Rethinking Israel

Today is Nakba Day, the day of “catastrophe.” Today is the day Palestinian refugees—some 7 million of them—remember their displacement from their land, caused by the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and made worse by the subsequent Six-Day War in 1967, in which Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, territories populated overwhelmingly by Palestinians and which are still under Israeli control today.

Not quite four years ago I wrote a piece (“We Are All Living In Israel“) that mostly defended the moral standing of the Israelis, even as they were prosecuting a bloody response to Hamas and the Palestinians at the time. I went back and read, several times, what I wrote. And based on the events of the last several days—culminating in that embarrassing and peace-killing ceremony celebrating Tr-mp and the move of our embassy to Jerusalem—I can say I would not write the same piece today.

It is important to understand that the context for my post in 2014 was the very real threat that Hamas and other extremist groups posed to Israeli civilians through the firing of imprecise rockets (almost 5,000 of them) and mortars (some 1,700) into Israel, many of them striking residential areas. In fact, as the BBC reported the following year, Amnesty International claimed that “Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes.” The BBC article also noted:

Amnesty’s report also detailed other violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian groups during the conflict, such as storing rockets and other munitions in civilian buildings, including UN schools, and cases where armed groups launched attacks or stored munitions very near locations where hundreds of civilians were sheltering.

Amnesty International, which had previously accused Israel’s government of killing Palestinian civilians and the unjustified destruction of property in Gaza, did not let the Israelis off the hook for their behavior in that 2014 conflict. It said some of the Israeli attacks in response to the shelling “also amounted to war crimes,” the BBC reported. But clearly most of the blame was placed on Hamas and the extremists on that side of the deadly exchange, with Amnesty saying,

The devastating impact of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians during the conflict is undeniable, but violations by one side in a conflict can never justify violations by their opponents.

Again, my original focus on defending Israel four years ago was on the relative morality involved. I wrote:

Sure, there are bad actors in Israel. Sure, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Defense Forces have much to answer for. Sure, any solution to the problem between Jews and Arabs is not enhanced by killing civilians in Gaza. I have several times criticized Israeli actions regarding their dealings with Palestinians. But in terms of a larger moral equivalency, there is no comparison between Israel and Hamas, or between Israel and other even more radical Muslim groups.

Today I’m afraid I don’t have the same certainty I had then.

Palestine Mourns Civilians Killed By Israel In GazaWith the approval of an uncompromising and unreasonable and increasingly uncivilized leader—Benjamin Netanyahu—Israeli troops killed almost 60 protesting Palestinians yesterday and wounded hundreds of others. Not much, if any, of the killing and maiming can be justified. Add to that the fact that there is widespread support for the embassy move among Jewish Israelis (Arab citizens are 20% of the population), an ill-timed move that can only mean that too many Israeli Jews have given up on a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and are willing to allow the Palestinians to languish interminably in what essentially are concentration camps in Gaza and the West Bank.

Further add that a whopping 59% of Israeli Jews have a favorable opinion of Tr-mp (he even has a 45-30 favorable mark among secular Jews there), and that, unbelievably, the mayor of Jerusalem is naming a parcel of land near the new embassy the “United States Square in honor of President Donald Tr-mp.” In a Facebook post, the mayor exclaimed: “Jerusalem returns the love to Tr-mp!” What does a sensible American say to that? Try this, written by Michelle Goldberg:

Tr-mp has empowered what’s worst in Israel, and as long as he is president, it may be that Israel can kill Palestinians, demolish their homes and appropriate their land with impunity. But some day, Tr-mp will be gone. With hope for a two-state solution nearly dead, current trends suggest that a Jewish minority will come to rule over a largely disenfranchised Muslim majority in all the land under Israel’s control. A rising generation of Americans may see an apartheid state with a Tr-mp Square in its capital and wonder why it’s supposed to be our friend.

Clearly, an apartheid state is not a moral state. Most of the defense of Israel up to this point has been that it is the region’s only thriving democracy, founded to welcome Jewish immigrants and exiles and, according to its declaration of independence, it had high hopes:

it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Seven million Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank are essentially prisoners, subject to Israeli military law. In Gaza, the living conditions are unacceptable. In the West Bank, Palestinians have watched Jewish settlers—who retain full rights as citizens—move into their territory, most of the settlements authorized and encouraged by Israeli’s right-wing government (which has been “emboldened by Tr-mp”).

It is obviously true that not all the fault for the protracted problems between Palestinians and Israelis belongs to the Israelis. Palestinian leaders have been wedded to the ridiculous and counter-productive notion that they will never recognize Israel’s right to exist as a nation-state. Palestinian extremists have resorted to terrorism time and again, and are teaching each new generation that violence against Jews is their only option, Allah’s will.

But if the Israelis want to be the good guys, they have to be good. As the days pass, as they embrace, with violence, the actions of an American fool who happens to have the power to move an embassy, as they seem to be closing off each avenue for peace, they seem headed into a permanent apartheid state, one that simply cannot be defended on moral grounds.

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Here’s One Campaign Promise Every Democrat Running For President Should Make

As zealous evangelicals, using Tr-mp as their vehicle, giddily move us toward their much-awaited and much-desired Armageddon, I will use a few moments to tell you one thing I want to hear from whoever ends up representing Democrats in the 2020 election for president. Before I get to that, though, I want to set it up.

I watched the Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress deliver his opening “prayer” today in Jerusalem, during the peace-killing embassy ceremony. The Jew-hating pastor, as expected, delivered an appalling supplication to one of his Lords—“the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”—and paid galling tribute to his other Lord—the shady shitgibbon in the Whites’ House. Jeffress, to no one’s surprise, managed to offend almost everyone, except those Israelis who are killing unarmed Palestinian protesters and those others who don’t give a shit if they are.

Other than the dangerous stupidity involved in the whole thing, there were any number of reasons to be outraged at the embassy ceremony today, from Jeffress to Jared Kushner to Benjamin Netanyahu, all of whom made sure to mention Tr-mp’s name as often as the indecency of the moment permitted, which is to say every other sentence. But the most outrageous moment for me was when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and shitgibbon’s daughter, Ivanka, unveiled the plaque at the new embassy in Jerusalem. Here is a closeup of a photo taken by Menahem Kahana, of the AFP news agency:

jerusalem plaque and ivanka

There, in letters the same size as the words identifying the embassy, was “DONALD J. TRUMP,” Lord Shitgibbon.

Okay. Here’s the deal. What I want any presidential candidate on my team, who is asking for my vote in a Democratic primary in 2020, to say is this:

Should I get elected president, it will probably be too late for me to move our embassy back to Tel Aviv—the damage has been done. But there is one thing I will promise you. Among the first things I will do after all the inaugural balls are over, after I sign several executive orders countermanding all the Tr-mp executive orders that countermanded all the Obama executive orders, I will hop my ass on a newly-fumigated Air Force One and fly to Jerusalem. With me, right by my side, will be a gold-handled masonry chisel—the most beautiful chisel you have ever seen—along with a carbide-tipped stone-busting hammer. Upon arrival at the embassy, I will put those American-made tools in my hands and, in the name of the American people, I will personally remove any trace of DONALD J. TRUMP from that plaque. Personally. I mean it. You can count on it. With my own hands. I don’t care how long it takes. I’ll do it.

Oh, and while I’m at it, and just to make clear my intentions, I’ll put the chisel to MICHAEL R. PENCE, too.

I wouldn’t walk, I’d run, to the polls.

The Fact Burner

If you woke up this morning feeling sorry for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you should probably just get back in bed and continue your rest from reality. Because if you do have sympathy for the woman who lies for Tr-mp each and every day, after she was “ripped” by a comedian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, then your sympathy is hopelessly misplaced.

Michelle Wolf, the comedian who, among other things, highlighted Sanders’ truth-slaying skills—“she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye”—did what she was hired to do: she told jokes. Some of the jokes were good, some not so good. But there was much truth running through her jokes, including that Sanders, Tr-mp’s press secretary, really does burn facts for a living. And it wasn’t Wolf’s fault that Tr-mp didn’t have the guts to show up for the dinner, like other presidents did until he came along, and defend his propagandist in person.

All day Sunday and continuing into today, journalists have been beside themselves trying to apologize for, or demand apologizes from, Wolf and those responsible for hiring her. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell tweeted, “Apology is owed to and others grossly insulted [by] Michelle Wolf.” Maggie Haberman, of the New York Times, tweeted:

That sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.

Hooey. Double Hooey. Nobody “owes” Sanders an apology. Nor should anyone praise her for sitting and absorbing personal insults. She knew what was coming. It couldn’t have been a surprise.

But Sanders does owe us an apology. And she should praise us for not walking out of the Tr-mpian nightmare she so proudly lies for nearly every time she opens her mouth.

Sanders should apologize for vigorously defending the narcissistic anarchist sitting in the Whites’ House. She should give us a shout-out for not fleeing to Canada, as we still dare to dream that America will come to its senses and rid itself of the parasite feeding on, and quickly depleting, the norms of our democracy. She should apologize to and heap praise upon all those folks who are genuine victims of Tr-mpism and the policies associated with it.

And as for journalists, how about Andrea Mitchell apologizing for endlessly focusing on Hillary Clinton’s emails during the last campaign, while Tr-mp was robbing the country of its dignity? How about Maggie Haberman, who has done good work since the 2016 election, apologize for her paper’s front-page obsession with the Clintons’ every flaw, all the way down to butt pimples, while a crass, corrupt demagogue was tearing down the press and other vital American institutions?

And speaking of obsessions, how about journalists apologizing for focusing on “Tr-mp voters” and their feelings almost to the exclusion of the rest of us? Or how about journalists realizing that there is more to America than those places that voted for Tr-mp? Look at the way Jake Tapper addressed John Kasich yesterday, appearing for the gazillionth time on Sunday morning television, on CNN’s State of the Union:

So, I want to ask you about the midterms. Republican congressional leaders increasingly worried that a Democratic wave is coming, that they will lose the House, they might even lose the Senate. President Trump doesn’t agree. He’s confident in his abilities. He’s confident that the Republicans are going to hold the House and Senate.

You’re out there in real America in Ohio. How concerned should Republicans be, how concerned should President Trump be?

Huh? Ohio is “real America”? Okay. Let’s agree that Ohio is real America. But when is the last time you heard a journalist address, say, a senator from a blue state by saying, “You’re out there in real America in Oregon”? Or how about a journalist introducing the mayor of a large city by saying, “Here’s Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, which is in real America”? Have you ever heard Maxine Waters addressed as the congresswoman who represents people out there “in real America in the 43rd District of California”? No. You haven’t. For some reason, real Americans only live in states Tr-mp won and has the potential of winning again.

It’s effing ridiculous.

I will be the first one to call on Michelle Wolf to apologize to Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the day Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with or without smokey eyes, goes to the Whites’ House briefing room, stands proudly behind the podium, and tells the world she is sorry for the damage she, and her boss, have done to the country.

White. Angst. Tr-mp.

If there has been one consistent theme running through this blog for the past nine years, it is this one: the domestic political obstacles President Obama faced while in office and the rise of the still-destructive Tea Party and the subsequent emergence of a corrupt cartoonish racist named Tr-mp are all importantly connected to what I have frequently called “white angst.”

As I use the term, white angst is in some cases merely a worry that something bad is happening to white dominance of the culture. In other cases it is a deep-rooted fear that something bad is happening to that dominance. But in all cases white angst is a foreboding, a concern that something bad is, if it hasn’t already, going to happen if white people don’t put a stop to it while there is still time. I have consistently posited this race-based phenomenon as a significant factor (along with pure partisanship) in the dreadful reaction against Obama, first as a viable presidential candidate, and then as our first African-American chief executive trying to combat a soul-crushing recession, a dangerous economic moment in our country that surely helped him overcome the electoral challenges in our race-troubled history.

Economic anxieties created by the Great Recession in 2008 temporarily put to sleep some of the racial anxieties of white folks. The voter turnout rate for whites that election year fell from 67.2% to 66.1%, while all minority groups increased their turnout rates. And Obama received 43% of the white vote that year. But the Tea Party movement, pregnant with white angst after the election of a black man, raised its ugly reactionary head early in 2009, just after Obama took office. Here in Joplin I attended three tax-day Tea Party events in three successive Aprils. I could hear the worry and fear in the speeches and in the conversations I had with some of the folks who were there. The pretense was that the worry and fear were rooted in economics, mostly about government debt and deficits and the future of “our kids and grandkids.”

But you may have noticed that there were no Tea Party events on any of the eight April tax days during the George W. Bush administration, despite the profligate war spending and tax cuts—and the doubling of the national debt that resulted. And you may have noticed that there were no Tea Party events on tax day this April, despite the news that annual deficits and long-term debt are skyrocketing, much of it due to the lingering effects of past tax cuts and new effects from cuts that Republicans handed out to their wealthy donors and corporations at the end of last year. No, there were no Tea Party events here in Joplin or elsewhere. Just silence from previously worried white teapartiers, a silence that provides some evidence for my past claims of racial angst and its effects on the white electorate. (Some other evidence: Obama received only 39% of the white vote in 2012, after that 43% showing in 2008. And the racist-birther Tr-mp beat Hillary with the white vote 58%-37%.)

Well, well. Now there is much more science behind my ongoing claim, a claim that was challenged by conservatives early on in the life of this blog. From The New York Times:

Ever since Donald J. Trump began his improbable political rise, many pundits have credited his appeal among white, Christian and male voters to “economic anxiety.” Hobbled by unemployment and locked out of the recovery, those voters turned out in force to send Mr. Trump, and a message, to Washington.

Or so that narrative goes.

A study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences questions that explanation, the latest to suggest that Trump voters weren’t driven by anger over the past, but rather fear of what may come. White, Christian and male voters, the study suggests, turned to Mr. Trump because they felt their status was at risk.

“It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel,’’ said Diana C. Mutz, the author of the study and a political science and communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she directs the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics. “It’s not a threat to their own economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s dominance in our country over all.”

The study is not the first to cast doubt on the prevailing economic anxiety theory. Last year, a Public Religion Research Institute survey of more than 3,000 people also found that Mr. Trump’s appeal could better be explained by a fear of cultural displacement.

You can read the entire article if you want (“Trump Voters Driven by Fear of Losing Status, Not Economic Anxiety, Study Finds”), or you can follow-up on the study it was based on (“Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote”), or you can see a study referenced in the article (“Beyond Economics: Fears of Cultural Displacement Pushed the White Working Class to Trump”).  There are other studies that offer similar evidence. With this post, I just wanted to defend myself from attacks long ago.

_____________________________

NOTE for NERDS:

Perhaps I should make something clear about the study that formed the basis for the latest Times article. The problem isn’t just with what the National Academy of Sciences study called “group status” threats related to white people’s perceptions. There is also the group status threat of globalism, “the increasing interdependence of the United States on other countries” and the idea that “Americans increasingly feel that they are not getting their fair share.” Regarding the former, the threat is to white dominance within our country. Regarding the latter, the threat is to American dominance in the larger world. But the study makes some points we shouldn’t miss, so I will quote it at length for those of you who like to get into the weeds a little bit:

Racial status threat and global status threat are technically separable, but they are difficult to distinguish in practice. Because white male Christians are seen as most prototypically “American” (31), they have the most to lose psychologically if they perceive America and/or whites to be no longer dominant. Given that the 2016 election featured discussions of perceived threats from religious minorities, racial minorities, and foreigners, this generalized sense of threat is likely to have spilled over into multiple arenas. For white Americans, the political consequences of racial and global status threat seem to point in similar directions with respect to issue positions: opposition to immigration, rejection of international trade relationships, and perceptions of China as a threat to American wellbeing.

For two of these three issues—trade and China—trends in public opinion clearly support the thesis of increased threat between 2012 and 2016 (3233). For immigration, however, multiple sources instead suggest increasingly supportive attitudes among Republicans and Democrats alike (34). Likewise, to the extent that immigration is perceived as threatening by Americans, scholars find that it is due to the increased economic burden Americans believe immigrants place on the social welfare system rather than a threat to white status (35). Nonetheless, it remains possible that the heightened salience of immigration contributed to Trump’s victory without increasing actual opposition to immigration, consistent with previous findings attributing preference changes to the increased salience of immigration (3).

How plausible is status threat—whether from a sense of declining racial or global status—as an explanation for changes in voting behavior in 2016? With respect to global status threat, the received wisdom from decades of research has long been that “voting ends at water’s edge.” In other words, outside of foreign wars, international affairs are assumed to have little if any electoral importance (36). However, economic globalization has gained prominence in recent years (37). Racial status threat makes perfect sense occurring immediately after 8 y of leadership by America’s first African American president. It is not racism of the kind suggesting that whites view minorities as morally or intellectually inferior, but rather, one that regards minorities as sufficiently powerful to be a threat to the status quo. When members of a dominant group experience a sense of threat to their group’s position, whether it is the status of Americans in the world at large or the status of whites in a multiethnic America, change in people’s sense of their group’s relative position produces insecurity.

Despite multiculturalism’s ostensible goal of inclusion, experimental studies suggest that it is experienced by whites as a form of status threat that produces more negative attitudes toward outgroups of all kinds (38). Simply reminding whites about their impending loss of majority status produces feelings of threat in experimental studies (39), particularly among those who think of the “American way of life” as being white (40). Consequences of exposure to information about impending majority–minority status have included increased conservatism and greater identification with the Republican Party (41) and the Tea Party (42), increased opposition to diversity (41), greater explicit and implicit racial bias, and a stronger preference for interacting with one’s own race (43). In one study, reminding participants about the upcoming racial shift also produced increased support for Trump among both Democrats and Republicans in a white convenience sample (44).

Silencing A King, Twice

“America was legally an apartheid state in living memory.”

——The New York Times, April 2, 2018

by now everyone who wants to has had something to say on this 50th anniversary of the murder of a man of the people, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not only have we heard what a civil rights champion he was, but some have tried to make it clear he was more than that. He stood strongly against the Vietnam War. He stood strongly for those whose lives were pigmented with poverty, that most awful of colors found on the palette of laissez-faire economics. In fact, he was in Memphis fifty Image result for sanitation workers’ strikeyears ago to support striking sanitation workers, unionism being a good way to escape poverty. Those city workers were low-paid, had no health insurance, weren’t paid overtime, and weren’t entitled to workers’ compensation. Dr. King was on their side.

King was silenced by a convicted felon who had escaped from the Missouri penitentiary the previous year. The felon hated King and admired Hitler, and one of his lawyers, who was eventually convicted in 1980 for the bombing of a black church in 1958, was a white supremacist and life-long member of the Ku Klux Klan. The felon’s family said he wanted to kill Dr. King. He did. That murder was the first silencing. The second was to come.

The New York Times editorialized a few days ago about King’s “moral clarity” in calling America to “Be true to what you said on paper.” The editorial continued:

As Dr. King knew well, the history of voting in the United States was, and is, in large part the history of white people in power devising endless ways to keep black people from casting a ballot.

It’s been true all along, from the complete disenfranchisement of slavery to the effective silencing of the Jim Crow era up to now, when a welter of clever and at times subtle laws operates to make it harder for minorities to get to the polls, and to have an equal voice — or any voice at all — in the choice of our representatives and policies.

Most white folks think that the voting rights issue has been settled by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which did have a huge positive effect on black registration and voting. However, as the Times points out, the Act “still requires frequent care and tending by the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court.” And we know the reactionaries on the Court are a problem:

Unfortunately, the court’s conservative majority has severely weakened the protections the law was intended to provide. The biggest blow came in a 2013 decision, Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, the five conservative justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., gutted the heart of the act, which identified several states with long histories of voting discrimination, most in the South, and required them to get federal permission before changing their voting laws. While that remedy may have been a necessary response to 1960s-era racism, the chief justice wrote, “things have changed dramatically.”

Clearly things haven’t changed dramatically. We now have Tr-mp and what the Times says is “the resurgence of overt racism and white nationalism that has followed, with no meaningful pushback from the president [sic].” And we have a concerted effort by Republicans all over parts of the country under their control to make it harder for people of color to vote:

Poll taxes and literacy tests have given way to voter-ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and same-day registration, polling place closings, voter-roll purges, racially discriminatory redistricting and felon disenfranchisement laws — most of which, though justified on race-neutral grounds, harm minority voters more.

This represents the second silencing of Dr. King. He believed that black votes could “transform the entire country.” Apparently, Republicans do too.

Those of us who believe in an inclusive democracy have to speak for a silenced Dr. King. And, oddly, the most noise we could possibly make is by voting every single Republican—every last one of them—out of office.

Those Who Can, Teach. Those Who Can’t Afford It, Join A Movement

Today in Tr-mp-red Oklahoma, teachers by the tens of thousands are engaging in a rally-walkout. Following the success that Tr-mp-red West Virginia teachers had with their two-week strike, tens of thousands of low-paid Oklahoma educators are getting together in Oklahoma City to demand from right-wing Republicans an increase in education funding even oklahoma public employees association photobeyond what they recently approved— passed in fear of such an uprising. Thousands of teachers in Kentucky are rallying, too. And Arizona teachers are contemplating taking action. Marry these developments with the student-led movement to change our gun laws and we can say that something is happening in America. Something good.

Because Republicans have waged war on collective bargaining, particularly collective bargaining by public employees, in some cases teachers have had to march “ahead of their unions,” as an NPR story put it. One of those teachers getting out ahead of too-timid or too-weak teachers’ unions is a Tulsa English teacher named Larry Cagle. He is a co-founder of Oklahoma Teachers United (OTU), a group that was birthed at a Starbucks last year. The initial plan, according to OTU’s group’s Facebook page, “began with coordinated teacher sickouts” all around “the Tulsa metropolitan area and in some smaller rural schools.” The resulting widespread media coverage gave the group exposure enough to attract others around the state interested in the cause, and the establishment of “secret channels” allowed the group’s leaders “to communicate with active protesters.”

Thus, here we are today watching something many of us didn’t think we’d ever see, a “wildcat walkout” (as OTU calls it) that has helped push not only Oklahoma teachers’ unions into concerted action (the unions are involved and are ultimately crucial to the movement’s success), but in some cases has school management on board. It truly is a remarkable moment.

But there is something a little troubling about a few of the things I have heard teachers in Oklahoma and elsewhere say on television and express on their placards regarding what they are doing. A variation goes something like this: “We aren’t doing this for ourselves, but for our kids, for our students.” Now, no matter how admirable it is that teachers do have such high regard for their students, there is no need for them to apologize for wanting higher wages and better benefits for themselves. There is absolutely no shame in wanting adequate compensation for the arduous work of getting a teaching degree, obtaining certification, running up a large student loan debt, and working long hours at home and weekends grading papers and preparing lesson plans. Oh, and besides all that, teachers are required to pursue “continuing education” in order to keep their certification. And what do they get for their trouble? As Larry Cagle said to NPR,

I’m 54 years old and my paycheck is $1,980 [a month]. I can’t afford fucking health insurance.

The fact that an Oklahoma teacher that age or any age can’t afford health insurance, largely because of tax giveaways to wealthy Oklahomans and oil companies, is a moral outrage. Consider Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Shawn Sheehan. He finally had enough of “Things will get better soon, we promise.” In 2017, the Teacher of the Year moved to Texas for the money. “We are joining many other teachers who have either already left or plan to do so over the next year,” he said without shame. And he wasn’t finished:

I’ve done everything I know how to do to try and make things better. We could stay, but it would cost our family – specifically our sweet baby girl. My wife and I are not willing to do that. We, like you, want what’s best for our children and she deserves to grow up in a state that values education. And so do your children.

Most Americans “value” education by paying lip service to it. They say things like, “Teaching is a very noble profession,” while running to the polls to vote for Republicans who will gut the profession by cutting taxes. But Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year had something to say to people who think he should be content with the “nobility” of his profession:

There are teachers in this state who say things like, “I’m just in this for the students. If you’re not in it for the kids, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” This was oImage result for shawn sheehan familyne response from a teacher who vehemently disagreed with my statements.

Do other teachers out there really think we aren’t in this for the students? Who in their right mind teaches in Oklahoma for the money? Of course I’m here for my students, their families, and this community, but I won’t apologize for demanding a livable wage…

Oftentimes, I find these are the same teachers who vote against legislation and/or legislators who would help our cause. If my reality isn’t yours, is there a need discredit my and OUR colleagues’ stories? How many times will they excuse these budget cuts and “proudly” declare that they’d teach one hundred students in a classroom with no supplies and that they’d do it for free because it’s all about the kids?

You can’t spend nobility at the grocery store. Blue Cross won’t let you purchase health insurance at “noble profession” rates. Teachers shouldn’t have to beg at the statehouse door for food or healthcare or, for God’s sake, for classroom materials. They should, as they are doing today in Oklahoma and Kentucky, demand what they most clearly deserve.

Image result for teachers in oklahoma on strike

[Top photo: @okea; middle photo: @CathyBenge1; Shawn Sheehan photo: Tulsa World]

Roseanne And White Lives Matter

The country managed to survive without Roseanne for more than two decades. The question is will we survive now that the white-lives-matter show is back on the air?

I have my doubts, but hope persists.

ABC supposedly resurrected Roseanne, starring right-wing conspiracy nut and Tr-mper, Roseanne Barr, as part of its “Heartland Strategy After Tr-mp’s Victory,” to use the New York Times’ phrasing. The paper told us:

On the morning after the 2016 election, a group of nearly a dozen ABC executives gathered at their Burbank, Calif., headquarters to determine what Donald J. Trump’s victory meant for the network’s future.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘There’s a lot about this country we need to learn a lot more about, here on the coasts,’” Ben Sherwood, the president of Disney and ABC’s television group, said in an interview.

They began asking themselves which audiences they were not serving well and what they could do to better live up to the company name — the American Broadcasting Company. By the meeting’s end, they had in place the beginnings of a revised strategy that led the network to reboot a past hit centered on a struggling Midwestern family, a show that had a chance to appeal to the voters who had helped put Mr. Trump in the White House.

The rest is history, of course. Roseanne’s premiere this week was, in today’s shrinking old-school-broadcasting world, more popular, and lucrative, than ABC executives could have ever hoped for. In fact, the president of Disney (and, thus, ABC TV), Ben Sherwood, thought the Nielsen ratings were so high that there must have been some kind of mistake made. But there was no mistake. Just brilliant timing and marketing to, in many cases, a less-than-brilliant demographic.

All of that would be fine, I suppose, if it weren’t for some of the ridiculous comments people like Ben Sherwood have subsequently made. He simply could have said that Disney and ABC are in the business of making money and, well, there is money to be made by pandering to a group of white conservatives, among whom are many, like Roseanne, who believe in weird conspiracies and don’t like work-hungry immigrants all that much. But instead Sherwood said to the Times about the Roseanne clan:

People gather round and they see themselves in this family. It speaks to a large number of people in the country who don’t see themselves on television very often.

Are you effing kidding me? Has Mr. Sherwood ever turned on cable news? The champion of the Roseanne fans of the world is “on television” each and every day, sometimes each and every minute. And if Tr-mp himself isn’t on, the cable news networks often feature a group of “Tr-mp supporters” or “Tr-mp voters” who are endlessly questioned by a curious host as to whether those ignorant or bigoted or gullible folks have, as Tr-mp stumbles through the months, abandoned their ignorance or bigotry or gullibility. The answer, to no one’s surprise, is nope. They’re still happily culting away.

This morning, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski also said something ridiculous, which really isn’t new or news. But this morning she was part of a segment on Morning Joe that featured talk about the success of Roseanne and what that success might mean culturally and politically. Brzezinski said:

The Democrats definitely forgot about those 18 million people who watched Roseanne, for sure, and it’s a good lesson.

Forgot about them? Who is “them”? If by them one means working-class Americans, well, Democrats didn’t forget about them. In fact, the Democratic Party’s main message last election was designed around lifting up the working class beyond what Obama, who encountered fierce Republican opposition, managed to do. And Hillary Clinton got a majority of the working-class vote. Yes, you read that right. She did.

The real message folks like Ben Sherwood and Mika Brzezinski are sending is that Hollywood executives and Democratic politicians ought to pay more attention to white working-class Americans. Let me say that again in a way you can hear me: PAY ATTENTION TO WHITE FOLKS WITHOUT COLLEGE DEGREES! is the message. Its corollary is: STOP PAYING SO MUCH ATTENTION TO PEOPLE OF COLOR BECAUSE IT SCARES WHITE PEOPLE!

Well, this is a good time to remind everyone that despite Hillary Clinton’s many personal challenges and the Russia-Tr-mp conspiracy to poison the electorate with stolen emails and Facebook-fueled lies, she did win the popular vote decisively. And she only lost the Founder-rigged Electoral College game by a flimsy margin across a few key states. Clearly she failed, though. Clearly the Democratic Party failed, too. But that failure can’t be fixed by somehow telling Roseanne fans only what they want to hear. Because what too many of them want to hear is a validation of their prejudices and a stoking of their cultural fears, which are partly rooted in those prejudices. What some significant number of them want is a recognition that their color matters too. What some of them want the rest of us to recognize is that they are anxious about a future in which people who look like them won’t necessarily be privileged to run everything and call every shot.

In short, what that Roseanne folks want is to be identified as fed-up WHITE PEOPLE.

Well, how should Democrats handle these folks, these fellow Americans, if not by pandering to their faults? How should Democrats speak to people who seem to be holding the country hostage by sticking an AR-Tr-mp assault weapon in our faces? What can you say to people in so much identity pain that they think a disturbed white grifter is their salvation?

Well, Democrats do have a message, an economic and cultural message, and perhaps they can possibly talk some of those white voters into putting down the assault weapon that is Donald Tr-mp. The economic message is simple: Republicans always favor the rich and will conspire—a true conspiracy—to do everything they can to make the lives of the rich even better than it is. It’s simply who Republicans are and what they do. Democrats, flawed as they are, exist to make lives better for everyone else, no matter their color. And that’s where the Democrat Party’s cultural message comes in.

Anand Giridharadas, a writer and political analyst for NBC News, was on Morning Joe this morning and spoke during the Roseanne segment. Hear him:

I’m not a fan of Roseanne the person. I did enjoy that one episode. That may be the only one I watch, but I enjoyed it. And I think it raised a truth and a question. I think the truth that it illustrated is working-class white people may claim to be against identity politics, but they actually crave identity politics. They want to be part of it. They want to be seen and witnessed the way women and people of color are demanding representation. And part of what was great about the show—the apnea machine, Maxwell House coffee, prescription meds, insurance that doesn’t work, football-stitched kitchen towels—there was an effort to kind of pay respect and pay attention to the details of a certain demographic’s life. I hope those folks will understand that other people also want to be represented, and that’s what those demands and identity politics have been about.

I think the question the revival raises is: Is it only…demagogues like Donald Tr-mp and peddlers of conspiracy theories like Roseanne who can speak to these people? Can there be good, elevated, smart, thoughtful, future-oriented political leaders who can speak to these people, make them feel witnessed, seen, and understood, but actually elevate them and lead them to a better place instead of make them hate people and try to shut down the post-war global order?

In time we shall see if Democrats can raise up such leaders who can take the Democrats’ economic-cultural message to reachable scared white folks, and tell them that Democrats will have their backs so long as they don’t turn their backs on other folks who also want to be seen and heard and have their grievances addressed by the country and its culture.

Our ongoing experiment in democracy will only work if we quit experimenting with democracy and actually start practicing it.

What If Gerrymandering Were On The Other Foot?

We Democrats have been very vocal about gerrymandering. Republicans have kicked our behinds with it, over and over again. And we have lamented the “loss” of genuine democracy, in which political power is distributed fairly. Such genuine democracy is what many of us, rightly, stand for. And that principled stand often works against us.

Josh Kraushaar is the political editor for the National Journal. He used to work for Politico as a congressional campaign reporter and also covered elections through its “Scorecard” blog. He suggested something this morning that I would like to comment on, but before I do I need to set it up.

The New York Times published a piece yesterday (“America’s Warped Elections”) about how “giddy” some Democrats are about their chances of winning back the House this November and how that giddiness needs “a big reality check.” Why? Because:

Even the strongest blue wave may crash up against a powerful structural force in American politics: extreme gerrymandering.

The authors of that Times article are Michael Li and Laura Royden, who work for the Brennan Center for Justice, a progressive think tank and “part advocacy group” whose mission is “to reform, revitalize – and when necessary defend – our country’s systems of democracy and justice.” The Brennan Center has filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs in a redistricting case (Benisek v. Lamone) the Supreme Court will hear on Wednesday. You would be expected to think that the case the Court will hear this week is about Republican gerrymandering of districts, since that’s been a grievous and ongoing problem created by those dreadful, white angst-inspired 2010 election results. But it’s not. The plaintiffs in the case, the ones the progressive Brennan Center sided with, actually claim it was Maryland Democrats who so unfairly gerrymandered the state’s 6th congressional district in 2011. After the 2010 election, in which the incumbent Republican had won reelection in the district by a 28-point margin, Democrats redrew the district. The result was that the incumbent Republican lost to the Democrat in 2012 by a 21-point margin. That’s a 49-point swing, friends. And Maryland Democrats did that to Maryland Republicans—on purpose. Keep that in mind as we move forward.

Now back to that New York Times article for a moment. The authors note that the Court already heard a redistricting case in October (Gill v. Whitford), for which we await a ruling. In that case the bad guys are Republicans in Wisconsin who gerrymandered the hell, and many of the Democrats, out of that state. One of the points that Li and Royden make is that “no matter how the high court rules,” in either the Wisconsin or Maryland case, “its decision will almost certainly come too late to affect the 2018 vote.” That leaves us with what, then? This:

That means most Americans will participate in this year’s elections under gerrymandered congressional maps that were created in the wake of the 2010 Tea Party wave.

Yikes. But here’s the technical point the authors want to make:

We conducted an analysis to measure how hard it would be for Democrats in each state to win additional seats under these gerrymandered maps. The results are sobering. In 2006, a roughly five-and-a-half-point lead in the national popular vote was enough for Democrats to pick up 31 seats and win back the House majority they had lost to Newt Gingrich and his Contract With America 12 years before.

But our research shows that a similar margin of victory in 2018 would most likely net Democrats only 13 seats, leaving the Republicans firmly in charge. Just to get the thinnest of majorities in the House, Democrats would need around an 11-point win in the national popular vote. They haven’t come close to winning by that much in a midterm election since 1982.

If you follow this kind of stuff, you know there is considerable debate about how much Democrats have to win by in November—how large the “big blue wave” needs to be—in order to sweep the bad guys from power in the House. I don’t want to get into the numbers debate because I’m not that good with numbers. Suffice it to say here that the climb up is a steep one and the GOP has put many, many obstacles in the way—on purpose. Democrats have to fight like hell, fight like hell some more, and then end this election season fighting like hell in order to win control. It is that tough.

But let me get back to the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar. He started a discussion on Twitter related to the New York Times article (here’s Nate Silver’s take on it) that tangentially included the question I want to focus on, to wit: What would good-government Democrats actually do if the party overcame the odds and won back not only the House, but also a number of significant down-ballot races? Kraushaar wrote, sarcastically:

When Ds win back some state legislatures and governorships and draw lines to their own advantage, will be very interested to see if gerrymandering remains a cause celebre 🙂

In other words, should those of us who are now outraged at Republican gerrymandering turn around and, if we have the chance, do the same thing to Republicans?

You’re damn right we should.

If Democrats can get into a position to gerrymander districts in our favor, there is no question we should do so. We should take advantage of every victory. Republicans would do it, as the aftermath of the 2010 elections demonstrated. One of the reasons Democrats tend to get ass-whipped by the opposition, even after Related imageRepublicans cut rich people’s taxes (2001-2003) and then ruined the economy (2007-2008), is partly because people like Josh Kraushaar, wittingly or unwittingly, use our good-government sentiments against us. They try to make us feel guilty for bringing a knife to a knife fight, even as we demand no fight at all. Simply put, you have to defend yourself politically, if you are to not only survive, but thrive, in the kind of electoral environment that Republicans have shown they will create if given the chance. The fact that Democrats have to overwhelmingly outperform Republicans this November in order to just break even is a testament to how earnestly the GOP plays this game.

And until Republicans everywhere, in every state and at the national level, agree to independent redistricting commissions—which should be the goal of every democracy-loving, good-government citizen—then Democrats had better play the game the same damn way Republicans play it, just as Maryland Democrats did in 2011. As Martin O’Malley, who was governor of the state when Democrats played gerrymandering hardball, admitted in a deposition connected to Benisek v. Lamone :

Everyone was aware that I would be drawing those districts in a way that was more advantageous to our party, and that’s what I did.

That’s the attitude every Democrat should have until Republicans truly embrace democracy.

 

Stay Outraged At The Lies

“President [sic] Tr-mp boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was true.”

—Washington Post, 3/15/2018

You could say, as the Washington Post did in a headline, that “Tr-mp says he made up trade claim in meeting with Justin Trudeau.” Or you could put it like USA Today did in a headline, “Trump, on tape, admits making up trade facts in talks with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.” Or you could simply and honestly put it like Vox did in its headline this morning:

Caught lying about trade with Canada, Tr-mp tweets some new lies about trade with Canada

One would think that at this point all news outlets worth their weight in megabytes would prefer the honest approach and call Tr-mp’s lies lies. You know, like when he says, and keeps saying, that the U.S. has “a Trade Deficit with Canada” when we in fact have a $12 billion surplus.

But on we go. Some journalists, or their editors, still refuse to call lies lies. Others have, apparently, just come to accept the fact that “Tr-mp lying” is rather normal behavior and just not that shocking, not a big deal anymore. In a discussion on CNN this morning about the trade deficit lie, host John Berman asked Mark Preston, CNN’s Senior Political Analyst, this question: “When you brag about not knowing, brag about lying, what message does that send?” Here was Preston’s answer:

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: …I don’t find it egregious that he lied to the Prime Minister, in the sense that we know this now. The idea that we think that he’s not going to lie would be more of a story at this point.

Preston goes on to say that what he finds egregious is that Tr-mp would admit that he lied in front of a bunch of people at a non-public fundraiser.

That’s where we are. Some journalists (Preston did get some pushback from The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein during the segment) are correct in saying that the “news” these days would be if Tr-mp didn’t utter a lie every time he opens his mouth. But these jImage result for liarsournalists are wrong to say that we should essentially normalize such predictable lying. We absolutely can’t get used to the idea, no matter how often it happens, that being lied to by the man pretending to be the president is baked in the cake, that such lying is not an “egregious” act. We simply can’t let that happen.

CNN’s Mark Preston was right, of course, that Tr-mp’s willingness to admit, behind closed doors and to the ears of fat-cat donors and other cultists, that he lied to the leader of one of our closest allies is outrageous in and of itself. But we must never lose sight of or get accustomed to the fact that the original sin is and always has been this: the Electoral College installed a buffoonish pathological liar in the Whites’ House.

A Bad Hair Day

It was, of course, quite predictable.

After yesterday’s surprise announcement—that the world’s two most powerfully ridiculous haircuts would meet with each other somewhere, sometime, and for some reason—it was inevitable that talking heads on cable news and elsewhere would give Tr-mp credit for his “Call Him Rocket Man” bluster that, the argument goes, brought Kim Jong-un to the bargaining table.

Here’s a typical example of what I mean. This morning on CNN, host John Berman did a segment on the Tr-mp-Kim meeting, mentioning that “the administration wants to take credit for the North Korea summit.” Berman then quoted from Mike Pence’s fresh statement, which gave the broad-shouldered Tr-mp credit for his “strategy to isolate the Kim regime” and asserted that this amazing feat was accomplished “despite the United States making zero concessions.” Berman, who is normally a pretty good journalist, should have injected the obvious: the U.S. did give a concession, a big one. The idea that, say, Obama would have met with Kim in the way it appears Tr-mp will meet with him would have caused Republican heads to pop like cheap balloons. But Berman didn’t mention that it was a very big concession to normalize Kim with the highest-level-meeting possible. It apparently wasn’t on his mind.

Instead, the CNN host, who had already said something ridiculous, namely that “you may not think the North Korea meeting is good, but it’s an accomplishment, nonetheless,” continued by engaging one of his conservative-pundit guests, Matt Lewis, this way:

BERMAN: What the White House wants to do, though, is to suggest that [Tr-mp’s] rhetoric, the “fire and fury” rhetoric, you know, calling Kim Jong-un “fat,” that that’s part of it. Is it because of that, or in spite of that, though, Matt, that this is happening?

Okay. Here we go with the careful conservative spin, as opposed to the more outrageous conservative spin.

LEWIS: First I think, look, this thing, we don’t know how it’s gonna play out. And the fact is Donald Tr-mp is even meeting with Kim could—there’s an argument that it’s a bad idea, that it’s being done without preconditions, that it’s gonna be a propaganda coup, so, uh, but I don’t think that plays in Peoria. I think the average American is optimistic, hopeful. Maybe it’s the triumph of hope over experience but the average American I think does like this.

The idea that Matt Lewis, who used to write for one of the slimiest conservative rags around, The Daily Caller, knows what the “average American” thinks is one thing. But what made his take on all this so ridiculous is what he said after he spoke for average Americans:

So, I think it is good politics for Donald Tr-mp. The question is does he deserve credit for it? I think he actually might. Look, I don’t know what North Korea is up to here. Maybe they’re just buying time. Maybe they’re just trolling us. But there is a possibility that we have spooked them. Maybe they’re afraid of Donald Tr-mp.

That is pretty much what I have heard, in some form or another since last night.

Now, far from wanting to meet with Tr-mp because he’s afraid of him, it is infinitely more plausible that the reason Kim wants to meet with Tr-mp is because he has never kim and tr mp.jpgseen a Western “leader” so stupid and manipulable. One could argue that Kim senses that his best option right now is, before Mueller tries to take him away, to take advantage of Tr-mp’s pathological need to satiate his insatiable desire for attention and approval, which would come from such an unprecedented meeting. Kim in the meantime would not have to agree to anything verifiable, would buy more time for developing his nuclear capabilities, and would get what the North Korean himself seems to have a pathological need for: recognition as a genuine, world-class player.

Another more frightening possibility is that Tr-mp will get pushed into a corner by Kim’s refusal to de-nuke, and Tr-mp, then out of diplomatic options, would be made to look and, more important, feel weak, leaving his disturbed mind no option but to order a preemptive military strike that will start that part of the world on fire.

This is our existence these days, one in which two disturbed and disturbing people with strange heads get to meet together to determine the fate of millions, while host and pundits on TV talk of “accomplishments.”

 

 

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