Saturday, August 05, 2017

30.11 - Outrage of the Week: "Back to 1900"

Outrage of the Week: "Back to 1900"

This is our other regular feature and it is the Outrage of the Week.

Back in 1995, George Will, who isn't an intellectual but plays one on TV on behalf of the mouth-breathers of the right wing, wrote in his syndicated column that, quoting,
"'Back to 1900' is a serviceable summation of the conservatives' goal."
It appears that the the White House of Donald TheRump is taking that almost literally with its increasingly-obvious intent to roll back the social progress of decades. on a variety of fronts, trying to recreate a time that exists only in their fantasies.

There was, for one obvious example, the occasion the morning of July 26 when His High Orangeness tweeted that
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.
Okay, to start off with, the part about consultation is a blatant lie. Top military brass were blindsided by the announcement. They had no idea this was coming.

In fact, they are sufficiently against it or at least resistant to it that Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a note Thursday to all service chiefs, commanders, and enlisted military leaders saying that US policy on transgender individuals in the military "has not - and will not - change" until Secretary of War Mattis receives TheRump's policy direction and Mattis determines how to implement it.

And "disruption that transgender in the military would entail?" Is he really that disconnected from the real world, is he really that much wrapped up in his own fantasies that he doesn't even know that there are already transgender members of the military?

The number is unknown but a RAND study suggested there could be over 6000 and a study at UCLA estimated there are nearly 9000 on active duty with 6000 more in the guard and reserve.

The issue supposedly arose in the House a few weeks ago. An amendment was introduced to a defense authorization bill would ban funding for gender reassignment surgeries and treatments for transgender active-duty personnel. The GOPper leadership was shocked when a group of 24 mostly moderate Republicans teamed up with 190 Democrats to kill the effort.

So they turned to Trump for help getting this bill through. He didn't hesitate, in fact, he went further than they were looking for.

But claim the issue was about "cost" is belied first by the reality that the cost involved is estimated to be about $1.2 million per year, an amount the government could save if His High Orangeness skipped just one golf weekend.

And belied, more importantly, by comments on issue. GOPper Trent Franks, for one, said
It's not so much the transgender surgery issue as much as we continue to let the defense bill be the mule for all of these social experiments that the left wants to try to [foist] on government
It seems to me that if someone wants to come to the military, potentially risk their life to save the country, that they should probably decide whether they're a man or woman before they do that.
It's not about money or "social experiments." It's about fear and hatred of transgender folks.

But of course it's not only transgender folks on who the clock is to be turned back. The same day as the infamous tweet, the Department of Injustice submitted a brief in a federal lawsuit claiming that a major piece of civil rights legislation banning discrimination in employment based on sex doesn't protect homosexuals from workplace discrimination.

The law is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and besides sex, it bans discrimination based on race, color, national origin, or religion. The case is that of Zarda v. Altitude Express. The case started in 2010 when Donald Zarda sued his former employer, claiming he had been fired for being gay.

When the case got to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, the court invited outside parties to weigh in. Note well because it's important, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the largely autonomous federal agency that is charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws, had already filed a brief in support of Zarda and has held that position for several years, arguing that anti-gay discrimination is based on sex stereotyping, and therefore is discrimination on the basis of sex.

The DOJ of Jeff "I'm not a bigot, really I'm not" sessions didn't care. Despite not being a party to the case, despite the fact that the EEOC had already spoken, and despite the fact that the department doesn't normally weigh in on a case between private parties as this one is, they came storming in to say never mind what the EEOC says, they don't represent the government (even though that's their job). No, listen to us! And we say that Title VII only applies to cases where men and women are treated differently - which is the narrowest possible reading of the law - so it does not cover sexual orientation so Donald Zarda and every other gay or lesbian worker in the whole country is just screwed.

Because like George Will said, 1900.

The DOJ argued that the issue that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation has been "settled for decades" and there is an "overwhelming judicial consensus" apparently based on two cases from the 2000s and some others that were from before Lawrence v. Texas (which struck down state laws against sodomy in 2003) and Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized same-sex marriage in 2015). In other words, cases from the good old days. It also ignored the fact that in April, the 7th Circuit ruled in favor of a lesbian who made the same claim of protection under Title VII.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a staff attorney at Lambda Legal, said "There is no role for the DOJ to play" in the Zarda case and the Injustice Department was "going out of its way to harm LGBT people."

But LGBTQ people, of course are not the only ones standing between the hate-mongers and their dream of a purified white nation. There are also all those icky brown people, all those "illegal" human beings, those people whose existence is against the law.

I noted just two or three weeks ago that ICE agents, according to a directive from the head of its enforcement unit, are told to take action against any undocumented immigrant they encounter while on duty. Not that they "may" take action, which still allows for at least some degree of discretion, but that they "will" do so.

ICE is taking that to heart to the point where, as Splinter News put it, "ICE is just arresting everyone," a practice that prompted one ICE agent turned whistleblower to say "The plan is to take them back into custody, and then figure it out. We’re doing it because we can."

Here's an example: ICE recently announced that its officers arrested 650 people, including 38 minors, in a four-day operation in late July. But it turned out that over 450 of the people arrested - over 70% - weren't even the ones ICE was looking for in the first place. They just happened to be in the vicinity when the ICE-y cops showed up.

The goal here is simple: Label all undocumented immigrants as "animals," as "violent," as "criminals" (even though they commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born citizens), claim they all "go on welfare" (for which they are not eligible and never have been), and otherwise dehumanize them in any way you can and then you don't have to care who you deport as long as you can eject "foreigners," eject "them," eject "the other," eject the "not us," eject the "not white."

But then it develops that "the other" has an even wider application.

Right now, the US grants about 1 million green cards per year; a green card marks a grant of permanent legal residence in the United States. The number of green cards issued in a year is the measure of legal immigration. Over the past half century US immigration laws have permitted a growing number of immigrants to come to the country to work or join relatives already living here legally.

One August 2, TheRump endorsed a new Senate bill intended to cut that legal immigration in half.

Not only that, the bill also proposes to completely end a visa diversity lottery that has awarded 50,000 green cards a year - out of 14 million applications - which go mostly to areas in the world that traditionally do not have as many immigrants to the United States, such as, I would say significantly, Africa. And the bill caps refugee admissions at the heartless level of 50,000 per year.

Under the bill, a new immigration system would award points to green card applicants based on such factors as English ability, education levels, and job skills. Note that while a rudimentary command of English is needed to become a citizen, it has never been a requirement for a green card and this "new system" would favor English speakers over others, trying to create a de facto version of what the US has never had: an official language.

It also favors more educated applicants and those with specialized skills, leading to the ultimate point as noted by Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies. He called the bill "part of a broader strategy by this administration to rid the country of low-skilled immigrants they don't favor in favor of immigrants in their image."

And what is that image? Here's a way you can tell:

- The anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform said "it looks like the perfect bill."
- White nationalist William Johnson called it "a viable first step."
- Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute, said the bill "sounds awesome."

Know them by the company they keep.

Because when Sen. Tom Cotton, one of the bill's sponsors, said that while immigrant rights groups might view the current system as a "symbol of America's virtue and generosity," he sees it "as a symbol we're not committed to working-class Americans," I for one am damn sure that the "working-class American" he was envisioning was not named Jesus or Laticia.

Transgender people, gays and lesbians, undocumented immigrants, documented immigrants, all on the political chopping block for being "other," for being "not us," for being insufficiently - using the word here in a social rather than a literal sense - for being insufficiently white.

If rights must be denied, if families must be ripped apart, if dreams must be crushed, then in the minds of those harshly, cruelly, pursuing a nostalgia for a whiteness that never truly was and a national sense of commonality that existed only because of the oppression of other voices, so be it and you, back into the closet; you, back where you came from or at least back into the shadows; and you, you keep out.

It is a denial of who we are, a denial of who we have become, a denial of what we can be, a denial of what could in the best possible sense of the term be considered American. It is small, it is bigoted, it is a project of timorous, fearful people trembling in the face of the future, it is a project not bounded, not defined, by these examples but is illustrated by them and were it not driven by powerful people who fear the loss of their privilege, it would be an occasion for sorrow and pity.

But as it is driven by powerful people with positions and privileges to protect, it is a source not of pity but of outrage.

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