B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

Highway 2016 Revisited: Why Trump won, and why neither party will respond

The day after Nov. 3, the sun rose from the east, as it has every day since God pulled the trigger on his galactic shotgun and put this mess together. It shocked many, but wasn’t nearly as shocking as Donald Trump becoming president-elect the night before.

Stock futures plummeted, before rallying. It’s continued since, with the market hitting 19,000 for the first time, most likely because Trump was considering staff friendly to finance. The Democrats – those who actually run for office and are on ballots – clawed through the wreckage with their fingernails, wondering why they lost, while the base already made up their minds, and were more concerned with protecting their corner of the turf instead of winning elections.

And since the ‘day-after’ article has already been written 20-plus times by every media site since the election, I waited. Some had it right, others wrong, but clearly a large part of working and middle-class America drove to the curb in front of the establishment and tossed a brick through its plate glass window. Trump won, Hillary lost – this is why:

Jobs: The Trump election was a rejection of the U.S. economic system. For too many it doesn’t work even if it doesn’t exclude you. Talking to Trump voters, those who may be apolitical or might not like him as a person, the words often heard were, ‘Nothing to lose.’ Forty years of Republican and Democratic presidents, and the working class gets worse by the year. It’s now suffering a social and cultural collapse that’s the real story of the election, one no one wrote about, unless as some tip of the hat flyover piece in a coastal magazine. The type where some Ivy League kid comes through a town with trees for the first time, and writes about its inhabitants the way Morgan Freeman talks about critters on a nature documentary.

Trump was the first candidate in 40 years to say he would bring back jobs that have gone overseas. It was a lightning bolt to the ears. Those jobs began leaving in the 1970s. Cities like Youngstown and Cleveland were already feeling the burn. Dayton hung on until the mid-2000s. The promise of NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO was Ross Perot’s ‘giant sucking sound’ would be painful for 15-20 years, but emerging markets would gain enough purchasing power where The U.S. could re-balance trade and begin blue collar manufacturing anew, and better, with the countries having already caught up to the post-war boom.

That was a lie, it continues to be a lie. Our trade policy has been conducted with one hand behind our national backs. China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea – they negotiate in the best interest of their country, the U.S’s ideas on trade is in the best interest of a handful on Wall Street. It’s a wonder there hasn’t been rioting, burning, all of the lot. We can thank our culture, our standard of living and our social safety net for that, but that began crumbling a decade ago, and is collapsing as the election approached, leading to:

Heroin Epidemic: Rural America is being devastated by the heroin epidemic. For those not in the know, this is the tale: Doctor’s prescribed pain medication in large amounts, medication that was tested and believed to be non-addictive. In actuality it was highly addictive. When prescriptions ran out, people were left out to dry. Drug and alcohol addictions are bad, what makes pain killer and opiate addiction the worst one could suffer, you aren’t taking the drug for a high, you take it to feel normal. The desire to feel normal, painless and without injury becomes an addiction. There is no sadder state in which to live. Injuries are prevalent in service industry jobs and in other areas, including recreation, especially in the Midwest. With the prevalence of heroin overseas, over prescribing of pain killers and the loss of medical benefits and low wage jobs or no jobs, it was a Molotov cocktail of social breakdown.

The last two years has seen an exponential rise in the number of heroin overdoses and deaths in Ohio and other Midwest states. This has gone virtually unreported in national media until recently (few places have done good journalism here, such as the EPIX series America Divided).

Myself, I know two people who have died of heroin overdoses, some relatives, and another who died in his house, was revived in the hospital, and took off out the door before nurses could get his name and give it to the police.

Hillary Clinton avoided these rural areas completely during her campaign, instead focusing on trying to recreate the success of the Obama coalition and sticking to city centers like Cleveland and Columbus. She never came to Dayton once, the first for a major party candidate in memory. These mistakes were based on flawed strategy and flawed demographics. Exit polls from 2012 and 2008 were wrong, some to the extent of six percent for some demographic groups, according to surveys and reports from Nate Cohn of the New York Times.

Trump and his surrogates spent weeks in these areas. Trump, despite his hyperbole and his Twitter rants, used most of his time on the stump to talk jobs, offshoring, blue collar life and the heroin crisis. Many of his stops were in the areas at the heart of the epidemic. When voting results were finalized, some counties in Western Ohio had turnout averaging around 70 percent of registered voters. One county that has been plagued by crime, lack of jobs and heroin had 89 percent of registered voters vote. Those are numbers one usually sees in dictatorships, but this was real.

Clinton, already the epitome of an establishment politician, spent no time with the voters that would ultimately vote her out.

Desperation: Eight-Nine percent of people found their way to the ballot box on a cold day, in a small county where a precinct isn’t down the road, but a few miles a way, where you have to find to go between the two jobs you work, or picking up kids at school. This number is amazing. While Ohio and cities like Dayton have shown signs of turn around and rebirth, there’s an inordinate despair among many in the white working class, especially baby boomers. They worked the same factories their fathers did, who received pensions and retirement plans, and managed to retire at a decent age and enjoy, by world standards, a luxurious life. This was the defacto expectation for the baby boomer that came head on with the generation reaching retirement age right when The Great Recession struck.

This led to companies shedding their most experienced workers because they were the most expensive. As technology changed, companies went to the millennial for answers because they understood tech and social media, and were also cheap and plentiful.

The millennial grew up with guidance counselors in their ear, telling them not to worry about student loans, pick what you want to do the rest of your life as a major, pick something you enjoy, career prospects aren’t a major concern when choosing a field of study. An anecdote I was always told, it didn’t matter what college degree you had, if you had one you would have a job. You may major in meteorology, but some company would hire you as a supervisor if need be.

This turned into six-figure debt, much of which is beyond the understanding of 30 year olds, let alone high school juniors who are signing their lives on the line, and for dollar amounts that make most mortgages look small.

The articles flowed endlessly the last decade – the millennial isn’t interested in buying a house, or having kids, or having a car, or life as Gen X or the boomers carried, and then followed with a list of answers that sound familiar to any 18-30 year old that came before. Slackers, lazy, taking it easy, more interested in social life. Truth was they’d love to have kids, cars, homes, vacations and to be pumping their income into an economy if they had an income, and weren’t burdened with student loans.

This last year 37 percent of student loan holders either missed a payment or were late on one, the default rate is rising, and these loans aren’t ones you can bankrupt, thanks to changes in law 20 years ago, which means defaulting is akin to financial suicide. Some have committed suicide under the pressure, others haven’t.

When you have your master’s, and you are working the late shift at Denny’s, and someone says they can bring good incomes back and make that loan disappear, you listen. Millennials voted for Hillary, but not by the numbers she should have received. What was Clinton’s position on student loans? If you listened hard at the debates you would know, or if you looked at her website, it was available, but it wasn’t something she talked about, which brings us to another reason she lost:

What was Clinton’s message?: Hillary Clinton was called the most qualified person to ever run for president. I would have to say I don’t believe she holds that title herself, but I believe she’s in teh upper tier. If she had a governorship on her curriculum vitae, it would have been no doubt. And with the experience as a governor, she would have overcame the weaknesses she had in her campaign, if not as a candidate. Still, asking someone what Clinton’s core message was, you’d still be waiting for an answer. She had many proposals and positions, but she didn’t run on a central theme. Most commercials focused on her work for children and children’s insurance (she put together the CHIP program, or was at least a part of its design), but most of her ads focused on Trump’s controversial and idiotic statements on social media or at the podium, they weren’t about her. You never got to know Hillary Clinton. You never knew why she was running, other than it was the next job in line. It’s a shame we’ll never find out.

 

 

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QUICK DEBATE FACT CHECK: Clinton vs. Trump III – because all other fact checks stink

I can’t remember everything from last night’s debate, as I was working simultaneously and only caught bits of it on DVR afterward. But I did my best.

Presidential Debate No. 3 was not without its skirmishes, interruptions, ignorance of said Answer timer; but Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace was the best moderator of the three. Debate Two, which came immediately after the Trump “Access Hollywood” tape was reported by the Washington Post, was a mess. Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz didn’t control the debate as well as Wallace, though Wallace had the advantage of seeing how bad it could get from the previous debate. Fox News has a very strong lineup of serious reporters, and with Roger Ailes now out, hopefully we get more ‘news’ and less ‘rhetoric’ out of Fox, conservative or otherwise.

DONALD TRUMP

  • Trump is a stronger candidate on issues than both Gary Johnson and Bernie Sanders. Sanders won’t even give a foreign policy question an answer without “having a sheet of paper in front of him,” as he famously told the New York Daily News, and in that same interview couldn’t say how he would he implement his core policy issue of reining in banks. Trump had answers, and when he’s stuck to trade, offshoring, jobs and NAFTA he’s been strong and Clinton hadn’t made a dent on him when he hasn’t.
  • Clinton made the definitive case for her presidency during her retort to Trump on her “experience.” It was a ‘YouTube’ moment Trump never recovered from.
  • The issues with Trump (outside of the sexual comments and assault allegations, which if the later are true would make him unfit), stem mostly from Stephen Bannon sitting on his left shoulder and whispering in his ear. The major controversies of his campaign are all Breitbart-esque Alinksy-style politics on core issues Breitbart.com considers the most important – that isn’t a coincidence. That’s not to left Trump off the hook, his behavior has been atrocious.
  • Trump’s declaration that the Mosul offensive was going bad was completely off base. The assault was only in his fourth day. Key Iraqi and Kurdish officials have said for months, even as the Iraqi Army and the Pershmerga was chasing IS out of cities in hours, the Mosul offensive could take six months or longer. As of the debate started, the offensive was only in its fourth day. Reports from BBC, from Iraqi president Fuad Masum and the Kurdish government said they’ve made better headway than they expected at this point. Iraqi Special Forces (U.S. trained) hadn’t joined the fight until today.
  • Donald’s analysis on Aleppo was wrong. As was the situation being anarchy and beyond a ceasefire – because Syrian and Russian forces agreed on a ceasefire this morning.
  • Trump’s assertion he “didn’t know” if he would accept the results of the election was pure Breitbart and purely stupid.. The dangerous things Trump and Bannon do for electoral advantage are no different than what Marxists did in countries in Eastern Europe and Russia.
  • His Putin remarks and remarks on Wikileaks were ridiculous. His former campaign manager had direct ties to Putin proxies in Eastern Europe, even the exiled former president of Ukraine. The Russians have hacked the DNC and are openly trying to intervene in the election, with some going as far to say electing Clinton would re-start the Cold War.

HILLARY CLINTON

  • Hillary’s comments on open borders and her assertion it was about “energy production” was not as closed as she maintained. Energy was a major part of her speech in Brazil, looking back at quotes. She was speaking of energy in the next sentence after the comment at the speech, but she never said explicitly whether she would be for a tightening of trade in the Western Hemisphere or not, and her speech in Brazil was much broader than she said. She’s positioned herself against TPP, but her answer gave no insight into how she would approach trade in the Americas. Given Trump’s key issue involves NAFTA, the silence was deafening.
  • Clinton gave no response to the Project Veritas/James O’Keefe videos when prompted. There’s little doubt the violence at the Chicago rally was inspired by Sanders supporters. Trump has also used ‘violence’ at his rallies as part of his campaign to enforce his image as a law and order candidate. But the videos show her campaign workers and that at least deemed a response from her. It was politically expedient to say nothing, but she didn’t soothe any independents who may have had questions about whether the party was playing dirty.

Rules for Rubes: The ungraceful falling upward of Breitbart.com, Stephen Bonner, Donald Trump

Breitbart.com was once a feed of Associated Press news, long before the site  became the braintrust of the Donald Trump campaign. Under varying domains of Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism; the site relied on unpaid bloggers. Shortly after the death of Andrew Breitbart, the site switched focus. No longer pumping out content for content’s sake, there was an actual staff and a more newsy look than its traditional blog design.

Before the change, the site’s few “scoops” were disasters. First came the James O’Keefe tapes, which ended federal funding over ACORN, and put Andrew Breitbart on every cable channel (his dream of becoming a conservative cult of personality complete). Later came the lawsuits, then the editing, then O’Keefe was arrested for tampering with phones in a federal building. Then came Shirley Sherrod. When Breitbart died and Stephen Bonner took over, the journalism didn’t improve. The same, radical propagandist approach continued, but it was uglier and more conspiratorial. There was “Friends of Hamas” and the supposed “vetting” of Barack Obama before the 2012 election, the failure of the press to show how Obama was a communist, socialist, Methodist – whatever. Thanks to the Breitbart and Bonner, the site got ahead based on media connections and money, not because of anything written on it.

As Breitbart pushed the overall conservative media complex to the furthest of the right, the home of the movement’s intellectuals (Weekly Standard, National Review) followed suit.

Despite this, Breitbart’s most dominant trait is never missing an opportunity to fall on its face. It has no scruples or credibility. Staffers told Politico a year ago Donald Trump was paying for articles and positive coverage. This was met by denunciations from Breitbart, but then more staffers repeated them same information, still anonymous.

GETTING TO KNOW BREITBART.COM

Andrew Breitbart, the site’s namesake, worked for Drudge Report and was on board for the launch of the Huffington Post. At first it was a collection of Ariana Huffington’s closest Hollywood celebrity friends, ranting and raving about the Bush administration in blos. Then it became unpaid virtually anonymous bloggers ranting and raving, which became Breitbart’s first model for Big Hollywood, his first active blog.

Big Hollywood was edited by John Nolte, known as Dirty Harry at Libertas, a conservative film blog with a heavy following. Libertas was a strict film blog, a gathering of conservative movie fans to discuss films without having to defend their politics or experience the “sucker punch” of when a movie takes a non sequitor for a political cheap shot (think Law and Order, and the bad guy with the Dick Cheney picture framed in his office).

Nolte split with Libertas, and not in an amicable fashion. The site’s hosts complained of Nolte’s anonymity while working and hosting a film festival which was the namesake of the blog, and had to do it in public to other people. Nolte left, started his own blog Dirty Harry’s Place, then was hired as editor of Big Hollywood.

Big Hollywood was the first of what would become a Breitbart network of sites – Big Government, Big Journalism … Nolte led the charge at BH, but was rarely reviewing movies like he previously did, and switched to strictly activist-centric posts you would expect from Michelle Malkin. Breitbart used his Hollywood connections to unearth TV and film actors who were closet conservatives. Included were two members of the original A-Team and former Law and Order star Michael Moriarty. They rounded out posts from Nolte and other top contributors, and an army of unpaid bloggers in the Huffington Post fashion.

But there were differences – the site revolved around Andrew Breitbart, who promoted the site across the cable networks, who was in a mode of becoming the next Hannity or Beck. The model was based on Huffington Post, but the heart and pulse was Saul Alinsky by way of a writer under the pseudonym David Kahane at National Review. Actually former editor and journalist Michael Walsh, Walsh spread the gospel that conservatism couldn’t compete unless it won back popular culture, and to do that, it needed its own radical activist approach. His book “Rules for Radical Conservatives” was the basis for the site’s purpose.

This realization from Breitbart and Walsh was born after Alinsky became a major topic in the 2008 election. President Barack Obama was connected to Alinsky, Hillary Clinton wrote about him affectionately in college. Conservatives saw in the book the keys to the progressive success since the 1960s in the culture war. Obama, like Alinsky was a community organizer. Alinsky’s formula was the key to success for Democrats in the eyes of those becoming frustrated over losing Congress, Senate and White House within two years.

The Alinksy tactics have led to failure after failure. Alinksy himself was an activist at the micro level, working with unions. The Yippies, Weathermen, SDS and other left activists in the 60s were a screaming success if you believe Breitbart because they began to run colleges and direct movies, but politically, it was a total failure. The climatic moment of 60s activism was the election of Richard Nixon, then Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George Bush, and the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, where it has held a majority for most of the last 22 years.

 

Other than its shifting the conservative movement, and becoming the “news” go-to for the alternative right (which wasn’t exactly the cultural transformation Breitbart envisioned), the only real success to emerge from the site was its London correspondent Milo Yiannopolous.

Yiannopolous became a cult figure on Twitter during GamerGate. Along with Christina Hoff Sommers, Yiannopolous defended gamers and their culture against Gawker and feminists.

Then came Donald Trump. who threw a Hail Mary into the stands, and for his third campaign chief went with Bonner. Trump’s responses to Clinton during the debate were pure Breitbart. The vitriol, the lack of fact, the lack of humility. No more “shining city on the hill,” as Hugh Hewitt lamented when he moderated a GOP primary debate last year. Hewitt supported Trump until his recorded comments about women were released.

 

 

 

Political purity and absolutism is the driving force behind Trump

This past August was the second anniversary of GamerGate. For the vast majority of busy Americans, fortunately unaware, this social and political tremor was the biggest waste of time in the short history of social media.

What started as a 10,000-word breakup letter on a blog (a record-breaker until Bill Simmons gets divorced), turned into an internet culture war between the progressive left and gamers, who found their cause adopted by the alternative right. Social media, which was already viewed by many as inducing sickness in people, may be the possible end of fact and surely the end of truth as humankind has grasped these concepts. Women threatened and forced from homes; online media eschewing the few journalistic principles  it held; GamerGate had something for no one.

I researched GamerGate for an article, and to call the experience maddening is an understatement. The nature of the entire “event,” which is how I will describe it given the lack of originality and eloquence in “dumpster fire,” served more as a microcosm of the Internet and the Millennial culture, and the general over-importance 20 somethings across generations have placed in their own social lives, and others interests in them. Overdramatic, profane, nonsensical, filled with both narcissism and adequacy issues simultaneously; there are no facts, and there certainly isn’t truth.

And if these words, these descriptions ring familiar, but not quite on the tip of your tongue, let me write the words for you – the 2016 presidential election. The ultimate losers of GamerGate weren’t the derided gamers, or anyone researching it, but the political and cultural center. Because GamerGate was a preview of the 2016 election – an instance in which decidedly liberal gamers were shoved by the progressive online media, social justice activists on Twitter and the larger corporate media into the arms of the alternative right and Breitbart.com – because they were the only ones that would have them.

A year and a half ago I posited the rise of Donald Trump was as much the fault of the Democratic party as the Republican party. The Democrats system of identity politics had come to turn on the party’s best interest; just as purity, conservative media and the corporate fundraising machine that led Republicans to lead Congress and the White House had turned on itself in the interest of profit and true conservatives; where Arlen Spector was a traitorous RINO, then John Boehner, then the Bushes and coming soon, Ted Cruz.

The case is simple: The Democrats should be cleaning up working and middle class voters, but liberals in high culture and politics have sneered at them for such a sustained period, the white fly-over vote is willing to pull the lever for Trump out of spite.

  • As despicable a candidate Donald Trump may be (if Simon and Garfunkel were to string folk songs together in the 20-Teens, they may ask “Where have you gone John Kasich?” or “Political Class over Troubled Water”) Ross Douthat in the New York Times wrote a timely column on Hillary Clinton’s “Samantha Bee” problem as a root cause in Trump’s appeal. Clinton called a quarter of the electorate deplorable, racist, beyond the pale and unrepresentable, and she is still called conservative by half her partyThat says plenty about how much of higher culture views the middle and working class. Is Clinton necessarily wrong? No, Trump has a large following of racists, maniacs, white nationalists, but also has a large following of people so desperate for a candidate to address the economic madness they’ve been handed for 40 years, they’ll take a flyer on whether or not he’s qualified for office because no one else has paid them attention. Other than Elizabeth Warren, Trump is the only national politician (if you can call him that) to address core working class economic woes.
  • The beginning was the SCOTUS Obergefell v. Ohio gay marriage ruling, and the reaction to ‘religious freedom’ laws passed by states in its wake. (Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, made no effort to stem what will soon be the largest challenge to the separation of church and state since Thomas Jefferson). Thanks to Kennedy, this left a myriad of panicked states to pass laws protecting what they saw as basic religious rights, and to a fill the major hole in the decision. Media and gay rights groups attacked the laws as unconscionable and bigoted – basically businesses would have the right to discriminate against gay people for religious reasons. But as far as law and people, it’s not that simple -LGBT rights are protected by federal law (decided through legislation and the court to be protected by The Constitution) – religious rights are protected in the 1st Amendment of The Constitution. Given religious views of homosexuality, it will come to “live and let live” by the activists on the left or what will be decades of legislation and courtroom culture wars that will accomplish little more than give earlier retirements to lawyers and further split the country. Religious people run the gamut when it comes to gay rights, gay marriage. Religious interpretations of gay rights are numerous. The left’s loudest minority (the hot take online newssourze columnist and Twitter addict) saw any objection or protection for religious reasons as outright prejudice with no middle. If you objected, you were a racist or bigot. For a country that’s 80 percent Christian, that’s quite a number to alienate, even if over half (which was the case in polls last year) favor gay marriage.
  • A best-selling book “So You’ve been Publicly Shamed” is out by former admitted Twitter shamer Jon Ronson, chronicling people who violated politically correct tropes on Twitter, or made a bad or off-color or flat out stupid joke, or photographed themselves disrespecting Arlington National Ceremony, as one example. We hear and read of the mobs harassing feminists involved in fighting GamerGate, but Gawker and other similar sites gleefully lit torches and handed out pitchforks to shame private people on social media, some with fewer than a couple dozen followers. The shaming over anti-PC tweets isn’t coming from puritanical Protestants.
  • North Carolina passed a gender bathroom law. The NCAA, NBA and other sports organizations, who normally run from politics faster than Michael Phelps swims the medley, started banning events from the state. If you are in North Carolina and ambivalent at the most, this doesn’t qualify as fair.

Among classes of the white, religious, conservative, working class, middle class – there was already angst, and while the righteousness of that angst varies, identity politics has beget an angry electorate that has reasons for being angry at both parties. Whether it was shipping their jobs overseas, labeled bigots for religious beliefs, or repeatedly being pushed aside for organized finance, corporate or political interest. If you feel elections don’t matter, they are all the same, things can’t get worse, why not vote for the toupee? Why not vote for the one person the smirking elite can’t stand on any level? What better way to get back at millionaire actors who think you are a backwoods hick for having a shotgun and a Bible. Bitter and clingy? If you watch TV and hear what the so-called liberals with their interests at heart say in private, they have reason.

A vote for Donald angers the correct people. What’s to lose? Nobody could be more insider-DC than Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders was a socialist, but a few dots connected here, and Clinton is a serial email deleter, ordered the terrorists to attack the Benghazi embassy, did a Goodfellas herself on Vince Foster and whatever is dreamed up. Not that the motivation is needed. Just go on Twitter and suggest poor people probably wouldn’t benefit much from free 100 GB internet from Google (yes, this was controversial).

And Democrat or Republican, they deserve it.

Is this real? Gamers largely were liberal – still are. 4chan, the merry pranksters of the internet, found itself on the opposite side of its own politics during GamerGate. Why? Because they were pushed away. The way Ted Cruz ate John Boehner who ate Arlen Specter, it’s the way Obama and Clinton are being eaten by the Bernie-istas and social justice Twitter. 4chan is leading the troll army for Trump and Trump appreciates it.

President Obama, the Clintons and Democrats as a whole understood the nature of national politics, the forgotten vast middle of the electorate, but the fringes of their party are now in danger of putting them in the same position as the Republicans. How did this work for the GOP? A constant purity contest, which is good for talk show hosts, pundits selling books and websites selling outrage – but it made the party unelectable to anyone outside its core base, or anyone differing on a single issue.

Right now the progressive movement isn’t pushing, but shoving, mainstream white voters to Trump. It’s not that social activists don’t have points or aren’t right in many cases, but there has to be room to agree to disagree, and there isn’t. Each leg of the identity stool is fighting the other. This is why, when The Atlantic printed a report that white American middle-aged men are the only group in the world with a rising mortality rate, liberal writer Joan Walsh jumped on Twitter to dispute the fact and said it was in fact white middle-aged women who were the victims of shortening lifespans – as if cities of working-class families had one gender in the relationship outliving the others (subsequent reporting showed working class middle-aged women and men are both facing higher mortality rates in the U.S., this trend will soon spread to rural citizens as a whole). Dying is now a political contest.

Trump is not a flash in the pan. Ross Perot’s third-party bid was a populist insurgency – it happens from time to time. Trump’s insurgency was more vast and changed the electoral map in ways Democrats and poll junkies have yet to decipher or understand.

He’s not an exception or even a symptom, but a reckoning on one hand an logical eventuality on the other. Whatever he is, both parties are responsible.

 

 

Crime may be at historical lows, but Trump’s law and order appeal is based on reality for rural areas

Tragedy in West Virginia. Twenty-seven overdoses in four hours –  one death. The overdoses occurred in the same area, within a couple miles of each other.

All of the overdoses happened within a mile and a half radius, which leads officials to believe they are from the same batch of heroin. The overdose victims ranged from 20 years old to 50, according to Merry.

This story is familiar in Dayton and its exurbs and the rural areas surrounding it. The drug was likely bought by all 27 victims from the same dealer, and laced with fentanyl, a narcotic more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl is what killed musician and star Prince. Where I work, a metro newspaper and major local news affiliate, this is news we report every weekend.

When dealers are running low on heroin (which is in epidemical demand), they cut heroin with fentanyl, and dealers seldom let customers know the product has been cut and could be fatal. Overdoses occur regularly, many causing death. Police departments, such as the Dayton Police Department in Ohio, have officers carrying NARCAN, a drug used to revive and save heroin ODs. This is standard equipment for officers, like a flashlight, handcuffs or a sidearm.

This is recent news to most, but this surge is far from a recent happening. Over a decade ago, law enforcement and hospitals in rural areas began seeing a switch from meth to heroin. Meth imported from Mexico was cheaper than meth produced by local dealers. At the same time new legislation made it more difficult to acquire opioids and other prescription pain medication. Heroin acts in the bloodstream like morphine. For those addicted to pain medication (many through bad practice by their own doctors), it was a natural switch that politicians and law enforcement didn’t anticipate. Now the United States is in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in at least 20 years, maybe ever.

Mike Burkholder of The Evening Leader and Wapakoneta Daily News wrote extensively about this problem nine years ago, but like many small town reports, it fell on deaf ears to others outside rural areas. It’s news to Washington DC, but almost everything from rural America is.

When Donald Trump speaks of law and order, he isn’t only speaking about immigration, inner city violence, he’s hitting a chord with rural working class and poor whites who have watched crime skyrocket due to the exploding epidemic in small towns. One exburb of Dayton had 80 heroin ODs through three months. They’ve occurred locally in Walmart and McDonalds bathrooms, in a Walgreens, and it’s eaten into the middle and upper middle class families.

Trump will probably not be president. But this problem will remain if Hillary Clinton doesn’t push aside the normal fight among progressive identity groups and take on the white working class and poor as the most serious part of her agenda. The Obama administration this week announced $17 million in funding to fight the heroin epidemic – it’s not nearly enough. It wouldn’t be nearly enough in Ohio. Promising more would outrage other groups that make up the Democratic voting base (poor and working class whites tend to vote Republican), who use academic language and old arguments about white privilege, which automatically fall apart when discussing the heroin epidemic. When a study was released early this year saying the mortality rate is only rising worldwide among one group of people – working class and poor American whites – progressive journalists were standing in line to either discount the findings as a whole or to twist them to fit their own gender or race politics, the same aggrandizement contest that has become a breeding ground on Twitter, and was the focus of garbage sites such as Gawker.

Hillary Clinton has long needed her Sister Souljah moment. To explain, Sister Souljah was a female rapper in the early 90s. She appeared at an MTV event with then candidate Bill Clinton, who loudly denounced her lyrics as violent against police and something he didn’t support. Hillary needs to make an honest reach to the rural white and working class, and do so in a loud fashion. Until this bloc is brought back into play for both parties, the vast disintegration of the political center will never get fixed. The GOP will continue to be at the beck and call of the Breitbart faction and the danger that runs from extremism continues.

Trump is probably losing the election – I say probably, because nothing is a certainty. But his candidacy hasn’t caused divisions and rank and furor in the country – it has revealed issues that have been long standing to those outside the corridor. Until the Democrats put aside the pecking order of their coalition, and start to work to truly unify the country, these problems will only get worse, and extremist fringes will continue to have a large voice.

The Democratic convention was a great start, with Ronald Reagan invoked (given the changes in the GOP, I’m sure the former Democrat and President would not have minded), and there are Republicans who would be more comfortable working with Democrats from the center than their own party on he right (John Kasich is the example). But invoking it, preaching optimism and unity, and focusing the country as one is one thing on the stump, and another thing in government.

This will be Hillary Clinton’s toughest challenge if she’s president.

Trump’s entire campaign is a massive, Friday news dump

Chris Zappone of Fairfax Media, home of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote a remarkable article on the nature of Trump’s media strategy, where it came from, and why it’s effective.

If you study political science, media and propaganda or pay attention to Eastern European or Eurasian politics, the approach is familiar. It’s pure Putin at its core, embraced by his surrogates across the former WARSAW Pact, flooding the media cycle with stories that are good, bad, false, more false – it doesn’t matter. Media fact checkers can’t keep pace with the flood, as Zappone notes, and neither can other candidates. Zappone’s critique, based off a RAND research paper titled the “Firehose of Falsehood,” explains this strategy – a strategy Trump used his entire campaign, and was quickly evident the night of the first debate, when he stole the news cycle from a willing media, an entire political party, and over a dozen other candidates.

Immediately after the first Republican debate, Donald Trump was hardly the topic of conversation. His pugilistic back and forth with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was noted, and negatively, but it didn’t rise to the level of historic ripostes of debates past (in terms of confrontations, it was no Jack Kennedy).

Afterward, Trump’s performance and his toe-to-toe with Kelly over his treatment toward female workers was note two or five depending on the source. John Kasich was the prominent moderate, the compassionate conservative, while the rest pushed their bona fides to the establishment conservatives. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie was the chatter from the punditry into the night.

Then the sun rose, the morning came, and the dawn of a new era of campaigning, elections and politics in the U.S.. Donald Trump began attacking Kelly in the middle of the night on his Twitter account. By the time morning news shows and the reporters were up, the story shifted from the other candidates and Trump’s alleged sexism to Trump vs. Kelly.

This would be the proceedings for the rest of the Republican primary. Trump would dominate the news cycle by the hour, just on whatever he tweeted at the moment. He would trash CNN for hours on the trail, then the network would give him minute upon minute of primetime at his whim.

Trump’s name recognition, his say-anything sound byte moments, followed by incessant Tweeting and a network of dummy social accounts and overseas trolls turning the wheels and opening the gates.

 

 

 

Masculinity is not a problem in law enforcement – nor anywhere else

Frank Rudy Cooper, Professor of Law at Suffolk University, writes in the TheConversation.com the issue with police violence in the United States is masculinity.

By masculinity, I simply mean popular assumptions about what is manly behavior. For instance, men do not wear dresses, do not ask for directions and do not dance. Or so we are told.

If one is a man, or just wants to perform masculinity, one will be drawn toward the behaviors that are popularly understood to be manly. An important tendency of masculine behavior in the United States is to confront disrespect with violence.

In policing, this has meant punishing the “noncrime” of “contempt of cop” (offending a police officer) with trumped up charges of law-breaking or physical violence.

Cooper takes some of the bite out of the headline (who knows who wrote it), instead saying “popular assumptions of masculinity and manly behavior,” but reading further, what he’s referring to is power dynamics not masculinity. In the context he writes, one could replace masculinity with femininity and it wouldn’t mean anything different.

The shooting of Philando Castille can be better explained through what author and polemicist Christopher Hitchens called the relationship between the dominator and the dominated. In Castille’s neighborhood, he was pulled over 52 times, half his citations were dismissed. This same type of over-policing, of Orwellian abuse of power through the micro-violation or non-violation isn’t a product of masculinity, it’s political and systemic, of domination. The case in Ferguson was similar, with citizens regularly given dozens of citations for innocuous violations, or no violations at all.

This is abuse of law, abuse of citizens, is where violence starts. It’s not a matter of masculinity but of policy. Of keeping a bankrupt locality alive so some people can keep retirements, health care and a salary. It’s incremental, as is outrage.

Cooper isn’t talking system, he’s talking one-on-one interactions with the police, which is where perceived notions of respect and manliness, as he would suggest, are the issue with police and violence. Disrespect is given by a black male, a while male cop sees this disrespect and reacts in the perceived masculine way, with aggression.

I have no degree in gender studies, but losing your cool isn’t considered masculine. Righteous anger is one thing, psychotic isn’t.

Movies and culture have changed perceptions on manliness, but not in a good way. The Tim Allen sitcom “Home Improvement” was derisively called Man Improvement. It was assumed for years stay-at-home fathers were depressed or angry or jealous at their spouses. These assumptions were false.

The traditional John Wayne model of the frontier man, rugged and individual, is a stereotype that wasn’t reflect in Wayne’s films. His characters were rugged and individualistic, but they also showed community, cooperation, cool under pressure, and the ultimate trait of masculinity – responsibility. Maybe stoic, but had heart and was self-sufficient and sufficient to others, most of all family. Christianity supplied a value system, and most importantly, someone (God) you need to answer to.

That definition fits many police, it also fits many men, and it’s a proper description of masculinity.

 

Dear Trump campaign: This isn’t Kiev, this is the United States

Donald Trump’s “Bad 72 Hours,” as put delicately by CNN, started with the presidential candidate’s criticism of Khiz Khan, a Muslim father whose soldier son earned the Medal of Honor after saving 10 of his fellow troops from a suicide bomber in 2004.”Why didn’t we hear from his wife?” Trump questioned, addressing the legitimate point of women’s rights among those practicing Islam. But Ghazala Khan wasn’t having it, and addressed the criticism in the Washington Post, saying she did not speak at the convention due to the emotion of the moment and the loss she continues to feel for her son.

This led to most of the GOP, the VFW, and everyone short of the Islamic State blasting Trump for his remarks toward a Gold Star family.

As this unfolded, numbers from the Republican National Convention were historic – for the first time in history, a candidate came out of his own convention with voters less likely to vote for him than before it started. Hillary Clinton experienced a significant bounce, and is now nine points ahead of Trump in one poll. Despite the ultimate outcome of the RNC, Trump experienced a brief bounce among independents that had him leading Clinton for the first time since May – that quickly disappeared, as the DNC recalled the days of the 1980s GOP – the Shining City on the Hill; numerous Republicans deploring Trump and pledging votes to Clinton; a former General and Afghanistan commander blasting Trump’s foreign policy; and homage’s to American exceptionalism, most notably in the speech given by First Lady Michelle Obama, who left the podium emotional.

The Trump campaign’s response to the fiasco of their own making is to threaten a Constitutional crisis – if they can’t win, they are going to burn it down.

I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged,” Trump said in a visit to Columbus, Ohio. A comment strongly rebuked by President Obama. The real double-down came when Trump staffer Roger Stone went on the podcast of Milo Yiannopolous, and accused both parties of hacking election machines.

This point is important. Milo is a moderator on Reddit for Trump supporters forum. He’s also a favorite among 4chan and disaffected GamerGaters who felt burned by liberals they supported when media groups like Buzzfeed and Gawker supposedly turned on them so ferociously over what should have been no more than a message board soap opera.

“I have no doubt that after the last election, when Karl Rove, who was George Bush’s campaign manager and a Romney partisan, insisted that ‘no no, your numbers have to be wrong,’ he said on Fox, ‘Romney definitely carried Ohio,’ and the reason he was so certain is because it was bought and paid for,” he claimed. “He knew the fix was supposed to be in. Therefore I can only conclude that sometimes things don’t stay bought, and perhaps Obama came in with a better offer.”

The Rove rigging Ohio story is important. One legend traveling the message boards and 4chan for years is Anonymous came in and saved the sanctity of the Ohio election by de-hacking voting machines and counts that were rigged by Rove and his dastardly fellow Republicans. This was why Rove’s memorable 2012 election night meltdown occurred.

I don’t believe for a moment anything in Ohio was rigged. I think the Anonymous story is akin to thousands of tall tales you’ll find across the internet, most of which have more grounding in truth. The Republicans lost Ohio because their polling was awful and their understanding of the electorate was worse. In no fashion did they see Obama having a second term, this was conventional wisdom in the party dating back to 2008 and Mitch McConnell’s declaration that the Senate and Congress’s main purpose was to deny Obama a second term.

Exit polls showed the Obama “coalition” showed up in the same form it did in 2008, and the incumbent president won easily. That’s closer to what actually happened then the story of Anonymous hackers saving the day or the Obama’s having a better cyberwarfare unit stashed in some RV somewhere.

This reasoning also turned out wrong. The electorate is whiter than researchers suspect because most of the calculations on demographics are taken from exit polls, which have been inaccurate. More scientific surveys had evangelicals shorted by as much as six percent of the total electorate. If the numbers are wrong, how did Obama win? He did better among white voters than the media or exit polls suggested.

So rather than buck up, offer a positive message and try to swing voters skeptical of Clinton and Democrats on trade, social issues and security, Trump and company now say the election will be rigged.

Campaign manager Paul Manafort and the rest of Trump’s staff, who I will now refer to as “Red Team Six,” are now working to delegitimizing the election two months before it happens. This doesn’t occur in U.S. politics, it occurs in third-world countries Manafort finds himself in, making boat loads of money from Moscow, and helping soften images of dictators and people who think of assassination the way U.S. politicians think of town hall meetings.

In other words, it’s a disgrace. Obama has rebuked Trump and called him unfit for office. He’s called on Republicans to disavow Trump and not vote for him. Republicans who earlier offered tepid endorsements have criticized Trump, but have yet to dump him to the curb, a telling sign.

This is now on the GOP, conservative media, the large billionaire donor base, and cowardly politicians. Trump is the manifestation of the conservative movement, starting with with talk radio, to the takeover of the tea party by the donor class and the conservative media establishment, to Ted Cruz and his efforts to crash the government. Republicans can fix much of their own damage by dumping Trump.

 

 

 

 

Don’t look for the media to keep barbarian Donald Trump from the gates

My column in the Sydney Morning Herald: Donald Trump is the Day of Reckoning for conservative media, which now cries to legitimate media to save them from their own candidate and their own creation – their base.

 

Putin on the Ritz – How the media finally seized on Trump’s concerning ties with Russia

Waiting for the national media to notice ties between Russia and the Trump campaign was long and frustrating – especially to those concerned over the dire ramifications,  but the grand unveiling of the Trump-Russo romance this week has taken over the media cycle. The DNC has said since June the Russians were responsible for their widely-reported attack on the Democrats email servers, but today the Clinton campaign took the next step and said the hack was done to benefit Donald Trump. This was a connection some took for granted, as Trump’s ties to the Russians are deep and are throughout his staff, and are little surprise to those who have watched the Russians behave on social media platforms. But it was a big step in the campaign of pointing out just who is behind the Trump campaign.

A few reporters have looked at Russia and its involvement in the 2016 election. Chris Zappone of Fairfax Media has regularly wrote and blogged on how Russian trolls and twitter accounts (often bots) had a distinct Trump flavor. How many Trump twitter supporters not only like the Donald, but are strangely up to speed on Russian domestic politics? Too many to not at least be curious, if not flat-out cynical. I’ve written about how this same group has a horrifying anti-Semitic streak.

Most of this was limited to the fantastic reporting of Franlkin Foer, Zappone, and others who picked up on the trends on social media such as myself.

Then the flood gates opened due to one morning TV rant – and an email.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s criticism of Donald Trump was light by today’s political standards. You could hardly call Kasich’s statements about Trump a major criticism according to the Donald’s own rhetorical standards

Kasich didn’t like Trump, that was clear. But surely, the Trump camp felt, the Governor would want to speak at the first major party convention in his state in 70 years, so the bait was simple – if you give an endorsement, you speak, probably in prime time, and if negotiated correctly, maybe a keynote. Kasich said no and to make his point more plain,  decided not to attend the convention. He spent the week in Cleveland, but at party functions around the city.

Whether Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort lost his mind on the morning of Monday, July 18, or if he planned a grand strategic maneuver to turn the party and Ohioans against Kasich, and put them in the Trump column, nobody knows but Manafort, Trump and a few others. The result was a morning appearance on MSNBC – of all networks – where he double-barrell blasted Kasich for not giving an endorsement and not appearing at the convention; calling Kasich “petulant”and an embarrassment to his state and party. This was the first negative word Trump’s campaign had said about Kasich since the primaries started – Trump himself spoke better of him than he did of other candidates, usually with respect to the governor, but criticized trade deals Kasich supported. The reason for this more polite approach was quite calculated.

What happened the next three days showed the campaign staff for the Governor of Ohio was smarter than the campaign staff for Donald Trump. More importantly, someone finally called the emperor on his lack of clothing.

Once Manafort took his first swing, Kasich strategist landed what Vladimir Putin, a judo practitioner, would know as an ippon. He left him flat on his back and beat.

“Manafort’s problem, after all those years on the lam with thugs and autocrats, he can’t recognize principle and integrity,” Kasich strategist John Weaver wrote Jonathan Martin of the New York Times. “He has brought great professionalism, direct from Kiev (Ukraine) to Trump world.”

A day later a source on the Kasich staff revealed that Trump and Manafort wanted the Ohio governor as their Vice President. Manafort and Trump’s son Donald Jr. went to Kasich strategist John Weaver with an offer he nor the governor could possibly refuse – to make him the most powerful vice president in history. This led to the now famous line of Don Jr. telling the Kasich strategist, the governor could run foreign and domestic policy, while Trump would be in charge of “making America great again.” Kasich said no.

Trump denied offering Kasich the VP slot in a very short tweet. His campaign then blasted Kasich, saying he was never considered and said his background “read like a dirty novel,” which was interesting since if Trump’s staff didn’t consider him for VP, why were they looking into his background?

Trump’s camp became suddenly bored talking about Kasich’s allegation that he was offered the VP spot after the Columbus Dispatch confirmed with four more sources in the governor’s campaign that the offer had been made.

When Ted Cruz left the RNC stage to boos and yells for not endorsing The Donald, a Trump chief staffer immediately ran to CNN and gave a ranting speech about how if Trump wins, he’s booting both Kasich and Cruz from the GOP.

As the Democratic National Convention starts tomorrow, Kasich told the Philadelphia Inquirer he doubts Trump can win Ohio. He called Trump a divider and said “Ohio was a snapshot of the country and wanted a positive way forward.”

Trump’s response was to say he may start a super-PAC – even as president – to fight Cruz and Kasich in whatever future political endeavors they choose.

Weaver’s comments took new meaning today. When he inferred Manafort had been “on the lam” with autocrats, the first thought was Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who Manafort had worked, before the Putin apparatchik was chased from the country after a rigged election and a popular revolt (Yanukovych now resides in exile under the warm, tender embrace of Putin).

Or Weaver knew what Franklin Foer tweeted and wrote in Slate today: Manafort once lost investment cash from a Russian billionaire oligarch and crime lord, and went into hiding for a sustained period, with some of his former business colleagues asking in cryptic emails if they knew his whereabouts.

If Paul Manafort wasn’t real, Martin Scorcese would have to invent him.