Say So Long to Megyn Kelly, James O’Keefe, Fox News and the Gang

faux_news_logoNew Orleans   What a political season! We’re counting down the days now, but some things are increasingly clear at the margins.

The sell-by-date may finally be here for New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Mr. Grouch, Rudy Guiliani, the former Mayor of New York City. It takes a crew like that hovering over the green rooms of Trump defenders to make Christie look good, even if he’s still in high water over the political vendetta bridge closing now in trial. With friends like these, no wonder Donald Trump is in constant trouble! If they are defending his honor, how can it be a surprise that he is obsessed with public humiliation according to even more recently released tapes of interview with him by a former biographer.

If this gang of three is finally around the corner and perhaps gone for good once the votes are counted, it looks like James O’Keefe, the video scammer, is breathing his last milliseconds of fame as well. Yes, he caught a heartbeat in some corners by tricking another couple of loose lips talking about Democratic dirty tricks, and a close friend of my said that viewing the video was pretty horrific in truth, but it had short legs and minimal traction in the klieg lights of this campaign. It wasn’t really about either Trump or Clinton, and that’s the story now in capital letters from Fifth Avenue to Wilshire Boulevard. I noticed a brief squib in a Milwaukee paper where O’Keefe was trying to file a Federal Elections Commission complaint based on something in Wisconsin accusing the Clinton campaign of colluding with PACS. The campaign spokesperson for Clinton virtually chortled in glee, saying that, first what they were doing was legal, and implying that how did the O’Keefers not know that, and then harping on why Trump hadn’t field his tax returns, so getting his licks in. The reporter ended the story reminding readers that O’Keefe had selectively edited the ACORN tapes, had paid $100,000 to one of the ACORN workers, and went through O’Keefe’s arrest for trying to bug ex-Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans. You just can’t clean all of that kind of stuff off your shoes.

These folks are left with only one megaphone and that’s Fox News, and of course they are loud and clear over there, but that’s not enough for the real conversation anymore, and they have their own chaos and trouble. Who knows what to make of Megyn Kelly anymore? I’m not a fan of Kelly’s, not because she interviewed me years ago, but because she didn’t keep up her end of the agreement her producers made, but that’s business. She did humiliate Karl Rove in 2012 when he tried to spin away the Obama victory election night, and she did stand up to Trump at least a little bit and took his best shots, and seems to have done the right thing on the fall of Roger Ailes at Fox, and now she’s recommending anger management courses for Newt Gingrich, so let’s agree that she’s not all bad, even if she’s raw ambition on steroids. She may just be a product of her bad Fox environment. I’ll make a safe bet that she’s totally out of there when her contract runs out for darned sure.

Without all of these folks sucking up airtime and attention, future campaigns just aren’t going to seem the same anymore. Thankfully!


Breitbart News Taking Over Trump Campaign – OMG!

Ben Jackson/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Stephen Bannon Hosting Radio Show Photo Credit: Ben Jackson/Getty Images for SiriusXM

New Orleans   The devil has now taken over the details for the Trump campaign. It’s official now with his announcement this week that Stephen Bannon, the head the Breitbart News abomination of websites, clickbait, and hate speech, will now be running his entire campaign operation. Bannon has never managed a campaign at any level, but he’s qualified on two counts in Trump world. He’s worked his own “art of the deal” on Wall Street for years and of course he is a committed media provocateur. We can’t say he’s Trump’s evil twin, because he’s more like Trump’s real twin, if any of us can imagine such a thing. What a horror!

What does this signal? Well, it would seem that we are at the end of the road for any more of this “acting Presidential” posing from Trump. As he’s been warning, he wants to be himself again. This is going to be more of the “dancing with who brought me here,” and “doing it my way” shtick that he displayed so endearingly to his red-meat, mouth-breathing base during the Republican primaries.

But, wait a minute, I like red-meat, as much as the next person, and breathe out of my mouth whenever I need too as well, so let me be clear, deriding the Trump antics as “populist,” is elitist and offensive. These pundits, commentators, politicos, and others need to call the Trump stuff what it really is rather than trying to slander it as populist. They may not like Trump, but that doesn’t mean they like any of the rest of us any better!

A populist is someone, especially if it’s a politician, who wants to represent “ordinary” people, if there is such a thing, and the “common” people, who are very uncommon. That’s not Trump. Demagogue, yes! Rabble-rouser. Hate-speaker. Oh, yeah. Racist? Seems so. But, populist, no way! Look at his tax plan, which would be little more than another rich giveaway for proof positive.

Now with the Breitbart folks in charge, it’s likely that we haven’t seen anything yet. Roger Ailes, the recently canned impresario who built the even larger rightwing echo chamber at Fox News, is also reportedly advising the Trump effort now. These are peas in a pod. It could be that we won’t see anything worse than we have to date, but this is simply a refreshing bit of transparency for the Trump campaign. These guys have been on the sidelines and behind the curtain, and now they’re front-and-center.

Judging from the way Breitbart has now admitted paying for the video-scam attacks on ACORN though, this new legitimacy of sorts on the national scene is frightening, because if anything, win, lose or draw, it now appears that Trump and his foul-mouthed and minded friends are going to be bootstrapping their way from this campaign into more of the same after the election is over. Trump seems to be preparing himself to lose, but he’s building a future which will be built on the same hate and fear that Breitbart and his other cronies believe is what spurs their kind of action. They may be deciding that they are content with their 40% and want to lock it down even harder as a place and base for their future.

Heaven help all of us and the country where we live, but be clear, it’s not about the people, it’s only about them.


Trump May Be Bad for Republicans but End Up Good for America

872ee2250d2a46388bd09dc64a242d79-be9e180507fc4bb49a3125bb6f926a08-2New Orleans   The Republicans are going after the mogul, Donald Trump, hot and heavy now. They’re hitting him both high and low….in fact very low, though the lower they go, the better he seems to like it and the more some people like him.

Fox News seems to have invited him to a butt-whipping in the Michigan debate, the last one before the next big round of primaries. They seem to be fascinated that he flip-flops, basically proving that big time developers selling castles in the sky, are exactly the same as politicians selling candy cane versions of the past and sugar plum fantasies about the future, just as the rest of us had always known. Did it matter? Not much.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio seems beaten, bruised, and out of his element. He’s pulled his expenditures and campaigns back from Ohio to make a last stand in Florida where he has already indicated he is forfeiting his Senate seat and Trump is still leading by 7 to 10%. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the Donald himself are running all over Louisiana seeing this as another ruby-red state where they might Duke it out. Yes, that was a pun!

Reportedly, big donors talked to both of these boys before the debate and encouraged them to keep the gloves on with each other, hang tough, and go after Trump in a desperate hope to have an once-in-a-lifetime brokered convention. An even richer brew is being concocted by some pols and donors for a third-party bid. Zombie-Romney came back from the political graveyard to take some solid shots at Trump’s unacceptability. There is starting to be serious discussion and debate about whether a Trump candidate might shift control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. Who says election years are ever boring?

The bottom line is that Donald Trump, now the current and seemingly on-going frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President is driving the Republicans totally crazy from precinct chairs on up to the Speaker of the House. Many focus on his xenophobic, racist, misogynist comments as if they are somehow aberrant, rather than just a clearer expression of the dog whistles and guttural roars that have built the Republican Party state by state for the last number of decades. His flirtation with the KKK and his dilatory handling of David Duke, the former grand pooh-bah of the white sheet wannabes may have come too far over the line even for the Republican Party.

Is it too much to hope that there might be a direct ratio working in the Trump candidacy that allows us to believe that there might be a direct proportionality between how bad Trump is for Republicans and how good he might be for America. Like it or not, if his crazy campaign and demagoguery either forces the Republicans to move to the mainstream or, even better, splits the party in two, separating the fringe freaks from the middle-righters, all of us as true patriots will owe Trump our deepest thanks for his service to the sanity of our politics in coming years.


Why not Mandatory Voting and Registration?

Set up and interview on voting rights and access with Fox News Eric Shawn for upcoming special

New Orleans   The interview with Eric Shawn, a Fox News anchor and senior correspondent, went OK as those things go, though of course who knows what they might edit and how little they might use by the time the special report comes out in a couple of months.

It is interesting to me that we spent so much time on the issue of mandatory voting and registration.  I’m not sure why those concepts seem so radical in the context of protecting and advancing democracy?

There are 25 or more countries around the world that have compulsory voting.  10 of the 30 countries in the European Union (Greece, Luxembourg, Italy, and Belgium for example) have such procedures so this is not some kind of imposed developing world situation.  10 countries enforce mandatory voting with real penalties like proof of voting in order to renew passports or drivers licenses.  These countries include Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Peru for example.  In fact more than half of the countries where ACORN International organizes have mandatory voting, which may be one of the reasons I have become more comfortable with the procedures not only in theory, but also in practice.  Where it is not seriously enforced it still achieves a democratic gain in participation because it is exists as a compelling social and cultural support.  Studies indicate participation goes up between 6 and 17% in such countries.

In Italy where it is not seriously enforced the penalties include putting you lower on the list for government sponsored daycare.  Nonetheless when I was there, the whole notion of universal registration and mandatory voting was simply seen as commonplace.  It took a lot of explanation for my friends there to understand how voting could be suppressed by ID requirements, because they were used to everyone having a governmental ID as a matter of course.  In the USA the Supreme Court has ruled that the IDs, if required, have to be free, but in places like Wisconsin you have to ask for a free ID before they will volunteer that they will provide one for you.  In several other states you have to sign an affidavit that you cannot afford the ID. 

We have other mandatory requirements for citizenship like paying taxes, jury duty, school attendance, and even in the past, military service.  Why not automatic registration and lower access to voting to ensure confidence and participation in a democracy?

Other good reasons include the assurance that a winning candidate actually represents a real majority of the citizens, rather than just becoming the last person standing.  For our constituency of low-and-moderate income voters, it would ensure more participation and full representation, long a cherished goal.  All of these measures would eliminate any problems with third party or partisan registration efforts, so the problem of suppression and inaccuracies disappears as well.  Opponents sometimes argue that it would restrict their freedom of speech to have to vote, but they could vote a blank ballot or spoil their ballot which many compulsory voting countries allow.

The system in the United States is totally broken.  Why not a fix that actually increases democracy rather than the current proposals and programs which reduce it?


Fox News Crosses Line with Home Address and Number

343_cartoon_fox_news_acorn_small_overNew Orleans I ran home for a minute  yesterday to pick up a sweater after the rain brought a cool front into New Orleans.  The phone rang.  I picked it up, there was silence and then the caller disconnected.  I figured it was a bad robo-dial.  A minute later there was another call.  The caller asked if this was Wade Rathke, I asked who wanted to know, and the man said he was Mark Sutherland, a “big supporter” of mine and admirer of my work and what ACORN had accomplished, but he wanted me to know that “Mark Sinclair” from Fox News, was broadcasting my home address, my home phone number, and the phone number of the Fair Grinds Coffeehouse that we began managing in mid-October.  I thanked him, and hung up.

The next half-hour of messing with this was interesting.  First, there were not a huge number of callers, which at least proves that some Fox News viewers have some good sense or a modicum of manners.  Secondly, most callers hung up as soon as I picked up the phone on the old principle I suppose that if a man answers, hang up!  I think they were taken aback to have gotten lucky and had me on the phone.  One engaged me a bit and wanted to make sure I was “Wade S. Rathke, the ACORN thug who was organizing the Occupy movement.”  I told him my middle name was Wade and that he had his “S” was in the wrong place, and I hung up.  The calls were from Allentown, PA, and central Jersey, and that neck of the woods.  Fox News and these losers probably don’t realize that you can immediately dial back after a call and get the number of the caller on modern phones, so we could collect their numbers to turn into the police.

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Sly as a FOX, Clear as a Bell

fox_20news_20logoNew Orleans There is no easy way to get the whole story any more, if there ever was.  The news from the FOX lair is titillating though and worth the search, just in the wild hopes that current scandals might force a different corporate culture or, even better, bring the whole mess down.

Unfortunately that is probably past the pale of hope.  The Wall Street Journal, the flagship US-Murdoch paper controlled by News Corporation, whip snapper behind FOX, continues to be a case in point.  Monday’s paper finally seem to concede that since the UK phone hacking, police bribing scandal was front page news around the world, they finally had to acknowledge that it existed with their own front page coverage.  Of course the editorial page then blamed everyone and their brother-in-law for the mess, except themselves, and essentially tried to cop a plea by saying, “we just did what everyone else did.”  Who knew that anyone thought that was a defense anymore?  Essentially, they are apologizing for their own distorted and corrupt culture by saying that that was the neighborhood they lived in, so stealing, bribing, and bullying was the only way.  Ugh!

Regardless, even if they are pretending that was a mea culpa, it was only a one-day-wonder.  Today’s paper omits any news of the scandal.  Even though today Rupert and son are appearing before Parliament, while the British Prime Minister Cameron, swinging in the wind of the storm himself, cut short his diplomatic mission to Africa, and more cops resigned.  It was more important for the Wall Street Journal to have a story about business predictably being unhappy with new rules proposed by the NLRB, as if that were news at all.

Watching from afar, it’s important to remember that the expression is “sly as a fox,” not smart as a fox.  In the FOX corporate culture the specialty skills are the dogpile, the sneak attack, the unfounded, sweeping allegation, the payoff, and the pimp-out, in other words exactly what they have been caught doing in Britain.   Smart has nothing to do with any of that.  Same for transparency.   Clear as a bell, is how the sound seems, but whether or not one can see well, and the New Corps pretend apologies are simply crises management, not culture change.

What goes around comes around.  Now that it’s happening and the U.S. Congress has even taken notice, perhaps it’s time for some backbone finally.  I’m not calling for the messenger to be killed, but at least make sure the messenger knows that it matters how you get and tell the story.  Truth for example might should be a guide, even if ethics is way past a possibility.