So many stories popped up during the lunchtime read yesterday, that I was contemplating a different format of a Weekend Update this time, with a lot less commentary and just a bunch of links. Then I woke up this morning to a really big news story, which was related to a link that didn’t make it into this week’s Friday Five… so you’re going to get some commentary, oh some commentary!
For some context: 133 years ago, when Arthur Conan Doyle’s very first Sherlock Holmes story (A Study In Scarlet) was published, he introduced the world to both Sherlock and Dr. John Watson. Watson, we learn in the first scene, was a British Army medic serving in Afghanistan where he was wounded so severely he was mustered out and has returned to England to try to get his life back together. The British spent decades trying to tame Afghanistan during the 1800s, and never did.
It should have come as no surprise, I mean, 2350 years ago Alexander the Great was busy conquering the Persian Empire, and pursued one of his enemies into what is now Afghanistan which seemed to him an easy territory to conquer. At first. Later historians described the guerilla style insurgencies that kept coming up there to thwart Alexander’s plan as a many-headed hydra: whenever they struck one group down, two more arose to take its place. 1500 years later, Ghengis Khan’s grandson was killed in the Mongol’s failed attempt to conquer the territory. A century and a half later, the Mughal Empire technically conquered it, but never really had control, either.
There are at least a dozen more of those attempted invasions that mostly failed during the times before 1650 AD, and that is part of the issue with the territory. Because most of those failed invasions left a small population behind that would become yet another ethnic group with its own religion and culture (Most of the inhabitants of the Hazar Valley now are believed to be descended from the Mongol garrison left behind to keep a trade route open, for instance).
The British tried many times between 1845 and 1883 to turn the territory into a stable country that could be either part of the British Empire or at least an allied nation. The Russian Empire first tried to pacify part of what is now Afghanistan in 1885 and the Russians and the Brits basically treated Afghanistan as a football to score points against each other for the next 60-some years. Then starting in 1979 the Soviet Union tried again, eventually admitting defeat after ten years of costly war.
In other words, Afghanistan has been called the Graveyard of Empires for very good reasons.
On an older blog I ranted about all of these things when George W. Bush decided to invade Afghanistan in 2001. Yes, we needed to take action after the 9/11 attacks, but trying to turn Afghanistan into a stable country that would be our ally? That was (and still is) ludicrously unrealistic.
Now we have a little background to tackle today’s news:
Wonderful! Peace in Our Time (what could possibly go wrong?) So what is is in this agreement? There’s a pretty thorough break down here: What does the Taliban-US peace agreement say? – The long-awaited comprehensive peace agreement between the two sides is made of four parts.
Important points to consider:
- This agreement is between the U.S. and the Taliban (aka the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is not recognized by the United States as a state). The current Afghan government (such as it is) was not involved in the negotiations directly.
- Today we signed a separate agreement with them committing them to enter into a ceasefire and peace talks with the Taliban “and other involved Afghan parties” beginning on March 10.
- Also on March 10, we and the Afghans will release about 5000 Taliban prisoners of war (and the Taliban and their allies will release about 1000 prisoners of war they are holding).
- Over the course of the next 125 days the U.S. will pull about 3,400 troops from Afghanistan including closing down five bases.
- Over the course of the subsequent 9 months, assuming the ceasefire holds up, and assuming that the negotiations between all the “involved Afghan parties” are fruitful, the remaining 8600 U.S. troops (and however many coalition troops remain) will leave.
- The Taliban promises to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan will never again be used by groups to threaten the U.S. or its allies, and to help make Afghanistan a country where all people are equal and free.
Sounds good, right?
Well, except, that bit about if the ceasefire holds, all the groups come to an agreement. That’s another of the tricky bits: With Taliban Talks Soon to Start, Afghan Government Splits Apart – The Taliban gloat as Afghanistan’s chief executive refuses to accept the election outcome and vows to form his own “inclusive government”. The last couple of elections in Afghanistan have not gone smoothly. According to many within the country, the election in 2014 didn’t decided who the next President of Afghanistan was, but rather U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did. And the same people are claiming the same thing but this time it’s Trump’s appointed envoy who decided which side of the disputed race to back.
And a whole lot of people are having a very hard time, based on what the Taliban did when it took over the country in 1996, believing the promised to make Afghanistan a country where all people are equal and free. Back then, they made it illegal for girls and women to go to school. If women were found outside of their homes without a male relative as their escort and without wearing a burqua, they were subject to arrest and public flogging. Young women and girls of certain ethnic groups were abducted with government approval and sold into sex slavery. Then there were the targetting massacres of regions or some ethnic groups deemed as enemies of the Islamic state…
The truth is that if we stay there, we will continue to lose troops, and people within the country will be radicalized and become prime candidates for recruitment by terrorist groups. I completely understand that. And I understand that even if everyone plays nice until we exit, bad things will probably start happening all over again.
Trump needs to be able to claim he finally ended the war. You can bet that’s going to be one of the things he loudly congratulates himself on at his next rally and will continue to do so…
But you should also remember, that last summer he was proclaiming that an agreement to withdraw all troops was just around the corner. Then a car bomb killed a bunch of people, including one American serviceman, and Trump walked away from the agreement, and conveniently stopped talking about it…
So, no, I don’t really find anything to feel hopeful about in this mess at all.
It’s time for another post about news which either didn’t make it into this week’s Friday Five, or is an update to a story included in a previous Friday Five or Weekend Update, or is otherwise related to some stories I’ve commented upon previously.
You may have heard that the Boy Scouts have filed for bankruptcy. Depending on where you heard it, you might believe that this is related to plummeting membership since the organization changed its code so that kids won’t be kicked out just for admitting they are gay (in a half measure policy the automatically kicks them out as soon as they turn 18, and makes it very easy to get them excluded for quite flimsy reasons). Because the rightwing anti-gay organizations are all screaming that that is what happened.
That is absolutely not what’s going on.
Scouting membership has not dropped since the rule went into effect in 2014. Both the national organization and local chapters are doing well financially.
The problem is that more than 2700 former scouts have come forward about being sexually abused by scoutmasters for many decades—long, long before anyone was contemplating letting openly gay kids into the organization. Sexual abuse lawsuits against other large organizations who failed to protect kids from sexual predators (such as USA Gymnastics) have resulted in large settlements. The national scouts claim they are filing for bankruptcy in order to set up a victim’s compensation fund and protect the assets of local chapters.
There are a few problems with that: For sexual assault victims and local councils, Boy Scouts’ bankrunptcy poses tough questions – On Wednesday, rival lawyers for Boy Scouts of America and 2,700 alleged victims met in federal court in Delaware. One being that when these kinds of cases get settled in bankruptcy court, victims wind up getting far less money, and the organization can continue to function as before. Whereas the goal of the original lawsuits are to get money to help cover the therapy and related costs the victims have already paid, but also to force the organization to learn from its mistakes.
On the other hand, the news of the bankruptcy bid has prompted more victims to come forward: Boy Scouts bankruptcy bid prompts other sex abuse victims to step forward – One Louisiana man, who kept his abuse ordeal secret for 60 years, reached out to a lawyer Tuesday to tell his story.
As a former scout myself I have a some sympathy for letting the local chapters continue to function. There are a lot of kids in these troops who have a lot to gain from its continued existence. But, as a former scout, I also remember that the Scout Law includes the lines: “Try to help others be happy” and “Do what you think is right despite what others might be doing or saying.”
They now know that thousands of people that were in their care are miserable and traumatized by things that happened to them within their organization. Their lawyers are saying to take this legal tactic that limits the consequences they will face for misdeeds. Other organizations have used the bankruptcy courts in the same way. How can someone who has taken the Scout Oath and studied the Scout Law possibly believe that dodging some of the cost this way is the right thing to do? Is a way to help others be happy?
And I’m hardly the only person asking this question: Did the Boy Scouts violate their own honor code by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy?
The problem is bigger than the Boy Scouts of America. Large institutions, particularly hierarchical organizations tied to the notion of patriarchy, enable abuse. Other parts of the Scout Law urge scouts to obey the rules of their troop, to respect and obey leaders, and to put the needs of others ahead of their own. Those principles can easily be used by manipulative abusers to convince victims that it would be wrong to come forward. If you’re not the victim, your instinct it to protect the organization when you hear any rumors or allegations. If you know and respect the person accused, you’re much more likely to disbelieve the accuser.
And so on.
Religious institutions also attract certain types of people that become abusers. Let’s not forget that the Boy Scouts are a religious organization, the Scout Oath begins, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law…” One of the reasons that there are so many closeted gay priests and pastors in the most anti-gay churches is that when those priests and pastors were young men struggling with their sexual orientation, they saw doing god’s work as a way to make a bargain: I’ll become a priest, lord, so you can take these feelings away. Similarly, if someone is sexually obsessed with children. Same bargain: I’ll dedicate my life to god, surely he will make these feelings go away?
There is a lot of tragedy in every corner of these messed up situations. But I think it’s most important to focus on the children and young people who were victims of the abusers. The assets of the organization, and the future financial well-being of the organization, should not take a priority.
And to those wingnuts who are trying to make this bankruptcy story somehow the fault of people advocating for the rights of gay kids, how about an organization that is still just as anti-gay as the wingnuts? Harrisburg (PA) Catholic Diocese Declares Bankruptcy After Sex Abuse Lawsuits – In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report detailing the abuses that took place in six of the state’s eight dioceses. They published 884 pages of damning information that implicated hundreds of priests.
This divide, or course, exists on a spectrum. The beliefs of most people within the community fall somewhere between the extremes, but, enough are on one side or other of the middle that arguments happen. For instance, I’ve been accused of being an assimilationist because Michael and I got legally married once we were able to do so, and I watch football. I’ve also been called out in the other direction because I wear earrings, the color purple, rainbows, and call myself ‘queer.’
The tension between these two ideas plays out in many (and sometimes weird) ways—and not just within the community. There are still plenty of people (straight and not), who insist that LGBT+ rights advocates should be civil, and politely make their case about why we deserve equality. They wrongly insist that the radical approach never works. They completely ignore the actual history of the movements: decades of work by so-called homophile organizations in the U.S. and Europe politely advocating for decriminalization—always careful for the men to dress in suits and ties, and the women to were skirts and blouses—and never making any progress. It was the riots by drag queens, transgender people of color, and the like that finally made any change happen at all.
Yes, the other approach works well for raising money and countering backlash to each step forward. So both approaches have their place in the long running battle for equality.
Which isn’t to say that only the non-conforming people matter, or that there is some sort of meaning to the question of whether one person is gayer than another (despite some people trying to drag that distinction into some political races this year), it’s mostly a recognition of the old proverb that the “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Both kinds of LGBT/queer person are valid and just as “gay” as the other.
In the last few years as a small number of mostly-gender-conforming male professional athletes have decided to come out of the closet, you see various media people calling them trailblazers whose bravery will somehow make it easier for non-heterosexual kids to be themselves. Ignoring that fact that the actual trailblazers were blazing those trails for many years. It’s not the macho professional male athlete coming out in the twenty-teens who is leading the way, they are trailing far, far in the dust behind the femmy boys and glittery street queens and butch dykes and trans people of all types who led the way at Stonewall and in the years immediately following. And as has been demonstrated many times, no matter how unthreatening, conventional, and mainstream non-heterosexual people are, as soon as they dare to come out of the closet someone is ready with the slurs and attacks.
The two philosophies I mentioned at the beginning (Assimilationist/Radical) roughly map to two distinctive kinds of experiences many queer people lived through growing up:
- Some of us never fit in. We were bullied by classmates (as well as adults) for the way we talked, or the way we walked, or the things we expressed interest in.
- Others blended in so well that when they eventually did come out, people who knew them when they were younger express genuine and emphatic shock.
Make no mistake: neither kind of kid had it easy. The ones who did blend in realized, at some point, that they were different, and they lived in just as much fear as those of us who couldn’t figure out why we were constantly being called all those homophobic slurs. Both kinds internalized homophobia leading to feelings of self-loathing.
Those of us who couldn’t blend in are somewhat more likely to focus on trying to make society more accepting of all differences, while those who did blend in seem to be more likely to think our goal should be to convince straight people that we are no different from them.
But it isn’t an exact correlation.
I’m saying all of this for context. Now, let’s move on to my point: any time in the last few months that I have criticized the policies and statements of presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg I get accused of saying he isn’t gay enough. As if that phrase even means anything. That’s not what’s happening. My beef with Buttigieg is very few of his statements about policies would sound amiss coming out of the mouth of 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush. Most wouldn’t sound amiss coming out of the mouth of 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
Mayor Pete is not a progressive politician. He doesn’t advocate positions that I believe will move us forward. At best, his detailed policies look to undo most of the harm Trump has done, and otherwise only promise to not to let things get much worse.
We can do better than that.
Now, I have some theories about why he doesn’t see how harmful late stage capitalism is to most working class and middle class people of every gender, orientation, and race. And I have some theories on why many of his responses as mayor to issues related to marginalized communities were tone deaf or outright dismissive. The quickest summation is: he is unaware of how the privileges he has had (being a man in our society, being white, having university-educated parents, being from a family well-to-do enough to send him to private school, and then to Harvard, and yes, being the kind of gay who can pass for straight when he wants) has protected him from the problems those less fortunate have had to deal with.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t think he’s gay enough. That does means I don’t think he is either self-aware enough nor empathetic enough to be a good president.
A few quickies to wind up this interesting Tuesday
The Iowa caucuses have always been bad. Now we know just how bad they are – With its error-prone process in a disproportionately white state, Iowa doesn’t deserve to be the state to have the first say in who the Democrats should nominate. Despite this, the problem isn’t about corruption, nor do the slow release of results prove any kind of conspiracy. Caucuses are in theory run by the state parties, who rely heavily on volunteers. These are not trained professionals. The volunteers seldom get much in the way of training beforehand. And volunteers at these things tend to skew older, exactly the demographic that you don’t want carrying out important tasks with a smart phone app. To be fair, primaries have a lot of the same problems—poll workers again are not paid professionals, they are volunteers who often are not well trained. And with either system, election night results are always, at best, estimates. The real results aren’t known until all the paperwork from the precincts are processed, sometimes weeks later. And yes, there were all the usual paper documents signed with the entire precinct witnessing and so forth. The app wasn’t meant to be the official results, but rather to facilitate announcing estimates sooner.
Let’s move on to a differnt topic: Republicans scrap child marriage ban because they’re worried about a pro-LGBTQ proposal — Indiana could have stopped adult men from marrying 15-year-old girls, but Republicans wanted to be sure their marriage equality ban stayed on the books. Because nothing says freedom more than forcing teens to marry whom their parents chose. And heaven forfend that consenting adults are allowed to tie the knot…
‘Shocking Disrespect’ As Trump Acts Up During The National Anthem – Video of Trump behaving erratically while the Star Spangled Banner were played at his Super Bowl party have surfaced. This from the alleged president who called on people to be fired (and worse) for kneeling during the national anthem. And let me point out: kneeling is not disrespect! That’s the part that really gets me. Kneeling has always been a form of respect and deference. Whereas gyrating around, moving a chair, waving your arms in mockery of a choral conductor? That’s definitely not showing respect.
It’s No Exaggeration: Sweeping South Dakota Bill Aims to Eliminate All LGBTQ Rights. Again, because nothing says freedom like imposing your religious beliefs on others…
I am not going to watch the State of the Union. I don’t need to watch that buffoon lie while mangling the language for hours. If you do want to watch a good speech under 8 minutes, you might enjoy this:
LGBTQ State of the Union w/ Billy Porter | Logo TV:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
First there is an anonymous question:
I’m 21 and tbh feel like I can only vote for Bernie, can you explain if/why I shouldn’t? Thanks and sorry if this is dumb or anything
Then there is this incredible answer from qqueenofhades.tumblr.com:
Oh boy. Okay, I’ll do my best here. Note that a) this will get long, and b) I’m old, Tired, and I‘m pretty sure my brain tried to kill me last night. Since by nature I am sure I will say something Controversial ™, if anyone reads this and feels a deep urge to inform me that I am Wrong, just… mark it down as me being Wrong and move on with your life. But also, really, you should read this and hopefully think about it. Because while I’m glad you asked this question, it feels like there’s a lot in your cohort who won’t, and that worries me. A lot.
First, not to sound utterly old-woman-in-a-rocking-chair ancient, people who came of age/are only old enough to have Obama be the first president that they really remember have no idea how good they had it. The world was falling the fuck apart in 2008 (not coincidentally, after 8 years of Bush). We came within a flicker of the permanent collapse of the global economy. The War on Terror was in full roar, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at their height, we had Dick Cheney as the cartoon supervillain before we had any of Trump’s cohort, and this was before Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden had exposed the extent of NSA/CIA intelligence-gathering/American excesses or there was any kind of public debate around the fact that we were all surveilled all the time. And the fact that a brown guy named Barack Hussein Obama was elected in this climate seems, and still seems tbh, kind of amazing. And Obama was certainly not a Perfect President™. He had to scale back a lot of planned initiatives, he is notorious for expanding the drone strike/extrajudicial assassination program, he still subscribed to the overall principles of neoliberalism and American exceptionalism, etc etc. There is valid criticism to be made as to how the hopey-changey optimistic rhetoric stacked up against the hard realities of political office. And yet…. at this point, given what we’re seeing from the White House on a daily basis, the depth of the parallel universe/double standards is absurd.
Because here’s the thing. Obama, his entire family, and his entire administration had to be personally/ethically flawless the whole time (and they managed that – not one scandal or arrest in eight years, against the legions of Trumpistas now being convicted) because of the absolute frothing depths of Republican hatred, racial conspiracy theories, and obstruction against him. (Remember Merrick Garland and how Mitch McConnell got away with that, and now we have Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court? Because I remember that). If Obama had pulled one-tenth of the shit, one-twentieth of the shit that the Trump administration does every day, he would be gone. It also meant that people who only remember Obama think he was typical for an American president, and he wasn’t. Since about… Jimmy Carter, and definitely since Ronald Reagan, the American people have gone for the Trump model a lot more than the Obama model. Whatever your opinion on his politics or character, Obama was a constitutional law professor, a community activist, a neighborhood organizer and brilliant Ivy League intellectual who used to randomly lie awake at night thinking about income inequality. Americans don’t value intellectualism in their politicians; they just don’t. They don’t like thinking that “the elites” are smarter than them. They like the folksy populist who seems fun to have a beer with, and Reagan/Bush Senior/Clinton/Bush Junior sold this persona as hard as they possibly could. As noted in said post, Bush Junior (or Shrub as the late, great Molly Ivins memorably dubbed him) was Trump Lite but from a long-established political family who could operate like an outwardly civilized human.
The point is: when you think Obama was relatively normal (which, again, he wasn’t, for any number of reasons) and not the outlier in a much larger pattern of catastrophic damage that has been accelerated since, again, the 1980s (oh Ronnie Raygun, how you lastingly fucked us!), you miss the overall context in which this, and which Trump, happened. Like most left-wingers, I don’t agree with Obama’s recent and baffling decision to insert himself into the 2020 race and warn the Democratic candidates against being too progressive or whatever he was on about. I think he was giving into the same fear that appears to be motivating the remaining chunk of Joe Biden’s support: that middle/working-class white America won’t go for anything too wild or that might sniff of Socialism, and that Uncle Joe, recalled fondly as said folksy populist and the internet’s favorite meme grandfather from his time as VP, could pick up the votes that went to Trump last time. And that by nature, no one else can.
The underlying belief is that these white voters just can’t support anything too “un-American,” and that by pushing too hard left, Democratic candidates risk handing Trump a second term. Again: I don’t agree and I think he was mistaken in saying it. But I also can’t say that Obama of all people doesn’t know exactly the strength of the political machine operating against the Democratic Party and the progressive agenda as a whole, because he ran headfirst into it for eight years. The fact that he managed to pass any of his legislative agenda, usually before the Tea Party became a thing in 2010, is because Democrats controlled the House and Senate for the first two years of his first term. He was not perfect, but it was clear that he really did care (just look up the pictures of him with kids). He installed smart, efficient, and scandal-free people to do jobs they were qualified for. He gave us Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to join RBG on the Supreme Court. All of this seems… like a dream.
That said: here we are in a place where Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are the front-runners for the Democratic nomination (and apparently Pete Buttigieg is getting some airplay as a dark horse candidate, which… whatever). The appeal of Biden is discussed above, and he sure as hell is not my favored candidate (frankly, I wish he’d just quit). But Sanders and Warren are 85% – 95% similar in their policy platforms. The fact that Michael “50 Billion Dollar Fortune” Bloomberg started rattling his chains about running for president is because either a Sanders or Warren presidency terrifies the outrageously exploitative billionaire capitalist oligarchy that runs this country and has been allowed to proceed essentially however the fuck they like since… you guessed it, the 1980s, the era of voodoo economics, deregulation, and the free market above all. Warren just happens to be ten years younger than Sanders and female, and Sanders’ age is not insignificant. He’s 80 years old and just had a heart attack, and there’s still a year to go to the election. It’s also more than a little eye-rolling to describe him as the only progressive candidate in the race, when he’s an old white man (however much we like and approve of his policy positions). And here’s the thing, which I think is a big part of the reason why this polarized ideological purity internet leftist culture mistrusts Warren:
She may have changed her mind on things in the past.
Scary, right? I sound like I’m being facetious, but I’m not. An argument I had to read with my own two eyes on this godforsaken hellsite was that since Warren became a Democrat around the time Clinton signed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, she sekritly hated gay people and might still be a corporate sellout, so on and etcetera. (And don’t even get me STARTED on the fact that DADT, coming a few years after the height of the AIDS crisis where it was considered God’s Judgment of the Icky Gays, was the best Clinton could realistically hope to achieve, but this smacks of White Gay Syndrome anyway and that is a whole other kettle of fish.) Bernie has always demonstrably been a democratic socialist, and: good for him. I’m serious. But because there’s the chance that Warren might not have thought exactly as she does now at any point in her life, the hysterical and paranoid left-wing elements don’t trust that she might not still secretly do so. (Zomgz!) It’s the same element that’s feeding cancel culture and “wokeness.” Nobody can be allowed to have shifted or grown in their opinions or, like a functional, thoughtful, non-insane adult, changed their beliefs when presented with compelling evidence to the contrary. To the ideological hordes, any hint of uncertainty or past failure to completely toe the line is tantamount to heresy. Any evidence of any other belief except The Correct One means that this person is functionally as bad as Trump. And frankly, it’s only the Sanders supporters who, just as in 2016, are threatening to withhold their vote in the general election if their preferred candidate doesn’t win the primary, and indeed seem weirdly proud about it.
boomerBernie or Buster.
Here’s the thing, the thing, the thing: there is never going to be an American president free of the deeply toxic elements of American ideology. There just won’t be. This country has been built how it has for 250 years, and it’s not gonna change. You are never going to have, at least not in the current system, some dream candidate who gets up there and parrots the left-wing talking points and attacks American imperialism, exceptionalism, ravaging global capitalism, military and oil addiction, etc. They want to be elected as leader of a country that has deeply internalized and taken these things to heart for its entire existence, and most of them believe it to some degree themselves. So this groupthink white liberal mentality where the only acceptable candidate is this Perfect Non-Problematic robot who has only ever had one belief their entire lives and has never ever wavered in their devotion to doctrine has really gotten bad. The Democratic Party would be considered… maybe center/mild left in most other developed countries. It’s not even really left-wing by general standards, and Sanders and Warren are the only two candidates for the nomination who are even willing to go there and explicitly put out policy proposals that challenge the systematic structure of power, oppression, and exploitation of the late-stage capitalist 21st century. Warren has the billionaires fussed, and instead of backing down, she’s doubling down. That’s part of why they’re so scared of her. (And also misogyny, because the world is depressing like that.) She is going head-on after picking a fight with some of the worst people on the planet, who are actively killing the rest of us, and I don’t know about you, but I like that.
Of course: none of this will mean squat if she (or the eventual Democratic winner, who I will vote for regardless of who it is, but as you can probably tell, she’s my ride or die) don’t a) win the White House and then do as they promised on the campaign trail, and b) don’t have a Democratic House and Senate willing to have a backbone and pass the laws. Even Nancy Pelosi, much as she’s otherwise a badass, held off on opening a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump for months out of fear it would benefit him, until the Ukraine thing fell into everyone’s laps. The Democrats are really horrible at sticking together and voting the party line the way Republicans do consistently, because Democrats are big-tent people who like to think of themselves as accepting and tolerant of other views and unwilling to force their members’ hands. The Republicans have no such qualms (and indeed, judging by their enabling of Trump, have no qualms at all).
The modern American Republican party has become a vehicle for no-holds-barred power for rich white men at the expense of absolutely everything and everyone else, and if your rationale is that you can’t vote for the person opposing Donald Goddamn Trump is that you’re just not vibing with them on the language of that one policy proposal… well, I’m glad that you, White Middle Class Liberal, feel relatively safe that the consequences of that decision won’t affect you personally. Even if we’re due to be out of the Paris Climate Accords one day after the 2020 election, and the issue of climate change now has the most visibility it’s ever had after years of big-business, Republican-led efforts to deny and discredit the science, hey, Secret Corporate Shill, am I right? Can’t trust ‘er. Let’s go have a craft beer.
As has been said before: vote as far left as you want in the primary. Vote your ideology, vote whatever candidate you want, because the only way to make actual, real-world change is to do that. The huge, embedded, all-consuming and horrible system in which we operate is not just going to suddenly be run by fairy dust and happy thoughts overnight. Select candidates that reflect your values exactly, be as picky and ideologically militant as you want. That’s the time to do that! Then when it comes to the general election:
- America is a two-party system. It sucks, but that’s the case. Third-party votes, or refraining from voting because “it doesn’t matter” are functionally useless at best and actively harmful at worst.
- Either the Democratic candidate or Donald Trump will win the 2020 election.
- There is absolutely no length that the Republican/GOP machine, and its malevolent allies elsewhere, will not go to in order to secure a Trump victory. None.
- Any talk whatsoever about “progressive values” or any kind of liberal activism, coupled with a course of action that increases the possibility of a Trump victory, is hypocritical at best and actively malicious at worst.
This is why I found the Democratic response to Obama’s “don’t go too wild” comments interesting. Bernie doubled down on the fact that his plans have widespread public support, and he’s right. (Frankly, the fact that Sanders and Warren are polling at the top, and the fact that they’re politicians and would not be crafting these campaign messages if they didn’t know that they were being positively received, says plenty on its own). Warren cleverly highlighted and praised Obama’s accomplishments in office (i.e. the Affordable Care Act) and didn’t say squat about whether she agreed or disagreed with him, then went right back to campaigning about why billionaires suck. And some guy named Julian Castro basically blew Obama off and claimed that “any Democrat” could beat Trump in 2020, just by nature of existing and being non-insane.
This is very dangerous! Do not be Julian Castro!
As I said in my tags on the Bush post: everyone assumed that sensible people would vote for Kerry in 2004. Guess what happened? Yeah, he got Swift Boated. The race between Obama and McCain in 2008, even after those said nightmare years of Bush, was very close until the global crash broke it open in Obama’s favor, and Sarah Palin was an actual disqualifier for a politician being brazenly incompetent and unprepared. (Then again, she was a woman from a remote backwater state, not a billionaire businessman.) In 2012, we thought Corporate MormonBot Mitt Fuggin’ Romney was somehow the worst and most dangerous candidate the Republicans could offer. In 2016, up until Election Day itself, everyone assumed that HRC was a badly flawed candidate but would win anyway. And… we saw how that worked out. Complacency is literally deadly.
I was born when Reagan was still president. I’m just old enough to remember the efforts to impeach Clinton over forcing an intern to give him a BJ in the Oval Office (This led by the same Republicans making Donald Trump into a darling of the evangelical Christian right wing.) I’m definitely old enough to remember 9/11 and how America lost its mind after that, and I remember the Bush years. And, obviously, the contrast with Obama, the swing back toward Trump, and everything that has happened since. We can’t afford to do this again. We’re hanging by a thread as it is, and not just America, but the entire planet.
So yes. By all means, vote for Sanders in the primary. Then when November 3, 2020 rolls around, if you care about literally any of this at all, hold your nose if necessary and vote straight-ticket Democrat, from the president, to the House and Senate, to the state and local offices. I cannot put it more strongly than that.
If you do anything other than show up to vote in November and vote straight Democrat, no matter who is in any of those slots all the way down the ballot, than you are voting for Trump, the White Nationalists, and their enablers. Period.
“Firing a $70,000 missile from a $28,000,000 drone flying at a cost of $3,624 per hour to kill people in the Middle East living on less than $1 per day.”
“We live in a country where if you want to bomb somebody, there’s remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost. But then you have a discussion abut whether or not we can assisst people who are suffering, and suddenly we become very cost-conscious.” —Prof. Andrew Bacevich
Time for another of my Saturday posts where I talk about stories that either broke after I finished this week’s Friday Five or have had new information come forward after being linked and/or commented on in any of my previous posts. Let’s go!
We’ve reached a new high in journalists bending over backwards not to report that water is wet: Amash accuses Trump of selling military support to Saudi Arabia. The problem with this headline is that word accuses, because inside the story, Trump himself is quoted as saying in an interview on Fox. “We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.” So no one needs to accuse the alleged president of selling troops, the guy is bragging about it!
Warren: Reasonable to Ask if Trump’s Iran Strike Is a Distraction From Impeachment. Reasonable is an understatement, especially when we learn that TRUMP ARGUED SOLEIMANI STRIKE WOULD BE POPULAR POLITICALLY, SAID IRAN WOULDN’T ‘DO ANYTHING TOO STUPID’.
Is there anyone on the planet less qualified to speculate about other people doing stupid things? This is the guy who, when warned not to look directly at a solar eclipse because it could burn the retinas in his eyes, went out of the balcony of the White House with a zillion cameras and reporters watching, and turned his head up to look directly at the eclipse! This is the man that we have seen doesn’t know how to fold up an umbrella! This is the man who went on a rambling rant proving that he doesn’t know how basic plumbing works, when discussing a drought. We can keep going… but there are other things to report.
Here’s why the stock market is surging to records after an Iranian missile strike threatened to erupt into war. Yes, the Dow is surging to record highs… and I’m trying not to be superstitious here, but we’re entering the 2020s, right? And during the 1920s the stock market just surged and surged and surged and anyone who could afford to invest seemed to be making a killing and everything looked wonderful (at least if you believe the popular media at the time), until the market literally crashed and then we had the Great Depression.
And things aren’t looking good for much of the workforce as it is now: Low unemployment isn’t worth much if the jobs barely pay. “In a recent analysis, we found that 53 million workers ages 18 to 64—or 44% of all workers—earn barely enough to live on.” The New York Times: After a Decade of Hiring, Plenty of Jobs but Raises Are Tiny. Again, I realize that most of you don’t need me or these stories to tell you that wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. I think it’s useful, though, to have these facts to share when necessary.
Many Iowa Democrats are paralyzed by fear of choosing the wrong candidate to take on Trump. On any day I could find dozens of headlines talking about which Democratic candidate is in the lead in the early state polling or the national polls, and everyone of them included comments about how whoever has the lead is going to face trouble with this or that constituency. And I’m frankly more than a little tired of them.
In part because they’re stuck in the same kind of horse race mentality that threw the election to the guy who lost the popular vote by a couple of million last time. Somehow we have got to get the not-Fox press to stop falling into the trap of essentially shilling for the Republicans and White Nationalists under the guise of applying one standard of coverage to the Democrats, and frankly ignoring the problems of Trump and his ilk.
But we have one more topic to cover before I draw a conclusion:
Some quickies to establish the Plague of Destruction:
I’ve already spent so many pixels lamenting that fact that the people who most fervently defend Trump are the ones who are either getting most hurt by his policies, or are failing to recognize the hypocrisy inherent in that support. He’s the most anti-Christian president ever. He lies. He cheats. He steals. For his entire career! He has actually gotten out of one lawsuit from investors that he bilked out of tens of millions of dollars by arguing that they were are fault for not researching him enough to realize that he is a fraud. I’m not making that up!
And news outlets trot out those very people, sometimes literally the same dozen white trump-voting angry white people who claim to be “independent voters” and get them to parrot trump’s talking points even when they contradict the truth those people are living in.
We’re stuck in this asymmetrical situation where one side does outrageous criminal or immoral or unethical things—blatantly and sometimes bragging about it—and it is only the other side that is admonished for not being civil, for not being fair, for not compromising. And it is literally killing us! We have come to expect this from Fox News and Breitbart—they have made their pro-White Nationalist, pro-Dominionist, pro-Wealth agenda clear. It’s the remaining news outlets who think they are being fair who keep giving in to all these false equivalences in the interest of fairness.
- You don’t need to quote formerly Republican Amash as say he accused Trump of selling the troops: come out and say in the headline that Trump admitted he did (or even better, that he bragged about it).
- You don’t need to quote billionaires and their lapdogs when they spout lies about how the economy works: come out and say that the ultra-rich are hoarding wealth and wrecking the economy; report about the fact that the only thing that creates jobs is when ordinary people have enough money to spend on things other than minimal basic survival.
- You don’t need to try to claim that minor quibbles on one side of the political spectrum are the equivalent of the racist, homophobic, genocidal and corrupt policies of the other side: come out and say that the Republicans promote the exploitation and even death of middle-to-low-income people in order to move more wealth to their billionaire buddies.
- You don’t need to repeat Trump’s side’s blatant lies as if they are just one side of an opinion, while calling basic fact-checking an accusation: come out and say that Trump’s policies are hurting workers, killing people by taking away their health care, killing children by locking them up in cages, taking rights away from many Americans.
Start reporting the truth. Truth isn’t a bitter drink, it is a delicious tea!
Let’s jump in: I have earlier linked to stories about how Christianity Today, a conservative evangelical publication originally founded by Billy Graham had called for removing Trump from office because of his immoral policies. This led to a lot of other evangelical leaders to chime in to defend Trump. But it has also led a few more to come out and agree with Christianity today: Ex-editor of Christian publication says he had ‘no other choice’ but to quit after pro-Trump editorial.
WATCH: Trump-evangelicals split discussed by Rev. Dr. William Barber. This is a short clip from MSNBC in which Reverend Barber makes that point that the evangelical support for Trump and his racist, anti-worker, anti-immigrant, and pro-wealth policies have never been universal. He focuses primarily on the moneyed interests vs. the poor and struggling, but that’s not the whole issue.
Christianity Today’s split with Trump highlights deeper issue in white evangelical America. This article hits at several of the disputes going on among people who identify as evangelical Christian or were raises in those communities have been engaged in. A lot of younger people raised in those churches are turned off by their elders’ involvement in rightwing politics. They see those politics as violations of Jesus’ teachings about taking care of the poor, loving your neighbors and enemies alike, welcoming strangers, and so forth. The increased focus on anti-gay policies and anti-gay activisim has accellerated that attrition. As the article points out, we have at least one generation who has grown up with queer classmates and friends, or children of queer parents who no longer see queer people as abominations.
People are leaving those churches. The percentage of the U.S. who identify as evangelical as gone down. In 2006, white evangelical Christians made up 23% of the U.S. population, now they make up only 15%. However, a weird thing has been going on electorally in that same period. The percentage of voters who identified as white and evangelical made up about 23% of the electorate in 2006. By 2018 that had grown to 26%. What’s happening is that they have become more energized and determined to show up and vote. Often more energized than other segments of the population.
Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not Trump’s. The headline is very true. But you know how else the headline could have been worded and it would be just as true for the last few decades? “Evangelicals need to follow Christianity’s morals, not the Republican Party’s.” And do not try to make a both sides argument on this. One party wants to fight poverty, take care of the sick (make sure people don’t die of preventable diseases), welcome immigrants, and other things which the Bible literally commands Christians to do, and the other party wants to do the exact opposite.
Moving on: 5 people stabbed at Hanukkah party in Rabbi’s home and Cuomo calls machete attack during Hanukkah celebration an ‘act of terrorism’ as other politicians react. Hate crimes are inherently terror attacks. The point is never just to wound or kill the person attacked, or if it’s a property crime to destroy the church/flag/religious symbol/et cetera. The purpose is to remind all members of the targeting group that they are not safe, that they are vulnerable to this sort of attack at any time. In other words, the point is to inspire fear in the targeted group (and often other minorities who are perceived to be allied or otherwise related). And what is terror? Why, it’s the state of extremely frightened or terrified.
There have been a lot of anti-semetic attacks in New York recently, and hate crimes of nearly every type have been on the rise since Trump was elected. It’s not just Trump, of course, but racists and other bigots felt empowered when he was elected. And why shouldn’t they? He keeps referring to them as very fine people?
Finally: The following news absolutely does not belong in the In Memoriam section of the next Friday Five, because this guy should not be memorialized: Foul-Mouthed Radio Host Don Imus Dead at 79 and Don Imus, Racist Radio Show Host, Dead At 79 – Imus was fired from CBS in 2007 after he referred to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” (among other slurs).
It took me a while to find articles with headlines that didn’t refer to him as a “controversial radio personality.” A controversy is a dispute or debate about a matter of opinion. It’s when two or more rival claims exist about a subject, each of which have reasonably equal arguments in their favor.
Being a foul-mouthed racist isn’t controversial, it’s vulgar, ignorant, and deplorable.
There are people who will jump on me and say we should not speak ill of the dead. They are incorrect. The original proverb people always misquote is Greek proverb is more correctly translated, “Of the dead, speak nothing but truth.” Don’t tell lies about the dead is what the admonishment means. And yeah, if you happen to be having a personal conversation with a grieving family member of a deplorable person who has recently died, it is rude to list off all of their relative’s flaws.
But public reporting about a public figure is a different matter. And Imus was racist, anti-semetic, and mispgynist. He used callous, mean, and intentionally offensive terminology to refer to many sorts of people. He sexually harassed many women employed in the stations where we worked. He pulled out his gun several times in the studio to threaten people who were on his show when they disagreed with him.
He wasn’t controversial, he was morally repugnant. And that’s more than enough time spent talking about him.
First, let’s let some of the headlines speak for themselves:
And this one nearly local to me: Church youth leader from Marysville charged with child molestation.
The Dan Savage quote above really sums it up: we have had the means to notice this epidemic for decades, but we continue to turn a blind eye to it. We let religious institutions shame the victims of their leaders. We let them move offenders to new jobs where they still have access to the types of people they victimize. We often give the religious institutions a pass when we discover that they have aided and abetted in these crimes.
Worse than that, we keep acting surprised when a religious leader (or a politician who flaunts their religious beliefs) who has been vehemently anti-gay turns out to be a sexual criminal of one sort or another. Instead of recognizing the pattern and staying on the look out of other telltale signs, we talk about how it’s just an opinion, or hide behind that disingenuous phrase “traditional values.”
We’re starting to get better. One of the previous times I wrote about the specific tendency of sexual predators to seek out jobs as Youth Pastors, I griped about the fact that news organizations often didn’t identify the arrested or convicted person as a pastor. They would often bury the fact that the criminal was a former paster somewhere in the story. Because once the situation gets to an arrest, the church or other religious institution has (sometimes very reluctantly) fired the person. That pissed me off for a couple of reasons. If a doctor is fired by a hospital, we still refer to that person as a doctor. They are currently unemployed, but they are still a doctor.
And it is newsworthy how the sex predator used the culture of religious institutions to commit their crimes. Also, very importantly: the sexual predators were employed as pastors are the time they committed the crimes.
So notice that in several of the stories above the news agency hasn’t just used the religious title in the headline, in more of the cases they didn’t put the word “former.” Though I admit that in two of the stories above, the first version I saw included that designation as a former pastor, and I specifically looked for other stories about the same crimes that didn’t do that. I failed on one, but the fact that I could find those headlines is, I think a little bit of progress.
I have one other story I consider to be in the same category as the others, even though it involves neither a pastor nor any allegations of sexual assault:
Father Abandoned Son on Side of Highway Because He Thought He Might Be Gay. This story as a few more details on the same incident: Father Charged With Abandoning “Gay” Child Outside Closed Police Station For Them To Find Him New Family.
Why do I consider this the same as the others: one of the most galling aspects of the pastor-as-sexual-molester phenomenon, is that the predator is supposed to be looking out for and even protecting the people they victimize. We also know that the reason so many of these predators go into the ministry and spout their homophobic opinions is to deflect from their own sexual proclivities. Society pressures people to be ashamed of their sexual orientation, and one of the symptoms of that toxicity is the homophobia-spouting sexual predator.
The father who abandoned his son on the road was supposed to care for that child. He is supposed to protect him from bad forces in the world around him, including homophobia. He’s not supposed to be one of those bad forces attacking his son. And he feels free to be such a bad force because of that same toxicity that society fosters—the entire homophobic/misogynist/xenophobic stew that people call “traditional values.”
I don’t have any sum-up for this, other than to say that abusive behavior, sexual or otherwise, isn’t a bug in the traditional values system—it’s a feature.
DALLAS: Straight Pride Rally Draws Two Attendees. ““I knew that attendance would be low, but I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw that it was just them,” activist Soraya Colli told the Advocate. But according to Colli, only two people showed up for much of the event. Both men were from Boston, the Dallas Voice reported; the local PONG member who organized the march was not present. “Much later, they were joined by a member of the Dallas Proud Boys and a woman named Princess Vanna,” Colli tweeted.”
Chick-fil-a is getting a lot of positive coverage by yet again claiming they will stop donating the anti-gay groups. The problem is, they’ve said it before, and then were proven to be lying afterward, so… GLAAD On New Chick-Fil-A Donations Policy: We’ll See. Since I highly doubt that is is a change in policy, I’m going to keep away from the restaurant. Although I have to admit that one thing about this makes me happy: Mike Huckebee Flips Out Over Chick-Fil-A Policy: They “Surrendered To Militant Anti-Christian Hate Groups”. Anything that pisses off bigots like Huckabee can’t be all bad.
Speaking of hateful people who also claim to be religious:
Most Americans Want Religion Out of Politics; Democrats Should Run With That. For many of us, this is not a surprise…