Let’s Trash Sanders for Not Being Perfect, Just For A Minute

So Mano Singham has a post up celebrating Bernie Sanders’ recent interview answer on Medicare for All. I agree it’s good, and I agree folks should head over to Mano’s blog and watch it.

But I can’t help wishing it was even better. I want a politics that stirs my soul. There are reasons why The West Wing included only short snippets of fictional president Bartlett’s political speeches. It’s because there must be information communicated. There must be exposition. It cannot all be rousing climax. We need Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, my two favorite candidates, and the others running for the Democratic nomination to talk about Lancet studies and age limits, coverage categories and copays, bills and billions. But we also desperately need leaders to raise our hopes, to show us that they cherish our dreams as much as we do ourselves.

Sanders was asked a question about an actor’s guild member. I have some small idea of how tough it is to qualify for the union, to qualify for guild membership because I actually acquired a couple equity points decades ago. I worked hard on a number of shows, and I was never close to joining the union. So I’m no actor, but I can sympathize with the person who asked the question recognizing that M4A is good for the uninsured but wanting some recognition that some people had fought hard to get their coverage and wanting to know what M4A would do for them.

Watching Sanders give his answer, I wish he would have said something about the Actor’s journey to get health insurance.

I wish he would have asked the actor, “Do you know anyone who had to take a non-acting job for the health benefits?” The answer would certainly be yes. Then Sanders could have said,

Everyone recognizes that our scattershot, private insurance system costs a lot of dollars, but have you factored in the cost of giving up your dreams? What if you had gotten sick shortly before gaining enough equity points to join your union? How many people can’t afford to try to reach the heights to which they’re capable of climbing if only they were free to do so? I can tell you how many dollars our current system costs and how many dollars we will save with Medicare For All – and I’ll get to those numbers in a minute – but what is the cost in dreams abandoned? You think we’re a great country now? You just wait until we free the people of the united states to pursue their happiness, to pursue their dreams. The value we will create cannot be counted.

 

Representative Ayanna Pressley: Naked Courage

Ayanna Pressley has just released a video through The Root about losing her hair over the last 6 months as a result of alopecia areata.  This is a screenshot from that video:

Representative Ayanna Pressley goes bald in public for the first time.

I’ve written about Black hair before, but seriously, this is a doozy of a topic. It’s hard for white people to understand just how political Black women’s hair can be, even though we’re often the ones doing the politicizing (e.g. her hair isn’t professional, is she trying to be militant? etc.).

So right now, I’ll just say this.

The first Black woman I ever seriously dated had sickle cell trait-related alopecia. She wore a wig constantly – nice looking one, too – but was apparently freaked that I might “discover” she had very little, very short, and very patchy hair on her head. In the dark she took off her wig while I was in the bathroom. I came back and found her sitting straight up, rigidly, instead of relaxing on the bed. I could tell there was something different about her silhouette, too, though it took my eyes a little bit to refocus. By the time I sat down on the bed next to her, she was almost shaking.

For the Black women who have this, this is a huge deal with a lot of shame attached. [I am, of course, not saying that’s how it should be, just saying that that is how it actually is right now.] It took a fuckload of courage for that girlfriend to expose her natural hair to me, one on one and in the dark after I had already clearly expressed my affection for her and attraction to her.

It’s remembering that woman quivering with fear on my bed in the dark that makes me qualified to say, Pressly, you’re a straight-up BadAss.

Go watch the video. It’s under ten minutes, and you won’t regret it.

For the Billionaires Bad at Math

As others have noted, Bill Gates had a bit of a minor freakout about Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax, admitting that he doesn’t know how much he would have to pay and seemingly begrudged having to do the math.

Well, never let it be said that Warren is not the billionaire’s friend. She has subsequently released a tax calculator for billionaires. The results are beauteous to behold.

It starts in the obvious way:

Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax calculator starts with the obvious question: Are you a billionaire?

Step one: Are you a billionaire?

Go! Now! Make up a net worth and see how much you would be taxed.

The context doesn’t matter

It is said that there are times we laugh because we dare not weep. The times right now are shockingly serious, though as serious as all this is, there’s plenty that Trump gives us to laugh at. So here I’m going to share a quote from today’s public appearance by Hair Furor. Trump actually said this, as part of some press-conference answer that he thought would actually help him. Of course, the context doesn’t even matter. This is just for the lulz:

Yesterday somebody asked me a question and I gave an answer, but always in the form of corruption.

 

For Your Enjoyment: How do you solve a problem like The Donald?

Apropos of nothing, I happened to dash this off today:

He’s got a favorite word, it’s “Me!”
His list of values starts with Greed.
He grabs any woman’s ass
Thinks gold leaf equals class
And underneath his toupee
you’ll find half an idea per day
He loves the bible so much he made a golden calf!

He never shows up for briefings
His intellect is surreal
He’s always insulting or grifting
Save when you bring the child his Happy Meal™!

I hate to have to say it
But I very firmly feel
The Donald’s not an asset to the world…

Gorka and Miller still think he’s good,
and looks fine in a starched white hood!

[Read more…]

For Freud’s Sake: Anti-racists are the real racists…again?

A couple weeks ago an NPR bigwig wrote an editorial about how it was wrong to call racism “racism” or racists “racists” because that was a moral judgement, not a factual one.

That. Position. Is. Freuding. Bankrupt.

Treating racism as a matter of moral opinion leads us directly to this place:

[Text Excerpt, emphasis mine:] “If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district … perhaps progress could be made”

Ten days ago, Wonkette’s Dok Zoom did a story on how NPR’s  Keith Woods, VP for newsroom training and diversity, argued against the decision NPR’s newsroom had previously made to label racist shit as actually racist. The conclusion that Dok Zoom came to was this:

that’s a big part of the problem with Woods’s argument: When it’s reduced to a headline, it sure as hell sounds like “let’s not stir up controversy with the mean word racism.”

But I don’t think that’s even the biggest problem with Woods’s argument. No, I think the biggest problem is that when whether or not something is racist or someone is engaging in racism is a moral opinion rather than a factual question, then there is no possible basis on which the media (or anyone, really) can challenge the message “anti-racists are the real racists”. It is the effect of long-standing refusals of news departments to treat racism as a fact that has gotten us to the point where even in 2019 Trump thinks that accusing Elijah Cummings of racism is a good media strategy … and might even be right.

Since we’ve been hearing this asinine argument for more than 50 years now, it seems imperative that the US media pulls its head out of its collective burro and gets busy developing the skills necessary to actually investigate racism as a factual matter, something that either does or does not exist, not a matter of opinion.

 

Oh, and by the way: Tucker Carlson, when Jon Stewart said you were hurting the US? This is what he was talking about.

 

 

 

 

Hell is Hope Hicks

As you may already be aware, the NY Times just published an Maggie Haberman essay on Hope Hicks’ most recent dilemma: should she break the law (again) or should she obey the requirements of a congressional subpoena?

The NY Times and Haberman advertised the article on twitter this way:

Now, some took issue with the glamour photo shoot that the Times commissioned for this piece. To the extent that criticism has any validity, it’s not about merely displaying a photo of Hope Hicks, it’s about the fact that they clearly spent significant resources in order to craft an artificial image that comports with Haberman’s editorial depiction of this former Trump aide (and those critiques that mentioned the photo without including this more detailed objection run the risk of communicating an anti-feminist message that what is important in media coverage of women is the photo shot editors choose to run). The lavishing of resources emphasizes the PR function of this effort; it is, in short, not a news story.

And yet, this wasn’t featured in the Times’ lifestyle section. It was featured in “Politics” which, when it is not overt opinion (which should be confined to the OP/ED pages anyway), is supposed to be news. So what is the news story here?

That leads us to the other criticism that many have already made: choosing to comply or not comply with a legal order is not an existential question any more than choosing to print up a few million dollars’ worth of counterfeit bills. Both lawyers and philosophers (mainly ethicists) took issue with this ridiculous and inaccurate description, so it’s not surprise that I, too, found it risible. The philosophers mainly focussed on the misuse of “existential questions” in a way that Sartre would have found condemnably ignorant even if it did tend to validate his assertion, “Hell is other people.” The lawyers had a different take, not so much emphasizing the “existential” part, but focussing rather more on the “question” part. One lawyer, Max Kennerly (@MaxKennerly), put it this way:

Most existential questions have no clear answer. What is my purpose in life? What happens after I die? Is there a higher power guiding my destiny? Does my dog have a soul?

Other “existential questions,” however, are answered by 2 U.S.C. §§ 192 & 194. Compliance is mandatory.

Yet, despite my laughter when I read that and my sympathy to those who would call out the Times for bad philosophy and bad law, my most significant problem with this story and the promotional tweet is neither of those. Instead, read this tweet from Sam Wang @SamWangPhd:

“Should a federal employee obey a lawful order, or stay loyal to an individual? Here at @nytpolitics, we can’t say. It’s just all a partisan game! We’re not going to make a value judgment! We have great portrait photographers though.”

The NY Times isn’t doing something new in this story. They are treating compliance with the law as entirely optional for the rich and well connected even as other stories, say, stories about a famous woman who went to jail for defying a subpoena, don’t include the same PR efforts or gosh, who can say whether it’s fair that someone obey a subpoena support for lawlessness as the Hope Hicks profile.

The Times is doing what the times always does: it’s opposing accountability for the rich and powerful who have the most motive and opportunity to destroy US democracy, while insisting on strict accountability for those who break the law in a principled stand on behalf of what they believe to be a necessary resistance to the subversion or destruction of democracy. Thoreau-like, I can believe that Manning subscribes to the maxim

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

But the proper response for those of us on the outside is not to scream, “Yeah, lock her up!” at democracy’s defenders and, “Let’s all sympathize with the lawless,” as they attack that democracy. Believing that we have reached the point where the true place for a just trans person is in prison is not to believe we have accomplished something wonderful that must be perpetuated.

The anti-democratic limits on acceptable discourse accepted and propounded by the Times must be opposed. The Times and Haberman and her editors are not worthless and thus irrelevant. The magnitude of this mess is only appreciated by accepting that the Times has an impact on the policies and practices of justice (and other things) and have great value to those that benefit from advancing the Times’ skewed view of proper accountability. Ignoring the Times is not a principled and logical and effective way to deal with their anti-democratic trolling. Instead, the Times must be countered each and every time they embrace the ideology of an accountability-free elite. We must never forget that the Times isn’t portraying the Trump administration as wise and sympathetic philosophers because they are working honestly or even diligently to divine the best possible response to problems of Gordian convolution and unsolvability. The upper ranks of the Times (including Haberman and her editors) are portraying the Trump administration as wise and sympathetic philosophers because they, too, believe themselves better off in a world without accountability for the US elite.

This ideology must be opposed wherever it presents itself.

 


Although I originally titled this “Hell is Hope Hicks” I later thought that perhaps it would be better titled, “Hell is the New York Times”. Ultimately I decided not to change it, though there are certainly reasonable critiques of making Hicks the focus of the title when the main critique is not of Hicks’ disdain for the law (which exists and is critiqued in passing), but instead the NY Times advocacy of disdain for the law – or at least advocacy for the idea that we must consider disdain for the law to be a reasonable position which might be reasonably held by reasonable people in a democracy.