A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

‘Locker-room banter’ at Wrigley might drift to Trump

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Oct. 20, 21 or 22, 2016

With the best record in Major League Baseball and the best manager to keep things light and lively, the Chicago Cubs’ locker room is likely to be upbeat and not darkened by degenerate ravings by an old guy who acts like a spoiled adolescent.

True, players are mostly millionaires working for billionaires, but they have feelings and opinions, and they’re closer to fans than owners.

Purdue professor Harry Targ wrote, “There is a kind of spiritual connection between the Cubs, working-class Chicago, and all the down-and-out men and women who have struggled to survive and in the face of economic catastrophe continue to struggle to achieve well-being for themselves and their loved ones.”

The Cubs’ makeup may mean some questions. What do Hispanic Cubs such as Baez, Chapman, Contreras, Montero and Soler think of Donald Trump? Do Lester and Rizzo, cancer survivors, think it’s acceptable that Trump ridicules the disabled? What do Fowler or Heyward think of Trump’s condescending comments about African-Americans? How do Texas good ol’ boy John Lackey or Wounded Warriors program supporter Jake Arrieta feel when Trump criticizes military veterans?

Cubs’ assistant general manager Shiraz Rehman is a Muslim, and Ben Zobrist the son of a pastor and husband of a Christian singer; their feelings about Trump and religion would be interesting. And would Bryant or Almora, each newly married, let Trump anywhere near their wives or any woman?

Of course, they have other challenges to focus on as a team, and manager Joe Maddon has helped them become a team, a unified group of varied individuals with a common purpose. Further, Cub fans come in all shades. Democratic consultant David Axelrod and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, actor Bill Murray and comic Stephen Colbert are some of the many progressive faces at Wrigley. On the other hand, conservative columnist George Will is a die-hard fan, and Ronald Reagan got his start doing play by play on Iowa radio, recreating action from ticker-tape updates.

And the elephant in the room is the Ricketts family that owns the club. Most of them support Trump, and a few have contributed millions to the GOP. Patriarch Joe and wife Marilyn aren’t on the board, but the TD Ameritrade founders this election cycle donated more than $8 million to Republican candidates, the GOP, Political Action Committees and other GOP-allied groups, according to federal data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CPR), and endorsed Trump last month (after backing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker during the primaries). Son Pete, Republican governor of Nebraska, endorsed Trump in May, and son Todd Ricketts (who previously donated to Mitt Romney and Illinois politicians Bobby Schilling and Adam Kinzinger) predicted a Trump victory at a Bolingbrook fundraiser last month and has raised tens of millions of dollars of pro-Trump groups, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, however, daughter Laura – who’s on the board of Lambda Legal, which advocates for LBGTQ rights – supported Obama and backs Clinton, and Tom – arguably the face of Cubs ownership – is pretty neutral, having contributed merely to MLB political efforts in 2012, CPR said. And, in the front office, President Theo Epstein attended a “Lawyers for Hillary Clinton” event last month, voiced his support for the Democrat, and made a contribution.

Perhaps the ballplayers, stars who earned their fame, are skeptical of superficial celebrities like Trump.

Author Howard Senzel (“Baseball and the Cold War”) wrote, “There was a time, long ago, when history itself consisted of the tales of heroic deeds. Usually about warriors, these were tales of heroism, rather than gossip about heroes. These tales were yardsticks against which ordinary people could measure their own lives. Now history is about institutions, and processes, and forces. And our heroes are heroes just because they have emerged from anonymity into the public arena. Visibility is enough, nowadays.”

Maybe it’s not enough, finally. In 1920, The Nation magazine wrote, “We do not trust cashiers half so much, or diplomats, or policemen or physicians, as we trust an outfielder or shortstop.”

Indeed, many of us would rather live in a nation made up of a fun-loving, talented patchwork-quilt society like the Cubs team.

A team, with a common purpose.

[PICTURED: The Ricketts at Wrigley, left to right -- Laura, Joe, Marlene, Todd, Tom and Pete, from]

Thursday, October 20, 2016

‘Liar, liar, Pence on fire’

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Oct. 17, 18 or 19

GOP vice president nominee Mike Pence could become a heartbeat from the presidency – or one outlandish tweet or outrageous recording from the top of the ticket. So it’s worth considering him, even as he tries to distance himself from his running mate.

Other Republican office-holders are criticizing Trump or asking him to withdraw from the race. (One estimate is that 33 House Members and 17 Senators have publicly rejected Trump, meaning that more than 200 House Republicans and 37 Senators are sticking with him.) And though Pence is under some pressure to quit – especially after Trump during the last debate conceded he hadn’t talked with Pence and disagreed with his position on Syria – Republicans including U.S. Sens. Ron Portman (Ohio) and Mike Crapo (Idaho) want Pence to replace Trump as their nominee.

Meanwhile, Pence is being held up as more reasonable than Trump (which isn’t difficult). But Pence may just be a smoother politician.

Some history: Before becoming Indiana’s governor in 2012, Pence started his political career by losing a 1988 race for Congress, and then two years later losing again (while using campaign funds for personal expenses – which wasn’t yet against the law that eventually sent U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to prison). After a five-year stint as a right-wing broadcaster on talk radio and morning TV, he won a Congressional seat in 2000. In a 12-year career as a Congressman, Pence was a Tea Partier before there was one, authoring 90 bills – none of which passed.

“His interest was more in preventing things from happening — spending, taxing, expanding liberal social policy,” reported New York Times journalist Carl Hulse.

Pence supported invading Iraq War, de-funding Planned Parenthood, and legalizing discrimination of prejudiced people using a religious justification, and he opposed the rescue of the auto industry, raising the minimum wage, and addressing climate change.

And he’s dishonest, based on his remarks from the vice presidential debate. Non-partisan fact-checkers verified Pence’s following lies in the Oct. 4 debate with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Clinton’s running mate. Pence said …
1. it was “nonsense” that Trump didn’t know Russia had already invaded Ukraine/Crimea. (Trump showed that on ABC-TV in August);
2. Trump didn’t break his 2014 promise to release his tax returns. (Trump said, “If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely.”);
3. it was “nonsense” that Trump proposed a “deportation force.” (Trump proposed that in Phoenix in August);
4. Trump wouldn’t shirk NATO responsibilities. (Trump in July said he’d fulfill the U.S. commitment to NATO allies “if they fulfill their [financial] obligations to us.”);
5. it was “absolutely false” that Trump advocates banning Muslims from entering the United States. (Trump on Dec. 7, 2015, called for “eliminating Muslim immigration … a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”);
6. Trump didn’t praise Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. (At NBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum Sept. 7, Trump said Putin’s “been a leader far more than our president has been a leader.”);
7. Clinton initiated a deal paying $150 billion to Iran (when Secretary of State John Kerry oversaw the agreement that returned Iran’s own money seized as part of international sanctions);
8. “Donald Trump and I would never support legislation that punished women who made the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy.” (Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Mathews in March, “There has to be some form of punishment.”);
9. accused Clinton of proposing “open borders.” (Actually, she advocates for immigration reform while strengthening borders, instituting “targeted and effective” enforcement, and reporting those “who pose a threat to public safety.”);
10. “We have the smallest Navy since 1916” (a whacky comparison of today’s aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered warships to gunboats and small vessels of a century ago);
11. the Clinton Foundation spent “less than 10 cents on the dollar [on] charitable causes. (The nonpartisan American Institute of Philanthropy says the foundation spend 88 percent of its expenditures on programs);
12. Trump “never said that” more countries should have nuclear weapons (although he did, to the New York Times in March.).

Maybe Pence forgot that records exist, or was covering Trump’s butt – or his own, looking to 2020.

“Pence’s most shameless answers imagine a world where the voters who do not intend to vote Clinton will begin to think like Trump voters. Not just to vote for Trump – to admire his business and ignore his problems the way that Trump’s base and late-deciding Republicans have decided to,” said David Weigel in the Washington Post. “Pence tried to convert more voters into amnesiacs.”

[PICTURED: Graphic from FlaDems.]

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Restoring a ‘people’s court’

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Oct. 13, 14 or 15, 2016

Sunday’s presidential debate may have seemed as something set in a school, with Clinton coming across like the disciplinarian teacher who kids dreaded because she plays favorites, and Trump the creepy-clown kid who bullies others and is unruly wherever he is.

But at least the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court came up.

In the lengthy campaign, many voters may have missed this key consequence of next month’s election.

Nominating a Supreme Court Justice doesn’t guarantee that he or she will consistently make progressive or conservative judgments, of course. Kennedy, O’Connor, Roberts and Stevens all were GOP candidates who eventually disappointed hard-core conservatives, for instance. But a Clinton White House would almost certainly nominate competent people who could address vital issues sure to be considered by the Court, and thereby set a reasonable course for the foreseeable future. Trump?


Since the unexpected February death of Reagan appointee Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court is split into four mostly liberal and four mostly conservative voices. Scalia’s 29-year tenure made acceptable the rather nonsensical “originalism” perspective that the Constitution means exactly what the Founders intended in the 18th century, when single-shot muskets were used, women couldn’t vote, and black people were property.

Now, the nation needs a Supreme Court that’s not shackled by centuries-old values nor stymied by stalemate – one that works on behalf of regular Americans. However, Trump has said he’d nominate judges “picked by the Federalist Society,” the conservative group pushing “originalism.” Some on Trump’s list of 21 names have even opposed Trump’s candidacy, such as arch-conservative U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who last week asked Trump to drop out of the race. But the people Trump’s considering have been characterized as extremists likely to push partisan positions more than the logic of the Constitution as a “living document” adapting to changing times.

“Taken together, the records of these potential Trump nominees reflect a radical-right ideology that threatens fundamental rights, and that favors the powerful over everyone else – especially people from historically marginalized communities,” said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign.

Several judges listed by Trump have ruled in favor of voter-ID laws discriminating against older, low-income, student and minority citizens, for example.

Meanwhile, President Obama has nominated appeals judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy created by Scalia's death, but Senate Republicans refuse to deliberate in confirmation hearings or debate and vote, ostensibly to await results of the election (which makes it more important to also vote to for Senators who’ll perform their duties.) So the incoming president might continue Garland’s nomination, but besides filling that slot, other Justices could retire soon: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83 (and has a history of cancer), Anthony Kennedy is 80, and Stephen Breyer is 78. Therefore, the next president would nominate several justices, helping to determine the Court’s direction for years.

The issues to be considered or reconsidered after Inauguration Day 2017 involve women’s rights, civil rights, and workers’ rights. Here are a dozen cases whose decisions would have major ramifications for everyday people:

Affirmative Action: “Fisher v. University of Texas” (2016)
Affordable Care Act: “National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius” (2012)
Campaign finance: “Citizens United v. F.E.C.” (2010)
Class-action suits: “Wal-Mart v. Dukes” (2011)
Climate change: “West Virginia v. EPA” (2016) or “Massachusetts v. EPA” (2007)
Handgun restrictions: “District of Columbia v. Heller” (2008)
Immigration reform: “U.S. v. Texas” (2016)
Labor unions: “Freidrichs v. California Teachers Association” (2016)
Redistricting: “Arizona v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission” (2015)
Same-sex marriage: “Obergefell v. Hodges” (2015)
Voter-ID laws: “Shelby County v. Holder” (2013) or “Crawford v. Marion County (2008)
Women’s bodies: “Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt” (abortion: 2016) or “Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (contraception: 2014).

Casting a ballot for Trump (or not voting) could unfortunately result in Supreme Court nominees who’d unleash the unhinged authoritarianism of a Trump administration and affect the country for a generation.

That prospect makes voting as vital as learning, in school or in the Republic.

[PICTURED: Chip Bok illustration from]

Thursday, October 13, 2016

‘Birtherism’ isn’t funny, it’s frightening

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Oct. 10, 11 or 12

After a recent birthday (shared with Bill Murray and Stephen King), the thought of mixing comedy and horror sparked thoughts of “birtherism,” the debunked and goofy conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

Finally, however, the nonsense seems more scary than funny.

Do you have your birth certificate? My certified photostat shows a 4:10 p.m. arrival at an Iowa hospital that charged my folks $58. (OK; that’s funny.) Could you prove your birthplace?

That was the ridiculous demand of birtherism, which was promoted for years by Donald Trump but has its roots here in Illinois (and not with Hillary Clinton).

On Sept. 16 as he promoted a new hotel, Trump announced that Barack Obama was born here, and that doubts about his birth started with … Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” he said before leaving without taking questions.

The next day, Obama quipped, “In other breaking news: the world is round, not flat.”

More seriously, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said, “A few years ago Donald Trump was the leader of the so-called birther movement, delegitimizing the first African-American president in the history of our country. That's what Trump was trying to do: delegitimize the president.”

As for origin, birtherism is actually traced to Illinois Republican Andy Martin, who in 2004 and 2008 tried to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. Bob Cesca in writing his 2008 book “One Nation Under Fear,” helped show Martin had initiated the foolishness, questioning Obama’s religion, ethnicity and place of birth.

In 2008, commentator Mark Halperin on his web site revived the baloney as a tool Republicans could use against Obama in the presidential campaign. GOP presidential candidate John McCain largely avoided the hogwash. Later, Clinton was asked to consider the idea by an Iowa volunteer, according to former Clinton aide Patti Solis Doyle, who said he was removed from the campaign. A rumor surfaced in 2008 that Clinton crony Sidney Blumenthal pushed the gimmick, but respected journalist James Fallows is skeptical, saying he had access to Blumenthal’s messages and doesn’t recall such a slur.

Birtherism has been discredited by the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Nation magazine, PolitiFact, the New Yorker and many respected journalism and fact-checking sites. Even the staid, super-safe Associated Press dubbed Trump the “chief promoter of a lie” who now “peddled another false conspiracy.”

But birtherism laid the foundation for Trump’s candidacy; 43 percent of Republicans in 2011 wouldn’t say that President Obama was born in the United States, according to Gallup, and last month, 51 percent of Trump voters STILL didn’t believe the President is American, according to YouGov polling.

Of course, generalizing about Trump’s fans may be as offensive to them as lumping them together with fellow travelers who are white supremacists – which Trump’s legions are shocked … SHOCKED by. But it’s less logical to blame Clinton for the stupid suggestion of a tiny number of her overzealous minions.

“It was only in the midst of his own presidential campaign that Donald Trump began falsely claiming Hillary Clinton was the true progenitor of the ‘birther’ conspiracy theory,” wrote Politico’s Kyle Cheney, “swapping one discredited claim for another.”

Now, Trump seeks credit – even praise – for stopping a movement he fueled for five years and refused to end despite Obama releasing his standard birth certificate in 2008, then a “long form” version in 2011.

That year on ABC-TV’s “The View,” Trump asked, “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?” and in 2013, Trump tweeted “If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it.” = “I was born in Hawaii.” (This year, it’s not clear whether Trump has produced his own birth certificate, but it is certain he’s keeping his tax returns secret.)

Another of the almost-daily outrages from the Trump outhouse, birtherism for years created suspicions and animosity based on race and religion sought to undercut a President that U.S. voters elected. That fit with Capitol Hill Republican leaders’ obstructionism, essentially abandoning governance for nonstop attacks on the Chief Executive, exploiting an undercurrent of racism.

As Amy Davidson wrote in the New Yorker magazine, “Trump spreads lies the way terrorists plant bombs: one goes off, and when the first responders rush in, there’s a second, or even a third.”

Horror, not comedy.

[PICTURED: Graphic from's "Trump falsely tries to pin birtherism on Clinton insiders."]

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Wells Fargo forced low-wage workers to go along with ‘fraud’

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Oct. 6, 7 or 8, 2016

Wells Fargo has agreed to pay a settlement of $190 million for its part in up to 2 million phony accounts set up without customers’ OK, but the Big Bank admitted no wrongdoing to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) and fired about 5,300 employees – most of them making about $12 an hour.

However, two ex-Wells Fargo workers filed what could be the first of many class-action lawsuits, accusing Wells Fargo (WF) of unlawful business practices, and failure to pay wages, overtime and penalties.

“If one of your tellers took a handful of $20 bills out of the cash drawer, they'd probably be looking at criminal charges for theft,” said U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf during a Senate Banking Committee hearing. “They could end up in prison.

“But you squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket,” she continued. “You should resign. You should give back the money that you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated.”

Big Banks have the power to exploit workers’ low pay and lack of job security as weapons against them. They’d save on labor costs, then could compel employees to do bad things. At Wells Fargo, workers were given quotas to set up new credit card, savings or loan accounts – even if customers declined. The unauthorized accounts resulted in customers paying extra fees and facing ruined credit scores as WF racked up more profits.

“Wells Fargo’s trying to blame the 5,000 workers they fired,” said Communications Workers of America (CWA) legislative director Shane Larson. “There is no way that 5,000 workers acted individually.”

The CWA and the Committee for Better Banks coalition are continuing to question how Big Banks operate in the U.S. economy, and such grassroots groups are using tools including the “Take On Wall Street” campaign to call attention to such practices.

Larson said some banks don’t use predatory sales goals, but it’s not uncommon in the financial sector.

In fact, former presidential contender Bernie Sanders, an Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont, said, “Wells Fargo’s abuse of its customers is not an aberration. In April, the bank reached a $1.2 billion settlement with the Department of Justice for ‘reckless’ and ‘shoddy’ underwriting on thousands of home loans from 2001 to 2008.

“In 2012,” Sanders added, “Wells Fargo was fined $175 million to settle claims of discriminatory and predatory subprime lending in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.”

One ex-WF worker, Julie Miller, in a conference call with the coalition, said she was ordered to increase branch sales by more than 35 percent each year through such “cross-selling.”

“When Stumpf blames the frontline workers for the unauthorized accounts, I am disgusted,” she said. “I saw firsthand how the sales goals structure and the pressure to ‘sell at all costs’ came from ]the] upper level. Corporate executives designed the sales quota systems and created the culture of harassment and fear when we did not meet them.”

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 22 by Alexander Polonsky and Brian Zahgi, seeks $2.6 billion for WF workers who over the last 10 years tried to meet the unrealistic goals without committing fraud but if they couldn’t they were demoted, forced to quit or fired.

“Wells Fargo knew that their unreasonable quotas were driving these unethical behaviors that were used to fraudulently increase their stock price and benefit the CEO at the expense of the low-level employees,” the lawsuit says.

In Washington, Warren and colleagues grilled Stumpf about what Warren called “a staggering fraud.”

Warren asked for investigations by the Justice Department and other federal agencies. The situation is years old, some said, and is so bad, criticism is bi-partisan.

Wells Fargo – which lists 20 banks and 23 ATMs, plus home-mortgage, banking & investment services, and advisors offices in Illinois, including Atkinson, Bloomington, Canton, Galesburg, Geneseo, Macomb, Monmouth, Peoria, Streator and Woodhull – also was ordered by the CFPB to repay $2.6 million to customers victimized by the scheme. But that’s a pittance compared to corporate revenues and executive compensation. One executive tied to the scheme, Carrie Tolstedt, retired with a $125 million payout, but WF’s board has rescinded unvested equity awards from her ($19 million) and Stumpf ($41 million).

Still, as Adam Davidson commented in New Yorker magazine, “Once again, a Big Bank was caught doing something awful, received a fine, admitted no wrongdoing, and no senior manager was punished.”

[PICTURED: Rich McKee cartoon from]

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Prison ‘slavery’ resulted in prisoners’ risky strike

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Oct. 3, 4 or 5

Going on strike is almost always a risk.

It’s even more so when the strike involves prisoners.

But a recent job action in almost 50 U.S. facilities goes beyond wages, hours and working conditions.

It’s about slavery.

For more than three weeks, the largest prison strike in U.S. history has been going on, mostly with little attention. For months, inmates had been planning through a network of smuggled cell phones, social media, and help from supporters outside. One of the groups trying to help is the unaffiliated Industrial Workers of the World labor union and its Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

Prisoners’ mass refusal to report to jobs started Sept. 9, the 45th anniversary of the Attica (N.Y.) prison uprising, and at press time, 46 facilities in 24 states are reportedly affected. Supporters say at one point about 24,000 prisoners were striking.

However, information is hard to verify, and few news outlets are covering the story. Demonstrations supporting the strikers have occurred in dozens of U.S. cities and a few foreign countries, but the coordinated action has remained mostly ignored by officials and journalists alike. An information blackout mostly stems from prison administrators’ discretion in or withholding or disclosing details, and an unfortunate dwindling of skilled reporters with the tools and interest to cover the story.

What is evident is that prisoners are participating in simultaneous, nonviolent protests to demand basic human rights. Some reportedly went on hunger strikes, and others destroyed prison property in the days leading up to the work stoppage.

They’ve placed themselves in harm’s way, whether reactions and reprisals take the form of solitary confinement or institutional violence such as tear-gas attacks and the use of pellet guns, supporters say.

“What people have to realize is that these men and women inside prison — they expected to be retaliated against, but they sacrificed,” said Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, a former inmate and a supporter of the Free Alabama Movement, the prisoner-led group that first called for the nationwide strike.

“People on the outside are not understanding they are being bamboozled,” he added. “A lot of people are not realizing the value in what’s going on, they don’t realize that it’s slavery, that slavery still exists.”

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits “involuntary servitude” in addition to slavery –“except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” That’s become a huge loophole that changed work as a form of correctional reform to a $2 billion a year industry, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit research institute.

Most able-bodied prisoners at federal facilities are required to work, for example, and at least 37 states permit contracting prisoners out to private companies. Almost 900,000 inmates work in prisons, many paid just a few cents an hour. The states that choose to not pay incarcerated people at all are all in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Texas.

“Meanwhile, companies profit from that unpaid labor,” writes Rebekah Barber, a researcher with the Institute for Southern Studies. “Little Sis, a government watchdog group, reported earlier this year that while most Texas inmates work without pay, Texas Correctional Industries – a for-profit corporation operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – generated nearly $89 million in profits in fiscal year 2014. Among the companies that benefit from prison labor are McDonalds, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods.”

There are other issues: Inmates are protesting harsh parole systems and three-strike laws, medical neglect and overcrowding, and the practice of removing mental-health patients from treatment programs to the general population units for discipline.

The current strike isn’t the first such effort. Prison protests have been on the rise in recent years, following a 2010 strike during which thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, an action that was followed by others in Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington. In 2013, California prisoners coordinated a hunger strike against the use of solitary confinement that at its peak involved 30,000 prisoners. And this year, prisoners rioted at Holman prison in Alabama – one of the facilities most actively involved in the current job action – and inmates went on strike at five Texas facilities. In Alabama, prison guards also refused to work.

“The officers really understand [the prisoners’] reasoning even if they don’t agree with all of it and are just at the point where they don’t feel safe,” Glasgow said. “When you have people who are inside, locked up, who have overcome all these obstacles and barriers and have organized in 24 states, 40 to 50 prisons, that means all of us out here need to start stepping up.”

The risks – plus the exploitation at the root of the desperation – are extensive and growing.

[PICTURED: Graphic from]

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A ‘Magnificent Seven’ of ‘deplorables’

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Sept. 26, 27 or 28

A friend of some 50 years took offense at Hillary Clinton’s Sept. 9 remark that half of Trump’s supporters are deplorable. My buddy said, “I was a school teacher; I was an officer in the U.S. Navy; I worked for 13 years with handicapped teen-age boys; I worked as a TSA security guard for Homeland Security. Forget her. Vote for Trump.”

Clinton had commented, “To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it. Unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

The rest of Trump’s backers are looking for change because of economic anxiety, she added, urging her supporters to empathize with them. The Right Wing outrage machine quickly went overboard with indignation, but research actually shows she isn’t far off. University of California-Irvine professor Michael Tesler and Washington Post pollsters show that Trump does best with those who express racial hostility, and Pew Research found that 58 percent of Trump supporters didn’t feel that the treatment of minorities was an important issue (compared to 79 percent of Clinton backers).

Regardless of exact numbers, there are well-known Trump supporters who are white supremacists, etc. A few days after the release of the remake of “The Magnificent Seven,” here are seven Deplorables, as reported by AlterNet Washington bureau chief Adele M. Stan, and they seem more like those who’d run roughshod over regular people than heroes on horseback out for justice:

1. Steve Bannon: Bannon was a Breitbart News executive this summer when Trump named him head of his campaign. During the GOP convention, Bannon bragged to journalist Sarah Posner that after he took over Breitbart News, it became “the platform for the alt-right” (alternative right, which considers conservatives too weak in promoting a white ideology).

2. Pamela Geller: A New Yorker who became prominent when she led the effort to block an Islamic community center planned for Manhattan, her vendetta stooped to falsely claiming Muslims engage in bestiality, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which lists her “Stop the Islamization of America” organization as a hate group.

3. Alex Jones: A radio host who’s said that the 9/11 terror attack was conducted with government help (during the Bush administration!), as was the assassination attempt on Arizona Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (maybe as a ruse to enact gun regulations), Jones also speculated that Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’ father was part of the 1963 plot to kill President John F. Kennedy. Trump’s been a guest on Jones’ program and promised not to disappoint him.

4. Troy Newman:
Trump backer and president of the anti-abortion Operation Rescue group, Newman in 2003 co-authored the book “Abortion Free” with Cheryl Sullenberger, who plotted to blow up an abortion clinic and was sentenced to a three-year prison term in 1988. The book says “that the government has a responsibility to execute abortion providers.”

5. Richard Spencer: Head of the National Policy Institute, Spencer calls for an “Aryan homeland,” according to the SPLC, and advocates for so-called peaceful ethnic cleansing. Spencer recently commented about Trump, “We’re inspired by him. This is what we want in a leader.”

6. Jared Taylor: Taylor has said that Trump should “concentrate on his natural constituency, which is white people.” Editor of the “racialist” American Renaissance magazine, Taylor in a radio interview said the alt-right rejects “the idea that all races are exactly equal."

7. Milo Yiannapoulos:
The alt-right’s gay enfant terrible, according to Peter Montgomery from People for the American Way, Yiannapoulous made racist comments on Twitter, which banned him from posting.

There are other high-profile figures, from ex-Fox News chief Roger Ailes and author Ann Coulter to one-time Ku Klux Klan leader David Dukes and GOP “dirty trickster” Roger Stone, so – as Clinton campaign chair and Knox College alum John Podesta said – “It’s no surprise that Donald Trump is defending his most offensive views and extremist allies. This is the man who has spent 15 months insulting nearly every group in America.”

For her part, Clinton said she shouldn’t have generalized, but “I won’t stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign. I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out.”

And my old friend read about these ne’er-do-wells, and he came to see Clinton’s point.

“There are a bunch of nuts,” he said. “I am not surprised.”

[PICTURED: Photos of Trump and Bannon from]

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Saying goodbye to Dad - and a wonderful life

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Sept. 29, 30 or Oct. 1, 2016

A few hours after my dad unexpectedly passed away in his bed, his dog by his side, I was managing the shock and grief until I went to Mass and the lector read from Psalm 146, which says, “The Lord protects foreigners and helps the fatherless …” and I broke down in the pew.

“A little help, Lord,” I sniffed to myself.

After church and a good cry – an apt phrase – I started to write Dad’s obituary, a blessing and burden for any journalist. I thumbed through a short memoir he’d written – appropriately outlined around the many dogs he’d had and loved – and ran across another line he’d penned.

“I treat my dogs like children,” he wrote. “I think they go to Heaven, too.

“My picture of Heaven,” he added, “is to live my life again.”

My Dad, who used my name 21 years before I was born a Junior, had left reassurance that he’d been content. More than that, he’d been happy.

Preceded in death by his folks and our Mom five years ago, plus a great group of animals – from Duke and Bucky to Benji and Em (a one-eyed cat he rescued from a ditch while he was working as a rural power company lineman) – Dad was determined to be joyful. In fact, he also wrote what passed as his philosophy: “Be a good boy or girl and look out for other kids. Enjoy life with lots of humor.”

He loved to laugh. After retiring from 40 years as a lineman, engineer and supervisor, he read voraciously, especially humorists such as Groucho Marx and S. J. Perelman, history, and his favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which he repeatedly devoured. And every morning, he drove six miles to pick up the daily newspaper that wouldn’t deliver any closer to his small town – and share coffee and jokes with a handful of other characters.

Dad also had a serious side. A lifelong Republican, he was progressive, too. When he discovered a club he’d joined excluded African-Americans, he resigned; he refused to endorse the death penalty and was bumped from a jury that later convicted and sentenced the defendant to be executed (a man later exonerated, it turned out). When Donald Trump came on TV, he muted the sound.

But most of his life was upbeat, from a whirlwind courtship with Mom after meeting her at a riverside dance outside Hamilton, Ill., to coaching baseball, singing with a barbershop quartet, playing the ukulele or cards at bridge club, dancing at an Eagles Club, watching the Cardinals and Bears, and playing golf after picking up the game in his 40s.

He was always busy, too, balancing interests and impatience and finding fun in Dixieland jazz (from recordings to a trip to New Orleans, also playing golf in Memphis and other sites along the way), volunteering with Hancock County’s SHARE Food program and serving as an Elder with his church, even using his Kubota to clear snow or mow (as recently as a week before he passed on).

In his 60s, he taught himself piano and recorded original songs, learned woodworking, furniture refinishing, and clock repair, and researched genealogy that traced the family to Robert De Dene in England before the time of William the Conqueror.

As I wrote for Father’s Day this summer, “Many children of any age probably share that sense of colossal luck, deep gratitude and intense fulfillment with parents. [And] I cherish mundane memories: vivid recollections of being a toddler ‘camping’ on the living-room floor during a thunderstorm, with Dad reassuring me the storm would pass, or several years later pitching curveballs to him in the backyard.

“As award-winning poet Pam Brown wrote, ‘Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, storytellers and singers of songs’.”

In the end, weeks after an unexpected diagnosis of a terminal condition, he worked the puzzles in the paper, watched a ballgame on TV, and lay down to die about 100 yards from where he’d made a legendary, over-the-shoulder catch of a long fly ball to the outfield in a softball league.

Fun, from beginning to end.

An ordinary man, he really had a wonderful life.

Thanks for the help in remembering that, Lord.