Saturday, September 10, 2016

Indian Protest Heard

Native American tribes won a significant victory on Friday when the Obama administration halted construction of an oil pipeline on federal land that was opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who were supported in a series of protest demonstrations by a score of other tribal groups.

The ecological/climate crisis angle is part of the story, but so is the specific agency of Native peoples. The Native groups were protesting because the local tribe feared for the consequences to its water supply of an oil pipeline leak, and also opposed the pipeline's transit across a sacred site.  There's more background in this NPR report.

The action was announced jointly by the Justice Department, Interior and the U.S. Army who owned the land. They said in their statement: "This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects."

They said they would initiate government to government talks with the tribe.

In addition to the issue at hand, this statement may well set a precedent.  It essentially states the federal government's position as suggesting equal standing with Indian tribal governments.  It is a victory for Native American sovereignty and dignity.

For despite recent lip service, American Indian voices are still not heard, institutionally or individually as equals, with different but legitimate and ultimately valuable perspectives and points of view.  More specifically, Indian communities are not heard politically concerning issues that affect them.  In this particular case, when non-Native communities objected to their water supplies being endangered, the pipeline route was changed--to endanger Native communities.

Demo included participants from North Coast tribes.  Photo from Lost Coast Outpost.                                                                                                              
It seems everybody is an expert on Indians and what's good for them, except Indians.  I know enough to know I am not an expert, which seems to make me an anomaly.  Yet even I find the confident ignorance of many non-Natives shocking and embarrassing.

I had to laugh when recently (non-Native) researchers concluded that the earliest Americans could not have arrived by the land bridge from Asia, as (non-Native) science has insisted for decades was how it happened.  Native scholar Vine Deloria, Jr. was only the most outspoken critic of this assumption.  Although non-Native scholars like Levi-Strauss also thought it was wrong,  Deloria felt it was political--a way of dating Indian ancestors to shortly before European invasion--and he showed how this had been used against tribal claims.

Many Indian tribes have stories of much longer residence, and stories that suggest other ways--by sea for instance--of their ancestors arriving.  But such information is not often taken seriously by the predominantly non-Native scientists who tend to hold fast to theories about the ancestors of today's Indians even in the face of contrary evidence.

Guilt is probably part of the defensiveness on a wide range of other issues as well, for what Europeans did during the history they repress and suppress. They cling to cherished pioneer myths that substitute for owning historical horrors, such as California's enslavement and genocide of Native peoples.  

President Obama has met several times with leaders and residents of Native communities.  Now his administration has taken a potentially major step in hearing them.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Confederacy of Dunces (Updated)

Candidates Clinton and Trump appeared separately on what was billed as a foreign policy forum by NBC News on Wednesday evening.  According to most reviews, neither did all that well, but the most vilified participant was the questioner Matt Lauer.

Matt Lauer’s Pathetic Interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Is the Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in This Campaign was just the headline to Jonathan Chiat's takedown.  Lauer spent inordinate proportion of the allotted time questioning the emails, and tried to rush Clinton through answers to complex foreign policy questions.  He let Trump get away with lying and spouting nonsense.  And wearily I say as usual, global heating didn't even come up.

To this Frank Rich (in Matt Lauer’s Gift to Donald Trump) adds that NBC's optics favored Trump over Clinton.  He also said it was a disaster with political implications.

In the New York Times James Poniewozik wrote that Lauer was "lost at sea."  Another Times piece summarizes the immediate, nearly universal deploring of Lauer's performance.  The WPost's Daily 202 does also.

The NBC event fits into the ongoing narrative of the double standard.  Charles M. Blow in the NYTimes: "This [Trump] is not an honest man. This is not a trustworthy man. The fact that people believe he’s honest is a result of a failed media that aims its sincerest critique at Clinton’s deficiencies with the truth, but applies an entertainment standard to Trump that corrects falsehoods but doesn’t castigate him for them."

As usual the followup stories can't keep up with all the outrageous, stupid and lying assertions that Trump made in his segment.  But they say, he looked good doing it.

In 2012 President Obama was ambushed in the first presidential debate by a Mitt Romney who confidently brandished brand new positions as if he'd always held them, and rattled a succession of assertions and attacks too fast and too many to keep up with.  Media scorekeepers gave him the debate.  Now knowing what to expect, President Obama came back strong and won the second and third debates.

Now Hillary Clinton knows what to expect even before the first debate, which may well be the only debate that many people watch.  There's always a risk in giving Trump equivalence by being on the same stage with him.  And his TV smarts and the confidence of the psychotic salesman are factors she has to deal with.  If the Clinton campaign is smart enough to win this election, they'll have to show it by learning from this dry run.

Otherwise it's all ammunition for the despair that is never far off.  Trump is the Homegrown Hitler, the Siberian Candidate (which he demonstrated again at the forum) and psychologically unfit for any high office, without the attention span to administer a city let alone this always imperiled nation. And in so many ways he is more dangerous than any terrorist. But there he is--the Republican nominee.

Trump is a moron, as is Matt Lauer, as is Gary Johnson --just look at their faces, just look into their eyes. Those are G.W. Bush eyes, and in comparison to them Bush is practically Einstein.  Meanwhile President Obama is dealing with intractable problems I can't even keep up with, and he talks about the trends in the climate crisis as "terrifying." 

This campaign is therefore terrifying, but that's been the case for every campaign I can recall since 1980.  Jonathan Chiat in a later post provides a long analysis of why Hillary Clinton is so easily vilified.  (And sexism is part of it.)  But as he writes, the mechanics of campaign coverage is part of the madness.  So it's not just the Clinton campaign that has to do better---it's certainly the media, especially the debate masters.

In other Homemade Hitler news, GOP vp candidate Pence joins Trump in calling Putin a stronger leader than Obama--which is simply to say that a de facto dictator is "stronger" and therefore better than an American President.  This as well as Trump's blustering foolishness about changing things (like military leadership) a constitutional President can't, is pretty explicit in asserting that he wants to be elected dictator.

In addition to dissing his own President in favor of the Russian dictator, Trump took an unprecedented step farther into the abyss by criticizing American foreign policy and other aspects of the American system on a Russian state-owned tv network controlled by Putin.

Eugene Robinson adds:

"Trump repeated his complaint that the United States should have “taken the oil” in Iraq, noting that “it used to be, to the victor belong the spoils.” Yes, that was true in the time of Genghis Khan. Today, under international law, plunder is a war crime — and not the only one Trump wants our military to commit. He has said in the past that our forces also should practice torture “worse than waterboarding” against suspected terrorists. He would ask our service members to dishonor the uniform and all it represents."

"Face the truth: Trump has to be the most dangerously ignorant major-party presidential candidate in history."

The Trump Corruption in Florida case continues to heat.  The Washington Post editorial board: IF DONALD TRUMP were treated like an ordinary presidential candidate, the speculations swirling around an illegal donation his charitable foundation gave to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) might dog his campaign from now until Election Day. The situation smells of influence-buying. Even if one takes Ms. Bondi’s explanations seriously, the facts already on the record are damning."

In Florida, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board has called for a federal investigation.

50 Years Ago Today

"The Man Trap," the first episode of Star Trek aired on NBC on September 8, 1966.  

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Double Standard and/or Fraud Fatigue?

Complaints of a media double standard on Clinton (lots of prominent stories, nothing illegal found) and Trump ( less prominent stories, actual illegal stuff found with possibly more) cited here by Josh Marshall and Paul Krugman got other voices in support on Tuesday.  Plus more scrutiny on the Trump possible bribe story, partly due to Hillary talking about it to the traveling press.

 There were two pieces in the WPost:  Paul Waldman asks Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?         and Daniel Dresner attempts to answer the question Why Hillary Clinton’s perceived corruption seems to echo louder than Donald Trump’s actual corruption.  

Waldman explains the questions involved in the Trump Foundation contribution to the campaign of Florida's attorney-general, who then declined to prosecute Trump on allegations of fraud made against Trump University, after she solicited the campaign contribution from him and received it.  It raises lots of questions--  "But here’s the thing: We don’t know the answers to those questions, because almost nobody seems to be pursuing them."  Waldman lists the stories about Trump that aren't being investigated.

Dresner notes that so far the Clinton Foundation stories have turned up only "nothingburgers." "To be clear, I don’t disagree with much of this coverage. I’m just noting that there’s an awful damn lot of it."  The media has covered some Trump scandals but the Clinton coverage "echoes louder" partly because cable news provides the chamber.  (Also the coverage on the Clinton Foundation is way way bigger than on the Trump Foundation, at least so far.)

Dresner suggest two reasons why: Clinton is leading, and there's lots of material pertaining to her on the record, because it's all been made public.  Not really ironically, Trump is harder to cover because he keeps everything secret, like his tax returns.  (Which 74% of voters believe he should reveal, but he's still refusing.)

None of this says why Clinton is "perceived" as corrupt without evidence--it can't all be Faux News.

But basically Waldman says the media isn't investigating the Trump Foundation and other Trump problems, and Dresner says they aren't doing so because it's hard.

But hard as it may be (requiring like, you know, actual reporting), this might be changing.  An editorial by the Miami Herald explains why the Trump Foundation/Trump U. story "deserves a closer look," with Florida details.  It also mentions that absolutely nothing illegal has turned up about the Clinton Foundation.   NPR did a segment and covered the story, noting that a political contribution by a foundation was illegal, the IRS caught Trump and he paid a fine. But the story had little or no new reporting.

Trump on Tuesday denied ever speaking to the Florida a-g, then (since she's on the record as having asked for the donation from him in a personal phone call) his campaign walked it back by saying he meant he never spoke to her about Trump U.

Another reason--which keeps coming up--why Trump outrages aren't fully covered is that there are so many of them, several times a day.  On Tuesday there were his completely nonsensical answers to substantive questions in a staged town hall, his dubious military endorsements, and the leaking of Democrat emails by a likely Russian hacker to a New York newspaper owned by Trump's son-in-law and campaign honcho.  Another Siberian Candidate moment?

Meanwhile, a CNN national poll shows the likely voter race tied (reason to believe this is an outlyer) and a huge Washington Post poll of all 50 states done over a month shows a tight race but clear electoral vote advantage to Clinton.  The surprise in this poll is the number of close states, both blue and red--including Texas, a virtual tie.  But this poll was taken over a volatile time, so it's not clear what it says about the state of the race right now.

As for truth, the WPost shoots down another rabid right Internet cliche--that Hillary was fired from the Watergate committee-- and the New Yorker begins a weekly series "Trump and the Truth" (because he's really no good at it) with Trump and immigration.

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Laboring for Headlines (with Updates)

Labor Day being the traditional campaign kickoff, news media stories are laboring for hot contest headlines. Trump cuts into Clinton’s lead as crucial stretch begins screams the Politico headline.  But an NBC analysis shows that Trump isn't cutting into anything--Clinton's numbers have gone down slightly in some polls but Trump's have not gone up.

The Politico story correctly emphasizes the importance of the debates, which are scheduled to begin in late September.  But the WPost wonders whether the Donald will show up for all or any of them.  Though it seems Trump should be happy with at least one of the moderators.  Update: Trump said Monday that he will participate in all three debates.

One thing that is true is that Labor Day begins the most active campaigning, especially for Hillary who has devoted much of August to fundraising.  Good news for her fans in this Boston Globe report suggesting she's hitting her stride as a campaigner.  (Plus the latest state polls look good--an 8 pt.lead holding in PA, 4 points in North Carolina.)

But Josh Marshall continues to raise the alarm that coverage is disproportionate to the benefit of Trump (especially in the NY Times, he asserts.) See here and here. The Clinton Foundation gets scary coverage, but Trump's documented attempted (and apparently successful) bribe of a Florida official is pretty much ignored.

Later on Monday in the NYTimes, Paul Krugman agreed with this assessment, asserting that news media is pushing images of Clinton akin to how the media distorted Al Gore in 2000.

Reporters keep picking at the smallest oddities of the Clinton email investigation while missing the overall picture, which is--according to Kevin Drum:"... this report is pretty much an almost complete exoneration of Hillary Clinton. She wasn’t prohibited from using a personal device or a personal email account, and others at state did it routinely. She’s told the truth all along about why she did it. Colin Powell did indeed advise her about using personal email shortly after she took office, but she chose to follow the rules rather than skirt them, as Powell did. She didn’t take her BlackBerry into her office. She communicated with only a very select group of 13 people. She took no part in deciding which emails were personal before handing them over to State. She had nothing to do with erasing information on the PRN server. That was a screw-up on PRN’s end. She and her staff all believed at the time that they were careful not to conduct sensitive conversations over unclassified email systems. And there’s no evidence that her server was ever hacked."

But I have to say the media mis-coverage that fills me with the most despair isn't about the political race.  As I posted prominently--and as two British papers reported prominently--during President Obama's visit in China, the US and China announced they were both ratifying the Paris climate crisis agreement--so far the most significant international effort to save the planet.  But is that what the WPost chose to emphasize?  Naaaah.  An argument at the airport between minor Chinese officials and (significantly I suppose) the American press led the story: Obama’s China visit gets off to rocky start, reflecting current relations.  More evidence reflecting that we are indeed too stupid to live.

How about the Senate and the House?  WPost teases with a headline, though the actual story is a report about a few races with no answer to the question.  But Politico reports on races in Indiana and North Carolina and opines that the Dems chances of retaking the Senate "just keep getting better."

Monday pm updates: Why bother with a new post?  Trump makes a fool of himself--again--over that supposed snub in China.  But in more substantive news, the WPost reports: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are probing what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions, intelligence and congressional officials said.

Finally, a capable summary of the state of electoral play on Labor Day from Ed Kilgore.  His assessment doesn't vary much from my earlier take on the conventional wisdom but he has more info.