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About Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard is the International President of the United Steelworkers (USW) union. His editorials post on the NH Labor News every Tuesday. You can follow him at @USWBlogger

Leo W Gerard: Stop China’s Stealth Invasion

A country claiming the greatest military on earth can’t be without some things. Steel is an obvious one.

Image from Getty Images

In the age of drones, aluminum is another. Aluminum is essential for flying machines like the F-35 joint strike fighter and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, for armor plating on army vehicles and naval vessels and for countless infrastructure projects including bridges and roads.

Obviously, then, for the United States to retain top ranking, it must protect its aluminum industry. That industry, though, is under a two-pronged stealth attack from China. For more than a decade, the Chinese have ramped up their own aluminum production and dumped the excess on the world market, depressing prices and bankrupting Western producers. Now, a corrupt Chinese company that is under investigation by three U.S. agencies is trying to buy an American aluminum firm. To ensure national security, that must be stopped. America can’t be beholden to China for aluminum.

In 2000, China produced only 11 percent of the world’s aluminum. Now it’s more than 50 percent. Just between 2010 and 2015, China doubled production, even as demand for aluminum within the country slowed. Chinese companies continued to ramp up because they received massive government subsidies, including cheap power, loans and raw materials. That kept Chinese workers employed but created stockpiles of aluminum. So China exported the excess, overwhelming the world market and driving down prices.

This shattered the U.S. industry. In 2000, 23 aluminum smelters operated in the United States. Now there are only five, with just two at full capacity. Thousands of American aluminum workers lost their good, family-supporting jobs in just the past three years.

Aluminum producers filed formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Commerce about the illegal subsidies and about Chinese companies dumping products in the United States at prices below production costs. And in 2011, the department penalized Chinese extrusion producers, including one called China Zhongwang, with tariffs as high as 374.15 percent.

With that added cost, China Zhongwang’s U.S. sales plunged. Zhongwang, the world’s second-largest producer of aluminum extrusions, then schemed to dodge the sanctions, leading to criminal and civil investigations of possible smuggling, conspiracy and wire fraud. The Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and Commerce Department are all scrutinizing Zhongwang.

Zhongwang and associates are accused of shipping nearly 1 million tons of aluminum to Mexico with the intent of then sending it across the border tariff-free under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as if it had been manufactured in Mexico. Shortly after the aluminum trade association discovered this massive stash, amounting to 6 percent of the world’s aluminum inventory, much of it was whisked away to Vietnam, another country notorious for involvement in what is called transshipment, that is, concealing commodities’ country of origin to evade tariffs.

In addition, the U.S. Aluminum Extruders Council accused Zhongwang and companion companies of another plot to skirt tariffs. Firms associated with Liu Zhongtian, a Chinese billionaire who controls Zhongwang, shipped thousands of tons of pallets made of aluminum extrusions to a factory in a Philadelphia suburb.

These “pallets,” which weighed more than three times American-made aluminum pallets, escaped tariffs specific to extrusions because, supposedly, they were pallets. Pallets, typically though, are designed to be light to reduce shipping costs.

Company officials contended the heavyweight pallets made from extrusions were to be sold as pallets, not dismantled or melted for other uses. Shortly after the Wall Street Journal began asking questions about them, though, they disappeared. Just like the $2 billion worth of aluminum in Mexico.

The Commerce Department wasn’t fooled by this sleight of hand. In November, it announced that the pallets were an attempt to circumvent the 2011 tariffs on extrusions.

Even while Zhongwang remains under investigation, it announced plans to buy American aluminum company Aleris for $2.3 billion from a private equity firm. Aleris, with 14 plants around the world, makes rolled aluminum for a variety of industries, including aerospace and automotive, and significantly, armor plate for the U.S. military.

The U.S. military cannot be dependent on a Chinese-owned company to outfit American armored vehicles or meet other critical needs. In November, a dozen U.S. senators asked Obama’s treasury secretary to block the deal because it would “directly undermine our national security, including by jeopardizing the U.S. manufacturing base for sensitive technologies.” My union, the United Steelworkers (USW), which has 950 members employed at Aleris, also has repeatedly protested the proposed sale, including in a letter sent last week to new Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

It would be far too easy for Zhongwang to appropriate Aleris’ trade secrets, then run the company into the ground, further cementing China’s illegally-subsidized domination of the world aluminum market. Zhongwang could also exploit Aleris operations to circumvent U.S. tariffs. Based on past performance, that would be no surprise.

The U.S. government has taken important steps toward protecting the crucial American aluminum industry. Before he left office in January, former President Obama launched a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization against the Chinese government over its subsidies to the aluminum industry.

In March, the Commerce Department began investigating complaints that Beijing illegally subsidized aluminum foil shipped to the United States by 230 Chinese companies.

Last month, the Trump administration initiated an inquiry into the effect of aluminum imports on U.S. national security, which could lead to tariffs or import restrictions. But it’s not Canada or some other allied country causing the problem. It’s China.

And just last week, the Senate confirmed Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative. He has railed against America’s comatose response to abusive Chinese trade practices that have bankrupted American industries and killed American jobs. That includes dirty tricks like creating pallets out of extrusions and transshipping from Mexico and Vietnam.

Lighthizer assured the Senate he intended to firmly enforce trade law. That’s good because he must stop China’s stealth invasion before it overcomes the entire U.S. aluminum industry.

Leo W Gerard: Another GOP Tax Plan For Captains

Donald Trump
Image by DonkeyHotey CC FLIKR

It’s based on the same voodoo economics we’ve heard many times before.

As he ran for office, Donald Trump repeatedly reminded audiences that he was “really, really rich,” but assured voters that as president he would be a working man’s champion, a blue-collar Superman.

He said he would stop corporations from offshoring manufacturing jobs with a border adjustment tax on imports. He would end trade cheating and declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. He would launch within his first 100 days a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program to create millions of jobs fixing the nation’s airports, bridges and roads.

Trump’s record of promise-keeping to America’s working men and women in his first 100 days is this: So far, no good. The tax plan, well, the one-page tax sketch that the administration released last week is symbolic. While it would slash federal levies on fat cats and corporations, administration officials refused to say it would help the middle class at all. And it contains no border adjustment tax.

The tax plan rewards the captains of industry, the captains of Wall Street, the captains of real estate, like, well, like Trump himself. But the middle class, not so fast. The poor, not at all. Someone needs to tell Donald Trump that banksters and real estate tycoons sporting navy golf polos aren’t blue-collar workers. The tax scheme, like so many of Trump’s other pledges to workers, is a stab in the back of that indigo shirt.

On the campaign trail, Trump said rich people like him should pay more in taxes. Yet, the tax plan he offered last week would cut his taxes – by tens of millions a year. That’s because it would eliminate the alternative minimum tax. This is a levy intended to require billionaires like Trump to pay at least something after subtracting their multitude of special-rich-people deductions.

Trump has refused to release his tax returns – the first American president to keep them secret since Gerald Ford, who provided summaries. But Trump’s 2005 return, uncovered in part by a newspaper, shows that he had to pay $31 million as a result of the alternative minimum tax.

Trump’s plan also calls for eliminating the estate tax. That is paid only by people who inherit more than $5.5 million – as Trump’s children will. And it calls for cutting by more than half, to 15 percent, the tax paid by entities called pass-through corporations. Trump’s attorneys indicated in his presidential financial disclosures that his approximately 500 businesses are almost all pass-throughs.

Trump will be hobnobbing with his country club buddies in benefitting from this break. A 2015 study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research found that the top 1 percent gets 69 percent of pass-through income.

Right now, a worker can’t get in on that low 15 percent tax rate unless reporting income below $37,950. But doctors and lawyers and investment bankers would get that special discount rate, no matter how much they make, as long as they pay a few bucks to establish a pass-through corporation. Trump’s plan would allow a lawyer paid $1 million a year to cut his taxes by $180,000 by setting up a pass-through.

Certainly, with all of those perks going to the nation’s most wealthy, Trump’s tax men would assure workers that they will benefit too.

Not really. When asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last week whether the middle class would pay more under the plan, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “I can’t make any guarantees.”

And the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, Gary D. Cohn, could not say how much of a break – if any­ – a middle-income American would get under the plan.

If it’s not absolutely clear who Trump’s tax plan would benefit, there’s also this from George Callas, the senior tax counsel for the Speaker of the House. Callas wants a permanent break for corporations, saying of a temporary one:

“It would not alter business decisions. It would not cause anyone to build a factory. It would just be dropping cash out of helicopters on corporate headquarters for a couple of years.”

Lots of small towns in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania – towns that suffered when corporations offshored factories, towns that voted for Trump – would really benefit from cash dropping out of helicopters for a couple of years.

But that’s not Trump’s plan.

Trump’s money men, Mnuchin and Cohn, said slashing levies on the wealthy will pay for itself because giving the rich more cash will spur economic growth. So, no need to worry about Trump’s tax cuts ballooning the national debt, they assured.

This is called the Laffer Curve. Really.

Economist Arthur Laffer, an adviser to Trump, explained to the Washington Post last week that it works like this: “When you think about cutting that corporate rate, let’s say, from 35 to 15, that’s not going to cost you any money.”

He convinced the likes of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush this hocus-pocus would work. And now, he has bamboozled Trump.

Both Reagan and Bush cut taxes. Both also left the country with larger deficits and uneven economic growth. Reagan raised taxes several times after his initial 1981 cut. Bush gave the country the Great Recession.

Laffer still insists his curve works, contending, “It’s a no-brainer.”

No. It’s voodoo economics. That’s what George H.W. Bush called it.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates fiscal restraint, estimated that Trump’s Laffer tax plan could reduce federal revenue by $3 trillion to $7 trillion over a decade. The economy would need to grow at a rate of 4.5 percent to make that proposal self-financing.

It grew at a pathetic 0.7 percent during Trump’s first quarter in office. In President Obama’s last quarter, the fourth of 2016, it increased at 2.1 percent. To rise at 4.5 percent would be phenomenal. Maybe paranormal.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, put it this way: “It seems the administration is using economic growth like magic beans: the cheap solution to all our problems.”

Ronald Reagan, who like Trump was adored by blue-collar workers, promised that benefits from his massive tax cuts for the rich would trickle down to the rest. That never worked. But now Trump is taking advice from the same Svengali and promoting the same flim-flam plan.

Those heartland workers can’t tolerate another hit. But it’s not just taxes. The health insurance proposal Trump is pushing would cost many low- and middle-income workers thousands of dollars more a year. Trump has proposed eliminating the Chemical Safety Board, which prevents workplace deaths. He delayed rules protecting workers from deadly silica and beryllium. He signed a law ending a requirement that large federal contractors disclose and correct serious safety violations. Trump has no federal infrastructure plan and reneged on naming China a currency manipulator.

These are all the actions of a president protecting the captains of commerce, not one championing blue-collar workers.

Leo W Gerard: Speak Loudly And Carry A Big Aluminum Bat

During this very month last year, aluminum smelters across the United States were closing, one after another. It was as if they produced something useless, not a commodity crucial to everything from beverage cans to fighter jets.

In January of 2016, Alcoa closed its Wenatchee Works in Washington State, costing 428 workers their jobs, sending 428 families into panic, slashing tax revenue counted on by the town of Wenatchee and the school district and devastating local businesses that no longer saw customers from the region’s highest-paying manufacturer.

That same month, Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., then the largest smelter in the country, employing 600 workers, within three months.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

Then, Noranda Aluminum fell. It laid off more than half of the 850 workers at its New Madrid, Mo., smelter in January, filed for bankruptcy in February and closed in March. The smelter was a family-supporting employer in a low-income region, and when it stopped operating, the New Madrid County School District didn’t get tax payments it was expecting.

This devastation to workers, families, communities and corporations occurred even after Ormet had shuttered a smelter in Ohio in 2013, destroying 700 jobs and Century closed its Hawesville, Ky., smelter, killing 600 jobs, in August of 2015.

It all happened as demand for aluminum in the United States increased.

That doesn’t make sense until China’s role in this disaster is explained.

That role is the reason the Obama administration filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week. In this case, the president must ignore the old adage about speaking softly. To preserve a vital American manufacturing capability against predatory conduct by a foreign power, the administration must speak loudly and carry a big aluminum bat.

The bottom line is this: American corporations and American workers can compete with any counterpart in the world and win. But when the contest is with a country itself, defeat is virtually assured.

In the case of aluminum, U.S. companies and workers are up against the entire country of China. That is because China is providing its aluminum industry with cheap loans from state-controlled banks and artificially low prices for critical manufacturing components and materials such as electricity, coal and alumina.

By doing that, China is subsidizing its aluminum industry. And that is fine if China wants to use its revenues to support its aluminum manufacturing or sustain employment – as long as all of the aluminum is sold within China. When state-subsidized products are sold overseas, they distort free market pricing. And that’s why they’re banned.

China agreed not to subsidize exports in order to get access to the WTO. But it has routinely and unabashedly flouted the rules on products ranging from tires to paper to steel to aluminum that it dumps on the American market, resulting in closed U.S. factories, killed U.S. jobs and bleak U.S. communities.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., before the smelter closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

In 2000, China produced about 11 percent of the aluminum on the global market. That figure is now 50 percent. A big part of the reason is that China quadrupled its capacity to produce aluminum from 2007 to 2015, and increased its production by 154 percent.

When China threw all of that extra, cheap, state-subsidized aluminum on the global market, it depressed prices. In that eight-year period, the price sank approximately 46 percent.

To compete, American smelters tried cutting costs and getting better deals on electricity. But even as U.S. demand increased, U.S. production declined 37 percent. And capacity decreased 46 percent.

What capacity decrease means is closed plants. The number of smelters dropped from 14 in 2011 to five last year, with only one operating at full volume.

Many of these manufacturing workers, thrown out of their jobs by what is clearly unfair trade, saw President-elect Donald Trump as a champion. Donald Trump said he would hold China to account on trade. He promised he would impose massive tariffs on goods imported from China. He said he would confront Beijing on currency manipulation, a practice that makes Chinese goods artificially cheap.

Many of those manufacturing workers voted for Donald Trump. Monroe County, Ohio, is a good example. That was the home of the Ormet smelter. The workers, who belonged to my union, the United Steelworkers, and the company asked Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2012 and 2013 to intervene with the utility to get lower rates to help Ormet survive.

Kasich refused. The smelter closed. Monroe County’s unemployment rate now is the highest in Ohio at 9 percent, nearly twice the national rate.

Monroe County voters didn’t forget. Theirs was among the counties in Ohio that went for Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Though Trump didn’t win the Ohio primary, he got 35.9 percent in the crowded GOP field, and he took virtually all of the places in Ohio that, like Monroe, would say Kasich and other politicians turned their backs on them.

President-elect Trump carried 29 of Ohio’s Appalachian counties in the primary, those described as “geographically isolated and economically depressed.” These are counties that, like Monroe, lost family-supporting jobs in steel, manufacturing or mining. For the workers who haven’t left, the jobs that remain, in retail and fast food, don’t pay much, don’t provide benefits and aren’t secure.

When Donald Trump came to town talking tough about China, that sounded a hell of a lot better to those workers than their governor telling them he wouldn’t help with electrical rates – especially after they watched the governor in New York work a deal to save an Alcoa smelter and 600 jobs for 3 years in Massena.

And, of course, Donald Trump won Ohio in the General Election.

Workers across America, from Sebree, Ky., and Mt. Holly, S.C., where Century smelters are threatened to Wenatchee, Wash., where Alcoa has held out the possibility that the smelter could be restarted, were galvanized to support Donald Trump by his promises to confront China on its predatory trade practices.  If he fulfills those pledges, he will have the back of the blue-collar workers who had his.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed last year. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

Leo W Gerard — Coming Soon: American Made Battle Of The Heavyweights

Screenshot from CNN Video

Screenshot from CNN Video

Virtually every time President-elect Donald Trump performs in cities across America on his thank you tour, he mentions, to grand applause, his preference for Made in America.

He describes his plan to create jobs with a federal infrastructure spending project – that is improvements to the likes of crumbling roads, bridges, waterlines and airports – and then says, “We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort. Buy American and hire American.”

That American-job-creating, buy-American thing is supported by 71 percent of the American public. But it is a smack in the face to GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just made it clear in the Water Resources Development Act that he’s fine with creating slave-wage iron-and-steel-making jobs in China with U.S. tax dollars so long as a few fat-cat iron-and-steel importers make a profit on the deal.

So, clearly, there’s a battle brewing between the President-elect and the Speaker of the House. This is the President-elect who has repeatedly promised the working class men and women who elected him that he’d support Buy American provisions in federal law to create jobs for them. And it’s a GOP Speaker who wants to ship taxpayer-financed work overseas and let the working class wait a couple more decades to just possibly feel a tiny pinch of trickle down from the largess of filthy rich iron and steel importers. This, also, is a clash between a New York real estate titan who won the presidency and a Wisconsin lawmaker who lost the vice presidency.

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By advocating night after night for American Made, President-elect Trump essentially warned Ryan not to strip the Buy-American provisions out of the Water Resources Development Act. But Ryan did it anyway early in December when he got the act from the Senate.

The act contained strong, permanent Buy America language when the Senate sent it over. These provisions are significant because they use tax dollars to create 33 percent more U.S. factory jobs, something that is, again, important to voters, 68 percent of whom told The Mellman Group  & North Star Opinion Research in November in a national survey conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing that they were worried that the country had lost too many manufacturing jobs.

In addition, and President-elect Trump knows this from the response he gets at his rallies, Buy American policies are very popular. Seventy-four percent of voters say large infrastructure projects financed by taxpayer money should be constructed with American-made materials and American workers. And those who voted for President-elect Trump agree more strongly – 79 percent of them say American-made should be given preference over the lowest bidder.

This is a very big deal to iron and steel producers and workers in the United States. Far too many mills are closed or partially shuttered because of unfairly traded imports, and more than 16,000 steelworkers across this country have been laid off over the past year.

China is the main culprit, but there are others. China produces so much steel now that it has managed to inundate the world with more steel than anyone needs. It is dumping steel on the world market at such low prices that no one can compete. As a result, producers from places as far flung as Mexico, the U.S., Canada, India, the U.K. and Spain are shutting down and throwing workers out of their jobs.

China props up that excess steelmaking capacity with methods that are illegal under the terms of the agreements it entered into to gain access to the World Trade Organization and Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with the United States. If steel is sold domestically, a country can provide steel firms with subsidies like exemptions from utility payments and taxes, interest-free loans and free land.

But those free market-warping subsidies violate international trade agreements when the steel is exported. That’s what China is doing. And it’s killing American steel companies and American jobs.

When Ryan eliminated the permanent Buy American provision in the Water Bill, essentially saying it’s fine to import illegally subsidized Chinese iron and steel for taxpayer-financed water projects, he was also saying it is fine to bankrupt American steel companies and destroy American jobs.

If the United States is reduced to buying steel from China to build its military tanks and armor, that’s okay with Ryan, as long as he maintains a great relationship with the lobbyists for the foreign steelmakers. They pushed him hard to drop the Buy American provision through Squire Patton Boggs, a Washington, D.C. lobby and law firm employing Ryan’s predecessor Speaker John Boehner and numerous former top GOP aides.

He got hit with a Tweetstorm after he chose Chinese jobs over American jobs, though. Buy American supporters and members of the Congressional Steel Caucus began pointing out on Twitter just how good #BuyAmerica is for American jobs and the economy and cited @realDonaldTrump, the President-elect’s Twitter handle on every Tweet, which means his account was alerted.

This, for example, came from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown:

“.@RealDonaldTrump: Tell @SpeakerRyan to put #BuyAmerica back in Water bill. American tax dollars for American jobs.”

And Steelworkers wrote protests on Ryan’s Facebook page and hundreds called Ryan and his anti-American-made Congressional crew.

Ryan responded. Sort of. He restored one-year Buy American language to the bill. Nothing like the permanent provisions achieved in other federal laws, but it does keep the jobs for 12 months and the issue alive until President-elect Trump can take on Ryan mano-a-mano on Buy American after the inauguration.

Ryan has made clear his anti-American preference, so this will be a royal rumble. But the Speaker should beware. The last time the President-elect stepped into the ring with a heavyweight, it was with the ring’s owner, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon. And the former professional wrestler McMahon left bald and defeated.

Leo W Gerard: Goon-Busters Prepare For Trump’s Poll Trolls

Republicans have conjured for Americans a monster more frightening than any Hollywood has ever produced for Halloween. It pales “The Shining.”

It is a two-headed beast Donald Trump calls voter fraud and rigged elections.  Like Hollywood creatures, though, this goblin is completely imaginary. It’s fake like the sasquatch and chupacabra. There’s no scientific evidence of its existence.

The GOP antidote for its imaginary monster is horribly real, however. It is voter suppression and intimidation. That is a tangible two-headed beast of appalling proportions. Fearing they could not win fair and square, Republicans took steps to prevent young, old, black and Hispanic people – people likely to vote Democratic – from reaching the polls. This GOP Frankenstein threatens democracy itself.

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Image by Ryan Merkley on Flickr

Two statistics are important to know when trying to detect which election monsters are real and which are not. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, an expert on civil rights, has tracked allegations of in-person voter fraud for years. In-person fraud is the kind Republicans are talking about, someone pretending to be someone else, or a dead person, to vote.

Levitt, who is on leave from the law school to serve as deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, tracked down and validated 31 instances of that happening since 2000.

It’s probably 32 cases now, since police in Iowa charged a 55-year-old Des Moines woman Thursday with felony voter fraud. The Republican admitted casting two early votes for Donald Trump.

That is 32 cases out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. That’s fraud, but it’s not a real problem.

Republicans across the country insisted on “solving” this non-problem by forcing all voters to obtain very specific types of identification. In Texas, for example, the GOP said an open-carry gun permit would be fine, but a student ID card from a state university would not. That would help keep those pesky young people, who tended to vote Democrat, away from the polls.

In many states, civil liberties groups like the ACLU sued to overturn the voter ID laws, forcing the GOP to search for voter fraud cases to justify their legislation. In Pennsylvania, the state had to stipulate in court that none existed, and the law was overturned. Not surprisingly, the GOP failed to dig up cases in Wisconsin or Indiana either. Thirty-one in 1 billion is kind of few and far between.

The second statistic is this: if Pennsylvania’s voter ID law had taken effect, it could have prevented more than 1 million citizens from voting. That’s the number of registered voters in just one state who did not have the required ID. Again, that’s a state where Republicans could show not one single case of voter fraud.

While the ACLU and other civil liberties groups continue to try to overturn unnecessary voter ID laws, the Democratic National Committee asked a federal judge last week to prevent Republicans from intimidating voters, particularly at minority polling places, as Donald Trump has encouraged his supporters to do.

The Democrats requested an injunction, saying Trump’s threats violate a 1982 consent decree that Republicans entered into after they stationed pseudo-guards at minority polling places in New Jersey to intimidate voters. Some of the guards were off duty police officers, were armed and wore arm bands marked “Ballot Security Task Force.”

Trump has repeatedly contended the election is “rigged” against him and asked his supporters to wear red shirts and stand as sentinels at the polls to prevent dead people from voting. Speaking in Altoona, Pa., in August, he said he wanted uniformed officers like the GOP had in 1982: “We have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching.”

He added, “We have a lot of law enforcement people working that day. . .We’re hiring a lot of people. We’re putting a lot of law enforcement — we’re going to watch Pennsylvania, go down to certain areas and watch and study, and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio. “I’ll look for. . .well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans, Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them, I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Despite Webb’s assertion that he’s not going to do anything illegal, deliberately attempting to make racially profiled voters “a little bit nervous” while they are attempting to exercise their most basic right as citizens violates federal law as well as the terms of the consent decree.

In addition, the lawsuit notes that the Pennsylvania GOP has attempted to reverse a state election law requiring poll watchers to be registered voters in the county where they are monitoring balloting. That law makes it impossible for Trump’s rural white supporters to guard the polls in inner city Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to ensure that the undead from George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” filmed near Pittsburgh, don’t vote repeatedly there.

There’s no reason to reverse this state law, the lawsuit says, except to license Trump supporters to intimidate and harass minority inner-city voters.

Republicans tried to wriggle out from under the constraints of the consent decree in 2009. But Federal Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise thwarted them. He wrote then: “It does not appear that the RNC’s incentive to suppress minority votes has changed since 1982. It appears that the RNC has been largely unsuccessful in its efforts to attract minority voters. Until it is able to do so, it will have an incentive to engage in the type of voter suppression that it allegedly committed in the actions that led to the enactment and modification of the consent decree.”

Judge Debevoise dismissed GOP arguments that voter fraud is a problem. By contrast, he said that suppression of minority voters is a serious issue.

That was seven years ago. But it was a point the DNC repeated in its arguments last week. It acknowledged that Trump keeps harping about a rigged election and dead people voting. And it provided lengthy proof that these are fears without basis in fact. They are boogeymen.

“On the other side of the ledger,” the DNC wrote, are the “constitutional rights of all Americans to cast their ballots without fear of intimidation or harassment . . .This is therefore a case of a real, impending harm balanced against an imaginary one.”

The DNC asked the court to extend the consent decree another eight years and to issue an injunction forbidding intimidation at the polls. Election Day is just a week away, however. Even if the court rules for the DNC, it’s not clear that every Trump supporter with a red shirt, a gun and ill-intent will hear about the decision before Nov. 8.

So civil liberties groups are preparing for the worst. If a red-shirted goon shows up at your polling place, call the ACLU at 866-OUR-VOTE or the Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline at 800-253-3931. They have goon-buster teams nationwide. Don’t let anything frighten you from voting on Nov. 8.

Leo W Gerard: Solidarity Against Trump

Donald Trump likes to say he has a very, very good relationship with unions.  “I have great relationships with unions,” he told Newsweek last year.

And the press is in love with saying blue-collar workers are in love with Trump. Real reporters and even fake news shows like Full Frontal with Samantha Bee have crisscrossed the rust belt interviewing blue-collar workers seeking the reason for Trump’s supposed allure.

The AFL-CIO has found, however, that only a small faction, fewer than a third, of its members are Trump supporters. That’s true in my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), as well. And the numbers are declining daily as members find out the truth about The Donald, including how he managed to lose a whopping $916 million in one year and his failure to pay federal income taxes.

Particularly important to my members is the issue of trade because we are a manufacturing union, with members making not just steel, but tires, glass, paper, cardboard, aluminum, auto parts and many other products. When Trump promises to arbitrarily slap 25 percent and 35 percent tariffs on unfairly traded commodities from China and Mexico, that sounds great.

That is, until the voter discovers a U.S. president can’t unilaterally impose tariffs. Also, until the voter discovers Trump manufactures virtually all his signature products, from suits to shirts, sweaters, belts, ties, tie pins, tie clips, and dozens of others, overseas. Not by American workers in America. Trump could have created American jobs. But he chose not to.

Here is what some members of my union had to say about the difference between The Don and Hillary Clinton:

Michael D. Snyder, 58 of Decatur, Ind., works for Bunge, which makes food oils. A union man for 39 years, he’s been president of USW Local 15173 for 21 years.

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“You need to look at the whole package and history of a candidate for president. Look at the whole package of Trump. I see someone who has done nothing but take from people in this country. There is a huge list of people who are suing him for taking from them, and that is disrespecting the American people.

“It is a power game. He has got all the money. He knows he can do all these terrible things. He knows he may have to pay, but not until he is forced to by court. And people have to wait years to get some portion of the money owed. That is just terrible and disrespecting every American. That kind of person should not be president. It is inconceivable to put that person in charge of this country.

“In our churches, we would pray for this person because they are totally lost. It is hard to understand how a Christian would say OK to this kind of behavior.”

Marlon S. Williamson, 45, of Warren, Ohio, works at ATEP Alcoa. He has been a Steelworker for 20 years.

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I got a job at what was once Republic Steel in Warren, Ohio, when I was 23 years old. It was a great union job. But, beginning in 2008, I was laid off for 17 months because of dumped [foreign] steel. Those were hard times. I returned to work, but then, just a few years later, in 2012, management informed us the mill would be scrapped. I was stunned. I was shocked. It was because of a mix of bad management and dumped steel.

“I can’t even drive down that street now. I had worked there 17 years. At the time you are searching for answers. Imports contributed to that, with all that illegal dumping of steel.

“A lot of prayers got me the job at the titanium plant. I was very fortunate. I was off for four months. Some of the guys I used to work with are still out of work.

It is devastating.

“I support Hillary Clinton because she supports the working man and woman. She says exactly how she is going to do that. If we get her in office, maybe someone will pass that Bring Jobs Home Act, that denies tax credits for sending jobs overseas and gives credits for bringing jobs back here.

“Also, I have a daughter. My youngest child is a daughter. I do not want her to see Donald Trump as our country’s leadership. He mocks a guy with a handicap. He degrades women. He picks on immigrants. That is totally the opposite of what her mother and I have taught her.”

Kristia O’Brien, 45, is a veteran who lives in Gadsden, Ala. She has been a member of USW Local 12 for 22 years. She is a tire builder at Goodyear in Gadsden.

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My mother lost her garment factory job that she had for 20 years as a result of NAFTA, and I almost lost my job because of trade. So Hillary Clinton’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and her statement that she would not support any more free trade deals that don’t work for working people is really important to me.

“My mom worked for H.D. Lee, the jeans company, in Guntersville, Ala. She sewed the inseams. She has rheumatoid arthritis now, but she made a good living because it was a union job. But she lost that job when the plant went to Mexico. And another garment factory about 15 miles away went to Mexico too a few years after NAFTA was passed.

“Later, my plant was threatened by a flood of imported Chinese tires. President Obama imposed three years of tariffs on those unfairly traded tries to prevent American factories from closing and American jobs from being lost. I have a job today because of that. I do trust Hillary to do the same kind of thing. She has stood for working families and unions her entire life. Her father came out of manufacturing and she understands the importance of manufacturing in America.”

James Morgan, 30, of Belleville, Mich., works for Chemetall Group. He has been a member of USW Local 2659 for five years.

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I am working to elect Hillary Clinton for my unborn child, to make sure when he or she comes into the world, it is a better place, not a Donald Trump place. I want this to be a country that is accepting, a country that provides plenty of opportunity. Hopefully when he or she comes into this world, we have free college tuition and things like that.

“I want this to be the land of the free where we accept everyone whether you are black, Asian, Mexican or Muslim. We have all contributed. And that is what made America what it is.  We can’t shun people.  It is not just an American value. Acceptance absolutely is a union value. If you have been to a union event, you see people from all walks of life, and they are people who accept people from all walks of life.

Heidi Puhl, 44, of South Range Wis., a member of USW Local 9460 for 10 years, works at Ecumen-Lakeshore, a short term rehab facility in Duluth, Minn.

2016-10-02-1475419675-8289336-Heidi.jpgMy father and grandfather worked on a railroad, the Duluth, Mesabi & Iron Range line. It hauled taconite pellets from the Mesabi Range to Lake Superior where they were shipped to steel mills. There was a railroad roundhouse in my hometown of Proctor, and in the harbor in the winter, typically dozen ships would arrive in winter to be overhauled.

“It’s all gone now. The railroad is shut down. Half the ships arrive to be overhauled these days. The town’s grocery store, pizza shop and ice cream parlor are all closed. And it’s because illegally traded steel flooded the U.S. market, shuttering American mills. And that eliminated the demand for taconite.

“Bad trade deals created pockets of nothing in our small towns. Hillary Clinton says she will put a stop to that. I believe she can. Donald Trump is all talk and no experience. I don’t believe he can do anything.

“I know people who support Trump. But is that how you want your daughter to be talked to? Is that how you want your son raised? Is that how you want your mother treated, your grandmother or grandfather treated? That is not our personal values. That is not the values of anybody in America. I do not think Trump has the right temperament or the right morals to be president.

“I am working to elect Hillary Clinton because I do not want my kids to be raised in a place where it is okay to make fun of someone because of their disability or the color of their skin or their religion.

“I like that Hillary worked for the Children’s Defense Fund. I like that she took a job that did not pay well to do public service. I think that says a lot about a person. I know someone who graduated with Hillary, and she says Hillary is the nicest and most sincere person. Hillary still goes to college reunions with her. That says a lot about her.”

Jerry August, 30, of San Bernardino, Calif., has been a member of USW Local 5632 for three years at GATX, where he rebuilds railcar valves to ensure they don’t leak and cause an explosion.

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My family is Hispanic. My grandparents came from Mexico. The way Donald Trump talks about undocumented immigrants is morally incorrect. It is not right. People should be given a chance to do what they can for themselves, to do better for themselves and their children and their future.

“To throw 11 million undocumented immigrants out of this country – why throw them out?  Why not get them documented and let them work? It is not morally right. They are not taking jobs. They are doing jobs no one else wants to do. The majority of people will not do the jobs they are doing. The jobs are there for everybody. These are hard labor jobs for pennies an hour.

“Trump harassed a judge of Mexican heritage whose father was a Steelworker. It is just ignorance. It is insulting. Ignorant people are just going to do ignorant things.”

“Coming from a Hispanic family, I still have family members who do not speak good English and who struggle to make good money, and I know Hillary Clinton will try to help us get to an even playing field. I feel that it is admirable that she has always tried to help the less fortunate.”

Terra Samuel, 43, of East Chicago, Ind., a member of USW Local 1010 for two years, works for ArcelorMittal.

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I don’t see a future if Trump is elected. With Hillary, there is a track record. We know she can produce.

“The change would be devastating if Trump were to win. He is so angry and his followers are so angry. He would turn back the hands of time. I am not sure the country is ready for that.”

“I have two children. My 10-year-old daughter asked me, ‘If Trump is going to send Mexican people back to Mexico, where is he going to send black people?’ Donald Trump is scaring children!

“Hillary has credibility for working with labor unions and looking out for young people. I love her ideas for investing in infrastructure. Because she will require American-made products, that will support American manufacturing and create American jobs. That shows she is looking out for the future.”

Sam D’Orazio, 46, of Bentleyville, Pa., has been a member of USW Local 3403, Unit 25, for a decade. He works for All-Clad, a cookware manufacturer.

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Donald Trump says people earn too much. Does he include himself in that or just me?

“Donald Trump does not speak for me. He does not treat people fairly and equitably. I accept diversity and Trump rejects that.

“Donald Trump’s promises are false and not fulfillable.  He is an illusionist.

“Hillary Clinton will make sure people have a decent chance to get ahead. She opposes right to work and has a loyalty to labor. She doesn’t turn her back on people.”

Leo W Gerard: Dishonest Don

Donald Trump likes to brag on the campaign trail that he’s the best at bribing politicians. He said, for example, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”  But then, when he got caught giving and getting exactly what the hell he wanted, he claimed that’s not what happened.

Not only that, Trump promises as president he would surround himself with the best advisers. The best! Just like he says he did as a businessman. And he claims he’s a great businessman. The greatest! Well, maybe he forgot about his four bankruptcies that left hundreds of small businessmen and craftsmen unpaid. And maybe he forgot about the fiasco surrounding his namesake foundation illegally giving a “donation” to an attorney general who then decided to drop a fraud investigation against him. The advisers in that case? Not exactly the best.

Much has been made lately about the Clinton Foundation. But Donny’s got one too. Unlike the Clinton Foundation, to which the Clintons gave $1 million last year, the Trump Foundation hasn’t seen a cent from Donny’s pocket since 2009.

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Image by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

Both foundations get lots of money from wealthy donors; the big difference is in how it’s spent. Among the Clinton Foundation focuses are providing access to HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB drugs in developing nations. Among the Trump Foundation programs are those providing gifts to Florida attorneys general considering whether to investigate allegations of fraud against Trump University.

Though the Trump Foundation gave this illegal “grant” back in 2013, the IRS was alerted to it only recently.

Like attorneys general in many states at that time, Florida’s Pam Bondi, a Republican, received numerous complaints that Trump University was a scam. Angry students who felt they got short shrift for their tens of thousands in “tuition” wanted Bondi to charge Trump and other university officials with fraud or at least help them get their money back.

Bondi’s spokesperson admitted to the Associated Press that Bondi personally asked Trump for a donation at the same time her office was deciding whether to join a lawsuit against Trump University proposed by New York’s Democratic attorney general.

Bondi got a $25,000 check. And isn’t it funny how quickly after that she decided against joining the lawsuit against Trump?

That left the individual Floridians who felt cheated to pursue reimbursement on their own. By contrast, in New York, the attorney general went ahead with the suit, representing students in his state that he believes were fleeced by Trump University in a bait-and-switch scheme.

When reporters questioned Trump about the $25,000 gift, he denied Bondi talked to him about a contribution. “I never spoke to her about it at all,” he claimed at first. But later, his spokeswoman admitted Bondi asked Trump for the money.

Trump didn’t take the $25,000 out of his own wallet. He took it from the foundation.

And see, here’s the problem. Non-profit foundations are prohibited by the IRS from making political contributions. And lying to the IRS about it is worse.

Here is how Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer for the Trump Organization and treasurer for the Trump Foundation explained the bungling that led to the foundation paying a $2,500 fine to the IRS earlier this year.

First, Weisselberg claimed, a Trump clerk was asked to write a check for $25,000 to an organization called And Justice for All, which was Bondi’s political action committee.

Weisselberg swears that the clerk found a charity named And Justice for All in Utah, which helps people with disabilities, and wrote the check for And Justice for All intending it to go to a charity in Utah.

And then, he says, the check, somehow, he doesn’t know how, got sent to Bondi.

And that’s not all, folks!

Weisselberg blames the next blunder on Trump’s accounting firm. When the firm listed the foundation’s 2013 donations for the IRS, it didn’t list either And Justice for All from Utah or And Justice for All from Florida. Instead it listed an entirely different group, Justice for All from Kansas.

It was just a typo or something, Weisselberg claims.

So on the 2013 IRS form, first the Trump Foundation told the federal government that it had not spent money for political purposes, when, in fact, it had spent $25,000 for political purposes. Then it told the IRS it made a grant to a group it had not, in fact, given money to.

All this fumbling from what Donnie promises will be the very best advisers in the world. The greatest!

The IRS never would have discovered this on its own. Its staff has been decimated by Republican budget cutting. Republicans don’t want billionaires like Trump to get pinched for tax cheating. So they take care of that problem by eliminating the tax cops.

When they did, Donnie denied any of it was done on purpose. Now, don’t forget, Donnie’s the guy who keeps saying things like this on the campaign trail: “I’ve given to everybody because that is my job. I gotta give to them. Because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”

In Bondi’s case, though, Donnie denied she kissed his anything. He said they were just friends.

 “I’ve just known Pam Bondi for years,” he said. She was a great attorney general, so he sent her $25,000 when she asked for it while she was considering investigating his university and then he concealed the donation through his foundation and she dropped the investigation. Nothing to see here, folks!

Just like his tax returns. He keeps saying there’s nothing there. He claims he’s told Americans everything they need to know about his finances. But after this whole Bondi affair, it’s probably better to go with a new version of the old Reagan admonition when dealing with the Trump tax returns: distrust and verify by seeing the actual forms.

Leo W Gerard: Donald Destructo

Donald Trump has perfected the swagger and boast of a professional wrestler.

While a guy like World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon is full of fake bluster and brashness for the sake of TV ratings, Donald Trump is the real McCoy: A reckless bully.

That violent, provocative behavior makes Trump far too dangerous to get anywhere near nuclear codes. For Americans who want peace and security, not war, this man is too risky to inhabit the White House.

That’s what 50 former national security officials whose careers span more than four decades said in a letter last week. They are Republicans. They include a former director of the CIA, the first director of national intelligence, and two former secretaries of homeland security. They warned that Trump would be treacherous as president.

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Image by: DonkeyHotey/Flickr

And that was before Trump suggested in a speech last week that “Second Amendment” supporters assassinate Hillary Clinton if she’s elected so she can’t nominate judges to the Supreme Court.

Trump contended later that he didn’t mean to suggest that gun nuts kill Clinton. But what he said could clearly be interpreted that way. It was irresponsible. And typical of Trump.

First, Trump glibly repeated the false accusation that Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment, something presidents can’t do, even if they wanted to. Then Trump said this: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

In the context, which is a President Clinton naming judges, Clinton supporters interpreted this as Trump calling on anti-government militia groups, like the one that took over the wildlife refuge in Oregon earlier this year, to assassinate a President Clinton to prevent her from selecting judges.

Trump says anyone who thinks a threat was intended is just being a silly goose. So silly. No threat intended. He asserts that he was just urging Second Amendment supporters to vote against Clinton, even though, obviously, they couldn’t vote against a President Clinton who was already in a position to appoint judges.

The thing about crazy talk in perilous times is that it can provoke war. A president can say something intemperate or unintelligible to a foreign leader the likes of Kim Jong-un, with nuclear weapons at his irrational fingertips, with devastating consequences for the entire world. A president can refuse to apologize for something rashly uttered and terrorist groups may impose horrible retribution on innocents.

The letter last week from the 50 former national security advisors warning Americans that Donald Trump would “be a dangerous president and put at risk our country’s national security and well-being” was not the first. It followed one in March signed by 121 Republican national security leaders saying:

“His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.”

And

“His admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin is unacceptable for the leader of the world’s greatest democracy.”

And

“He is fundamentally dishonest.”

The language in the new letter about Trump is even more damning. It includes:

“We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless president in American history.”

“Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be president. In our experience, a president must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A president must be disciplined, control emotions, and must act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A president must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.”

“He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics.”

Trump pushed some of these national security experts over the edge when he invited Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email server. For others, it was Trump’s abandonment of America’s commitment to NATO. And for still others it was Trump’s assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not “go into Ukraine” although, obviously, he did that two years ago when he seized Crimea.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine expressed her fears about Trump last week as well, writing in an op-ed in the Washington Post:

“I am also deeply concerned that Mr. Trump’s lack of self-restraint and his barrage of ill-informed comments would make an already perilous world even more so. It is reckless for a presidential candidate to publicly raise doubts about honoring treaty commitments with our allies. Mr. Trump’s tendency to lash out when challenged further escalates the possibility of disputes spinning dangerously out of control.”

Trump’s barrages of ill-informed comments include threats of violence when people make statements that he finds upsetting. For example, here’s what he told a crowd of cheering supporters during the Democratic National Convention:

“The things that were said about me. . .You know what, I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard, I would have hit them – no, no – I was gonna hit them. I was all set. . . I was gonna hit this guy so hard, his head would spin. He wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

He’s a candidate for the president of the United States, and he talks like a professional wrestler.

Just like wrestling fans mimic calls for violence from the stars, at Trump rallies, the Trumpeters have taken up his tone. Chants of “hang the bitch” and “kill the bitch”are routine. “Kill her, kill her” is an increasingly common refrain.

Such stuff is shouted flippantly by audiences in professional wrestling arenas. The audiences there know everything is fake. They understood when Trump knocked McMahon to the ground in WrestleMania 23, it was staged. They realize when they call for blood they’re getting ketchup.

There, it’s a game. But the Oval Office is not a wrestling ring. On the world stage, words matter.  America needs a diplomat in the White House, not a professional wrestler. Too many lives are at stake.

Leo W Gerard: Voters Can Choose U.S. Forecast: Bright Or Falling Skies

The dark and treacherous skies Donald Trump invoked at the Republican National Convention last week have lifted as Democrats begin their meeting in Philly today with a healthy dose of optimism.

The Hillary Clinton team sees America differently. They recognize problems like stagnant wages, unfair trade closing American factories, insufficient support for working mothers, terrorism, and conflict between cops and communities of color. And they have concrete plans to deal with those.

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Photo by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

The Clinton team has a unifying vision calling for Americans to work together to solve problems and build a better future for everyone. Hillary Clinton believes a good president inspires the best in Americans and motivates them to display their cherished qualities of community, fairness, and equal opportunity.

And the Clinton team believes Americans should have the choice about whether to join her team. That is why her slogan is: “I am with her.” A person who decides to support her can announce it by wearing that slogan.

The Trump clan is different. He insists, “I am with you.” That’s a shadow cast over voters whether they want it or not.

And it’s a dark, dark shadow. His convention was designed to frighten. It was stoked by hate, rancor, loathing, and condemnation. His own hour-long, yell-fest was filled with horror, venom, gloom and egotism. It is not morning in Trump’s America. It is the eve of absolute destruction.

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Photo by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

Be afraid, he said, be very, very afraid. The sky is falling. The world is collapsing. And only Donald Trump, an egomaniacal billionaire reality TV star, can save the country.

Be afraid of terrorists apparently everywhere in our midst, he warned. Then he demonized marginalized groups: refugees desperate for safety and a better life in America, unarmed black people seeking more cops willing to serve and protect them too, undocumented immigrants who pick America’s crops and make its hotel beds, and who, statistics show, have a lower crime rate, including violent crime, than native born Americans.

He said the country is threatened by crumbling infrastructure – without mentioning that GOP majorities in Congress have repeatedly refused money to repair it. And he slammed the economy, though it is rising steadily from the depths of the Bush-era Great Recession.

This occurred at a GOP convention with the lowest number of African-American delegates in a century, about 1 percent. On the first night of the meeting, U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa who keeps a confederate flag on his desk, went on MSNBC and defended the lack of diversity asking, “where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization” than white people?

It occurred at a GOP convention where the platform committee refused a gay delegate’s request for support for LGBT people’s right not to be murdered by terrorists, as in Orlando. And though much was made of openly gay Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel speaking at the conclave, the billionaire threw transgender people under the bus during his talk by insisting no one cares about GOP laws discriminating against them by restricting their use of restrooms.

It also occurred at a GOP convention where the party gave a speaking slot to an actor who tweeted a photo of Hillary Clinton with a vulgar sexual word in the background and a former candidate for the GOP presidential nomination who linked her to the devil because she wrote a thesis in college – 50 years ago – about an author who referred to the devil in an introduction to one of his books.

It also occurred at a convention where Trump’s hatefulness during the primary came back to him. Trump mocked opponent Carly Fiorina’s face; he called Marco Rubio, “Little Marco,” Jeb Bush, “Low Energy Jeb,” and most memorably, Ted Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump also ridiculed Ted’s wife in a tweet and suggested Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination.

In return, Cruz used his time on the convention stage to make what amounted to an acceptance speech instead of a Trump endorsement. This provoked a situation so volatile that Cruz’ wife, Heidi, had to be rushed out of the stadium by guards for her own safety as delegates aggressively heckled her.

It was a dark and nasty convention, with an ominous and overcast finale. Trump declared in his valedictory that he, and only he, a politically inexperienced reality TV star who gained fame for firing people, could solve everything. “I alone,” he said, “can fix it.”

He promised to be an iron-fisted, law-and-order, one-man savior, a superman who has utterly no qualifications for the job. Everything is completely horrible, inside the country and out, he asserted. He is a billionaire who lives in a golden tower and who has never in his life had to worry about a lay off or a mortgage bill, who, in fact, repeatedly stiffed working guys and small contractors during his bankruptcies, but, he insisted, he alone would solve everything for the middle class.

When asked what he hoped voters would take away from his convention, Trump said, “The fact that I’m very well liked.”  He did not hope they would take away a specific Trump plan for on-shoring the manufacturing of Trump signature clothing now made with foreign labor overseas, or, more importantly, bringing back thousands of factories and millions of jobs from low-wage countries like China.

He didn’t hope they’d take away a specific Trump policy for dealing with ISIS or conflict between cops and communities of color. He knew they would not take away an overriding Trump philosophy for governing. Because he didn’t offer any of that.

No. Donny just wants to be liked. And to do that, he told Americans they should be terrified and look only to a reality TV star as the slick solution, a guy who insisted, “I am with you,” whether Americans want a name-calling bully shadowing them or not.

Leo W. Gerard: Donald Trump – The Divider

Photo by Evan Guest

Photo of Donald Trump by Evan Guest via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The man Republicans will nominate this week as their presidential candidate sees himself as a U.S. generalissimo. Donald Trump would be, he said last week, the law-and-order president.  He’d be a tough guy at a time when crime is down. He’d strong arm at a time when reconciliation is required.

What Trump didn’t say, because he lacks the insight to know it, is that he’d also be the nation’s most self-involved, egotistical president ever. Rather than bearing the important mantle of consoler-in-chief after tragedies like those in Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge, a President Trump would be Tweeter-in-chief, bragging about how he, and only he, had predicted it would happen.

Precious few Americans want a bully as a leader, someone who barks, “You’re fired,” who calls people names, ridicules the physically handicapped, and builds walls between races. They want a president who brings people together, who inspires, who offers hope and who can give solace to the nation in times of crisis. All of that was missing from Trump’s responses to national shocks like the gunning down of 49 people at the LGBT club in Orlando, the massacre of five police officers in Dallas, and the killings by police officers of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Trump’s reactions showed he’s a businessman with a heart of stone, a man who would widen the divides of this country.

As the self-proclaimed law-and-order candidate, Trump on Tuesday spoke about the slaughter of the five officers in Dallas and the wounding of seven others. He said:

“Our whole nation grieves and mourns for the loss of five heroes in Dallas. Law enforcement. These were great, great people. Great people. We pray for their families. We pray for their loved ones. We pray for all the wounded survivors. We pray for our country. So important. The police are not just part of our society. The police are the best of our society. Remember that.”

And Trump went on talking about police. He didn’t mention the two civilians who were wounded, including a black woman, Shetamia Taylor, who was protesting the Sterling and Castile killings at the peaceful Black Lives Matter rally the night of the officer assassinations and who has repeatedly credited Dallas police with saving her life and the lives of her sons.

But Trump gave Taylor no time in his speech. It focused on the police, except for a brief mention of the recorded incidents in which police killed two citizens. Trump did not speak of Sterling and Castile themselves as human beings. He didn’t ask for prayers for them or their families.

He didn’t discuss the frustration, fear and anger in the black community as interactions between African Americans and police end in death far, far too frequently – more than 1,000 times last year, with young black men nine times more likely to be killed by police than other Americans. He didn’t mention that only the recordings of these incidents have made the rest of America pay attention to what black people have said for a long time.

Here’s what Trump said about the Sterling and Castile killings: “It was tough. It was tough to watch. For everybody here, it was tough to watch.” So, to Trump, the problem was the watching. It was a shame Americans had to watch some shocking video.

The hard thing wasn’t that a Baton Rouge, La., father, known in his community as the “CD man” because he sold them outside a convenience store, was taken too soon from his children. The hard thing wasn’t that a beloved Minneapolis, Minn., school cafeteria supervisor, who knew all the kids’ names and fed them like a grandma would, was taken from them too early, was shot multiple times, point blank in front of his girlfriend and her toddler.

The hard thing, for Donald Trump, wasn’t that for the African-American community this was two more names on a wall of horror that includes from just the past few years infamous cases such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Eric Harris and Walter Scott.

That the hard thing was the watching for Donald Trump is another example of Donald the Divider. He began his campaign by slandering undocumented immigrants as drug runners and rapists. He physically mocked a handicapped reporter. He slammed Muslims by claiming he saw “thousands and thousands” in New Jersey cheering the fall of the twin towers on 9-11 – despite the fact that this urban lie has been debunked repeatedly. He mocked the face of primary opponent Carly Fiorina and ridiculed a female Fox New anchor who asked him tough questions.

President Obama handled the Sterling, Castile and Dallas tragedies very differently. He met with both police officials and Black Lives Matter representatives at the White House. He tried to hear and understand both sides. He spoke with Sterling’s and Castile’s families and went to Dallas and comforted the families of the slain and wounded officers. And there, he said this:

“Today, in this audience, I see people who have protested on behalf of criminal justice reform grieving alongside police officers. I see people who mourn for the five officers we lost, but also weep for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In this audience, I see what’s possible.

“I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving equal respect, all children of God. That’s the America I know.”

That is a president who speaks of unity. That is a president who offers comfort and hope. That is a president who believes in the best of all Americans and who intends to help bring those qualities forward.

President Obama also cited the Bible during that speech. He talked about the Lord telling Ezekiel that he would give him a new heart, quoting the Lord, “I will remove from you your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

Then President Obama said, “That’s what we must pray for, each of us, a new heart. Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens. That’s what we’ve seen in Dallas these past few days, and that’s what we must sustain. . .with an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged and worry more about joining sides to do right.. .We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share.”

Later, he said, “Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down. It is found by lifting others up.”

Donald Trump is excellent at putting people down. At slander. At ridicule. He can Tweet-slam with the best of ’em. Such bullies are terrific as tyrants. And tyrants are great at gruesome, cracked-skull style law and order.

But, frankly, Americans need a president with a heart of flesh.

 

Leo_W_Gerard

 

Follow Leo W. Gerard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/uswblogger

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