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History’s Rhyme, Part 5: Bad Faith, Unauthorized Acts and Crimes Against Humanity

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

It’s time to revisit the ongoing comparison of Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment with possible Articles against Donald Trump. Previous posts in this series:

History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment — focus on Obstruction of Justice

History’s Rhyme, Part 2a: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar — Abuse of Power (may include Public Corruption)

History’s Rhyme, Part 3: How Nixon’s Impeachment Unfolded — Watergate and Nixon’s near-impeachment timeline

History’s Rhyme, Part 4: Contempt Then, Contempt Now — focus on comparing charges of Contempt of Congress between Nixon and Trump.

An expansion of Part 2 into 2b addressing more abuses of power is planned in the near future. Trump continues to rack them up.

As noted in previous posts in this series, the House Judiciary Committee prepared five Articles of Impeachment against Richard M. Nixon during the course of its impeachment inquiry. Only three of the five were passed out of committee and approved by Congress. We all know Nixon resigned before the House could vote on the three approved articles.

The fourth article which was not approved pertained to Nixon’s Operation Menu — the covert bombing of Cambodia. Congress, which has the sole power to declare war, had not expressly approved this in its 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The bombings went unreported for four years and contributed to the destabilization of Cambodia.

A fundamental problem with this Article was that Congress bore some of the blame for the bombing; the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was written in such a way that it didn’t expressly preclude bombing of neighboring nations along the border with Vietnam. The resolution also did not constitute a declaration of war against North Vietnam, authorizing instead the use of military force to meet its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty. The legality of the military action in Vietnam was on thin ground, making action on any neighboring country even more questionable.

~ ~ ~

It’s not impossible this very same challenges will form the basis for another Article of Impeachment against Trump should he pursue military action against Iran without adequate approval from Congress.

But we already have seen Trump take action without Congressional approval and without the support of existing legislation behind him, beginning with his first week in office. His Executive Order 13769 to begin a Muslim travel ban was illegal; he persisted in pushing a ban focusing on Muslims with subsequent Executive Order 13780 and Presidential Proclamation 9645 until his Departments of Justice and Homeland Security arrived at restrictions which met the letter of existing law according to a now-stacked and partisan Supreme Court after several lawsuits. This is not a faithful execution of the law — 8 U.S. Code § 1158.Asylum — it’s whack-a-mole with innocent humans as collateral damage for no constructive reason or benefit to this country.

The sole benefit of the persecution of asylum seekers has been to curry favor with Trump’s voting base with campaign promises to stop them — and that’s corrupt.

When acting Attorney General Sally Yates announced the Department of Justice would not enforce the Muslim travel ban three days after Trump signed Executive Order 13769, she explained that the ban was not lawful. Trump rejected this opinion and fired her instead of relying on her expert opinion. He had to be told repeatedly by federal judges his executive order was not enforceable because it was unlawful.

People were detained unlawfully. People were unable to travel freely. The primary reason for their restriction was their religious identity — a violation of the First Amendment and its protections of religious freedom. It was a fundamental human rights violation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the U.S. is a signatory.

Trump’s introduction of a “zero tolerance” policy implemented during the first months of his term in office has also denied freedom of movement to persons seeking asylum at the border. The policy’s implementation resulted in systematic crimes against humanity including enslavement; deportation; imprisonment; torture; sexual assault including rape; persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds; other inhumane acts.

None of this was authorized by Congress; none of this is in 8 U.S. Code § 1158. These acts also violate numerous U.S. laws as well as treaties. While there is not currently a treaty on crimes against humanity, Trump’s bad faith execution of U.S. law and existing treaties like the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the U.N. Convention Against Torture spell out many of these crimes.

Again, Congress did not authorize acts like:

— separating children from parents or guardians;

— holding children in cages;

— trafficking separated children into unauthorized adoptions without parental or guardian consent;

— deportation of minors without parent or guardian;

— failure to track minors so they can be reunited with parents and/or guardians;

— failing to provide reasonable care including adequate food and water, bedding, hygiene, heat and cooling, health care;

— transporting detained persons without notification to parents, guardians, family members;

— refoulement – deporting asylum seekers back to the place they fled;

— forced labor.

Nothing in U.S. law or treaties to which the U.S. has been a party or signatory authorizes this kind of treatment.

Further, Trump’s bad faith execution exacerbates a long-term problem with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — too many U.S. citizens have been denied their rights, stopped, interrogated, detained, and treated like aliens simply because they were not white.

Trump also systematically defies a court order issued in June 2018 prohibiting further separations of minors from their families at the border and instructing the Department of Homeland security to return minors to their families. The Trump administration weaseled around the court order, detaining entire families at military facilities — new concentration camps — while DHS continued to separate families on an irregular basis.

We’ve seen evidence of this systematic lawlessness based on inspections by Congressional tours of detention facilities — concentration camps in which asylum seeking minors were denied reasonable “safe and sanitary” conditions.

The number of illnesses and deaths attributable to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy may never be fully known because the administration has done so much to avoid monitoring and oversight.

~ ~ ~

Other deaths which can be wholly attributed to Trump’s bad faith in executing his office are those of 2,975 Americans who lived in Puerto Rico (pdf) when Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017.

He had to be shamed into dispatching a U.S. Navy hospital ship to provide emergency health care even though the vessel had been waiting well in advance of the hurricane’s strike. It took nearly six weeks after it was dispatched for the vessel to berth and begin delivering care, though the Navy knew in advance of the hurricane that Puerto Rico might need medical support.

The manner in which the emergency aid was provided to the island was grossly negligent when not outright malignant — like the bottles of water left to sit on a tarmac for a year after the storm, or the recall of the hospital vessel U.S.S. Comfort long before its services were no longer needed, or the lack of effort on the White House’s part to work with Congress to assure aid money would be allocated and distributed in a timely basis.

Puerto Ricans were denied their right to equal protection under the law; they were not accorded the same access to federal aid as mainland citizens, in contrast to the assistance received by other Americans after Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Michael in 2017-2018.

And none of this had the imprimatur of Congress.

~ ~ ~

Unlike Nixon’s Operation Menu which only lasted 14 months, Trump’s derogation of Congress’s authority through his bad faith execution of laws is now into its 33 month. His malign acts increase in depth and breadth, now including the wretched refusal of Bahamians fleeing their hurricane devastated country, continued separation of families including Bahamian children.

And now an even more evil effort has begun: Trump wants to round up homeless people regardless of their citizenship and house them in unused Federal Aviation Administration facilities (read: place them in concentration camps).

There are homeless who work in Silicon Valley, homeless only because there isn’t affordable housing. Will he stop at them? Is he doing this to line his pockets in some way or as a campaign promise not shared with the public?

How has his effort combined with that of his cabinet secretary Ben Carson done anything to improve access to affordable housing when they are undermining civil rights protections for marginalized groups?

None of this effort targeting California’s homeless has been adequately debated by Congress let alone codified by law.

Will Congress do nothing at all to stop this creeping and inhuman fascism, these sustained attacks on human rights of citizens and non-citizens alike?

The 93rd Congress may not have passed the fourth Article of Impeachment against Nixon, but at least they understood and grasped the executive could and must be removed with the three articles they passed. It’d be nice if the 116th Congress was less supine.

Something in the Water: GOP Rep. Mitchell Bows out in Michigan

[Please check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan’s 10th congressional district announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election.

He explained to Politico, “You look at the rhetoric and vitriol, it overwhelms policy, politics becomes the norm. Everything’s about politics. Everything’s about an election. And at some point of time, that’s not why I came here.”

Mitchell also said “A career in Washington was never my objective,” wanting to focus on issues while in office. He had also criticized the racist remarks made about the House Democrats’ freshman “squad” which includes fellow Michigander Rashida Tlaib. Tlaib’s 13th congressional district is on the other side of Detroit from Mitchell’s.

In Mitchell’s case more time with family is a key reason for leaving; he has a child with special needs at home in Michigan.

~ ~ ~

Here’s where it gets interesting. Really can’t blame Mitchell for wanting to get out of the cesspool before it gets any worse, especially when his family needs him at home.

But were there other reasons for him leaving? Recall that The New York Times ran a piece on Monday, These Michigan Voters Show How Trump’s ‘Go Back’ Attack May Help Him.

It was a crappy piece in that it only spoke with white people, and most appeared to be in MI-10. Granted, MI-10 is very rural, very Republican (R+13) , and very white (like 93% white), but the article painted an image of a district which was very racist.

Mitchell had been asked for his opinion about Trump’s ‘Go Back’ remarks:

Even so, Representative Paul Mitchell, the conservative Republican who represents the Port Huron area, struck a note of caution. “I do believe this strategy will be damaging to this election,” Mr. Mitchell said in a telephone interview. He has asked for a meeting with the president, hoping to add his voice to other Republicans who have urged Mr. Trump to restrain himself.

All of the women whom Mr. Trump told to “go back” to their countries — Ms. Tlaib and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts — are United States citizens, and only one, Ms. Omar, was born outside the country, in Somalia.

“I was appalled by the chanting ‘send her back,’” Mr. Mitchell said of the crowd at Mr. Trump’s rally Wednesday in North Carolina, where the chant was directed at Ms. Omar. For Mr. Mitchell, the message struck close to home. “My youngest son was born in Russia,” he said. “We adopted him. He’s an American.”

Mitchell also felt Trump’s racist remarks would spur minority voter turnout, which seems like an odd thing to worry about in a district that’s so very white.

Did the NYT get this wrong, perhaps talking to an insufficiency of MI-10 voters only to come away with the sentiment that Trump’s xenophobia could be a winner?

Or did Mitchell feel he was unable to reconcile his personal beliefs with that of his constituents?

There’s one other darker possibility. Did the GOP ask Mitchell to step down and let a pro-Trump white nationalist run for MI-10 in order to assure Trump carries the district in 2020?

Stranger things have happened.

~ ~ ~

A couple more things to keep in mind about MI-10:

The district is extremely rural — it has approximately 705,000 residents but one of the largest areas of Michigan’s districts. It’s also inside the reach of a Sinclair TV station, received more reliably than internet across the district.

The city of Flint’s new water pipeline runs through the middle of the district from Flint to Lake Huron. Two drivers pushing the pipeline’s development and subsequently forcing Flint off Detroit’s water system were the bank(s) funding the pipeline and development of fracking near the water pipeline in MI-10. Fracking needs more water than can be obtained by simply drilling wells.

Enbridge’s Line 5 also runs through the district. Michiganders want the pipeline shut down because it runs under water through the straits between lakes Michigan and Huron, posing a massive risk to these Great Lakes should the aged pipe fail.

How these factors feature in Mitchell’s decision and the 2020 race is anybody’s guess at this point but they shouldn’t be disregarded.

Adder: Ran across this article in MetroTimes published here in Michigan. Seems John James, black candidate running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Gary Peters, has removed all references to Trump from his social media sites.

Hmm.

Let Them Eat (Starbucks’ Coffee) Cake

A couple of older billionaire white dudes have been shooting off their mouths. One of them is partially clued in. The other one apparently lives on a different planet where the sky is a groovy coffee-colored plaid.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when I point out these facts:

The links above include scolding by financial experts who say Americans need to do a better job of saving. But…

Don’t get me started on what college tuition and subsequent debt does to Americans’ ability to save.

We all know that health care costs have not improved and remain the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. even though more Americans have health insurance under ACA.

And rich older white dudes are completely, utterly, hopelessly out of touch about the financial facts of life for nearly half of Americans let alone the next 2-3 deciles.

Like Wilbur Ross — our Commerce Secretary who lied about his assets and clearly knows nothing about Americans’ daily commerce — struggled to comprehend why federal employees might need to use a food bank after missing a paycheck.

Just get a loan, Ross thinks. Sure, sure, banks give signature loans to people without any collateral let alone a source of income all the time. Come on, Wilbur: would you invest in a bank offering those kinds of terms to the average Joe/Josephine off the street?

And then there’s Trump, who thinks we can just ask the grocer to extend some credit for an unspecified period of time. Right — a nationwide grocery chain clearing 1-3% a year in profits can afford to extend credit.

So goddamned clueless he is. I’m only surprised he didn’t tell furloughed federal workers he’d give them a 5% discount to play golf at one of his courses during their free time.

76-year-old billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who thinks he’s still young enough to run for president in 2020, trashed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal as “probably unconstitutional,” thereby revealing his brain’s atrophy. If taxing higher levels of income wasn’t unconstitutional under Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, then it probably isn’t unconstitutional.

And then Seattle coffee magnate Howard Schultz popped off at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ proposals to increase marginal tax rates on the uber-wealthy, calling her “a bit misinformed” and her proposal “un-American.”

Except the U.S. had higher tax rates on the wealthy, for most of the 20th century. The country could afford to build more infrastructure; it built a successful public school system and went to the moon. How nice for Schultz that he could grow up and become a young entrepreneur in that economic environment.

(Put a pin in here for future reference, as a reminder that Schultz not only called AOC “un-American” but Sen. Kamala Harris, too. It’s as if he has a problem with women of color…)

Schultz thinks he has become a billionaire all on his own, as if the increasingly fascist political system with its active suppression of younger, marginalized citizens played no role in his wealth accumulation.

As if the last two decades of stagnant wages due to employment monopsony, repressive Federal Reserve policies, and the real estate market haven’t helped line his pockets by assuring low-wage workers get locked in and unable to move to better paying jobs.

Schultz has been able to accumulate massive amounts of wealth on the backs of people who aren’t being paid living wages, out of the wallets of those whose limited resources allows them to buy a coffee but not a house or health care. He’s rolling in a sea of cash because minimum wage workers are living in little more than indentured servitude.

You know what’s really un-American?

An ungrateful and narrow-minded billionaire white dude who doesn’t think living wages and health care for everyone are fair, who thinks that higher taxes after his first $50 million are theft.

A purveyor of luxury beverage products unable to grasp the unselfish commitment it will take to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for all the people.

At least Bloomberg sees the danger Schultz’s presidential candidacy poses to this country.

But Schultz isn’t in it for the country’s benefit. He’s in the race for himself. It’s clear he’s done the number crunching and determined that it’s cheaper to run for POTUS even if he were to cause Trump to win re-election. (I’ll bet he’s even figured out how to write off his exploratory trips around the country as a business expense.)

Because the campaign expenses are less than the cost to his personal wealth if he were taxed at a higher rate and if he were also forced to pay living wages to his workers.

What a pity Schultz hasn’t calculated how much more overpriced, excessively roasted coffee minimum wage workers can buy if they didn’t have to worry about health care expenses on top of their rent.

 

Treat this as an open thread.

We Have to Build the Future Out of the Past

(Drew Kadel points out an omission in this piece about the need for a strength of values in comments: 

“It’s important to own our own values, to know why we hold them and to have the character to hold those values in the face of opposition… you are discussing having integrity while loving people who do bad things… love (can) become sentimentalized and involve letting people off the hook (“Give him another chance”, “He’s really a good guy underneath, he doesn’t mean to always beat me”)… in loving those who violate our values, it’s important to know those values and keep them front and center. If empathy with self-pity becomes sympathy with self-pity we spiral down into moral vacuity.” Thank you for catching this, Drew!)

Science suggests to me this article may be doomed. This is because this article is about the best supported strategies for changing people’s minds, and I’m relying on facts, which studies show may be the least effective strategy.  But there’s little more I can do than give you this truth, and hope you can make it emotionally real for you. And that idea is this: we must give love to those whom the gods put in our paths. I am agnostic about who or what you call the gods. I am fundamental about love, and that love is truth.

Amongst my friends (and family) I’ve counted people who kill for money, drug dealers, criminals living on the run, fucked up teenagers, Ren faire runaways, alcoholics, rapists, alcoholic rapists, more people who kill for money (but also get praised for it), employees who routinely break monopoly law, homeless psychotics, an FBI agent, a whole troop of gutter punks, a couple of private investigators, several delinquent parents, sex addicts, a passel of sociopaths, people cheating on their spouses, and probably a bunch more ne’er-do-wells I can’t think of right now. And, of course, a lot of idiot hackers. Almost everyone I know enacts violence on the world. As Americans, we don’t even get a choice in that. The fact of our very lives is used as a justification for endless wars and global plunder. I have a friend who moved to Spain so that he could say at least his tax dollars didn’t go to fuel that violence, even if his existence still does — a choice few have the advantages or courage to make.

Most of my more reprehensible friends hide the things that make people hate them, but I have one who flaunts his worst qualities. I know him as weev. I know him from the hacker scene, and since being jailed and released he’s become famous for publicly embracing neo-nazi ideology. I talk about being friends with weev not because I’m proud of being friends with weev in particular, but because I believe I should model publicly the behaviors that I want others to take up, and this is one of them. I want other white people to be friends with the weevs, racist relatives, and bigoted co-workers in their lives. I want people to reach out to the abusive toxic men and senior executive vice presidents in their lives, because it’s the most scientifically sound way that we fight bad ideas. White people can fight white racism, men can fight toxic masculinity, we all can oppose the evil ideas that harm us. It doesn’t stop with race and gender. I want rapists to be confronted by their friends, and alcoholics to be held accountable by people who love them. I want sociopaths to find people who can be their moral compasses when they can’t build their own. Sometimes it means you can be that compass for a broken person. Doing that means you reduce the harm they do to others by standing in the way of people you care for.

At the moment it is popular to say that the only allowable engagement with poisonous thinking is intellectual: arguments and statistics, emotions restricted to admonition and demands for better behavior. But this approach is a failure, and we see that failure on every level. Study after study show that facts, statistics, and news reports only entrench people’s existing beliefs, whether those beliefs are in truth or lies.

The engagement that works is a combination of personal connection, empathy, reciprocity, and then, only then, high quality information. If it sounds like you’ve probably got to care about the person, invest in them, then you’re right, you do. That means you can’t do it with everyone on Facebook or Twitter. For me, my community is technology and science. That means it’s largely white, male, and full of hidden and overt racism and sexism. I have three choices: leave my community, ignore these faults in my community, or engage with the people who have these terrible false beliefs. Sometimes it means marshaling facts in passionate arguments, but over dinner and drinks, not verbal sparring in front of a soi-disant audience. Sometimes you do this for months or years. Sometimes it means letting someone see how much their beliefs hurt you. I’ve walked out of the room openly sobbing because of a friend who insisted on a racist stance. I’ve confessed to my own pain and humiliation as a woman while a crowd looked on. But mostly it’s not that dramatic, it just means being a thorn, always prickly about it, just bringing up that thing you’re not supposed to talk about. Sometimes when you fight with one person, another person who cares for you watches, and something in that second person’s soul begins to shift. Sometimes you don’t know for years and a friend buys you a coffee one day, and tells you that you changed their life.

Sometimes you’ll never get to know.

Healing communities takes practicing community. Just being difficult isn’t enough on its own, or Twitter would have fixed all our social ills years ago. When you start from the point of having things in common, and build on it by giving things to each other, even if it’s no more than a meal, it becomes much harder to talk about something like sexism or racism. That feeling is key, that feeling is what you’re looking for. When confrontation becomes difficult, awkward, and distressing, it means you’re invested. That’s the moment to bring it up, that’s when it’s going to matter the most. Being genuine in that moment, and confronting false beliefs, is so much harder than making an argument online or pointing at research on its own. You need to have those things in hand, but you also need to have skin in the game. That is how you kill the racism, without killing the racist. It’s how you take the toxic out of masculinity. This — and education — are the only things that work. Even if you wanted to solve the problem by killing the bad people, it doesn’t scale. That’s a blood-soaked fantasy world, and the world has soaked in enough blood already.

Shunning, like violence, often entrenches false beliefs. When we reject a person we’ve known, especially without any personal confrontation or explanation, it seems like betrayal. This only pushes that false belief farther into the world, where it can grow and do more harm.

What I have found is that listening, confrontation, and love are the most effective ways to fight the lies someone you care for is telling themselves.

The first part of facing another person’s false beliefs is to listen. Not quietly — actively. Ask questions, and stop them when you don’t understand and seek clarity. Be ready to hear anything, or the other person will hold back. Somewhere in their story of how they came to a poisonous perspective you will find out what scared them. That moment — or moments, is always there. There is always a toxic core of shame and fear. They’ll tell you where they got the belief, and why they feel they need it. Sometimes even that simple articulation can start to unwind that deadly core. Be honest with how you feel in the process, while remembering that this isn’t about your feelings. No matter what you hear, never lose sight of the person you’re with, their pain, and their potential to exceed it.

Don’t be afraid to connect their beliefs with consequences in their lives. Hateful beliefs very often come with shameful moments, but speaking that shame can take its power away, especially when you’re still there after you’ve talked about it. You’re still holding on, and that’s key. If you’re going to tell them their belief is wrong, be ready with the evidence, but also be ready to affirm them as worthy of love, and be ready to help them imagine other futures beyond what they could have hoped for at the beginning of the conversation.

This is very rarely a single conversation. These are threads to be woven into every conversation, and pushed on, but only rarely to the point of exhaustion or tears, as much for your own sake as theirs. Keep coming back, keep unwinding the shame, keep affirming the love. Be ready to have this process change you in ways you don’t expect.

People I have confronted have confronted me back with my own shame, my own failings, and my own fears. When I learned to listen, two great things happened: I got to confront and clarify my own thinking, and I got to show my friends an example of someone changing and growing because of our friendship. They’ve called me a hypocrite and been right. When I’ve faced that, and seen to my own pain and fear and shame, they’ve given me the chance to change for the better myself.

When you can face your bigoted friend, and thank them for calling you on your bigotry, they may not be that far behind you for long. The project of becoming better people is something we do in community.

None of this is comfortable, and it’s likely to make people angry. I know this not just because of the data, because it made me angry too. Examining my own false beliefs has never been particularly fun, be they about how relationships work, or race, or class, or my own family. But doing this, and the people who helped me do this, gave me a strength that is not fragile, a capacity to love and seek truth that carried me through hell and back.

St Augustine said, “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” translated by Gandhi as: hate the sin and not the sinner. This beautiful phrase has been so often used as a put-down in recent years, but the sentiment it reflects saves worlds. When we’ve held false beliefs, succumbed to addictions, became sick in the mind and hated ourselves or others, the people who held us up did so by loving us and rejecting the lies we were clinging to, all at once.

In the case of my friend weev, I see a tragedy. I believe he is trying to strike out at the people who hurt him, but by propping up the same white supremacy that gave them their power in the first place. What he’s doing supports the very people who ordered violence on him, who took away his freedom, and tortured him. The same power structure that hurt him pays him a wage and gives him an attaboy now, as long as he keeps hurting people, just as he was hurt. The situation of his birth primed him to fall for a trick, and he did. He is falling for a con that’s been working in my country of birth for more than 400 years, and it hurts me to see it working again, still one person at a time, long after its original inventors are dead and dust. Torturing one group and then paying them to be guard labor over an even more tortured group is the first trick in the racism handbook.

It’s an effective lie, with its own life, and it’s hurting billions of people right now. But it is a lie. This false belief not only hurts the victims of racism, it hurts the people who hold the belief as well, robbing all of us of a future. It’s an angry and broken world that doesn’t realize there’s no point to the things we were taught to hate for. This idea keeps us fighting over scraps on a planet full of stunning abundance. I have sat with this thing all my life, and I have found it empty, hungry, and meaningless.

I have no need or desire to bring more hate and anger into this world. What’s more, I have science that can help me develop techniques to diminish the anger and hate that’s here now. Science, like all forms of truth, is a form of love.

We live for barely any time in the one tiny bit of the universe where we’ve found life. There’s no great other and opposite side in our fights, there’s only entropy, waiting to swallow everything we know back up into the chaos of the unaware and unfeeling universe. That we waste even a moment of our brief time hating each other is madness. But we do, and it’s a madness we have to deal with. Stop hating people, there’s no time for it, no possible rhyme or reason to it. Fight people’s false beliefs about the world, because they threaten not only to kill us, but also to make our extraordinary existence trivial and rob the meaning from our lives.

When we sit with our white supremacists and our addicts and abusers, we sit with our own flaws. If it weren’t so then they wouldn’t be any scarier than the open sky, or gravity, or a gun on the table, or getting old. The flaws that make us so angry are the ones that seem so close to eating us, an anger that feeds on us and turns us, like vampiracism for violence. We are not afraid of the other when we look at broken people, we are afraid of looking at ourselves and seeing the other, and then tearing ourselves apart.

Patriarchy, genders, whiteness and blackness were born as the abused children to first aristocracy, and then colonialism. They were set to fight for centuries. This is our legacy. My life, my existence and circumstance, is the product of genocide and rape, and most likely, so is yours. We all came from victims and aggressors, from slaves and slave masters going back thousands of years. Humans have been marking time in blood very possibly from the decline of all the other hominids. Now we have smart phones and social media and regularly look at ourselves from space. We watch movies about superhero powers and fractured families, and I think it’s no mistake. This is the myth of the truth of the moment — that we are powerful beyond our own understanding, and broken and angry within our dysfunctional family.

Proceed with truth and love.


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[Photo by Piron Guillaume via Unsplash]

Another Kind of Recovery: Post-Maria Puerto Rico and Health Care Critical Infrastructure

I was away most of the last several weeks because I was recovering from surgery. I was lucky, not only because surgery fixed a life-threatening problem, but because I had IV bags and tubing for saline and pain medication.

lt doesn’t seem like this should be a big thing but it is for many critical health care situations. Imagine having major abdominal surgery, followed by days of post-surgery care. The pain could be debilitating without a continuous drip pain medication. Imagine the extra labor required to administer pain medication if automated IV drip feeds aren’t available.

Now imagine caring for an unconscious influenza patient suffering from dehydration. Imagine a ward filled with these patients, including children and elderly who may be difficult to hydrate by mouth. Imagine not having enough IV bags and tubing for a severe flu season.

No need to imagine this; hospitals have been dealing with this very shortage for more than a month. Some hospitals are administering Gatorade by stomach tube because they don’t have enough IV bags for hydration.

I hate to think of the challenges for patients in treatment for cancer and other long-term illnesses.

Why the shortage? It’s because Hurricane Maria affected the largest U.S. manufacturer of IV products. Baxter International’s three Puerto Rican plants make 44% of IV bags used in the U.S.

Most Americans aren’t aware 46% of Puerto Rico’s economy is manufacturing. Pharmaceuticals represent the lion’s share, including IV products. This industry represents 18,000 jobs, $40 billion in pharmaceutical sales, and $3 billion in federal tax revenues.

Hurricane Maria may have caused other pharmaceutical shortages. If so, production increases in other locations or substitutions remediated the effect. But there aren’t alternatives given IV products’ manufacturing concentration in Puerto Rico.

The Trump administration has done a pissy job handling post-Maria hurricane recovery in every respect. It almost looks personal, as if he’s punishing the island for a Trump-branded golf course’s failure.

But here’s the kicker: the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it’s done with emergency response in Puerto Rico. It’s pulling out though many residents are still without water and lights. Chalk it up to more bad faith on the part of this administration.

Why hasn’t the administration treated Puerto Rico’s pharmaceutical industry as critical infrastructure? The National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) lists health care as critical.

Is it because former President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 21 (pdf) established the NIPP? Trump has systematically unwound 20 or more Obama policy directives to date.

Trump’s proven he could give a rat’s patootie about brown-skinned people. If Trump mentions Puerto Rico in his SOTU speech tonight he’ll call federal response a success. FEMA gave him a news peg with ample time for his speech writer to stuff it into tonight’s hypocritical bloviating. He counts on the mainland blowing off Puerto Rico now the way it has sloughed off the island’s thousand-plus hurricane-related deaths.

But with the IV products shortage and the ongoing flu season’s severity, this indifference isn’t affecting only Puerto Ricans. It may already have cost lives while increasing health care costs here in the continental U.S.

Heaven help the rest of us if we face a mass casualty event or a pandemic before we fix Puerto Rico — and Trump.

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

Despite Bill Clinton’s famous catchphrase that he rode to two terms in the White House, and despite its echo in the 2016 campaign when Trump voters were described as acting out of “economic anxiety”, politics in the United States in my lifetime comes down, first and foremost, to racism. Yes, in Trump’s case and for most Republicans in office, there is a hefty dose of misogyny mixed in, but the animus against those who are not old, rich, white males unites their hatred.

Russia affected the 2016 contest. Clearly. But one of their primary tools was to stoke racial animus. Another huge impact on the actual outcome of the election was the outright suppression of minority votes by Republicans. It now appears that they may well have tipped the Wisconsin vote through suppression. And all those millions of votes for Trump, in the end, amount to nothing more than a huge endorsement of his outright racism. In the end, they came out on top with a little help from Republican policies expressly developed to prevent minorities from voting.

Trump is America’s racism unmasked and he would not be President if there weren’t a huge racist component to American culture today. The primary home for that racism is the Republican party.

The last few days have shown Trump revealing both his deep-seated racism and his cynical understanding that virtually his only support now is rooted in America’s racism. He tried his best to make his response to NFL protests be about the flag and patriotism. But that is most definitely NOT what Colin Kaepernick was protesting when he started this movement in August of 2016:

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has willingly immersed himself into controversy by refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.

His latest refusal to stand for the anthem — he has done this in at least one other preseason game — came before the 49ers’ preseason loss to Green Bay at Levi’s Stadium on Friday night.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Making matters even worse, NFL teams and even billionaire NFL owners–the very parties responsible for Kaepernick still not being on a roster despite abysmal quarterback play on several teams–came out with what some folks saw as admirable statements and actions in response to Trump calling for owners to “fire the sons of bitches” who kneel during the national anthem. The best response to that development came from Shannon Sharpe. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the entire statement, it is a thing of beauty and something that every American needs to hear:

So what are we to do?

First, those of us who carry the advantage of being old, white males who are at least comfortable if not rich must speak up every time there is an instance of racial injustice. Especially at the local level, when the police treat minorities without respect, make it known that this will not stand. Support larger groups that are working to promote racial justice.

But perhaps it is also worth taking look at our own lives. What aspects of our own lives help to perpetuate racial injustice? Even simple actions can accumulate. The next time you reconcile a credit card statement, take a look at your choices. Do you only eat at faceless chain restaurants? When was the last time you had a meal at a locally owned restaurant with a minority owner? Those are likely some of the best eating establishments in your town if you take the time to look around and try some new cuisines.

How about schools? Do you send your kids to private schools, most of which have been established to get around integration? Worse yet, do you send them to charter schools, which are set up expressly to take money away from public schools?

How about your place of worship? Is it integrated? Does it have any activities or programs aimed at racial justice?

One small action that I’ve decided to take is that I won’t watch another down of NFL football until Colin Kaepernick has been signed by a team.

Trump is the poster child for American racism, but we could all benefit from spending a little time thinking about our own roles both in how he came to be President and what we can do to make sure his sort never gets there again.

Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram Kendi

I’m on the road, which is great for reading, but not so much for writing. I just finished Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. It won the National Book Award for 2016. The citation reads:

Stamped from the Beginning turns our ideas of the term “racism” upside-down. Ibram X. Kendi writes as a thoughtful cultural historian, aware that he is challenging deeply held, often progressive assumptions. Using a masterful voyage through the history of U.S. political rhetoric, beginning with Cotton Mather and ending with hip-hop, he argues that even the most fervent anti-racists have been infected with that resilient virus. With his learning, he dares us to find a cure.

I always assumed that racist ideas arise from ignorance and hatred, or tribalism or some other source in individuals. Kendi says that first there was slavery, and then there were people who created justifications for slavery. When slavery was abolished the racist ideas persisted. There were plenty of people who benefited from using those racist ideas to exploit newly freed people for cheap labor. The ideas also proved useful in controlling the behavior of poor white people. There were plenty of people ready and willing to provide new versions of the old racist ideas, and many new ones.

Some of those people have names. Aristotle, for example, justified enslaving Caucasians from the north because the cold temperatures made them slow, stupid and ugly, and enslaving Africans because the hot temperature made them burnt and slow-witted, unlike the perfect Greeks; therefore slavery was justified. Then there was Gomes Eames de Zuzara, who wrote the first book about African slavery in 1452, explaining that the Africans were barbarians who needed to be saved into the right religion and civilized, and slavery was therefore a good thing. Others are nameless, the preachers, newspaper writers, authors, speakers, politicians and others who used their authority to spread poisonous ideas. The book is an intellectual and cultural history of anti-intellectual ideas and culture. Kendi describes a number of racist ideas and follows their twists and turns and the usually unavailing efforts to defeat them across the centuries in the US. In one chilling aside, he shows how these ideas formed the basis of anti-Semitic laws and theory in Nazi Germany. This is the subject of a new book, Hitler’s American Model, reviewed here by Jeff Guo.

If racist ideas could be stomped out by facts and reason, the results of the study of the human genome should have done the trick. Craig Venter, who led the project, said that his work showed that it is not possible to tell the “race” of a person by looking at the genone. The genes of humans are 99.9% the same. That didn’t stop the racists though: they announced that the different .1% was obviously the source of race and the superiority of white people, and they hired people to prove it. The idea of genetic differences cannot be eradicated.

The book forced me to think about how racist ideas are buried deep in my mind; about how African-Americans have been affected by and infected with racist ideas about themselves; about the relation between racism and other forms of prejudice; about the way these prejudices are used to create anger and hostility in our society; and much more. This wide range of ideas gives a good picture of the depth of Kendi’s work.

The idea that racist policy comes before the justification for racist policy is one thread that runs throughout the book. As Kendi shows, slavery came first, then the justifications for slavery. Race-based policies were in place, then came the justifications for race-based policies. This is the way many ideas we see in the world today came into existence. In economics, for example, trickle-down economics, an idea with roots in the 1890s, came back into common usage in the 1980s just in time to justify Reagan’s enormous tax cuts for the rich. It didn’t matter that it was laughably silly; it did its job of providing cover for people who benefited from the policy. Paul Krugman calls economic ideas like trickle-down zombie ideas, dead but on the move, eating brains. After reading Kendi’s book, I now think of racist ideas as zombie ideas, wholly false and known to be false, utterly unsupported by evidence and still eating brains.

I feel like I’ve spent my life unlearning ideas I somehow picked up along the way. Some of those ideas were deeply wrong, some stupid, and some irrelevant. Maybe there are billions and billions of galaxies, but what difference does that make in my life as compared with the idea that there are billions of stars as I first learned? There are other ideas that are wrong, and I acted on them and maybe hurt other people, and I wish I never had those wrong ideas or done those things.

Either way, carrying around wrong ideas is intrinsically bad. But how do I know which ideas are wrong, especially in areas in which I have no training or expertise? Let’s make that concrete with one of Kendi’s examples. Suppose in the mid-1860s I read Charles Darwins’s On The Origin of Species, and then read Herbert Spencer, who taught that human society evolves in the same way as fauna and flora. This led him and others to formulate what we now call Social Darwinism, another zombie idea used to justify racism. It led people to believe that white people were on top because they were the fittest, and Africans were at the bottom of society because they lost the battle; some even argued that the African population would die out completely in short order.

I ask myself if I would have had the strength of mind to reject Spencer and the racist implications of his misbegotten theory. Maybe I would have, but I don’t know. And that’s a problem. Today there are people who are paid to invent new justifications for racism, and their tactics are more and more sophisticated. It’s up to all of us to recognize them as the vicious lies they are, and try to stamp them out as they emerge. I just hope Kendi doesn’t have to add new chapters to his book to cover a new set of racist lies.

Ask Uncle Ed

Dear Uncle Ed,

I feel very, very badly for the people who are very scared for their way of life. From what I’m understanding, [Trump is] only really wanting illegal immigrants that have committed crimes to be deported, which I agree with. I feel bad for the lesbian and gay and transsexual community that fear for their way of life. From what I understand, he says he’s not going to mess with that.

Somebody called me a racist because I did vote for Trump. Hold on, you don’t know me. Doesn’t that make you a racist by calling me a racist when you don’t know me? I’m looking for a brighter future for me and my children, and honestly I felt l like our country was kind of at risk if we did elect Hillary.**

Signed, K.H. in AL

Dear K.H.

Uncle Ed is glad to see you acknowledge that lots of people are likely to be harmed by the election of Trump. As to immigrants, you are right to be careful in stating Trump’s position, because he has several. As to his position on the LGBT community, again, you may be quite right. Who knows?

But you seem to think the only issue is what Trump thinks. That’s just not true. Trump was elected as a Republican, and now the federal government is controlled by Republicans. As a group, they have repeatedly promised to get rid of immigrants, as did Trump mostly, and have relentlessly opposed decent treatment of immigrants who live here and their children born here or brought here. They support laws and rules treating the LGBT community as second class citizens.

You didn’t mention the risks facing African-Americans, who are already mistreated by the police, and treated unequally in education, safety and hiring. Trump calls himself the “law and order” candidate, which is Republican-speak for even more aggressive policing and mistreatment of Black communities.

You are offended that someone called you a racist. Uncle Ed is glad you don’t want to be thought of as a racist. But, here’s the thing. Your vote empowered known racists like Steven Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager and now a policy adviser in the White House. The Republican party will do its best to hurt immigrants, the LGBT community, and people whose religion or lack of religion they don’t approve, not to mention Blacks and Latinos.

Uncle Ed doesn’t know what’s in your heart. Uncle Ed doesn’t care. Uncle Ed cares about how you act. If you vote for a racist, if your vote emposers racists, then there is no functional difference between you and the most rabid KKK member in terms of the political outcomes for the outgroups. You are operationally a racist.

The most that can be said is that you are willing to accept racism if it makes your life better. That’s how you defend your vote. You claim just you want a brighter future for yourself and your children. As you put it: “…our country was kind of at risk if we did elect Hillary.” Again, what makes you different from self-acknowledged racists?

What about all the other minorities who will be harmed directly by installing racists in the White House and racism in Congress? You are willing to sacrifice all of them and their children. You are willing to deny them their claims to equal dignity and equal rights in whole or in part.

Equal dignity and equal rights are a crucial part of what it means to be an American. The Declaration of Independence says that all of us are entitled to equal dignity. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution says that all of us have equal rights under law. Those ideas, however imperfectly we have lived up to it, are the heart of our democracy.

Now, thanks in part to you, we are governed by a party that flatly doesn’t believe in that kind of equality. They are perfectly willing to ignore some or all the rights and interests of vast numbers of Americans. the LGBT community, women, Muslims, and who knows, maybe even white male coastal elites like Uncle Ed. They don’t think we are real Americans. They expect those despised groups to follow all their laws, to respect their politicians, and to pay taxes, but they do not intend to treat us equally in rights or dignity.

You violated a core American principle. It was thoughtless of you to act this way. Uncle Ed wishes you hadn’t. Calling you a racist seems like a mild reproof when you consider the likely consequences for millions of your fellow citizens. Uncle Ed hopes you continue to think about people other than yourself in the future, and refuse to vote for any politician whose first principle is to deny any of us our rights as Americans to equal dignity, and to be treated equally by our government.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬+++++++++++
* This is perhaps the first of an occasional series. I’ve been trying to figure out how to respond directly to the stated reasons people give to explain their vote for Trump. It’s mostly a way for me to justify my own position. I’ve been debating whether to post this, but today I saw the movie HIdden Figures, which helped me make up my mind.

Lefties, liberals, coastal elites, all of us are constantly told we need to understand and sympathize with the concerns of Trump voters. Trump voters are never told they must work to understand and sympathize with people who voted for the Democrat. In fact, Trump voters are told that liberals are their enemies, that we hate them and want to hurt them. Of course, they don’t read my posts, and I know I won’t ever persuade anyone that they made a terrible mistake. But I do wish they were forced to think about why those they believe are The Other might be so angry.

** This is quoted from this New York Times article.

Just Another Misogynist Monday

[What's her name? How hard is it to print her name? Isn't this Journalism 101 -- get the subject's name?]

[What’s her name? How hard is it to print her name? Isn’t this Journalism 101 — get the subject’s name?]

I’m not watching the Olympics on NBC. I see more than enough of the events in my social media feed that I don’t need to turn on the television. This post is based on the observations and media content shared online, an indicator of just how much content there is about the Olympics, both corporate and personal.

And I am SO glad I haven’t bothered to watch based on the persistent anger in my timeline. NBC’s coverage has been a bunch of sexist and racist nonsense, framing female athletes not by their performance but by the men or white family members in their lives.

Like noting a particular athlete became a mother since her last competition — gee, how many of the male athletes became fathers? The narrative NBC built around each woman competitor sounds more like an observation of their performing femininity. “She’s turned in the best time and look, she can still clean house and wear a dress!” Obnoxious.

Or in the case of Simone Biles, a woman of color, about whom NBC’s Al Trautwig feels compelled to note she’s adopted. He cannot simply talk about Biles’ gymnastic performance or the family who came for her as her parents.

Other U.S. media covering the Olympics don’t do any better, like this ridiculous bullshit from The Chicago Tribune and USAToday. First this internationally-recognized athlete is not named but identified as the spouse of non-Olympic male athlete — then half-assed corrections revealing her name still ensure she’s pegged as a man’s wife. Are you kidding me with this?

[Because the Chicago Bears figure largely to the Olympics...]

[Because the Chicago Bears figure largely to the Olympics…]

The Washington Post criticized NBC’s coverage this weekend, but the columnist made her own sexist dig in doing so by calling it “paperback romance novel approach.” Can you say “internalized oppression”? This merely reinforces the marginalizing pink ghetto-ization of genre literature which for women offers subversive escape.

The rationalization for NBC’s craptastic framing as offered to WaPo:

Women don’t watch the Olympics for the live results; they watch it for the narrative. Or that’s the reasoning of NBC, anyway. As the network’s chief marketing officer John Miller explained:

“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” he told Philly.com recently. “More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”Women don’t watch the Olympics for the live results; they watch it for the narrative. Or that’s the reasoning of NBC, anyway. As the network’s chief marketing officer John Miller explained:

“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” he told Philly.com recently. “More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

“Less interested in the result” — yeah, that’s why so many women in my timeline were holding their breath as they waited for gymnasts’ scores, or flailing on keyboards as swimmers sped toward the end of the pool. They do care, deeply and intensely, about the results of each sport.

But they don’t care for propping up men — oh, look, this swimmer co-parents with his med student wife, and wow, this guy was responsible for this woman’s swimming medal — at the expense of women.

We are not things. We are not your wallpaper or props. We are not accessories to men’s or white people’s lives. We don’t need your white and/or male validation to affirm our existence. We are competitors who work fucking hard to meet others as committed to sports as we are. We are viewers who appreciate the competitors’ respect and commitment to sport and want to see the field strive hard and the best win.

The fact that we have been born with a vagina or different skin color should be irrelevant to corporate content.

I’ll do a daily roundup later today. Get your sports talk out here in thread. ~R

Friday: How It Begins

I was half way through a post yesterday when a friend in the UK told me a member of Parliament had been killed by a fascist.

An assassination, I thought at that moment, unable to write another word for my post. How many times has an assassination kicked off a horrible chain of events?

I hoped and prayed as best a lapsed Catholic can that the murder of MP Jo Cox by a man shouting, “Britain First!” was not the beginning of something dreadful. Research says it’s less likely than if an autocratic figure had been killed, but who can really say with certainty?

We won’t know for some time if this was a trigger event for something else, though it did set off a cascade of stomach-turning crap. So many media outlets referred to politician Cox’s death by a political fanatic as something other than an assassination. Really? Would Cox have been targeted had she not been a pro-EU unity supporter? Would the assassin — characterized by so many euphemisms as mentally ill — have killed her had he not been rabidly anti-EU and racist, impelled by ramped-up anti-EU rhetoric in advance of the EU-Brexit referendum?

And the disparity in coverage between [lone white gunman suspected of mental illness] and [armed terrorist—labeled so because they’re not white]? Beyond disgusting. The racism is all the more obvious. The public is conditioned by media’s implicit bias to expect and accept the lone white gunman, but never the dark-skinned person bearing a weapon. The accused must have sympathized with white nationalism, irrespective of country, having bought his firearm components from U.S. neo-Nazis more than a decade ago. The description of his attack on Cox is chilling — it was a cold political execution, not just some wildly insane flailing without care for the outcome.

The world lost someone very special when Jo Cox died yesterday. Someone who lived progressive values out in the open, modeling a better way for us. Don’t kid yourself this was just a crazed man acting alone when white nationalist politicians like Nigel Farage believe “violence is the next step” if angry constituents feel they’ve lost control.

And don’t fool yourself into believing this was an isolated event occurring in a vacuum.

Today’s Friday jazz is a performance of She’s Crying for Me by the Yorkshire Jazz Band, in honor of Jo Cox’s home county.

A note on hacking stories
The breach of the DNC’s computers is one of a number of stories over the last several years following a pattern: the breach is attributed to one entity and then yet another entity, while the story itself has a rather interesting point of origin. Initial reports may say the hackers were affiliated with [nation/state X] and later reports attribute the hacking to [unaligned third party Y] — or a variation on this order — a key characteristic is the story’s immaculate birth.

Try looking for yourself for the earliest story reporting the hacking of the DNC. Who reported it and when? Who were the original sources? Did the story arise from a call to law enforcement or a police report, and a local beat reporter who gathered named eyewitnesses for quotes? Or did the story just pop out of thin air, perhaps simultaneously across multiple outlets all regurgitating the same thing at the same time?

My point: Be more skeptical. There’s an adage in reporting, drummed into journalism students’ heads: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Three examples of manipulated opinion
Speaking of being more skeptical, bias manifests itself in all manner of ways and can be easily used for good or ill.

  • U.S. government and military orgs tricked into running ‘imposter code’ (Ars Technica) — Suckers didn’t perform due diligence on packages of code hosted at developer communities before running them. Gee, I wonder if any political parties’ personnel might have done the same thing…
  • GOP-led House waffles on HR 5293 surveillance bill because Orlando (HuffPo) — Ugh. Would this vote have been different this time if a lone crazed white gunman had shot up a bar? Sadly, we can’t tell based on the bill’s approval last year because the vote took place one day before Dylan Roof’s mass shooting in a Charleston church. Nor can we tell from the bill’s 2014 approval by the House because the mass shootings the week of the vote were just plain old run-of-the-mill apolitical/non-racist with too few fatalities.
  • Send manuscripts out under a man’s name = agents and publishers notice (Jezebel) — If you’re a woman you can be a great writer and you won’t get any nibbles on your manuscript — unless you submit it under a male name. Hello, implicit bias, much? This isn’t the only example, either.

Worthwhile long read
This commentary at Tor.com looks at the movie V for Vendetta, saying it’s “more important than ever,” in spite of the adaptation’s rejection by Alan Moore, author of the graphic novel on which this film was based. The essay was published this past Tuesday; read it now in light of Jo Cox’s assassination Thursday. A single event can change perception. This line alone now means something very different to me:

It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place. But for three years I had roses, and apologized to no one.

If time permits, I may slap up a post this weekend to make up for yesterday’s writer’s block. Otherwise I’ll catch you on Monday.