Archive for the ‘Bigotry’ category

02.01.17 Trump/Bannon or Pence?

February 1, 2017

For the first few days of this regime, I was rather celebrating the utter insanity (meant literally) and incompetence in the White House. I saw a ray of hope in its great potential for immobilizing dysfuntionality, not to mention the potential to alienate even the GOP Forces of Evil in Congress (who have thus far thrown aside their own stated policies in deference to the new Führer).

(See this outstanding piece by David Brooks in yesterday’s New York Times: The Republican Fausts. I often disagree with Brooks and don’t agree with everything in this piece, it is a powerful read and he is mostly, alarmingly spot on.)

Mike Pence as an alternative seemed worse. A competent, not crazy certified Thirteenth-Century Theocrat with strong ties to GOP elites would certainly get more done and hurt our society and culture even worse, right?

The news that Trump had elevated Steve Bannon to the National Security Council — over the Joint Chiefs of Staff — turned my outrage to terror. Brooks is not the only one in recent days to observe that Bannon is quickly consolidating control over all levers of power and government. His virulent racism, coupled with Trump’s nonstop temper tantrums are making me rethink a Pence presidency. Yes, Pence would gut necessary government spending, work tirelessly to enrich the wealthy, destroy the environment, and outlaw reproductive freedom (wherever he can). But so will Trump/Bannon!

What Pence seems unlikely to do would be to actively undermine world stability, start trade or military wars, empower foreign autocrats (Putin!), and actively undermine the US Constitution (further than the GOP already does through voter suppression, etc).

My mind is just about made up in favor of a 25th-Amendment (or impeachment) solution to this global crisis. My remaining hesitation is mostly about expecting a greater aggressiveness by Pence against LBGT rights than Trump and the idea that Trump/Bannon’s explicit racism is easer to counter than the GOP’s pervasive, implicit racism.

Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

What do you think, Dear Readers?

PS. I will no longer refer to well-known autocrats with their first names; hence, “Trump” (without Donald) and “Putin” (without Vladimir). These are monsters, not human beings and should not be personalized in any way.

©2017

01.29.17 Silence = Evil

January 29, 2017

Here’s link to a google spreadsheet showing where every US senator stands on the Trump Regime’s Muslim Ban, which was announced on Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Trump’s statement re the Holocaust failed to make any mention of Jews.)

Of 51 Republicans, 47 have been silent (with some even spending the day tweeting about sports). The Righteous Three who have spoken out against the ban are Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Benjamin Sasse (NE). Orrin Hatch (UT) has criticized the principle, but is neutral on the policy.

Of 49 Democrats, the Silent Hall of Shame is Joe Manchin (WV – most racist state in the country* – does he get a pass?), Ben Nelson (NE), Jon Tester (MT), and Tom Udall (NM). It’s interesting to note the reversal of NE’s two senators on this.

It has been widely noted that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke out against a Muslim ban last year. They opposed a significant number of other Trump policies, as well. Now they are 100% on board with Trump in pursuit of their one overarching goal: wealth transfer to the wealthy.

Thanks to Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Erlich for posting this.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1hSGjyWJZIQJpGz4V2ftX_qioCgBtL59oJkkhx146nFE/htmlview?sle=true#gid=0

*My measure of WV as most racist is based on the fact that every state on the country voted bluer in 2008 than in 2004, except WV, which went dramatically the other way.

01.22.17 The false dichotomy between economic and social justice (+ thumbs up for transgender rights)

January 22, 2017

This is a follow-up to my recent post about the self-flaggelating lie the left is absorbing and touting, that all those poor white men have a legitimate reason for choosing Trump. There is nothing wrong, of course, with Democrats’ working harder for economic justice and doing a better job of communicating this goal. But the real problem with the argument, as it has been presented in the media, is the either-or choice it embodies. For no apparent reason, the New York Times among other false-equivalence purveyors is saying that in order to help the poor, the left needs to stop giving a shit about people of color, women, gays, immigrants, and (yes) trangender people. They call this drive for social justice “identity politics.” The Racist Right already turned “political correctness” into a dirty term, when all it means is compassion and respect. So now we’re told (and self-haters on the left are believing) that caring about identity is wrong and self-defeating.

This is utter and dangerous bullshit. There is absolutely no reason why economic and social justice cannot go hand in hand. As I wrote in my last post, if angry white men choose to eschew economic advancement in their obsession to make sure no African Americans or immigrants qualify, fuck ’em.

How far this ethos has already penetrated the left was on display the other evening over dinner with friends, as we were preparing for the Women’s March.* A couple of people declared that the Democrats and the media have been paying far too much attention to transgender rights, “given how few of these people there actually are.” Let them wait their turn, they said.

So, instead of fighting for justice for all, we are to rank everyone by how much they deserve it and jettison those whose cost to us is greater than their ROI (return on investment). How reminiscent this is of the early suffragettes, who banned black women from participating. How much this reminds me of the African Americans in my integrated neighborhood growing up, who fought to stop any affordable housing from being built nearby (I’ve got mine — they don’t deserve any). So easy for cis-gender people to downplay the horrific injustice delivered daily to our transgender brothers and sisters.

I’m also reminded of an incident last year, when I hosted a community meeting between  mostly white neighbors and a mostly black prisoner-reform program that was seeking to rent a storefront near us. Though I supported the concerns of my neighbors (the planning for opening the program office had utterly neglected security), I wrote afterwards about the racial tensions inherent in the meeting. One neighbor then publicly attacked me for being “politically correct.” This white Anglo woman is married to a Mexican and has probably never voted for a Republican in her life. But she had fully taken aboard the racist ethos and vocabulary of the right.

I don’t want to march, unless it is arm-in-arm with my transsexual friends and neighbors. I don’t want to organize unless it is with African Americans, women, gays and lesbians, and immigrants. I don’t want to fight for economic justice, unless it is for everyone.

Democrats and other lefties would be fools to allow the right to set another yet another trap for us and to march right in. We must shout from treetops: there is no dichotomy and we will not allow bigots to define vocabulary and set agendas. The left has failed over and over again for nearly 50 years through cowardice, incompetence, and inarticulateness. That era must end.

*To my friends who were there (and, whom I assume will read this): please know I love you and acknowledge our mutual agreement on almost everything. But you also know me well enough to know I couldn’t give this a pass (I didn’t at the dinner table either). I hope you know  that this is not an attack on youbut rather a missive to persuade you).

©2017 Keith Berner

 

01.19.17 Shame on America. Shame on Americans.

January 19, 2017

Any critical thinker will find that the United States has more often than not behaved in direct opposition to its proclaimed values. From the Indian genocides, to slavery, to Jim Crow, to the overthrow of elected governments around the world, this country has put its hypocrisy on display over and over again.

The election of a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, Putin-loving, authoritarian, is – as I’m hardly the first to note – a new nadir of horrific depth. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. But there is no denying that the overwhelming land area of the country and about half of the population are getting in Trump exactly what they wanted.

On both right and left, there is a popular trope afoot that a neglected, impoverished sector of the American populace — the white working class — had good cause to rise up for change.

On the right, this is self-serving bullshit, because the GOP has never given a hoot about those people. Sure, some of the rednecks were too dumb to realize they being duped. But the above-the-national-income average of Trump voters reveals the falsehood in the claim. Trump voters were not primarily driven by hope for a better life or by stupidity. No, they voted the way they did because they are racist pigs. These people don’t care if they lose their health insurance, as long as they are certain that African Americans, Latinos, and all those other “outsiders” aren’t getting any. (Oh yeah, and as long as women and gays know their place.)

On the left, this lie is just another round of way-too-common self-flagellation. Again, it’s utter bullshit to believe that the Democratic Party platform and the Clinton campaign forgot about people in need. Hundreds of pages of policy were devoted to improving the lives of the poor and middle class.  Could there have been more emphasis on those policies in the campaign’s public communications? Maybe. But it’s ridiculous to think that racists would have voted any differently with more information. It is the very fact that Democrats are proud to be diverse that resulted in our loss.

The reality is that this is a deeply racist country without any deep commitment to democracy and justice. Unless we face this fact, we on the left are going to keep shooting at each other and avoiding reality. There is no other side – whether among elected officials or their near-fascist followers – that is worth negotiating with, nonetheless catering to.

The only way to overcome American Shame is to beat those who perpetrate it. There should be no talks with Republicans, no visits to Appalachia to feel poor white men’s pain. No, we must find and organize righteous voters. We should be recruiting righteous candidates. We should be forcing the hard right (the only right remaining in the US) to own its failures and alienate at least some of its racist supporters (those who decide that they need to eat, even if that means black people get to eat, too).

So, no votes for Trump nominees from Democrats. An unbreakable filibuster for every Trump court appointment. No cooperation in Congressional committees or Democratic votes for GOP bills in the House and Senate.

Barack Obama tried turning his cheek for his first five years in office. We must not repeat that mistake. And we can start by rejecting the claim that there was any blame on our side (apart from party incompetence and Clintonian misjudgment) for the beatings we have taken everywhere.

None of this means that the Democratic Party and the left in general have nothing to learn or change. But it does mean that we must focus on victory and call the bigots what they are, today and from now on.

©2017 Keith Berner

 

07.10.16 Rage

July 10, 2016

Rage about all the black men killed by racist cops (not to mention all the injustice meted out that stops short of outright murder).

Rage at the sniper who killed innocent officers who were protecting protesters, setting back the cause of justice.

Rage at the NRA and the venal politicians who take their money and do their bidding.

Rage at the gun nuts who claim that an armed crowd at that gay bar in Orlando would have saved lives: tell that to the armed and dead cops in Dallas.

Rage at almost all Republicans for almost everything they support, oppose, and lie about.

Rage at the Clintons whose arrogance and paranoia have handed rope to our enemies over and over again for 25 years.

Rage at the right-wing freaks who think that misuse of an email server merits prison but starting a war founded on lies with hundreds of thousands of dead doesn’t.

Rage at the driver who ran over the kitten in the road today and was in too much of a hurry to stop, seconds before I arrived on my bike and held the kitten in my hands as it died.

Rage at the white people who chose on Friday to tell us how much better things are than we think, because violent crime rates are going down and GDP is going up.

Rage at the white people who will never get why Black Lives Matter.

Rage at a judge for putting a rapist in jail for only six months in order not to inconvenience him too much.

Rage at North Carolina for making me carry my birth certificate the next time I need to pee there.

Rage at the Nader and Sanders supporters who value their purity over the need to prevent evil.

Rage at Trump for everything.

Rage at Trump’s Virginia campaign manager, Corey Stewart, who blamed Hillary Clinton for the dead cops in Dallas.

Rage at Kansas for renaming public schools “government schools.”

Rage at Romney, Ryan, and Wall Street for not giving a shit about anyone who isn’t as lucky as they are.

Rage at journalists who enable climate change deniers and supply siders in the name of “balance.”

Rage at ideologues who decry science.

Rage at theocrats who declare Jesus white and bigotry right.

Rage at anyone who stays home on November 8. Rage at the right wing machine that steals voting rights while it proclaims freedom and tries to enforce it elsewhere at the barrel of a gun.

Rage at myself for looking forward to my page-view counts for this post.

Rage at the universe for not fixing any of this.

©2016 Keith Berner

08.02.15 Against the local Tea Party (for a plastic bag ban)

August 2, 2015

Recently, my city councilman, Jarrett Smith, introduced a bill to ban plastic bag distribution by businesses in our fair little city. I hardly need to mention the environmental benefits of such a ban and the inevitable opposition by big business (the chemical industry).

What alarms me is that progressive Takoma Park is home to its own little Tea Party: “freedom-loving” libertarians who wish we were more like Alabama. This local Tea Party vigorously opposed a ban passed last year on use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes (which, with leadership from County Councilman George Leventhal [At Large] will soon become law in Montgomery County.) They’re back now to oppose plastic bans in the name of freedom.

Here is an exchange between me and one of the Tea Partiers on the Takoma Park’s main discussion listserv:

From: “James DiLuigi jdiluigi@aacinc.net [TakomaPark]” <TakomaPark@yahoogroups.com>

Subject: Re: [TakomaPark] Bans as Takoma Park City Policy

Date: August 2, 2015 at 12:36:37 EDT

To: “TakomaPark@yahoogroups.com” <TakomaPark@yahoogroups.com>

Catherine [Tunis] makes a point that has concerned me for some time now.

Takoma Park is a community of citizens who accept and care for one another without being foxed to do so by laws.

Most of us have come here by choice and relish the small town and inclusive society we have fostered.

I have become concerned regarding the legislative approach, rather than a voluntary/educational approach, that has been taken on various matters recently.

Let’s stop this management by fiat before it begins to threaten the welcoming society we have worked so hard to create.

James A. DiLuigi, AIA, CSI

Access-Ability Consultants, Inc

++++++++++

From: Keith Berner <tkpk@kberner.us>

Subject: Re: [TakomaPark] Bans as Takoma Park City Policy

Date: August 2, 2015 at 13:22:03 EDT

To: Takoma Park list <TakomaPark@yahoogroups.com>

Yes, many Takoma Parkers care about each other without being forced to by law. But can Takoma Parker’s properly care for the environment without laws that restrict environmentally damaging business practices? Let’s go back to the origin of this debate: Councilmember Jarrett Smith’s progressive legislation to ban plastic bag distribution by TkPk businesses. This is hardly an encroachment on residents’ ability to care for each other.

The “nanny state” that dictates and controls all we do is a classic bogeyman of the right. But they’re not all wrong. There are certainly places we don’t want the state to tread (the bedroom, for example, or free speech). But environmental and health protections rarely cross that line. In fact, they are essential for curbing business practices that do not capture “externalities” in market-driven transactions. Your “right” not to wear a seatbelt has an external cost that I pay in the form of higher insurance premiums and health care costs. A “free” plastic bag at checkout has the external cost of polluted waterways, parks, roads, etc. Your right to pack heat threatens my right to be safe from violence.

Further, many or most areas of the country fall too far to the laissez-faire side of the line. Takoma Park and Montgomery County provide much-needed alternatives to the libertarian and pro-big-business ethos  that pervades the American body politic. That is, those of you who see our progressive oasis as too infringing on your right to pollute can move almost anywhere and enjoy more of this (in my view) destructive “freedom.” 

We don’t need Tea Party-like libertarianism in our community (though, of course, those with these views have every right to express them and to try to elect politicians who share such views). I say: two thumbs up for progressive communitarianism, where society and the planet are sometimes given precedence over individual self-interest.

—Keith Berner

++++++++++

By the way, Mr. Luigi most recently made waves on the listserv by calling for city legislation to be reviewed by a committee of homeowners who have been residents for more than 10 years. The GOP couldn’t come up with a better plan to disenfranchise people of color, immigrants, and those of moderate means.

@2015 Keith Berner

05.02.15 Put police on probation

May 2, 2015

Baltimore has demonstrated that a white political and police establishment is not required for police to devalue black men’s lives. In a city with a black mayor, black police chief, and a significant number of black officers, Freddie Gray was still considered nothing more than trash – arrested without cause and killed for nothing more than sadistic pleasure. The problem in this country is not black culture, urban culture, or ghetto culture. The problem is police culture.

While we can rejoice at the indictment of the six Baltimore officers who killed Gray, we are only a couple of months past having a video of Eric Garner’s being choked to death by NY cops not being sufficient to result in an indictment. Piecemeal responses to individual cases of racism and abuse by American police departments are net enough. There won’t be enough videos of abuse to shame bad cops into good behavior. The time has come for concerted national action, including removing sullied DAs and police departments from the first line of investigating abuse and deciding whether to prosecute.

Who knew (I didn’t!) that right here in Maryland we have a “law enforcement officer bill of rights,”  that provides enormous protection to bad cops? While the rest of us have to settle for the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, somehow jurisdictions across the country have decided that being a cop requires extraordinary protection for acts of injustice, no matter how violent and outrageous. Every single one of these misguided laws needs to be repealed or overturned.

I say it’s time to put every single police chief and police officer – coast to coast – on probation. Give all of them 90 days to take training that includes nonviolent techniques, anti-racism, and community building. At the end of 90 days, test them. A written test is a place to start, but more is required. There should be random testing of cops on the beat, by setting them up in contrived situations to gauge their reactions, including comparisons of how they treat white suspects vs. those of color. Let independent committees (comprised of community, judicial, and political leaders) judge the results. And, fire the failures.

Law-and-order types have advocated zero-tolerance policing for years. Now, let’s turn the tables and kick out the bad apples after a single instance of racism or unprovoked violence.

©2015 Keith Berner