The events of the past few days have left me exhausted. I’ve sat down many times since Saturday, wanting to write more, wishing to say something – anything – coherent enough and sensible enough that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to post it. These have been days of chaos, of irrational hatred, of violence, of death. Part of me wants only to make sense of it so this will no longer be true.
The truth is, I’m just going to leave it be what it has been – days of rage and violence, of irrationality, of chaos, of the official sanctioning of racist violence by no less a person than the President of the United States. There is no way typing that can make any more sense. No matter how hard people will try, it is what it is.
Part of me wants to remind readers that Hillary Clinton warned us, last fall during the Presidential campaign. People got upset with her for calling some of Trump’s supporters “deplorable”. Even I, at the time, thought that wasn’t the best move on her part, even though I also thought she was right. The thing is, at that moment she wasn’t caring about politics. She was doing what she thought was right: Warning us as a nation not only what kind of man Donald Trump was, but what kind of people he was carrying along with him in his train. People like David Duke:
Which leads me to say this: Anyone who claims either that Trump isn’t a racist, or that no one can know what’s in another’s heart: (A) Of course he’s a racist. His record on that score is long and very public; (B) White supremacists and Nazis were among his most vocal supporters during his campaign, telling the world he was one of them; (C) You know what’s “in a person’s heart” by that person’s words and actions. Yesterday Donald Trump stood and gave cover to Nazis and white supremacists, cover for their violence that killed one person and wounded 19 others, cover for a group of pipe wielding thugs beating a young African-American.
I was quite sure Trump’s Presidency would be horrible. I remember once saying it would be even more horrible than I could imagine at the time (before the inauguration). The complete and utter moral collapse of the Presidency, however, was nothing even I could imagine. The silence of the Republican leadership following Trump’s horrible press conference yesterday leaves them complicit in his ongoing embrace of the worst among us.
Let me be clear: As long as the Republican leadership – Congressional, Party bureaucracy, Administration members – remain in place saying or doing nothing, they own this turn toward overt white supremacy support by their party. Pretty words by a few here and there, mean absolutely nothing. Either the Party rises up to save itself, or like everything else Trump touches, it will be forever stained by his very presence. Either the Republican Party acts out a very clear, “No!” to white supremacy, it is now the party of white supremacy.
We are at a critical moment. Our President has taken sides with the most morally depraved elements of American society. His failure as a human being, on display for all to see, leaves us with the simple choice of continuing to support him in an office for which he has always been demonstrably unfit, aligning oneself with Nazis, the Klan, white supremacist murderers, and their enablers; or we stand as a country and demand an end to this failure of a Presidency, removing him from office as quickly as possible. While Mike Pence is no one’s choice for President, either, his brand of crazy conversatism is just slightly less deplorable than Trump’s.
Trump has made his bed, in linens covered in swastikas, and is quite comfortable there. The damage he has done to the instruments of our state power is vast, including now vitiating the moral authority the Office of the Presidency. It is up to we the people to demand an end to all of it as soon as possible. Only then can we begin to sort through the wreckage for what’s salvageable.
it’s become painfully clear to me reading comments tonight that most people don’t have a fucking clue what Transgender even is!! Just sayin… – An old school friend of mine, on Facebook
I’m going to say it up front and out loud: I’m uncomfortable with trans people. This isn’t due to any ideas about what makes men and women real. Mostly, it’s because I haven’t spent much time around them. It’s also ignorance about the complexities of gender identity confusion, something that I have been trying to learn but, honestly, there are other things I am doing which is a lazy person’s excuse, I suppose. In any case, yeah. The notion of people transitioning from one gender to another makes me uncomfortable.
My discomfort, however, doesn’t mean I think they’re weird or odd or anything else. The problem isn’t with the trans folks. The problem is most definitely mine, an unease borne of a combination of ignorance and few contacts with trans people. It isn’t up to them to show me they’re “just folks”. It’s up to me to understand trans people are just people, people who live with a difficult, sometimes debilitating confused sense of identity. The target of violent harassment, out trans people demonstrate courage in ways that most of us wouldn’t have the guts to demonstrate. Even though I’m uncomfortable, I’m not asking for help getting over that discomfort because that’s my cross to bear.
As far as “knowing” what trans people look like . . .
This is a trans man. If he wasn’t wearing that shirt, would you even know? Would you even dare ask him his gender identity without his self-identification? I thought not.
This woman on the other hand, what, exactly about her threatens so many men they want her to use a public men’s room? How many of you, not knowing she was trans, would be at all comfortable with her walking in while you’re standing at the urinal?
These aren’t pedophiles, looking to use restrooms to entice somebody’s precious child into sex. These aren’t people who are “obviously” any gender in particular. They’re just men and women who would prefer to go about their lives without ignoramuses like me speculating about what they have in their underwear, or claiming they’re weird perverts.
And they serve in the military. I read several places yesterday claiming there are currently 15,000 active duty trans in the military. Perhaps. Even if it’s only ten percent of that number, Issuing an order demanding their immediate separation from the service for no other reason than who they are – without regard to questions of readiness, troop moral, and security – isn’t exactly supporting our troops. The only reason Trump cited for this order was cost; specifically, the cost of gender reassignment surgery for active duty troops. I found out this morning via Twitter that House Republicans were looking to remove this line item from this year’s NDAA. They had no intention of removing trans troops from the ranks; they just wanted Trump to support their bigoted parsimony. Considering the President gave no notice to anyone, civilian or military – many in the military feared, based on the wording of his first Tweet and the lengthy delay between it and the second Tweet, that he was announcing a strike against North Korea via Twitter, which would be horrible – and only cited “cost” as the reason for ordering separation.
I’ll be honest. I’m guessing that some in the ranks weren’t happy about openly integrating trans people. I’m sure units were angry and confused, if for no other reason than changes like this can be unsettling, just like racial integration was in 1948 and moving women in to front line combat units was. While I tend to believe reports that these actions haven’t altered military preparedness or readiness, I’m quite sure there are some, perhaps many, for whom this action last year was shocking and disconcerting. Had there been any disruptions in preparedness, troop readiness and effectiveness, and unit cohesion, surely that information would have leaked long ago. So, these folks who weren’t happy about the change were, in essence, like me: Uncomfortable with trans because of ignorance and a lack of interpersonal contact.
I cannot stress this enough – if some or even many people in the military were unhappy with this change, not because it disrupted unit cohesion or effected the willingness of troops to serve together, but just because they have something against trans folks, it isn’t incumbent upon the military or anyone else to accommodate their personal feelings. If you, dear reader, just “believes” trans people don’t belong in the military that is certainly your right to believe that. That belief, however, shouldn’t be raised to the level of national policy. Remember, there are die-hard bigots in the ranks who believe people of color have no business integrating with white troops, and I don’t see or hear the brass demanding an end to racial integration.
A couple things that happened yesterday did bug me. First, one of the cable networks – I can’t remember if it was CNN or MSNBC – had on a Naval Lt. Commander who is trans to speak on the matter. I found this disturbing because our service members shouldn’t be put in the position of questioning, on national television, the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. This person wasn’t in uniform, but that doesn’t make it any less discomfiting. There are plenty of vets who spoke out both for and against Trump’s order yesterday available to any network for interview. Getting someone, an officer no less, to speak out in this way was . . . it was wrong, OK?
The other thing that bugged me were all the people insisting that if critics hadn’t served in the military, they shouldn’t speak out. The last time I checked the military was under civilian control in this country: Their C-in-C is a civilian, the secretaries of the services are civilian, the Congress that determines how much money they can spend, on what, and for how long are all civilians. And, yeah, your run-of-the-mill person on the street with no military experience not only has the right but the duty to speak out. I’m actually quite tired of people being silenced, or at least the attempt to silence critics, because “we don’t know what it’s like”, yadda-yadda-yadda. We either engage actively on these matters or we turn control of military matters over to the military, which is a truly horrible idea. Claiming a privileged position in a discussion based on personal experience is really tiresome. While vets and troops certainly should be listened to, they shouldn’t have some kind of automatic veto on what is and is not acceptable in discussions over military policy. There was a time, not that long ago in fact, when the civilian public actually distrusted the views of vets and the military. I’m not suggesting we return to such a time, but all things should be met with a healthy skepticism. We need more, not less, public engagement.
So, yeah, random thoughts bearing on the matter. My problem is not only with the order and the way it was announced; my problem is with so much talk about the issue that’s divorced from any reality people actually encounter. And if you’re uncomfortable with trans people, like I am, I suggest you follow my lead and not let that personal discomfort become some universal truth that guides your life.
It’s one of my favorite moments in one of my favorite movies: Delta Chi fraternity has just had its charter revoked; the members are expelled with their draft boards being notified they are now eligible. Shocked and stunned, they wonder what, exactly, they can do now that they have nothing left. Someone says, “We have to do something!” One member pipes up, “What the hell we s’posed to do, you moron?”
I feel a bit like that guy in Delta House right now. Yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, ostensibly for how he handled the release of information regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails (actually, it was Weiner’s emails, which included emails to Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin, who happens to be Anthony Weiner’s ex-wife). I largely agree with Josh Marshall’s assessment that, in the abstract, the arguments made in the letter to the President make some kind of sense. In the current context, however, in which the President and much of his campaign staff (who are now members of the Administration) are under investigation for their ties to the already-established Russian interference in our previous general election, this abstract argument is worthless precisely because it looks as if the President has something he does not want coming to light. Indeed, in the six months since the election, both Presidents Obama and Trump could have fired Comey for these very reasons. They chose not to do so for sensible if not necessarily good political reasons. Since the man who wrote the legal rationale for Comey’s firing was only confirmed two weeks ago with enormous bipartisan support, it looks clear both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were waiting for a person with a reputation for integrity, who had support among both Republicans and Democrats, to enter the Justice Department so that, on the surface, it wouldn’t appear as if either Trump was acting impulsively or Sessions – who has slightly more political sense than Trump, which isn’t saying much – was acting on standing orders. It gives them both the appearance of distance. Sadly for them, neither are adept enough to make such an appearance stick.
And so we are now in the strange position of witnessing a clear abuse of Presidential power – as much a political matter as a legal matter – and we all wait and wonder, What do we do now? I know people are contacting their elected representatives. I applaud the sense of civic duty. With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for an end to investigations into the possible collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russians, and the House Republicans both spineless and hyperpartisan, the necessary political will for the submission of articles of impeachment just isn’t present. Both the House and the Senate have demonstrated their lack of any interest in the questions, comments, and other input from their constituents. Particularly the Republicans have often closed down their phone lines, their email, and refused to hold meetings in order to avoid feedback they won’t like. They have worked on passing legislation the public neither wants nor needs, particularly their “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act, the vast majority of Americans oppose. To further demonstrate the Trump Administration’s contempt for the Constitution, a West Virginia reporter was arrested yesterday afternoon after asking HHS Secretary Tom Price a question.
Impeachment is far more a political than a legal action. While it certainly involves matters of lawbreaking, most Presidents, at least since James Monroe, have violated one or another statute or Constitutional provision. The first President who faced an impeachment trial in the Senate, Andrew Johnson, did so because the Radical Republicans (they were the good guys back then) felt Johnson wasn’t pushing hard enough on their agenda for reforming the Southern States (Johnson was a former Democratic Senator from Tennessee who refused to join his state in seceding from the Union). Richard Nixon’s string of corrupt acts would most assuredly not only forced him from office had he not resigned, but landed him in federal prison had President Ford not pardoned him. Bill Clinton faced impeachment for the rather narrow and arguable crime of lying under oath. Precisely because the larger matters surrounding the question involved Clinton’s personal rather than professional conduct, the Senate found no reason to find Clinton guilty of anything. Just because a person may (or may not) have broken the law doesn’t mean they should be removed from office.*
Now we face a moment during which the question of the survival of our Constitutional order might very well hang in the balance. I know this sounds melodramatic. I happen to believe it’s true. That the Russians intruded themselves into our last election is a matter of fact, not of opinion. That there appeared, even at the time, to be some kind of links between the Trump campaign and the Russians is also a fact. Russian interference was discussed mid-summer, 2016, both publicly and far more extensively in meetings with members of the Obama Administration, senior Congressional leadership, and the Intelligence Community. None of this is arguable. What needs to be done is a thorough investigation into whether or not Trump or his campaign had any knowledge of, contact with, or cooperation with these Russian efforts to undermine our last election. Rather than not investigate, one would think an investigations in to matters of such profound importance would be welcome. That members both of the Administration and senior Republicans are now calling for an end into such investigations demonstrates that there is no political will to curtail abuses of power by this Administration.
So . . . what the hell are we supposed to do? Call, write, be vocal about the insistence this matter not rest: these are, I suppose, important things. I doubt their efficacy, even in the long run. So we are faced with an increasing dictatorial Executive Branch with Legislative Branch unwilling to protest abuses or power or assert their primary prerogatives as overseers of the Executive. The Judicial Branch can only do so much, and they certainly cannot bring action on their own that gets Trump and his Administration out of office.
What? Do? We? Do?
*I think the authors of the Constitution, particularly James Madison, couldn’t imagine someone holding the office of President who had so little personal integrity they would willy-nilly violate their oath of office. Alas, honor is a republican rather than democratic value.
Espionage is a dangerous game. Even the attempt to suborn one senior official of a foreign power is filled with danger for all involved. Allegations of the mass compromising of members of the United States Executive Branch are unprecedented. Usually, this is the kind of thing bad novels are made of. Except, alas, there is abundant evidence in the public sphere that, at the very least, the attempt was made, beginning many months ago. Considering the business ties our current President has enjoyed in Russia over recent years, it hardly seems outside the realm of possibility those ties could lead to some attempt at turning what may well have been considered a valuable “asset” in the United States.
At the same time, something as massive as what at least appears to have happened to key people in the Trump Administration, up to and including the President himself, begs many questions. The most important, of course, is “Why?” Why expend the energy and resources working with a series of what should appear to anyone outside the twisted minds of the American far right as people of dubious character and even more dubious intelligence? While it would certainly be a coup de main to alter the outcome of an American Presidential election, in and of itself that hardly seems like a goal the Russians would pursue. For months now, I have been wondering about their end game. What in the world do the Russians get by nabbing senior American officials at this moment in time? There has to be more than just some kind of espionage gold medal.
It certainly couldn’t be just having such highly placed assets. Ever since Aldrich Ames, I’m quite sure the US Intelligence Community has instituted all sorts of changes and checks to make sure such a deep penetration of our spy agencies is far more difficult. That senior American officials might well be under scrutiny makes more than a little sense. When it comes to turning foreign officials, spies, and other people, the Russians have always been the best. That whole “constant vigilance” thing certainly applies. So having low-level persons, mid-level persons, providing information to Russia is kind of to be expected. Nabbing a group of folks inside the White House and Executive Branch? That would be great, but such persons so dangerously exposed and (as it turns out) easily discovered it makes sense only if the goal isn’t, or isn’t only, gathering information.
Ever since the Russian invasion and annexation of The Crimea, Russian military adventurism has expanded a great deal. For several of the past years, Russian fighters have been playing chicken with our polar borders, seeing just how close they could get before tripping American ROE. It hasn’t been just the United States, however. Russian jets have been buzzing the Nordic and Baltic states as well, with Russian military maneuvers a tad too close to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for them to rest comfortably. While the invasion of the Crimea went like clockwork for the Russians, getting facts on the ground ahead of any serious attempt at Ukrainian reprisal, their larger efforts following attempted invasions of eastern Ukraine, have been abysmal failures. Enlisting ethnic Russians who are sympathetic to a possible Russian annexation has only brought more problems, including allegations of shooting down passenger jets. It’s important to look carefully at all aspects of Russian military capability. They are certainly a menace with a very large conventional army and sophisticated air assets, in particular their helicopters and fighter jets. They also possess nuclear weapons, which should make anyone considering the possibility of Russian military action nervous.
This past week, I heard the Sweden has reinstituted the draft.
In recent years, Sweden has alleged breaches of its airspace by Russian fighter jets and aggressive Russian activity in the Baltic Sea. In 2015, Wilhelm Unge, the head of Sweden’s intelligence agency Säpo, estimated that one-third of the diplomats working in the Russian embassy in Stockholm were spies. Following the publication of a similar report by Säpo last year, Sweden reportedly sustained a series of cyberattacks that it attributed to Russia.
In addition to the renascent conscription, regional hostilities are also having an effect on public opinion in Sweden. In 2014, a poll found that a majority of Swedes supported joining NATO for the first time ever. Two years earlier, that figure had been a paltry 17 percent. Meanwhile, military spending in the country, which dropped from 2.6 percent of the GDP in 1991 to 1.1 percent in 2015, went up 11 percent last year.
It isn’t just Sweden.
After scrapping conscription in 2008, Lithuania, which is a NATO member, reinstituted the draft in 2015 for men in the 19-to-26 age group. (Facing a pro-Russian insurgency in the east, Ukraine also reintroduced conscription in 2014, just months after suspending it.) Unsurprisingly, Sweden’s new conscription protocol will take some of its inspiration from neighboring Norway, which features one of few gender-neutral fighting forces in the world. Its first enlistment begins in July and will draw from a pool of men and women born in 1999.
So nerves in Northern and Northeastern Europe are taught. American forces have moved to join their NATO allies in Poland, as a direct response to Russian aggression, according to the UK Independent. While relatively small in number – only about 4,000 – Russia promptly denounced the deployment as “aggressive”, to which I’m quite sure the then-Obama Administration probably shrugged and smiled. It seems clear the Russians are looking toward some kind of attempt at a military restoration of the old Soviet borders. Putin has been pretty clear throughout his years in office this has been a goal. The one thing preventing him from moving west through the Balkans and Nordic countries is, at it has always been, NATO.
Since last summer when candidate Trump started questioning the relevance and necessity of NATO, including criticizing those NATO countries he insisted weren’t “paying their fair share”, it’s been clear to most who connected the dots between his public flirtations with Putin and Russia and a far-too-casual dismissal of NATO effectiveness, this would portend poorly for NATO cohesion and effectiveness. Now, with a threat looming to their east, NATO needs the United States prepared, united, and resolute to deter any Russian aggression.
Alas, we are without a doubt in the midst of some of the worst political chaos in our history. The Executive Branch, from the inner workings of the White House down through the various departments, are in obvious turmoil, lacking both direction and upper-level Assistant and Under-Secretaries necessary for the smooth operation of government. Meanwhile, Congress is currently led by two men hopelessly compromised by their own weaknesses. House Speaker Paul Ryan has never been an example of strength. Indeed, his entire adult life has been one of sycophancy toward those in power. In a position of power himself, he is utterly lost. The only person to whom sycophancy makes any sense for Ryan is the President. This leaves the third highest Constitutional Office effectively useless as a check on the Executive. Meanwhile, in the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell is little more than a latter-day Stanley Baldwin*. The legislative branch of government, designed by our Constitutional framers as primer inter pares among the three parts of our federal government, is for all intents and purposes incapable of any effective action.
Meanwhile, from the Office of the President on down, the White House is a mixture of imbecility, ridiculousness, infighting, and utter confusion. We have a President who is almost comically unsuited to the office. His senior advisors include conspiracy mongers, white nationalists, and sycophants quite willing to sell their souls in order to hold positions of authority. Our National Security apparatus is hobbled, despite the recent appointment of Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor. More than capable, appointing Russian hawks as some of his key advisors, he does not yet have direct access to the Office of the President.
It was yesterday, however, when there was a little “click” in my head. In the early morning hours, Trump took to Twitter to accuse former President Obama of “bugging” Trump Tower prior to the election. Over the course of the day, what was little more than yet one more of Trumps ridiculous Tweets became the political story of the day. People on the left ranged from those who insisted a FISA warrant for Trump Tower, or Trump, or Trump’s associates, or something else, was old news just revealed by the President to those who insisted this is nothing more than a planned distraction from “the real issue”**. On the right, of course, are demands that President Obama be “investigated” for what people are already calling “Obamagate”. The Washington Press Corps is all over all of this, which leaves so much that needs attention outside anyone’s line of sight.
Yes, the reality of our Executive Branch compromised by Russian intelligence is serious business. There is more than abundant evidence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election was undermined by Russian intelligence. In a normal time, the impeachment and removal of President Trump would be swift and easy. The combination of weakness in Congress, chaos in the Executive, and a significant minority of the public somehow believing that Obama is plotting a coup against Trump, however, makes the events of yesterday only more fuel to the chaotic fire that rages in Washington.
Putin’s end game is, or should be, pretty clear. He doesn’t care about any information the folks in the Executive Branch can grant him. Russian state media has not been shy echoing the Trump Administration’s line regarding alleged press and Democratic “persecution” of the President, leaving little doubt they do not care in the least about looks. They have what they want: A United States at all but fighting war with itself.
Any deterrence the United States might pose for Russian military action is now lost. Our Commander-in-Chief is a hopeless, helpless child. There is no direction from the top; if there were, the lack of any coherence would make such direction extremely difficult to push through a broken bureaucracy. Not only are the Russians happy to leave compromised American officials dangle in the wind; eight Russian diplomats, including long-serving, high-ranking people like the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, have died under mysterious circumstances (please read: “They were murdered”) since the election. These officials are alleged to have been connected to various people in the former Trump campaign, Trump transition team, and Trump Administration. Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t shy about leaving no loose ends.
What was Putin’s end game? Quite simply, neutering any effective American participation in a NATO response to Russian military action in the Nordic countries and Baltic States. Trump and company’s only benefit as assets is the chaos we currently live with each day. The US State Department has few senior diplomats capable of dealing with what might well become an impending crisis in Europe. The command and control of our military is hobbled. The American press and public are utterly absorbed and distracted by the shenanigans in the White House.
And the clock seems to be ticking. The window during which effective American diplomatic and military action and preparation would prevent what might well turn into a broad war in Europe is closing fast. Most of America is unaware of the impending danger. It might still be possible to act to prevent such a horror from occurring, but we aren’t blessed with anyone capable of cutting through the nonsense to make that point clearly and loudly. As self-absorbed and unbalanced as our Chief Executive, the United States – the one essential country – is at a point of weakness not seen since the years leading up to World War II. This is a threat to the whole world. We need to pay attention lest we are caught off-guard by a sudden cataclysm.
*Stanley Baldwin was the British Prime Minister during most of the 1930’s. As the Germans began to regain strength, Baldwin did all he could to ignore the evidence before him. Famously, after the Anschluss of Austria, as Parliament debated the issue, Baldwin revealed quite baldly and honestly, that he had put the Tories above the nation, fearing the loss of seats should he begin to warn the British of possible German military adventurism. Baldwin’s fiddling while Rome burned left Britain woefully unprepared for what was to come.
**My rule, to which I so wish others would assent, is that neither Trump nor his advisors are either intelligent or savvy enough to think up something as clever as “distractions” from “real issues”. These folks are, to be blunt, pretty fucking stupid and cleverness is not one of their virtues.
“I think one of the big differences then was you had governors and mayors and the president — whether it was President Johnson or President Nixon, Republican or Democrat — condemning violence against the police and urging support for the police.
“Today that’s markedly absent,” [William] Johnson [executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations] continued. “I think that’s a huge difference, and that’s directly led to the climate that allows these attacks to happen.”
Johnson says that Obama has not supported the police or condemned violence against them. – Adam Thorpe, “Law enforcement lobbyist says pro-police speech is ‘markedly absent’ from Obama”, PolitiFact, July 12, 2016
Donald Trump says there has been “a substantial rise in the number of officers killed in the line of duty — a very big rise.” He’s right, to a point. There has been an increase in firearms-related deaths in the last six months compared to a year ago.
But the number of fatalities from all causes, not just firearms, is largely unchanged from a year ago, and has substantially declined in recent years.
Annual fatality data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund show that there have been an average of 135 police fatalities a year under President Obama, from 2009 to 2015, compared with 162 a year for the previous seven years, from 2002 to 2008. That’s a decline of 17 percent. – Eugene Kiely, “Killed In The Line Of Duty”, Politifact, July 13, 2016
These are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.
And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues. According to various studies, not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years, African-Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over.
After being pulled over, African-Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African-Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites.
African-Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African-American defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.
So if you add it all up, the African-American and Hispanic population who make up only 30 percent of the general population make up more than half of the incarcerated population. Now, these are facts.
And when incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same. And that hurts. And that should trouble all of us.
This is not just a black issue. It’s not just an Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about, all fair- minded people should be concerned. – Part of Pres. Barack Obama’s statement on two police-involved killings, Time, July 7, 2016
Yesterday, two police officers put on their uniforms to serve and protect the communities they loved. And early this morning, they were taken from us in shameful acts of violence.
Sergeant Anthony Beminio and Officer Justin Martin represented our best, most decent instincts as human beings – to serve our neighbors, to put ourselves in harm’s way for someone else. They knew the dangers of their job. They knew the risks. Yet they chose to dedicate themselves to those values anyway. So today, Michelle and I join Americans across our country in expressing our condolences and stand in solidarity with their grieving families, fellow officers, and the communities they served so honorably. – Statement by the President on the Shooting of Police Officers in Des Moines, Iowa, WhiteHouse.gov, November 2, 2016
Sgt. Debra Layton of the Orlando, FL Police Department was shot and killed yesterday while trying to apprehend a suspect in the murder of Sade Dixon. Later that afternoon, while participating in the manhunt, Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Norman Lewis, a motorcycle officer, was struck and killed by an SUV. The people, particularly law enforcement, in and around Orlando and Orange Co. are sad and angry. People around the country are offering condolences even as police continue to hunt the suspect. I think it’s fair to say that this will not end well for the suspect.
This particular situation, as horrible and frightening as it is, has become the latest instance of a political campaign being waged against Pres. Obama by some police officers and police organizations around the country. There are those who believe, and publicly insist, that Pres. Obama has remained silent as police officers are killed in the line of duty; that he is far more quick to speak about police brutality than he is to speak about the deaths of police officers killed in the line of duty; that he has created a climate that is hostile to police officers, encouraging violence against the police.
Is this true? Is it true there’s a “war on police”, either subtly encouraged or at least not discouraged by our President? Has he remained silent on the deaths of police officers even as there are more deaths than ever?
Let’s start with some raw numbers. According to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund, From 2009-2015 there was an average of 135 police officers killed in the line of duty. While there hasn’t been a definitive total added for 2016, one unofficial number I’ve seen, 140, certainly remains close to the average for Pres. Obama’s tenure in office. It’s easy enough to do this by Presidential Administration: George W. Bush average – 172; Bill Clinton average – 164; Ronald Reagan/ George H. W. Bush – 181. It’s true there was a 40% increase in the deaths of police officers due to gunfire in 2015, looking at the actual numbers, broken down by Presidential Administration (since that seems to be the measure being used by Pres. Obama’s critics), there has been a downward trend over the past 35 years, with Pres. Obama presiding over the least deadly eight years.
Let’s look at the charge made by Police Lobbyist William Johnson that Pres. Obama has remained silent, creating a climate for attacks on police officers to occur. After Rudy Giuliani alleged much the same thing in 2014 after the deaths of two NYC Police Officers, Politifact went back and looked at official statements from Pres. Obama from the August protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO through a Dec. 8 interview with BET, discussing the need for policing in minority communities. Simply put the claim that Pres. Obama was encouraging people to hate police was utter nonsense. Using much the same method – presenting what and when Pres. Obama actually said – they concluded that Johnson, too, like Giuliani two years previously, was “Pants On Fire”, a polite way to say he was full of shit.
So there’s this narrative out there, believed by many including many police officers, that there’s a “War On Police”; that during the years of Pres. Obama’s tenure in office, there’s been a subtle or perhaps not-so-subtle encouragement of violence against police; that Pres. Obama has been far more silent on the deaths of police officers than have previous Presidents, going back to Lyndon Johnson. None of these statements are supported by any evidence whatsoever. Why is the belief persistent?
First of all, Pres. Obama has spoken out against police brutality and the reality of racial disparities in policing that occur nationwide. He has done so even as he has maintained his vocal and active support for police officers, the work they do, and mourned with us during each and every instance of violence against police officers. Because this President sees himself as President of all Americans, he has insisted that there is the need for reform of police procedures, particularly regarding matters of race. This is no more “anti-police” or “cop-hating” than are those prosecutors who bring charges against officers whose flagrant law-breaking disgraces all police. It does not create an atmosphere of hostility toward police officers that our President has recognized the legitimacy of the issues raised by Black Lives Matters, while certainly condemning acts of violence committed by members of BLM and denouncing violent rhetoric by some BLM members. It is, indeed, possible to do both things at the same time, especially when it is clearly understood that Pres. Obama has always understood himself to be President of all Americans – police and the communities they serve included.
It is horrible this young woman was murdered in the line of duty yesterday. Whatever may be justice in this instance, her death is not honored by making of it more fodder for a political agenda promoting a falsehood regarding the President of the United States. I’d ask about shame, but I know that just doesn’t exist anymore.
[The sum total of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial is that] no one except four people—one duly executed by lethal injection, another in jail for the rest of his life, a third sentenced to 12 years and a fourth granted immunity—had anything to do with creating the political context of antigovernment rage that made the bombing possible.
This denial is how a childlike nation gets past trauma. It demonstrates how unprepared our nation is for the trauma about to be visited upon it. – Rick Perlstein, “The Rush To Normalize Trump”, In These Times, Dec. 2, 2016
“I’m sure you’ve heard James Fallows talk about lies that Donald Trump has put out there in tweets, in things he’s said. What do you think about that?” [NPR radio host Dianne] Rehm asked.
Hughes responded that the existence of truth itself was dubious, and that the veracity of Trump’s tweets depended upon whether the person assessing them liked Trump. – Matt Shuham, “Trump Surogate’s Jaw-Dropping Claim: ‘No Such Thing’ As Facts Anymore,” Talking Points Memo, Dec. 2, 2016
It was a story that passed among liberals, with the usual clueless commentary. For example, on the original TPM post, daveyjones64 wrote in part, “And we all better believe that this is indeed going to be their playbook for the entirety of his time in the White House.” How sad would this commenter be if I pointed out that every Presidential Administration uses this same “playbook”. Usually, we call it by other names like “spin” or “just politics”. What it really is, however, is placing more faith in how people perceive and understand the world than anything “real” like “facts”.
Then, of course, there’s the inevitable recollection of Karl Rove’s “Empire’s create their own reality” statement, dutifully recalled by commenter 26degrees rising. It’s almost as if Rove’s clear-eyed statement of Imperial Truth that’s as old as humanity were some horrible incantation of the devil.
I’ve avoided most news and commentary since the election for a variety of reasons both private and otherwise. There is so much noise out there and I had zero interest in adding to it. Seeing this story linked in a FB friend’s timeline (the above-quoted historian, Rick Perlstein, to be exact) that piqued my interest. It was the headline, with it’s “I’m heading for the fainting couch” business calling Hughes statement “jaw-dropping”. It is neither jaw-dropping nor even new. Of course facts are malleable things, visible only from where one chooses to see and hear. This entire election season was an object lesson in how two incompatible views of the world, when meeting, talk past one another, treating the one another both with contempt and disdain.
As a for instance, let us consider some of the “big” facts governing our national life on social, cultural, and political planes. White supremacy – is it true or false? There is no doubt it has been part of our founding and expanding creed; it’s even enshrined in the original language of the Constitution. Is it or is it not a fact? That a particular species of capitalism is not only a preferable socio-economic organizing principle, but superior in principle to any and all others. Gotta tell ya, folks, I’ve never bought this one, and I know lots of other people who don’t either. Yet at least since the decade or so after the Civil War up until today, this was unquestioned and unquestionable. Even the socialist and communist revolutions did nothing to sway America from its insistence on its own inherent superiority; to be a true-believing socialist or communist was to be incoherent. It still is, particularly since the Establishment has decreed the anti-Soviet counter-revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989 marked the end of communism as a viable socio-economic alternative.
Those are just two examples of “facts” that have been part of our national ethos for decades, even centuries. Is it at all possible to be shocked when someone says that “facts” really don’t exist? Much of this election season, people spent entirely too much time showing one another “facts” that fit their own ideological preferences, with no one quite realizing just how futile a practice it really was. Whether it was the “fact” that Hillary Clinton was personally responsible for the deaths of four diplomats and support staff in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on our consulate, or the “fact” that Donald Trump was a misogynist demonstrated by his many demeaning comments about women, we posted them on social media, demanding others respond to what the poster’s clearly believed was an unanswerable charge. Thus it is that we Americans became a people divided by a common language; while ostensibly sounding the same, it was clear there were many words that meant very different things depending upon where one chose to sit.
Way back in 1948, French sociologist Jacques Ellul wrote what is really quite an unbelievable little book. Entitled The Presence Of The Kingdom, it was a kind of radical Christian manifesto, marking off up and coming ideological and material threats to true freedom. Listing propaganda a the rise of “technics” (Ellul would go on to write two well-received books on both these topics), the rise and spread of Islam, and the creation of institutions titularly for social betterment but rather to be used for social control. Among the things he wrote was a marvelous musing on “the fact”:
Now, however, we have the right to ask: “What is the general motive which – at the present time – leads man to this blindness about the world in which he lives?” There is no doubt the most powerful motive – which weighs upon us like an interdict, the motive which prevents us from questioning the elements of this civilization, and from starting on the road leading to this necessary revolution – is our respect for facts. It is well known that in other civilizations men did not respect facts to the same extent, nor did they conceive facts in the same way. At the present time the fact – whatever it is – the established fact, is the final reason, the criterion of truth. All that is a fact is justified, because it is a fact. People think that they have no right to judge a fact – all they have to do is to accept it.
Thus from the moment that technics, the State, or production, are facts, we must worship the as facts, and we must try to adapt ourselves to them. This is the very heart of modern religion, the religion of the established fact, the religion on which depend the lesser religions of the dollar, race, or the proletariat which are only expressions of the great modern divinity, the Moloch of fact. (p.27, emphases in original)
As long as people knew they had the facts on their side – Hillary Clinton is a lying crook; Donald Trump is a lying pig – there was little else others should do except acquiesce in the face of the facts. That this didn’t happen isn’t because one group or another is stupid, uneducated, delusional, or otherwise impaired from judging the “correctness” of the facts presented, although far too often that’s how we tend to speak of these things. On the contrary, facts were and continue to be irrelevant for the same reasons facts have never been all that interesting: One person’s fact is another person’s statement of something so “jaw-dropping” it’s impossible to believe anyone could believe and act upon such a ludicrous statement. Except, of course, name for me a single social group in human history that didn’t act upon what we now consider the most “dubious” of “facts”.
One example that always comes to my mind is one described by T. S. Kuhn. After inventing the telescope and seeing, among other things, far more stars than were visible to the naked eye, the four large moons of Jupiter and their revolutions about it, and much else, he was challenged by ecclesiastical authority as to the truthfulness of his claims. First, Galileo’s theory of optics, upon which the workings of his telescope were based, were both relatively new and hardly accepted by most people for whom such things were known. For every claim of what Galileo said he saw through his telescope, there was a perfectly reasonable, coherent, and – this is most important – accepted set of facts that explained them without overthrowing the church-preferred earth-centered cosmos. We may insist that Galileo was right because he had facts on his side; the truth is, however, the Church had far more facts on its side, facts accepted within a time-worn and well-tested set of physical assumptions about the Universe God had created. Thus Galileo was not only “wrong”; he had no “real facts” to support his claims.
We are far too entranced by our own sense of ourselves as sensible people for whom facts determine what is and is not real to realize just how fragile is that “reality”, just how contingent and malleable are those facts upon which we confidently rest our minds, and that when distinct views of the world clash – clashes far more dangerous than between any religion or political ideology – we wind up with incommensurable realities living side by side.
Which one survives? That’s a question of power, now isn’t it. It certainly doesn’t depend upon any facts.
N.B>: Throughout this post, when I quote MRA and PUA websites, I will NOT be linking to the original posts. I have no desire to swim in cesspools. I will, rather, be using the website We Hunted The Mammoth as my main source for such quotes. If you have never read it, I highly recommend it as a source for all sorts of information on the seedier side of American “manliness”.
If you ever wanted to know why I’m not a conservative or a Republican, this craven pandering to women pretty much sums it up. I’m not sickened by Trump’s locker room talk. I’m sickened by the fact that weak little gamma males like Ryan … have any influence in Western society at all. The only correct response to this “scandal” should have been a single question: “so the f*ck what?”
Never trust a moderate, a Churchian, or a cuckservative. Never. They will stab you in the back in order to virtue-signal every single time. – Theodore “Vox Day” Beale, quoted in “Theodore “Vox Day” Beale defends Trump’s “Alpha talk about women””, We Hunted The Mammoth, October 8, 2016
“I think it’s locker room banter,” the younger Trump said. “I think sometimes when guys are together they get carried away, and sometimes that’s what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence.” – Jenavieve Hatch, “Eric Trump: Bragging About Sexual Assault Is ‘What Happens’ When Alpha Males Are Together”, The Huffington Post, October 11, 2016
On the blog of the rabidly racist pickup artist James “Heartiste” Weidmann — you may recall his recent attacks on Paul Ryan — one of the regular commenters has a rather creative new theory about Hillary . . .
Hillary wants to send your sons off to war so your daughters will get their jobs. It’s a deliberate attempt to kill off large segments of the male population.
Maybe it’s conscious on her part; maybe it’s unconscious, but the end result is that lots of men will be pulled from the labor force making way for women. I’m surprised no one else has picked up on this. To me it perfectly explains why she’d be gunning for a war with Russia before she’s even in office. Has she been pushing for a female draft? No. Therefore, a large-scale war would be the ultimate “full employment” program for women.
The final solution for feminists, so to speak. – “Hillary wants to kill men and give their jobs to women, Alt-Right Trump fans charge”, We Hunted The Mammoth, October 11, 2016
I first learned about the whole Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) and Pick-Up Artist (PUA) movements a couple years back, at the depth of the Gamergate controversy. For those who have never heard of it, Gamergate actually occurred in two stages. First, game developer Zoe Quinn had a game she produced reviewed favorably in an online magazine. Some people thought the game was receiving more attention than it deserved, apparently; for some reason this turned into a concerted attack upon Quinn, including emailed rape and death threats, doxing (publication online of personal information, including telephone numbers and addresses). In August of 2014, one of Quinn’s former boyfriends published a very long blog post in which, for all intents and purposes, he claimed the initial good press Depression Quest received was due to a personal relationship between Quinn and gamer journalist Nathan Grayson. At this point, many started carrying on about “journalistic ethics” as the root cause of “Gamergate” rather than simple sexual harassment and threats of violence. An early vocal supporter of Quinn, game developer Phil Fish, was attacked so viciously he quit the industry and sold his company.
Media critic Anita Sarkeesian produced a YouTube video about the controversy and soon came under attack, facing the same rape and death threats, doxing, and other harassment. Through it all, a particular vocabulary among MRA/PUA folks emerged, including using the epithet “Social Justice Warriors” (SJW) as an insult and attack. It became clear to me as I followed these goings-on at a distance (I’m not a gamer, and I don’t follow gamer discussions online; I am, however, someone interested in things like the whole MRA/PUA movement and its utter degeneracy), it became clear the attacks were coming from seriously sick individuals.
It wasn’t long after I discovered the website We Hunted The Mammoth, a kind of clearinghouse for those interested in learning about MRA/PUA culture without having to dirty oneself too much. Blog writer and editor David Futrelle keeps tabs on the Alt-Right in general (white nationalism), Neo-Nazis, and the vocal MRA/PUA movement. A typical article, “Do women really enjoy sex, men who hate women ask”, from September 16 reads in part:
Ladies! Do you feel a bit twitchy? Is the hair on the back of your neck standing up? Don’t worry — that just means that Reddit’s MGTOWs are talking about you again.
On the Men Going Their Own Way subreddit the regulars are trying to figure out whether women enjoy sex as much as men. Or at all.
The general consensus? Women aren’t really into sex — unless it’s with the mythical Chad Thunderc*ck.
There follows C&P’d comments from a subreddit for “Men Going Their Own Way” (MGTOW; men who have given up on dating women because they insist women don’t actually want relationships with good, decent men such as themselves, proving that lack of self-awareness leads people to some pretty strange palces) that make it clear most of the men writing on this subreddit have never spoken to, let along kissed or had sex with, an actual human female. As the post concludes, “The MGTOW subreddit really is one of the saddest places on planet earth.”
Part of the MRA/PUA vocabulary and worldview is the nonsensical “Alpha Male” trope. To these men, they are actually “Alpha Males” who have been dismissed by women (usually women who are attractive by conventional standards) because of feminism. Somehow, feminism seem to have taught these women they no longer need the physical and financial protection of “Alpha Males” like themselves, allowing them the opportunity to pursue quickie, no-commitment sexual relationship with “Betas”, men who treat these women solely as sexual objects. There is something sad and desperate about all this. Clearly men who think this way have been hurt by life, perhaps even a woman, in their lives. It might have been a mother, it might have been an unrequited teenage crush, or perhaps these men never escaped the general angst and low self-esteem of adolescence. In any case, while certainly nonsensical, and often a projection of their own beliefs about women combining with their own massive insecurities, it is this particular bit of MRA/PUA discourse that suddenly rose to the top of the sewer with the release last Friday of a tape in which Donald Trump spoke with a casualness and comfort of sexual assault.
I already wrote about this a bit. Having given this background and context, I think it’s important to understand the source of all this “Alpha Male” talk. Besides being nonsense of the first order, it seems to me pretty obvious that self-proclaimed “Alpha Males” are anything but, given their own descriptions of the type. Is Donald Trump an Alpha? I think the answer to that is clear enough: A man who believes he has both the ability and the right, given his financial and social status, to sexually assault random women is no more an “Alpha Male” than are the sad “MGTOW” who insist they are giving up trying to date women because women seem only to be attracted to “Beta” men. The characteristics of “Betas” is a disregard for the women as people; they treat women as sexual objects only, sometimes going so far as to physically or emotionally abuse the women with whom they form attachments. The Alphas consider themselves the “good guys” women are always complaining they can’t find: men who appreciate women for who they are, will treat them well and properly, as a man should, offering both physical and financial protection, which is what women really want. That their entire approach to women is highly sexual; their major complaint that women won’t have sex with them; that the men they call “Betas” are more attractive, successful, and desirable than they are; that they presume to know what women want rather than listening to women and finding out what it is they want; all this demonstrates pretty clearly the whole “Alpha Male” nonsense is little more than a complex psychological defense against their own sense of their lack of self-worth, and their basic belief that women are nothing other than sexual objects.
Please recall the many times Donald Trump has said that no one respects women more than he does. Regardless of the emerging parade of women coming forward accusing Trump of unwanted attention and even sexual assault, I’m convinced that Trump himself actually really believes he respects women. Like the sad MGTOW men, his entire campaign has been an object lesson in how all sorts of personality disorders present themselves, whether it’s narcissism, megalomania, or the kind of lack of self-esteem that has men preoccupied with the size of their penises and their ability to seduce women. The particular traits with which I’m concerned here aren’t unfamiliar to anyone whose been or spent time with teenage boys. Part of figuring out what it means to be a man is spending time jostling one another not so much for a place near the top of the pack as much as going through a phase in which each one really is a man. Most of us leave this nonsense behind us after the age of 16 or so; some, alas, never emerge from adolescence, for any number of reasons. These men tend to post on MGTOW subreddits, declare themselves Alphas who aren’t recognized for their greatness, and Republican candidates for President in 2016. Rather than the “real men” somehow both powerful yet victimized by an over-feminized society, these guys are sad, pitiable individuals who occasionally engage in deplorable, even violent, behavior to make up for their own inadequacies.
I will be so glad when November 9 comes.