Category Archives: Current Events

Monday Hot Takes!

*Omg, so excited about Prince Harry announcing he’s getting hitched to the absolutely fabulous Meghan Markle. Way to go, royal family!

*The Trump presidency continues shifting Foucaultian microtechnologies of power, including the reinforcement of select biopower apparatuses around immigration and race but, despite this, has thoroughly betrayed earlier promises to disrupt capitalism!

*Yes, it is a major bummer that the Magnificent Markle won’t be going by the title “Princess Meghan” (Is it because they think she’s black?), thereby ruining the theme of many a birthday party.  But at least the Windsor Castle clan can finally begin weeding out the hemophilia and polydactylism.

*The funny man from frigid Minnesota is in some serious hot water.  And we’re not talking about Lou Grant!  Serial molester/groper/tongue-down-your-mouther/sleep-therapist-from-Hell Al Franken resigned from the Senate last week after a cohort of his peers pressured him to step down.  Sadly, frothing, myopic Dems who value scoring political points and cocktail party Suart Smalley impersonations more than challenging America’s ingrained misogyny could not be consoled by the great equalizer: A Democratic Democratic governor is appointing Franken’s replacement, and a new election is nearly a year, so there’s plenty of time to install and establish a new incumbent in Minnesota, which hasn’t elected a Republican to statewide office in over a decade.  No matter . . . the party’s Kardashian wing values appearances over everything else, and is working fervently to remind each and every last American that so long as Franken didn’t rape and murder toddler cancer patients, he’s way, way better than Roy Moore!

*Hot Hollywood Rumor: Quentin Tarrantino is pitching an R-rated Start Trek film to franchise impresario J.J. Abrams, who’s excited about the idea, according to early reports.  Continue reading Monday Hot Takes!

Louis CK and Roy Moore Walk into a Bar

At first glance, the disparity is stark.  Over the past two months, a litany of powerful men have been accused of sexual assault. Yet reactions from their supporters have been very different.

By and large, Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have staunchly condemned all sexual predation, including predators with whom they are likelier to stand politically, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and most recently Louis CK.  Meanwhile, many Republicans have not only defended, but even embraced men who brag about being sexual predators (Donald Trump) or face very serious and well investigated accusations of criminal sexual behavior (Roy Moore).

It’s tempting to point out that the GOP has not simply lost the moral high ground, but has impatiently discarded it.  It’s tempting to proclaim that Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have remained true to their values in a way that many Conservatives seem unwilling or perhaps even unable to do.  It’s tempting to say that Democrats do not tolerate sexual predators, either within their own ranks or without, while Republicans have pioneered new heights in hypocrisy by readily condemning sexual predators outside their ranks, yet making every conceivable excuse for sexual predators within their ranks, right up to equating the sexual molestation of children with the parenting of Jesus Christ.

It is very tempting indeed. But yet, I wonder. Continue reading Louis CK and Roy Moore Walk into a Bar

Return of the Criminal Presidency

We are perhaps on the verge of witnessing, for the third time in 100 years, a U.S. presidency so corrupt that multiple high ranking members will be imprisoned.

In early 1919, former president Teddy Roosevelt was the early favorite to re-assume the Republican Party’s mantle for the 1920 election.  However, he died unexpectedly shortly before the campaign season began, and a crowded field of contenders soon emerged.

Warren G. Harding initially had little hope of winning, and entered the race mostly to bolster his control of Ohio politics; he was one of the state’s two U.S. senators and held sway over much of its corrupt machine.  But when party leaders could not agree on any of the front runners, the convention deadlocked.  They soon settled on Harding, in part because he was from a crucial swing state, and in part because he was relatively unknown and hadn’t offended many delegates.

The compromise candidate from Ohio went on to win a resounding victory, setting what was then a record by taking 61% of the popular vote.

Harding was generally well liked during his time in office as society settled down from the tumultuous effects of World War I and its immediate aftermath. It didn’t hurt that the economy also began to hum.  But he would serve just 2½ years, dying of a heart attack while visiting San Francisco in 1923.

At first, Harding’s premature death increased his already widespread popularity.  It was only after his passing that the litany corruption attached to his administration would become a salacious public debacle.

It turned out that family man Harding had kept at least two mistresses, including one who claimed he fathered her child.  But it was the criminal antics of his administration that would eventually lead Historians to rank Harding as one of the worst presidents ever.

The name that still rings a bell among some Americans who learned about it in high school is the Teapot Dome Scandal.  Interior Secretary Albert Fall took bribes totaling $400,000 (nearly $6 million in today’s money) from oil executives in return for awarding them leases to drill on public land in Wyoming and California.  Fall was convicted, fined, and became the first U.S. presidential cabinet member to do time; he was sentenced to a year, and served 9 months. Continue reading Return of the Criminal Presidency

How to be Racist in Today’s America

A new poll reveals that 55% of white people believe white people face discrimination in today’s America.

At first glance, this seems to set new records for irony.  A majority of white people are worried about racism against white people.  It’s hard to make that up.  But in fact, it’s not ironic at all.  It’s actually predictable.  And more than predictable, it’s a fundamental precondition for white racism to exist.

Why?  Because nobody wants to be the bad guy.  Nobody wants to be the villain.  Everyone wants to justify their beliefs and actions.  It’s human nature.

And so victimizers often cast themselves as victims.  And more subtly, those who profit from an unfair system paint themselves as the real losers in grand social equations.

That’s why open racists have long complained that they are on the short end, they are the ones suffering, they are the ones unfairly penalized by the very group they are oppressing.

Nazis blamed the Jews for ruining their economy.  Early Americans blamed the Indians for wasting valuable land and preventing hardworking Americans from using it properly.   Slave owners blamed slaves for being childlike incompetents who required white people to support them.  Nativists blamed poor, non-white immigrants (including even the Irish, who at one point weren’t considered “white”) for taking their jobs.

Now a majority of white Americans think they’re the real victims here.  It makes perfect sense.

Most people need to justify their ugliness.  That’s true of Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, men and women. Continue reading How to be Racist in Today’s America

The Crippling of Donald Trump

Factor 1: More than anything else in the world, more than having a happy marriage, more than raising healthy, well adjusted children, more than God, Mom, or Apple Pie, Donald J. Trump wants to be a WINNER.

Trump has always been hell bent on publicly proclaiming himself a winner. And for him, being a winner means not just being successful, but being the best.  Better than anyone and everything at whatever he does.

It’s not enough to be rich; he has to claim he has more money than he actually does (I’ve actually heard first hand stories about this from a former Forbes journalist).  It’s not enough to screw starlets and gold diggers; he has to “anonymously” phone the press so that everyone can know about it.  It’s not enough to host a long running, highly rated tv show; he has to claim its failure to win an emmy damaged the emmys’ credibility.  It’s not enough to win the presidency; he has to claim he won the popular vote because millions of people supposedly voted illegally, even though they didn’t.  It’s not enough to take the oath of office in front of the entire world; he has to claim more supporters showed up at his inauguration than for any other president, despite the all the aerial photographs revealing him to be a infantile liar.

He can’t help himself.  He must lie and lie and lie, exaggerating every legitimate success and adamantly denying anything remotely smelling of failure.

No wonder then that of all the many insults that Trump lobs like handfuls rice at a wedding, in his mind the biggest, baddest epithet he can hurl at someone is “Loser!”  Because losing is sad.

🙁 Continue reading The Crippling of Donald Trump

Shut Up, It’s the Flag!

I remember my 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Newman.

Not Ms., but Mrs.  Why?  Because things change.

Mrs. Newman was aware that things change, but she wasn’t always happy about it.  Take the National Anthem, for example.

One day she told us that she was raised to behave in a respectful manner when the National Anthem was played.  That meant, after it finished, you remained silent for a moment.

You most certainly did not yell and applaud as do modern sports fans at today’s arenas and stadiums.

That habit, of loudly celebrating the anthem after its completion, had already taken hold when Mrs. Newman schooled us on patriotic etiquette in 1980.  Such antics, she told us, were vulgar. Continue reading Shut Up, It’s the Flag!

Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, and America’s Quest for White Martyrs of Racial Violence

It began with Emmett Till.

He was a fourteen year old black boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1954 when two white men lynched him to death for whistling at a white woman.  That in itself, sadly, wasn’t so unusual.  Thousands of African Americans were lynched to death during the first half of the 20th century.  What was different about this particular lynching was his mother’s response.

Till’s mother demanded her son’s body be returned to Chicago instead of getting a quick burial in Mississippi. She then insisted upon an open-casket funeral so the world could see what they had done to her boy.  The black press covered the funeral as upwards of 50,000 mourners passed by the coffinJet magazine and The Chicago Defender newspaper published photos of his body, mutilated almost beyond recognition.  Afterwards, mainstream (white) national publications also ran the pictures and covered the story in depth, and Emmett Till entered the larger white consciousness as a martyr of racial violence.

Needless to say, there have been countless black (and Latinx and Indigenous and Asian) victims of racial violence in America over the last four centuries.  How many black people have been killed or maimed by whites for, essentially, being black? The number is impossible to know.  As an American historian, I suspect that tens of thousands would be an underestimate.  When considering the ravages of slavery and decades of subsequent lynch violence, the number could easily be in the hundreds of thousands.

Yet prior to Emmett Till, almost none of them ever entered white consciousness as martyrs.  Till became the first, the token black, the only one from among the countless thousands who most white people ever learned about in school or could cite by name.  That Slavery and Jim Crow repression wrought horrible violence was no secret.  But upon whom, specifically?

In the 1960s, Till was joined in this sad canon only by Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers (briefly), and Malcolm X (but only to a minority of whites).  However, with the death of King in 1968, white consciousness considered the civil rights era over, largely went into hiding on the issue of race, and stopped acknowledging new black martyrs of white racial violence.

Why? Continue reading Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, and America’s Quest for White Martyrs of Racial Violence

Man-Child Author of the Google Memo

I finally got around to actually reading the now-infamous internal Google memo about women in the workplace.  The first thing that strikes me is that The Atlantic is absolutely correct: The press coverage has largely been atrocious.  In fact, it’s the kind of thing that really gives the press a bad name.
 
In short, the memo is decidedly NOT an attack on diversity as so many outlets have erroneously reported.  Quite to the contrary, the memo’s author goes out of his way to say that he supports diversity in the work place and wants there to be more of it.  Shit, he even offers up a bunch of solutions to “reduce the gender gap” at Google.  Just read this quote from the memo and tell me it’s a “screed against diversity” like so many articles have claimed.
I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority.

But why let that stand in the way of lazy reporting and inflammatory headlines?

So what exactly is the problem with this this memo [full text here]?

The author, former Google Senior Software Engineer James Damore (he’s since been fired), goes off the rails with his explanations for why there isn’t enough gender diversity at Google specifically and in the computer world more generally.

He makes a series of sexist claims about how women are different from men, and in the process spouts a bunch of pseudo-scientific gibberish about biological determinism of the sexes.  Among other things, Damore states that women relative to men supposedly:

Continue reading Man-Child Author of the Google Memo

Interesting Times

I was wrong about Donald Trump winning the presidency.  Hell, I was one of those dopes who thought he wouldn’t even be able to get through the GOP primaries.  But at least one of my predictions did come true.

From day one, I told anyone who asked that a Trump presidency would be far more interesting than any other 2016 electoral scenario.  Indeed, a Trump presidency would be one of the most interesting political developments of the last hundred years, maybe of the next hundred.  And I’m afraid I was right.

After all, these are, if nothing else, interesting times.

There are many reasons to be deeply interested in the festering, moldy pyrotechnics of Trump’s amateur hour presidency.  There’s the sheer comedic value of watching him fumble and roar.  There’s the absolutely stunning, slow motion reshuffling of America’s role on the global stage.  There are the painful undulations and muted screams of a Republican Party unexpectedly confronting its own impotence in the hour of its great victory.  And there are all the things you were absolutely certain would happen that will not.

All of these funny, alarming, surreal shocks and many more cry out for explanation.  Anyone who’s paying attention desperately wants to understand just what the hell happening. Continue reading Interesting Times

This Populist Moment

Last week, Barack Obama got beaten up on social media and called out by the press for accepting a $400,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street firm Cantor and Fitzgerald.  It was the day’s major kerfuffle, the non-Trump story of the week, and reactions to it by many of my smart, well reasoned friends surprised me somewhat.

They began with the stance that it simply wasn’t an issue.  Obama’s a private citizen now, so who cares? But lots of people did care.  When the story picked up steam despite their protestations, my friends then blamed the loony left for fabricating the issue, launching a general assault on fringe elements of the Democratic party and a firm defense of sensible liberal or centrist (depending on the friend) outlooks.  But of course it wasn’t just the left.  The right predictably piled on as well, without any prompting from the left.  The story also transcended the partisan divide as the centrist press ran with it.  Christ, even the BBC, the vanilla pudding of international news, covered it.

In the end, the defense of Obama that gained the most traction among my friends, and to some degree in the national media, was a racial analysis.  Some claimed that this brouhaha was another example of white people shaming a black man for earning a paycheck, the imposition of a racial double standard since white politicians and ex-politicians do this kind of thing all time.

This needs to be reckoned with.  Obama was always held to a higher standard, precisely because he was black.  He was always subjected to intense racism.  And the racist backlash to his presidency, as much as anything else, helps explain Trump’s victory.  So was this just another example of that racial double standard?  It’s an important question to ask.

In the end, I don’t think it was.  Which is not to say that Obama is no longer subject to racism and double standards; he obviously is.  And those issues are still at play here, but I don’t believe they’re the driving force.  Because to mark race as the reason for a vast public outcry against his acceptance of money is to ignore the most salient point: where the money came from.

People are not upset that he made money.  Private citizen Obama collecting a $400,000 speaking fee doesn’t violate anyone’s principles, even racist assholes’.  Rather, the problem is that he very specifically took money from Wall Street.  The proof is clear: There wasn’t nearly as much griping when he signed a $20,000,000 book deal last month.

Why did that eight-figure windfall spark nowhere near the outrage this five-figure fee did?  Because no one’s worried that publishing money has corrupted Washington.  No one’s bitter about the book industry crippling the U.S. economy ten years ago, only to reap a massive bailout from taxpayers, and now running amok again.  And thus, virtually no criticism of twenty-million to publish what will probably be the kind of bland, self-serving memoir that every ex-president of late has authored.  But $400,000 from Wall Street is different, if for no other reason than the general public now views Wall Street differently than it used to.

Why did Obama take the speaking fee?  Should he have?  Should people be upset about it?  None of those questions interest me.   Rather, I believe the issue worth considering is: Why exactly did so many people get upset about it?

That question speaks to the current political moment, which Obama seems to have misread, much as the Democratic Party mainstream he represents has been doing for over a year now. Continue reading This Populist Moment