Truthout Stories Sat, 23 Jul 2016 04:53:35 -0400 en-gb How Can This Be Happening in the US? International Journalists Reflect on Rise of Donald Trump

On Wednesday, Democracy Now!'s Deena Guzder and Hany Massoud spoke to members of the international press covering the Republican National Convention to find out how other countries view Donald Trump.

Please check back later for full transcript.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"Build Bridges, Not Walls": Medea Benjamin on How She Disrupted Donald Trump's Speech

CodePink's Medea Benjamin disrupted Donald Trump's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention by holding up a banner reading "Build bridges, not walls!" Her protest diverted cameras away from Trump's speech. Benjamin was removed after the disruption and says she was later interviewed by the Secret Service. Democracy Now! spoke to her on the street afterwards.


AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to CodePink's Medea Benjamin, who disrupted Donald Trump's speech last night. By the way, the speech, the longest in presidential convention history at an hour and 15 minutes. Media Benjamin stood up, holding a banner reading "Build bridges, not walls!" Her protest diverted cameras away from Trump's speech. She was removed by security after the disruption. Medea Benjamin says she was later interviewed by the Secret Service. Democracy Now! caught up with her on the streets of Cleveland afterwards.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: I got a pass inside. I went to a press area, which I thought was as good as I was going to get. I had a sign that said "Build bridges, not walls!" I had read the speech beforehand, so I knew exactly when I wanted to interrupt: when he said, "I am your voice." And I wanted to get up then and say, "You are not my voice. Your voice is one of hatred and anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia and misogyny. And we need someone who will build bridges, not walls."

And there was a lot of tussling going on with the people next to me, who were grabbing my sign and trying to pull me down. And there were all kinds of people around me doing various things. At one point, I know my legs were in the air. And I just kept speaking out that Donald Trump is dangerous for this country and dangerous for the world. I think it's so important CodePink has been in three out of the four nights in the convention center interrupting Donald Trump. And I think we speak for millions of people in this country and people all over the world who are horrified with the idea of Donald Trump for president.

AMY GOODMAN: Who were the people that were sitting next to you, and what did they say? And who ended up dragging you out?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: There were other journalists next to me from conservative papers. And I know that because I looked at some of their name tags. And they also were clapping so much during the speech. You know, if you're an objective journalist, you're not going to get up and clap when Donald Trump comes in and after every two sentences. So they were very enthusiastic press, and they were really upset when I got up, and immediately started trying to tackle me.

DELEGATES: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

AMY GOODMAN: You got an early transcript of the speech. Did anything surprise you in it?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, I was -- I found it interesting that before Donald came on, there were -- there's a Republican gay businessman. There were people who talked about gay rights. And Ivanka was really focusing on women's rights and how great her husband -- her father was for women. And I think Donald Trump, in the beginning of the speech, tried to come across as somebody who would unite this country. And, of course, it's all about how he's a great builder, builder, builder. And then he got, at one point, very negative. And his talk about how we are besieged by immigrants who are coming across our border and then murdering people is such a horrible thing to be focusing on, when 99 percent of the immigrants are peaceful, hard-working people who have contributed so much to this society. I just got back from Latin America, and I've been to the Middle East a lot, and I know people are really terrified about Donald Trump, as well as our friends here who are Muslim and our friends here who are Latino.

DELEGATES: Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!

MEDEA BENJAMIN: When he starts in his rhetoric and people start yelling "Build that wall! Build that wall!" that's a very scary thing. So, I think it was very appropriate to be there with the "Build bridges, not walls!"

AMY GOODMAN: That is Medea Benjamin, the founder of CodePink, the women's peace group. She disrupted Donald Trump's speech last night, holding a banner reading "Build bridges, not walls!" This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We are "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency," everyday two-hour expanded broadcast from the Cleveland Republican convention here in Ohio. Next week we'll be in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention. This is Democracy Now! We'll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: "You Can't Always Get What You Want," The Rolling Stones. It was closing song last night after Donald Trump's speech, the longest in presidential convention history. Over 100,000 balloons were dropped as the song played and the family was on the stage.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Pastor on Tamir Rice Shooting: Ohio Is an Open-Carry State Except if You're an African-American Male

The Republican National Convention is underway just a few miles from the park where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by police in November of 2014 while he was playing with a toy pellet gun. We speak with Rev. Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, the pastor of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, which is one of the largest African-American congregations in Cleveland, about how city officials and activists responded to the killing. He was recently profiled in a Politico report titled "The Preacher Who Took on the Police."


AMY GOODMAN: We're joined right now by Reverend Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, the pastor of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, which is one of the largest African-American congregations in Cleveland. He was recently profiled in Politico in a piece titled "The Preacher Who Took on the Police."

Reverend Colvin, welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: Took on the police how?

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: Well, when the incident took place with respect to the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, I and others within the activist community made a decision that we couldn't allow the death of this young boy to go without justice. I reached out to the Department of Justice. I began to reach out to my brothers and sisters in the activist community, many not in the church, but within a community of conscience built around academics, people in the nonprofit community. And we began to work together to figure out a way in which we could bring this issue to light. The family had done a great job in bringing national civil rights attorneys to their assistance. But we thought that if they did not have community support and they didn't have community activism to continue to bring this, not only for individual justice for their son, but to make sure that there was attention brought to the injustice related to the entire Cleveland Police Department.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain something to me? We went to Cudell Park, to the recreational center, where young Tamir, 12 years old -- it was what? November 22nd --


AMY GOODMAN:  -- 2014, has a toy gun, police move in within a few seconds, Officer Loehmann shoots Tamir Rice dead. Now, we're here at the convention. There have been protests around the issue of assault weapons. You have open carry in this state, so people carry guns all the time. Even if they thought he had a gun, within seconds shooting him? And it's been shown by studies that white police officers think kids, black kids, are older like by 10 years than they are. So here they're seeing -- they thought he was like 20, and he's got a gun. You're allowed to carry a gun in this state.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: Except if you're an African-American male, particularly if you're an African-American male that's in a community that is perceived as hostile, if you're in a community in which young people are oftentimes viewed as much older than they particularly are. The challenge is that there were a number of forces that were working against Tamir that day. Being a young black male with historical challenges between police and community, Tamir found himself in a place and a position where, when Loehmann, who we know had a history of instability with respect to his unfitness to being in another department, but when he came to the city of Cleveland, he was allowed to not only have a badge but also allowed to carry a gun, and when Tamir found himself in the crosshairs, in less than two seconds, this young boy, who was playing with his toy gun, was only doing something that any young 12-year-old would do in a community center, place that he went to every day, obviously found himself in a circumstance and a situation which, unfortunately, was not in the best judgment of those police officers.

AMY GOODMAN: Neither of these officers, the one who shot him, Loehmann, who, what, was described as having low gun impulse control at the previous department he worked in Independence --


AMY GOODMAN:  -- and Garmback, who had another excessive force case around him, where they had -- the police department had to pay out, I think, a six-figure amount, have been indicted. What about the federal investigation?

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: Well, the federal investigation, at this point, we know that, in terms of civil rights, the civil rights bar is so high that oftentimes we can't -- we don't see any federal action taking place. I mean, that's why that I and seven of my colleagues went into municipal court, looking at the Ohio Revised Code and finding there was a statute that if citizens can come and find an affidavit -- and file an affidavit stating that there is evidence, reason to believe, that a crime has been committed, you can do that. We did that. That video indicated that there was probable cause. And the fact that while a municipal court judge, an African-American municipal court judge in a majority African-American city, found there was reasonable -- I mean, at least probable cause, which is a low bar. Ironically, when it went to the county, County Prosecutor Tim McGinty found that there was not enough evidence to even to have an indictment, which, in and of itself, is problematic. We've seen the article, which indicates that it was a sham from the beginning, that it was an orchestrated attempt, really, to try this case in secret, which I only thought we did in Eastern Bloc countries 50 years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: McGinty ultimately losing his race again for prosecutor.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: He did lose his race, but, unfortunately, justice still has not been served. And so, while justice was meted out for Mr. McGinty, unfortunately we still have -- we still have a case, and there is no statute of limitations on murder. And so, you know, it is up to the family whether they want to continue to pursue that, because many of us in the activist community are supporting the family in such a case. But what we do know is from both the law enforcement community to the Prosecutor's Office, there was clearly injustice that was done. And it is not simply to be found in Loehmann. It is systemic, it is institutional, and I'm not sure that changing one prosecutor is really going to change the process.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the Republican National Convention. On Monday night, the Milwaukee County sheriff, David Clarke, celebrated the acquittal of the Baltimore police officer Brian Rice, one of the officers on trial in the Freddie Gray case. Gray died from injuries sustained in police custody. We were on the floor when Sheriff Clarke took the stage of the convention.

SHERIFF DAVID CLARKE: There is some good news out of Baltimore, Maryland, as Lieutenant Brian Rice was acquitted on all charges. ... What we witnessed in Ferguson and Baltimore and Baton Rouge was a collapse of the social order. So many of the actions of the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter transcends peaceful protest and violates the code of conduct we rely on. I call it anarchy.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the Milwaukee County sheriff, David Clarke. Your response, Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin?

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: What's interesting is that what the sheriff is calling anarchy, we call, you know, our First Amendment rights -- the right to protest, the right to peaceful assembly. Black Lives Matter has utilized the best of the civil rights tradition: nonviolent direct action. The only thing and the only association that he can connect with the murders of those police officers and Black Lives Matter is the fact that they are, in fact, black. I mean, officers -- we talk about the challenge with respect to rebuilding the trust between officers, law enforcement and the community. Historically, there has never been trust between the law enforcement community and African-American community. And this only reinforces the same type of enmity, deeply embedded mistrust, that is clearly not simply on the perspective or the side of the African-American community. But also, this is reflective, clearly, of mistrust on the side of law enforcement.

AMY GOODMAN: The Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, appeared on CNN here in Cleveland, expressed support for an investigation, following Donald Trump's statement Monday night on Fox News that, if elected, he would instruct his attorney general to look into Black Lives Matter.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: Well, thankfully, he's lieutenant governor, not president of the United States and not the head of the Department of Justice. You know, it's amazing that Black Lives Matter, which is a movement which has brought to the fore the issue of, you know, police misconduct, Black Lives Matter, which has finally put on the national platform and in the national conversation the issue of the excessive use of force and the unconstitutionality of the encounters with police and African Americans, are now themselves being criminalized. They are the ones being criminalized. It is an amazing phenomenon that now we have the law enforcement community, and those who support them, saying somehow that the blue shield is more important than citizenship and expressing constitutional rights.

AMY GOODMAN: The number of black delegates, 18, lowest number, believed, in more than half a -- in more than a century here at the Republican convention.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN: And I would add to that, I saw the recent poll, that zero percent support for Donald Trump, and I know that is not within the margin of error. It's absolutely right. You know, Adam Clayton Powell said decades ago, the reason that black people -- most African Americans are not conservative, because they have nothing to conserve. There is nothing in the current state of the American economy, the current state of American social order, the current state of policing in America that African Americans would want to preserve. So I'm not surprised. I'm actually surprised that we have as -- the few that we do have, even in light of the fact of the vitriol that we have coming out of Donald Trump.

But I would say this, is that African Americans are not going to be -- even on the left, are not going to be intimidated to vote against Donald Trump. We're not going to be, in any way, shape or form, made to feel that he's the bogeyman or anything of that nature. The truth is, African Americans, over the course of 400 years, since 1619, have dealt with all kinds of blowhards, whether we're talking about Bull Connor, Orval Faubus, George Wallace. And so, we know how to deal with the Donald Trumps. So, when we go to the -- into the polls, it's not about who we're voting against or what we --

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

REV. JAWANZA KARRIEM COLVIN:  -- but rather, what we're voting for.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us, Reverend Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, pastor of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church here in Cleveland, Ohio.

That does it for our show. I'll be doing a report back from the conventions after our two weeks of coverage -- on Friday, July 29th at the Provincetown Town Hall in Massachusetts, and Saturday, July 30th, on Martha's Vineyard at Old Whaling Church. Check our website. Follow our team for the latest updates from the convention on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Feminism Slowly Gaining Support at United Nations

Achieving gender equality has long been one of the United Nations' top priorities yet the word feminism has only recently begun to find its way into speeches at UN headquarters.

Croatia's Vesna Pusic, one of 12 candidates for the post of UN Secretary-General, explained why she thought her feminism made her suitable for the UN's top job, during a globally televised debate, on 12 July.

"I happen to be a woman, I don't think this is enough, I happen to be a feminist and I think this is (important)," Pusic said, to applause from the diplomats and UN staff filling the UN General Assembly hall.

Pusic joins other high profile feminists at the UN including British actor Emma Watson, whose September 2014 speech about her own feminism gained worldwide media attention.

More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told UN Women's Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at a UN meeting in March 2016 that there shouldn't be such a big reaction every time he uses the word feminist.

"For me, it's just really obvious. We should be standing up for women's rights and trying to create more equal societies," he said.

Perhaps more significant though than these speeches is Sweden's recent election to the UN Security Council on a feminist foreign policy platform.

Sweden will join the 15-member council for two years in January 2017, the same month that the new Secretary-General will take office. There are hopes that the UN's ninth Secretary-General, will be the first woman to lead the organisation, with women making up half of the 12 candidates currently under consideration.

"There could be a lot of elements coming together to finally create some momentum for progress," Jessica Neuwirth, one of the founders and Honorary President of Equality Now told IPS.

Even the number of female candidates running represents a change for the UN, Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK told IPS.

"Not only has no woman ever held the UN's top job, but just three of 31 formal candidates in previous appointments have been female."

The push to select a female Secretary-General has seen all candidates, both male and female, eager to show their commitment to gender equality.

Whoever is selected will be continuing on work already started by current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Neuwirth, who believes that Ban has shown a commitment to gender equality at the UN, even if he may not use the word feminist to describe himself.

"I'm not a person who really lives or dies on the words, I think what people do is really much more important than what they call themselves," said Neuwirth, who is the director of Donor Direct Action, founded to raise funds for frontline women's groups.

"I don't know that I've ever heard (Ban) use the word feminist, definitely not to describe himself," she added. "On the other hand as somebody who had the privilege of working at the UN during his tenure I did see first hand the efforts he made to increase the representation of women at the UN at the highest levels, he made a very conscious effort to increase those numbers."

"It's still not 50:50 and it's even slid backwards which is disappointing, but he showed that one person can make a big difference."

Samarasinghe also noted that even if the word feminist is not explicitly used at the UN, its meaning is reflected in the UN's many objectives for achieving gender equality.

"Feminism is about women and men having equal opportunities and rights – something reaffirmed countless times in UN documents, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights onwards."

However Samarasinghe noted that the word feminist remains controversial. The UN's 193 member states include many countries which lag far behind outliers such as Sweden and Canada on gender equality.

"Being a feminist is a complete no-brainer. It's like having to explain to people that you're not racist. But clearly the word is still controversial so we have to keep using it until people get it," she said.

Emma Watson noted in her high profile UN speech, that the word feminist is not as easy to use as it should be.

"I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists."

"Apparently, I'm among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even," said Watson.

In late 2015, some media reported that Watson had said she had been advised not to use the word feminist in her speech.

Neuwirth who was present when Watson made her speech told IPS that Watson's choice of words ultimately had a strong impact.

"That was an incredible event, I mean the level of emotion in that room was so high it was kind of shocking to me."

"There were so many diplomats there, which was a good thing, and it was just really a powerful speech that she made, and it moved them, you could just see visibly that it moved them," said Neuwirth.

However since Watson's speech, progress on gender equality at the UN has not always been easy.

Media organisation PassBlue, which monitors gender equality at the UN, has noted that the number of women appointed to senior UN positions has been slipping.

When Sweden takes up its position on the Security Council, it will have big strides to make on both improving women's representation in decision making positions at the UN and enacting policies which promote gender equality more broadly.

In fact, it is anticipated that all 15 permanent representatives on the UN Security Council in 2017 will be men, unless the United States chooses a woman to replace Samantha Power, who is expected to leave her post by the end of 2016.

Sweden hopes to use its seat on the Security Council to increase women's involvement in negotiating and mediating peace agreements, Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at a media briefing hosted by Donor Direct Action on 30 June.

Neuwirth welcomed Wallstrom's comments, noting that in Syria, for example, women continue to be shut out of peace negotiations.

Syrian women "are trying to play a meaningful role in the negotiations over Syria, which are totally a mess," she said, "yet these women really just are struggling so hard to get even inside a corridor let alone to the table."

"Why wouldn't they just give these women a little more of a chance to see if they could do better, because it would be hard to do worse?"

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Facing Down Trump's Demagoguery: Lessons From Weimar Germany

2016.7.22.Lead.mainDonald Trump points to his vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, on the final night of the Republican National Convention, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

To fight Donald Trump's dangerous messages, US progressives of all stripes -- the Democrats, Bernie Sanders supporters and all major social justice movements -- must take both right-wing populism and each other seriously and find ways to present a united front against fascism.

2016.7.22.Lead.mainDonald Trump points to his vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, on the final night of the Republican National Convention, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

Donald Trump is not the first authoritarian demagogue who could take power and undermine constitutional government in the US or Europe. Right-wing authoritarian populists have often grabbed power during economic crises, particularly in Western societies suffering national decline and severe racial divisions or culture wars.

The classic example is Weimar Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. The Nazis were one of many far-right movements in Weimar -- and Hitler was only one of many hyper-nationalist demagogues stoking the flames of economic discontent and promising to restore Aryan racial supremacy and make Germany great again.

For progressives who want to (1) fight Trump's dangerous messages and (2) win the long-term struggle for justice and democracy, there are vital lessons to be learned from the failure of Weimar progressives.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, "Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016."

First, the German Left splintered and failed to create strong coalitions. The Social Democrats and the German Communist Party -- both large parties of Labor -- made little efforts to work together or to organize and coordinate closely with many of the remarkably progressive Weimar urban feminist, gay and civil rights movements. Much of the blame falls on the Communists, who decided to take their marching orders from Stalin, believing that the collapse of the German economy would lead to a Communist revolution. But the Social Democrats were also responsible, aligning themselves with conservative parties and aristocratic landed elites -- and supporting repression of Far Left movements while failing to reach out to and make concessions to either the Communists or the movements.

Had the Social Democrats and Communists formed a common bloc, working in a strong coalition with progressive urban cultural movements, they would have controlled the majority of Parliament and might have kept power. The lesson here is that we must wrestle with the potential ways in which the Democratic Party, the Sanders supporters and our major social justice movements might work together, building a coalitional front that can push back against the dangers posed by Trump, promote the aims of the Sanders "revolution," and help unite or "universalize" Left grassroots movements in a long-term effort to create a systemic transformation of militarized, racialized, patriarchal capitalism.

Second, to build a united front, all types of progressives must grapple with the real threat of a Trump victory and of a broader right-wing populist ascendancy, with or without a Trump victory. The German Left -- as well as the German corporate and landed gentry Establishment -- never took Hitler seriously, dismissing Far Right movements and believing Hitler had no large popular base. Likewise, many US progressives cannot imagine that Americans would embrace Far Right populism and elect an overtly racist demagogue such as Trump.

The Weimar Left and the German Establishment wildly underestimated the Far Right and Hitler's resonance during a massive economic crisis with a public with authoritarian tendencies. They lost touch with the working and lower middle class, especially the rural or small town population, who felt they were losing not just their jobs but their country and culture. They also never believed Hitler could gain so much support in his pursuit of genocide.

The US Left and the US Establishment may be making a similar mistake about Trump and today's Far Right populism. On the one hand, Trumpism resonates strongly with some economically disenfranchised white workers who, like the Weimar culturally conservative workers, fear loss of both their jobs and their honored racial status in their nation. Moreover, recent surveys and social-psychological studies show that the authoritarian cultural currents in Weimar are prevalent in large sectors of the US white working class and middle class conservative movement, creating fertile ground for an authoritarian bully like Trump.

Trump does not seem to be joking about the changes he proposes, nor could he be controlled easily if in power. Trump as president would heighten institutional racism throughout the country and sabotage many constitutional rights, even with congressional resistance, using executive power already being concentrated in the presidency.

The second Weimar lesson, then, is this: take right-wing populism and Trump's magnetic resonance with large sectors of the American public very seriously. This is a lesson reinforced not just by Weimar but by the Brexit vote in the UK. Progressives must understand how and why Trump connects with millions of Americans -- and then move to undercut resonating ties.

This leads to a third lesson: the need for a massive shift in the Democratic Party and a resurgence of progressive movements to solve the economic crisis and address the sense of national decline perpetrated by the Establishment itself. The Weimar Left, especially the Social Democratic Party, largely disconnected from grassroots urban progressive cultural movements, had no transformative vision or energy. It was an exhausted, reformist party offering no economic or social solutions. The Communists didn't even try, as they promoted collapse.

The Democratic Party in the age of Clintons, disconnected from social movements, has aligned with the corporate and military establishment. While Bernie Sanders resonated far and wide because of his urgent message of "political revolution" and democratic socialism, Hillary Clinton has only begun to -- at least in rhetoric -- embrace the importance of structural change. But to win, she has to take Sanders more seriously and respond not only to his demands but also to the demands of the civil rights, Black liberation, peace and environmental movements. One approach is to promote a massive green public investment agenda to begin solving the jobs and environmental crisis, while cutting the military budget and taxing the rich to meet educational, health and job-creation priorities, while also addressing the crises of racism, sexism, mass incarceration and civil liberties.

If she fails to campaign on this united front agenda, and our movements do not force her to do so, Clinton will suffer the fate of the German Social Democrats. Trump will ride the anti-Establishment anger and angst into the White House and right-wing populism will take over the nation.

We must universalize our activism from single-issue silos to a long-term coalition for liberation and universal rights

A careful look at Clinton's current proposals offers a glimpse of hope. She has begun to integrate some of Sanders' demands about free college education, more expansive funding of social needs, confronting institutionalized racism and mass incarceration, stronger anti-fracking and higher solar and wind production, a higher minimum wage, and reversing Citizens United. Sanders' supporters, now linking or "universalizing" with other social justice movements, must push her much further. The concern is not only about Trump; it is also necessary to mobilize sustainable democracy movements that can defeat new cycles of right-wing populism and create a real political revolution.

Clinton and the Left movements face considerable challenges in building a true popular united front. Clinton's proposals tend to be means-tested and polarize the working classes against professional and middle classes; her set-asides for particular groups in programs like her College Compact pit groups against each other.

Clinton must adopt a universalizing posture supporting universalizing programs and entitlements, such as expanded social security and health care for all. These bring the working and middle classes together, and reflect the agenda of universalizing movements seeking cross-class and cross-identity coalitions.

The movements must push Clinton to adopt these Left-oriented designs, which do not take working class, people of color or social movement support for granted and universalize resistance.  More broadly, movements must openly and forcefully criticize Clinton's penchant for intervention abroad (e.g., in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan), the stultifying incrementalism of her domestic reforms regarding inequality, corporate trade agreements, and union rights, and her failure to deliver solutions to institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, mass incarceration and denial of immigrant rights.

This connects with the fourth Weimar lesson: the need to address personal fear about national decline, racial conflict and national or terrorist enemies. Hitler and right-wing movements stoked all these fears. They saw the anxiety and anger and redirected it at the non-Aryan Enemy within and without. They were masters of the politcs and propaganda of emotion.

The Weimar Left collapsed not only because of its abject policy failures on the economy and in meeting social needs, but also because of its inability to speak to deep emotions of fear and anger, particularly those stirred up by right-wing populists.

The lesson here is to redirect fear to the real causes of public suffering and to identify clearly who are the enemies of the people. The united front must clearly indict the corporate and military Establishment that is battering both workers and the nation, showing how both Establishment and right-wing populists are using racism, immigrant-bashing and sexism to refocus anger on the most powerless people. Progressives must embrace the zeitgeist of anti-Establishment feeling on both Left and Right. It must make clear how big money, racism and militarism abroad and at home are dividing Americans and degrading their economic and social prospects.

Having been a leading figure of the Establishment for 25 years, it is virtually impossible for Clinton to embrace the anti-Establishment moment and lead a progressive populism. The united front must do the work that she cannot. Sanders speaks forcefully to anti-Establishment emotions and highlights anti-Establishment policies that can meet many universalized public needs. And social movements have deep roots in communities and have built the foundations for an emotional as well as universalizing policy response to Establishment power.

Our grassroots social movements are central to transformation. We are already seeing their resurgence, from Black Lives Matter to large-scale environmental and climate change movements ( and anti-fracking) to anti-corporate and anti-Wall Street movements (Occupy and its successors) seeking democratic socialism. Many are beginning to recognize the need to coalesce and universalize their resistance against the ruling order, in concert with a progressive political and electoral agenda symbolized by Bernie Sanders.

The lessons of Weimar are stark. Without universalizing resistance across a united progressive front, we could easily see the rise of Trump and the entrenchment of right-wing populism. We must meld together movements and progressive politics. And we must universalize our activism from single-issue silos to a long-term coalition for liberation and universal rights.

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Opinion Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"I Alone": Trump's Megalomania on Cold Display

2016.7.22.Pitt.mainDonald Trump accepts the Republican nomination for president on the final night of the Republican National Convention, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. (Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Truthout delivers trustworthy reporting and thought-provoking news analysis. If you share our passion for the truth, help strengthen independent media with a donation today!

The Republican National Convention is over now, and Friday's dawn sunrise is dappling the green of the trees. We watched last night's grim spectacle the way vultures who lurk at the end of dangerous runways watch incoming airplanes, waiting for the crash and the feast to follow. Is Donald going to run wild? Will flesh be torn from ligament and bone?

It did not play out that way. Donald Trump managed to get through an hour and 15 minutes of speaking without freaking out. In fact, he gave what many will unfortunately interpret as the speech of his life. It was a terrifying, blatantly racist, xenophobic, dystopian Emperor Palpatine imitation that described how we're all going to die screaming any minute now, but he stuck to the script and didn't spit acid like a bad car battery.

This was no small thing, mind you. Trump had just watched his wife get slagged in the public prints over a plagiarized portion of her speech. Then came Ted Cruz. Trump had dogged Cruz's wife over her looks, accused Cruz's father of having a hand in the Kennedy assassination, and called Cruz himself a liar time and time again. Cruz crouched in the tall grass like a puma, and when his chance for revenge came, he cut Trump's throat on prime-time TV with the flick of a claw by refusing to endorse him, smiling past his fangs all the while. This was a dead-bang sniper shot from 2,000 feet out. Pence who? Donald who? It was all Ted on the networks after that number, a masterfully turned dish served ice cold.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, "Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016."

How did Trump respond? He became Thor in the wasteland of an imagined apocalypse, vowing to wield his mighty hammer and smash anyone who did not eat at Arby's or protested police violence. "Law and Order" went the refrain, over and over in a lightning-bright flashback to authoritarian, racially coded Republican campaign tactics of old.

Somewhere in the ether, Lee Atwater was smiling. He wrote the book on that particular tactic -- Willie Horton, etc. -- and once again, its leaves were being thumbed through.

That we have reached a place where success is defined by a candidate's ability to restrain his inner Berserker and speak in complete sentences is truly remarkable. Instead of "Believe me folks it's going to be great when we build that wall and the Mexicans pay for it because they're all scary and I'm so rich you have no idea believe me because I just like to grab and grab which will make America great again," we got a stolid Teleprompter discourse on the end of everything (or the threat of the end of everything white) in these United States.

"I have joined the political arena," said Trump on Thursday night, "so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it."

"I alone." There you have it. This speech was an ego trip -- much like the campaign itself -- bearing little substance aside from bigotry. The most frightening part is that Trump's campaign might actually win in November. A lit cigarette is healthier.

Next week come the Democrats, almost certainly more polished in their presentation. The 2016 RNC was a brawl at a frat party. The DNC will be calmer in every respect, despite the divisions between the Clinton and Sanders camps. Still, when we get the same stuff without all the shouting, what do we get? The same stuff without our teeth getting punched down our throat.

Cold comfort, that. We have entered strange space. Upton Sinclair wrote, "Fascism is capitalism plus murder." That sentiment was on vivid display this week, and will rear its head again on Monday.

Stay tuned.

Opinion Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
From Occupy Protests to the Platforms

2016.7.22.Occupy.MainOccupy Oakland general strike, November 2, 2011. Five years after the birth of Occupy, both the Democratic and Republican Party platforms now call for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act. (Photo: timothy.actwell / Flickr)

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At Occupy Wall Street rallies in New York's Zuccotti Park back in September 2011, Akshat Tewary noticed that many protesters were calling for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that separated investment and commercial banking. As an administrative lawyer, Tewary knew that financial regulators are required to consider input from the public. To make sure these regulators heard the views of Wall Street critics -- not just financial industry boosters -- he helped organize a loose group of protestors under the name "Occupy the SEC."

Since 2011, this group has generated a steady stream of letters to regulators, amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, and petitions to Congress on Glass-Steagall and other aspects of Wall Street reform. Today, five years after the birth of Occupy, both the Democratic and Republican Party platforms now call for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. co-editor Sarah Anderson asked Tewary for his reaction.

Sarah Anderson: What do you think about both party platforms calling for a new Glass-Steagall? 

Akshat Tewary: It certainly comes as a surprise. The Republicans have stymied and rejected recent attempts by progressive legislators like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to reinstate Glass-Steagall. The Republican-led House Financial Services Committee is famously bank-friendly, and has recently championed the repeal of financial reform laws like the Dodd-Frank Act. So at some level, the inclusion of Glass-Steagall in the Republican platform seems utterly bizarre.

Even so, a closer analysis shows that maybe this is much ado about nothing. Party platforms are routinely ignored by incumbent Presidents: Bob Dole famously admitted that he never read the Republican convention's platform when he ran for President in 1996. The mere fact that the law is on the platform does not mean that the law will actually become a campaign priority in Congress later this year.

Banks hold inordinate sway with mainstream Republicans, and you can bet that they would never take a renewed Glass-Steagall bill lying down. Powerful bank lobbyists would inveigh against the bill to such an extent that it would never receive serious consideration among mainstream Republicans.

Even if the Republican Party lacks a real appetite to resurrect Glass-Steagall, there are a number of strategic reasons for the party to include the law in its platform. A certain segment of the Republican Party reflects populist angst against big-wig corporations that are seen as having bought the political system. A few early contenders for the Republican Presidential ticket (like Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson) even advocated for Glass-Steagall, probably in an attempt to tap into that populist angst against Wall Street.

Similarly, in 2013 Republican Senator John McCain joined Senator Warren and others in championing a reboot of the law called "The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act." In my view, the inclusion of Glass-Steagall on the Republican platform is a classic bait and switch tactic -- the party is seeking to curry favor with the minority of Republican Party members who strongly oppose Wall Street's influence. Glass-Steagall will not get serious Republican consideration in Congress, but its mention on the platform will serve to attract a larger segment of Republicans and Independents who might otherwise vote for a centrist Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has been outspoken in her opposition to the Glass-Steagall Act. In an op-ed in the New York Times she claimed that shadow banking, not Glass-Steagall, should be our real concern. And it was her husband who presided over the law's repeal in 1999. So the Republicans may have included Glass-Steagall on their platform as an additional way to distinguish themselves from Clinton during campaign season.

The inclusion of the Glass-Steagall Act on the Democratic ticket is also somewhat surprising. As I mentioned, Hillary Clinton has been vocal in belittling the law. And Senator Warren's 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act has only received tepid support from Congressional Democrats thus far. Of course, Bernie Sanders was an ardent champion of bringing back Glass-Steagall, but he's no longer in the race. So here too this is most likely an attempt to garner support from more populist elements in the party, even if more centrist party leaders find it unpalatable in fact.

Why is this reform important? 

Glass-Stegall would force retail banks to disassociate themselves from their investment banking, insurance and broker-dealer affiliates. This is a vital reform that could help avert the next financial crisis.

The simple fact is that the half-century between the law's passage in 1933 and its repeal in 1999 saw the greatest economic progress in American (and possibly world) history. The passage of the Glass-Steagall Act was the denouement of Congress's attempts to understand the causes behind the Market Crash of 1929 and the consequent Great Depression.

The Congressionally appointed Pecora Commission found that rampant speculation on Wall Street created a financial bubble produced by excess liquidity in the market. Banks had utilized their special access to capital — access to depositors' funds and the Fed's discount window -- to churn the markets with speculative risk. This led to the worst economic crisis in modern history: the Great Depression.

Unfortunately, since the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, banks have once again moved away from "boring banking" services that benefit the public (i.e. taking deposits and making loans at reasonable rates), and have instead moved towards speculative trading and fee-generating services that enrich the few while putting the public at risk.

Just as the Pecora Commission found that Wall Street speculation caused the Great Depression, in 2011 the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission found that speculation on Wall Street helped cause the 2008 meltdown. A renewed Glass-Steagall Act would prevent yet another repeat of such a scenario.

Banks have ready access to financing that is simply not available to other businesses. For example, the Government Accountability Office reported that between 2008 and 2010, the Federal Reserve made available to banks nearly $16 trillion in essentially zero-percent loan facilities.

Main Street business have never been able to receive anywhere near that kind of capital. Historically, banks have been given access to this liquidity under the theory that they will spread that liquidity to the rest of the market. Unfortunately, since the repeal of Glass-Steagall banks have proven adept at making money for themselves, even as they draw liquidity away from Main Street businesses and people.

Instead of utilizing their size and funding advantages to make loans to businesses, banks have been focused more on creating mind-numbingly obscure derivatives and other "financial innovations" in an effort to enrich themselves through fees and spreads. A renewed Glass-Steagall Act would redress this wrong by forcing retail banks to divest themselves from their investment banking and trading affiliates. On the one hand, retails banks would be forbidden from speculating at all. And divested investment banking units could continue to do business as usual, but their global impact would be mitigated because they would be smaller in size.

A new Glass-Steagall Act would also help address our country's Too Big to Fail problem. If banks were Too Big to Fail in 2007, they are undoubtedly more so today. The country's biggest banks are now bigger than ever. The six biggest banks enjoy a combined $10 trillion in assets. By way of comparison, the U.S. GDP is $17 trillion. The crisis of 2008 taught us that when banks are gargantuan in size, they become ticking time bombs that threaten the global economy.

The Dodd-Frank Act contains various half-measures, like the Volcker Rule, living wills, and resolution authority, that seek to address the Too Big to Fail Problem. But the efficacy of these provisions is questionable. Virtually every aspect of Dodd-Frank has been challenged at the agency level, and much of the resultant regulation has been severely watered down and delayed through bank lobbying. To make matters worse, various parts of Dodd-Frank have come under the Congressional chopping block since 2010 (and will continue to do so in the future).

While Dodd-Frank contains many important financial reforms, it adopts a Whack-a-Mole approach that puts regulatory band-aids over old problems, while doing little to address new problems. Only bold, systemic reform like Glass-Steagall can truly mitigate the risks posed by Too-Big-to-Fail banks.

How would this reform affect ordinary Americans? 

Too Big to Fail banks helped cause the last financial crisis. As we all know, all Americans -- not just bank employees -- felt the impact of that crisis. Between 2007 and 2010, median U.S. family wealth dropped a jaw-dropping 40 percent. The size and interconnectedness of the nation's gargantuan banks all but ensured that a discrete banking crisis would translate into a world-wide, general economic crisis. A new Glass-Steagall Act would help avoid a repeat of this scenario.

That law would force our nation's behemoth banks to divest themselves into smaller, manageable units. In doing so, the Act would reduce the chances that the failure of one bank would cause the failure of other, unrelated businesses. As a consequence, ordinary Americans would be spared the burden of losing wealth and income simply because of the failure of one, or a handful of financial institutions.

How would it affect community banks? 

Community banks have much to gain from a new Glass-Steagall. At present, the financial services industry suffers from an oligopoly condition whereby a handful of institutions with inordinate market power are able to set prices and offer services in a manner that maximizes profit for the institution, but extracts value from the broader economy. Community banks simply cannot compete under these anti-competitive conditions, which is why we are seeing that smaller banks are merging into bigger ones at unprecedented rates.

Under Glass-Steagall, giants like Bank of America and Citigroup would have to spin out their retail services into smaller retail-only banks. Those smaller units would no longer control the market, thereby allowing community banks to become relatively more competitive. Classical economic theory tells us that efficient markets feature many small firms, rather than a handful of big ones. By cutting oversized banks down to size, Glass-Steagall would push the retail banking industry towards greater efficiency.

What are other Wall Street reforms that should be top priorities at the moment? 

Too Big to Fail remains a fundamental problem in the economic system, and a new Glass-Steagall would go a long way towards addressing that problem. That said, the need for financial reform is not limited to the banking industry.

For example, the so-called "shadow banking" sector is also in need of serious reform. Hedge funds, credit funds, and other small financial institutions can allocate or mis-allocate large amounts of capital that can have serious systemic effects. This can occur as the result of individual decisions or because of herding behavior across the industry.

Regulators need to expand the applicability of Title II of the Dodd-Frank Act to cover additional players with inordinate market impact. For instance, in 1998 a hedge fund called Long Term Capital Management nearly brought the financial sector to its knees. The 2016 version of LTCM would certainly not fall under the current version of Title II, and would likely escape regulatory scrutiny. While much has changed since 1998, what remains true is that single, small actors can continue to cause havoc in the industry. The "Flash Crash" and various "fat finger" market crises attest to that fact.

More generally, our policy platform seeks to bring about the following long-term reforms:

  • providing income support to workers and communities
  • creating conditions for workers' wealth and eliminating unnecessary private debt
  • democratizing the economy for the 99% through measures such as public banking
  • promoting social ownership of enterprises and housing to yield more economically efficient and equitable outcomes
  • transforming banking systems to avoid another financial crisis
  • eliminating the control of economic resources by the 1%.

What would you like the financial sector to look like in 20 years?

It's anybody's guess as to what the future holds, but what's clear is that the mistakes of the present yield the regrets of the future. The country must adopt bold financial reforms like a renewed Glass-Steagall Act if it wants to avoid another financial catastrophe like the Great Recession of 2008.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Economic Update: Convention Economics

This episode discusses platform contradictions, the Volkswagen scandal, CEO pay and the Italian banking crisis. We also examine the economics of lotteries, when profit decides who gets mortgages and why 21st century socialism makes worker cooperatives the primary institution of production.

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News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Surprising Popularity of Military Coups

News of the military coup in Turkey was dribbling in on Saturday afternoon when I was having lunch with a group of six friends in West Virginia. Suddenly, one person looked up from her salad and said, "If Trump gets elected, I'd support a military coup in this country." At least one other person at the table seconded her opinion.

I was astonished. Since when had the "military option" become a viable political strategy in the United States? Maybe it was the ghost of John Brown or something in the drinking water out there near Harpers Ferry. Or perhaps the peculiar conjunction of Turkey and Trump had elicited what must surely be an unpopular sentiment in America.

Then I did some research. It turns out that the views around the table matched those of average Americans. According to a September 2015 poll by YouGov, nearly one-third of respondents (29 percent) "could imagine a situation in which they would support the military seizing control of the federal government." That number went up to 43 percent in a hypothetical situation in which the government was beginning to violate the U.S. constitution.

Back in September, Republicans were more than twice as likely as Democrats to back the coup scenario. It would be interesting to redo the poll today, as voters begin to contemplate a Trump presidency. Consider, for instance, journalist and Bernie Sanders supporter Shaun King, who recently created a firestorm on the right when he tweeted, "If Donald Trump becomes President, you are fooling yourself if you think we're far from having a coup our own selves. I'm dead serious."

Trump's rhetorical flouting of international and national laws has prompted many an unexpected speculation. In an interview with Bill Maher back in February, ex-CIA head Michael Hayden talked about Trump's pledge to kill the family members of terrorists. Hayden said:

"If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act."

"That's quite a statement, sir," Maher said.

"You are required not to follow an unlawful order," Hayden added. "That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict."

"You've given us a great reason not to support Trump. There would be a coup in this country," Maher joked.

Hayden said he didn't mean to imply that the military would provoke "a coup."

Indeed, many members of the military brass would likely resign rather than openly defy their commander in chief. As for the rank and file, they support Trump over Clinton two to one. But that doesn't mean they're particularly enthusiastic about the choice. According to a Military Times poll, "More than 61 percent indicated they are 'dissatisfied' or 'very dissatisfied' with Trump as the Republican nominee, including 28 percent of those who intend to vote for him." It's hard to predict from these statistics how the military would respond if a Trump administration began to shred the constitution.

But it's not hard to predict how Americans feel about the military overall. Americans have long trusted the military more than any other institution in society. In 2016, according to Gallup, Congress achieved a 9 percent trust rating, the Supreme Court and the presidency 36 percent, organized religion 41 percent, the police 56 percent, and at the top of the list, the military at 73 percent. Only small business has ever approached the same level of trust as the military, according to the averages Gallup has collected over 43 years.

So, it's no real surprise that, when given a choice, Americans would lean toward the military to safeguard their laws and their liberty. But before you start weighing the relative merits of accepting either Trump or the U.S. military going rogue -- the former upending the constitution and the latter sticking up for it -- let's take a closer look at what just transpired in Turkey.

Keystone Kops Craft Kemalist Coup

When it comes to coups, the Turkish military should be the experts. After all, they've successfully executed 3.5 of them over the last half-century: in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997 (the last being a half-coup since the military, rather than intervening directly, pressured the government to resign).

It's been nearly 20 years since this last half-coup, and obviously the Turkish military has gotten rusty after deviating from its once-a-decade routine. Last weekend, the coup leaders looked more like rank amateurs than seasoned pros. They failed to take out or otherwise neutralize President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was vacationing on the Mediterranean coast at the time. They seized control of the least important state TV channel. They didn't secure important government buildings. They told their supporters to go home and then fired on the civilians who did come out onto the streets. They seemed to have forgotten about the existence of social media. They weren't even able to forge a pro-coup consensus within the military itself.

The attempt was so botched that it generated numerous conspiracy theories -- that Erdogan had engineered the whole thing, that the president had heard rumblings and deliberately ignored them, that the Americans were somehow behind it all.

The truth is much more mundane. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party have been weakening the military for more than a decade, systematically working to remove the military's influence on government. They've used earlier coup rumors to go after military officers -- as well as journalists and officials -- supposedly involved in a "deep state" controlling Turkish politics behind the scenes. As a result, the Turkish military is a far cry from the all-powerful institution of the 1970s and 1980s.

I was convinced, after visiting Istanbul in 2013, that the military had become a spent force. At the time I wrote:

The AKP has effectively contained the Turkish military through judicial and constitutional means. The threat of a coup, so prevalent in modern Turkish history, has largely disappeared. Not only have constitutional changes and court cases reduced the power of the army, the Erdogan government has also come close to resolving the decades-long civil war with the Kurdish PKK. The end of this conflict would go a long way toward removing the military from public affairs.

But then the Erdogan government decided to initiate two wars: against the Gulen movement and against the Kurds. The Gulen movement, named for its leader Fethullah Gulen who currently lives in the United States, preaches a liberal variety of Islam and runs a number of schools worldwide. It was also a major supporter of Erdogan and the AKP. But Erdogan began to worry about the spreading influence of Gulen supporters in the police, the judiciary, and the government itself. They began to resemble the "deep state" that Erdogan wanted to extirpate. In late 2013, he turned against the Gulen movement. The Erdogan government subsequently accused Gulen of orchestrating the coup and has demanded that the United States extradite him.

Meanwhile, Erdogan was concerned that domestically the Kurdish minority stood in the way of greater centralized power in Ankara and that Kurds in Syria stood in the way of greater Turkish influence over the outcome of the war against Bashar al-Assad's regime. But taking on the Kurds meant ushering the military back into public life in Turkey. As Erdogan pushed for a new constitution to grant the presidency more powers and cracked down on any segments of society that might stymie his ambitions, he had to ensure that at least part of the military was on his side.

Some in the military were not happy with the bargain, whether because they disapproved of Erdogan's power grab, the campaign against Gulen or the renewed conflict with the Kurds, or the AKP's challenge to the Kemalist tradition, which respects a strict division between religion and state. According to the statement they released to the press, the coupsters offered to restore precisely what many in Turkey believe Erdogan has taken away from them: "Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and the general security that was damaged."

If they couldn't count on the military closing ranks behind them, the coup leaders at least needed the support of the Turkish population. This wasn't going to be easy, given that Erdogan's party won around 50 percent of the vote in the last election. Even Turks who vehemently oppose Erdogan and would agree with the content of the coup statement did not believe that the military was the agent of their salvation. "The worst democracy is better than the best coup," one Turkish liberal told The New York Times.

Having quashed the coup, Erdogan is moving quickly to consolidate his advantage by purging the military and the courts. The Turkish government has detained more than 7,500 people, including 2,800 officers and soldiers and more than 100 generals and admirals, and dismissed 2,700 judges and 9,000 civil servants. Most recently, the government suspended more than 15,000 educators and asked 1,500 university deans to resign. Call it a counter-coup, but it's just an industrial-strength version of what Erdogan has been up to now for several years. In fact, for the government to act so quickly, it must have had lists of its targets drawn up well in advance.

That doesn't mean that Erdogan planned the coup. It just means that sometimes your adversaries help clear your path to power.

Which brings us back to the Donald.

A Man, A Plan, A Coup

According to the aforementioned YouGov poll, 43 percent of Republicans could imagine the necessity of a military coup in the United States, rising to 55 percent in the event of constitutional violations. Those numbers look a lot like the kind of support Donald Trump enjoyed during the Republican primaries when a plurality, but not a majority, voted for him. Only when the primary season was coming to an end did his numbers rise above 50 percent among Republican voters.

It's tempting to conclude that the same folks who approve of a military intervention into politics support Donald Trump's intervention into politics. Trump is, in a way, a one-man coup. He is an outsider. He has contempt for the normal workings of democracy. As he has amply demonstrated in his dealings in the business world, he rules by fiat and by twisting arms.

But the mechanism by which Trump seizes power will not be a coup. For the moment at least, the ballot box still rules. If he manages to attain the White House in November, it will not because of the brilliant organizing of the Republican Party, which is divided, feckless, and craven. It will be because his adversaries hand him the opportunity on a platter.

I know Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- well, not really -- and Donald Trump is no Erdogan. But the Donald's will to power is comparable. It's up to Trump's adversaries to prevent him from crowning himself president -- or else there will be many more conversations next fall about the plusses and minuses of military coups.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
US Papers Bury News of US Killing of 85 Syrian Civilians

2016.7.22.airstrikes.mainA coalition airstrike this week killed scores of civilians, yet wasn’t featured at all on the front pages of two of the top US national newspapers. (Photo: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr. / Released )A coalition airstrike reported on Tuesday that killed at least 85 Syrian civilians -- one more than died in the Nice attack in France last week -- wasn't featured at all on the front pages of two of the top US national newspapers, the New York Times and LA Times, and only merited brief blurbs on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, with the actual stories buried on pages A-16 and A-15, respectively.

According to the London Telegraph (7/19/16), the airstrike killed "more than 85 civilians" after the "coalition mistook them for Islamic State fighters." Eight families were represented among the dead, with victims "as young as three." The Intercept (7/19/16) reported the death toll could end up being well over 100.

The Pentagon has not denied the reports, saying an investigation is underway, according to Stars and Stripes (7/19/16), a media outlet that operates inside the Department of Defense.

As many on Twitter pointed out, the number of dead was roughly equal to that of the recent Nice attack, yet the airstrike did not garner nearly as much media coverage, nor did news outlets convey an outpouring of grief:

By contrast, the Nice attack garnered multiple front-page stories in the New York Times and LA Times, as well as significantly more than 20-word blurbs in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

For those who see a "false equivalency," there are two mitigating reasons for this glaring discrepancy: 1) The airstrike deaths were an "accident" and 2) Syria's a war zone, where civilian deaths are to be expected. Neither of these retorts are satisfactory, and certainly not enough to justify a virtual front-page blackout.

On the issue of accidental deaths having less import than purposeful ones, this doesn't explain why unintentional natural disaster deaths routinely receive splashing front-page coverage. Intent rarely affects coverage of these events; only death counts do. And this is granting the deaths were actually accidental, which we don't know for sure at this time, or whether the US military was using tactics, like so-called "signature strikes," that are known to greatly increase the chances of killing noncombatants.

As for the "war zone" factor, according to Airwars, a Western group that monitors civilian deaths at the hands of the US-led coalition, the total number of civilians deaths since the beginning of airstrikes in September 2014 has been 190. To increase this number by almost 50 percent in a matter of days would indeed be a radical departure from the normal course of events -- rendering it more than newsworthy.

Indeed, all of the publications in question ran a story on the "dozens of deaths" at the hands of US-led airstrikes, so we know they deemed it notable. Just not notable enough, for whatever reason, to put in a prominent position for US audiences.

News Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400