Penn Jillette's audacious wish

What kind of America do you want? It may be ...

Posted: Nov 5, 2018 12:46 PM
Updated: Nov 5, 2018 12:46 PM

What kind of America do you want? It may be the most important question facing voters Tuesday.

Penn Jillette has an idea: "All I want out of America now is kindness," wrote the magician and author. "The past few years have filled too many of our friends and neighbors with hate, and it breaks my heart... So many of us now agree with the message of hate, and play 'ideology' as team sports," he lamented. "Anyone whose tone is kind will get my complete support."

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And how about you, Ai-Jen Poo?

An America that honors families, said the executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who is a child of Taiwanese immigrants. With cruel immigration policies, "the people who control our government have put a series of moral choices before us. How do we really value family and the well-being of children -- all families and children?"

An America that protects "rights, protections, equality and justice," wrote Alyssa Milano. "Voting is how we prove that our country is so much kinder and bigger and better than that man in the White House."

But political scientist Carol Swain warned against sweeping into office "a leftist's counterfeit remake of our nation," especially after "President Trump has quietly checked off the accomplishments he promised to the American people," including a booming economy.

Time for a reality check, wrote LZ Granderson: "That restlessness in the pit of your stomach isn't there because the sky is falling" since Trump. "It's there because social media has pushed the clouds away, the sun is shining, and you're made uneasy by the clarity of who we really are and what we've always been."

The fear campaign

As the hugely consequential midterm election loomed, the word of the week was fear.

The nation was horrified in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. But as families were burying their dead-- and reckoning with the specter of murderous American anti-Semitism--President Trump, Fox News and the far-right fanned conspiracy theories about race and immigration into the overheated election cycle. They invoked their all-purpose Jewish bogeyman, the investor and philanthropist George Soros.

Naturally, wrote Kate Maltby: white supremacists see Jews, Hispanics, black people and Middle Easterners as the Other, threatening their status. The President needs to do more than condemn the individual actions of racist killers. "He needs to repudiate the conspiracy theories that fuel their bloodlust."

Nicole Hemmer wrote that we might have seen Pittsburgh coming. In last year's violence in Charlottesville, "the anti-Semitism part of the story quickly disappeared. Most analysis centered on Confederate statues and anti-black racism...a core part of the story." But "lost sight of the specific history behind the Nazi flags that flapped beside them."

And then on Thursday, the President tweeted an incendiary video about a murderous undocumented immigrant.

"Racism is a helluva drug," wrote law professor Dorothy Brown. She noted Justice Department stats that show whites had more to fear from one another when it comes to crime. But "facts don't matter now; Trump has a midterm to win."

And John Blake marveled at an American leader whose bigotry is losing its ability to shock: "President Donald Trump may be on the verge on doing something that arguably no American leader has ever done. Make racism boring."

Whitey Bulger taken down by a wannabe?

The homicidal Boston mobster Whitey Bulger, 89, was beaten to death on Tuesday--a day after he was transferred to a federal prison in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. One suspect, the Boston Globe first reported, is a Massachusetts mafia hitman, Fotios Geas, known as Freddy. "In 2011, I tried and convicted Geas, along with his brother Ty Geas and their mafia boss Arthur 'Artie' Nigro for a string of vicious murders," wrote Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. Geas tried to make his name in the mob by showing he was a cold-blooded killer. He did it—and wound up in a prison with Whitey Bulger. But let's let Honig tell the remarkable story...

The "caravan" may just be a minivan

All week the President bounced around the country trying to fend off a "blue wave," and whipping up fears over the dwindling group of migrants from Central America, most of them children, who are in southern Mexico and walking this way—an "invasion," Trump said.

But that's a fallacy wrapped in a fiction, argued David Gergen and James Piltch. We should take a lesson from Mexico. "Since 2010, the flow of undocumented Mexican immigrants has decreased significantly." That's partly because life in Mexico improved, they wrote, and we should try to help Central America do the same -- "create better and safer opportunities for the citizens of these countries. We should not cut aid; we should increase it."

Alice Driver, traveling with the migrants, and pausing in Juchitán, Mexico, lamented how "Trump has tried to erode" faith in America as a "refuge to those fleeing extreme violence and poverty." "A hungry, tired mass of migrants with sunburned faces and bleeding feet" is not something to fear.

But Rich Lowry, in the National Review, said Trump may be distorting the caravan as a menace for midterm advantage, but he "gets the big point right: We have borders, and should enforce them."

Fox's Lou Dobbs problem?

Hours after a gunman shot dead 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue, wrote Jen Psaki, Fox re-aired a segment of Lou Dobbs' show, in which Chris Farrell, from the conservative group Judicial Watch, said the "Soros occupied State Department" funded the migrant caravan. Fox Business later condemned the remarks. Democracy is suffering from the "partnership between a serial liar now occupying the oval office and a major news network that has evolved from the voice of the conservative movement to a forum for racist and divisive conspiracy rants," she says.

It's already baked in the cake, explained New Day host Alisyn Camerota, who worked at Fox before coming to CNN. In a 2016 meeting with candidate Trump, he congratulated her on the move, but complained that now she was "being mean" to him. "I tried to explain the role of the free press ... It didn't work," she wrote.

Is Iowa over Congressman Steve King?

The white-culture warrior from Iowa has held office since 2002. Voters should ditch him, wrote Jacy Gomez, a former staffer for GOP Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. King recently endorsed Toronto's nationalist candidate for mayor, who has said "white genocide" threatens Canada. King's nativism is "a blemish on an otherwise admirable state...his hate-spew has real world consequences," says Gomez.

Health is on the ballot

Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, a medical doctor, complained about Democrats trying to paint the GOP as the enemy of pre-existing-condition coverage. Not true, he says: Democrats are trying to rewrite history. They want to "set the stage for a single-payer health care system," and Medicare for all.

Citing a drop in Americans' life expectancy, Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, counseled voters to ask candidates questions about prevention; the best leaders "address the root of the problem." That means funding public health programs, research on gun violence and the health fallout from climate change, opioids and more. "Ask what the long-term effect would be on your community if parents can't earn enough to pay the rent and women can't plan a family on their terms."

Maybe the Democrats are delusional?

Conor Friedersdorf, a political independent, confided in the LA Times that he usually votes "candidate," not "party." Not this time -- he's voting Democratic. "The reason is simple: President Trump." Voters must decide whether the President "will continue to enjoy the endless support of a Congress controlled by his fellow Republicans, or confront a Democratic House that checks his power."

But Democrats expecting a rout in reaction to Trump may be delusional, argued Jason L. Riley, in the Wall Street Journal. "Economic growth has accelerated, unemployment is low, salaries are increasing, and consumer confidence is strong." Two years in, "who's afraid of Donald Trump?"

It's in the Constitution

Earlier this week, Trump announced that he would upend the Constitution's 14th amendment and halt birthright citizenship, by executive order—sometime. It's "a desperate midterm election Hail Mary" aimed at anti-immigration voters, wrote John Avlon; ironic to boot, "given the conservative movement's obsession with Obama-era executive orders." It won't hold up in court, he says.

"I'm a birthright citizen," declared Naaz Modan, who rooted in the New Jersey suburbs in the 1980s. "My story and the story of many other first-generation citizens is the American story"—immigrants signing on to "a set of shared ideals—democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality." She concludes: "It comes as no surprise that a man who called himself a nationalist just one week ago is now undermining these values."

Let's pause on that, wrote Israeli political theorist Yoram Hazony: Trump gets the nationalism vs. globalism issue—"the great political struggle of our age"--exactly right. Before Hitler gave nationalism a bad name, "national independence and self-determination" were seen as "key to a free world... free institutions, limited government, and personal liberties."

Ntozake Shange's pioneering voice

We lost Ntozake Shange, poet, and author of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf" at 70. Jane Carr wrote: "generations of women of color -- and others who felt marginalized, traumatized, or held locked in place by an unforgiving world -- found themselves in Shange's choreopoem." Tweeted actor Kerry Washington, "So grateful for her vision and voice."

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