Tag Archive | Donald Trump

What Do We Do Now?

Former FBI Director James Comey testifying before a Congressional Committee

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.

End Game

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

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.

No “There” There: Police Deaths And President Obama

“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

Pres. Obama at the memorial service for the police officers murdered in Dallas, TX, Jul 12, 2016

Pres. Obama at the memorial service for the police officers murdered in Dallas, TX, Jul 12, 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.

In Defense Of Scottie Nell Hughes

[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 Jacques Ellul, French sociologist and radical/anrachist Christian, who first drew attention to the idolatry of facts in the post-WWII era. No one, it seems, paid much attention to him.

It was Jacques Ellul, French sociologist and radical/anarchist Christian, who first drew attention to the idolatry of facts in the post-WWII era. No one, it seems, paid much attention to him.

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.

Donald Trump, the Men’s Rights and Pick-Up Artist Movements, And Our Degenerate Gender Discourse

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

Men's Rights Activist, rape-promoter, and self-proclaimed Alpha Male Roosh Valizadeh.

Men’s Rights Activist, rape-promoter, and self-proclaimed Alpha Male Roosh Valizadeh.

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.

Election Worries

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at Sunday night's town-hall-style debate.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at Sunday night’s town-hall-style debate.

As the Trumptanic splits in two and sinks, the only question before us is how much of the Republican Party it drags to the bottom. It is extremely possible the Democrats could take control the United States Senate. While I doubt the Republicans will lose their House majority, I’m quite sure that majority will shrink. Precisely because Paul Ryan has played Hamlet just a bit too much with his political relationship with the party’s nominee, I figure his Speakership might well be in doubt. The institutional structure of the Republican Party will be in dire need of a major overhaul. Hazarding a guess, while the post-election season might well give us a respite from the worst excesses of the campaign, I am quite confident a new President Clinton’s (first?) term will be every bit as contentious as has been both of President Obama’s.

It is still kind of shocking to me there are so many young people eligible to vote whose memories of the events of September 11, 2001 are hazy at best. The brief time between President George W. Bush’s inauguration on January 20th and that horrible day is, I think, largely forgotten by most. I think because our younger daughter was born that summer, my memories from that time are pretty clear. One of my clearest memories is thinking, sometime in July as the corn was tall behind our house in LaMoille, President Bush was heading for the history books as a single-term President. Elected with a bare majority of Electoral College votes and fewer popular votes than his opponent, from his first day in office Bush seemed to be taking advice on his governing style from his primary political adviser, Karl Rove. Rove’s “genius” was creating a campaign that aimed less at stitching together a voting coalition large enough from which to govern than simply winning an election. Receiving 50%-plus-one of the vote was enough for a win; in the end, that’s what Rove desired.

That bare majority however – reflected most of all in the United States Senate, in which the Republicans had a one-seat majority – did not stop Rove from announcing to the world his advice to the new President: govern as if you won a landslide and governing mandate. While perhaps not the best advice, it certainly created a framework within which observers could understand some of the more egregiously stupid things the Bush Administration did. Early on, Vice President Cheney held a closed door meeting with leaders from energy companies. When reporters demanded to know who attended the meeting and what was discussed, Cheney essentially told the reporters to pound sand. Declaring Executive Privilege, a hazy enough legal doctrine at the best of times, the Bush Administration insisted it had to operate in secret in order to get the best possible advice. It was unprecedented; it was unAmerican; and yet we came to know that “arrogance” would be a part of the Bush Administration (along with a kind of heavy-handed manipulation both of the press and the Executive Branch bureaucracy, something for which Cheney was well-known).

That summer occurred two seminal events that, it seems to me, sounded the real death knell for a second Bush term. First was what became known as “The Hainan Island incident” . An American spy plane and a Chinese J-8 fighter collided mid-air, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the Aries to make an emergency landing on the Chinese Island Province of Hainan. The crew of 24 was released after 10 days, being under intense interrogation much of the time, when US Ambassador Joseph Prueher delivered a letter to the Chinese apologizing both for the death of their pilot as well as the violation of Chinese airspace. While the Bush Administration insisted it was an “apology” apology, part of the Bush campaign had included tough talk on China. While perhaps not “humiliating”, and certainly necessary both to bring home our service members in Chinese custody and prevent this incident from spiraling out of control, the end-game was interpreted by many as a sign of weakness.

In May of that year, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched his party affiliation from Republican to Independent. Prior to that the Republicans had a one-seat majority; with VP Cheney providing any tie-breaking vote toward the Republicans, they had control of the upper house. After over a month of tense negotiations between Jeffords, then working on a bill regarding special education and insisting it have adequate funding in order to be effective, was not only treated poorly by his more conservative Senate colleagues; for all intents and purposes the White House treated Jeffords more as a back-bencher than a three-term Chair of the Health, Education, Welfare, and Pensions Committee. Again, Bush Administration arrogance resulted in an unneeded loss of power, with political ramifications that, again had 9/11 not occurred, would have neutered much of Pres. Bush’s legislative agenda.

That history is important to remember. My hunch is that next month’s Presidential election is going to be a sizable win for Hillary Clinton. The Democrats will most likely win back control of the Senate. The Republican leadership will be in such turmoil they will be unable to work effectively as a legislating Party. Should the Democrats come to believe that such a result flowed from the superiority of their candidate and that candidate’s legislative agenda, I believe they will be in for a rude awakening.

For all her strengths, Hillary Clinton has always been a poor campaigner. Had she faced another, real, candidate – I’m thinking right now of Ohio Gov. John Kasich – not only is it possible Secretary Clinton might have lost the Presidential race; it is possible such an event might well have prevented a Democratic win in the Senate. Certainly the turmoil we’re seeing in the Party’s inner workings would be absent. Certainly we wouldn’t be listening to people defending sexual assault on national news programs under the umbrella of Presidential campaign coverage.

My fear is that a Hillary Clinton Administration, seeing an overwhelming victory and a new Democratic US Senate, might well repeat the Bush Administration’s mistake: they may well try to govern as if they had a governing mandate. I have no desire for Mrs. Clinton to end up doing the same stupid things George W. Bush did prior to 9/11 (not to mention the extremely stupid thing he did after: invading Iraq). Power, however, is a narcotic. Narcotics reduce the ability to think clearly, resulting in impulsive actions that usually turn out very badly. It would be far better if, on Nov. 9, a President-elect Hillary Clinton acknowledged her debt to her opponent in this race for providing the margin of victory, promising to govern with respect to a plurality of Americans who will continue to be wary of her.

Donald Trump And Our American Culture Of Violence Against Women

[Y]ou are not ashamed of your sin [in committing adultery] because so many men commit it. Man’s wickedness is now such that men are more ashamed of chastity than of lechery. Murderers, thieves, perjurers, false witnesses, plunderers and fraudsters are detested and hated by people generally, but whoever will sleep with his servant girl in brazen lechery is liked and admired for it, and people make light of the damage to his soul. And if any man has the nerve to say that he is chaste and faithful to his wife and this gets known, he is ashamed to mix with other men, whose behaviour is not like his, for they will mock him and despise him and say he’s not a real man; for man’s wickedness is now of such proportions that no one is considered a man unless he is overcome by lechery, while one who overcomes lechery and stays chaste is considered unmanly. – St. Augustine

Does a rake deserve to possess anything of worth, since he chases everything in skirts and then imagines he can successfully hide his shame by slandering [women in general]? – Christine de Pizan, Der Sendbrief vom Liebesgott

A man who thinks it's OK to grab a strange woman, without her stated consent or wish, isn't really much of a man, now, is he?

A man who thinks it’s OK to grab a strange woman, without her stated consent or wish, isn’t really much of a man, now, is he?

I think it’s important to begin with, well, a little confession of sorts. Like pretty much most adolescent males of my generation (late baby-boomer), the high school locker room was a place for bragging, usually making up stories to make oneself look a better “guy” than you actually were. I participated in that no less than any other adolescent, and truth be told I wish I’d had a better sense of who I was and what it meant to be a real man, rather than “a guy”. I don’t carry this around as a huge weight, because, let’s be honest about something else: I was a stupid kid, with marginal self-esteem at best like most of my peers.

The point of this little confession isn’t so much about my own stupidity as it is the ease we all felt when speaking casually about girls and young women, sexualizing their every act, their dress, congratulating one another when one or another of us reported sexual success. This nonchalance regarding the humanity of the young women around us shocks me now. It’s difficult, I think, for those who may not have gone through such rites of passage – and I’m guessing there are some men, at least, who did not act this way – to understand just how little we thought of the young women in our lives.

I got thinking about this when I read a story about one man who defended Trump’s “Grab them by the pussy,” comment by calling it “guy talk”. Because, dear men everywhere, can we all be honest enough to admit that even if we were never as brazen as Trump to talk like this outside the safe-spaces of a man’s only world, whether or not we said such things, we heard them said and didn’t attack the person who said it? This is so because, yes, this is indeed “guy talk”. It is, however, “guy talk” of insecure, immature adolescents who, afraid both of women and their own inability to act properly and appropriately around them, create scenarios that make them look both far more sophisticated and experienced than they are. It is indeed locker room banter. And it’s banter like this that deserves to stay precisely where it originates: in junior high and high school boys’ locker rooms, providing object lessons in how not to speak or think about women.

In 2005, the World Health Organization conducted a multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women, following on the United Nation’s adoption both of particular definitions of violence against women and creating guidelines for member states to use when combating the problem. Among the findings highlighted at the link above:

  • between 15% of women in Japan and 71% of women in Ethiopia reported physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime;
  • between 10.3–11.5% of women reported sexual violence by someone other than a partner since the age of 15 years
  • the first sexual experience for many women was reported as forced – 17% of women in rural Tanzania, 24% in rural Peru, and 30% in rural Bangladesh reported that their first sexual experience was forced.

A fact sheet on the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) website offers some sad, sobering numbers on violence against women in the United States.

  • In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner.1 That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.
  • According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.4
  • According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That’s more than 600 women every day.6

According to The Gale Group, while all states had outlawed “wife beating” by 1920, it was only in the 1970’s that domestic violence became a category in criminal law in the United States. According to a March 2014 article in the UK edition of Cosmopolitan, “domestic violence” is not specifically outlawed either in England or Wales; all the police and prosecutors can do is act against specific acts of violence rather than patterns of behavior. Considering just the stories and experiences from my own life, I cannot think of a single woman I know who has not in one way or another, experienced everything from lewd and harassing comments through some kind of unwanted physical attention to rape. I think it’s important to remember these facts and figures going forward.

Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States is a uniquely violent place. Our history of the casual acceptance of violence as part and parcel of life is something we are only now, early in the 21st century, trying to change. That change is achingly, painfully slow. State-sanctioned violence against women and minorities continues to be routine, with police departments refusing to consider changing either oversight regimens or even to hear criticisms of entrenched bias. While the military services are sexually integrated, sexual harassment and violence within the ranks of service-members is both rampant and a scandal civilian leaders of our military continue to struggle both to understand and control. Even the casual sexism we read and hear through the media, such as attacking women (both prominent and not) for their looks or dress; rape victims continually harassed by attorneys and even judges for their dress and actions before, during, and after rapes to insist what occurred was consensual in some fashion; various online scandals involving the harassment of women, from this past summer’s attack on actress Leslie Jones by Breitbart.com tech editor, serial fat-shamer, and all-around young-sociopath-about-town Milo Yiannopoulos to the long-running GamerGate; all this shows that far too many men still believe it more than acceptable to treat women as less than human.

All of this is to suggest both that there is little that’s surprising about Trump’s actual comment and I’m bemused by the Capt. Renault-like shock, shock! that a powerful man whose entire Presidential campaign is rooted in a kind of barely repressed violent hatred of the Other, and whose every unscripted comment seems to be the bragging of a deeply insecure, frightened, immature boy, would say that he feels it acceptable for him to commit sexual violence. Ours is a nation whose misogyny is deep, institutionalized, supported by legal statute and custom, and rampant. As the quote from a sermon by St. Augustine shows, the prerogative powerful men have always felt toward women is both ancient and not limited to the United States. Hearing yet another powerful man casually endorse violence against women, and a obsequious younger man remain both passive, endorsing such behavior by silent consent is neither surprising nor worth so many acting so “shocked”.

I know there are pundits and political commentators who are so upset that the Trump campaign has seemingly “mainstreamed” some of the worst attitudes and behaviors in our land. I disagree for this simple reason: To me it almost feels like a wound is being cleansed, as if all this horrible ichor from deep  within our national psyche is being purged. That some, including the otherwise insightful Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, insist there is something new about Trump’s mainstreaming racist and misogynyst language and violence, I think it’s important to remember that our founding document was only considered acceptable when it endorsed chattel slavery and reduced the human worth of African-Americans to 3/5ths that of a white man; that on the eve of the Civil War, Chief Justice of the United States Roger Taney declared that even free blacks had no rights in the United States; that women not only couldn’t vote until 1920, but for the majority of our country’s history couldn’t own property in their names, sue for divorce even for adultery, couldn’t attend colleges, couldn’t enter professions, and that many faced horrific violence at the hands of family members knowing there was neither recourse to the law nor to the churches, who endorsed such violence. Unless we somehow manage to forget our entire social, legal, and political history, there is nothing that surprising about Donald Trump endorsing violence against women. The difference now, however, is that the (public) expression of such attitudes is no longer acceptable; while there continue to be (and always will be) supporters who dismiss Trump’s words, the vast majority seem to be running from him as fast as their little legs can carry them; those whose support for Trump in the midst of all the hubbub are no longer offered any safe space or time from which to defend either Trump or his particular remarks. That is to say, like Trump’s statements regarding Mexicans being rapists and African-Americans all living in poverty and under conditions that are worse than war zones in Afghanistan, his casual misogyny is no longer acceptable rhetoric; those who support and defend racism, white nationalism, and violent misogyny are being both exposed and shunned.

Our history is violent. Our attitudes and our words and our actions and our institutions and our public policy are all deeply rooted in a bias against women and people of color. Trump’s campaign, for all its small-minded vulgarity, is showing us and the world that we actually are a better people than we might otherwise believe. We are struggling to be better neighbors to our Latino immigrants; we are struggling to push forward for better relations with African-Americans, including defending their rights; we are struggling to end our culture of violence against women. Trump and his campaign and its most heinous and vocal supporters are the shadow side of America, a shadow that, when inspected closely enough, seems to be receding much further and much faster than we previously thought. These are good things.

Trump is a horrible person. Of that there can be no doubt. Because of that very horribleness, however, we can see just how much better the vast majority of us and our fellow Americans really are.

And the election is now less than a month away, so it will all be over soon.