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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

While the Trump Turns- the war in Aleppo continues

Although the political universe is focused on Trumpnian theatrics in the media hungry mogel's attempt to gain respect, the people of Syria continue to suffer, with little attention given to their horrific plight. Those continuing to bury heads in the wake of this humanitarian disaster are doomed to face the consequences of inaction.

By Steve Coll in The New Yorker

Syria - ASSAD’S WAR ON ALEPPO
An image of an injured child goes viral, but the fighting continues unabated.
Bashar al-Assad (January 2014)
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has confounded many observers by holding on to power while his nation is deteriorating and citizens are Mediterranean Sea refugees.
He will be held accountable for war crimes but meanwhile his genocide continues.
On August 18th, Omran Daqneesh, who is five years old, survived an air strike on the apartment building where his family lived, in Aleppo, Syria. Rescue workers pulled him out of the rubble and took him to an ambulance. Mahmoud Raslan, of the Aleppo Media Center, who works in areas controlled by the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, photographed the child on video. 
His face was coated with blood and dirt; he sat staring silently. 

Within days, millions of viewers had seen Omran’s image on social media; the Times put it on the front page. The picture recalled Nick Ut’s iconic Vietnam War photograph of a nine-year-old girl, Kim Phuc, taken as she fled naked and screaming from a napalm attack, or the images widely shared last year of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned off the Turkish coast, and whose body washed up on a beach. For adults to pause and reflect upon the costs of war, they sometimes require confrontation with a child’s suffering.

Omran Daqneesh lived, but his ten-year-old brother, Ali, died from the injuries he sustained. The tragedy stimulated a brief news cycle about the plight of Syrian civilians living in besieged areas. Aleppo, the nation’s largest city, has been in the grip of a fratricidal war since 2012. Assad’s regime controls districts in the west, while rebels are embedded in the east. The rebels include both jihadists formerly allied with Al Qaeda and commanders aligned with the Free Syrian Army, which has been supported sporadically by the Obama Administration. The rebels fire inaccurately into government areas with improvised mortars that they call “hell cannons.” The rounds include gas cylinders packed with explosives and metal shrapnel, designed to terrorize and maim. Assad’s forces, backed by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah militias, have a monopoly in the skies; their aircraft repeatedly bomb hospitals, markets, and residences. (The Islamic State holds territory nearby but is not organized in the city.)

It is hard to imagine a battle like the one in Aleppo getting worse, but it is. According to the United Nations, as many as two hundred and seventy-five thousand people may be trapped in rebel districts, because government forces have cut off the roads. Those people and hundreds of thousands of other residents have no electricity or running water. Despite ongoing international negotiations and periodic agreements to enact ceasefires and allow the provision of humanitarian aid, Assad’s government has slow-rolled or blocked aid deliveries, which often must be made by truck, on contested roads. In May, the Syria International Support Group, which includes Russia, China, the Arab League, European nations, and the U.S., endorsed another ceasefire and pledged to “ensure full and sustained humanitarian access in Syria.” This summer, that promise crumbled, like many before it.

The rebels and the civilians in Aleppo have endured, even though they are largely helpless against aerial assault. In addition to continued armed resistance, they have put together an extraordinary array of rescue workers, ambulance drivers, nurses, doctors, underground hospitals, electronic I.C.U.s, media producers, and low-power radio stations that warn listeners about air raids. The U.S., Europe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other nations, along with nongovernmental aid groups and the Syrian diaspora, have financed this infrastructure.

On August 14th, Al Jazeera released a film made by the Danish journalist Nagieb Khaja about the Syrian Civil Defense, a network of nearly three thousand first responders in rebel zones, who are known as “white helmets.” S.C.D. has pledged neutrality toward armed factions, but Assad’s forces and their allies have targeted it in “double tap” attacks, in which Syrian and Russian aircraft strike a rebel target, wait for rescue workers to turn up, and then bomb them as well. Khaja shot his film late last year in Aleppo, where he accompanied a squad of white helmets to the site of an attack. “People! Stop gathering in groups!” one of the rescuers shouts. “Spread out or they will shell!” Assad, through the conduct of his forces, has left little doubt that he is deliberately seeking to destroy medical and civil organizations in rebel areas in order to demoralize and depopulate those districts. (He may be succeeding. On Friday, people began to evacuate Darayya, near Damascus; the population has apparently capitulated, after four years of encirclement and assault.) 

According to Physicians for Human Rights, government forces and their Russian allies have carried out ninety per cent of the more than three hundred and fifty attacks on medical facilities during the past five years. A week ago, Syrian or Russian planes bombed an S.C.D. station in Aleppo.

Since 2013, it has been plain that President Obama believes it would be a mistake for the United States to intervene militarily, except to weaken evil ISIS; last week, in the latest iteration of the war’s shifting and opaque battlefield alliances, Turkish forces, with American support, invaded evil ISIS territory in northern Syria. 

After the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, it’s easy to understand the President’s decision to focus on the immediate threat that evil ISIS poses. Yet the U.S. has engaged in areas where evil ISIS does not figure directly, such as Aleppo, where its policy emphasizes the provision of “nonlethal aid” to civilians and opposition forces. 

That aid helped to keep the rebels in the field, but it has not been enough to defeat Assad, or to deter his forces from employing unconscionable tactics, and it is hard to escape the conclusion that this caution has enabled the apparent war crimes of Assad and his allies. There is surely more that the Obama Administration can do to stop the regime’s attacks on hospitals and doctors, for example, by making the crisis a priority with allies and at the U.N. Security Council, as Physicians for Human Rights and others have urged.

Photographs shared on social media are not a sound basis for making foreign policy, of course. In this conflict, online hoaxes and fake images proliferate, and, even when a picture can be verified, as in the case of Omran Daqneesh, it can be difficult from a distance to peer behind a portrait of individual pain into the environment from which it arose. The image of Omran might be understood as simply a representation of Syrian suffering. It might also be seen as a depiction of the resilient depth of local opposition to Assad’s regime. We saw Omran’s face because rescue workers saved him, a videographer recorded his shock, and an Internet connection carried his image abroad. If Aleppo’s rebels and its civilian volunteers and inhabitants collapse under Assad’s brutal siege, history will remember more than a photograph. ♦  (Yes....and those who continue to ignore this humanitarian disaster are doomed to live with the consequences of their- ie "our" inaction.)

Steve Coll, a staff writer, is the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and reports on issues of intelligence and national security in the United States and abroad.
This article appears in other versions of the September 5, 2016, issue, with the headline “Images of War.”

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Roman Catholic woman responds to Donald Trump

"Trump has significantly damaged the GOP, as he confirms Hispanics’ suspicions that the Republican party is fully embracing a strong anti-immigration — and perhaps anti-immigrant — policy...," Alexandra DeSanctis National Review


Church, Bank, Wood, Benches, Christian
Roman Catholics, especially women (me among them), are appalled by Donald Trump's anti-immigration and bigotry driven rhetoric. He sounds dangerously like the warning by Niemöller, at least to me*.

Dear Donald Trump (and vicariously this message extends to your limited number of surrogates including Kellyanne Conway aka Cruella di Vil),

As a practicing Roman Catholic woman, I want to chime in about your lack of support from my religious voter demographic.  

We can't support Donald Trump or Governor Mike Pence while knowing how our faith is based on building bridges with all other religious groups.  All are welcome into our Roman Catholic communities without regard for any segregating demographic and especially not exclusive to those with particular immigrant status. In other words, Roman Catholics can't abide by Donald Trump's opposition to immigration reform and his support for mass expulsion of immigrants.

Likewise, with Governor Mike Pence, who claims to be a former Roman Catholic, now an Evangelical Christian. No practicing Christian turns anyone away from the Gospel, based on their race, ethnicity, social status, religious affiliation or immigrant status.
Governor Mike Pence isn't speaking like a Christian when he supports the exclusive and harmful social policies spewed by Donald Trump.

The National Review reports:
Polls show Donald Trump is struggling to appeal to Catholic voters, a longtime swing demographic. A central theme of this year’s presidential election has been Donald Trump’s failure to capture the support of key voting groups such as women, African Americans, and Hispanics. Now, he's also losing by an unrecoverable margin in another key voting bloc, one that has swung between the two major political parties for over half a century: Catholics. A poll from the Public Religion Research Institute shows Trump trailing Clinton among Catholic voters by 23 points, 55–32. Meanwhile, a Washington Post-ABC News poll from early August has Trump down by 27 points, 61–34. Neither of these statistics is promising for the Republican nominee, especially given the central role Catholic voters historically have played in presidential elections. In fact, Catholics account for around one-quarter of the overall electorate, and they are typically split about evenly between the Republican and Democratic parties. The majority of Catholics have supported the winning presidential candidate in nearly every election since 1948, the most recent exception being in 2000, when they narrowly swung for Al Gore over George W. Bush.

The Catholic voting bloc is rightly described as a swing group, but obviously not every Catholic voter is up for grabs in every election cycle. Among Catholics, certain subgroups tend to vote in a more predictable way; white, conservative Catholics usually vote Republican, while white liberal Catholics and Hispanic Catholics almost always vote Democrat. It is the Catholic moderates, the largest plurality among Catholic voters at about 33 percent, who account for much of the group’s swinging between parties.

While Trump’s strong anti-immigration stances have contributed to his problems with Catholic voters, particularly Hispanics, this alone does not explain the huge decline in Trump’s Catholic support. 

The PRC reports that Hispanic Catholics already have been largely supporting Democrats, at least since 2000, likely due to the Republican party’s immigration policy. Nor can Trump’s shaky support for the pro-life cause and uninspiring stances on religious liberty and same-sex marriage be held solely to blame. 

According to the PRC, most Catholics have other areas of concern. This year, their top five issues of concern are, in order of importance: The economy, terrorism, health care, immigration, and foreign policy. Abortion and “treatment of LGBT people” (a somewhat ambiguous category) rank at the very bottom of the 14 issues under consideration. Additionally, white Catholic moderates tend to align more closely with liberal Catholics than conservative Catholics on social issues.

In other words, it seems plausible that Trump’s lack of Catholic support is the result of voters abandoning him on both sides of the spectrum: moderates swinging in the liberal direction toward Hillary as the result of his “toxic” rhetoric, and conservatives avoiding him for fear that he is not a real conservative. 

Nevetheless, Catholic discontent isn't limited to Trump. The PRC reports that 57 percent of Catholics as a whole, 53 percent of Hispanic Catholics, and 59 percent of white Catholics are dissatisfied with both major-party candidates. That the majority of Catholics support Clinton seems to be the product of their much stronger dislike for Trump, rather than of any great affinity for Clinton per se.

This enormous rise in Catholic support for the Democratic nominee over the Republican indicates another area in which Trump has significantly damaged the GOP, as he confirms Hispanics’ suspicions that the Republican party is fully embracing a strong anti-immigration — and perhaps anti-immigrant — policy, and his rhetoric affirms liberal Catholics’ belief that the GOP tolerates “bigotry.” It is worth remembering that the Republican party secured a majority of the Catholic vote as recently as 2004, and Mitt Romney lost it by only two percentage points in 2012.

Given Catholics’ dissatisfaction with Clinton in this election cycle, one wonders whether a different GOP nominee — perhaps a fellow Catholic such as Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio — might have galvanized historic Catholic support. 

For now, however, it is not to be. — 
Alexandra DeSanctis is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute

* First They Came Pastor Niemöller (1892-1984)might help explain the Catholic opposition to Donald Trump:

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Medical Report from Dr. Bornstein MD - how much did a 5 minute letter cost?

What tests did this doctor run that were all "positive" if he didn't see Trump while writing it & wrote the letter in 5 mins? http://nbcnews.to/2bTLGVl via @nbcnews-
Twitter post
Photo published for Trump Doctor Wrote Health Letter in Just 5 Minutes as Limo Waited - NBC News
Dr. Bornstein (or is it "stine"?) 

As a registered nurse, I've never seen a physician write a medical report for public disclosure in 5 minutes. I wonder how much money was billed for this consult?

Major questions about Trump’s “doctor” and the medical report emerged in recent days. The doctor who wrote Trump's medical report admitted that he did so in 5 minutes, while a limo waited.

BUSTED: Sanjay Gupta Dismantles Trump’s ‘Bizarre’ Medical Letter and Its Mystery Author

Image result for Dr. Gupta ]
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is an American neurosurgeon and media reporter. He serves as associate chief of the neurosurgery service at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta,

Hillary Clinton released a full, professional medical assessment detailing that she “is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States.” 

Meanwhile, Trump refuses to disclose a similarly detailed medical report, even as he tries to spread false rumors about Clinton's health.  

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighs in, speaking to Anderson Cooper:

Sanjay Gupta: Doesn't sound like a medical document
Dr. Sanjay Gupta made similar statements to CNN’s New Day the day before:
CNN’s Sanjay Gupta questions Trump’s doctor — Bizarre, questionable.

Despite the fact that Donald Trump — and his surrogates — have tried to recently put the focus of emphasis squarely onto Hillary Clinton‘s health, the tactic seems to be backfiring in a disastrous way.
Rather than a full investigation into Clinton’s health woes, the media began poking holes into a bizarre letter written in December about Trump’s health instead. The letter reads as if Trump himself blurted out honorifics about his health and had a doctor sign his name to it. The deeper that Trump pushes into Clinton’s health questions, it seems that more and more is coming to light about the strange language contained in Bornstein’s letter.

“There are some things in the letter with regards to his qualifications that are questionable,” he continued.

The letter, dated December 4, 2015, firmly states, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” something Gupta thought was completely off.  (Obviously, Dr. Bornstein did not exam prior presidents so he has no way of knowing who was "healthiest".)

Morover, Bornstein is a gastroenterologist, which is a highly unusual source for a candidate’s medical report. Usually the primary physician gives a report about the overall health of the individual. A gastroenterologist knows about the “gut” of the person, but not much more.

@carolCNN responded on Twitter: “This is not a real letter…it’s from a doctor who treats digestive problems” @kurteichenwald

Another on line comment described: "Then there is also the fact that the medical report was put together in 5 minutes by this “doctor” while waiting for a limo"

Here's my Maine Writer assessment: put Dr. Bornstein under oath and ask him three questions:
  1. How much time had passed between the day he wrote his "5 minute letter" and when he last saw Mr. Trump?
  2. What did Bornstein mean by "all positive" in his letter? 
  3. How much money did he bill Mr. Trump for this 5 minute consult?

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Pope Francis meets Rotary- A meeting of minds and missions

Rotary, which brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues, kicked off the Rotarian Jubilee on Friday afternoon, with a conference on the challenges refugees are facing worldwide.
A meeting with Pope Francis, in Rome, was a "meeting of minds and missions".
From "The Rotarian" My Rotary Magazine August 2016
by Ryland Hyland

Every few decades the Roman Catholic Church celebrates a special event called a "jubilee year". In December, Pope Francis kicked off his "Jubilee of Mercy". After receiving a special invitation, 9,000 Rotarians from 80 countries converged in Rome to attend a Jubilee Audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican.


Pope Francis meets Rotarians

Thousands of Rotary members, motivated by a special invitation from Pope Francis, gathered at the Vatican in Rome on Saturday to celebrate a message of compassion, inclusiveness, and service to humanity.

Pope greets Rotary members at special Jubilee Audience

At midmorning, the group -- numbering some 9,000 members from 80 countries -- made its way through the congested streets of Rome, past the tight security surrounding St. Peter's Square, and settled into the area reserved for Rotary in front of St. Peter's Basilica for the Jubilee audience.

Francis, a 79-year-old Argentine, urged the crowd of more than 100,000, which included members of the police and armed forces from around the world, "to build a culture of peace, security, and solidarity around the world."

His message of peace resonated with Rotary members, including R. Asokan from Tamil Nadu, India. "His message about peace is about accepting. Rotary, which accepts all walks of life, can carry his message to all our clubs, therefore carrying his message to all our communities," says Asokan.

Though Francis is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, his words often reach a wider audience. A poll published earlier this year found him to be one of the most liked and trusted world leaders.

That's what made this event at the Vatican so appealing, says Adriana Lanting, who traveled from California, USA, to attend. "To have such a transcending figure together with a transcending organization like Rotary in the same place is something I just couldn't miss," says Lanting, a member of the Rotary Club of Long Beach.

Madrid Zimmerman, another Long Beach member, isn't Catholic but says Francis has a knack for touching people's hearts regardless of where they're from. "Rotary has the same effect," she adds. "We may have different ways of expressing it, but our [Rotary] action in helping others comes from the same place.

"This event is a reminder that we only have one goal and that's to give service to those who need it. I think that's the message I want to bring back to my club," Zimmerman says.

After the Jubilee audience, Francis met with a small delegation of Rotary members led by RI President K.R. Ravindran. The pope spoke to Ravindran about the importance of vaccinating children against polio and encouraged Rotary to continue its efforts against this disease.

"I have been honored and deeply touched to have had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis earlier today, and to have heard him tell us to continue our fight toward polio eradication," says Ravindran, who is Hindu. "It has given me even more pride in Rotary's past, even more faith in its present, and even more optimism about its future, than ever before."

MITIGATING THE MIGRANT CRISIS

On Friday, Rotary hosted a panel discussion in Rome to highlight efforts to alleviate the plight of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. More than 60 million people, including 11 million Syrians, have been displaced by war and violence over the last four years. Such extensive displacement has not been seen since World War II.

In the discussion, moderated by Vatican Radio, experts from the World Food Programme, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) talked about ways to help migrants start over in their new countries.

Rotary General Secretary John Hewko, speaking on the panel, pointed to several initiatives Rotary clubs have undertaken to integrate refugees into society, including computer coding schools and a vocational training project in Rimini, Italy.

"The plight of today's refugees is really a litmus test for today's compassion," Hewko said.

He encouraged audience members and panelists to use their connections to provide the resources and funding needed to address the humanitarian crisis.
After the panel discussion, Bonaventure Fohtung, a member of the Rotary Club of Upper Blue Mountains Sunrise in New South Wales, Australia, said that Rotary and the pope have the same agenda when it comes to helping migrants. 

Recently, Francis took 12 Syrian migrants, three families including six children, back with him to the Vatican after visiting a camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

"We need to go home from this event and set an example. Each club should do something. Just one thing to help these refugees can make a remarkable difference," he added.

The two-day Rotary event in Rome, tied to the Vatican's Jubilee of Mercy and dubbed the Jubilee of Rotarians by organizers from District 2080 (Italy), also included benefit concerts and three fundraising dinners for polio eradication.
By Ryan Hyland
Rotary News
2-May-2016

Gracias Pope Francis!  As a proud Rotarian with the Portland Maine Rotary, I wish there were more I could do to help.  

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Governor LePage of Maine is an apologizer- Time Magazine

Apologizer definition, to offer an apology or excuse for some fault, insult, failure, or injury.

By Tessa Berenson

5 Times Maine Gov. Paul LePage Apologized for Offending People
Image result for apology graphic
The governor made headlines Friday over an explicit voicemail for a state legislator

Maine Governor Paul LePage made headlines Friday when a voicemail was revealed of him calling a state representative a “son-of-a-bitch, socialist c—sucker” after the senator accused LePage of being racist.

LePage apologized later in the day, saying in a statement, “When someone calls me a racist, I take it very seriously. So I called Gattine and used the worst word I could think of. I apologize for that to the people of Maine, but make no apology for trying to end the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state.”

But this isn’t the first time the controversial Republican governor had to walk back offensive statements. Here are five other times LePage had to apologize.

1. When told a boy he wanted to shoot his father
In July 2015, LePage attended an annual mock legislature event for high school juniors, when the son of a Bangor Daily News cartoonist asked LePage what he thought of his father (the cartoonist, George Danby, has often depicted LePage in unflattering ways). “I’d like to shoot him,” LePage responded.

The Bangor Daily News reports that LePage wrote a personal note to Danby’s son apologizing for the remark. While the contents of the letter weren’t made public, apparently they were heartfelt. Danby’s son wrote LePage back, saying, “Thank you for the warm and thoughtful note—I appreciate your concern and frankness.”

2. When he compared the IRS to the Gestapo

In July 2012, LePage compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo twice in one week, Politico reports. First, he said in a radio address to Maine citizens that they “must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo—the IRS.” Later, when asked to clarify his comments, he said the IRS wasn’t as bad as the Gestapo “yet” but “they’re headed in that direction.”

LePage met with Jewish leaders to apologize and said in his weekly radio address, “The acts of the Holocaust were nothing short of horrific. Millions of innocent people were murdered and I apologize for my insensitivity to the word and the offense some took to my comparison of the IRS and the Gestapo.” He said it was “never my intent to insult or to be hurtful to anyone,” The Associated Press reports.

3. When he said drug dealers impregnate “white girls”

In January 2016, LePage used racially-charged language in a response to a town hall question about his administration’s effort to combat Maine’s drug problem.

“These aren’t the people who take drugs,” LePage said at the time. “These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty. These type of guys. They come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we’ve go to deal with down the road.”

LePage later apologized, saying, “My brain was slower than my mouth.” But he continued with a swipe at the media: “Personally, I don’t really care what the press thinks about me,” he said. “What I do care is I want the drug dealers to know I’m after them…I want the Maine people to know that I may have a slip of the tongue, but my heart is to protect Maine people and that’s the end of the story.”

4. When he implied that loggers are dumb

In June 2013, while railing against state senator Troy Jackson, LePage said, “Sen. Jackson claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people of Maine without providing Vaseline… People like Troy Jackson, they ought to go back in the woods and cut trees and let someone with a brain come down here and do some work.”

LePage apologized to the state’s loggers for implying they don’t have brains, the Portland Press Herald reports, with another dig at Jackson in his apology. “It was never my intent to ever, ever suggest that the loggers of the state of Maine are in the same league as Troy Jackson.”

5. When he called student protesters “idiots”

In April 2016, LePage spoke at a building dedication at the University of Maine’s Farmington campus for former President Theo Kalikow. During his speech, two students held up signs protesting him, one of which said, “LePage, Maine’s Shame,” NECN reports. LePage stormed offstage, yelling to the protesters, “Thank you, you idiots.”

Later that day, he released a statement of apology, but continued bashing the protesters in it. “First and foremost, I apologize to President Foster and especially to Theodora Kalikow for the sequence of events on Tuesday,” LePage said in the statement. “I am accustomed to daily attacks and ridicule from protestors [sic], but most people are not. Neither Theo, nor the people who were gathered to honor her, deserved for this heartfelt occasion to be disrespected by smug and self-serving protestors [sic]. If they wish to protest me, that’s fine: we all have the right to express our freedom of speech. But this event was not about me. I was sickened by the lack of respect displayed by two protestors [sic] holding up demeaning signs — including one with Theo’s name on it.”

Maine Writer comment:
Unfortunately, as a role model as well as a political leader, Governor LePage is failing in his most basic leadership test. His behavior does not garner respect. 

Rather, his recent examples of rude, uncalled for, offensive, angry and vitriolic statements are embarrassing all Maine people, regardless of political affiliations and even those without interest in politics.  It's either high time for him to acknowledge some kind of problem he is incapable of fixing or to resign.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ad free transcript of "Alt-Right" speech by Hillary Clinton

Transcript: Hillary Clinton's full remarks in Reno, NevadaBy POLITICO Staff  08/25/16 
"If he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?"- Secretary Hillary Clinton, Reno Nevada

Image result for alt right graphic
Secretary Hillary Clinto in Reno Nevada "Alt-Right" speech

Although the "alt right" lock step Donald Trumpists have cluttered Hillary Clinton's speech sites with their right wing Nazi salute ads, I've made it a point of posting the transcripts ad free on my Maine Writer blog here:

Hillary Clinton Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
in Reno, Nevada
Thank you, Reno! It’s great to be back in Nevada…
My original plan for this visit was to focus on our agenda to help small businesses and entrepreneurs.

This week we proposed new steps to cut red tape and taxes, and make it easier for small businesses to get the credit they need to grow and hire.

Because I believe that in America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.

We’ll be talking a lot more about our economic plans in the days and weeks ahead.

But today, I want to address something I hear from Americans all over our country.


Everywhere I go, people tell me how concerned they are by the divisive rhetoric coming from my opponent in this election.

It’s like nothing we’ve heard before from a nominee for President of the United States.

From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.

He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties.

His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.

In just the past week, under the guise of “outreach” to African Americans, Trump has stood up in front of largely white audiences and described black communities in insulting and ignorant terms:

“Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership.

Crime at levels nobody has seen… Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot.”

Those are his words.

Donald Trump misses so much.

He doesn’t see the success of black leaders in every field…

The vibrancy of black-owned businesses…Or the strength of the black church… He doesn’t see the excellence of historically black colleges and universities or the pride of black parents watching their children thrive…And he certainly doesn’t have any solutions to take on the reality of systemic racism and create more equity and opportunity in communities of color.

It takes a lot of nerve to ask people he’s ignored and mistreated for decades, “What do you have to lose?” The answer is everything!

Trump’s lack of knowledge or experience or solutions would be bad enough.

But what he’s doing here is more sinister.

Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters.

It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of President he’d be.

This is what I want to make clear today:

A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military.

If he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?
Now, I know some people still want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.

They hope that he will eventually reinvent himself – that there’s a kinder, gentler, more responsible Donald Trump waiting in the wings somewhere.

After all, it’s hard to believe anyone – let alone a nominee for President of the United States – could really believe all the things he says.

But the hard truth is, there’s no other Donald Trump. This is it.

Maya Angelou once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Well, throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is. We should believe him.

When Trump was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants.

Their applications would be marked with a “C” – “C” for “colored” – and then rejected.

Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed.

The pattern continued through the decades.

State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turn-over rate for his minority employees was way above average.

And let’s not forget Trump first gained political prominence leading the charge for the so-called “Birthers.”

He promoted the racist lie that President Obama isn’t really an American citizen – part of a sustained effort to delegitimize America’s first black President.

In 2015, Trump launched his own campaign for President with another racist lie. He described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

And he accused the Mexican government of actively sending them across the border. None of that is true.

Oh, and by the way, Mexico’s not paying for his wall either.

If it ever gets built, you can be sure that American taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.

Since then, there’s been a steady stream of bigotry.

We all remember when Trump said a distinguished federal judge born in Indiana couldn’t be trusted to do his job because, quote, “He’s a Mexican.”

Think about that.

The man who today is the standard bearer of the Republican Party said a federal judge was incapable of doing his job solely because of his heritage.

Even the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, described that as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

To this day, he’s never apologized to Judge Curiel.

But for Trump, that’s just par for the course.

This is someone who retweets white supremacists online, like the user who goes by the name “white-genocide-TM.” Trump took this fringe bigot with a few dozen followers and spread his message to 11 million people.

His campaign famously posted an anti-Semitic image – a Star of David imposed over a sea of dollar bills – that first appeared on a white supremacist website.

The Trump campaign also selected a prominent white nationalist leader as a delegate in California. They only dropped him under pressure.

When asked in a nationally televised interview whether he would disavow the support of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Trump wouldn’t do it. Only later, again under mounting pressure, did he backtrack.

And when Trump was asked about anti-Semitic slurs and death threats coming from his supporters, he refused to condemn them.

Through it all, he has continued pushing discredited conspiracy theories with racist undertones.

Trump said thousands of American Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks. They didn’t.

He suggested that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Perhaps in Trump’s mind, because he was a Cuban immigrant, he must have had something to do with it. Of course there’s absolutely no evidence of that.

Just recently, Trump claimed President Obama founded ISIS. And then he repeated that nonsense over and over.

His latest paranoid fever dream is about my health. All I can say is, Donald, dream on.

This is what happens when you treat the National Enquirer like Gospel.

It’s what happens when you listen to the radio host Alex Jones, who claims that 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombings were inside jobs. He said the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there.

Trump didn’t challenge those lies. He went on Jones’ show and said: “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

This man wants to be President of the United States.

I’ve stood by President Obama’s side as he made the toughest decisions a Commander-in-Chief ever has to make.

In times of crisis, our country depends on steady leadership… clear thinking… and calm judgment… because one wrong move can mean the difference between life and death.

The last thing we need in the Situation Room is a loose cannon who can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, and who buys so easily into racially-tinged rumors.

Someone detached from reality should never be in charge of making decisions that are as real as they come.

It’s another reason why Donald Trump is simply temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States.

Now, some people will say that his bluster and bigotry is just over-heated campaign rhetoric – an outrageous person saying outrageous things for attention.

But look at the policies Trump has proposed. They would put prejudice into practice.

And don’t be distracted by his latest attempts to muddy the waters.

He may have some new people putting new words in his mouth… but we know where he stands.

He would form a deportation force to round up millions of immigrants and kick them out of the country.

He’d abolish the bedrock constitutional principle that says if you’re born in the United States, you’re an American citizen. He says that children born in America to undocumented parents are, quote, “anchor babies” and should be deported.

Millions of them.

And he’d ban Muslims around the world – 1.5 billion men, women, and children –from entering our country just because of their religion.

Think about that for a minute. How would it actually work? People landing in U.S. airports would line up to get their passports stamped, just like they do now.

But in Trump’s America, when they step up to the counter, the immigration officer would ask every single person, “What is your religion?”

And then what?

What if someone says, “I’m a Christian,” but the agent doesn’t believe them.

Do they have to prove it? How would they do that?

Ever since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, America has distinguished itself as a haven for people fleeing religious persecution.

Under Donald Trump, America would distinguish itself as the only country in the world to impose a religious test at the border.

Come to think of it, there actually may be one place that does that. It’s the so-called Islamic State. The territory ISIS controls. It would be a cruel irony if America followed its lead.

Don’t worry, some will say, as President, Trump will be surrounded by smart advisors who will rein in his worst impulses.

So when a tweet gets under his skin and he wants to retaliate with a cruise missile, maybe cooler heads will be there to convince him not to.

Maybe.

But look at who he’s put in charge of his campaign.

Trump likes to say he only hires the “best people.” But he’s had to fire so many campaign managers it’s like an episode of the Apprentice.

The latest shake-up was designed to – quote – “Let Trump be Trump.” To do that, he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website called Breitbart.com, as campaign CEO.

To give you a flavor of his work, here are a few headlines they’ve published:

“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”

“Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”

“Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield”

“Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.”

That one came shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides. Breitbart tried to enflame them further.

Just imagine – Donald Trump reading that and thinking: “this is what I need more of in my campaign.”

Bannon has nasty things to say about pretty much everyone.

This spring, he railed against Paul Ryan for, quote “rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second.”

No wonder he’s gone to work for Trump – the only Presidential candidate ever to get into a public feud with the Pope.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Breitbart embraces “ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas.

Race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant ideas –– all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’”

Alt-Right is short for “Alternative Right.”

The Wall Street Journal describes it as a loosely organized movement, mostly online, that “rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.”

The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the “Alt-Right.” A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party.

This is part of a broader story -- the rising tide of hardline, right-wing nationalism around the world.

Just yesterday, one of Britain’s most prominent right-wing leaders, Nigel Farage, who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments to win the referendum on leaving the European Union, campaigned with Donald Trump in Mississippi.

Farage has called for a ban on the children of legal immigrants from public schools and health services, has said women are quote “worth less” than men, and supports scrapping laws that prevent employers from discriminating based on race -- that’s who Trump wants by his side.

The godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In fact, Farage has appeared regularly on Russian propaganda programs.

Now he’s standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee.

Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embrace pro-Russian policies.

He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and of giving the Kremlin a free hand in Eastern Europe more generally.

American presidents from Truman to Reagan have rejected the kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia.

We should, too.

All of this adds up to something we’ve never seen before.

Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.

On David Duke’s radio show the other day, the mood was jubilant.

“We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,” one white supremacist said.

Duke laughed. There’s still more work to do, he said.

No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed… Racists now call themselves “racialists.” White supremacists now call themselves “white nationalists.” The paranoid fringe now calls itself “alt-right.” But the hate burns just as bright.

And now Trump is trying to rebrand himself as well. Don’t be fooled.

There’s an old Mexican proverb that says “Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.”

We know who Trump is. A few words on a teleprompter won’t change that.

He says he wants to “make America great again,” but his real message remains “Make America hate again.”

This isn’t just about one election. It’s about who we are as a nation.

It’s about the kind of example we want to set for our children and grandchildren.

Next time you watch Donald Trump rant on television, think about all the kids listening across our country. They hear a lot more than we think.

Parents and teachers are already worried about what they’re calling the “Trump Effect.”

Bullying and harassment are on the rise in our schools, especially targeting students of color, Muslims, and immigrants.

At a recent high school basketball game in Indiana, white students held up Trump signs and taunted Latino players on the opposing team with chants of “Build the wall!” and “Speak English.”

After a similar incident in Iowa, one frustrated school principal said, “They see it in a presidential campaign and now it's OK for everyone to say this.”

We wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior in our own homes. How can we stand for it from a candidate for president?

This is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Trump. It’s a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this.

Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits and told any racists in the Party to get out.

The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims “love America just as much as I do.”

In 2008, John McCain told his own supporters they were wrong about the man he was trying to defeat. Senator McCain made sure they knew – Barack Obama is an American citizen and “a decent person.”

We need that kind of leadership again.

Every day, more Americans are standing up and saying “enough is enough” – including a lot of Republicans. I’m honored to have their support.

And I promise you this: with your help, I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For those who vote for me and those who don't.

For all Americans.

Because I believe we are stronger together.

It’s a vision for the future rooted in our values and reflected in a rising generation of young people who are the most open, diverse, and connected we’ve ever seen.

Just look at our fabulous Olympic team.

Like Ibtihaj Muhammad, an African-American Muslim from New Jersey who won the bronze medal in fencing with grace and skill. Would she even have a place in Donald Trump’s America?

When I was growing up, Simone Manuel wouldn’t have been allowed to swim in the same public pool as Katie Ledecky. Now they’re winning Olympic medals as teammates.

So let’s keep moving forward together.

Let’s stand up against prejudice and paranoia.

Let’s prove once again, that America is great because is America is good.  Thank you, and may God bless the United States.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Maine Governor LePage - a Maine citizen apologizes

Dear Americans, as a citizen of Maine, I sincerely apologize for the behavior, out of control comments and wrong minded policy statements given to our state (and the nation) by Maine Governor LePage. 

Honestly, I'm sorry for what Governor LePage has said. Please do not hold Maine people accountable for Governor LePage's outrageous statements. We are sorry.
No dog pooping sign
Governor LePage steps in racist poop again, and again...

Maine Gov. Paul LePage left profanity-laced voicemail for state lawmaker- there's no excuse for Governor LePage, no adequate apology for the threats he made in this voice mail....but on his behalf, I apologize, because he is obviously incable of doing so. 

Nevertheless, it's impossible for me to excuse Governor Paul LePage for behaving like an imbecile.  I am sorry he doesn't realize how horrific he makes Maine people appear to be when I know we are a moderate, thoughtful, caring and intelligent citizenry.

I'm just thinking there might be more going on with Governor LePage, something happening in his mental processes, that prevent him from making informed statements.

Washington (CNN)-By Tal Kopan
Maine Gov. Paul LePage left an expletive-laced voicemail for a state lawmaker that goaded him to "prove that I'm a racist" after a series of controversial comments once again put the governor in the news.


Unfortunately, Governor LePage left the message for Democratic State Rep. Drew Gattine on Thursday, according to the Portland Press Herald, which also was the first to obtain audio of the voicemail. The uncensored audio message, also shared with CNN, contains several explicit phrases.

The bombastic Republican governor is known for his loose style, which sometimes draws criticism. He is a strong supporter of Donald Trump, and Trump's campaign recently hired his daughter to work on the race in Maine.

Earlier this week, LePage had doubled down on comments he has made in the past about the racial background of drug dealers in his state, saying that "90-plus percent ... are black and Hispanic people."

According to the Press Herald, Gattine was identified by local media as having called LePage racist, though Gattine denies doing so.

"Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage," the audio recording says. "I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you (obscene term). I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I'm a racist. I've spent my life helping black people and you little (obscene term), socialist (obscene term). You -- I need you to -- just friggin'. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you."
LePage apologized for the voicemail in a statement on Friday, but justified his reaction saying the label of racist is "the absolute worst, most vile thing you can call a person."

"I didn't know Drew Gattine from a hole in the wall until yesterday," LePage said. "It made me enormously angry when a TV reporter asked me for my reaction about Gattine calling me a racist. ... So I called Gattine and used the worst word I could think of. I apologize for that to the people of Maine, but I make no apology for trying to end the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state."
On Thursday, the governor took credit for leaving the voicemail in a later interview at his home with local media, and said he would like to challenge Gattine to a duel.

"When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I'd like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825," LePage said, according to the Press Herald. "And we would have a duel, that's how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he's been in this Legislature to help move the state forward."
Friday, LePage walked back that rhetoric, saying he was purely making a historical reference.

"Obviously, it's illegal today; it was simply a metaphor and I meant no physical harm to Gattine," LePage said. (This is an unacceptable response by Maine Governor LePage, he crossed an ethical line, calling for unwarranted violence.)

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett called LePage's remarks a "threat."

"Gov. LePage's direct threat against Rep. Gattine is both erratic and disturbing, and he is clearly unfit to lead our state," Bartlett said in a statement. "Not only did the governor blatantly say he would take violent action against a sitting lawmaker, he also twice invoked a homophobic slur to drive home his point. Those reckless remarks may incite others to violence. ... Paul LePage is an increasingly menacing figure who does not reflect the values of our state."
Gattine did not respond to a request for comment.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Religion & faith in politics - the good and "not so much"

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”- John Wesley/Hilary Clinton
The Apostle Matthew wrote (Matthew 7 1-3): For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged....
Image result for faith in politics graphic
But, if a political candidate puts faith in their biographies then it's fair for us to comment on their qualifications to do so.
In other words, I'm not qualified to make a judgement about the spiritual life or religious faithfulness of political candidates, even when they happen to include their faith beliefs in their biographies. On the other hand, when this information is released in their political press releases, then I feel it's okay to provide my opinion about the depth of their religiosity. Obviously, I don't want to offend St. Matthew, but if he were alive today, I'd take a chance that he would, likewise, have an opinion about how political candidates represent their faith.

"Romney 'Good'..." weeeelll, in the end he didn't carry the majority:
In my opinion, Governor Mitt Romney, for example, proudly represented the sincerity of faithful Mormons, or members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.  

Probably, what lost Romney the 2012 presidential election, in my opinion, was his inability to garner the confidence of the right wing radical Republican base. They are fanatics and, in my opinion, certifiable "wackos".  If they had supported Governor Romney, he might have won the election but we'll never know for sure.

"Biden is 'Good'"
In 2008, Joe Biden said that while others may talk about his faith, he seldom does, instead driven by his Irish upbringing to allow his actions to speak for themselves. Vice President Biden and his family are proud to live their Roman Catholic faith and I believe he would have been an exceptionally well qualified President. Unfortunately, family bereavement, following the untimely death of their son "Beau", precluded him from running for President.
"Ryan 'not so much'"
Four years later, Paul Ryan was greeted with a chorus of criticism in 2012, for his interpretation of Catholic social teaching to justify a budget proposal that included deep cuts in programs assisting the poor. (Speaker Paul Ryan is the same Catholic VP candidate who washed clean dishes in a St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen, when they were already clean, just for the photo op.)
"Senator Kaine - 'Excellent'!"
Senator Tim Kaine is the third Catholic to appear on a presidential ticket in the past two election cycles, all VP nominees. (Current Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence was raised Catholic but now identifies as an evangelical Christian).  Senator Kaine gave up a potentially lucrative law career to serve the poor in Honduras. He chose to be a dedicated public servant, rather than a highly paid lawyer.
Senator Kaine received his B.A. in economics from the University of Missouri in 1979, completing his degree in three years and graduating summa cum laude. He entered Harvard Law School in 1979, interrupting his law studies after his first year to work in Honduras for nine months from 1980 to 1981, helping Jesuit missionaries who ran a Catholic school in El Progreso.While running a vocational center that taught carpentry and welding, he also helped increase the school's enrollment by recruiting local villagers. Kaine is fluent in Spanish as a result of his year in Honduras.

After returning from Honduras, Kaine met his future wife, first-year Harvard Law student, Anne Holton. He graduated from Harvard Law School with a J.D. degree in 1983.Kaine and Holton moved to Holton's hometown of Richmond, Virginia, after graduation,and Kaine was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1984.

"Governor Pence: 'not so much'" (In fact, gets a "D")
Anybody who claims to be "evangelical" but then doesn't follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, can't be considered Christian, just because he says so. Clearly, Jesus accepted the poor, the humble masses, healed the sick and did not discriminate based on a person's socio-economic status ie "immigrants".  
"Hillary Clinton:  'Good'": In my opinion, I admire Secretary Clinton's faith motto, a quote from John Wesley (1703-1791), the Anglican cleric and theologian who, with his brother Charles and fellow cleric George Whitefield, are credited with the foundation of Methodism: Image result
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
When candidates talk the religious talk and "walk the walk", it's a testament, in my opinion, to their sincerity. Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine, in my opinion, are a duo of "good" religious politicians who outshine the others who lined up in recent campaigns, because they live their core spiritual values and they do not pander to the "wackos" on either side of the political spectrum of self righteous people who want to force their extremism on the general population.  Of course, Secretary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine must motivate their followers to vote in mass, plus, at the same time, convince others to follow their progressive leadership. Otherwise, they can be among those who are "good", but not good enough to be elected. Let's convince voters to elect Clinton, and Kaine, two highly qualified candidates, who bring progressive religion and faith into their admirable political values. 

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Conspiracy theories 2016 contribute to The Big Lie

"...those in power can actually act on their wild hunches..." Joseph Uscinski in Politico Magazine.  
This article is like a huge neon Danger sign....wake up!


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Donald Trump built his political brand on larger than life vaudevillian bravado where he spews lies. In fact, truth appears to leave the room when Donald Trump enters. He's a master of communicating The Big Lie theory of political discourse. In other words, Trump tells so many big lies that it's virtually imposible to keep track of all of them. Consequently, many of the lies go unanswered and fall into the margin of incredulous believability.  

Conspiracy theories fall into The Big Lie pattern.  Joseph Uscinski wrote about the danger of conspiracy theory communications. The problem is, of course, will voters demand for the lies and conspiracy theories to stop? In oher words, where are Trump's plans and vision? Rather than explain his positions,Trump negatively entertains voters with lies and conspiracies without having to explain his wacko reasoning.

Uscinski wrote, "....former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Fox News Sunday viewers that Hillary Clinton was seriously ill. The media, he said, “fails to point out several signs of illness by her. … Go online. Search for ‘Hillary Clinton illness.’ Take a look at those videos for yourself.”

The idea that Clinton is secretly wrestling with some unknown illness is just the latest conspiracy theory to go mainstream in an election season chock full of them. Conspiracy theories, which Uscinski studied for the past seven years, has always been part of American politics, but they’ve tended to pop up in the dark corners of political discourse, serving mainly as sideshows to more important political disputes. 

Not so this year; Uscinski said he's never seen a time when conspiracy theories dominated the mainstream debate—and when they had the potential to do so much harm.

Whether it was witches colluding with Satan during colonial times, Freemasons nefariously controlling the government in the 1800s or communists coopting the State Department during the Red Scare, Americans have always been drawn to the idea that certain people or organizations are working in secret for their own benefit against the public good. Polls suggest that all Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory; most believe in several. 

At the height of birtherism a few years ago, about a quarter of Americans believed that President Barack Obama was born outside the United States. A similar number believed there was a conspiracy behind the terror attacks of 9/11. More than 50 years after the fact, a majority of Americans continue to believe that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was due to a conspiracy rather than to a lone gunman. In 2012, when I asked a representative sample of Americans to agree or disagree with the following statement, “Big events like wars, the current recession, and the outcomes of elections are controlled by small groups of people who are working in secret against the rest of us,” only 30 percent disagreed.

Despite this, the United States has not gone off the conspiracy theory cliff because our elite politicians and mainstream news sources generally eschew this type of heady theorizing. A few politicians or news sources might allege a plot from time to time (think Sarah Palin and her Obamacare death panels), but these are usually a result of overheated partisan rhetoric and they tend to receive intense backlash.

That was, until now. Donald Trump has been propagating, and now creating, conspiracy theories as a major theme of his campaign.

There’s an obvious reason for this: Donald Trump has branded himself an “outsider.” In my research, I have found that conspiracy theories tend to work best when they are employed by outsiders, electoral losers and statistical minorities. These “losers” have to use conspiracy theories to justify their outsider status, explain away losses and call accepted practices into question. 

If you want to explain why you want to tear the accepted system down in favor of a new approach or if you want to enter the White House without ever being part of the political establishment, then it is fitting to use conspiracy theories to call that system into question.

As for Clinton, the environment created by two outsiders—Sanders and Trump—has forced her to respond in kind. She is under pressure to give lip service to Sanders’ economic conspiracy theories in order to attract his supporters. And she has also been forced her to push back on Trump’s conspiracy theories about her with conspiracy charges of her own.

Maybe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with conspiracy theories. Sometimes they turn out to be true (think Watergate, for example), and sometimes they bring new information to light (such as securing the release of many documents pertaining to the Kennedy assassination). But too many can distort our perception of reality, squander precious government time and resources and endanger lives—especially when they move out of the fringes of political life and become the currency of the truly powerful.

Here are the five most dangerous conspiracy theories of 2016 (and some honorable mentions).


1. Mexicans and refugees are murderers, rapists and terrorists
Danger: Violence

Donald Trump has accused Mexican immigrants of being pawns in a Mexican conspiracy to send murderers and rapists to America. He also has accused refugees, fleeing their tattered homeland and shattered lives, of working against the government as ISIL agents.

Most conspiracy theories in the United States resonate when they are levied by the weak and accuse the strong (when out-of-power Democrats accused the Bush administration of being behind 9/11, for example). These conspiracy theories are usually annoying at worst, because those accused of conspiring are well-protected and powerful. In this case, however, the typical model is reversed: The strong (a man running for U.S. president with the backing of a major political party) is accusing the weak (refugees and minorities). This is a more dangerous type of conspiracy theory because those in power can actually act on their wild hunches, sometimes with deadly consequences. If Trump were to act on his conspiracy theories, for example, it could spell doom for those groups in the United States. And those who believe Trump’s rhetoric might choose to act on their own by doing violence to the targets of Trump’s theories.

Just look at what has happened when similar conspiracy theories have caught on before: There are the Salem Witch Trials, where innocent women were brutally murdered; the Red Scare of the 1950s, which saw the United States government violating the rights of countless Americans; and the Japanese internment camps during WWII. When the powerful believe there is a conspiracy against them—real or not—their reactions can have terrible consequences.

2. “There’s something going on”
Danger: Mass paranoia

A favorite go-to conspiracy theory of Trump’s, used in different circumstances at different points during the campaign, these four words suggest that our governmental institutions and our institutions for disseminating information are not only malevolent, but also engaged in a cover-up of epic proportions.

This conspiracy theory is useful for Trump because it lets him avoid specifics; it’s also dangerous because it’s open-ended, leaving Trump supporters plenty of room to connect their own dots. What is, in fact, “going on”? It could be Radical Islamic Terrorists in your neighborhood, refugees armed with ISIL cellphones or a president who either doesn’t care about terrorist attacks on the homeland or is directly involved in them. Maybe a terrorist lives next door, maybe the FBI is actually aiding the terrorists. Maybe our president is a terrorist, too. Who knows, right? But these four words suggest that everyone is in on it, we need to watch our neighbors, keep an eye on the government and watch the president’s body language like a hawk.

This style of conspiracy theorizing—leaving the details for people to figure out on their own—is advantageous because it gives people less to disagree with. What I have found in my research is that the more details there are to a conspiracy theory, the more reasons there are for people to take issue with it. This is one reason why JFK assassination conspiracy theories continue to be so popular compared to others. There is no established villain or plot line; everyone gets to choose the version that makes most sense.

3. Trump is a Manchurian Candidate
Danger: Institutional distrust, political polarization

Criticizing Clinton for her mishandling of classified emails, Trump suggested that the Democratic nominee is now beholden to the Obama administration, which decided not to prosecute her. 

Trump also suggested that other countries now have evidence to blackmail or control Clinton, given that they have been able to hack her private email server. Shooting back, the Clinton campaign put out an ad suggesting that Trump is an agent of powerful Russian interests.

Americans of all political persuasions should be able to trust that the two candidates who could lead the national government aren’t pawns to other interests. When they start to doubt their leaders’ loyalty to the country, institutional distrust can skyrocket. 

It’s also not that easy for a president to shed a conspiracy theory about him or her: The birther theory that dogged Obama during his entire time in the White House has been a distraction for both his administration and the country—and birtherism started with far less fanfare than these current accusations.

These sorts of theories can also be symptoms of, or possibly even contribute to, political polarization. By always calling into question a president’s motives, people on the opposing side never have to engage in meaningful debates over policy.

4. Vast right-wing conspiracy
Danger: Lack of accountability

There are conspiracy theories; and then there are conspiracy theories about conspiracy theories. This particular one was born during the height of the investigations into then-President Bill Clinton’s business practices and personal life. During a Today Show interview, then-first lady Hillary Clinton dismissed the burgeoning Monica Lewinsky scandal: “The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it,” she said, “is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”

Conspiracy theories aren’t reserved for Republicans. Hillary Clinton has held on to her conspiracy theory that the right wing is in league against her and her family to this day; in fact, she claimed this election cycle that the conspiracy is “even better-funded” now.

Here’s the problem: If followed to its conclusion, this conspiracy theory suggests that every criticism, every accusation and every investigation of the Clintons is nothing but a well-orchestrated and false attack by an enormous network of clandestine operatives—giving Clinton and her supporters any easy way to dismiss any charges leveled against her. The Clintons are likely not guilty of all they have been accused. But they have made mistakes and they should be accountable for those. Appealing to a conspiracy should not alleviate a president or presidential candidate from responsibility.
5. Everything is “rigged”
Danger: Disenfranchisement and alienation

The campaigns of Trump and Sanders repeatedly alleged during the primaries that the nomination process is rigged. Earlier this month, Trump claimed that in states without voter ID laws in place, fraud will be rampant and people will be voting “15 times.” And he asserted that the only way the Clinton campaign can win Pennsylvania is if “they cheat.”

We’ve seen what can happen when people seize on conspiracy theories about fraudulent and rigged elections—despite there being no evidence of mass voter fraud. Over the past few years, similar beliefs have led state legislatures across the country to enact restrictive voter ID laws. But rather than fix a system that wasn’t broken to begin with, these efforts have been shown to disenfranchise minority voters. This year, if Trump deploys supporters to polling stations across America to monitor for fraud and challenge voters’ legitimacy as he is promising to do, the results could be similar.

But such claims about election fraud pale in comparison to the larger allegations that the entire system is rigged. Sanders and fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren frequently claimed during this election cycle that the economic and political systems are entirely rigged. Here’s the problem with that theory: The United States has a $20 trillion economy and a political system that is widely diffused across different branches and levels. Being familiar with the failure rates of conspiracies, I can say that there is no group—not hedge-fund managers, not big bankers, not politicians—who could possibly rig our political and economic systems on any large scale and get away with it for long.

Far from being helpful, this sort of rhetoric is dangerous. 

First, it allows for scapegoating (“my lot in life is the fault of the one percent”) and indictment (“the rich and powerful have gotten that way only through illicit means”). It also brings about hopelessness and alienation—the feeling that we have been locked into an unfair and degrading system by a few people who wish to abuse us. These sorts of conspiracy theories also serve to depress the vote, as those who believe that elections and governmental processes are rigged will most likely stay home; this weakens our democracy.
HONORABLE MENTIONS
Pharmaceutical companies are hiding the connection between vaccines and autism
Danger: Death

This conspiracy theory claims that vaccines cause a series of illnesses, and that these adverse effects have been covered up by pharmaceutical companies to maintain profits. In fact, vaccines have saved millions of lives. Using the bully pulpit as both Trump and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have done to spread this conspiracy theory and undermine vaccine science will cost lives. Some people will listen to these candidates and skip vaccines for themselves and their children. We already have seen the consequences.

Big agricultural companies are hiding the negative effects of genetically modified foods
Danger: Higher food costs, damage to the environment

Sanders and Stein have both engendered GMO conspiracy theories, which claim that big agriculture and biotech companies are hiding the negative environmental and health consequences of farming and consuming genetically modified foods. This is despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that genetically modified food is safe to eat, similar to the alternatives, better for the environment and cheaper.

The dangers of these conspiracy beliefs are currently playing out in Vermont, where new legislation requires burdensome labeling of foods made from genetically modified crops (a $1,000 fine is levied per day per unlabeled product). Food choice is going down, and food prices are going up. Increased food costs can be absorbed by upper-class budgets; but they have a disproportionate impact on the budgets of people with midand lower incomes.

Ted Cruz’s father took part in the assassination of President Kennedy
Danger: A trip down the rabbit hole

It would be difficult to create any list of conspiracy theories and leave this one out, just by virtue of its creativity. Looking to deal a death blow to Ted Cruz’s campaign, Trump suggested that Cruz’s father was in a picture taken in 1963 with Lee Harvey Oswald, and therefore had a role in the assassination of JFK. Trump further claimed that the media was covering up the story.

The danger here is a bit esoteric: If people were to take Trump at his word that a sitting senator and presidential candidate’s father was involved in Kennedy’s assassination and that the media all knew about it but were purposely hiding it from the public, then nothing in this world could be taken at face value. What else would the media be hiding from us and what other horrific crimes are linked to our government officials? There would be no end to the conspiracy theorizing.

Maybe the advent of the upcoming debates will give Trump and Clinton an incentive to leave the conspiracy rhetoric behind and focus on issue-oriented politics. The likelihood, however, is that they will continue to push the country toward a conspiracy theory fueled delirium (some polls suggest an uptick in conspiracy beliefs as of late). And if they do, the results could be dire.

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