Might I Remind You of a Couple Things?

In light of the attacks on Syria, I thought it might be good to remind the community of a couple things.

The first is one you’re less likely to remember, though it is important: Two years ago, during the campaign, Trump was asked by Mika Brzezinski on the MSNBC show Morning Joe about the source of his foreign policy advice, given that there were so many difficult issues active in 2016.

He replied:

I listen to myself and speaking with myself, number one, because I have very good brain and have said a lot of things, so I would listen to myself. … My primary consultant is Myself.”

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The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Trump

So many of us have said for so long that Trump is authoritarian. Some of us even said Fascist, though that definition is up for debate and if it means anything, shouldn’t be merely a synonym of authoritarian.

Nonetheless, our warnings fell on 62,984,825 deaf ears. It seems that a heck of a lot of people thought that Trump might be hostile to some persons’ rights, but not their own rights.

Frankly it reminds me quite a bit of how in the anti-domestic/sexual violence community we’ve been saying for years that if someone can’t show respect to an intimate partner, that bodes ill for that person’s propensity to violence more generally. Since heterosexual relationships are most common, this has often taken the form of warning that men who abuse women need to be taken more seriously as threats to their communities. In a world where most lawmakers are men, men who didn’t fear they might end up in an abusive relationship with a man, the glowing-scarlet flag of intimate partner violence has been treated as little import. We’ve slowly changed perceptions so that at least the actual violence to the intimate partner is treated, legally, as violence against others might be. In other words, violence against women isn’t treated as a warning sign of future dangerousness to a community, but is more frequently than it once was taken as an actual violation of the laws against assaults and/or batteries.

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Good Witch or Bad Witch: Andrew Jackson

In addition to being the subject of the most morally abominable statement I’ve ever heard made on television, Andrew Jackson was the 7th President of the United States and a staunch defender of slavery.

A populist, Jackson was nonetheless very much an advocate of the status quo: he opposed many SCOTUS decisions that had the potential to create change and consistently sided with those who wanted to keep social structures locked in the same forms they had taken in preceding decades. He did antagonize many with power, but from my rough reading of history that appears to be because of his autocratic tendencies: his policy outlines were similar to those of others of his party, but by acting unilaterally he was effectively reducing the opportunities for other office holders to exercise their powers in legislative and other governmental processes. Jackson favored a “strong presidency”, which just happened to benefit his autocratic hunger for power. Justifying this publicly, he insisted that Congress was corrupt and vesting king-like power in the executive was the only effective check on congressional corruption. While in office, Jackson preserved the status quo not least by rejecting new legislation: he exercised his veto more than all previous presidents combined. And yet, Newt Gingrich thinks that Jackson was a huge “change agent”. Listen to Gingrich speak of Trump (from CBS This Morning):

I think Trump is a remarkable figure. I think he’s a historic figure. He’s certainly probably the biggest change agent since Andrew Jackson in the 1820s and 1830s.

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Racist Rape Apologists Do Good By Accident?

By racist rape apologists, we are of course including Trump, but the instigator here is Tucker Carlson acting on behalf of Trump. From RawStory:

Last night on Fox News, host Tucker Carlson called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into “Hollywood’s culture of systematic sexual abuse” in light of mounting accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Today, it appears that President Donald Trump heeded Carlson’s advice.

As the Daily Mail reports, Trump’s DOJ is opening an investigation into Weinstein amid reports that the producer may head to Europe for “sex rehab,” leading to fears that he may “pull a Roman Polanski” and flee the country to avoid prosecution for his alleged crimes.

Clearly racist lapdog Carlson is engaging in attempted deflection. Perhaps he believes that “the left” will object to a DoJ investigation of sexual abusers and sex abuse enablers? If so, he’s dramatically, dramatically wrong. If there were violations of Title 7, we should know, and if the DOJ has reason to believe that violations may have occurred, an investigation into whether those suspected violations in fact occurred may very well be warranted.

So, sure. Set this precedent, Carlson. Create a more proactive culture at the Department of Justice, a culture that feels empowered to investigate any large employer that appears as if it may have engaged in ongoing discrimination against people on the basis of sex or race or national origin or religion. I’m perfectly happy to have the DOJ root such discrimination out of Hollywood. I’m not sure, however, why you think this is such a good idea. You really think that Fox News and the Catholic Church won’t be next? And if your desire is to focus on the bad acts of people who aren’t Trump, you might want to take note that Title 7 covers the federal government – the same federal government that currently employs at least one person who has admitted multiple times to engaging in multiple different kinds of assault and harassment while serving as owner/employer of the people being targeted.

This is what being an air-headed douchebro gets you: a TV show paying you millions so that you can inadvertently advance the liberal agenda. Good job, Carlson!

Returning the Money: My Ethics Say No

For the most part, I prefer to ignore Kelleyanne Conway. She’s a liar of the same magnitude as Baghdad Bob, so even if I wanted to use her words to understand the right wing, I couldn’t. There’s just no way to reliably understand what Trump or (more broadly) his administration or Republicans in general think about an issue based on anything she has to say. She might occasionally tell the truth (I imagine when she’s expressing her personal opinion she’s more likely to be truthful, but her personal opinion of Trump did a 180 once he got the nomination and her income depending on getting work from him), but that only makes it worse.

There’s an old riddle about meeting one trans* person who always tells the truth and another trans* person who always lies. They stand at the fork in the road, and, not wanting to waste time and effort going to the wrong place, you decide to ask these trans* folk how to get where you’re going. However, since these two trans persons are two of three genetically identical triplets, you can’t know which one tells the truth and which one lies. How, then, do you find your way? There is a method for getting the truth no matter which triplet you ask. But here’s the tribadism: getting that truth requires that the liar lie 100% of the time. If you encounter a pair of triplets where one tells the truth 90% of the time and one lies 90% of the time, there is no way to ensure that you get good information out of them.

So Conway tells outrageous lies. She tells them with verve, sincerity, and even enthusiasm. But she’s not some character in a philosophical thought experiment. And so even though you always know that she’s likely to be lying, and in some cases you have prior information that allows you to know she’s definitely lying, just listening to her gives you no reliable information about anything.*1

But others like RawStory and Ed Brayton do pay some attention to her, and I pay some attention to RawStory and Ed Brayton, who runs a good blog over on Patheos. So I ended up reading a RawStory piece on Conway’s latest rant against Hillary Clinton. The substance of her critique is that

  1. Clinton is a woman
  2. Clinton ran for President
  3. Clinton has previously made statements supportive of victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and
  4. Clinton has received money from Weinstein, now publicly reported to be someone who has engaged in sexual harassment and assault.

Now, Conway hasn’t run for POTUS, but it’s unclear what role that plays in the analysis. If this is only used to mean that she has voluntarily taken a role in the public eye, well then

  1. Conway is a woman
  2. Conway has voluntarily taken a role in the public eye
  3. Conway has previously made statements supportive of victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and
  4. Conway has received money from Trump, widely reported to have engaged in sexual harassment and assault even before she took her job at the White House.

So when Conway insists that Clinton has insufficiently responded to the reports of Weinstein’s behavior, any reasonable person might tune out at the obvious hypocrisy of this person accusing Clinton of hypocrisy. But what I found interesting was Conway’s idea of what constituted an inappropriate and insufficient response:

“I felt like a woman who ran to be commander-in-chief, president of the United States, the first one ever, who talks about women’s empowerment, took an awfully long time to give support to those women who were coming forward,” Conway said. “And has still — as far as we know — kept the money, kept the dirty money that dirty Harvey has given her in her campaign.”

Based on the above, any reasonable reporter should be asking Conway if she has kept the money paid to her for working for Trump, though we know that’s not going to happen. So let’s move on.

We can be confident that lots of the money received from Weinstein by the Clintons, and by Hillary Clinton in particular, has been spent, I’m sure. But imagine if you knew exactly how much Weinstein gave and that Hillary had that much cash on hand. You’ve decided that the appropriate response is not to keep the money, but too few people think about what comes next.

It is, in fact, not uncommon for political campaigns to return checks uncashed if the checks somehow indicate that the donor is beyond the political pale. But is this the best policy? Several years ago John Scalzi was having a problem with Vox Day being an asshat, and solved it via donating money to groups opposed to Vox Day’s apparent positions and causes. How much better would the donation be if the money came out of Vox Day’s own pocket, limiting his ability to donate to groups that supported his racist, sexist, homophobic dipshittery?

This is why I sincerely hope that Clinton does not return any of Weinstein’s money to Weinstein. At this point, Weinstein got most of what he wanted – Bill Clinton in the Arkansas governor’s mansion and the White House and Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Imagine if he was able to successfully support all his favorite political causes and candidates AND THEN get a 100% rebate. That seems like a very, very bad plan. The money Clinton might use to pay back Weinstein would have to come from somewhere, after all. To paraphrase John Kerry, how to you ask someone to be the last donor to repay a sexual predator? It would be like the Catholic Church getting to shuffle predatory priests around, pay out a bunch of millions in settlements, and then have all that money returned to them by donors concerned about the money they “lost” to survivors. As if anyone would ever want to contribute money to the Catholic Church to refill the coffers drained by their sexual predation!*3

If Clinton and Conway did want to rid themselves of any possible taint associated with taking money from sexual predators, the reasoning above gives us some clear guidelines:

  1. Don’t give the money back to the unethical jerkwad.
  2. When picking a place for that money to go, you have to be deliberate, otherwise buying a yacht for yourself would be getting rid of the money – you gave it to the yacht company, right?
  3. The primary criterion in picking places to receive your money should be that they have a publicly announced mission that is at very least inclusive of opposing the behavior that made the source of your money an unethical slimeball in the first place.
  4. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a well-funded, useful advocacy group that’s as specific as “Survivors of sexual harassment in the film and television industries opposing Weinstein’s ability to harm people with impunity”. So don’t set up false expectations of perfect tailoring. For both Conway and Clinton a group that makes it their mission to oppose rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment ought to be specific enough.
  5. When you make the donation, make sure that any attention is on the group doing the good work, not on you for giving the donation: after all, you’re doing this because you don’t want to be tainted, not because you’re super-generous.

It’s not generous in the way that Scalzi was generous with his own money, but if you’re ever running a group of campaign that has been given a donation that generates more negatives than the cash can generate positives, I think this is a good basic guideline for where to entrust your tainted money.

Of course, none of this is likely to help Conway, as the list of organizations she would need to support is so long that she’d still have some hard decisions to make. But Conway if you happen to be reading this, I’d be happy to help you prioritize your donations to the different possible organizations deserving of the tainted money you’ve accepted for serving Donald Trump. Though it has only expanded since the recent hurricanes and Mexican earthquakes, I’m sure that I could help you rid yourself of even millions of dollars.

 

 


*1: Did I really just write all that to say I usually don’t bother to pay attention to Conway and I feel I have good reason? Apparently I did. Oy.

*2: yes, tepidly and inadequately and incompetently and while engaging in victim blaming and … well, a whole lot more ands that ensure her “advocacy” is anything but helpful and effective, but in her defenses of Trump she has gone out of her way on TV to say that she supports “real” survivors. Since she didn’t single out Clinton for the effectiveness of her advocacy, merely for the fact that she spoke up about survivors needing and deserving things, the effectiveness and even the offensive malicious falseness of her statements “advocating” for survivors are not the point. If she made statements that she feels

*3: That might just be the most depressing attempt at humorous litotes I’ve ever made.

I was wondering when John Carlos would show up

John Carlos, the world’s fastest humanitarian, has been relevant to the NFL protests since they began. I probably should have written about him sooner, but the last 2 weeks when things heated up as a result of Trumps douchegabbery I was in the middle of some serious downtime. So now, I’m sad to admit, I’ve been beaten to the punch. Sports Illustrated nabbed an actual interview.

However, that piece is short and just tremendously inadequate. As is too often the case, you’ve got to go to a venue outside of the US in order to get the fuller story of US racism. In this case, I can reasonably recommend Sam Dean’s piece in the Telegraph last year. From that piece:

Carlos was just 23 when he made his stand, and it cost him everything. With his reputation ruined, he struggled to find a job, his children were bullied at school and then, nine tortuous years later, his wife Kim took her own life. By then, their marriage had broken down, and Carlos believes her death was partly the result of the endless interference of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had placed him under constant surveillance since his return to the United States.

“Here’s a guy with income who can support his family,” he says of himself. “And then the next day he has no income and people start to walk away. You go through a process in your mind, thinking about why. Maybe it is because they have no love for me, maybe they don’t like me. But then it dawns on you that they are walking away not because they don’t love you – they are walking away because they fear what is happening to you might happen to them.”

The article praises Carlos as a “horticulturalist” who planted seeds of hope, freedom, justice and activism who has been lucky enough to see many of those seeds sprout. Among those seedlings is a more active cadre of athletes and other anti-racist activists. Yet even before the atrocious and overt blackballing of Kaepernick, the Telegraph had clearly identified major barriers to athletes speaking out (though they focussed on the then-current Rio Olympics):

“The fight is going to go on.”

The question, then, is whether it will be fought by athletes. In this money-spinning era of agents, sponsorship deals and endless proclamations of the importance of “brand values”, it seems the weight of the establishment is heavier than ever.

… Such is the primacy of sports brands in the United States that an athlete’s kit supplier is listed alongside their name on results sheets, and is often read out when they are announced to the crowd before competition.

:puke:

I had no idea that the Olympics did anything like announcing, “The Nike-wearing Florence Griffith Joyner!” Nonetheless, there are activist-athletes. The Telegraph pointed out in that piece Serena Williams and basketball player Carmelo Anthony. And now we have not merely Kaepernick, but dozens of NFL players, including some at the top of their positions.

Trump is a jerk, a mendacious, malicious, bullying jerk. But in this case there are finally enough NFL players protesting, with enough non-protestors linking arms with the protestors, that maybe the wildly successful Kaepernick will not have to face the same fall and the same later tragedies as the wildly successful young Carlos. And that unity among players has everything to do with having these decisions forced upon them by Trump’s bullying. Many choose not to protest police violence and other racial injustices, but nearly all of those now choose to stand with those who do. Whatever happens to Kaepernick for his 21st Century Mexico City moment, it’s clear that there are now too many players participating in efforts to end racism for the NFL to blackball them all.

 


*1: Though I haven’t written anything focussed on Carlos, I don’t think, I know I’ve mentioned him in a post before. I’ll have to look up the context.

Breaking News: Trump Is Kind of an Asshole

I won’t provide you with a tedium of links because if you’re following along at home with US politics and you’re doing so at least partly through mass media, you’ll have already encountered this multiple times, but I do wish to comment on Jake Tapper, Don Lemon, Kat Timpf, Nicole Wallace, and so many others in the media who are acting surprised at Trump’s behavior.

Trump is a horrible excuse for a human being. He didn’t pander to the White Supremacists in the election or this past weekend, he fucking is a White Supremacist (capital letters intended). To see the media simply oozing concern that Trump would issue a classic bothsiderism talking point instead of saying something simple, like “it’s kinda bad when racists kill anti-racists where and when they openly gathered to speak out against racism” (so that there could be no doubt he was killing anti-racists in the act of countering racism).

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Innaccuracies

While one might think innaccuracies are merely truthful statements by any Ibis, Ramada or Motel 6 employee, the Trump administration clearly had something else in mind:. Criticizing the Congressional Budget Office’s competence, the White House released a video with voice over text. The text reads, in part:

CBO innaccurately estimated 25 million would be covered under Obamacare…

The mind. It boggles.

On the plus side, Trump promised to add jobs and irony meter manufacturers and repair shops have been going gangbusters for over a year now, with demand only continuing to increase. Gotta give Trump credit where credit is due, and I don’t think anyone has ever had an effect on the irony meter industry that’s anywhere near that of Trump.

Hold My Beer: “Let Them Eat Champagne” – No, really.

Let them eat Brioche not good enough? That’s okay: Ivanka gives us the high-class version of Hold My Beer. For Ivanka, it’s hold my champagne.

Ivanka Trump, whose family sells Trump-branded champagne, actually tweeted out that this memorial day – the day we set aside to think about those who actually fucking died in the wars fought by US soldiers at the orders of US politicians – that this Memorial Day should feature champagne frozen into popsicles. Y’know. For the dead.

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