I didn't watch much TV or follow too much news during my short mini-vacation last week, but on Wednesday night before bed I checked in briefly on MSNBC's "Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell, just to make sure I hadn't missed any truly shocking headlines. And in fact, I was shocked by what I saw, although it was hardly what I'd consider news. Almost the entire show was devoted to one presidential candidate: The bombastic, xenophobic, crass, frequently dishonest Republican billionaire Donald Trump.
It was almost a half-hour into the show, and I wondered what else was going on on the world. (Had Greece's government suddenly found a cache of buried treasure to end its life-of-death financial crisis?) "When we come back," O'Donnell solemnly intoned, "our panel will discuss the latest developments with Donald Trump!" At the bottom of the screen was the chyron that MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News now use 23 1/2 hours a day to scream "BREAKING NEWS," usually when nothing of the sort is occurring. The current crisis: Republican national chairman Reince Priebus had allegedly phoned Trump to plead with the $8.7 Billion Man (probably another lie, FWIW) to tone down his outrageous Mexican-bashing campaign.
I'm so old I remember when Donald Trump was going to save the USFL (spoiler alert: he didn't), not America. But now -- a month before the first debate, six months before the Iowa caucuses, and almost 17 months before America picks our 45th president -- the short-fingerted vulgarian hasn't just sucked all of the oxygen out of the 2016 presidential race, but has shattered a few windows from the ensuing vacuum.
When Pope Francis comes to Philadelphia in September, he's scheduled to appear at an event in front of Independence Hall, where our Founding Fathers celebrated "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" in 1776. There, the pontiff will speak on religious freedom and also on immigration, presumably in favor of freer movement among the world's peoples. Unfortunately, to see that you may have to get through or over the Great Wall of Philadelphia, the kind of security fence that might make Donald Trump salivate if we could only move it 1,500 miles or so south:
Federal officials and organizers said Monday that they are discussing the possible construction of a fence as high as 8 feet around parts of Center City as security for Pope Francis' visit in September, but that talks are still preliminary.
A source involved in the event planning said portions of Center City would be surrounded by fencing, but that the footprint of the security perimeter is being worked out and is largely contingent on the pope's Philadelphia itinerary, which could change in the next three months.
Wasn't it just the other day that we were saying that the Not So Sweet 16 -- the Republican March Madness bracket of presidential candidates, also known as the Gone South Regional -- were trashing the GOP brand for good with unpopular, bass-ackwards views on everything from climate change to same-sex marriage. If so, then this probably won't surprise you:
PRINCETON, N.J. -- In the second quarter of 2015, Democrats regained an advantage over Republicans in terms of Americans' party affiliation. A total of 46% of Americans identified as Democrats (30%) or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (16%), while 41% identified as Republicans (25%) or leaned Republican (16%). The two parties were generally even during the previous three quarters, including the fourth quarter of 2014, when the midterm elections took place.
Actually, in this center-left nation of ours, Democrats have the edge of most of the time. But Republicans should have had some momentum. what with their gains in the 2014 election (aided by national Democrats, who stood for nothing) and President Obama's lame-duckness. But, to paraphrase Frank and Nancy Sinatra, then they had to spoil it all by saying something stupid like...what they stood for. When a majority of Americans were celebrating the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, the condemnation from the 16 Dwarfs was almost universal.
There's a lot of things that the Founding Fathers probably couldn't have imagined when they ratified the Declaration of Independence -- self-driving cars, cars, the iPhone, "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," houses on 500-foot poles (...wait, that was "The Jetsons," nevermind). They probably never could have foreseen how Philadelphia itself would fare in the distant future -- that another revolution called the Industrial Revolution would shape this town a lot more than theirs, and that America's founding city would ultimately lose that war.
Whatever July 4 celebrations took place in Philadelphia's far-flung, faded neighborhoods turned to more grief as darkness fell and Independence Day yielded to homicide, life on the streets. The pops of cherry bombs and gunfire blurred, and by sunrise four citizens had been murdered -- three by bullets and a 17-year-old female who was knifed to death.
It's important to place this in context. Four murders in one night -- especially on a joyous holiday to celebrate American liberty forged here in this city -- is an obscene number, but the city's overall homicide rate still remains at its lowest rate since the mid-1960s and, according to the police department's website, is down 44 percent from its baseline year of 2007 (the year before Mayor Nutter took office, in what I assume is not a coincidence). That's both a national trend and a credit to good tactical work under Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
I guess Rick Perry realized he needed more than those new egghead glasses to stand out in the 2016 presidential race. I mean, there's what, 14, 16, 19 candidates? I've seriously lost track. After the fiasco that was the large Republican field of White House wannabes in 2012, and their inane debates, there's even more to dread this time around.
Or not. With so many candidates, there's actually incentives for some candidates in the lower tier to say something different than the usual Limbaugh-endorsed dittohead-isms, to made headlines and at least get enough attention to eek into the 10-person top debate tier. And so it was that Perry, the former governor of Texas, gave a speech today on the state of politics and race in America.
And lo and behold, it was good...the words, I mean. Remember, the pre-2012 Perry was so pro-Tea Party that he even said favorable things about Texas succeeding from the Union. When it came out that his family had owned a ranch with a, um, racially charged name, the tarnish -- perhaps unfairly -- stuck to Perry. Now he's singing a different tune:
This is a must-read piece for all Attytood lurkers -- especially folks with strong opinions on what it's like to be poor in America. It could change your mind!...but I'm guessing it won't. I'm working on other newspaper stuff and also probably need a blogging mental health day anyway.
Talk about this or Donald Trump or something.
It was not that long ago that Mexico's ambassador to the United States gave a speech to a business group in Chicago -- crowing about what a huge success the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has been since its enactment in the mid-1990s.
Especially for Mexico.
One of his success stories involved a company called Mondelez, not a well-known name but the maker -- through a series of shake-outs in the food industry -- of some of the iconic brand names associated with Nabisco, like Ritz crackers. That company, he boasted, was spending some $600 million in the Mexican city of Nuevo Leon on what he called "the world’s largest cookie production plant."
OK, actually I'm pretty sure that Bree Newsome -- the Spiderwoman-y. Scripture-spouting superhero of social protest who shimmied up that South Carolina flagpole last Saturday and took down the Confederate flag, however briefly -- wasn't actually still in jail when she wrote this manifesto defending her actions. On the other hand, I do think you have to go back to the time of Dr. Martin Luther King and his travails in Birmingham in 1963 to find such a stirring defense of the act of civil disobedience.
Here's an excerpt:
We discussed it and decided to remove the flag immediately, both as an act of civil disobedience and as a demonstration of the power people have when we work together. Achieving this would require many roles, including someone who must volunteer to scale the pole and remove the flag. It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms.