Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Eyes of the World Are Watching Now

It's been too long since I have written...and there are unfortunate reasons for this.  But I cannot be quiet about the events of this past week.  What happened in Charlottesville, VA was horrendous!  The actions of the white supremacists, the neo nazis, and the kkk--I am refusing to capitalize these names in an effort to diminish them--were shameful in any and every respect. They are terrorists, just like members/supporters of isis, al qaeda, boko haram, al-shabaab, and other groups and they are hypocrites when they claim they stand for Christianity and freedom.  No!  They stand for death and oppression.  Unfortunately, tRump has shown his true colors this week in showing himself as an ally to the voices of American hate--even the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner has had a hard time explaining tRump's weak reaction to the events.

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA


Saint Paul, MN

In reading about and seeing images and video clips of what happened last weekend and in the days following, I cannot help but be grateful that there were more counter protestors than racists on Saturday, that spontaneous vigils sprang up all over the country, that protesters disrupted and shut down one of the racist organizer's follow up press conference, and that business leaders and other public figures are denouncing tRump in force for his flaccid response to these hate groups. I grieve for all the injured and for the death of Heather Heyer, but I applaud her mother's prophesy that Alex Fields's cowardly running her down with his car will indeed magnify her commitment to social justice and compassion for the marginalized in our country.

I have been preparing to facilitate a book group this coming fall semester at Saint Martin's University, where I work, where we will read Trevor Noah's memoir, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood,and today I have been pulling together some resources for the group, including materials on the South African victory over Apartheid and their continuing struggle against hate.  I can never consider that history without thinking of Peter Gabriel's amazing tribute to Steven Biko, the courageous anti-Apartheid activist who was beaten to death while in police custody.

Steven Biko

 Below is a goose-bump inspiring performance of "Biko" in South Africa.

On June 18, 2011, I had the pleasure of attending Gabirel's concert at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City with my daughter and when he played this song at the end of the first set, I doubt there was one dry eye in the place.  I was so pleased to share that moment with my daughter and I was proud (I don't use that phrase too often) that she knew all the words and sang with the rest of us.

There are moments in "Biko" when any person with a conscience should get goosebumps and/or teary eyes, not least of which are when he sings the lines:
You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will only blow them higher
In South Africa, Biko's death along with the massacres at Sharpsville and Soweto were moments when the fire started.  In the US, incidents like the arrest of Rosa Parks, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Children's March in Alabama, the Selma Bridge, and later on the election of Shirley Chisholm, the beating of Rodney King, the election of Barak Obama, the terrible high-profile instances of police brutality, and other instances have all started fires.  Time will tell whether Charlottesville is a candle or a fire.  I hope it's an inferno.

San Diego, CA

The plight of persons of color in the US is a long dark history of brutality, violence, and exploitation.  We still have a long, long path before we see real social justice and equity in our country, but I think it's important to take a moment to acknowledge that the reaction to Charlottesville has offered hope.

Another important moment in Gabriel's song, though, comes at the end:
And they eyes of the world
Are watching now
Watching now
Gabriel has traditionally walked off the stage before this song ends, a gesture meant to remind us, the audience members, that it is our responsibility to fan the flames of equity and justice, to help burn down the houses of hate in our society and culture.

The eyes of the world really are watching.  Let's all grab a metaphorical torches and do a better job.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Shadows of Doubt

[Please excuse my absence last week...a death in the family occurred and we had to address that.]

In court cases, jurors are instructed to convict the defendant if they are convinced "beyond a shadow of doubt" of their guilt.  In the film (made from a play) 12 Angry Men, Henry Fonda's character has a shadow of a doubt and faces the wrath of the other eleven jurors, but convinces them through patience and logic to pass a verdict of "not guilty" on the young defendant being tried for murder.

Still from 12 Angry Men
Well, the jury is out on tRump's latest romp with his toys the other night when he ordered a missile attack on a Syrian military base in reaction to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons.  He said it was carried out both in the interest of national security and in defense of international treaties that ban using the chemical weapons that caused the horrible deaths of "beautiful babies"--the same one he refuses to let enter the country.

The Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, of course, is unconscionable and grossly immoral, but was tRump's reaction justified?

US politicians on both sides of the proverbial aisle seemed to trip over themselves to endorse the strike, including Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who said the attack "in Syria appears to be a proportional response to the [Assad] regime’s use of chemical weapons,”  but added this caution: “If the President intends to escalate the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria, he must come to Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force, which is tailored to meet the threat and prevent another open-ended war in the Middle East.”  Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responded unequivocally, “I think the president had the authority to do what he he did. And I’m glad he did it.”  Senator John McCain (R-AZ) also supported the action.  Laura Barron Lopez and Michael McAuliff, with the Huffington Post, reported that while legislators seem to approve of the action, they cannot seem to articulate the legal grounds for it.  Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) said he will  "let the international lawyers look at the details of how they view it,” while Senator Jon Testor (D-MT) was a bit more hesitant, “It can be argued on both sides...I think we need an [Authorization for the Use of Military Force] that actually addresses this issue. We don’t have one right now.”

This question of whether tRump's action was actually legal is also being contested in legal circles.  Harold Koh, a former State Department legal adviser and current Yale University law professor, seems to feel it was legally grounded, arguing that one key function of international law is to protect human rights, which were clearly violated in Assad's chemical attack.  Additionally, the attack does not imply that we are at war with Syria, “If this is a one-and-done, Congress isn’t going to challenge it.”  Others have argued that tRump's claim that the attack was carried out in the interest of national security rests on such a vague notion of the concept that it may be possible to justify almost any action taken for that stated reason as legal and constitutional.  Alex Emmons, with The Intercept, reported that the legal community is divided about the legality of the attack, with Constitutional, human rights, and international lawyers saying the attack had no legal basis.  Jack Goldsmith at the Harvard Law School claimed the attack “exceeds all prior precedents under domestic and international law.”  Louis Fisher with the Constitution Project concurred, “President Trump has no constitutional authority to unilaterally commit the nation to war against Syria.”  Hina Shamsi with the ACLU tweeted that the strike had “no legit[imate] domestic or international law basis.”  And Fionnuala Ni Aolain from the University of Minnesota Law School observed that the attack was “a slide into self-justificatory unilateralism by the United States [that] should not be celebrated nor validated.”

In looking at this incident, what emerges is several shadows of doubt surrounding this attack and tRump's actions have done nothing to ameliorate concerns about the right wing's self-stylized image of Amerika as "legal enforcer," which comes off as brash vigilantism to many others in the rest of the world.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay, public domain

Sunday, March 19, 2017

tRump's Contiunuing Nazi/Fascist Problem

Nazi/Fascists are like cockroaches: they stick around and around and around.

Image by chuckharding53 from Flickr, not used with permission

Well, tRump is either finding that out...or perhaps knew it all along.  As the tRump campaign machinery geared up in 2015, Business Insider reported that in a 1990 interview, Ivana Trump reported that her ex-husband kept a book of Hitler's speeches next to his bed, ostensibly to learn oratory.

Image by frankieleon from Flickr, CC BY
 Then there was tRump's association with and hiring of Steve Bannon, his reluctance to denounce David Duke and the the KKK, and his standing with Neo-Nazis.  All this could be dismissed as posturing and politicking, of course...though that argument rings hollower and hollower with time.  And then there's the bruhaha over Sebastian L. v. Gorka.

Image from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
Newsweek called Gorka a "second-tier White House foreign policy advisor" who has managed to make a name for himself and get more "facetime" in the media than others in his position in the past.  Gorka is a former employee of Bannon's at Breitbart, a notoriously right-wing so-called news source.  In right-wing circles, Gorka has achieved a reputation as an expert on Middle-Eastern terrorism, despite the fact that he does not speak Arabic and has not studied in the Middle-East, as reported by  Daniel Nexon in a column on the Foreign Policy website.   Nexon, an associate professor in the Department of Governement and  Foreign Service at Georgetown University, offered a critique of Gorka's academic credentials, noting that he is not very well-known in academic circles on terrorism, having only one peer-reviewed article to his credit and his PhD dissertation advisor at Corvinus University in Hungary has expertise in neither national security nor terrorism.

Recently, however, Gorka has been called into the spotlight for something a bit more sinister.  A Jewish publication out of New York, Forward, recently reported that Gorka is associated with Vitezi Rend, a group that collaborated with the Nazis during WWII.  Several pictures have been posted of Gorka wearing a medal from the group.

Gorka at an inauguration ball, with the medal pinned to his traditional Hungarian jacket; image from US Uncut

 A still from an episode of Fox News's Sean Hanity show; image from the Times of Israel
According to a short history on Vitezi Rend, the organization is a nationalist entity formed in 1920 after Hungary fought a series of post-WWI conflicts with Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania, as well as fending off a communist revolution--incidentally, the website claims that this revolution "introduced Hungary to the phenomenon of class warfare," a rather audacious claim for a former imperial seat.  Furthermore, the history claims that France and Great Britain backed the Czechs, Yugoslavians, and Romanians, a claim that echoes Nazi sentiments for whipping up their supporters during WWII.  Vitezi Rend can be translated as Order of Knights/Heroes/the Valiant and members were distinguished veterans who were given land claims and inheritable titles signified by appending a "v" before their last names...such as v. Gorka.  When the Soviet Union occupied Hungary after the Second World War, the organization was declared Fascist and outlawed.

The Newsweek article noted the US Memorial Holocaust Museum's claimed that during the war, Vitezi Rend members under the direction of the nationalist, Miklos Horthy, functioned much like the infamous Nazi Einsatzgruppen, paramilitary groups that murdered Jews throughout Eastern Europe and rounded up Jews for deportation to the concentration camps.
Hitler’s chief deportations expert, S.S. Lt. Colonel Adolf Eichmann, "was surprised at how actively and enthusiastically Hungarian authorities collaborated to achieve what was clearly a common purpose...initiating many anti-Jewish measures on their own.”
Nexon noted several strains in Gorka's dissertation that should raise concern.  Gorka claimed that the modern state is not equipped to deal with the threat posed by al Qaeda (it is not a big stretch to insert ISIS at this point) and that
...the ideal solution would involve a tightly integrated supranational security apparatus, but since "we are unable for various reasons (foremostly political) to create supranational solutions," the only viable alternative is for states to develop a "unified multi-agency approach" [that] involves getting rid of the "internal barriers between the police force, the army and various intelligence services," although Gorka implies that constitutional barriers might pose a problem.
Considering the almost seamless integration between the SS and the Gestapo in Nazi Germany, Gorka's claim is chilling.  He essentially called for a totalitarian state that makes war not only on "external enemies," but also its own population.

A 1941 Nazi propaganda poster that translates as, "Day of the German Police"; image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain
In his defense, Gorka said he wears the medal as a tribute to his father, but the group (as reported in the Forward article) claims that the son is also a life-long member.  Gorka himself told Tablet Magazine that he is not a sworn member of Vitezi Rend.  However, Larry Cohler-Esses, the writer of the Forward piece told Amy Goodwin on Democracy Now! that he was told by three sources in Vitezi Rend that Gorka had been inducted into the organization:
Well, the Vitézi Rend has some pretty firm rules. You do not get to wear the medal and use the "v" initial unless you join. And joining involves taking a lifelong oath, a oath of fealty to the organization and its principles and to Hungarian nationalism, which the organization is steeped in. We spoke with a senior member of the group, who took note of the "v" that he used both on his doctoral dissertation in Hungary and when he testified before Congress. And he said, "Of course. No 'v' without the oath." So, under these terms of the organization, if he was trying to honor his father, he was dishonoring the rules of the organization that his father was honored by. And I cannot read his mind. I was not in Hungary. But we then found three separate sources in the organization who said he did take the oath, he was initiated in the formal initiation ceremony into the organization.
Goodman noted that David Duke tried to defend Gorka, tweeting "How is Sebastian Gorka a 'Nazi'? The man is not only pro-[Israel], he is also pro-Jewish. Strange time to be alive–(((they’ve))) truly lost it."  Too bad for Duke that his protestation that Gorka is not antisemitic because he is pro-Israel ignores the fact that the concept of "Semite" includes Arabs as well as Jews (see the entry for Semites in the Encyclopedia Judaica).

I wonder whether Gorka also has a copy of Hitler speeches on his night stand.  I'll bet he either has a copy in his library or a bookmark on Chrome.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Concise Definition of an "Uncle Tom": Ben Carson

Image from
“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity.  There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.” (from

Image from

Either Ben Carson put a wire in his head and scrambled his own brains or he doesn't seem to have learned anything in history class or from his grandparents...or maybe he's just satisfied with the really strange bone tRump threw him.  Anybody out there know what's going on in Uncle Tom's cranial cavity?  Something's supposed to be in there, right?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Red Herrings and Injustice

While the Russia connection with the tRump campaign is deeply disturbing and disconcerting and his off-the-chain claims about Obama wire tapping tRump Tower are problematic, I wonder if we are falling for the showman's tricks again...petulantly thrown out red herrings.  If they are not his red herrings, then those around them are using his verbal fertilizer that way.

Image by Durova from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
With all the bluster about Putin, Russia, and tRump's possible/probable paranoia, I'm concerned about some of the behind-the-curtain shenanigans and what they could mean for our future.

Image from Pintrest
This week some of the tRump administration's plans for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to light and one of the most heinous revelations is that the administration wants to cut the budget by 24% and staffing by 20%, which includes eliminating the office for environmental justice, which means that environmental racism will be even more unchecked.  For those who may not be familiar with the term--it is not a high traffic term--environmental justice is defined by the office itself as:
...the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Environmental racism refers to the to the fact that marginalized communities comprised of people of color are frequently exposed to much higher levels of pollution, thus exposed to much higher risk than predominantly white communities.  The Goldman Environmental Fund noted that race
...plays a determining role in environmental policies regarding land use, zoning and regulations. As a result, African American, Latino, indigenous and low-income communities are more likely to live next to a coal-fired power plant, landfill, refinery or other highly polluting facility. These communities bear a disproportionate burden of toxic contamination as a result of pollution in and around their neighborhoods. Moreover, these communities have historically had a diminished response capacity to fight back against such policies.
Image by Alfred Palmer from Wikimedia Commons, public domain
One of the most recent devastating examples of environmental racism has been the Flint, MI water crisis.  In this case, the choice to switch the city water supply to the Flint River was pitched as a cost-saving measure, but it was a case of environmental classism and racism because Flint is a very poor city with a high population of people of color.  In a 2016 story for The New York Times, John Eligon starts with an inescapable question: "If Flint were rich and mostly white, would Michigan’s state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water?"  The thousands of emails released about the water crisis show that the population of the city was less important that cost-cutting and so they were deemed to be functionally dispensable, even though race was not explicitly mentioned.  Eligon observed that
Environmental decisions are often related to political power. In some cities, garbage incinerators have been built in African-American neighborhoods that do not have the political clout to block them. In Michigan, where blacks are 14 percent of the population and the state government is dominated by Republicans, Flint has little political power.
 So, while the Flint crisis may not have been an overt gesture of environmental racism, it is an example of systemic or institutional racism, a manifestation of Whiteness.  The dangerous nature of the water was well known, indeed, "years ago ]the river[ was a repository for industrial waste from the city’s once booming, now almost extinct, factories," Eligon wrote, but the people of flint were all but invisible to the state.

Ruth Frankenberg wrote that Whiteness is a "'stand point,' a place from which White people look at ourselves, at others, and at society" and is "a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed" (as cited in DiAngelo, 2011, p. 56).*  DiAngelo expounds on this point when she observed that
Whiteness is thus conceptualized as a constellation of processes and practices [that are] dynamic, relational, and operating at all times on a myriad of levels.  These processes and practices include basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives and experiences purportedly to be commonly shared by all but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people. (p. 56)
Whiteness is largely invisible to those who benefit from it and thus makes very little sense to them when learning of it, but it can have very real and even drastic effects on people of color.  In the case of Flint, the environmental racism manifested itself in that decision makers completely ignored the health risk for the sake of finances.  Profits over people.

A young woman in Louisiana's Cancer Alley, image from Pintrest
Another maddeningly tragic example is Louisiana's infamous Cancer alley on the Delta, where largely African-American communities are constantly exposed to carcinogens from "over 150 petrol companies and 17 refineries," according to a 2015 article on The IND Monthly website, leading to unusually high rates of cancer in an 85 mile stretch aling the Mississippi River.  (For a fuller description of Cancer Alley and other instances of environmental racism, see Dr. Robert Ballard's Dumping in Dixie.)

If tRump's proposed cuts to the EPA hold up, there are sure to be at least dozens of more Flints and Cancer Alleys in our future.

* DiAngelo, R.  (2011).  White fragility.  International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 54-70.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Today's Word: Anachronism, or History -2.0

Betsy De Vos.  It would be nice if we could laugh at her foibles without anvils falling on our toes.  But alas, we cannot.  Yesterday, she gave a wonderful example of an ANACHRONISM when, at a White House luncheon with leaders of  historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), she showed an amazing lack of historical understanding and a gaudy lack of empathy.
Betsy DeVos,  image from
In that meeting, and in a statement published on the US Department of Education's website, she claimed that HBCUs are "real pioneers when it comes to school choice."  Here is a screen shot of the paragraph from the website...never know when it will be taken down:

Usually, anachronism occurs when we recognize language or ideas that are "old fashioned" in contemporary discourse or situations.  In DeVos's case, however, the poles have been switched.  She applied a contemporary idea to the past in a way that only highlights her amazing lack of qualification for her position.  Yes, HBCUs have been very effective educational institutions for African-Americans...better than other institutions who are not historically black.

The Educational Trust, a Washington D.C. non-profit organization that advocates for education issues, published a report today, entitled "A Look at Black Student Success: Identifying Top- and Bottom-Performing Institutions."  The authors note that while graduation rates at HBCUs vary and are low enough for concern (reflecting concerns of non-HBCU schools), they are better at serving the needs of black students from low-income families, graduating 37.8% of these students compared to 32% at other institutions (p. 7).  Over all African-American and Native-American students have the lowest graduation rates of each of the racial categories used by the US Department of education at 40.9% and 41% respectively (p. 1).

So, the two racial and ethnic groups in the United States who have endured the most violence and degradation, or maybe the most programmatic violence and degradation might be a bit more accurate, have the lowest graduation rates.  Coincidence?  Probably not.

If we think of this historically, it makes better sense.  For African slaves and the generations that followed them, their "place" was the lowest possible place on the proverbial ladder--in some cases, Southern plantation owners openly valued their horses over their slaves.  Native Americans were on the same level, by the way.  Once slavery was outlawed, African Americans (particularly in the South) had to figure out a new place for themselves economically and socially.  Legally, they were no longer property and were given a small degree of agency in their own lives and the lives of their families.  They knew the value of reading and writing--it is very worth the time to look at Frederick Douglass's account of how he learned to read and write--but, of course, white schools, colleges, and universities were almost universally closed to people of color (even up to the 1960s).  This lack of systemic educational opportunities kept them at the very margins of society, kept them from productively participating in the the social and economic system they had been born into.  So what did African Americans have to do?  Found their own schools, colleges, and universities...the HBCUs.  For African-Americans, creating their own schools was NOT a matter of CHOICE, but a matter of ADAPTATION and SURVIVAL.  (Native Americans had schools funded by public money, but their whole purpose was to drive the "native" out of them...another rather dismal story.)

A class at Hampton Institute (now University) in Virginia, image from Wikimedia Commons
Coming back to Betsy DeVos's statement, to equate HBCUs with school choice is ludicrous.  Few African and Native Americans had any choice at all.  For many years, a smart articulate African-American young woman in the Washington D.C. area could not ask herself, "Should I go to Georgetown or Howard?"  Georgetown was simply not an option, so, if she was to more fully participate in economic and social relationships, she had to go to Howard--which is a well-respected HBCU.  The school choice movement (problematic as it is) holds that parents should be able to choose among several educational options for their children, but for most of our nation's history the idea of choice for African and Native Americans has been an insanely cruel "useful myth" for white men and women to maintain their sense of power and privilege.  Even today, "choice" for African and Native Americans is a far more complicated issue than it is for white middle-class Americans.

DeVos's statement betrays a PROFOUND LACK of understanding, both of history and of education.  She showed, again, just how unqualified she is to lead the Department of Education.  To her credit, the day after she made this ridiculous claim, in response to severe criticism she has backpedaled a bit.  The point is, though, she should not have pedaled there in the first place.

NOTE: This is a shorter version than the original post.  Cleaned up clutter and a half-developed direction.

Friday, February 24, 2017


Today's vocabulary is oxymoron, which occurs when we put two words together that seem to contradict one another, e.g. "The tRump administration is a 'fine-tuned machine.'"

Well, today's entry in the tRumpsicon is probably more technically a case of contradiction, than an oxymoron...but the moron aspect can't be ignored.

During the Adolescent-in-Chief's low-cost reality show, a.k.a. campaign, he boasted about deportations.  Lots of deportations.  Yuge numbers of deportations.  A week after the election, while he was still in victory-lap mode, he announced a goal to deport two to three million people, stipulating that he would concentrate on those "that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers" (I suppose his rapists were implied in there, somehow).  Administrative actions since then have underscored this claim, from high-profile ICE raids in major cities (as opposed to lower-profile raids under the Obama Administration) to newly-announced loosening of policies under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and "tripling the number of removal agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, by adding 10,000 agents."

According to a column by Dara Lind at Vox, the head of the DHS, John Kelly, issued memos that pave the way for broader detention and deportation of undocumented persons in the US.
Kelly’s memos direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to treat most unauthorized immigrants currently in the US as “priorities” for deportation. They direct the government to dramatically increase its capacity to detain immigrants, and dictate that it should detain nearly all immigrants caught near the US border. They instruct ICE to work aggressively deputize local law enforcement agents to arrest unauthorized immigrants. And they make it much easier to deport children who come to the US alone to reunite with their parents — and the parents they’re reuniting with.
She notes that these memos were drafts and subject to review, but doubts that they will change much in later versions.  They are likely to continue to call for strengthening the tRump administration's "massive immigration 'machine'" which will be expected to "have nearly free rein to arrest, detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants wherever it finds them."

In yesterday's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), tRump's chief chief strategist, Steve "I look like Goering, but think like Goebels" Bannon, added weight to these concerns by claiming, "All [tRump is] doing right now is he laid out the agenda with the promises that he made [on the campaign trail]...He's maniacally focused on that."  An adjective like maniacally when applied to tRump is disconcerting, indeed, especially when on the same day he characterized his plans as a "military operation."

ICE agents in their militarized regalia.  from:

And yet, on the same day in Mexico City, the same John Kelly who issued the DHS memos, assured the Mexican public that there would be "no 'mass deportations'" and that there would be "No, repeat, no use of military force in immigration operations.  None." Of course the always-good-for-a-cringe Sean Spicer tried to pitch tRump's use of military operation as metaphorical.  Yet, at this point, Spicer and the boys have played the outrage card often enough that they might as well be saying, "Wolf!"  So it's an operation being carried out by a militarized law enforcement agency but not a military operation?

Now, in all fairness in Obama's eight years, he deported millions of people as well, with numbers ranging from 2.5 million to 3.1 million, compared George W. Bush's "just over to 2 million," according to; so tRump's claim is actually rather consistent with recent precedent.  Incidentally, Snopes also reports that between 1892 and 1997, the US deported 2.1 million people, so the last two presidents have at least doubled that number in sixteen years.  The new DHS policies, however, weaken a number of guidelines that were put in place by Obama and open the door for more deportations.

In any case, yesterday's messages were contradictory...and oxymoronic.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Chilling Vocabulary, part 2

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's infamous Executive Order 9066, the document that lead to the internment of around 120,000 persons of Japanese descent, more than half of which (70,000) were American citizens--as well as some Germans and Italians.  If the tRump administration has its way, something like this may happen again.

Image from the Library of Congress, public domaim
The internment of Japanese Americans has taken its place as one of the low points in American history and culture.  Above is a photograph of a processing station at the Santa Anita Race Track in Los Angeles, CA, just east of Pasadena.  This morning, George Takei, famous for his portrayal of Lt. Sulu in the Star Trek TV series and subsequent films and also for his vigorous activist efforts for the gay community and other causes, spoke on Democracy Now! about his childhood in the camps.

As a matter of fact, his family was processed and held at the Santa Anita Race Track.  In the interview, he recalled being woken up by his parents and then his family of five being forced at gunpoint from their two-bedroom home.
Well, we were first taken to the horse stables at Santa Anita race track. We were taken there in a truck with other families that had been rounded up. And there, they herded us over to the stable area, and each family was assigned a horse stall, still pungent with the stink of horse manure, to sleep in. For my parents, it was a degrading, humiliating experience to take their three children and arrange the cots for us to sleep in.
He noted that for him, at five years old, it seemed like a kind of adventure at first.  That wore off, though.  It is bad enough that this whole episode even took place, but what makes this anniversary even more problematic is the fact that the Japanese internment camps have been cited by tRump and Co. as justification for their proposed measures against Muslims in the US.  In the video clip above, starting at the 1:18 mark is a clip of then-candidate tRump defending his proposed ban specifically citing FDR's actions as a president.  Shortly thereafter, a tRump surrogate, Carl Higbe, used the same kind of language on Fox News.

Several days later, he tried to walk back the language of his original statement without denying the proposed action of keeping a Muslim registry nor denying the slippery slope between that action and camps.

This slippery slope showed up again and was called out on Democracy Now! earlier this month when the tRump administration announced plans to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, a practice of the Nazi regime used as a prelude to the Konzentationslagern.

What might be more disturbing is the fact that in the US, such lists were also published.  Andrea Pitzer, an independent journalist, spoke about a similar American practice around the same time.
So this preoccupation with focusing in on one subset of the population’s crimes and then depicting that as somehow depraved and abnormal from the main population is something we’ve seen quite a bit in the past, even in the U.S. Before Japanese-American internment, you had newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle running about the unassimilability of the Japanese immigrants and also the crime tendencies and depravities they had, which were distinguished from the main American population.  (from the Democracy Now! interview transcript)
 Between the last post and this one, I have tried to show that American concentration camps--whether we call them internment camps, detention centers, or, in the case of Guantanamo Bay, prisons--are a real part of our national culture that must be challenged.  They run inherently counter to the best principles of our country.  Takei pointed out in his Democracy Now! interview that the invoking of these strategies and this history is calculated to create fear to mobilize support or action...psychological terrorism.
Well, on so many issues, not just the Muslim travel ban, but issue after issue has been a failure...You know, the real terrorist is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the terrorist president of the United States.  (from the interview transcript)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chilling Vocabulary

Today's vocabulary word is Konzentrationslager.  Yes, it is German and if you do not already know it, here is a visual cue:

Image published by Museon in Europeana, CC BY-SA
tRump's recent immigrant round ups have necessitated a resurrection of the term.  Actually, that is only a partial-truth since the Adolescent-in-Chief can only work with the infrastructure he inherited, which is nothing short of inhumane.

A post on this week shows images of amerikanishe Konzentrationslagern (KZ Lager, as they were called) which are likely being used right now, or similar ones, in the wake of last weekend's round up of undocumented immigrants.  Here's the lead image in the story: 
This image of detained mothers and children was released by Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar.  Maybe this is only slightly less disturbing than ones from a different era in which a "strong" leader promised to put the needs of his country first and to get tough on immigrants and undesirables:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Oh, I should point out that Cuellar's image was not published this past week after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) raids were carried out under tRump's command.  His image was published in 2014, during the Obama Administration, so the stench of these centers/camps is far older than just tRump.  The piece leads with this chilling question, "U.S. immigration authorities rounded up hundreds of undocumented immigrants across six states in the last week, which begs the question — where do they go?"

Of course, there are significant differences between the Nazi KZ Lager and the US detention centers in the facts that detainees stay for shorter periods of time, are not forced into hard labor, or sent to the Gaskammern (gas chambers).  But to children fleeing with their mothers from violence, oppression, and hopelessness of countries to the south, are those differences really all that meaningful?  Probably not, since it has been reported that they experience some similar horrors.

A 2015 complaint filed by the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) on behalf of detainees in Arizona noted that they had to endure 
painfully low temperatures without proper clothing or blankets. Indeed, CBP [Customs and Border Protection] officials force detainees to remove extra layers of clothing before entering...frigid cells. CBP officials regularly ignore detainees’ complaints about the cold cells, and it has been reported that officials threaten to make the cells even colder as punishment for complaining about the temperature.
The text of the suit notes that many detainees arrived in the centers "exhausted, thirsty and hungry, and often are suffering from dehydration, heat stroke, diarrhea, bleeding and blistered feet, and other health conditions requiring medical attention," which were sometimes denied them (p. 1).  The post illustrates this pattern by referring to a report from the Guardian about a similar center in Pennsylvania that includes a photograph of a little girl's blouse covered with blood she vomited over the course of four days before she was given medical attention. 

The NILC complaint further asserts that detainees were kept in unsanitary conditions, were denied food and water for long periods of time, were not given adequate bedding, and were deprived of sleep because CBP officers left the lights on 24 hours a day (p.2).  The Guardian report tells of a guard being convicted for raping a Honduran woman and being given an absurdly light sentence.  As one who has a developing interest in Holocaust memoirs, I am haunted by these complaints and how similar they are to accounts from Birkenau, Buchenwald, Revansbrueck and other KZ Lagern.

Again, these incidents were documented under the Obama Administration (you know, the Nobel Peace Prize winner), but, given the ferocity of tRump's anti-immigrant Sturm und Drang (literally "storm and impulse"), it would take ungodly naivete to believe that conditions today are any better.  In fact, some predict that given his promise to deport millions of immigrants, the private prison industry will see a boom.  Maybe tRump would rather Lady Liberty's right arm raised in a salute than holding up a torch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Today's Word: National Security

tRump's big pillars in his candidacy spiel to make America great again (I may have to wash my hands after typing that) were national security and put people back to work.  At this point, one has to wonder what his conception of national security is.  Two recent incidents seem to show that his and his cabinet's definition is like Gollum's promise to safely escort Frodo and Sam to Mordor in the Lord of the Rings...not terribly substantial...a bit of political bipolar.

First of all there was Michael Flynn, one-time defense intelligence chief and newly confirmed National Security Advisor.  Well after his resignation this morning, he is a one-timmer...again.  In his first gig in politics, Flynn was fired from the Obama Administration for insubordination, which apparently made him a prime candidate for the tRump krew.  And his 2015 appearance at a banquet in Moscow that featured Vladimir Putin put him quite out of favor with many in the defense and intelligence circles.  However, after less than a month on the job, he has resigned from his position.  He had to leave the White House...again because, according to nine sources, he spoke with the Russian ambassador about President Obama's sanctions on Russia in response to their efforts to hack the US election--assuring him that the sanctions would be dealt with--then deceived the Administration about it, then denied the allegations flatly, then his spokesman tried to back pedal, then the outcry grew to a chest-thumping roar so he had to step down.  And his actions are being investigated criminally.  So...the guy who was supposed to be in charge of national security consorting with a man many consider to be a national enemy.  Whose NATIONAL security is he worried about?  And let's not forget tRump's openly stated admiration for Putin.

Then there was this:

Photo from linked article just below.

Yup, that's tRump with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the patio at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida discussing how to respond to North Korea's ballistic missile launch on Sunday.  A pretty sensitive national security matter.  Oh, and it was so dark that cell phones had to be used to illuminate the documents.  Cell phones that can be hacked.

This is in stark contrast to how other Presidents have discussed such sensitive matters.  Pete Souza, the White House photographer for the the Obama Administration, for example, noted
"When we were on the road, national security discussions and head of state phone calls were conducted in a private, secure location set up on-site. Everyone had to leave their Blackberry outside the area."
Jon Favreau, a former speech writer for Obama, posted this contrast on his Twitter feed:

Screen capture from Pete Souza's Twitter feed; original post link

Notice tRump's smug smile.  And behind him, to the left, we see a fuzzy (both literally and metaphorically) Steve Bannon...on whose right is none other than Michael Flynn.  And the woman in the pretty dress.  Who is she?  What's her role in national security? looks like SECURITY is not much of a concern for this administration. 


The Guardian reported today that tRump had known for several weeks that Flynn had been lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and he refused to do anything about it.  Apparently he could not see any problem with the situation.  Sean Spicer said that the resignation was the result of  the "eroding level of trust."  Ostensibly he means between tRump and Flynn, but the real story is the erosion of trust with the US citizens and non-citizens who are living here.  Both of them seem to be missing the point.  A lot of them, as a matter of fact.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Bernice King's Suggestions for #Resistance

Below is a Facebook post from Bernice King, Dr, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King's daughter. 


Not a whole lot to add to her suggestions, but one thing that did catch my eye and gave me a smile was how many of her suggestions involve language.  I have also been thinking about the verse of one of my enduring favorite songs from my junior high school years..."De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" by the Police:

Poets, priests and politicians 
Have words to thank for their positions
Words that scream for your submission
And no one's jamming their transmission

Call to action: Jam #Mussoweenie's transmission and here is Bernice King's prescription:

Some Wise Advice Circulating:

1. Use his name sparingly so as not to detract from the issues. I believe that everyone, regardless of their beliefs, deserves the dignity of being called by their name. However, this is a strategic tactic. While we are so focused on him we are prone to neglect the questionable policies that threaten freedom, justice and fairness advanced by the administration.

2. Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone;

3. Do not argue with those who support him and his policies--it doesn't work;

4. Focus on his policies, not his appearance and mental state;

5. Keep your message positive; those who oppose peace and justice want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow;

6. No more helpless/hopeless talk;

7. Support artists and the arts;

8. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it;

9. Take care of yourselves; and

10. Resist!

Keep demonstrations peaceful. In the words of John Lennon, "When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you - pull your beard, flick your face - to make you fight! Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor."

When you post or talk about him, don't assign his actions to him, assign them to "The Republican Administration," or "The Republicans." This will have several effects: the Republican legislators will either have to take responsibility for their association with him or stand up for what some of them don't like; he will not get the focus of attention he craves; Republican representatives will become very concerned about their re-elections.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Banana Republic of America, Coming to an Executive Branch near You

All tRump wanted for Christmas was a banana republic.  And now the head of a Texas state senator who wants to reform how assets are seized by law enforcement, you more just.  He has the cajones to suggest that assets shouldn't be seized just because a person is a suspect.  It seems he has the temerity to believe in such quaint notions as "innocent until proven guilty."

tRump no likey.

In a public discussion with law enforcement officials two days ago, Sheriff Harold Eavenson from Rockwall County, TX complained about the state senator and the wannabe Pinochet responded, "Who is the state senator? Want to give his name? We'll destroy his career."  Uncomfortable laughter ensued...but tRump didn't smile.  His body language gave no sense of, "Hey...that was just a sick joke, y'all."  To his credit, by the way, Sheriff Eavenson refused to give the senator's name...guess conscience still has a place at the table for some.

While this schadenfreudliche (for non-German speakers, this is an adjectival form of Schadenfreude) quip should be downright chilling on its own merits, it is even more disturbing in light of an interview with David Cay Johnson, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist who has spent many years covering tRump.  The interview is posted on the website for the German news magazine, Die Welt [The World] and includes some chilling observations and predictions.


Johnston observed that "Trump seems to be caught in the emotional condition of a 13-year-old boy" who is in "his own league" in his mastery of manipulation.  When asked whether tRump might develop into a more co-operative leader, he replied
No.  Donald Trump is Donald Trump.  He is 70 hears old.  At this age one does not change.  One can learn new facts, one can change one's opinions on specific things, but the personality is no longer malleable.  I would sooner expect that Trump will try to make himself into a dictator.  A dictator with no other ideology but devotion to his own power...He has never learned to take advice.  He has never cooperated with others in a collegial way.  Donald Trump's mantra is absolute loyalty to himself.
tRump's casual quip about destroying the career of an "enemy" he has never met is pretty par for the course for a banana republic-esque dictator and fits in pretty well with a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, a diagnosis that roughly 20,000 mental health professionals have publicly concurred with. To be sure, this kind of activity is both highly unusual and actually a violation of the American Psychological Association's  Goldwater Rule, which bars the diagnosis of public figures based solely on their public statements and persona.

Baltimore psychologist, John Gartner, has been one of the most outspoken mental health professionals to support this diagnosis and even posted a petition on Facebook that asserts
Trump “manifestly” meets the DSM-published criteria for at least three personality disorders: narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder. They are a “toxic brew” that in his view not only make Trump “dangerous” but add up to “malignant narcissism,” not a diagnosis formalized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual but a label coined by the German-born psychologist and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. [From the linked article above.]
To date, the APA has taken no action against the mental health workers who have undersigned Grartner's controversial diagnosis.

So, a long-time follower of tRump expects him to try and make himself a dictator, tens of thousands of psychology professionals concur that he has a mental illness cocktail that could pre-dispose him to such a path, and he makes public statements that sound less like those of an intelligent, level-headed politician and more like one of "a group of...latin-American / Meat packing glitterati," to borrow a line from Pink Floyd.  Aanybody feeling like they're on the wrong continent...or in the wrong century, yet?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

tRump Violates Basic Social Media Policy

Big shock! Team tRump has violated baisc social media policy practice by using the @POTUS Twitter account to attack retailer Nordstrom for dropping his daughter's apparel and accessory lines.  He or someone on his staff re-tweeted the attack from @realDonaldTrump:


A search of yields no specific social media policy, but acceptable practices for governmental social media policy can be found at the Government Services Administration--the office that oversees interactions between businesses and the government.  tRump's retweet or the retweet by one of his staff violates the principle of "Endors[ing] commercial products, services, or entities," a forbidden practice.  The retweet endorses Ivanka tRump's business and also offers a kind of negative endorsement of Nordstrom.  For another example of language to show how this use of social media violates professional practice, here is language from the social media policy for the State of Washington

(page 12)

This tweet shows either a profound dismissal of or lack of knowledge about organizational communication.  By using the @POTUS handle to offer this endorsement, it misuses the weight of that particular office by acting on behalf of a family member's place of business, a conflict of interest and clear misuse of power.  Furthermore it indicates either an ignorance of principles of organizational communication or a will to flaunt those principles.  So tRump is either too stupid to know better or he just doesn't give a crap--personally, I'm thinking it's an inclusive it's both.  Now, the argument could be made that it may not have been tRump himself that retweeted...which, while plausible, either shows a cute naiveté or shows that somebody should be...well, you know.