 30 years except the number and quality of video cameras and camera operators and an increased means to share videos. The police beatings of minorities are just in high-definition and available to view from multiple angles almost immediately upon the completion of "principle photography." Lee's shot-for-shot videography of the riot in Do the Right Thing could probably be reproduced using smartphones, invoking an even more emotional response given the lifelike intimacy provided by the participants' cameras. 


The riot really begins when Mookie throws a trash can through the window of his employer’s storefront near the end of Do the Right Thing. But he does it because it’s the right thing to do—not because he's taking the side of his people over that of his provider—but because he gives his people and his provider exactly what they need: closure.

Mookie dispersing the crowd with a sentimental soliloquy apologizing for his employer and fellow employees works better on stage than on screen and wouldn’t likely work at all in reality. Would heartfelt words of a pizza delivery boy be enough to soothe you and disperse a riot after your community lost a friend, brother, son and neighbor because the pizza delivery boy’s employer couldn’t stand his “jungle” music? I thought not.

Mookie gave his community exactly what it needed to get over its collective grief in a healthy manner. While looting and destruction of property are crimes, both are a lot healthier than murder or assault of those perceived to be responsible for the tragic death of Radio Raheem. Mookie might have actually saved Sal’s life, but that, like the reasoning behind Mookie’s throwing of the trash can, is not immediately evident to viewers given the emotion-evoking destruction of the pizzeria.  

Like BlacKkKlansman, there was an obvious need for the end of Do the Right Thing to offer viewers a semblance of hope. Mookie coming back to Sal’s destroyed pizzeria the next day to collect his $250 salary and the two of them negotiating a settlement isn’t hope enough apparently. So Lee drops lines from both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. to reinforce the dangerousness of duality—the idea that contrasting concepts cannot both be correct simultaneously. But two different concepts can be true at the same time. Nonviolence is a good approach until someone attacks you, which is the message Lee sent at the end of Do the Right Thing.   

Lee has often echoed the words of Malcolm X and King, Jr. in his work, and BlacKkKlansman is no exception. Stallworth represents the teachings of King, Jr., and Dumas practices the teachings of X, putting them at odds as to which path is most likely to award “all the power to all the people.” In the end, of course, they realize the same things viewers of Do the Right Thing did: two contrasting concepts can be true at the same time, and if there’s to be hope for black Americans to ever overcome the persisting socioeconomic disadvantage resulting from slavery, it’s going to require both nonviolent and violent acts by a unified, black people.

The black community's dismissal of the Asian grocer across the street from Sal's pleading with them that he too is "black" like them so the rioters don't loot and destroy his shop is a great example of the message Lee sends in both Do the Right Thing and BlacKkKlansman. Black Americans can't climb out of the socioeconomic disadvantage resulting from slavery as a group inside another larger group of minorities. No other American minority started with the disadvantage black Americans did, so Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc. can't relate and, therefore, can't help black Americans overcome their socioeconomic disadvantage. And judging from Lee's apparent choices in BlacKkKlansman, Lee doesn't think white Americans can help either. It's something that has to be done  solely by black Americans solely for black Americans.

So almost 30 years after people first saw a race riot explode on the big screen in a Spike Lee Joint, another Spike Lee Joint now shows people exactly how little has changed when it comes to race relations in America. If there’s one obvious changes between Lee’s films spanning almost 30 years, it’s that Do the Right Thing has a more hopeful ending than BlacKkKlansman, which tells me Spike thinks the future is more bleak for black Americans than it was in 1989. If you're looking for a hopeful, uplifting movie this week, see the relatively inconsequential Crazy Rich Asians. I haven't seen it, but I can tell you it will be an almost complete disconnect from reality that won't require your brain to enjoy. Romantic comedies are, by design, an escape. 

Spike Lee Joints, however, mirror reality and are meant to make you uncomfortable with their unrivaled realness and borderline neorealism, making you aware of things previously foreign and challenging your beliefs of what you thought it was like to be black in America, because if you're not black, you only know what you see, hear and read. And no one provides as accurate and unabridged imagery of black lives in America as Spike Lee. If you're looking for a thought-provoking, uncomfortable, cultural commentary of American race relations then and now, this Spike Lee Joint is educational and entertaining enough to be worth the price of admission. 


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk radio shows: The Karel Show, Erskine Overnight, The Lounge, The Debbie Nigro Show

Published in Entertainment
A high-school-educated athlete who missed 83 days of school in fourth gradeserving as President of the United States isn’t as far-fetched as it might have been prior to the 2016 Presidential Election. If Donald Trump has instilled anyhope in the everyday American, it’s that they too can be President someday. George W. Bush had the same effect, but neither were self-made men.

LeBron James, however, is the American Dream incarnate. He went from rags to riches and didn’t even need a loan from his father to do so. In fact, he did it without his father entirely, and that is more representative of an upbringing in everyday America these days, making him more in tune with the everyday American than most politicians have ever been.

The question isn’t whether LeBron James is qualified to be President; it’s when he’ll run and win.

Schools Built: LeBron 1, Trump -1

Upon opening the “I Promise” public school James gifted to his hometown of Akron to serve at-risk youth in grades one through eight, James has been drawing the attention of the President and the support of a lot of people. As of this writing, more than 40,000 people have signed a Care2 petition calling for James to replace Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

While a select few have criticized James for leaving Ohio taxpayers with a $6 million annual tax bill to run the school, Ohio taxpayers aren’t actually paying an additional $6 million per year in taxes. They pay the annual budget for public schools regardless of James’s I Promise school being open or not. If anything, James is lowering their tax burden by $2 million annually and saved his hometown taxpayers from having to pass a school bond to fund the $2 million in repairs and renovations the school required.

Even if he wanted, James’s Family Foundation couldn’t lawfully pay the entirety of the public school’s $8-million annual budget without it becoming a private school, which wasn’t James’s intent. While James attended a private high school, it wasn’t because his mother could afford it. It was because LeBron could ball. James built a public school to serve his people — poor people.

Trump, on the other hand, “built” Trump University, a for-profit, education company that defrauded “students” of both money and an education, costing Trump $25 million to settle lawsuits brought against the “university.” Meanwhile, James spent $41.8 million to send 1,100 Akron students to college.

James showed just how smart and Presidential he is by not responding to the President’s not-so-Presidential tweets after opening the I Promise school. James’s disacknowledgement of Trump’s diss got a rave review from his contemporary in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, calling it “absolutely beautiful.”Perhaps James is going to let his game and three-part, Showtime docu-series, Shut Up and Dribble serve as his response to the President’s “shut up and dribble” attitude in October.

Trump’s sentiment is a popular one amongst his base, who seemingly want their reality, television entertainment devoid of reality and their reality, television entertainers devoid of humanity. They want live-action, propagandic cartoons that let them ignore the injustices in their country and world, not documentaries drawing attention to those injustices. They and their President seem to be in the minority, though.

Approval Rating: LeBron 53, Trump 39

The President’s approval rating dropped from 41 to 39 percent in the week following his Twitter attack on LeBron, and while that decline could be a result of just about anything the President has said or done of failed to say or do, it’s worth noting because it’s the lowest Trump’s approval rating has been since April. Trump’s all-time low approval rating is 35 percent, and he’s never been approved of by a majority of Americans, according to Gallup. Trump entered office with an approval rating of 45 percent in 2017.

Back in 2016, a Seton Hall Sports Poll found that 53 percent of 762 adult respondents approved of James, and that was before he won a championship for Cleveland. So it’s apparent that Trump’s and James’ approval ratings are moving in opposite directions.

Electoral College: LeBron 279, Trump 259

To run for President, you must be born in the United States, retain a residence in the United States for 14 years and be at least 35 years of age. That’s it. An advanced degree nor any college degree is required of a Presidential candidate. The only college that matters is the Electoral College. On Dec. 30, 2019, LeBron James will be officially eligible to run for President, and everything he’s done has properly prepared him for running a successful campaign as a Democrat in 2020 or beyond.

Think about it. James is a native of Ohio, one of the most important swing states in the nation and one of the best predictors of the eventual winner of U.S. Presidential Elections. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without winning Ohio, and no Republican is going to win Ohio in a race against King James. That’s 18 electoral votes that went to Trump going to James and the Democrats in 2020. If James wins the same states Hillary Clinton did in 2016, he would need just 20 electoral college votes to win the Presidency after Ohio, and he gets them in Florida.

James’s career in Miami, including back-to-back championships and four consecutive Finals appearances should swing the state and its 29 electoral votes from Trump to the Democrats in 2020. Boom, King James is President James in 2021. He’ll just be Presidenting while playing professional basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers instead of golfing alone. Or...

When We Could Reasonably Expect President LeBron

James has said he wants to play on a basketball team with his son, and unless the NCAA changes its rules regarding “amateurism” and college eligibility (or the NBA changes theirs), his son will have to be 19 years old or so. That’s in six years, when his dad will be 39. So if LeBron intends to play until he’s, say, 42, he’d be free to focus all his attention on the country in 2028 — an election year.

If James doesn’t have political aspirations, he’s got a funny way of showing it. Most of us can’t help but look into every little thing LeBron does as something leading to something bigger. His philanthropic choices are obviously representative of what’s in his heart, and that heart is proving to be Presidential in its size and stamina. If James wants the White House, he can have it whenever he’s willing. Let’s hope he’s willing, because he’s certainly capable of leading the free world.


This was originally published at Grandstand Central.

 

Published in Opinion

There’s no secret as to which companies sponsor which drivers in NASCAR. It’s advertised all over the cars and drivers. NASCAR drivers aren’t bashful when it comes to endorsing their sponsors either, and race fans can easily see the companies that support them. Politicians should be no different. In fact, they should be just as eager to do so at the podium as NASCAR drivers are on victory lane. They should wear the logos of their campaign contributors with pride, stitched into their thousand-dollar suits, and they should proudly thank every one of them in their victory and concession speeches. Like NASCAR drivers, politicians wouldn’t be where they are without their campaign contributors. That’s why I’m proposing the Non-individual And Super-PAC Contributions Advertising Requirement, or N.A.S.C.A.R. Act, to end all that secrecy, and force politicians to reveal who paid for their campaign.


This was originally published at Grandstand Central.


Much has been made of the need for transparency with regards to campaign contributions in American elections, but not much has been done. Sure, there are organizations and journalists reporting from where the “dark money” comes, but few media outlets are reporting those stories and even fewer voters are reading or watching them when they are reported. The result is a record-number of Americans — 36 percent, according to an October 2017 poll by the General Social Survey — being ashamed of the way democracy works in America.

Even if you wanted to know who gave what to whom, the research is time-consuming, relatively un-revealing and you have to trust the number-crunchers and fact-checkers did their jobs. But you still couldn’t determine the amount a super PAC spent on a television advertisement in support of a politician’s specific agenda item like abortion. We’re lucky to have projects like OpenSecrets to reveal campaign contributors to the Americans who discover and believe their research to be accurate, but the American people shouldn’t have to search for that information because major campaign contributors shouldn’t be secrets.

Americans need to see who (and it is “who” since corporations are people by law) is most responsible for electing their elected officials, and the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act would require elected officials to display all non-individual campaign contributions on their person when in view of the public — whether that’s on television, in-person or even on vacation.

Since elected officials are public figures and celebrities of sorts, they are always representative of their office, regardless of whether they’re on the clock or not. When a politician commits sexual assault, he or she doesn’t get a pass because it happened outside the office or during off-duty hours. This form of public shaming would make elected officials think twice about taking money from just anyone or any one organization, and it would make corporations consider the consequences of supporting specific candidates, solving some of America’s campaign finance fiasco.

A majority of Americans support campaign finance reform, according to an August 2017 Ipsos Poll on behalf of the Center for Public Integrity, and almost half of those polled opposed the Citizens United decision that made corporations people and money free speech. “Given the chance to change the campaign finance system, a majority of Americans (57%) would place limits on the amount of money super PACs can raise and spend.” But there already are limits on the amount of money PACs can raise and spend, and super PACs are simply a means for wealthy individuals to give candidates more than the $2,700 limit per election without violating federal law.

PAC stands for Political Action Committee, and it’s how corporations and nonprofit organizations, including churches, funnel millions of dollars into elections without directly contributing to candidates’ campaigns, which would violate federal law. While super PACs cannot contribute directly to a politician’s campaign, they can produce commercials and advertising in support of a particular politician’s platform or agenda, or more commonly, against the platform or agenda of a particular politician’s opponent.

PACs, on the other hand, can contribute directly to politicians’ campaigns, and while that amount is limited, it’s still a means for corporations to buy elections. More than 39 percent of House Democrats’ 2018 election funding came from PACs, 43 percent of House Republicans’ funding came from PACs and more than 32 percent of Senate Republicans’ funding came from PACs.

Toyota, a Japanese company, used its PAC to spend nearly half a million dollars supporting 36 Senate candidates and 155 House representatives in the 2018 federal elections. So are those 191 elected officials inclined to represent the interests of the constituents who made individual donations, or the constituents who voted for them, or do their jobs quite literally depend on them doing as Toyota and their other corporate donors demand?

While the total of individual campaign contributions was more than the total of PAC contributions in the 2018 federal elections, the majority of those individual campaign contributions were made by businessmen and businesswomen on behalf of their respective businesses.

Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager, was the biggest campaign contributor in 2018, supporting Democrats with nearly $30 million. Second in campaign contributions was Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, of U-Line, Inc. They supported Republicans with nearly $27 million. The only actual individual on the list who’s not a representative of a business is Deborah Simon, who is described as a “philanthropist” and made nearly $4.5 million in contributions to Democrats.

The premise of the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act is simple: any campaign contribution to a candidate through a PAC, or any super PAC contribution from which the candidate clearly benefits must be revealed by the candidate, with the largest contributions being most visible on their person when in view of the public.

Instead of Robert Mercer being able to hide his hedge fund firm behind his super PAC supporting Donald Trump, Trump would be required to wear a Renaissance Technologies logo on his chest or higher (so television cameras pick it up) in a size proportional to the $13.5 million in contributions he received from Mercer when compared to the candidate’s total campaign contributions. Whether that would keep Mercer from contributing in the future depends on what he thinks Trump’s actions will cost him and his company by “sponsoring” the candidate. So both the sponsor and the “driver” have to consider the risk their political-business relationship could have on the politician’s ability to keep his job and the sponsor’s ability to sell its product or service.

The same goes for Sheldon and Miriam Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who contributed $10 million to Trump’s campaign. Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment contributed $6 million. Co-founder and former CEO of Home Depot, Bernard Marcus, contributed $7 million, and even though he’s retired, Home Depot would still be advertised on Trump’s person given Marcus’s 3.8-percent ownership stake in the company.

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who apologized for comparing NFL players to inmates when discussing the anthem protests with owners and then only regretted the apology because he wasn’t referring to players but NFL office executives, gave $2 million to a pro-Trump super PAC. So the Texans logo would be affixed to Trump’s suit jackets under the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act. He wasn’t the only NFL owner who contributed to Trump either. He and seven other owners donated $7.25 million to Trump’s inauguration fund, but those donations aren’t campaign contributions and wouldn’t apply under the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act.

I have shared this bill, the full text of which you can find below, with multiple Congresspeople and have received no responses. But Harvard Law Professor and author of Republic, Lost, Lawrence Lessig, was most gracious and thanked me for my work “for a functioning republic.”

“I’m afraid I don’t think this brilliant hack would be upheld under the 1st amendment, but maybe,” he told Grandstand Central via email on Wednesday. “But more fundamentally, I think our energy has got to be focused on changing the system, not shaming people who live under the current system. There’s no clean private money way to run for Congress or other lower offices. That means we need to change the money.”

So while it’s unlikely the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act reaches the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives, and even more unlikely it be passed and signed into law, it’s a solution politicians should consider exploiting. Even without the law in place, politicians can commit to the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act as a means of expressing their campaign contribution cleanliness.

Politicians shouldn’t need the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act to become law in order to abide by it. If politicians have their constituents’ interests in mind, they would reveal their non-individual, super PAC and PAC contributors without being required to do so by law.

I am a firm believer, along with Lessig, that very little can change in America until campaign finance changes. The N.A.S.C.A.R. Act doesn’t stop corporations and billionaires from buying elections, but it would reveal to the American public who bought the elections. It’s not victory lane, but it’s at least a fast start from the pole position. America just needs one driver to put on that suit jacket littered with logos and lead the rest of the honest drivers who are proud of their sponsors but know it’s all about the fans in the stands.


The Non-individual And Super-PAC Contributions Advertising Requirement, or N.A.S.C.A.R. Act
A politician’s non-individual, PAC, and super PAC campaign contributions must be visible on his or her person while in view of the public.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE CONGRESS HERE ASSEMBLED THAT:

SECTION 1. Every elected official in service of the United States of America make every non-individual campaign contribution from which they benefited in the previous election or stand to benefit since, visible on his or her person at all times while in view of the public, and proportional in size to indicate the percentage of total campaign contributions for the election cycle. Violators will subject themselves to recall elections if so petitioned by their constituents.

SECTION 2. A non-individual, campaign contribution is either a contribution not from an individual or contributions by an individual in an amount exceeding the $2,700 individual limit per election. This includes donations from political action committees (PACs) and super PACs.

SECTION 3. Campaign contributions made by PACs formed by heads of corporations, LLCs, or nonprofit organizations will be represented on the politician’s person by the logo of the corporation, LLC, or nonprofit organization responsible for the formation of the PAC. The PAC founder need not be an employee of the corporation, LLC, or nonprofit organization, but must simply stand to benefit from the corporation’s, LLC’s, or nonprofit organization’s success resulting from poltical influence.

SECTION 4. The Federal Election Commission will oversee the enforcement of the bill along with the specific enforcement mechanism.

SECTION 5. This law will take effect two weeks after its passage to allow politicians ample time to properly display their non-individual, campaign contributors.

SECTION 6. All laws in conflict with this legislation are hereby declared null and void.

Introduced for Congressional Debate by ______.

Published in Opinion

There is new hope that states with adult-use and medical marijuana laws on the books and states considering legalization or decriminalization will finally be able to stop worrying about the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) commandeering their police officers and sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal marijuana prohibition. A bipartisan group of United States’ Senators and Representatives introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act on Thursday. It’s intent is to allow states to determine what marijuana laws are right for them.

Diff’rent Strokes for Diff’rent Folks

Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced the bill in the Senate. Republican David Joyce of Ohio and Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon are co-sponsors of the bill they introduced in the House of Representatives. Upon introduction of the bill, its creators emphasized that their legislation would not make marijuana legal throughout the country – as if the name of the bill and its acronym weren’t revealing enough.

The bill’s bipartisan group of writers wants everyone to know the STATES Act is a states’ rights bill and not a legalize marijuana bill for obvious reasons – the biggest being that legislation ending federal marijuana prohibition would never pass Congress let alone get the support of Donald Trump, who said he’ll “probably” back the bill. But any legislation even misrepresented as a marijuana legalization bill would do lasting damage to the cannabis movement that has seen economies, government budgets, infrastructure and education improve while crime, opioid overdoses, suicides and healthcare costs decrease in states with adult-use or medical marijuana laws.

STATES Act’s States’ Rights Focus Leaves Conservatives Little Wiggle Room

With the STATES Act, it will be nigh impossible for Conservatives to justify their opposition of the bill by calling it an endorsement of drug use. Politicians representing states that border states with adult-use or medical marijuana laws could claim the bill would only stretch their law enforcement and judicial budgets even thinner, but they couldn’t misrepresent the legislation to their constituents as an attempt to legalize marijuana. They could even request additional federal funding to address the increased law enforcement and judicial workload they anticipate, but they couldn’t vote “no” with the excuse of “I’m not about to legalize marijuana.” I mean, they could say that in their defense, but not without subjecting themselves to ridicule.

STATES Act’s States’ Rights Focus Appeals to Public Majority

Another reason the bipartisan crafters of the STATES Act are making cannabis a states’ rights issue is because it appeals to a majority of the public. A Gallup poll conducted in June 2016 found that 55 percent of Americans prefer government power to be concentrated at the state level instead of the federal level, and Republicans are are four times as likely to support state power.

Giving more power to the states appeals to Republicans, Libertarians and even some Democrats. Hell, I’m a Socialist, and I support small government because I know Socialism, like all forms of governing, works most effectively and efficiently in people’s behalf when the number of people it governs is small and when that population is concentrated in a governable geographic area. Why? The answer was provided by the late Alan Thicke back in 1978: “Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some.”

Those are, of course, the opening lyrics to the “Diff’rent Strokes” theme song, and a more true statement could not be uttered let alone sung. The United States is a vast country that spans the spectrum of both geography and demography, which makes it difficult to govern. Americans experience such differing circumstances that what might be right for you, may not be right for some. Hell, in my home state of Montana you can drive eight hours and never leave the state, but the geography and the people change immensely. What works in the West probably won’t work in the East and vice versa. Marijuana legalization might be right for Californians, but it may not be right for Nebraskans. The STATES Act would allow states to choose what cannabis laws work best for their residents.

STATES Act Not the First, Hopefully the Last of its Kind

This isn’t the first time a bipartisan bill has been introduced to strengthen states’ rights to adopt and enforce marijuana laws as they see fit. I was on Capitol Hill as a student lobbyist for Students for Sensible Drug Policy five years ago when H.R. 1523, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, was before the 113th Congress. It too sought to allow states to decide the legality of adult-use and medical marijuana by altering the Controlled Substances Act to exclude persons acting in compliance with state marijuana laws.

We felt way back then that this would be our path to ending federal marijuana prohibition, and while we weren’t going to get federal legalization, it was a compromise we were willing to make to appeal to Conservatives and get the legislation passed. I left the reception held after our lobby day filled with hope after hearing Democratic Congressman from Colorado Jared Polis and famed Conservative Grover Norquist agreeing that cannabis was an issue for states to decide by and for their respective residents.

According to Congress.gov, that bill is still before Congress, lost and forgotten by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations since April 30, 2013. It has 28 cosponsors in the House, six of which are Republicans. The House version of the STATES Act already has 14 cosponsors in the House plus the two Representatives who assisted in drafting the bill. Eight are Republicans, so the new bipartisan bill is already appealing to more Conservatives than H.R. 1523.

STATES Act Lets States Decide Cannabis Laws Right for Them

This bipartisan group has high hopes for the STATES Act given what’s occurred since H.R. 1523 was introduced. The STATES Act does what H.R. 1523 would have. It amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude persons acting in compliance with state and tribal marijuana laws. But it doesn’t eliminate all federal oversight. Distribution of cannabis at transportation facilities and rest stops would remain federally illegal and enforced. The STATES Act does a lot more than allow states to determine their own marijuana laws, though. It also addresses some of the issues that have resulted from states legalizing adult-use or medical marijuana, which should appeal to both sides of the aisle.

STATES Act Legalizes Hemp

Back in 2011, I wrote that cannabis would be America’s best cash crop ever – even bigger than tobacco. Marijuana consumption has already far surpassed my expectations upon its legalization for adult- and medical-use, but industrial hemp is what’s going to make cannabis America’s best cash crop ever. It grows like a weed if you’ll forgive the pun, and can be used for virtually anything. It’s a stronger fiber than cotton and can be used to make textiles that last longer so our clothes don’t fall apart in the wash. It will make stronger rope, hopefully saving mountain and rock climbers’ lives, and cowboys, cowgirls and sailors headaches. Hemp seeds are also rich in fatty acids, protein, fiber and other important nutrients. Hemp can even be used as fuel, which ExxonMobil will no doubt exploit given its investment into biofuels. All that algae research ended up being nothing more than a good PR campaign because hemp is a much less intensive biofuel to produce than algae. You can even build a house out of something called hempcrete, and cannabis can also relieve your pain without getting you high. That’s right, cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has been proven to have pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without the psychoactive effects of THC. So cannabis can clothe you, feed you, shelter you, transport you and your things, relieve your pain, and even save your life while creating jobs and improving our environment by oxygenating the air. Along with solar and wind energy industries, industrial hemp will be one of the biggest contributors to the health of America’s economy and environment for years to come.

STATES Act Makes Marijuana Transactions Federally Legal, Finally

The STATES Act would make cannabis transactions legal, allowing cannabis providers to take methods of payment besides cash and store that money in a bank. Cannabis providers have had a justifiable fear of depositing their profits in federal banks subject to federal law. The federal government could seize those assets like they seize vehicles used to traffic drugs. No criminal charges need to be brought against the cannabis providers for them to lose their money either, as asset forfeiture is a civil action, not criminal.

Since its legalization in Colorado, many cannabis providers have hired motorcycle couriers to pickup and deliver literal saddlebags of money to be deposited in a safe somewhere. One California dispensary owner reportedly delivers $40,000 in cash in the trunk of his car every month simply to pay his taxes. The STATES Act would make those trips a thing of the past and likely result in fewer instances of theft.

So is 2018 finally the year federal marijuana prohibition ends? Some people think so, but ultra-Conservatives could get in the way, just as they did on a cannabis bill for veterans just last week. The STATES Act probably won’t have many supporters from the religious right, which will be its biggest obstacle to overcome. But now more than ever before, Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle are going to be more willing to consider the end of federal marijuana prohibition given what we’ve all learned from the experimentation spearheaded by states. Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia could all adopt medical marijuana laws this year, and if that doesn’t surprise you consider where we were five years ago, when Maryland relaxing criminal penalties for seriously ill people using marijuana was considered a win for cannabis advocates.

Your Senators and Representatives are not experts on cannabis and need you to inform them on the issue, so here’s a guide on how to do so most effectively. You’ll want to appeal to the humanity in them. Politicians are not cold robots. When they hear a story about someone using cannabis to treat their chronic back pain that otherwise would keep them bedridden, they can probably relate to that. They especially want to know if cannabis helped you kick your opioid addiction. They have friends and family struggling with the same problems with which the rest of us struggle, so speak or write from the heart. The facts will only bore them to the point they tune you out.


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk, Cannabis A to Z

Published in U.S.

In late Sept. 2017, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un called the United States President a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard" in response to insults hurled by Donald Trump during his first speech to the United Nations. Trump called the North Korean dictator a “madman” on a “suicide mission” and that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it or its allies were attacked.

Mighty Trump Says “Might” be Open to Talk

The dick measuring continued, with Trump basically saying “mine’s bigger than yours” in a tweet on Jan. 2. He was referring to the size and power of his nuclear launch button after Kim bragged that the United States was within range of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and he had a nuclear launch button on his desk. Eight days later, the White House released a statement announcing the Trump Administration might be open to holding talks with North Korea. It was an obvious attempt to reign in the war rhetoric so everyone could enjoy the Winter Olympics in Seoul, South Korea without worrying about a nuclear attack, but it was more than welcome given the threats of nuclear war made by both bullies with no regard for anyone else on this playground called Earth.

Trump’s official White House statement was hardly responsible for Kim and Trump planning to meet within a month. The statement put much of the worried world at ease despite Trump committing to nothing at all. Considering U.S./North Korea relations consisted of name calling and threatening nuclear war seven months ago and dick measuring four months ago, “might be open to holding talks” sounds really good to a lot of frightened people. So good, in fact, Trump supporters in Michigan chanted for him to win the Nobel Peace Prize. But Trump isn’t even the second-most important player in this nuclear football game. Back in Sept. 2017, when these two “leaders” started threatening each other’s nations with nuclear war, I wrote that Trump’s hands were too small to handle North Korea alone. I was right.

Moon Works His Magic

The hands that could handle Kim, China and the U.S. belong to South Korean President Moon Jae In. Moon threatened Kim, too, but unlike Trump, he didn't tweet or speak a single word. His actions spoke volumes.

In July 2017, North Korea tested a missile that could theoretically reach the U.S. mainland. Moon responded with his own missile test, sending a message that South Korea could take out Kim if attacked. He also ordered the full deployment of the missile-defense system despite China’s concerns. Moon had to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping not to take economic retaliations in response to the deployment of the missile-defense system. Xi acquiesced, and Moon earned the trust of both Trump and Xi in the process.

Moon then went to work playing good cop prior to the Winter Olympics. When Kim announced North Korea’s interest in attending the Winter Olympics in Seoul, Moon agreed to host them despite South Koreans taking issue. Trump and his defense team contemplated a “bloody nose” strike of Pyongyang to punish Kim prior to the Olympics to make him more eager to negotiate peace and denuclearization. But Moon talked them out of it, assuring the U.S. that Kim would not receive any concessions.

Thank the Sanctions

The real reason Kim sought Korean peace and is ready to talk denuclearization is because he can’t import the materials he needs to grow his nuclear arsenal, and his people are growing more and more desperate by the day due to economic sanctions limiting their access to things they need to survive.

South Korean researchers expected United Nations’ sanctions to start giving North Korea “severe economic difficulties” come March. The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved sanctions banning the import of all natural gas liquids and condensates and capped imports of crude oil. For a nation already struggling to keep the lights on in its capital, losing access to more energy sources limits the exports North Korea can produce and transport, too.

China is responsible for 85 percent of North Korea’s imports but has been limiting its exports of crude oil, refined oil products, steel and other metals to the nation since Jan. 6, as the U.N. mandated. Russia, responsible for 2.3 percent of North Korea’s imports, is also adhering to the U.N. sanctions. Putin has to expel roughly 30,000 North Korean migrant workers along with limiting oil and oil products exports and banning textile exports. Both nations have been accused of subverting the sanctions, with Russia allegedly serving as a middle man moving North Korean coal. Allegations against both nations have not yet been substantiated, but North Korea has long subverted sanctions by trading goods at sea rather than on land. Those maritime trades are being stopped more often, though.

Kim knows his people will eventually be desperate enough to revolt and overthrow him, and he certainly doesn’t want to be the last of the Kim regime, nor does he want the nation to fail. Neither do his neighbors. No one knows what would result from a failed North Korea, but both China and Russia fear a unification with South Korea would lead to American military bases along their shared borders with North Korea. That’s a pretty reasonable assumption and something Trump will no doubt demand when he visits North Korea within the month. Regardless of what comes of the denuclearization talks between Trump and Kim, Moon has proven to be most presidential and most deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize if Korean peace is indeed realized after 68 years at war. 


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

Published in News & Information

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower  

It has been rightly stated, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!” When does that “shame on me” come into play when it comes to the blatant hypocrisy of those who call themselves conservatives who have been fooled over and over again by the current administration?

The sad part about this is what the right calls “the left” is calling them out for their hypocrisies (Matthew 23:3).  I hope you now understand why today’s conservatives are yesterday’s lawless and unprincipled liberals.

Do you remember on the campaign trail that Donald Trump was going to have Mexico fund the border wall, and that it would cost $4 billion dollars, and that it was going to be so easy to get the job done?

Well, think again.

How many times was the wall (Malachi 1:4) promised to the American people with ever changing and unfulfilled promises?

The list of false promises and an ever-changing agenda are marked below.

Each statement is different and in a different setting regardless if he is speaking to a reporter or an audience. Donald Trump is simply telling the sheep what it is that they want to hear (Matthew 13:25).

Wasn’t Mexico supposed to pay for the wall?

Donald Trump, “I will build a great, great wall. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

Well, Mr. Trump, I am marking YOUR words.

  • The wall is going to be built, folks. Just-in case anybody has any question.

  • We need the wall. We’re going to build the wall.

  • We’re going to have a wall.

  • The wall’s happening.

  • Build that wall. Build that wall.

  • On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall powerful, beautiful southern border wall.

  • We’ll, I’d love not to build the wall but you need the wall.

  • Building it, not negotiable.

  • We have no choice.

  • We have to close down our government we’re building that wall.

(The government was never shut down! Yet Obama’s $1.3 trillion dollar omnibus bill funding America’s enemies without and within was not only illegally and unconstitutionally signed by Obama, but Donald Trump also signed similar legislation this year behind the media’s smoke and mirrors “March for our lives” on the same weekend)

Remember, Paul Ryan went from saying, “We are not going to pay for that [the wall] to, “We are going to finance the Secure Fence act, which is the construction of the physical barrier.”

Back to Donald Trump mockingly repeating critics, “You can’t get Mexico to pay for the wall.” Of course, you can.

  • Do you have any doubt that I will get them to pay for the wall?

  • We will build the wall as sure as you are standing there.

  • As sure as you are standing there. 100 percent.

  • Who’s going to pay for the wall? Audience: Mexico!

  • Who’s not going to pay for the wall? Vermont.

  • REPORTER: It now appears clear U.S. taxpayers will have to pay for it upfront. What is your plan- TRUMP: That is not clear at all.

  • REPORTER: So the American taxpayer will pay for the wall at first?

  • TRUMP: All it is, is we’ll be reimbursed.

  • Mexico will be reimbursing the United States.

  • It will be reimbursed.

  • It may be through reimbursement.

  • We did discuss the wall, we didn’t discuss payment of the wall.

  • I will build the greatest wall that you’ve ever seen.

  • I want a gorgeous wall. And you do a beautiful, nice precast plank with beautiful everything. Just perfect.

  • CHILD: What’s it going to be made of? TRUMP: Ohhhh, It’s going to be made of hardened concrete, and it’s going to be made out of rebar and steel.

  • I’m talking about a wall. See that ceiling up there? Higher.

  • We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall.

  • And were going to have a door in the wall.

  • If they ever get up there, they’re in trouble. Because there is no way to get down, maybe a rope.

  • It’s not a fence, it’s a wall.

  • Yeah, it could be-it could be some fencing.

  • Mexico will not pay for the wall. Could we have your comment? I said, yes the wall just got 10 feet higher.

  • 10 feet taller.

  • 10 feet higher.

  • 10 feet higher, higher, higher.

  • Let’s say the wall costs $4 billion.

  • $5 Billion dollars.

  • The wall is going to cost $6 or 7 billion.

  • The wall is probably $8 billion.

  • It’s going to cost $10 billion.

  • The wall’s going to cost $10 billion, maybe 12.

  • We’re putting down $25 billion for the wall.

  • TRUMP: And who’s going to pay for the wall? AUDIENCE: Mexico! TRUMP: Who’s going to pay for the wall? AUDIENCE: Mexico! TRUMP: Who’s going to pay for the wall? AUDIENCE: Mexico! I’ve never done that before, that’s actually cool. I’ve never done that before-I swear it.

Wasn’t Mexico Supposed to Pay for The Wall?

You just cannot make this stuff up! The hypocrisies of Donald Trump and his blind and unprincipled followers (Matthew 15:14) are unprecedented.

This is what happens when men put their trust in the arm of the flesh (Jeremiah 17:5).  The curse (devoted to destruction) simply falls upon them that refuse to acknowledge the truth (Jeremiah 3:13).

Remember what President Eisenhower stated,

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

 

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Bradlee Dean is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own and do not reflect the views and opinions of the Genesis Communication Network. Bradlee's radio program, The Sons of Liberty broadcasts live M - Sat here at GCN. This opinion was originally published by Sons of Liberty Media at www.sonsoflibertyradio.com. Reprinted with permission. 

 

Published in News & Information
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