If the 2017 elections are any indication of what’s to come in the 2018 midterms, Republicans are in trouble, and not because of a clean sweep by Democrats in Virginia on Tuesday. It was how Republicans lost on Tuesday, and how badly, that should have them concerned.

Democrats Sweep the Big Three in Virginia

The Virginia governor’s race that got all the media attention wasn’t close. Polls had Democrat Ralph Norman leading slightly, but his lead over Republican Ed Gillespie had shrunk from as many as nine points to three or fewer points in a matter of days. Warnings of past polls leaning Left in Virginia gave Republicans hope, but it was false hope, as Norman won by 8.6 percentage points.

The most important election for Democrats on Tuesday was that of Virginia’s attorney general. State attorneys general have been the best (and in many instances the last) line of defense for Democrats against the actions of Donald Trump’s administration, especially the travel ban. Incumbent Democrat Mark Herring beat Republican challenger John Adams by 6.5 percentage points.

Democrat Justin Fairfax completed the clean sweep of Virginia with a win over Republican Jill Vogel to become lieutenant governor. He won by 5.4 percentage points. The real gains for Democrats were made in Virginia’s district elections, though.

Republican Majority in Virginia House Vanishes

The biggest blow for Republicans came in Virginia’s House of Delegates, where they’ve lost 14 seats as of this writing, with two more close races predicted for Democrats and another three tossups predicted to go to Republicans. If Democrats win just one of those Republican-leaning tossups -- perhaps the 94th District, where Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds each have 49 percent of the vote -- the Democratic Party would hold a majority in the Virginia House for the first time since 2000. The wins are especially sweet for Democrats because Republicans experienced their largest majority just last year, holding 67 of the 100 seats.

The success Democrats had in Virginia’s districts is unprecedented. Democrats have never taken back as many Virginia House seats as they did Tuesday. It’s been 40 years since Democrats picked up 13 House seats in the Commonwealth, and they were already starting with a 65-seat majority back then.

The history of Virginia’s House of Delegates is one of epic streaks. Democrats held the majority for a century, and when it flipped to the Republicans, it looked as though it would take another century for Democrats to take back control. It took 100 years for the Virginia House to go from a Democratic majority to a Republican majority and, perhaps, just one night to swing the Virginia House back to the Democrats.

How and Why did Virginia Go Blue?

To say the current administration and do-nothing Congress didn’t have something to do with the Republicans’ losses in Virginia would be naive. Trump’s record-low approval rating is representative of the general sentiment of Americans, and with Republicans in the White House, they’re already starting from behind. The party occupying the White House tends to lose more midterm elections than it wins, and those losses are loosely predicated on the President’s approval rating. The effects on voter turnout are already apparent.

Democrats showed up to vote in 2017. Voter turnout was up 16 percent in Virginia compared to the last election for governor in 2013, but that’s nothing when you compare Tuesday’s voter turnout to that of the 2015 election.

Less than 30 percent of registered Virginia voters voted in 2015, which came to a grand total of 1,509,864 voters -- a decrease in voter turnout of over 11 percent from the previous year. Almost 1.1 million more Virginians voted in 2017 than in 2015. That’s a 72 percent increase, so to say Democrats were motivated is an understatement.

What Does the Future Hold?

Democrats also won the elections they should have in New Jersey and New York, and Maine even expanded Medicaid. But the races that reveal the most about the views of the average American and what the future holds for American elections are those for city council. The ever-changing political leanings of communities debut in city council elections long before they’re seen on the national scale. And no city council election revealed more about the future of American politics than that of Minneapolis’s Ward 3.

Ginger Jentzen, running as a Socialist, received more than a third of first-place votes in a four-candidate race. Since she won the popular vote, Jentzen gets to cannibalize the second- and third- choice votes that went to her from voters whose first choice has no chance of winning. For instance, Samantha Pree-Winston received just 10.5 percent of first-place votes and has no shot at winning the election, so those voters who chose her as their first-choice help decide the election with their second and third choices. Those second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates voters chose as first-choice votes. If there’s still not a candidate with a majority of the vote, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and their second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates they chose as first-place votes.

This is where ranked-choice voting proves its worth at Jentzen’s expense. Jentzen might have won the election using a traditional ballot where voters can choose just one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. But her lack of second- and third-choice votes makes her winning of the popular vote irrelevant, unless she had secured a majority (50 percent plus one vote) in first-choice votes.

Unfortunately for Jentzen, it looks as though she wasn’t many voters’ second or third choice. Jentzen received just 13.7 percent and 18.3 percent of second- and third-choice votes, which makes it difficult for her to pick up the majority needed to win the election. Jentzen’s supporters likely chose just one candidate -- Jentzen -- forgoing their second and third choices, resulting in a lot of first-choice votes and not much else. It’s a sound strategy nonetheless. Jentzen just needed another 1.500 first-place votes or so.

Regardless, the strong showing by Jentzen proves a political point: socialism isn’t a dirty word -- in Minneapolis at least. That might not be saying much given Minnesota’s history of strong unions, but Jentzen’s successful campaign will inspire other Socialists to run for office unafraid of the misinformed perception of their party affiliation. At the very least, this little city council election revealed that Left-leaning voters aren’t afraid of moving further Left than the Democratic Party has been willing to go, which bodes well for Bernie Sanders in 2020.

The Democrats left nothing up for debate on Tuesday. Had they lost any one of the Virginia elections or gained half as many Virginia House seats, Republicans might have been relieved or found reason for hope. Instead, they can see the train coming and can’t get off the tracks.

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Noam Chomsky speaks better than I can write. He can recite quotes from peer-reviewed journals as if he’s reading them. The man doesn’t even need to write books anymore; he can simply dictate them. His latest collection of interviews with C.J. Polychroniou originally published in Truthout might be called Optimism over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, but Chomsky only chooses to be optimistic about the state of the world despite little reason for doing so. “What choice do we have?” he asks at the end.

While the same topics and answers are repeated in some of the interviews, much of what’s repeated warrants repetition. Chomsky understandably considers nuclear arms and climate change the biggest threats to the future of the human race, and those threats are more threatening than ever before. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) reinforces the legitimacy of Chomsky’s concern.

“It is quite remarkable to see how little concern top planners show for the prospects of their own destruction--not a novelty in world affairs (those who initiated wars often ended up devastated) but now on a hugely different scale” (60).

Chomsky was speaking of nuclear weapons here, but it’s applicable to climate change as well, especially now that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced the end to a rule limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, proclaiming the end to the “War on Coal” and exacerbating the “War on the World.”

The business class has little concern over nuclear war because there’s little they can do about it. They have even less concern over their own destruction via man-made climate change because they assume they won’t be around for that destruction. But they will be around to spend the money they “earn” by destroying the Earth and the quality of living for everyone on it, even putting the homes of island peoples under water in a world where nationalism is closing borders to refugees.

“With considerable justice, Bangladesh’s leading climate scientist says that ‘These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.’ And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment” (121).

That really should be the punishment for America leaving the Paris Agreement, but mainstream media hasn’t done its job conveying vital information regarding climate change either, especially during the 2016 Presidential Election.

“The most important news of November 8 was barely noted, a fact of some significance in itself. On November 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22), which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28 percent below the average of the previous twenty-nine years, not only raising sea levels but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts” (119-120).

But Chomsky doesn’t ignore the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. He tells us what really happened with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election in a few pages while Hillary Clinton needed an entire book.

“Trump’s appeal seems based largely on perceptions of loss and fear. The neoliberal assault on the world’s populations, almost always harmful to them, and often severely so, has not left the United States untouched, even though it has been somewhat more resilient than others. The majority of the populations has endured stagnation or decline while extraordinary and ostentatious wealth has accumulated in very few pockets. The formal democratic system has suffered the usual consequences of neoliberal socio-economic policies, drifting toward plutocracy.

No need to review again the grim details--for example, the stagnation of real male wages for forty years and the fact that since the last crash some 90 percent of wealth created has found its way to 1 percent of the population. Or the fact that the majority of the population--those lower on the income scale--are effectively disenfranchised in that their representatives ignore their opinions and preferences, heeding the super-rich funder and power brokers.

In part, Trump supporters--predominantly, it seems, lower-middle class, working class, less educated--are reacting to the perception, largely accurate, that they have simply been left by the wayside...Trump’s predominantly white supporters can see that their image of a white-run (and, for many, male-run) society is dissolving before their eyes. It is also worth remembering that although the United States is unusually safe and secure, it is also perhaps the most frightened country in the world, another feature of the culture with a long history” (113-14).

In short, a bunch of working-class, white males are fed up with the state of things in America and a woman in the White House is quite literally the last thing they want to see as their white man’s world slips away.

“There are other factors in Trump’s success. Comparative studies show that doctrines of white supremacy have had an even more powerful grip on American culture than in South Africa, and it’s no secret that the white population is declining. In a decade or two, whites are projected to be a minority of the work force, and not too much later, a minority of the population. The traditional conservative culture is also perceived as under attack by the successes of identity politics, regarded as the province of elites who have only contempt for the ‘hard-working, patriotic, church-going [white] Americans with real family values’ who see their familiar country as disappearing before their eyes” (124).

So is there reason for optimism given the state of American politics? Can things get better? Chomsky offers a few reasons for hope.

“There is a very interesting article by Andrew Cockburn...reviewing studies that show that an enormous amount of the money poured into political campaigns with TV ads, and the like, serves primarily to enrich the networks and the professional consultants but with little effect on voting. In contrast, face-to-face contact and direct canvassing, which are inexpensive--but require a lot of often volunteer labor--do have a measurable impact” (107).

Well at least all the money being spent on election campaigns isn’t swaying the opinion of voters. But the time politicians spend raising that money certainly limits what can be done on the people’s behalf. But are Americans fed up enough?

“The important question is: Are people motivated to do something about it? That depends on many factors, crucially including the means that they perceive to be available. It’s the task of serious activists to help develop those means and encourage people to understand that they are available” (55).

So if the American working class is willing to join together and act on their anger by getting involved in the political process they can expect change, right? Well, given the state of America’s alleged democracy, it might take more than getting out to vote. In fact, it likely requires, at the very least, the formation of an American workers’ party.

“Thirty-five years ago, political scientist Walter Dean Burnham identified ‘the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market’ as a primary cause of the high rate of abstention in US elections. Traditionally, the labor movement and labor-based parties have played a leading role in offering ways to ‘influence political outcomes’ within the electoral system and on the streets and shop floor. That capacity has declined significantly under neoliberal assault, which enhanced the bitter war waged against unions by the business classes throughout the postwar period...The Democrats, meanwhile, pretty much abandoned the working class” (56).

The interviews with Chomsky also touch on the historical inaccuracies and misinformed opinions shared by a majority of Americans concerning socialism and the violent history of American labor busting, on Cuba, the Wars on Terror, on Islam and American terrorism, specifically Barack Obama’s drone program, on capitalism’s incompatibility with democracy, on guns, on the minimum wage, on healthcare, on bailouts and consumerism, and on white supremacy and radical nationalism. The ultimate conclusion: “The democratic ideal, at home and abroad, is simple and straightforward: you are free to do what you want, as long as it is what we want you to do” (144).

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If the tax plan presented by Donald Trump and Republicans is adopted, the average American stands to benefit very little. According to a new report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, four-fifths of American taxpayers can expect their after-tax income to increase .5 percent or less, while the top fifth of earners would see a three percent increase in after-tax income.

The study also found that 80 percent of tax benefits would go to the top one percent of American earners. Households making more than roughly $900,000 a year would save $200,000 on average. The top one percent of American earners can expect a tax cut of 9.8 percent between now and 2027. Repealing the estate tax would cost the federal government $240 billion in tax revenue over the first decade, most of which would stay in the pockets of the super rich.

Big businesses stand to benefit from the Trump tax plan, too, thanks to a decrease of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. But businesses that rely on debt to finance their investments, like real estate companies, private equity firms and financial companies, will likely see costs increase, because Trump’s tax plan proposes limiting the deductibility of corporate interest.

Realtors have been especially opposed to the Trump tax plan, because while it preserves the mortgage interest deduction, fewer people would benefit from itemizing their mortgage interest given the plan’s proposed increase to the standard deduction, which is closer to a 15 percent increase than a doubling of the standard deduction. This could make homeownership less attractive and hurt the housing market.

High-tax states like New York and California would be especially affected by Trump’s plan to eliminate the state and local tax deduction, which allows taxpayers who itemize to deduct property, state and local taxes. Congressional Republicans in high-tax states have already expressed their concern, so Trump’s tax plan might not pass without the state and local tax deductions being preserved.

Who is paying for these tax cuts for businesses and the super rich? The Tax Policy Center found that a majority of households earning between $150,000 and $300,000 would pay more in taxes under Trump’s tax plan, as would almost 30 percent of Americans earning between $50,000 and $150,000 annually.

Trump’s tax plan also doesn’t come in under budget. The tax plan would increase the deficit by $2.4 trillion over the first decade, and by $3.2 trillion over 20 years. And while the Royal Bank of Canada thinks Trump’s tax plan will raise gross-domestic product by .5 percent annually, even if that were sustainable over the next 20 years, Trump’s tax plan still increases the federal deficit by $1.252 trillion.

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A day after Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly and the world that he would act alone to “totally destroy” North Korea if threatened, Trump embarrassed himself and the American people in an attempt to diss socialism. You can read the full transcript here, but he said, ““the problem is not that socialism has been wrongly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” and he’s wrong on so many levels. He got one thing right during his speech, though.

The Good: Condemnation of Venezuelan Government

Before Trump put his foot in his mouth, he rightly condemned the corrupt Venezuelan government accused of international drug trafficking and facilitating the funding of terrorism while also undermining Venezuelan democracy through the courts and a fraudulent election. That fraudulent election created a Constituent Assembly that has since served constituents nothing but beatings, arrests and military trials. The Constituent Assembly moved quickly, declaring itself the highest authority in the nation and forming a “truth commission” to silence dissidents of Maduro’s regime. It’s all technically legal now, too. According to the assembly’s newly drafted Communist constitution, Maduro can continue violating human rights of Venezuelans and makes it more difficult for the U.N. to take action in Venezuela.

Trump’s criticism brought a response from the Venezuelan government saying it would defend itself from America’s “racist government,” which is fair. But Maduro and his government officials are in no position to talk smack, even to Trump. Trump’s utter failure to condemn rallying white supremacy groups for violence that left three dead doesn’t even compare to Maduro’s rap sheet (yet). In fact, the entirety of Trump’s sexual assault allegations and alleged marital rape, beauty pageant scandals, racial housing discrimination, tenant intimidation, creating a fraudulent university and other corrupt business dealings, using donations meant for charities to resolve legal disputes, four bankruptcies, antitrust violations, casino rules violations, the hiring of illegal immigrants, and the “grab 'em by the pussy” interview fails to compete with the atrocities executed by Maduro.

In an interview published by Devex on Aug. 28, former minister counselor at the Venezuelan mission to the U.N., Isaias Medina, said more than 130 Venezuelan citizens have been murdered, and 15,000 have been injured in the last four months. More than 600 political prisoners are also awaiting military trials instead of trials by jury.

U.S. sanctions prohibiting the American purchase of Venezuelan bonds won’t help Maduro pay the nearly $100 billion debt facing his country, either. So Venezuelans are going to continue starving silently or starving loudly until they’re black-bagged and disappeared or join the mass refugee migration despite many countries tightening immigration policies. Let’s just hope Trump doesn’t add Venezuela to the list of countries on his travel ban.

Hell, if Trump is found to have colluded with Russia to interfere with the integrity of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, he still hasn’t been responsible for the deaths of over 100 of his own civilians. Civilians in other countries are an entirely different story, though. Civilian deaths from U.S. and Russian drone strikes in the Middle East have reached new highs under Trump.

The Bad: Blaming Socialism for Venezuela’s Crisis

Trump also reached a new high in the long jump he made to use Venezuela as an example of socialism’s “problem” just weeks after the new Communist constitution was drafted by an assembly formed from a fraudulent election recognized by no one in the world but the Venezuelan government. The socialism Trump was addressing is literally weeks old, while the crisis is almost a year old.

First of all, no system of government -- not even a dictatorship -- is designed to oppress. While THE people might not control the actions of their government, SOME people still control the government. Corrupt people use the government to oppress. Oppression is not the result of socialism or Communism, but the result of oppressive people with power.

If you consider socialism’s history of leaders, you can see why people should be condemned and not the system of governance. Lenin, who suppressed any opposition to Communist Party rule, set a pretty poor example for the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin took that bad example and rolled with it, imposing a deliberate famine in Ukraine. He killed 40 million people, second to only Mao Zedong’s 60 million victims in China. (Note that Noam Chomsky never believed the Soviet Union to be a socialist state, since factory councils were eliminated and wage labor and other capitalistic features were utilized.)

Adolf Hitler’s 30 million victims are third on the list of most brutal dictators, but contrary to the belief of some, Nazism is not a form of socialism. Despite the Nazi Party calling itself the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the use of the word “Socialist” was completely for marketing purposes. With Nazism being a far-right political ideology, the Nazis had to find a way to appeal to working Germans in order to gain power. Hitler did not endorse socialism nor practice it while in power.

It took a democratic election to break the chain of brutal Soviet dictators, but the only candidate on that ballot was Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev had already worked tirelessly as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party to boost the slumping economy through reforms like allowing privately owned businesses in the service, manufacturing and foreign trade industries.

More importantly, Gorbachev, who said he believed in the ideals of socialism, gave Soviets rights they’d never experienced under previous regimes. Neither socialism nor Communism require citizens to give up freedoms of speech, press, protest or religious practice, but previous dictators did require the sacrifice of personal liberties in the interest of preserving political power. Gorbachev’s reforms sowed the seeds of democracy, and when Eastern European countries wanted to give democracy a try, the Soviet Union didn’t get in the way. So a Socialist did the most to spread democracy across Europe while America continued to install false democracies that fail people, with Cuba being a perfect example.

The Ugly: The Hypocrisy of American Condemnation of Cuba

Trump mentioned Cuba as another example of the “problem” with socialism. But Cuba’s problem was never and still isn’t socialism. Cuba’s problem was and still is the United States of America, and its response to the failure of the right-wing dictator it had backed to win over the Cuban people.

America’s man was Fulgencio Batista, who had more interest in winning over American mob legends Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano than winning over the Cuban people. He turned Havana into “Latin Las Vegas” and turned a profit of $300 million for himself during his tenure. While Batista was enjoying the benefits of legalized gambling so close to American money, Lansky was making a whole lot more turning Havana into an international drug trafficking port to accompany the sex trafficking that was already rampant.  

Almost everything in Cuba was owned by Americans, so the U.S. did its part to increase revenues for those American business owners in Cuba. Cubans didn’t like that, but they certainly didn’t like the U.S. supplying Batista with weapons, who killed 20,000 Cubans in seven years, according to John F. Kennedy.

Logically, Cubans got fed up -- especially Castro -- who was imprisoned for a year after attempting to overthrow Batista’s police state in 1953. Batista stole an election in 1954, but by the end of 1955, there were no jobs for recent Cuban graduates. Since they weren’t working, they had a lot of free time to protest, but you can only protest so long before you’re desperate enough to rebel.

Batista stuffed the ballot box and lost the 1958 election required by Cuba’s constitution. When he asked U.S. ambassador Earl Smith if he could return to his home in Daytona, Smith recommended he seek asylum in Spain. They didn’t want him. On New Year’s Eve of 1958, Batista and his supporters allegedly took up to $700 million worth of art and cash and fled Cuba. Batista settled in Mexico after originally being denied asylum in the country.

This was hardly the first or last time America backed a dictator who backfired, but it was the first and last time America was worried enough about an attack to order an embargo against a country. The embargo has crippled Cuba even more so than the loss of American investment in Havana businesses. The Soviet Union floated Castro some money in exchange for Cuba’s sugar, and Castro committed to establishing a State-controlled economy -- the first in the Western Hemisphere. This was the closest Communism had ever been to America’s borders, so it got pretty scary there during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But had Kennedy not attempted to assassinate Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis would not have occurred.

Let’s recap. America installed a corrupt dictator who would prioritize American business interests and his own pocketbook over the lives of the locals. America then armed the dictator with weapons for an army to crush any resistance to the production of American revenue, resulting in 20,000 Cuban deaths. America then denounced the dictator it installed; it then denounced the dictator who replaced him. The dictator installed a government that wasn’t agreeable to America. America responded by refusing to trade with Cuba. So the dictator is forced to find an ally who can help his country recover from the economic devastation of the rebellion and the massive amount of American money pulled out of the Cuban economy. America attempts to assassinate the new dictator and fails. The dictator asks his ally to place a few nukes on the island to deter future attempts on his life. The ally obliges, but America stops the delivery and negotiates with the ally to take the nukes back home.

The dictator ends up responsible for the deaths of anywhere from 35,000 to 141,000 people over 49 years. That rate is at most 20 more deaths than his predecessor’s average of 2,857 deaths per year, and at the least 2,143 fewer deaths than Batista annually. The median puts Castro’s death toll at 714 less than Batista’s annually. Despite the death of the dictator, the embargo remains in place. And almost every nation is against it.

Castro was far from perfect, but he had his people’s interests in mind while Batista had American business interest in mind. While Castro improved education and health services and promoted social values, he also imprisoned dissenters and allowed no political opposition. He reportedly killed over 3,600 Cuban dissenters by firing squad and took control of the press. Like Kim Jong-un, Castro lived lavishly while his people struggled to eat regularly. But Americans like to ignore their own dark history when condemning the actions of other nations.

Noam Chomsky acknowledges the human rights violations committed by Castro in his new collection of interviews, Optimism over Despair, but hopes Americans realize the hypocrisy of condemning Cuba for those violations. “[I]t might be recalled that by far the worst human rights violations in Cuba take place in this stolen territory, to which the United States has a much weaker claim than Russia does to Crimea, also taken by force.” That stolen territory is Guantanamo Bay, which Chomsky informs was “taken by ‘treaty’ at gunpoint in 1903 and not returned despite the requests of the government of Cuba” (61).

Americans quick to condemn Cuba should also know that Castro’s Cuba played a key role in the liberation of West and South Africa, receiving high praise from Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison. “During all my years in prison, Cuba was an inspiration and Fidel Castro a tower of strength…[Cuban victories] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa...a turning point for the liberation of our continent--and of my people--from the scourge of apartheid...What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?” (62).

While President Barack Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised, he did attempt to rebuild the relationship with Cuba over a baseball game and actually eased U.S. sanctions and travel restrictions. Trump has since undone most of Obama’s Cuban policies, so the embargo being lifted would require Cuba to stop being Communist and stop associating with Communist powers, according to Proclamation 3447 signed by Kennedy in 1962.

The Uglier: Absolutism

The biggest obstacle America must overcome is its commitment to absolutism -- this assumption that questions have one, and just one, correct answer. This right or wrong, black or white, red state/blue state, Capitalist/Communist mentality permeates our politics and entertainment.

Think about it: some people are unwilling to compromise on abortion because they feel life begins at conception, and aborting that life would be murder. I respect your right to believe that, but not all conception is consensual. Would you be able or willing to raise a child you conceived while being raped? If so, I commend your dedication to both children and your beliefs. But what about crack babies? Let alone the possible birth defects, potential brain damage and hereditary drug addiction, who is going to raise that child if the parents don’t parent? Are you willing to pay more taxes to fund orphanages to raise these children? Would you open your home to a crack baby and raise her like your own? If you are, here’s information about serving as a foster parent and adoption. But all the taxes and all the orphanages and all the foster parents in the country can’t ensure those children are going to turn into contributing members of society. They are disadvantaged the moment they’re born and have a lot to overcome and limited resources.

As you can see, almost any question worth asking or problem worth solving raises more questions and multiple answers of varying degrees of correctness, which rarely results in consensus. But instead of embracing nuance, the typical American knows she’s right even when facts prove she’s wrong. And Americans know everything.

For instance, “Is there a god?” is a “yes” or “no” question with no correct answer agreeable to all. But you will get a “yes” or “no” answer more often than not. A more correct answer would be, “I can only tell you why I believe there is no god, just as you can only tell me why you believe there is.” Rarely is that the question asked, however. Most people ask, “Do you believe in God?” That is a “yes” or “no” question that does allow for a “yes” or “no” answer, neither of which are the best answer.

“I don’t know” is the best answer when you don’t know or can’t prove a “yes” or “no” response because it acknowledges your ignorance and allows for learning to take place. Answering “yes” or “no” to “Do you believe in God?” can only provide two results. Either your inquisitor finds your answer unsatisfactory and ends the conversation, or your inquisitor asks why you do or don’t believe in God. “I don’t know” forces discussion to continue, while “yes” or “no” could kill the conversation and any learning that could occur because of it. America is a “yes” or “no” country.

Acknowledging all we don’t know is also a better indication of intelligence than repeating everything we think we know. Socrates said something about being the wisest man alive because he knew one thing -- that he knew nothing -- and he’s arguably the greatest mind of all time. You want to know how Socrates learned so much? There’s another saying I last heard in high school physical education class I don’t think Americans hear often enough: “You can’t learn anything when your mouth is moving.” Well, Americans’ mouths are constantly moving, serving as a defense mechanism to prevent them from being forced to explain or defend their beliefs.

So the big questions have multiple answers varying in “truthiness,” to use Stephen Colbert’s term. The big question Trump attempted to answer in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly and the world last Tuesday was, “What’s the problem with socialism?” No one asked Trump this question, but with Bernie Sanders’s socialist, single-payer health care bill introduced in the U.S. Senate while Trump’s party fails to repeal and replace Obamacare yet again, Trump’s handlers felt it was a good time to diss socialism in front of a worldwide audience.

The first mistake was Trump’s speechwriter assuming there’s a problem with socialism despite the most socialist countries repeatedly atop the Cato Institute’s annual Human Freedom Index. In 2014, nine of the top 10 most socialist countries were rated in the top 17 when it comes to the overall freedom of their citizens. The United States dropped four spots from 2013 to 23rd overall -- and the Cato Institute doesn’t even consider health care quality, accessibility or affordability in its rankings. But the assumption there’s a problem with socialism is wrong because there are problems with socialism -- plural -- just as there are problems with capitalism.

There are a lot of negative things that can be said of socialism. You could say socialism limits individuality by stressing the importance of serving the State. You could say socialism doesn’t motivate people to work their hardest. You could even say socialism rewards those who don’t work at the expense of those who do. Trump could have uttered any of these and it would have been more correct than what he did utter.

The Ugliest: Arrogant Ignorance

Trump thought he was being clever and eloquent saying “the problem is not that socialism has been wrongly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” He even paused expecting applause. It never came, and a few chuckles could be reportedly heard amongst the U.N. General Assembly, because everyone else was well aware of socialism’s benefits. Most countries implement socialist programs, including the United States, despite running capitalist economies.

But most Americans share Trump's opinion of socialism because the American government made sure of it through propaganda and the persecution of its own people for exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, whether it be in a church or at a Communist Party meeting. It might not be black bags and firing squads, but it is oppressing dissidents nonetheless.

Many Americans use the perceived failures of socialism's implementation as evidence to dismiss it like Trump did, but America never gave socialism a chance. This country did its best to stop the spread of socialism before it started out of fear that people would realize its benefits. America has waged a War on Socialism that continues to this day.

America's embargo of Cuba and bombing of countries attempting socialism, and its unwillingness to allow liberated countries to install anything but a form of "democracy" has created the worst type of enemies. People recover from bombings and wars, but they never forget a bully dictating the terms of their "freedom" when all they want is to try something they think would provide the best quality of living -- not only for themselves but for their neighbors.

As a Democratic Socialist, I can tell you socialism is far from perfect, which is why I’m a Democratic Socialist and not just a Socialist. If there was a correct answer to "how are people best governed," it certainly wouldn't be absolute. It would depend upon the people and the place and the time, but it would most definitely be both democratic and socialist -- which is possible -- because we see it work everyday. You’d find Socialists to be reasonable people if you didn’t tune us out at the utterance of “Socialist” (or Democrat for that matter). But believing socialism is evil because the government said so -- that’s unreasonable.

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Update: On Monday, Republican Representative of Michigan’s 11th District, Dave Trott, announced he will not pursue reelection in 2018, becoming the third Republican House member to retire in the last week and fourth overall. Michigan’s 11th went to Donald Trump by 4.5 points in 2016, but 270ToWin is calling it a tossup in 2018.


 

There are now three open House seats up for grabs in districts favorable for Democrats after two, seven-term Republican Representatives announced their retirements in back-to-back days this week.

Charlie Dent, the moderate Republican Representative of Pennsylvania’s 15th District since 2005, announced that he would not seek an eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, saying in an interview with the Washington Post that it’s become too difficult to work with members of his own party.

“Accomplishing the most basic fundamental tasks of governance is becoming far too difficult. It shouldn’t be, but that’s reality,” he said.

Dent has been one of the most outspoken Republicans when it comes to Donald Trump. He told Trump to drop out of the 2016 Presidential Election after the “grab them by the pussy” video surfaced. He didn’t vote for Trump, casting a vote for independent Evan McMullin instead. And he’s spoken out against Trump’s travel ban, his firing of James Comey and Trump’s comments after white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, killing a counter-protesting, white woman. Two Virginia State Troopers also died in a helicopter crash.

Dent is co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, a dwindling group of a few dozen moderate Republicans that focuses on governing through sensible legislation rather than upholding conservative ideals. But given the growth of Far Right Conservatives via the Tea Party movement and culminating in the House Freedom Caucus, moderate Republicans are a retiring breed.

On Wednesday, moderate Republican Representative of Washington’s 8th District, Dave Reichert, announced he won’t pursue an eighth term either. Like Dent, Reichert has been critical of Trump, and like Dent’s, Reichert’s House district could flip to the Democrats. In fact, it’s more likely to flip than Dent’s 15th District.

Democrats are expected to pick up a seat in Florida, too, as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Republican Representative to announce her retirement back in April after 35 years in office. The first Cuban-American elected to Congress leaves a very favorable seat for Democrats in the recently redrawn 27th District of Florida. Hillary Clinton carried the district by 20 points over Donald Trump, and 270ToWin has predicted a win for the Democrats.

Roll Call projects both Florida’s 27th and Washington’s 8th districts will turn over to Democrats. But House Republicans are likely to lose more than just two seats due to retiring Republicans. History shows midterm elections aren’t friendly to the party of the President, and results are influenced by the President’s approval rating. Trump’s 36 percent approval rating is the worst of any President this far into his first term.

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At some point Congressional Democrats have to start wondering if things could have turned out any better for them had they won the 2016 Presidential Election. I’ve already said once that it couldn’t be worse for Republicans, and except for the hundreds of judges Donald Trump is appointing all over the country, things are really going Democrats’ way. Congressional Democrats will reap the benefits of Trump’s record low approval rating and compulsive terrorizing of his own party members come the 2018 midterm elections.

When Trump said he would “drain the swamp,” I didn’t think he was talking about members of his own party. If that was his goal, it’s the only thing he’s done really well. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s approval rating in Kentucky is 18 percent. He won’t be back, but a Democrat won’t take his seat either. That’s okay as long as Democrats preserve their seats most likely to switch parties (there are eight) and pick up at least three seats. The seats most likely to be within reach are in Nevada, Arizona or Texas.

The Democrats are going to gain seats in the House. Congressional minorities pick up seats when their opposition occupies the White House. 270ToWin has 14 seats as tossups, and every tossup Democrats win after the first will be a House seat gained.

While Democrats winning the 24 seats to take a House majority is a longshot, FiveThirtyEight says House Democrats have a “historically strong position.” Despite Republicans holding the incumbency advantage by holding more House seats, FiveThirtyEight pits Democrats’ chance at taking back the House majority at 50/50.

The prediction is based on the House generic ballot, where voters are asked for which party they’d vote in a House election. Democrats lead that generic ballot by seven percentage points. In 2008, when they led the generic ballot by nine points, Democrats picked up 23 House seats. When they led by 11.5 points in 2006, Democrats picked up 30 House seats.

So House Democrats have to hope Trump’s approval rating keeps decreasing, which would result in an increased margin on the generic ballot and more Democratic Representatives elected in 2018. And it’s not crazy to think Trump’s approval rating could reach the record low of 22 percent set by Harry Truman before the 2018 midterm elections.

Only George W. Bush managed to raise his net approval rating going into his first midterm election, and it took 9/11 for that to happen. The other eight newly elected Presidents of the Presidential approval rating era lost at least 17 points before their first midterm elections. So barring a terrorist attack unifying the country behind a war, Trump’s approval rating will likely continue it’s downward trend.

Trump has been shedding .038 percentage points per day since starting his Presidency with a record low 45 percent approval rating. As of this writing, there are 437 days until the 2018 midterm elections. At Trump’s current rate, his approval rating would be at least 16 points lower than his current 37 percent approval rating, setting a new record low at 21 percent.

Even with his current approval rating, Trump would hold the record low for a net approval rating of nearly -20 percent (37.1 approval rating minus 56.9 disapproval rating). The three Presidents who went into their first midterm elections with disapproval ratings at least as high as their approval ratings ended up losing the most House seats, but none of them even touch the travesty that is Trump’s net approval rating.

Barack Obama’s House Democrats lost 63 seats when his net approval rating was just -2 percent. Bill Clinton’s House Democrats lost 54 seats when Bill Clinton’s net approval rating was zero. Ronald Reagan’s House Republicans lost 27 seats when his net approval rating was -4 percent.

So while there isn’t a direct correlation between negative net approval ratings of the President and the number of House seats lost, negative net approval ratings certainly result in House seats lost. And with 60 to 80 Republican-held House seats that could be competitive in 2018, and 209 Democratic challengers for House seats raising at least $5,000 by June 30 this year compared to the 28 Republicans who did so, Democrats are in position to surprise us like Trump did in 2016. The only thing that might stop them, according to history, is a terrorist attack.

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U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that Texas’s new voter I.D. law is invalid and made it sound like any similar voter I.D. law would be ruled the same. It’s the fifth time a voter I.D. law has been ruled invalid, and it’s because the laws were created with “discriminatory intent.” Since this law’s predecessor was created with discriminatory intent, all reincarnations of said law would also be created with the intent of taking voting rights from people without access to photo I.D. services. Judge Ramos has basically said for a third time, “These are not anti-voter fraud laws. These are anti-voter laws.”

You might wonder why someone wouldn’t have a photo I.D, but in a lot of places they’re prohibitively expensive. In Texas, acquiring a photo I.D. can cost between $78 and $390 (“The High Cost of ‘Free’ Photo Voter Identification Cards,” p. 54). How? Even if the photo I.D. is free, the trip to the DMV isn’t. Some people have to take a bus or cab to visit the nearest grocery store, and the closest DMV is likely further from home than food. If they don’t have a birth certificate, that’s another document they have to pay to get. If they can’t find their marriage certificate and took their partner’s name, they’ll need to acquire that document, too.

Judge Ramos went so far as to suggest Texas elections be subjected to Department of Justice oversight, which hasn’t been the case since 2013, when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. So if there are judges with the same sense as Ramos in other states that have adopted voter I.D. laws (there are 32 of them), they could use Ramos’s decision as precedent to bring back DOJ regulation of elections that was specifically part of the Voting Rights Act to make sure this type of discrimination didn’t happen. Instead, states have adopted Jim Crow laws and passed them off as a defense against voter fraud. If you were wondering what the possible voter fraud was in Texas, it was .000038 percent in 2012.

So this is all a big win for voters, right? Well, if you haven’t noticed, Jeff Sessions isn’t exactly fond of brown people voting. When the Voting Rights Act was gutted of sections designed to protect the minority or impoverished voter, Sessions called it “Good news...for the South.” His home state of Alabama tried to close 31 DMVs, mostly in majority-black neighborhoods, right after passing laws that required a photo I.D. to vote.

Even if Texas, or any other Southern state, was again subject to elections with DOJ oversight, what kind of oversight do you think Sessions would provide? By controlling the ballot to elections in the world’s most powerful country, Sessions would become more powerful than the President, because he will have been responsible for electing the President. That makes him the most powerful man in the world.

But will Sessions be the attorney general in power when all this goes down? Given the fracturing of the Republican Party by Donald Trump and his record-low approval rating for a President this far into his first term, it’s highly unlikely Sessions and Trump remain in office after 2020. But if the Texas appeal is heard before the 2018 midterm elections, Sessions could keep minorities and impoverished voters from the polls to preserve a Republican majority in Congress. Saving Trump might be too tall a task for even the most powerful man in the world, though.

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Democrats and Republicans agree on something. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton defended current first son Barron Trump, who was bullied by the Conservative publisher The Daily Caller, for wearing a T-shirt and jean shorts aboard Air Force One. Melania Trump, whose big First Lady focus is to put an end to bullying, thanked Clinton for defending her son on Twitter.

Why a publisher bullying a minor is wrong

First of all, a media outlet, and a Conservative one at that, publishing anything about any of the President’s children is not just in bad taste; it’s wrong -- and not because they’re the Conservative President’s children. Historically, the President’s children have been off limits to the media, but the only minors who should be targets of the media are high school athletes and high school achievers.

The only time a minor warrants a published word is when said minor has done some good for her community. No one wants to read about how poorly the home team played or which minors were caught in possession of drugs the day before the game. You can still publish that athletes were held out of lineup as punishment for poor behavior, but a sports reporter’s focus should stay on the field or court and with the kids who did show up to represent their high school that day.

People want to read about how the kids hung in there despite overwhelming odds, and how much money the volleyball team raised for local cancer survivors, or how well the Mathletes did at State. It’s the “good news” in the newspaper that helps small newspapers survive. More than anything, parents want to read about their child’s accomplishments and feel proud. They want to clip their kids’ pictures out of the paper and hang them on the fridge. The last thing they want to see is their child’s name in the paper for doing something wrong. That’s when they don’t even bother putting on clothes and just rush out the house to the newspaper office to rip into the editor about how their child’s a minor and her name shouldn’t be in print or on lips.

Minors get the benefit of the doubt from both journalists and the judicial system because they’re minors. They don’t have the experience to know what they ought and ought not do, so society cuts them some slack so they can figure it out. The Daily Caller cut Barron Trump no slack for his lack of slacks. They thought it was “High Time Barron Trump Starts Dressing Like He’s In the White House.” Barron probably wishes his father would act like he’s in the White House. See, now that’s proper bullying.

Bullying the President is protected by the Constitution

The Daily Caller or any other publisher or person in this country can bully the President all they want thanks to the First Amendment. While attaining his “experience,” Donald Trump made plenty of mistakes, and he still does things that warrant a published word or billion. He’s not afforded the societal benefit of the doubt because he’s 71.

Trump’s 11-year-old son doesn’t have to dress like he’s in the White House because he’s 11 years old. His only focus should be being 11, and 11-year-olds wear jeans and T-shirts everyday. If your crazy old man was the most powerful old man in the world you’d want to be comfortable, too. Also, imagine graduating high school when your dad’s 78? How difficult it must be for Barron to connect with his father. There’s a multigenerational gap there.

End bullying for good

There’s no gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to bullying. It’s decidedly bad, and cyber bullying has exacerbated the problem. Victims of cyber bullying are more likely to be depressed than victims of traditional bullying. According to a 2010 Archives of Suicide Research study, “Youth who experienced traditional bullying or cyber bullying, as either an offender or a victim, had more suicidal thoughts and were more likely to attempt suicide than those who had not experienced such forms of peer aggression.” While suicidal thoughts and behaviors were more strongly related to those bullied, the bullies themselves also suffer, and the act of bullying is a coping mechanism.

Cyberbullying is like traditional bullying, except the bully is always there. Now that every parent issues mobile phones to their kids as a means to keep tabs on them, bullies can keep tabs on them, too. Back in my day, there weren’t mobile devices in high school, so all the bullying was done in the traditional manner. Now kids get bullied in school and at home, with no refuge in sight.

If you thought bullying would end as soon as some kid died as a result, it not only didn’t, but more kids are dying. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between 10 and 24 years old. A study done in Great Britain found at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying. Wikipedia even has a wiki dedicated to some of the most notable suicides attributed to bullying. Most recently, 12-year-old Katelyn Davis hanged herself from a tree in her backyard while live streaming it on Live.Me.

With bullying, the First Lady chose an honorable challenge despite the irony that engulfed its announcement while her husband was bullying Hillary Clinton, quite literally. You can’t go wrong attempting to save the children, but what can really be done about bullying?

Anyone who has ever been a victim or offender of bullying knows how to put an end to it. You must stand up to the bully but do so without resorting to violence. Experts say a violent response is not advised. So you don’t even have to be successful in the fight. You just have to show you have fight.

I grew up in the only state without anti-bullying laws (Montana), and I was bullied in middle school for one day. I decided that was the first and last time anyone would bully me. I didn’t throw one punch, didn’t attempt one kick. I just told the bully to hit me. He never did, but he did drive my nose into a metal railing at the top of a stairwell, and while bloodied, it wasn’t broken. I just kept repeating, “I’m still standing” until my mother arrived on the scene. (She was a teacher at the school, and her classroom was furthest from the action if that gives you an idea of how little teachers are doing about bullying.)

I didn’t have a problem with that bully or any other after that day, and I didn’t have to win the fight. I just had to prove I would be a frightful pain in the ass and not worth the bully’s time. The same tactic will work for cyber bullying as well.

Putting an end to cyber bullying takes a bit more dedication than getting the traditional bully off your back, but the principle’s the same. Stand up to the bully every time. Sure you could ignore the bully or block them, but then they just move on to another victim. Don’t let a Facebook comment or Tweet fall through the cracks. You must respond and respond quickly to all attacks on your character and that of others, but you must do so in a manner that reveals to the bully her reason for bullying without actually calling the bully insecure. You must be a social media psychologist.

How to be a social media psychologist

The most important thing to do as a social media psychologist is listen, which you can’t do if you block the bullies. In the case of cyber bullying, read deeply into every word your bully writes and calmly respond -- so calmly that the bully could never read malice into your response. They should be surprised by your lack of emotion and somewhat bored by it. Don’t try to be too smart or you’ll risk your cyberbully turning into a bully bully. While confidence is key, it’s more important to convey that you don’t care what your bully thinks.

Sometimes seeking out common ground can help. Instead of waiting for the next attack, be proactive and respond to something the bully posts on social media that you both like. If the bully knows you like some of the same things she does, it can go a long way in humanizing her thought of you. You might even end up friends.

For persistent bullies it might take the assistance of some friends to put an end to the bullying. The more people who stand by the bullied and speak on the bullied’s behalf, the more likely the bully is to stop bullying. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t hesitate to help others who are bullied. If all the bullies and all the bullied teamed up for war, the bullied would win the day. Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Bart unites all of Springfield’s bullied against Nelson? There's a lot of truth to that.

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A few months ago I read about the play, Her Opponent, and quickly dismissed it as “preaching to the choir.” For those who have not heard of it -- Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science at INSEAD came up with an idea to restage sections off all three Presidential debates with a gender reversing twist -- by casting a female actor (Rachel Whorton) as the Trump character “Brenda King,” and a male actor, Daryl Embry to play the Clinton character, “Jonathan Gordon.”

 

The actors would learn the exact dialog, phrasing, gestures and movements of their real life counterpart candidate as each appeared in the live 2016 debates. An actor, Andy Wagner, would take part as the moderator as well. The idea was to restage the debates as close to reality as possible. The debate script was taken verbatim from the live telecast -- making no changes to the words with the exception of a few verb adjustments to avoid gender confusion. Even the renames of the characters have the exact same syllables, so the actors, during the staged debate, could keep the same beats as the real life candidates.

 

Donald Trump = Brenda King.

 

Hillary Clinton = Jonathan Gordon.

 

And why do this? Well, the liberal producer, director, cast, crew and facility who put Her Opponent together all reasonably assumed that switching the gender roles would confirm what all we lefty liberals knew from day one -- Trump is an aggressive asshat and will be equally intolerable as woman, and Clinton’s “crushing it” experience will shine through even more so, dare I say, coming from a man.

 

So I ignored Her Opponent as a silly concept play because it’s “dog bites man.” It’s obvious, commonplace and it’s not newsworthy. Instead we should be looking for “man bites dog,” which is shocking -- and therefore compelling news!

 

So, it was with great “eye rolling trepidation” that I finally watched the rehearsal tapes as well as several minutes of footage from the thirty minute play, Her Opponent.  My ideas were, pretty much, confirmed.

 

A female version of Donald Trump is still a hateful buffoon.

 

Er, expect that -- um -- you know that’s not what happened at all, right? Liberal audiences, pretty much, universally liked (female) Trump and hated (male) Clinton!

 

*Sigh*  I know. Her Opponent is totally man bites dog. I was wrong. The above is my liberal wishful thinking. That being said:

 

It’s very true that during its two performance run, liberal audiences were fucking shocked at how much they hated the Jonathan Gordon / male Clinton character calling him, “very punchable.” There was even one poor liberal chap who could not believe how much he respected the female Trump and literally held his head in his hands while his date rubbed his back in comfort. By comparison the female Trump was praised for her strength with liberal audiences saying how much they loved seeing that character, “attacking, endlessly attacking and never giving up.”

 

Basically, Trump’s debate technique, his aggressive forwardness and the simplicity of his repeated messages became much easier for liberal folks to tolerate when it came from a woman.

 

Also, basically, the same audience members couldn’t connect with the male Clinton who kept repeating sad, over-rehearsed, regurgitated, thirty-year old DFL talking points (and creeped everyone out with his endless, inappropriate smile).

 

Wow. Ouch! Seriously, man, how did this all happen?

 

Well, Maria Guadalupe (producer), hired director Joe Salvatore, a Steinhardt clinical associate professor of educational theatre who specializes in ethnodrama -- a method of adapting interviews, field notes, journal entries, and other print and media artifacts into a script to be performed as a play. And they put it all together. Their original goal? From the Her Opponent website:

“Can experiencing what the 2016 U.S. presidential candidates said and how they said it through gender-reversed characters, cause us to revisit our own biases and develop insights from different perspectives?

 

Her Opponent uses documentary theatre techniques to re-create excerpts of the three 2016 presidential debates. An actor performs the text, gestures, and movements of Hillary Clinton, but as a male Democratic candidate named Jonathan Gordon and an actress performs the text, gestures, and movements of Donald Trump, but as a female Republican candidate named Brenda King. A third actor plays the role of The Moderator from each of the three debates.

 

The experience includes an opportunity for audiences to share their thoughts and impressions in a facilitated discussion that immediately follows the performance.”

 

The actors rehearsed first by listening to audio of the debates until they memorized the selected script. Then they delved into the debate video to mimic all aspect of their candidate's physical performances. It’s not so much great acting as it is great mimicry. This video has a back and forth comparison between the actors in rehearsal and the actual candidate debate: The SJW View: Gender Swapped, Trump and Clinton Debate. If you watch the back and forth you’ll see what I’m talking about -- acting vs. mimicry -- there are plenty of times when the actors get the hand motions right but miss the sincerity of what the candidate is saying (especially the Gordon / Clinton character). Of course, that is only a rehearsal and not the actual show. So, keep that in mind.

 

Her Opponent, had two sold out performances so there has not been a lot of national coverage but I suspect the show will get picked up off Broadway and will continue its run with the same cast. NYU has a great (several page) story about the original two night performance: What if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had swapped genders?

 

MSNBC has a nice eight minute piece about it as well: Debate and Switch -- where the director and three actors weigh in on the production and the aftermath.

 

Conservatives sites and vlog’s, as you can imagine, had a field day when they heard about the Her Opponent audience response. I don’t think it’s the slam dunk they proclaim -- Tucker Carlson’s: If Trump Were a Woman - Liberals re-create Trump/Clinton debate and it BACKFIRES. (Note: most of that video is a repeat of the rehearsal footage).  

 

I think the word, “backfires” is a bit of a stretch. Don’t get me wrong. I find the reaction to the play fascinating, sincere and totally believable. And it certainly says -- something. I’m not one hundred percent convinced it’s the colossal backfire that Mr. Carlson claims. I mean, it’s very true that liberals are usually smug. I know what I’m talking about here. I’ve been a smug liberal for twenty something years.

 

But after working on dozens of conservative radio programs I've warmed up to a more centrist view. And now I really notice the smugness of the left (even when I agree with them). But to be fair -- I also notice the insincere piety of the right. Both sides have serious credibility issues as far as I’m concerned.  

 

Her Opponent is a great experimental idea and probably makes very fine points about gender bias (I have yet to see the full production) but it does have an elephant in the room. First of all, yes, perhaps some liberals will learn a valuable lesson from watching the show. And yes, conservatives have a right to mock them about something they found to be so, so obvious. But, even if two people, one male and one female, are using the exact same language, gestures and movement to express the exact same thing -- there is a huge, gigantic, vast difference between the following two scenarios:

 

Scenario one: Three Hundred Pound Man angrily & condescendingly talks over One Hundred and Twenty Pound Woman. 

 

Scenario two: One Hundred and Twenty Pound Woman angrily & condescendingly talks over Three Hundred Pound Man.

 

One of those scenarios carries the full weight of thousands of years of the oppressive, abusive, murderous, terrifying history of male violence against women, on its shoulders. The other is scenario two.

 

So, again, Her Opponent is interesting and it might have important things to say about gender bias -- but if you honestly don’t understand the difference between scenario one and scenario two.

 

Well, then you don’t.

 

But it's the reason why President Donald Trump is a dick.

 

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It’s no secret that Americans pay more for healthcare than anyone in the world, and it’s increasingly less of a secret that a better system would result in fewer infant deaths, fewer preventable deaths, fewer uninsured people, and less expense for Americans. What does that system look like, though? Well, it’s not privatized health insurance.

The problem with privatized health insurance is that it allows or forces people to go uninsured due to cost, which is why President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is so important. It lowered the number of uninsured to an all-time low of 8.6 percent by forcing affordable coverage options upon them (if you live in a state that expanded Medicaid) or forcing them to pay a fine so the insured wouldn’t have to flip so much of the uninsured’s bill. And while healthcare costs are still increasing (they always will), they are increasing at a slower rate than they were prior to the ACA.

The biggest reason socialized healthcare is difficult for Republicans to stomach is because they don’t trust the federal government to handle healthcare. You hear them say that over and over, and that the states can do it better. I don’t disagree, but if India can provide free healthcare to roughly 276 million Indians living under the poverty line, the American government can certainly do it for 43.1 million impoverished Americans. States should not be allowed to opt out of this coverage. It should be mandatory because those with private insurance would be paying for fewer uninsured visits to the hospital, meaning hospitals wouldn’t have to increase costs for everyone because of the $900 each uninsured visitor costs them annually.

But socialized healthcare is not going to be passed by this Congress or any other unless the Democrats manage a supermajority at some point, and even then it’s no certainty given the bad, yet unwarranted, reputation the word “socialism” has in this country. (Hint: it’s not fascism.)

The House Republicans’ American Health Care Act won’t be passed by this Congress, either. At least not how it currently stands. But minimum wage legislation should appeal to constituents and politicians of both parties.

The biggest problem for Americans isn’t increasing health insurance premiums. The biggest problem is stagnant wages, which is why passing minimum wage legislation is so important. Back in February, the U.S. inflation rate was at its highest since 2012. An item that cost $20 back in 1997 would cost $30.38 today. That’s a cumulative rate of inflation of almost 52 percent in 20 years. Middle- and low-wage workers’ incomes grew just over five percent during the same period. When the value of the U.S. dollar decreases 10 times faster than incomes increase, people struggle to pay for everything. My father and an entire district of a machinists’ union didn’t get a raise for the eight years Ronald Reagan was President. Imagine working for the same wage for nearly a decade while the cumulative rate of inflation increased 36.4 percent over that time. By the end of the eight years your 1981 U.S. dollar was worth just 63.6 cents in 1989. The lack of union membership in America has a lot to do with the increased income for the top 10 percent of earners, too.

While the globalization of the economy makes executives more valuable, a lack of union membership and lack of collective bargaining allows executive salaries to inflate. And while the affordability of commonly used items like refrigerators, ovens, etc. has increased according to the CATO Institute, that doesn’t necessarily offset the ever-increasing cost of energy. Between 2005 and 2015, residential energy costs increased 34 percent despite prices of natural gas delivered to electric utilities declining nearly 60 percent and coal prices remaining essentially flat, according to the Institute for Energy Research. And we all know that gasoline is more expensive. Today’s average price for gasoline is 54 percent more than the inflation-adjusted price of 1998, when oil prices reached an all-time low of $18.13 per barrel.

Secondary education continues to be an increasing expense, which increased on average at a rate of nine percent at four-year colleges, 11 percent at two-year colleges and 13 percent at private colleges since 2011-12, according to CollegeBoard. “But you don’t need a college education,” you might say. Sure, you might not need it, but the value of of a secondary education was double that of an equal investment in the stock market back in 2011, according to the Brookings Institute, and USA Today reported that a New York Fed study determined the net present value of a college degree to be at an all-time high of $300,000 back in 2014.

Education isn’t the only thing that’s steadily increased in cost, either. The median cost of rent has increased 64 percent since 1960 and 12 percent from 2000 to 2010 despite median wages falling seven percent during that time, according to ApartmentList. The Consumer Price Index for food is also 2.4 percent higher than it was just a year ago, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

While Republican politicians have no interest in socialized healthcare legislation or minimum wage legislation, they should if their goals entail more American jobs and a flourishing American economy. Socialized healthcare legislation, like Rep. John Conyer’s Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, and minimum wage legislation, like Rep. Al Green’s Original Living Wage Act, would allow Republicans to create more jobs and allow Americans to further stimulate the economy with expendable income.

No Conservative who is struggling to pay for necessities can successfully argue that they don’t deserve a raise, and no Republican politician can successfully argue that his or her struggling constituents don’t deserve a raise and keep his or her job. This is something Congress can pass and something Donald Trump should be proud to sign. It would be quite the blow to his predecessor if Trump managed to increase wages for all American workers making minimum wage. It would certainly make the numbers look better if Trump and the Republicans are successful in passing their healthcare bill, as more Americans would be able to afford health insurance.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, The Easy Organic Gardener, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Good Day Health, MindSet: Mental Health News and Information, Health Hunters, America’s Health Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, The Dr. Bob Martin Show, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Drew Pearson Live, Drop Your Energy Bill

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