Category: Communication

Donald Trump violates U.S. federal election laws by sending fundraising emails to foreign politicians

Current and/or former elected officials in no fewer than six foreign countries have received campaign fundraising emails from the campaign of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Party nominee for President of the United States. The countries in which current and/or former elected officials have received fundraising solicitations from Trump include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom. In at least one case, a former head of government of a foreign country received a fundraising solicitation from Trump.

Trump has only recently started using emails to solicit campaign donations, and it first became clear that the Trump campaign’s email list had serious flaws when Katherine Clark, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts and a member of the Democratic Party, received a Trump email, despite the fact that Clark is a known supporter of the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. However, no laws were violated by Trump when his campaign sent an fundraising solicitation to Clark, because Clark is a United States citizen.

However, numerous current and former members of parliament in at least six foreign countries have clearly indicated that the Trump campaign has sent fundraising solicitations to individuals who are not United States citizens. Under the federal election laws of the United States, it is illegal for an American presidential candidate to solicit campaign donations from individuals who are not United States citizens.

At least two members of the Australian House of Representatives, Tim Watts and Joanne Ryan, reported via Twitter that they had received emails from the Trump campaign asking for campaign donations:

Both Watts and Ryan are members of the Australian Labour Party.

In case you are wondering who the former head of government who received a Trump campaign fundraising email is, it is former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who was the last member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which is now defunct, to serve as prime minister:

The fact that the Trump campaign tried to sell the Brooklyn Bridge, which is not owned by Trump, to Campbell for a big discount proves that the Trump campaign is completely incompetent.

Ida Auken, a member of the Danish Parliament, also received a fundraising email from Trump:

Auken is a member of the Danish Social Liberal Party.

Anders Adlercreutz, a member of the Parliament of Finland, confirmed to Josh Marshall of the American political website Talking Points Memo that members of the Finnish Parliament have received Trump fundraising emails:

Adlercreutz is a member of the Swedish People’s Party of Finland.

The Iceland Monitor has reported that Katrín Jakobsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament, was one of at least three members of the Icelandic Parliament to receive campaign fundraising emails from Trump. Jakobsdóttir is the leader of the Icelandic Left-Green Alliance.

However, the strongest critic of the Trump fundraising emails to foreign politicians is Natalie McGarry, a member of the British House of Commons from the Glasgow area in Scotland. After receiving a fundraising email from Donald Trump, Jr., who was acting on behalf of his dad’s presidential campaign, McGarry wrote a response to the younger Trump in which she strongly criticized the elder Trump’s hateful, bigoted rhetoric and told the younger Trump that she hoped that American voters “reject your father fundamentally at the ballot box”. McGarry is not a member of any political party, although she was a member of the Scottish National Party until 2015. An online friend of mine posted to her social media page McGarry’s letter to the younger Trump, and it has been shared online over 1,700 times:

None of the foreign elected officials donated any money to Trump, to the best of my knowledge.

Donald Trump has proven that his presidential campaign is absolutely incompetent when it comes to operating an email list, and he has broken the law by attempting to solicit campaign donations from foreign politicians.

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Joni Ernst sends virtually blank response to constituent’s request not to block SCOTUS appointment

Sometime in the immediate future, President Barack Obama will appoint someone to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) created by the death of Antonin Scalia.

One of the many Republican U.S. Senators who support obstructing anyone that the president appoints to the Supreme Court is Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). Many of Ernst’s constituents in Iowa are not happy at all that Ernst wants the U.S. Senate to neglect its duty to either confirm or reject whoever the president appoints to SCOTUS, and one of them is Maggie White, who is a civil rights attorney from Iowa’s largest city, Des Moines. When White emailed Ernst’s office about Ernst and her fellow Senate Republicans wanting to do absolutely nothing in regards to the president’s SCOTUS pick, White did a very important civic duty by contacting Ernst’s office about the matter. Here’s how Ernst responded to White:

Joni Ernst sent one of her constituents a virtually blank response to a message that one of her constituents sent to her! By “virtually blank response”, I mean that Ernst’s response to Maggie White’s message contained a letterhead, a salutation, and a closing, not a body. The body of the email, which there is none in this particular email, is where Ernst’s response to White’s message would have been.

The U.S. Constitution is clear. The president must appoint a new SCOTUS justice, the Senate must either confirm or reject that appointment. For the Senate to not even conduct a confirmation process amounts to the Senate neglecting its Constitutional duty of advice and consent. It doesn’t take a lawyer to figure that out.

It’s time for Bernie to run an effective attack ad against Hillary

As much as I admire Bernie Sanders for having (so far) stuck to a campaign promise not to run negative campaign ads in his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, I think that it’s past time for Bernie to run a damn good attack ad against Hillary Clinton and the Clinton political machine.

If I were running Bernie’s campaign, here’s how I would draw it up (please note that this is NOT an actual campaign ad):

Narrator: While Hillary Clinton represented New York State in the U.S. Senate, she took campaign cash from a guy who said this about millions of Americans…

(clip of Donald Trump “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.” quote)

Narrator: Donald Trump, now a Republican presidential candidate, gave campaign contributions to then-U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton. What is now-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton saying about Trump’s offensive remarks about the American people?

(clip of Hillary Clinton “I’m going to let him live in his alternate reality. I’m not going to respond.” quote)

Narrator: If nominated by the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders isn’t going to let Donald Trump’s offensive rhetoric about the majority of Americans go unchallenged, and he certainly isn’t going to take Donald Trump’s money.

Bernie Sanders: I’m Bernie Sanders, and I approve this message.

Yes, Hillary took campaign cash from Trump when she was a U.S. Senator. It’s true. It’s damn true. More importantly, there’s absolutely nothing that Hillary and her supporters can do to hide the fact that Hillary took campaign contributions for a far-right bigot who has a penchant for offensive rhetoric.

There are times where it is necessary for a politician to go against his or her own principles to do a bold thing to move closer to making America a far better place to live. In this case, the bold thing for Bernie to do is run such an effective attack ad against Hillary, nobody is going to forget it.

Explaining the syllabic character system I’ll use for featured images of blog posts, starting in 2016

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post is a living blog post, meaning that more information will be added by the author in the coming days.


Starting in 2016, when a blog post that I write on The Progressive Midwesterner uses a featured image, it will be in the form of a drawing of mine that utilizes a set of syllabic characters that I’ve devised. Not all blog posts will use featured images, and multiple blog posts may use the same featured image.

Here’s the letters of the syllabic characters that I will use for featured images of blog posts, starting in 2016:

Syllabic Characters Guide Revised
Letter-by-letter guide to syllabic characters (image created by the author using Trimble SketchUp Make)

However, it’s worth noting that, for a few letters (specifically, H, K, Q, and R), I intended to use different letter designs to represent those letters. Here’s the original system of letters in the syllabic character system that I devised (which I will not use):

Syllabic Symbols Guide
Original draft of letters of the syllabic character system (image created by author using Microsoft Paint)

Here’s some basic terminology associated with the syllabic character system:

  • Character – Representation of a syllable in the syllabic character system
  • Inner line – See Syllabic line
  • Inside (1) – The right side of an upperline letter
  • Inside (2) – The left side of a lowerline letter
  • Inside quarterline – A horizontal line in the part of the letter that is halfway between the median and the syllabic line
  • Letter – Representation of an individual letter in the syllabic character system
  • Long space – A space, used between words, that is one-half of the width of a letter
  • Lowercase – The status of the first letter in a syllable being lowerline
  • Lower line – Below the syllabic line
  • Median – A horizontal line in the center of a letter
  • Meridian – A vertical line in the center of a letter
  • Outer line – A horizontal line in the part of a letter that is furthest away from the syllabic line
  • Outside (1) – The left side of an upperline letter
  • Outside (2) – The right side of a lowerline letter
  • Outside quarterline – A horizontal line in the part of the letter that is halfway between the outer line and the median
  • Short space – A space, used between syllables within a word, that is one-quarter of the width of a letter
  • Stub – The short section of the syllable line that is one-quarter of a letter in width and located on each end of the character
  • Syllabic Character System – The system of syllabic characters
  • Syllabic characters – See Syllabic Character System
  • Syllable – Unit of pronunciation in a word
  • Syllable line – The center horizontal line that separates lowerline and upperline letters
  • Tie – A short section of the syllable line that is one-quarter of a letter in width and located between letters within a syllable
  • Uppercase – The status of the first letter in a syllable being upperline
  • Upperline – Above the syllabic line

Here’s how I classify each letter:

  • Outside vertical line letters (B, C, D, E, F, H, J, K, L, and R) – These letters all share a common trait: They all feature a full vertical line along the left-hand side for a letter above the syllable line and a full vertical line along the right-hand side for a letter below the syllable line.
  • Median letters (I and T) – Both of these letters feature a vertical line running through the center of the letter.
  • Full box letters (M, N, and O) – All three of these letters feature vertical lines on both sides of the letter and a horizontal line on the edge of the letter that is furthest away from the syllable line.
  • Half box letters (G, P, Q, and Y) – All four of these letters feature a horizontal line halfway between the syllable line and the outermost part of the letter.
  • Triangular letters (A, U, V, and W) – All four of these letters feature a triangular shape.
  • Inside connection letters (S and Z) – Both of these letters connect to the syllable line on the right-hand side for a letter above the syllable line and the left-hand side for a letter below the syllable line.
  • Letter isolate (X) – This letter does not neatly fit into the above categories.

Here’s some basic rules for syllabic characters:

  • Syllabic characters are read from left to right, with a zig-zag pattern in multi-letter syllables.
  • If the first letter in a syllable should be uppercase (first syllable of proper nouns, the article “I”, etc.), the syllable begins with a letter above the syllable line (i.e., an upperline letter).
  • If the first letter in a syllable should be lowercase, the syllable begins with a letter below the syllable line (i.e., a lowerline letter).
  • The first letter is written with the left edge of the letter being one-quarter of a letter width from
  • The second letter of a syllable is written with the left edge of the second letter being one-quarter of a letter width from the right edge of the first letter, and the second letter is written on the other side of the syllable line from the first letter.
  • The third letter of a syllable is written with the left edge of the third letter being one-quarter of a letter width from the right edge of the second letter, and the third letter is written on the same side of the syllable line as the first letter.
  • Fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. letters of syllables alternate sides of the syllable line.
  • The syllable line extends from one-quarter of a letter width to the left of the first letter within the syllable to one-quarter of a letter width to the right of the last letter within the syllable. Should a syllable only consist of one letter, the lone letter counts as both the first letter and the last letter for this purpose.
  • Between syllables within a word, a short space of one-quarter of a letter width is used.
  • Between words, a long space of one-half of a letter width is used.
  • Letters are never written directly above or below each other, with one exception: Acronyms are treated as a single syllable (even if not pronounced as a single syllable), and each letter of the acronym is written both above and below the syllable line (i.e., a double letter), with each double letter being read as a single letter.
  • Although a non-standard use of the syllabic characters, writing all letters in a syllable above the syllable line can be used to represent shouting, and writing all letters in a syllable below the syllable line can be used to represent whispering.

OH MY! Former Hillary supporter ADMITS to anti-Bernie online smear campaign

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am NOT, in any way, affiliated with the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.


If you’ve suspected that the Hillary Clinton campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has been waging a stealth campaign against Bernie Sanders by smearing him in online posts, we now have proof of that. An individual, who described himself/herself as a former digital media specialist for Hillary (through a public relations firm) who is now a Bernie supporter, gave a lengthy explanation of an online smear campaign that Hillary operatives have been waging against Bernie. The original post was taken down, although it’s since been re-uploaded to Reddit by (apparently) a different individual.

The smear campaign has operated in the form of Hillary campaign operatives posting various anti-Bernie smears on various social media and left-wing political websites at the behest of higher-ups in a public relations firm affiliated with the Hillary campaign, with the people attacking Bernie not revealing themselves to be working for Hillary. Hillary operatives use five different attack lines against Bernie:

1) Sexism. This was the biggest one we were supposed to push. We had to smear Bernie as misogynistic and out-of-touch with modern sensibilities. He was to be characterized as “an old white male relic that believed women enjoyed being gang raped”. Anyone who tried to object to this characterization would be repeatedly slammed as sexist until they went away or people lost interest.

2) Racism. We were instructed to hammer home how Bernie supporters were all privileged white students that had no idea how the world worked. We had to tout Hillary’s great record with “the blacks” (yes, that’s the actual way it was phrased), and generally use racial identity politics to attack Sanders and bolster Hillary as the only unifying figure.

3) Electability. All of those posts about how Sanders can never win and Hillary is inevitable? Some of those were us, done deliberately in an attempt to demoralize Bernie supporters and convince them to stop campaigning for him. The problem is that this was an outright fabrication and not an accurate assessment of the current political situation. But the truth didn’t matter – we were trying to create a new truth, not to spread the existing truth.

4) Dirty tactics. This is where things got really bad. We were instructed to create narratives of Clinton supporters as being victimized by Sanders supporters, even if they were entirely fabricated…These kind of posts are manufactured to divide and demoralize Sanders supporters, and are entirely artificial in nature. (The same thing happened in 2008, but it wasn’t as noticeable before social media and public attention focused on popular forums like Reddit).

5) Opponent outreach. There are several forums and imageboards where Sanders is not very popular (I think you can imagine which ones those are.) We were instructed to make pro-Sanders troll posts to rile up the user base and then try to goad them into raiding or attacking places like this subreddit. This was probably the only area where we only had mixed success, since that particular subset of the population were more difficult to manipulate than we originally thought.

Hillary Clinton is running a dirty, underhanded campaign as part of the failed Obama-Clinton Democratic establishment’s War on Progressives, and we have proof of that. This is yet another reason why I’m backing Bernie Sanders.

New York Daily News cover on San Bernardino shooting: “God Isn’t Fixing This”

God Isn't Fixing Gun Violence - NY Daily News Cover
December 3, 2015 cover of the New York Daily News (image courtesy of New York Daily News)

Earlier today, a mass shooting took place in San Bernardino, California. The mass shooting occurred at the Inland Regional Center, a facility for people with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino, California. As of the writing of this blog post, at least 14 people were killed by the perpetrators of the mass shooting.

This is yet another example of lax gun laws in this country allowing people with violent intentions to carry out a mass shooting in America. As someone who has a developmental disorder (Asperger’s syndrome), I find it sickening that a mass shooting was carried out at a place designed to help those with developmental disabilities.

At the other end of the country from San Bernardino, in the New York City metropolitan area, the cover of tomorrow’s New York Daily News will feature the headline “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS”, as well as tweets from three U.S. Senators who are seeking the Republican presidential nomination (Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)) and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). As an atheist, I fully understand that prayers aren’t going to do a damn thing to prevent mass shootings in this country. Only implementation of common-sense gun safety and gun control measures, such as universal background checks on all gun sales, closing the gun show loophole, and banning the sale of assault weapons will prevent mass shootings from occurring in this country.

 

GOP Congressman Adam Kinzinger owes Planned Parenthood an apology

Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of the 16th Congressional District of Illinois (much of north-central and parts of east-central Illinois, stretching from South Beloit in Winnebago County to Sheldon in Iroquois County) falsely claimed that Planned Parenthood was wrong to claim that its Colorado Springs, Colorado office was the target of a terrorist attack that started earlier today:

The truth of the matter is that the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was (apparently) the target of the Colorado Springs shooting (which is still an ongoing situation as I write this blog post), as ABC News is reporting that, according to law enforcement, the shooting began at the clinic. Planned Parenthood has every right to claim that they were the target of a terrorist attack, and Adam Kinzinger owes Planned Parenthood and the American people an apology.

Does the Democratic establishment overemphasize student loan reform and college affordability?

Make no mistake about it, the growing student debt problem in this country is one of the most serious problems facing this country. However, I believe that heavily emphasizing student loan reform and other college affordability measures hurts Democrats electorally.

There are two reasons why I believe that making student loan reform and other college affordability measures a key part of a Democratic campaign’s message, as Hillary Clinton has done, runs the risk of being an electoral loser for Democrats. First, most Americans don’t really care about student debt, unless they’re directly impacted by it. Secondly, emphasizing college affordability as a key part of a campaign message only resonates with voters that are directly impacted by student debt (mostly younger voters who are either in college or recently graduated from college), in effect, leaving blue-collar voters, such as poor minorities and white working-class people, essentially abandoned by the political party that best represents their interests, which is the Democratic Party.

Would I suggest that Democratic candidates drop college affordability plans altogether? Absolutely not. Would I suggest that Democrats not talk about student loan reform and college affordability? Absolutely not. In fact, I believe that the student debt problem in this country needs to be seriously addressed, as Bernie Sanders has done with his plan to tax Wall Street speculation to pay for a plan for more affordable higher education in America. However, Democrats cannot afford to abandon poor and working-class voters by overemphasizing an issue that few people in this country seem to care about.

Westville, Illinois Catholic parish “welcomes” LGBT people with bigotry

St. Mary’s Church, the local Catholic parish in my hometown of Westville, Illinois, is very desperate for membership these days. They’re now sending out postcards asking people from the LGBT community in Westville (which is a very small target audience, and possibly a non-existent one, since I don’t know of any LGBT people in my hometown), and welcoming LGBT people…with a ton of bigotry. I have received one of their postcards containing the statement in question, even though I am an atheist who does not attend any place of worship.

Here’s the full, unproofreaded (except for line spacing between the header and the body that doesn’t exist on the actual postcard), statement from St. Mary’s regarding the recent Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision, which made marriage equality the law of the land across the entire country:

A PUBLIC NOTICE

I am Fr. Sauppé, pastor of St Mary’s Catholic Church & the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!  The US Supreme Court has issued a new “civil right” recognizing same-sexed “marriages”.  However, Justice Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, also states that citizens & institutions holding religious and/or philosophical beliefs do not have to condone this new “civil right”.  (It seems this is also a Constitutional civil right not to condone!) The Catholic Church does not condone for both religious & philosophical reasons.  The Biblical condemnations are too many to list, but Romans 1 is based on the Natural Law i.e. two men or two women cannot produce, naturally, any children.  We also hold that children have a natural right to a mother & a father at the same time (if at all possible) and are not to be used as pawns in the homosexual culture war.  While we are all affected by Original Sin, the Grace of Jesus Christ can help anyone and everyone to live a holy life–regardless of orientation!  I invite all to repent and to live a holy life and worship God on Sunday–either at St. Mary’s or at a church of your choice!  If you have no church or want to learn more about defending your children, your family, and your faith please call 267-3334 & may God Bless!

(In case you’re wondering, Westville is in the 217 area code, so the phone number for St. Mary’s Church is (217) 267-3334.)

I have a ton of issues with this postcard and the statement on it:

  • The heading of the statement stated that it was a “public notice” from the church. The only time an entity of any kind should be sending out anything with “public notice” on it is if said entity is a government agency or other type of government entity, which is not the case in this instance.
  • There are a ton of grammar errors in the body of the statement, most notably double spacing between most of the sentences, although there are quite a few other grammar errors.
  • The statement, while asking for LGBT people to attend their church, included a ton of LGBT bigotry. Examples of this include:
    • Putting “civil right” and “marriage” in quotation marks in a manner that would imply that the church thinks that civil rights for LGBT people and same-sex marriages are somehow fraudulent in their view, which, sadly, is in line with Catholic teachings and right-wing bigotry towards LGBT people.
    • While organizations of worship, such as the Catholic Church, don’t have to recognize marriages that violate their religious beliefs, the statement implied that individual people have a “civil right” to discriminate against LGBT people, which is in line with the right-wing mindset that has also produced religious discrimination laws in states like Indiana.
    • While it is scientific fact that two people of the same gender cannot conceive children through normal means, same-sex couples can have children though other means. Additionally, marriages are not only for those who want to have children, but for any two loving people.
    • The statement claims that children “are not to be used as pawns in the homosexual culture war” and asks people to “learn more about defending your children, your faith, and your family”, which are textbook talking points used by right-wing bigots opposing LGBT rights.
  • Amidst all of the bigotry that was directed towards LGBT people in that statement, St. Mary’s called for people, “regardless of orientation”, to attend their church. This amounts to trying to welcome LGBT people to their church while, at the same time, spewing a ton of hateful remarks towards them.

To their credit, St. Mary’s does some good in the Westville community, such as serving as a polling place for much of the Westville area (although elections are administered by local election officials, not by the church) and having a Red Cross-certified disaster shelter on-site. However, St. Mary’s, like a lot of Catholic parishes across the country and around the world, has repeatedly advocated for right-wing political views on social issues.

If you want to call St. Mary’s Church in order to tell them that you’d never attend their church and complain about their statement on the recent U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality case, call them at (217) 267-3334.

Wisconsin Republicans pass awful state budget, and how legislators should handle criticism of their legislative proposals

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly passed the most awful state budget in American political history in a 52-46 vote, and the budget is currently on Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker’s desk.

When I say that the Wisconsin budget that the Republicans passed is the most awful state budget in American political history, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the cold hard truth. The Wisconsin budget, among many other things, demonizes the working poor in Wisconsin by replacing the words “living wage” with the words “minimum wage” in state statutes, fast-tracks an expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline in Wisconsin and Illinois that will be even bigger than the Keystone XL pipeline would be, cuts funding to public K-12 and higher education in Wisconsin, effectively prohibits Wisconsin wineries from hosting weddings, and gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele even more unchecked power to sell off public property in Wisconsin’s largest county to his political cronies. This budget does a lot to pander to far-right voters that Scott Walker is trying to win over in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and does virtually nothing to benefit the people of Wisconsin in any way. You can read press releases from Democratic Wisconsin State Representatives Melissa Sargent of Madison, Dianne Hesselbein of Middleton, Amanda Stuck of Appleton, LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee, and Andy Jorgensen of Milton, as well as from Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, at the links in this sentence.

However, prior to the Republicans in the Assembly passing the state budget, Katrina Shankland, the Assistant Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Stevens Point, tried to amend the state budget to require that future proposals of non-fiscal policy measures in future state budgets get their own separate public hearing before a standing legislative committee (the Republicans rejected Shankland’s amendment). I criticized Shankland’s proposal, because it would not outright prohibit Walker or whoever else is Wisconsin Governor once Walker leaves office from proposing public policy in state budgets. Shankland responded to my criticism of her proposal via Twitter:

Anyone who holds political office, is running for public office, or is thinking about running for public office should take note of Shankland’s response to my criticism of her. She didn’t talk down to me, she didn’t belittle me, she didn’t attack me, and she didn’t try to change the subject. Instead, she directly addressed my criticism of her proposal by saying that she thinks that policy measures don’t belong in state budgets, and she defended her proposal by saying that the Republicans voted against allowing public hearings on policy proposals.

Katrina Shankland has been very respectful to me, even when I’ve disagreed with her, which isn’t often.