Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

How I Came to be Called an ‘Enemy of the American People’

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

The Fake President

The Fake President

In late 1963, I was working a go-nowhere job for an airport shipping firm when I got an important phone call from George Trow, the night managing editor of the New York Post, telling me that the copyboy’s position I’d applied for was available.

Was I still interested, he inquired.

“When should I report,” I asked. Easy answer, my having been raised in a newspaper-reading family and believing that newspaper reporters and editors were important people.

Thus, a career began in those hazy distant days.

And oh yes, Mr. Trow said as he cleared his throat, the shift began at 1 a.m., and the pay was $48 a week. I was getting $65 at the airport. I took the job at the Post. One a.m.? $48? My father was aghast.

This was two months after the JFK assassination. The work at the Post was menial: I re-filled paste pots, I took coffee and sandwich orders from the night staff, I kept the reporters well-supplied with copy paper for their stories and the copy editors well-supplied with sharp pencils to edit stories and write headlines. I ran galley proofs and page proofs back and forth between the composing room and the copy desk.

Menial yes, but, it turned out, the start of a 42-year adventure. I worked for several dailies. At each of them we delivered to readers the information they needed, the scores of the sports events they had bet on, the features they enjoyed, some columnists they admired and others they loathed.

In my newspaper decades I covered some presidential campaigns. I wrote a great deal about transportation. Late in career, I got a general column. I interviewed the great Cesar Chavez. I went to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Once, I found myself sitting across from Ray Charles who was in town to publicize a singing jingle promoting a new game in the New Jersey Lottery. Charles looked miserable and I had no idea what to ask this genius now reduced to singing commercials late in his career. I filed four dull paragraphs; it was enough.

There were thousands of other stories about politics, about people with interesting careers, about crime. I even found the abandoned creamery in the Catskills where Patricia Hearst spent a year in hiding.

Nowadays the voice in the Oval Office refers to what he has determined to be “Fake News,” which, if I understand it, means any news our Fake President doesn’t care for. An example: He really doesn’t like to be reminded that he drew nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in last year’s election.

In addition to slandering the press as a purveyor of “fake news,” Trump maligns the entire news industry by labeling the press “enemies of the American people,” which is a lie.

By attacking American news gathering this way Trump forgets where he gets the right to speak his own fake mind in any newspaper he might someday choose to publish. He seems to forget a lot, such as the fact that the press is one of only two occupations specifically protected in the Bill of Rights: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, it says in the First Amendment. (The clergy has such protection as well.)

The need for a vibrant First Amendment has become more and more apparent in the months since Trump took office. Perhaps more than ever it has become clear that our democracy’s survival depends on a free and unfettered press.

A lot of people have fought to defend the United States Constitution. The Fake President was not one of them.

Would Trump dismiss Jefferson as a fake revolutionary? After all, it was Jefferson who uttered the familiar line that if forced to choose between government without newspapers or newspapers without a government he would prefer the latter.

Press Gets Another Chance at Trump

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

By Bob Gaydostrump:constitution

Okay, number one: When Sean Spicer told reporters for The New York Times, the LA Times, CNN, and Politico they were not welcome at his press gaggle (whatever that is), representatives of every other legitimate news organization in that room should have stood up and walked out with their colleagues. Let the lying apologist shoot the breeze with the right-wing, nut job ‘’journalists’’ his boss invited to hear his latest pronouncement. Besides, those pronouncements are usually contradicted by key administration officials shortly after they hear what their boss just said.

The mainstream media doesn’t need to be reporting on every utterance of the Narcissist-in-Chief. He talks only to his base of delusional followers anyway because they actually believe him, or wish and pray hard for the willingness to keep believing him. That blind faith doesn’t appear to be likely to change a lot in the near future, so let them talk to each other. The real reporters in the room can get the news by doing their jobs the way they were trained to do them. And the way this White House is leaking like a sieve, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Which brings me to number two: If the legitimate mainstream media had been doing its job all along during the presidential campaign last year it probably wouldn’t be dealing with a super-sensitive, press-wary occupant in the White House. Well, maybe it would have, but at least it would have been an occupant who wasn’t predictably angry, petulant, and vindictive and one who actually understood how government works. Someone who would never kick the press out because she generally avoided meeting them in the first place.

But woulda-coulda-shoulda and if pigs could fly, the unpredictable dunce won and those reporters for the mainstream media played a big part in letting it happen, particularly TV news outlets.

While Trump was using insult and intimidation to lay waste to the joke of a field of presidential candidates the Republican Party fielded, most of the mainstream media busied itself filling air time and pages with one outrageous quote of his after another, often ignoring statements by other candidates and usually ignoring any mention of an actual issue.

It was all Trump this, Trump that. Seldom were questions about policy put to him and seldom was there any serious follow up on his many outrageous claims. It was all shock value as a way to attract viewers or readers. Only as the campaign wore on and the other candidates fell by the wayside one by one, did some of those news organizations begin to realize what was happening. Trump was lying, bullying and treating the campaign like a reality TV show. His name was everywhere and good or bad, he didn’t care. He was winning.

And, he didn’t seem to know what he was talking about. So what did the mainstream media do? It reported the heck out of Hillary Clinton’s non-existent email scandal. Day after day. E-mail this, e-mail that. (The FBI was no help.) No one bothered chasing the source of the leaks about those emails. No one bothered finding out the truth about Trump’s connections with Russia.

Meanwhile, the phony baloney news media — the ones who were allowed to stay in Spicer’s gaggle — were busy making up fake news every day — about Clinton, about Bernie Sanders, about Mexicans, about Muslims, about crime, about the economy, about President Obama. Trump even grudgingly admitted that all his bellowing about Obama not being a citizen was bull and he pretty much got a pass on it for admitting it.

And by time the mainstream media realized what a sexist pig Trump was, it was too late. His hardcore base of racists, bigots and other sexist pigs were strongly behind him now and a lot of other angry white Americans latched on to those fake news reports and said why don’t we shake up Washington by voting for a terrific businessman who’s going to provide jobs for us and who’s not going to hobnob with billionaires like Hillary does.

Right.

So here we are, my fellow Americans, with a man in the White House who doesn’t recognize the First Amendment, describes the press as the enemy, and who excludes news media from press conferences because they dared to report stories that did not portray him in the most positive light. Actually, they’re all digging into his connections with Russia.

It should be mentioned here that reporters from the Associated Press, TIME and USA Today joined their colleagues from the excluded media in walking out of the gaggle. Good for them. But what about the rest? Reporters from ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox TV networks stayed with Spicer and the phony baloneys.

It’s not all bad. In a strange way, Trump has pulled the reverse on the old he giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. During the campaign he made a mockery of the press. In office he has continued to insult and assault the media because they are finally recognizing him for what he is. Much of the mainstream media has started doing its job again. Reporting the truth. Digging behind the scenes and the press conferences for the real story. Holding politicians’ feet to the fire — and calling a lie a lie. In throwing down the gauntlet so brazenly, the man who knows so little about the Constitution has reminded much of the Fourth Estate that they hold a prominent place in that document.

Authoritarians, despots, would-be dictators go after the press first for one reason: It is the direct link to the people. In this country its job is to report the truth regardless of who is in power, whose career may be hurt. Trump’s words and actions regarding his Russian connection are reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s words and actions during the Watergate scandal. Attack, deny, blame  the press.

Trump has embarrassed the press, but then, in usual Trump fashion, he overplays his hand. He overestimates his intelligence, his power, and his eventual support. The ugly part of his base will stick with him. He is their Messiah. But if the press now does what it knows how to do a lot of those other Trump voters will come to realize they were conned, just like the media was, and they will insist that the press do its job.

Meanwhile, the mainstream press, print and electronic, should all boycott future White House press conferences until there is a sincere apology issued from the Oval Office. Not from Spicer, the errand boy. Skip the White House Correspondents Dinner, too, while you’re at it. Oh wait, Trump just said he’s skipping the dinner. No guts. Well then go and enjoy yourselves. Maybe see if Alec Baldwin is free to stand in.

Trump’s only enemy — and it’s a powerful one — is the truth.

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Birth Control and Pure Ignorance

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Jerk: A person regarded as disagreeable or contemptible.

The requirements for election to the House of Representatives aren’t complicated. You have to be 25 or older, a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and reside in the state you wish to represent.

I have a proposal to amend the Constitution. It would read as follows: “No person who is a jerk is allowed to serve in the House. Nor as senator. Nor as a governor. And certainly not as president. The United States recognizes that all people are created equal, but just as we wouldn’t allow a popular cocker spaniel to assume public office, nor would we allow a jerk to hold public office.”

The event that prompted my outburst was a pitch that came in the mail from Planned Parenthood asking for money and reminding recipients of some of the more outrageous comments by four men with bizarre ideas about what degree of lunacy the American people will accept from their elected representatives.

We have seen these quotations before, but there they were again, clumped in a tidy one-page display that left me breathless.

You remember this stuff of course.

— Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., declared at a hearing that women’s voices were “not appropriate or qualified” to participate in discussion of birth control matters. This is truly remarkable because if 51 percent of the population is not qualified to discuss birth control, new and dangerous paths are automatically opened. Remember when the majority were not allowed to vote at all in South Africa? What else might Issa see as unfit for the input of more than half the population? He didn’t say. But if women shouldn’t be at the table for talk on abortion and other forms of birth control because only they can get pregnant, you have to wonder if Issa would bar the 49 percent from the table when the subject is prostate cancer or low testosterone levels or male breast cancer or male osteoporosis. Issa didn’t say.

— In the wrangle over whether employers who offer medical coverage should be required to make birth control part of the benefits package, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said, “[Refusal to include birth control in workplace health coverage] is not denying women’s rights. If a woman then wants birth control, go work somewhere else.” This is a puerile response unworthy of half the legislative branch of our government. By suggesting that women quit their jobs – especially in the economy’s current state – and go marching out to an array of nonexistent jobs, Brownback lets everyone know the truth: He doesn’t give a hoot in hell about the real “facts of life.”

— Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and sometime candidate for president, shocked the nation with this moronic, sexist, and almost obscene observation: “ … women are helpless without Uncle [Sam] coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido … without the help of government.” Newsflash, governor: When a woman gets pregnant, there’s usually more than one libido involved.

— Finally there was Todd Akin, the genius from Missouri, who informed the nation about aspects of human reproduction that no one knew existed. To the question of the importance of making abortion available to women who get pregnant during rape, Akin said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” “That whole thing?” What is this man talking about?

Election Day is just 40 days away. Reject jerks seeking public office.

Oops, There Goes the First Amendment

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

U.S. Supreme Court Building

U.S. Supreme Court Building

I’m not a constitutional lawyer. I’m just an American watching the U.S. Supreme Court change my country in ways that once would have been unimaginable.

For example, in Citizens United, the court decreed that corporations have the same rights as human beings. And now, the court holds that it’s essentially permissible for government to endorse one religion over another and put an end to the concept of religious neutrality.

Once, we were a nation of reason, a sanctuary for the tempest-tossed, a place where immigrants, no matter their faith, seeking peace and maybe even a little understanding, could go to get away from the mob. 

Once, we took the opening clause of the Bill of Rights seriously: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” We didn’t know of any other countries that offered such extraordinary protections to minorities and nonbelievers. The United States was really special.

Sometimes, the great American experiment didn’t work, but such failure was usually corrected fairly quickly. In any case, at least the guarantee of religious freedom was written down and signed; at least we knew how things were supposed to be.

Oh, America! Where else was religious freedom so clearly stated?

This has been a country where the official rule is that a Jew can be a Jew, a Sikh can be a Sikh. And if anyone made being a Jew or a Sikh in America a problem, there was the Supreme Court – with no agenda of its own – to set matters straight. We believed that certain truths were self-evident. You want to pray? Go ahead and pray. Just don’t force it on everyone else.

But now the Supreme Court has decided – in yet another 5-4 decision – that a prayer at the opening of town board meetings in Greece, N.Y. is no violation of the First Amendment because atheists and ministers of all faiths are welcome to register on the board’s “chaplain of the month” roster. The “chaplain of the month” gets to recite the invocation at town board meetings in Greece.

The New York Times has reported that the “chaplain of the month” in Greece was almost always a Christian, that two-thirds of the “chaplains of the month” made reference to “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus,” “your son,” or “the holy spirit,” and that one prayer ended: “We acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.”

That sure sounds like the establishment of a religion, a point the Greece Town Board naturally denies.

If the town board is serious about representing all its constituents and if it had noticed – how could it not? – that almost all prayers were Christian in nature, it would have made a stronger effort towards inclusivity.

All the board had to do was to get out into the neighborhoods of Greece and proactively invite Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Shintoist, and clergy or laity of other faiths to sign up on the “chaplain of the month” list. And since God is everywhere, board members could even have ventured into neighboring towns if, for example, there was no Buddhist temple in Greece but one in the next town over. Incidentally, Rochester, a city of about 211,000 people, is just eight miles east of Greece and is home to 12 synagogues, a Sikh temple, five mosques, and a Baha’i community among other places of worship.

Just hours after the Supreme Court ruling, the Greece Town Board opened its meeting with a prayer by the Rev. Peter Enyan-Boadu, who, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported, “asked God to guide the board’s hearts and minds in the spirit of fairness.” He also called on God to bless the minds of the members of the town board, and finished with: “Thank you Lord, for being our source of guidance today.”

The Rev. Enyan-Boadu was from St. John the Evangelist Church.

The Constitution? What’s That?

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

If the American experiment with popular rule comes to an end, I’m convinced it will be as a result of otherwise sensible people allowing mold to grow on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Often we don’t abide by what the framers had in mind. One glaring example is over the question of how the United States shall go to war. The Constitution, in Article I, spells it out within a long list of Congressional powers and authority. Congress declares war.

The last time that happened was 71 years ago, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since then, American presidents have sent troops and fleets to wage war in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Somalia, the Gulf and many other places with no congressional declaration sought or granted. I don’t recall any serious congressional objection to this presidential use of force.

In New York City, meanwhile, the mayor and his police commissioner are busy dismantling the Fourth Amendment – the one that forbids “unreasonable searches and seizures” – to ensure the continuation of their odious stop-and-frisk program. Briefly: A cop stops a “suspicious [read: nonwhite] person,” asks for identification, orders the “suspicious person” to empty his pockets, notices that along with some money and a handkerchief, the pocket contained some marijuana that is now showing, and promptly arrests the “suspicious person” for displaying marijuana in public. Never mind that to refuse to clear out his pocket renders the “suspicious person” guilty of ignoring a police officer’s command. Either way, there’s an arrest.

Last year, NYPD stopped and frisked 685,724 people: 53 percent were black (blacks comprise 26 percent of the city’s population); 34 percent were Latino (Latinos comprise 29 percent), and 9 percent were white (whites comprise 44 percent). The numbers suggest stop-and-frisk is something you might have encountered on the streets of Berlin around, say, 1939.

Racist? Not us, cry Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. If you bet $10 on the assumption that no relative of Bloomberg or Kelly has ever been stopped and frisked, pick up your money. You’re a winner.

If there’s been a popular movement involving huge numbers of middle class people marching on City Hall to protest this racist atrocity, I haven’t heard about it.

Now, in Middleborough, Mass., some residents are upset about people (especially high school students) swearing in public. And so, the Town Meeting voted to allow the police to fine people $20 for cursing in public. You might think the vote of 233 people who participated would have been about as close as 117 to 116 or that the measure would go down in flames. No such thing. The vote was 183 to 50. That’s 79 percent favoring a dubious move to get around the First Amendment.

It’s dangerous enough that the penalty for uttering a dirty word in public is strictly a police matter. It’s at an officer’s discretion, Police Chief Bruce Gates told The Patriot-Ledger.

Worse is the fact that there’s no official list of banned words. A dirty word is what a police officer on duty says it is.

Can you say “shit?” Probably not.

Can you say “asshole?” Maybe, maybe not.

And since this idiotic rule is up to the cop who hears it, can you say “cop?” Or “fuzz?” Can you call your boss a “son of a bitch?”

No one knows. But that’s OK in Middleborough where the people have accepted Gates’s explanation that the rule is not directed at what he called “ordinary swears,” whatever they are. Actually, he said, the rule is to prevent “profane [a word with religious overtones] language directed at some attractive female walking through town.” He didn’t say which member of the force will decide which females are attractive and thus deserving of protection or what official action he would take if he heard someone saying something profane to a female he finds unattractive.

What they’ve enacted in Middleborough sounds ridiculous. But it’s more than that. It’s dangerous. Oh, and I forgot to mention that children as young as 7 are eligible to be cited under Gates’s rule. He didn’t say what would happen if a kid and his mom and dad refuse to pay the fine.

jeffrey@zestoforange.com