Sunday, February 19, 2017

12.9 - Why the resistance cannot be limited to targeting GOPpers

Why the resistance cannot be limited to targeting GOPpers

Oh, but then there are those who say "don't point out every lie because then saying 'lie' won't have an impact." They are wrong, as wrong as those who say we should stay off the streets. Not only because it means that you willingly allow most of the lies to pass unchallenged, but the fact is you want it to get to the point where "TheRump lied" or "the White House gangsters lied" is the default position, as evidence shows it should be. You want people to simply assume - as they should - that whatever comes out of the mouths of Spicer or Conartist or Miller or Bannon or TheRump himself or any of the rest of that collection of buffoons, bigots, and bozos is a lie or at minimum cannot be trusted.

One of the weapons against a tyrannical regime - which I do fear this could become, with senior advisors saying the powers of the president "will not be questioned" - is a realization by the mass of people that you can't trust any official word. So it should be here.

But even so, always, always, always, we have people afraid to challenge, afraid to protest or resist, not because they are afraid of personal consequences, but who are fearful of doing anything because "this could happen" or "what if that happens," that is, those who, because everything by the very nature of reality has a potential downside, analyze themselves into paralysis, incapable of resisting because every action could maybe, possibly, hypothetically, be a mistake or counterproductive or at least not achieve what you want. So they do nothing, at least nothing of consequence. They “resist” only up to the point where they must choose.

Thus we have even stalwart liberal icons like Elizabeth Warren voting to approve the notoriously unqualified Ben Carson to head the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development for fear that his replacement, should he be rejected, would be worse and yes she justified her vote in so many words.

And I guarantee you, I guarantee you, we will have Democrats refusing to filibuster Neil Gorsuch, even justifying a vote for him, on exactly that basis. "Omigod, the next one could be worse."

So we have to defy not only TheRump, not only the Rump-kissers, but also the Democrats, both those who will passively accept the installation of what can fairly be called an extreme right-wing regime for fear of the more extreme right-wing regime of their imaginations as well as those who delude themselves into thinking we should treat what is happening as normal, as the normal ebb and flow of politics, who refuse to face up to what is before us.

I've talked before - several times, in fact - about the Dems refusal to face their failings; last month I described how they were, to quote myself, "so determined to put the blame for their embarrassing failure in losing to the most unpopular major-party presidential candidate in US history on someone else that they would rather ignite a new cold war than look in the mirror."

I'm going to go off on something of a tangent here, but this is related and it's important.

In reporting last week on leaks about TheRump's phone conversation with Vladimir Putin, the Washington Post quotes foreign policy analysts as saying that while the Russian government is "enthusiastic" about some parts of TheRump's foreign policy, other parts are "non-starters" in Moscow and there is concern about his mercurial style.

The article quotes Alexey Makarkin, deputy director at the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow, as saying TheRump's unpredictability and even more his unilateralism are worrying to the Putin gang, and that the Kremlin has had those concerns about him since before the election.

A month ago, in the face of all the claims that during the campaign the Russians were all-out to elect TheRump, claims that became central to the Democrat-lead reemergence of the Cold War, we told you about analysis that said no, they weren't trying to help him win, they never expected him to win, rather, they were trying to make Clinton into a damaged and weakened president. What's more, they likely didn't want TheRump to win because what leaders of great powers want in their international affairs more than anything else is predictability - which is something TheRump does not offer.

Now that he is president, the Kremlin of course will try to take best advantage of that, but that has nothing to do with their original intent or desire.

The central tenet of the Democrats' cold-war chants is not that the Russians hacked the DNC and probably other places, which they certainly may well have done, but that they did it for the specific purpose of electing Donald TheRump either because (moderate version) he would be friendly to them or (extreme version) they could control him like a puppet, the latter a claim you are seeing on lefty sites, particularly those that claim to be progressive but actually are just maybe slightly more liberal Democratic Party stalwarts. That central tenet of the claims about why the Russians acted as they did simply does not stand up to analysis. It is pure assumption, based on nothing but faith.

Why that is important is because it is being used to make "Russian meddling in the election" a catch-all excuse to avoid any self-analysis within the institutional Democratic Party, which means within institutional liberalism while at the same time it is enabling the right wing which has long desired a return to the bad old days of being able to label every foe, foreign and often enough domestic, as part of a monolithic worldwide communist conspiracy.

That is an attitude, it seems, not entirely limited to the right: Just before I prepared this week's show I read a post on a lefty site frothing with anger over the revelations that some of TheRump's campaign aides had frequent contact with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign, a post which described those aides as, I'm quoting, "checking in with their KGB handlers," a statement made, as best as I can tell, quite seriously. The attitude is the same, only the politics of those being smeared varies.

But here's the real point I wanted to make in bringing up that post: How did the author propose we should respond to these revelations? By giving money to Democrats.

The anger expressed in the post is legitimate, even though this is not an area in which the US can claim any innocence, but saying the answer is "support Democrats" is stupid. Because if the Democratic Party does not take a good look at itself, if it does not reform itself, if it continues to hide behind "the Russian threat," if it does not embrace the kind of progressive ideas and energy that will not only excite the base but win back those who have been tricked by right-wing lies and misdirection, it will lose in 2018 and 2020 and beyond in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons it lost so badly in 2016.

So yes, demand investigations - demand independent investigations - of all the ethical scandals increasingly swirling around the White House. Yes, demand investigations of the contacts between TheRump aides and Russian intelligence, contacts which may have been criminal.

But do not for one minute, do not for one second, imagine that "vote for Democrats," as if this was just a passing phase that can be corrected next election, do not for one single instant think that is enough; because thinking it is, thinking what we now face can be corrected without an on-going in the streets, in the jails, in the trenches effort is delusional.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

12.8 - Update on the resistance

Update on the resistance

That just leads me, in a way, right into another thing I wanted to cover. I just wanted to spend some time going more into how the the resistance is alive and well into the continuing, active, and growing public resistance to the intensified evils we are facing as a nation.

Just consider some examples just from this month:

On February 2, a group of home health care workers staged a sit-in outside the office of Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch to protest against repeal of the Affordable Care Act and against the nomination of Tom Price to run the Department of Health and Human Services. Some 47 demonstrators were arrested for their nonviolent civil disobedience.

That same day, as TheRump attended the National Prayer Breakfast where he joked about Arnold Schwarzenegger's ratings on "The Apprentice" and in a jaw-dropping display of lack of self-awareness defended his bigoted refugee ban by saying "We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation," 200 or more evangelicals stood outside to protest the ban.

On February 3, a group of New Yorkers brought some wit to matters: They held a memorial for the victims of the non-existent Bowling Green massacre at a park in lower Manhattan called Bowling Green.

And it's not just activists: On February 3, the San Francisco Police Department suspended cooperation with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces over accusation of specifically targeting Arabs and Muslims and violating their First Amendment rights.

The next day, February 4, TheRump was at a charity event at his club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. About 3,000 people marched through the town to the gates of the event.

Again, it's not just activists: On February 6, in language almost never heard in the mass media, CBS News referred to various statements by TheRump as being "divorced from reality."

On February 10, there was the protest against Betsy DeVos that I mentioned earlier.

On February 11, 500 anti-choice twits turned out in Minneapolis to deny a woman's right to choose and attack Planned Parenthood - and 5000 were in the streets to support Planned Parenthood and to declare we will not go back.

On February 13, thousands of people from cities all over Wisconsin came to Milwaukee for a protest under the banner of "A Day Without Latinos" to protest TheRump and particularly David Clarke, the xenophobic sheriff of Milwaukee County.

February 16, the day I'm doing this, so I can't tell you how well it went, is to be a national "Day Without Immigrants" protest, as immigrants boycott their jobs, classes, and shopping.

And across much of this time there has been the work of an informal movement under the name Indivisible, which provides a handbook for guidance on how to influence Congress by constituent power rather than money power, a movement which already has lead to some raucous town hall meetings, often revolving around the threat of repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

And there is more to come. Activists are preparing for mass mobilizations across the coming months. I've mentioned some of these before, but I have more details and they bear repeating, anyway.

On April 15, tax day, there are already plans for nearly 60 Tax Marches across 28 states and the District of Columbia around a focus of demanding TheRump release his tax records. Nearly 90,000 people have so far pledged to attend one of those marches.

The March for Science, intended to show "widespread public support for the scientific method" and to protest "dangerous trends in the politicization of science" is planned for the Washington Mall on Earth Day, April 22 and has spawned over 100 satellite marches.

Just a week later, April 29, is the People's Climate March in DC. In 2014 the People's Climate March in New York City drew a crowd of over 300,000. There is a hope this one could be even bigger.

On May 6 there is to be an Immigrants March to "show the world" that "we are a nation of immigrants" and "we will not be intimidated." This march, too, will be in Washington, DC. Already 28,000 have said they will be there.

June 11 brings the National Pride March in DC and at least four other cities. 31,000 have committed to marching.

(In fairness, I will add there have been some pushback against this from groups already planning events for the day who fear the march will impact their own local events.)

Finally for now, around 4,000 juggalos, fans of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse, are expected to gather in DC on September 16 to protest against the FBI's classification of them as a "loosely organized hybrid gang" - whatever the hell that means - which has lead juggalos to experience discrimination, loss of jobs, and even loss of parental rights by virtue of being identified as fans of a certain type of music.

Is all this activity, present and future, having an effect? Yes, despite all attempts by the White House gangsters to proclaim the opposite.

One of the ways you can tell is the obvious one, the number of times that Congressional GOPpers have fled, dodged, or simply refused to hold town hall meetings because of the questions they face from constituents, questions they can't answer about why they are doing what they are doing instead of doing what they should be doing.

But a subtler way we can know we are having an impact is the fact that we are clearly driving the opponents nuts, seen in how they are flailing about, wildly attacking anybody or anything seen as challenging. When the GOPpers repeatedly swing for the fences, you know there is a measure of desperation involved.

One example would be wildly attacking protesters as being "paid" or "professional protesters," with Tennessee State Senator Paul Bailey, US Sens. Pat Toomey and Cory Gardner, presidential mouthpiece and Melissa McCarthy impersonator Sean Spicer, and most recently, Rep. Jason "Do Your Job" Chaffetz all making that lamest and most desperate of claims.

Oh, as a quick sidebar, after accusing participants in his town meeting of being paid protesters, Chaffetz has been getting invoices from constituents, demanding they be paid for their time to attend the meeting. A vital part of any resistance movement is creativity.

Another example of desperately swinging for the fence is wildly attacking the press, as TheRump claims any negative coverage of him is by definition "fake news" while deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka insists it's pretty much all "fake news" and Sen. Lamar Smith actually said on the floor of the Senate that people should get their news "straight from the president" because that's the only way to get "the unvarnished truth" while Kellyanne Conartist got all a-flutter because no media person has been fired for criticizing TheRump.

Then there is wildly attacking the courts after a judge dared to rule against TheRump over his bigoted travel ban. TheRump threw a tantrum, calling him a "so-called judge," a remark so over the top that even Neil Gorsuch called it "disheartening and demoralizing." The degree of frustration was inadvertently revealed by Stephen Miller, TheRump's senior policy director, who declared with all the gravitas he could muster while looking like someone trying to bluff their way through an oral exam in philosophy while seriously hung over that "that the powers of the president" on such matters "are very substantial and will not be questioned."

One of the people in that photo on the right margin - thank you, Crooks and Liars dot com for it - is Stephen Miller, TheRump's senior policy director; the other is Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister. See if you can tell which is which.

I can only imagine the furious frustration they are feeling now that not only has the Ninth Circuit upheld the suspension of the ban, but a federal district court in Virginia has blocked the ban from being implemented in that state

These reactions are not evidence of strength. These are not demonstrations of being in control, of being sure you have the whip hand. These are evidence of fear, of doubt, of wondering if your whole world will come crashing down. These are evidence of knowing you are just trying to bluff your way through. And even if TheRump himself actually believes everybody loves him, those around him know better.

And maybe, just maybe, The Great Orange One knows it, too, if only dimly. A recent New York Times report on the opening weeks of Trumpland, based on interviews with dozens of government officials, congressional aides, and former staffers, describes him as "a president determined to go big but increasingly frustrated" by his inability to contain the backlash.
Cloistered in the White House [the article says], he now has little access to his fans and supporters - an important source of feedback and validation - and feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests, one of the reasons he was forced to scrap a planned trip to Milwaukee last week. For a sense of what is happening outside, he watches cable, both at night and during the day.
Yes, the prospect of protests forced him to cancel a trip to Milwaukee. And when he went to the Philadelphia on January 26, he was met by 1000 protesters. When he went to the National Prayer Breakfast, 200 evangelicals protested outside. When he went to his private club in Mar-a-Lago, 3000 marched through town. I'm reminded that during the days of anti-Vietnam War protests, in order to avoid being faced with picket signs and chants, Lyndon Johnson was reduced to taking a helicopter from the White House to a military base, giving a speech, and helicoptering back. He couldn't show his face anywhere else without facing protests. So it should be with TheRump. Make him feel more "pinched." After all, he was always big on pinching, wasn't he?

The lesson here is don't back down, don't give up. I said before we have to pace ourselves, we have to have lives outside our - I emphasize altogether legitimate and justified - anger, fears, and frustrations. We are in this for the long haul and we run the risk of burnout if we don't take time to refresh and recharge.

And then there are those who say protests lose their effect or even help that they actually help the right by enabling TheRump's supporters to embrace that which they love so very much: the feeling that they are the real victims. But those who say in some form or another that we should stay out of the streets, or that we need at least to be extremely polite, extremely peaceful, extremely courteous, are wrong, as the history of resistance clearly shows.

We don't have to be violent, we should not be violent, and the brick-throwers and the car-burners acting out their macho fantasies of the revolution of their imaginations should be shunned. But what we can be, should be, is loud, raucous, insistent, persistent, irritating, interfering, impolite. There are honorable exceptions to that, as the history of the Quakers demonstrates, but even there the persistence, the willingness to be an irritant, and the preparedness to throw your spirit and even your body against the advance of the darkness are constants.

So it's true we shouldn't strive for constant mass demos, because that is emotionally and financially exhausting and so is unsustainable - another way in which we need to pace ourselves - but there should be a constant rumble of resistance, as there has been and I deeply hope will be.

Now, it's very likely the protests this spring will not come close to measuring up to the historic protests of January 21, and the right wing will - I guarantee - note the smaller size of those protests to claim that protests are, that resistance is, dying out or "losing steam" and use that as bogus "proof" that "people have gotten tired of this drumbeat of criticism and want to support El Leader, His High Orangeness."

The best response to that is simply don't stop. Keep going. Keep doing just what you would have done anyway. And call them out for their lies.

12.7 - Outrage of the Week: Glenn McCoy's racist cartoon

Outrage of the Week: Glenn McCoy's racist cartoon

Now for another of our regular features, this is the Outrage of the Week.

There certainly have been more than the usual assortment of outrages over the past couple of weeks, so much so that in context the one I'm going to address may seem a small one - but I chose it not only because it is so viscerally offensive but even more because it is also very representational of what we face.

On February 10, a small group of maybe 20 protesters was so intimidating to newly-crowned Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that she was deterred from entering a public school - you know, one of those of the type she wants to close and replace with taxpayer-funded corporate profit centers - a public school where she was going to make an appearance and she had to sneak into the building through a side door.

A right-wing editorial cartoonist by the name of Glenn McCoy was so struck by the manifest injustice of DeVos being inconvenienced that he produced the top cartoon on the right in response.

If you don't get what is so incredibly offensive about this, look at the second picture.

That picture is one of the best-known paintings of the 1960s. It's called "The Problem We All Live With" and was done in 1964 by Norman Rockwell. It's a depiction of the very real experience of Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African-American girl, on November 14, 1960, on her way to her first day at an all-white public school in New Orleans. Because of the threats and the violence directed against her because she was desegregating the school, she had to be escorted by four US marshals every day for the first year she went there.

Look at the two pictures together. Look at the comparison, look at the equation, McCoy is making. A billionaire white women, a member of a president's cabinet, facing 20 people with picket signs is just the same as a six-year-old black girl facing a screaming, threatening mob throwing things and shouting such obscenities that audio from the scene had to be masked in news coverage of the event.

The utter lack of understanding, the utter lack of awareness of the reality, still now, of racism, the utter gut-twisting, nauseating, cloistered stupidity of equating, again, a six-year-old black girl to a billionaire white woman - it's, I don't even know what to call it. Mind-boggling. Insane. Stupefying.

What makes this even worse, if that's possible, is that after being absolutely hammered on Twitter over this, McCoy doubled down on it, blathering that - you can almost hear the manufactured catch in his voice - "in this day and age, decades beyond the civil rights protests, it's sad that people are still being denied the right to speak freely or do their jobs or enter public buildings because others disagree with who they are or how they think."

In other words, he's saying it is the same. White billionaire cabinet member Betsy Devos is exactly analogous to black, six-year-old Ruby Bridges.

And notice the telling phrase "decades beyond the civil rights protests." Because, apparently, there are no more civil rights protests. "Civil rights? We dealt with that decades ago. Not a problem any more - except for discrimination against whites, of course, that's important." And yes, according to studies, they really do think that.

That's how the right-wing thinks. Punching down is no different from punching up. Protecting the perks of the powerful is as important as protecting the lives of the vulnerable. Inconveniencing the strong is every bit as bad as oppressing and exploiting the weak. And whites, not blacks, are now the real victims of discrimination because the right wing - which is overwhelmingly white - is always, always, always, "the real victim." That's how they think.

That is what we face. That is still, these decades later, "The Problem We All Live With." And it is still an outrage.

12.6 - RIP: Prof. Irwin Corey

RIP: Prof. Irwin Corey

Prof. Irwin Corey
And another RIP and I think a lot of you will not remember this guy in which case you missed out.

Irwin Corey, Prof. Irwin Corey, "The World's Foremost Authority," has died at the ripe old age of 102.

Irwin Corey was a stand-up comic and actor in a tailed dinner jacket, white sneakers, a string tie that often went down to his knees, and Bernie Sanders hair whose absent-minded professor persona would ad-lib streams of superficially coherent but actually nonsensical non-sequiturs that brilliantly satirized pomposity.

It was a delight to watch him work. If you've never seen him, check out this video of his only appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.

Another case of thanks for the smiles. RIP, Irwin Corey.

12.5 - RIP: Mary Tyler Moore

RIP: Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore
I have two brief RIPs.

The first is for Mary Tyler Moore, who has died at the age of 80. The immediate cause of death was heart failure, although she had suffered for years from type 1 diabetes.

Like most people, I expect I first became aware of her on the Dick Van Dyke Show, although I learned later I had seen her legs in the show Richard Diamond. If you don't get that, it's an age thing. Let it go.

What I remember most was the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which I used to think of as a guilty pleasure - it was, after all, one of a bazillion sitcoms of varying quality and I never saw anything odd about a single working woman. So it was only later that I recognized how groundbreaking the show actually way.

Anyway - thanks for the smiles. RIP, Mary Tyler Moore.

12.4 - Clown Award: Kellyanne Conartist

Clown Award: Kellyanne Conartist

Now for one of our regular features, this is the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

I thought about this one, but it's really just too outright silly for a Clown Award, but I'll tell you about it anyway.

On February 12, the Department of Education put up a tweet about black historian, sociologist, civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois - and misspelled his name (as "DeBois"). They put up a corrected tweet a few hours later, along with a note offering the department's "deepest apologizes."

Apparently, they are hard at work making sure Betsy DeVos will feel right at home.

But our winner - and I swear I really didn't want to go here but I just couldn't not do it - our winner of the Big Red Nose this week is that diva of double-talk, that ace of ass-hattery, White House adviser Kellyanne Conartist.

On February 13, after it was revealed that Michael Flynn had in fact discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before TheRump was inaugurated but before Flynn resigned, Conartist was asked on MSNBC if Flynn engaging in diplomatic conversations with Russia as a private citizen should be considered a firing offense.

Kellyanne Conartist
This was her answer:
You're asking me to answer hypotheticals and you're not looking at the other side, which is "What if it's not true?" I haven't heard that question at all. I only hear it in the negative context.
That has got to be the lamest, the stupidest, the most vapid "defense" of anyone I have ever heard in my life. It doesn't even make sense.

"Hey, you're suspected of shooting your neighbor's dog."
"Oh yeah? Well, what if I didn't do it? Why aren't you asking that, huh, huh?"

Because if there wasn't a reason to think you did it, there wouldn't be a question to ask!

Oh. My. Word. Kellyanne Conartist. What more can you say? Clown.

12.3 - Good News: Andrew Puzder out

Good News: Andrew Puzder out

On another bit of Good News, TheRump's nominee to head the department of labor, fast-food chain billionaire Andrew Puzder has pulled out after it became clear that the worker-hating Andy Putz, who opposes the minimum wage, overtime, and mandatory sick time allowances, has a history of ripping off his employees, and loves worker robots, was probably going to lose.

Some suggest the real reason for his inadequate support among the GOPpers was that he favors immigration reform but in a way, I don't care. He's gone, and that's a win and that's Good News.

12.2 - Good News: NCAA will extend ban on games in NC if HB2 is not repealed

Good News: NCAA will extend ban on games in NC if HB2 is not repealed

Related to that, you know about the infamous law in NC known as HB2, the so-called "bathroom bill" discriminating against transgender folks. You know about the boycotts and you may also know that despite promises to repeal or at least significantly amend the law, it still stands.

Well, if the law isn't repealed by the end of the month, the NCAA is going to extend its current one-year ban on scheduling NCAA championship games in NC for another four years. That's a potential 133 championship games that NC will lose because of its pig-headed bigotry.

What's more, the expectation is that if the NCAA acts, the ACC will follow. And so will countless amateur and youth sporting organizations.

I said a while back about this that I feel badly for the workers who will lose income because the boycotts, "but the fact is that bigotry must be made to pay a price if it is to be turned back. This is part of the price that must be paid."

12.1 - Good News: Boy Scouts accepting transgender boys

Good News: Boy Scouts accepting transgender boys

I want to start with two related bits of Good News.

Sometimes, progress comes in two-year jumps.

In 2013, the BSA lifted a ban on openly gay scouts.

In 2015, it lifted its ban on gay adult leaders.

And now, in 2017, the Boy Scouts has begun accepting transgender boys, declaring it will register youth based on the gender identity listed on their application rather than on their birth certificate.

And a bit of hope still sparkles.

What's Left #12

What's Left
for the week of February 16-22, 2017

This week:

Good News: Boy Scouts accepting transgender boys

Good News: NCAA will extend ban on games in NC if HB2 is not repealed

Good News: Andrew Puzder out

Clown Award: Kellyanne Conartist

RIP: Mary Tyler Moore

RIP: Irwin Corey

Outrage of the Week: Glenn McCoy's racist cartoon

Update on the resistance

Why the resistance cannot be limited to targeting GOPpers

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Just for the record

For no other reason than I wanted to post this somewhere, this is the text of a letter I sent to one of my senators, Elizabeth Warren, following her vote in committee to approve the nomination of Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I know it is from a couple of weeks ago, but I still wanted to post it.

January 27, 2017
This is a letter I never thought I would have to write.

I have read in full your defense of your vote to confirm Ben Carson. I am deeply disappointed in your vote and find your defense utterly unconvincing.

You say you have "serious, deep, profound concerns" about his total lack of relevant experience, a lack so great that he himself shared your concern in November. You reject the "outrageous things" he said on the campaign trail.

And then you vote to confirm him.

Why? Because, you say, "'the nominee I wanted' is not the test." That is evasive nonsense. The test is "Do I want this person to be in charge of this department?" And that is a test you utterly failed, because by voting "Yes" you answered that question "Yes."

Oh, but you say, you got him to make "written promises" and if he breaks them you "won't hesitate" to criticize him. And then what? What enforcement mechanisms do you imagine you will have? And what is it about voting "No" on his nomination that would have prevented you from making such criticisms?

But the worst of this is the excuse (and there is nothing better to call it) that, in effect, if you didn't agree to this one, the next one could be worse. ("If President Trump goes to his second choice, I don't think we will get another HUD nominee who will even make these promises – much less follow through on them.")

That is a stark example of what I have come to call preemptive capitulation, of giving up before the fight even starts. And no, for you the hearings were not the fight: The fight starts when a choice has to be made. And when it came time to make that choice, you simply folded.

I am embarrassed for you. I can only hope you will redeem yourself as events proceed.

Monday, February 06, 2017

11.3 - The Rules

The Rules

I think I talked about this once before on the show. I'm going to cover it again here because I think it is something which we can use to arm ourselves for the arguments to come with friends and co-workers and to inoculate ourselves against the flood of nonsense in which some will try to drown us - which is a really lovely mixed metaphor.

It is my list of "The Rules for Right-wingers."

At the start, you have to understand that there are two kinds of people populating the right-hand reaches of the American political spectrum. One is conservatives, here understood as people who have an ideology in which they believe but with who it is possible to have intelligent disagreement. I have had numerous exchanges with conservatives which were, most commonly, unproductive in the sense of either of us being convinced by the other or of finding significant grounds of agreement - but which nonetheless remained civil and even informative.

Those sorts of people are becoming harder and harder to find.

The other is the right-wing flakes, the right-wing nutcases, the wingnuts, or as I commonly abbreviate it, the wingers. They are almost the totality of the present right-wing and they make up almost the totality of the national Republican party and some among the Democrats. And they are the subject here.

For some time I had observed with varying degrees of annoyance and bemusement the predictable tactics of the wingers in debates - or rather, their tactics in avoiding actual debates. I put together a list of such tactics; actually, early on there were several versions of the list because, again, it was originally done rather light-heartedly or to be more honest snarkily.

But I came to a point where I realized I had had it. I even remember just what that point was, what brought it about, but I won't go into it here for the sake of time.

But at that point I realized I had had it with the evasions, the dodges, the schemes and slime that make up winger discussions. The list of "The Rules" went from being a snarky list to being a recital of wingnut tactics used on a regular basis to avoid actual, factual, engagement on issues and to substitute accusation and obfuscation for investigation and then ultimately to being what it is now: an indictment of the deceit and philosophical bankruptcy that defines the American right.

So here it is, the always-subject-to-expansion-or-refinement list of wingnut arguing tactics and operating procedures, as it stands now. The first dozen or so are essentially the original list from seven years ago at the point it went from snarky to serious, while the rest are listed simply in the order to which they got added.

Rule #1: Attack, attack, attack!
But don't forget to be deeply shocked and offended if anyone on the left responds in kind.

Rule #2: Deny, deny, deny!
Doesn't matter if it's something undeniable, deny it anyway.

Rule #3: When facts are beyond even your ability to deny, change the subject.
This can be done in various ways, for example:
- Introduce irrelevant details on a tangential point.
- Pluck out from what your opponent said an individual phrase you think you can attack, even if it's one that was just tossed out offhandedly, and treat that as if it's the focus of the entire discussion.
- More subtly, try to tie your opponent up in piles of minutia to the point where everyone, including your opponent, loses track of the thrust of their argument.
- Apply Rule #4, which we'll get to in just a moment.
Whenever possible, insist that your changed subject is the "real" one under discussion.

Rule #4: Issue a lengthy, ranting denunciation of "the left."
It should be of the form "What about [fill in the blank]," being sure to include the words "hypocrites" and/or "hypocrisy," thereby arguing that the left can't legitimately criticize the right (because any such criticism is hypocritical) while insisting that the right can continue to criticize the left. (Note: Where possible, include the phrase "you liberals" or better yet, "you libtards.")

Rule #5: Make the particular stand for the whole.
Find something offensive or silly some liberal or leftist, somewhere, sometime, said or did and label it as identifying the entire left half of the American political spectrum. Demand that your opponent spend their time denouncing that example rather than discussing the original topic. Because this making the ill behavior of one representative of an entire group is in a very real sense political form of racism, this is a rule that right-wingers find easy and natural to follow.

Rule #6: Never answer a question.
When faced with one, ignore it and respond with a question, preferably on a different point. If possible, the question should be accusatory, as per Rule #4. If you do not get an answer, repeat the question and loudly demand it be answered while continuing to ignore the original question you were asked. If you do get an answer, ignore it. If necessary, drop the matter without acknowledging having gotten a reply; if possible, repeat the question, insisting it has not been answered, even if it has.

Rule #7: No amount of proof is enough.
Demand every remotely questionable assertion by your opponent be proved in every conceivable detail, right down to dates, times, and places, complete with signed affidavits. Refer to all factual assertions by your opponents as "just your opinion" even if the level of proof you demanded is supplied.

Rule #8: Assert unsourced statistics and facts with great assurance.
Or, more appropriately these days, assert "alternative facts." Reply to requests for proof by saying some version of "You can look it up." You thereby demand that your opponents do the work of proving your argument for you.

Rule #9: Frame the debate in false choices.
For example, respond to objections to expanded NSA spying or bigotry against refugees with "Do you want the US to be attacked or not?"

Rule #10: Accuse the accuser.
If something you said is challenged as bigoted or otherwise wrongful, say "You're being intolerant!" or better yet, "You're the real racist!" Be sure to decry the "suppression" of your "free speech."

A variation of this could be called the "I'm rubber and you're glue" method: Insist, even in the absence of any foundation, that any criticism of your methods or tactics actually applies to your opponent. For example, if someone notes you're avoiding a debate, insist "You're the one who won't debate!" Faced with examples of right-wingers lying, reply "That fits you lefties to a T!"

Rule #11: When a claim of yours has been debunked, continue to use it nonetheless.
When it has been debunked so thoroughly and completely that continuing to use it is counterproductive, stop claiming it for a time, perhaps a few months, after which assert it again as if the debunking had never happened. The attempts to dismiss climate change have provided a good number of examples of this, with repeatedly debunked claims reappearing at almost regular intervals.

Rule #12: Never accept responsibility.
Whenever faced with the evil resulting from some other winger following or acting on your arguments, accuse those who point out that fact of "politicizing a tragedy." Never, never, never admit any responsibility for the meaning or impact of your own words. You want examples? Just check after any mass shooting when someone tries to raise the issue of there being too damn many guns. If you want a really clear example, look up Dr. George Tiller. Or, in fact, pretty much any bombing of an abortion clinic.

Rule #13: When all else has failed - and even when it hasn't - lie.
Recent days have seen a multitude of examples, from the size of inaugural crowds to Tuesday's claim by mouthpiece Sean Spicer that TheRump's immoral and unconstitutional travel ban isn't a travel ban even though both he and The Rump have called it a ban.

We could also include Rudy Giuliani claiming that when he said that TheRump asked him to find a way to legally bar Muslims from the US and he did it by making the issue "safety" instead of religion, that he didn't say that TheRump asked him to find a way to legally bar Muslims from the US and he did it by making the issue "safety" instead of religion.

Rule #14: Specifically for use on TV discussions: When you fear a contrary point may be raised, shout. If that contrary point is a good one, shout very loudly.

Your point may not get heard, but the point is, your opponent's surely will not.

Rule #15: Seize control of the Clock of History.
Choose the period of time most advantageous to your argument and insist that any event outside that time frame, either before it or after it, is irrelevant and must not be considered.

Rule #16: You can call this the "Both Sides Now" tactic.
If the behavior of some right-winger is so undeniably bad that it can't be explained away, airily dismiss it with "both sides do it." Freely employ false equivalencies such as, to cite one that actually happened, equating people wearing anti-war t-shirts to a George Bush campaign rally with people carrying loaded assault rifles to Obama appearances.

Rule #17: All debate stops when you win - and only when you win.
The first part of that is easily seen in the frequent cracks along the line of "you lost - get over it," and not just from wingnut trolls on comment threads: On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Fishface McConnell said it's time for Democrats "to get over the fact that they lost the election." But the second part of the rule is important and often overlooked: To the wingers, any issue, even any election, they haven't won can be argued in perpetuity and before you question the inclusion of election recall the last eight years of "Kenyan-borm Muslim" and TheRump's campaign strategy last fall of repeatedly saying the 2016 election was "rigged" so that if he lost he could claim Clinton was an illegitimate president.

But if you want a real example, consider gun control. In 2008, in the infamous Heller decision, the Supreme Court, for the first time in US history, held that owning a gun is an individual right. Even since then, the gun nuts - most of who overlap with the wingers - have been snickering "the Supreme Court has ruled. The debate is over."

The thing is, in ruling as it did, the Supreme Court rejected the central logic of US v. Miller, a 1939 case which until 2008 had been the controlling precedent. Miller held that for a weapon to have Constitutional protection, it must have some "reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia" and the right of possession was a collective one, not an individual one.

I'm not going to argue about gun control here. The point is, in the 69 years that Miller was the law, did you ever at any time, hear any gun nut, any NRA-type or worse yet Gun Owners of America-type, ever say even once say "the Supreme Court has ruled. The debate is over?"

Of course you didn't. Because the right wing only knows two responses to issues and events: it's "up for debate" and "we won, the debate is over, shut up."

But the winger patience for debate is extremely limited, which bring up next rule:

Rule #18: If you can't win by the rules, change them.
A great example of this is voter suppression. The right wing knows it can't win if the mass of the American public votes, so it has been engaged in a years-long effort to make it harder and harder for people they figure won't vote reactionary to vote at all.

Rule #19: Intellectual consistency and honesty are for wusses and losers.
Which in a way sums up the whole thing. For recent examples, we could consider Fishface McConnell whining and sniveling about how those mean ol' Democrats are going to oppose Neil Gorsuch - after having just some months ago said he would block even a hearing on Merrick Garland in the post-election lame duck session even if Clinton won the election - or the fact that John McCain immediately endorsed Gorsuch and said he is "looking forward to a vote" despite having said in October that the GOPpers would be "united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton would put up."

But you want an almost-too-good-to-be-true example? Late in evening of election day, 2012, it looked for a time that Obama might lose the popular vote to Witless Romney despite having won the electoral vote handily.

In response, TheRump went on a tweet rampage, calling the election "a total sham and a travesty" and the electoral college "a disaster for a democracy," because "He [that is, Obama] lost the popular vote and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!"

Fast forward to 2016 and - you know. You know all too well.

Finally for now, Rule #20: Sitzfleisch.
It's German for "sitting flesh" and it goes back to the days before chess clocks put time constraints on games and players would sometimes win games by simply taking so long to move that their opponent would either give up or become so tired from the wait that they would make foolish moves and lose. So more generally it can be taken to mean winning by virtue of sheer, unmitigated, stubbornness. The right wing is a past master of employing sitzfleisch. And frankly, this is one rule we should adopt and adapt because we need to be as persistent as they are stubborn.

Okay, so that's it for now. You might amuse yourself over the next weeks and months by listing which and how many of the rules get invoked whenever some winger opens their mouth. I already have a few examples for the next show.

Something I've mentioned before in posting and updating the rules is that I frankly expect many of us have at some time or another been guilty of one or more of these sins in the course of a debate, especially if it got heated. But occasional sins in the heat of the moment is not what this is about. This is about a consistent pattern by the right of evasion and deceit. It is being an intellectual coward. It is about being a bully. It is about being a liar.

It is about being an American rightwinger.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

11.2 - Celebrating resistance

Celebrating resistance

To celebrate resistance, let's start at the obvious place or rather time: January 21. The day of what may well have been the largest day of demonstrations in US history.

The current best guess is that over 4.1 million people hit the streets that day at some 653 events. There were actions in every single state of the union. In terms of absolute numbers, only the nationwide Vietnam Moratorium Day rallies on October 15, 1969, where total participation was estimated as at least two million and likely a good deal more, could hope to compete.

From over 700,000 in Washington, DC to 450,000 in New York City to another 450,000 in Los Angeles to 250,000 in Chicago to 175,000 in Boston to 150,000 in Denver, to 150,000 in San Francisco and another 100,000 across the bay in Oakland to 135,000 in Seattle;

to scores of thousands in Atlanta, scores of thousands in Philadelphia,

to tens of thousands in places like Austin and Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Hartford, Connecticut; Helena, Montana; Madison, Wisconsin; Miami, Florida; St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota;

to hundreds more places with thousands of participants or hundreds or scores or dozens or tens or even just a handful, but all out to speak with one intense, focused, even I could say joyful voice that what is before us will not go unchallenged.

Some among the organizers and even some at some local actions said these were not "anti-Trump" actions; in fact, some even insisted that were apolitical. But of course they were anti-Trump - yet in another and very important sense they were not. They rather were a mass embracing of and support for those things that are most at risk in the reality we face, things such as reproductive rights, the environment, racial justice, peace, the first amendment, the right to know, the needs of the poor and the struggling and the workers, our futures and those of our children.

Washington, DC, 1/21/17
Denver, CO, 1/21/17
The day was such a success that even the Sneerer-in-Chief could not find a way to mock it and his one attempt - "Why didn't these people vote?" - fell flat.

There were, of course, as there always will be, those who dismissed the 21st as just a big "feel good about yourself" party. But then they must have been - certainly should have been - astonished by the spontaneous outbreak of protests at airports around the country in the wake of TheRump's un-American order which no matter how they try to weasel and parse it, was clearly intended to single out Muslims from the Mideast as inherently suspicious and likely to be terrorists.

The result was dramatic as a wave of demonstrations, a wave so dramatic that even major media outlets were using terms like "explosion" and "eruption" to describe it, broke out.

On the minds of many was Martin Niemöller's famous poem. There are many versions but this is the best known:
First they came for the Jews - and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists - and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists - and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.
People stood in dozens of airports and turned out in the streets in numbers ranging from a dozen to over 10,000 in places from Boston to New York to Philadelphia to Washington, DC to San Francisco to Los Angeles to places you might not expect like Boise, Idaho and Ft. Worth, Texas to welcome immigrants and to say Not This Time. History will not repeat itself. Someone will speak out for you.

Boise Airport, Boise, Idaho
JFK Airport, New York City
Those actions were ethically linked to an earlier act of defiance, this one not in the streets but in the offices of mayors of American cities large and small, who reacted with outrage on January 25 after TheRump signed an executive order to cut off federal funding to municipalities that are "sanctuary cities," ones that do not fully and obediently cooperate with the demands of the deporters.

The defiant officials - from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, along with smaller cities such as New Haven, Syracuse, and Austin - said they were ready for a fight.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared "I want to be clear: We're going to stay a sanctuary city. There is no stranger among us."

Mayors Sam Liccardo of San Jose, Ed Lee of San Francisco, and Libby Schaaf of Oakland together declared that "We will not give in to threats or political grandstanding. The Bay Area will stay true to our values of inclusiveness, compassion and equality."

Perhaps most dramatically, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said "To anyone who feels threatened today, you are safe in Boston. If necessary, we will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone who's targeted unjustly."

Because Not. This. Time.

Other signs of the resistance keep popping up:

A woman living in Betsy DeVos's home town of Holland, Michigan put together a private Facebook page to call for a protest against her nomination. Word must have gotten out because a week later over 1500 protesters showed up.

When TheRump went to a GOPper meeting in Philadelphia on January 26, he was met with 1,000 protesters.

When TheRump moved to shut down the Twitter accounts of various federal agencies to hinder the flow of information to the public, individuals in at least eight of those agencies "went rogue" and set up private accounts to get around the order.

When TheRump announced his pick of Neil Gorsuch for SCOTUS, there were immediate protests at the Supreme Court building and other federal courthouses.

And it doesn't stop here. There is on-going organizing to pressure Congresscritters at their local offices, à la the Tea Party but this time for the light side of the force.

The organizers of the Women's March have a plan for having sort of not on the streets but still movement-building action every 10 days for the first 100 days of TheRump regime.

Speaking of 100 days, The Peoples Climate Movement is planning a "March for jobs, justice and the climate" in DC on Saturday, April 29 - which is the 100th day of TheRump-time.

Other groups are considering a DC march on April 15 related, obviously, to taxes and tax returns, specifically, TheRump's.

And there is even talk of a scientists' march on Washington to protest the rejection of science by the White House gangsters.

I"ll end with this: Some several years ago, William Rivers Pitt wrote that
We are down to the ethic of total opposition, and as lonely as that estate may be, it is what we have, and we owe it to those who have suffered beyond our comprehension to continue as we began.
Yes, we are today down to the ethic of total opposition and yes, we owe it to those who have and will suffer to continue on - but know this:

The resistance continues. It is alive and well and it even grows. They may be dark days ahead, but we as a people have not given up and we will not give up. So celebrate the undeniable fact that you are not alone - and carry it on.
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