Archive for the ‘Current events’ Category

Blowing in the wind

September 30th, 2018

Oh my god, they are ugly, these aging, wealthy, powerful, white men: contorting their little faces, stomping their little feet, and flailing their little arms in synchronized tantrum because their hollow sham of a pretense of a proceeding, after all their efforts to put a good face on it, was not going their way; exploding with rage from their lack of the elementary self discipline to sit quietly and to allow the woman they had hired to continue to do the good job she was doing of what they had hired her for, because what they really wanted (destruction of another woman) was not the job they had hired her to do (elicit the truth); frothing at the mouth about vast nebulous conspiracies to hijack their sham and turn it to other ends, conspiracies to destroy them personally, conspiracies to use them as a proxy for avenging ancient grievances unrelated to the matter at hand; sniveling and beating their little chests and demanding our pity and demanding that we believe them and no one else because they had worked so hard and they had done some good and they have a right to our belief; denying denying denying; spinning spinning spinning; abandoning any pretense of respectful listening except to proclaim repeatedly, loudly and angrily that they had listened respectfully (in the face of their refusal to listen even to their own lawyer); yelling at and talking over and rudely mocking and refusing to answer those who dared to question them, at the same time complaining of being mistreated; lying openly and contemptuously about matters large and small.  These, the flower of our nation, the representatives of our people, the honorable members of our great deliberative body; these excrescences of a too-long dominant, too-slowly fading demographic.  Another generation will take them to the rubbish heap of history, but until then, they stink.

For the record

September 26th, 2018

Under the heading of “boys will be boys”, of which we are hearing so much lately from the ostrich wing of the Republican party, I would like to offer my testimony. In my teenage years, I did my share of stupid, impulsive things.  I drank and took drugs, often at the same time.  I behaved towards a few young women in ways of which I now feel ashamed.  But I never:

a) turned up the music, pinned a girl to the bed, put my hand over her mouth, and attempted to remove her clothing despite her resistance;

b) stuck my penis in a drunk girl’s face when she wasn’t expecting it, or, for that matter, even when she might have expected it;

c) or did anything remotely like either of the above;

d) or knew anyone who did.

Frankly, the idea that such actions may be considered in the light of normal boyhood indiscretions is offensive, and says more about the morally and spiritually impoverished milieu of the people who believe it, than about the nature of masculine youth in America.  We absorb a lot of toxic ideas and behavioral models when we are kids, no doubt about it.  But the notion that acts of sexual assault and rape are a normal part of the personal behavioral experience of young American males is false and obnoxious.  The perpetrators exist, but they are a small minority.  Their behavior is a distorted reflection of the mainstream, not normative for it.  Part of the tragically disjunctive experience of men and women growing up in this society is that the worst aspects of oppression impact a disproportionately large number of women – most of them – while being committed by a disproportionately small number of men.  I do not mean to excuse complicity with the evil, which is a thing most men do, in fact, have to answer for.  But there is a morally significant difference between passive complicity and overt action.

That said, if Kavanaugh did what he is alleged to have done, I am not sure that automatically disqualifies him.  The allegations concern things that happened decades ago, and there does not seem to be a pattern continuing into the present.  Maybe he no longer is that person.  No: if he did what he is alleged to have done, he is disqualified not by the acts he committed, but by his denial of them.  Do we want to hire a judge who lies to get the job?  Of course not!

This is a job interview, not a court proceeding.  We are not dealing with burdens and standards of proof, we are dealing with the decision whether to hire a person for a lifetime appointment as the nation’s highest authority on what the law says.  So perform a thought experiment.  Say you’re hiring a babysitter.  You’ve got a nice middle aged person who wants the job, a little strict perhaps, maybe with some ideas that don’t jibe entirely with yours about child-rearing, but overall seemingly someone who likes kids and could do the job.  (I’m purposely slanting this in favor of the candidate.)  You check this person’s references, most of which are glowing; but then you hear from someone not listed on the candidate’s resume, a person by all appearances disinterested and credible, who hired them as a babysitter many years ago and came home from the movies to discover bruises on the kid.  You confront the candidate with this.  The candidate denies it.  I don’t know about you, but I’d thank them for their time and look to hire somebody else.  Why take a chance, if you don’t have to?

 

Gag me with a Grassley

September 19th, 2018

A few thoughts on the farce now playing out around the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh:

It’s a job interview, not a prosecution.  Regardless whether there’s enough evidence to convict, would you hire the guy against whom there is a credible allegation that he assaulted somebody sexually a long time ago, or would you thank him for applying and then broaden the search?

Is it possible that there exists a professionally qualified Republican conservative (those being the minimum requirements for an applicant, at present) who is not subject to credible accusations of serious wrong-doing?

What is the point of setting up a he-said/she-said confrontation between Kavanaugh and his accuser, as quickly as possible, without any effort to investigate independently or to hear from other witnesses?

All of the above questions are entirely beside the point, since the sole objective is to appoint someone hostile to Roe v. Wade before the midterms.

At last Clarence Thomas will have a kindred spirit sitting beside him on the bench.

Xenophobia: or, your tax dollars at work

September 12th, 2018

The Trump administration’s transfer of $10,000,000 from FEMA to ICE, at a time when FEMA still is struggling to catch up with last year’s disaster in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Florence is bearing down upon the Carolinas, brings to mind the Hitler administration’s prioritization of using rolling stock to transport prisoners to concentration camps at a time when its army was in desperate need of trains.

Who will rid me of this troublesome president?

September 11th, 2018

There is only one question that needs to be answered about any candidate for federal office this year. I hasten to add that in the past I have approached voting as the result of a multifactorial analysis including the candidates’ personalities and histories, their views on a variety of issues, their qualities of character, the various and often conflicting exigencies of the historical moment, and so on.  I’ve voted for Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, and Independents. Now, however it boils down to one thing. Who will rid me of this troublesome president?

The simplicity of the choice is due to the radical evil Trump and his GOP represent.  I could go on about threats to democracy, the rule of law, constitutional order, humane values, blah blah blah.  It includes but goes beyond all these things.  It requires no extensive reasoning or great historical knowledge to arrive at this conclusion.  Consider the following recent news items, and connect the dots. (1) The United Nations Secretary General says that continued dependence on fossil fuels is a direct existential threat to our species.  (2) The torrential rains that flooded Houston from Hurricane Harvey were linked to climate change.  (3) Rainier, slower moving storms like Harvey and Florence, about to devastate the Carolinas, are examples of the new normal.  (4) Trump’s EPA is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies intentionally to release methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere in the course of their drilling operations.

Whereas in the Sixties we called the military industrial complex a death machine aimed at soldiers and certain foreign nationals, Trump’s administration is a death machine aimed at everyone.  Republicans have proven that they don’t care.  Mueller may accuse, but he won’t indict and he can’t remove.  Third parties are mostly chimerical at the best of times and are almost entirely irrelevant to the present moment, unless you are absolutely sure your “alternative” hero really is another Angus King or Bernie Sanders.  Only by putting Democrats in control of the House of Representatives and, one hopes, the Senate, creating at least the possibility of impeachment or a forced resignation, do we have any chance of stopping or at least slowing down the death machine before 2020.  If, in addition to being an American citizen, you are a human being, you should vote for whatever Democrats are running for the House and Senate in your district this fall.  There are no other, more important issues.  A difference of even a year in the downfall of this regime could avoid incalculable death and destruction.

Sanctions

August 7th, 2018

Listening to the radio while doing my morning exercises, I just heard an apologist for Trump describe his reimposition of sanctions on Iran as part of a reasonably coherent strategy to achieve regime change there by the means of economic pressure.  He went on to characterize this as a program to promote democracy.  To me, it was astonishing that nobody immediately called bullshit on this.  Yes, I am incurably naive and such things do astonish me.  But then again, this was NPR, where it is an article of journalistic faith never to challenge a right wing bullshitter.   How it promotes democracy to attempt, by use of our economic force majeure, to immiserate the people of a foreign, sovereign nation in the hopes that they will rise up and overthrow their government, was not explained.  Nor was it explained why it is considered reasonable to expect that such people, driven by poverty and oppression to destroy forcibly the existing governmental institutions of their country, would replace what they had jettisoned with something more Jeffersonian.  The man promoting this arrogant idiocy, in  almost complete albeit probably willful ignorance of history (Libya? France?  Russia?  China? Germany? etc.), spoke with great confidence, fluency, and truthiness.  Judging by recent polls showing GOP support for der Gropenfuhrer holding firm, not to mention his continuing enthusiastic reception by the Republican faithful at campaign rallies, there is no shortage of American Barnaby Rudges who can be fooled by this kind of thing.  It is a salutary reminder that even if the President were to choke on a pretzel, he is only the gross tip of a sizeable iceberg.

The Key

July 18th, 2018

It all makes sense once you accept that absolutely nothing he says has any substantive meaning.  Everything he says is purely transactional, responsive only to the situation and whatever he considers will advantage him in that situation.  He behaves in public in such a way as to reveal this, because he does not understand fully that other people use language differently.  He thinks we all are like him.

ICE Evil

July 6th, 2018

It has been reported recently, by credible sources, that ICE is forcing toddlers – yes, children as young as three years old! – to appear in immigration hearings alone and unrepresented. (See https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/27/immigrant-toddlers-ordered-appear-court-alone/). It seems incredible that our system of justice, in any of its branches, would lend itself to such a barbarous perversion, but that apparently is precisely what this administration is doing. Talk about kangaroo courts! I want whoever is responsible for this shameful practice to be exposed and punished. I want every “judge” or “magistrate” who allowed his or her courtroom to be degraded in this manner to be stripped of his or her position and cast into the gutter. I want every government attorney who colluded in such a sham proceeding to be disbarred. I am so utterly disgusted! The so-called ‘family separation” policy was bad enough, but this stinks in another way; it is a fundamental corruption and perversion of the law and the legal system. The Trump administration is not merely another ideological faction with whom we happen to disagree. It is radically evil and must be opposed and fought until it is uprooted and destroyed root and branch.

Himmler in the White House

June 20th, 2018

“The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect.  Men may hate us.  But, we don’t ask for their love, only for their fear.”  So said Heinrich Himmler.  I thought of this quote today when I heard Trump today explain his decision to reverse his family separation policy, which he had attempted earlier to sell as a deterrent to illegal immigration; that is, as a weapon of terror.  He talked about the choice between being weak, pathetically weak, on the one hand, and being called heartless for being strong, on the other, and said, “I would rather be strong.”

It seems increasingly likely that the target of the family separation policy was not, in fact, immigrants so much as it was the United States Congress.  That is why Trump and his minions insisted, against all reality, that only Congress could change the policy.  The idea seems to have been to ram through the “Four Pillars” of Trump’s immigration policy (the Wall, etc.) as a necessary adjunct to any immigration reform that he would support.  Thus Congress would be compelled by public outrage to move  against the family separation policy, and the Four Pillars would be smuggled through Congress in connection with addressing that policy.  Since Trump is in fact heartless, he miscalculated the level of outrage that would be directed against him for ripping babies from the arms of their mothers.  The gambit having failed, Trump now reneges on his claim that only Congress could change the policy, and pledges to do it by executive order.  We will see if this promise is any more credible than anything else he says.

Himmler on some level seems to have been a true believer in Nazi racism.  One may debate whether he and Trump exercise a similar level of cynicism.  What seems incontestable is that, as with Himmler, the one constant guiding star of Trump’s political life, apart from self aggrandizement, is xenophobic, racist animus and that, like Himmler, he is not only expressly willing to sacrifice the most basic humane values in the service of that cause, he regards basic humanity as a source of weakness and brutality as strength.

 

Texas Theresienstadt

June 17th, 2018

One begins to run out of adjectives to describe the depths to which this administration is dragging our nation. Trump’s concentration camps for children are an abomination. They are evil. They are, or should be, intolerable. They are completely unjustifiable. They are an exercise in the crudest sadistic depravity, of helpless and innocent people being punished for no reason other than that they are helpless and innocent and vulnerable to the whims of those in power. This must be stopped, and stopped now.

Having said which, I am tempted to throw up my hands.  How to influence the policy of a psychopath so that it takes humane directions?  I am reminded of that scene in the movie Schindler’s List when Schindler prevails upon the concentration camp commandant to spare the lives of his inmates for a day, as an exercise in the allegedly transcendent power of mercy.  The commandant tries it for a while, enjoys some mild satisfaction, and then picks up his rifle.  Trump is cut from this cloth.

Some of us look to Mueller for succor, forgetting that he has power only to indict and prosecute, not to remove from office.  That latter power is confided to a Congress controlled by a party so abysmally corrupted by fear of its own authoritarian wing, like a giant cowering at the sight of its own shadow, and so riddled with ideologues, fools, and self-serving conscienceless hacks, that nothing good can be expected from it.  Some of us look to the 2018 elections for relief.  Some of us wake up every morning hoping to discover that a beneficent god, in whom we do not really believe, has sent St. Infarction to intervene, or caused the Malefactor In Chief to choke on a peanut.  (I confess I am one of these latter.)

The problem with all of these fantasies is that they give no room for me to act, and the crux of the matter is that to retain my self respect I must act.  Oh, I will vote for anybody or anything other than a Republican in the elections this year; and then the matter is out of my hands and depends on the political calculations of some 400+ ego-driven careerists, who in any event will take months or years to do anything and may well in the end do nothing at all.  (Viz. Andrew Johnson’s impeachment and trial.  Speaking of which, those who think Trump is unprecedented in our history should look a little more closely at Mr. Johnson.)  Meanwhile, I must do something, I can’t depend on them.

My particular gift, if such it is, for action in the world is through words; so I write these things and fling them up on the screen, hoping to inspire someone else to do whatever it is they are given to do.  We, individually and collectively, survive such times with decency only by refusing to surrender our integrity.  Please take the time today to use whatever gift you have been given to inject some good into the world.  Paint a poster.  Sing a song.  Speak to a friend.  Write letters to your representatives.  Howl with rage and sorrow.