First off—it’s looking like I was (as I hoped I wouldn’t be) off base to cut Kevin Spacey even a hint of doubt as further credible allegations emerge. In the interest of not becoming a revisionist I’ve left the original post up with an “update” disclaimer so folks can skip to the “art vs. the artist” section if they wish as it looks like that’s the dilemma one who enjoys the actor’s work now faces. Of course I’m not one for consigning an entire body of work to the flame simply because a cog (or even the whole) in its production was a reprehensible jackass but that’s another argument for another day. I do think it’s odd that some on the right are using the sadly growing list of Hollywood figures (who are most often some degree of “liberal” politically) as evidence of a “perverted” left. If there’s really one thing we can be certain of in terms of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault it’s that it’s a bipartisan issue that affects every community. From the Fox News team of founder Ailes (a major figure in the White House and in every GOP campaign involving Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes) and network cash cow O’Reilly to Hollywood A-listers Weinstein, Spacey, possibly Hoffman (ouch) by way of the church (Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant) and up to the White House (Trump has more credible sexual harassment and assault allegations than even Weinstein) there are no subcultures or groups immune to the presence of abuse. Power is the unifying factor as those with power far too often use it to pressure, intimidate and abuse those with less or excuse questionable behavior. These microcosms now on display showcase behavior that goes on in every industry and in every town in America. So yeah, long story short—I cut Spacey too much slack too early it seems.

I’m beginning to feel it’s almost hopeless to expect more out of anyone. A friend recently posted “are there any famous dudes who aren’t total creeps?” to which I replied that I had a list of many I think (based on everything I’ve read and heard) fit that bill of being as ethical and stand-up as they are talented but that I’d be loath to list them right now for fear an old story would emerge making me eat my words. Folks make mistakes and no real hero exists, I know that. But the entire current climate of information, misinformation, historical and political ignorance, scapegoats and easy (but false) answers is exhausting.

For example, I could refer you to the Atlantic’s recent stellar coverage of the revolt at Reed College. For those interested in “trigger warnings”, “safe spaces”, and the criminalization of ideas it’s a worthwhile read. As someone who empathizes with most left positions but who is also a fan of open full-throated debate, grappling with complex ideas in a fruitful manner, and first-amendment absolutism I have long had a troubled relationship with some of the younger expressions of “idea” protest. This article lays out what’s happened in one extreme example but it at least ends promisingly as a newer generation of diverse students push back against simplistic inflammatory protest in favor of honest debate and education. But more troublingly for the left than the issues many campuses now face is the entire future of the Democratic Party.

Donna Brazile is doing her book tour and part of that is a full attack on the Clintons and the DNC in the wake of her ousting. While it should come as no surprise to any student of government and history the DNC (like the RNC, like every political, religious, and civic organization) is prone to corruption or at least political chicanery. While many of the concerns Brazile raises are troubling they are not surprising nor are they really that “new”. Righteous anger that such favoritism and political maneuvering could occur to affect the primary is understandable but unfortunately many on the left are now playing right into Trump’s hands (and words).

As someone who supported Bernie early on I recognize his appeal. I think that for the most part he is an ethical, honest person though I don’t believe he’s immune to political celebrity and it’s potentially corrupting allure (one can’t really be a politician without that).  If I had the power to wave my hand and replace Trump with anyone it would likely be Elizabeth Warren but Bernie would still be a close 2nd or 3rd. I also never believed Hillary Clinton to be my personal lord and savior and no act of political subterfuge in her pursuit of victory (within reason and with precedent) would really surprise me but I, like Bernie and like Bernie pleaded with his supporters to do, supported her when she became the candidate. Heck, Brazile mentions her conversations with Bernie took place before that endorsement so even in light of the knowledge that he’d been royally screwed by the DNC in funding and preference he still saw the bigger picture because he, unlike many of his supporters, is cause first and personality second.

That’s the thing about the so-called “Berniecrats”. That term was coined not to refer to the most “progressive” section of the Democratic Party or to Democratic Socialists. It was coined to derisively refer to those who built a cult of personality around Sanders, many of whom were frat-boys with more interest in “dank memes” than Democratic Socialism or progress for all.  So while Bernie certainly had support from Boomers, Xers, and Millennials of all styles who would have preferred him but who ultimately voted for Clinton when they had to the Berniecrats instead either stayed home, cast their ballot for some of the worst third-party candidates in a generation, or voted for Trump (an estimated quarter of Bernie supporters ultimately voted for Trump).  There’s a reason Russians included Berniecrats in their targeted audience—it worked. They shared false and inflammatory information and helped usher Trump into the White House.

Trump is now pushing the most far-right agenda to ever come from the White House. The damage he is doing to the environment, our relationships and standing in the world, and to the very legitimacy of our institutions is staggering and potentially irreparable. The bigger picture was to keep that from happening while working for reform and the bigger picture remains replacing Trump with a less noxious and damaging President ASAP (while seeking reform and incremental progress). Yet if a subsection of the left is happy to do Trump’s work for him (as they are today while Trump calls for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton live on TV), spread his message and share his Russian created memes then where are we to go? It would be easy to just say ignore this sub-section as they don’t show up in significant numbers at mid-term elections to keep the actual local and community gears progressing further towards equity but I don’t think that’s wise at all. I credit Bernie and his supporters for pushing Hillary to the left on many issues so that she ultimately ran on the most progressive platform in modern history. Those that were “Bernie or Bust” need to be in the fold because a mainstream liberal party that slides back to centrism is doomed it’s just that we need the most boldly Bernie or nobody folks to get behind the cause not the person and to find (and advocate for) young and new party figures. Sadly, however, it’s looking more and more every day like Trump, the most “unpopular” President in history will win a second term even as his entire cabinet faces indictment.

So yeah, it’s feeling hopeless. No “heroes”, no admirable institutions, no middle-ground, no respect for facts or the possibility thereof. A generation of students is coming up who report no real love of the freedom of speech or of the right to disagree. I’m thankful to love metal, horror, noir, literary tragedy and the oddly life-affirming qualities these art forms promote at a time like this while all seems to be turning to crap. So I’ll likely be picking up my lists and genre analysis as I ready my end-of-year “best of lists” and give my half-assed political commentaries another much needed rest.

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I stumbled across the following blog post as it was trending and being shared on social media by friends and acquaintances. I read it, thought about it and couldn’t stop thinking about it—so I took the time to write out a rather lengthy comment addressing most of the author’s points honestly seeking debate or conversation because despite this post apparently going a bit viral there were no comments. Apparently that’s because the author isn’t approving any comments on her page or at least on this article. So,  I’m tailoring my comment into a straightforward post for my own page since I took the time to write it.  To see exactly what I’m responding to please visit the above link and read her piece first. I want to stress that this is not an “attack piece” or anything of the sort; just browsing the rest of her blog leads me to believe she is a devout, authentic, strong-willed and genuinely good person of integrity. Which, to be honest, makes her posted endorsement of Trump all the more shocking to me—but I know many other people much closer to me (folks I actually know) that share her sentiment. It’s not just the videoed folk s shouting racial slurs at Trump rallies or the neo-nazis on the dark corners of the alt-right internet who support Trump, it’s almost half of our fellow citizens. I feel that no matter what happens in this election we have to find a way to discuss these issues, to debate and to discuss and most of all to find a way to agree on facts, tools of reason or logic and basic neighborly decency.

Also, I will note I’m just about done in every sense of the word with current year politics. They’ve exhausted me unlike any year in memory and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m over feeling shocked at an ever lowering of the bar, I’m over the visceral hatred between different groups in our own country and I’m over the disintegration of facts and discourse. So maybe this is my last political post for the foreseeable future.

First, I want to address the author’s claim that Hillary Clinton has done more to contribute to rape culture than Donald Trump. Obviously, measuring the actions of any two individuals to determine their personal role and impact on the overall culture as a whole is difficult if not impossible so in some ways we can only use them as categorical examples, representative of many other similar individuals. But the author makes two specific claims—one, that as an attorney “she [H. Clinton] has reduced the jail time of rapists” and two, that she “helped cover up the abuses done by her husband.” Regarding the first point, I assume she is referring to the Kathy Shelton rape case. I would recommend a recent recap of that event in the Washington Post, a pretty reliable source not known for a “liberal bias.” * The issues about that case are complex but of primary purpose as it relates to Hillary Clinton is that she was working for a legal aid clinic serving the poor and was appointed by the court to represent the accused rapist of Shelton. Court appointed attorneys have to represent the client they are appointed to and to do less than their best job in such cases goes against our entire legal system.  Hillary stated she was not thrilled to take on the case but she did and as a young attorney did her job just as any other appointed DA would. So unless we believe that the accused parties in court cases don’t deserve legal representation I am not sure how this incident is an indictment against Hillary. Regarding the second point, to the best of my knowledge there hasn’t been any reliable evidence from a reputable source tying Hillary Clinton to any sort of cover up of Bill’s extramarital affairs. It appears to all non-biased observers and reporters that all of Bill’s extramarital affairs were carried on without Hillary’s knowledge and thus she was a victim of his affairs. So the only thing she can be fairly accused of is of not divorcing her husband when she discovered the affairs. Of course standing by a partner and seeking reconciliation isn’t typically a bad thing in conservative minds which is why this is an odd accusation from that corner of our politic but regardless her choice to not divorce her husband is her right alone.

This author may very well  be right that we are well past picking a President based on character and I’d argue that history has shown many great leaders are of bad character and many bad leaders are of good character—in a pluralistic society character matters only so much as it influences or reinforces the culture itself however. In the case of character Trump vs. Clinton we have on the one hand a man who has used his power and wealth to harass, degrade and assault women. This is evident by his video-taped conversation with Billy Bush where he openly stated he kissed and fondled women without their permission. This is evident by claims from beauty pageant contestants (as young as 15) that he knowingly walked in to inspect them when they were in the nude. That he smiled and allowed Howard Stern to call his own daughter “a piece of ass”. Then of course there are claims from women who worked in his companies that he forced himself on them, kissed, harassed and threatened them. And a claim that he raped a 13 year old girl that is pending in the courts now. This doesn’t even account for comments he has made about women (“you have to treat them like shit”) the deaf/mute (“retards”), Mexicans, refugees, African Americans, etc.  On the other hand you have Hillary who worked at a legal aid clinic where she once defended a rapist as a court assignment and who didn’t divorce her husband and instead reconciled with him after his extramarital affairs came to light. Just on these issues alone (sticking to ones brought up in the linked article) one definitely influences rape culture and one definitely does not. Trump exemplifies that power and wealth allows you to behave how you want and that seeking permission is not necessary for sexual contact. This models for younger males and females what behavior is appropriate and what they are worth. Just last week a friend of mine in an airport overheard two college students joking about the airport workers and flight attendants loudly within her earshot, specifically about groping them. When she confronted them they said “we’re voting for Trump”.

The author is correct that a third-party vote in this election will simply be a vote by default for the winning candidate. I agree that voters should vote for a front-runner, I just happen to believe that the candidate they should vote for is Hillary Clinton because any vote not for her may allow Trump into the White House where he can do unimaginable damage to our economy, environment, international relations, domestic race relations, refugee crises and advancing rape culture.

Now, regarding what the author defines as the “real issues” of this election:

  1. National Security: The author claims that Hillary wants open borders. Trump claims Hillary wants this as well. The facts however are that all of her proposed immigration plans thus far increase funding for border patrol and call for deportation of violent criminals and those who pose realistic threats while also allowing for sanctuary cities and a path to citizenship for nonviolent undocumented workers who are contributing to US society. The “open borders” claim refers to a speech Hillary gave to bankers in which she claimed: “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders, some time in the future, with energy that is green and sustainable…powering growth for every person in the hemisphere.” She is speaking about unfettered international trade, green energy and a global marketplace though even if she also meant unfettered migration of people (which doesn’t seem likely) she is also speaking in a utopia-positive prophetic manner. This of course is a very biblical (people not commerce) vision one more traditionally “Christian” than walls and borders which the Gospel ignored and prayed to cease. A good analysis of the “open border” Clinton claim is available at Politifact. ** I am glad the author recognizes the heart-breaking reality that is the Syrian refugee crisis. Some humanitarians are referring to it as the holocaust of our time. We will be judged by history in how we dealt (or did not deal) with this crisis. I also agree with the author that refugee crisis or not we should screen those who enter our country—which we do already. We have a very intensive vetting process of refugees.  In fact, refugees are screened more extensively and heavily than any other segment of our society in the US which is why the majority of threats, violent crimes and terrorist acts on US soil have been perpetrated not by refugees but US citizens. Terrorist watch organizations estimate far-right racial KKK style hate groups are by far the most likely groups to commit terror acts on US soil. During this point the author also goes on a tangent about gun owning citizens (which to be fair can be a national security issue)  and that taking away guns from citizens just leave them at risk of attack from a criminal who does not care about gun laws. It’s worth noting that Hillary, like Obama, has no intention of confiscating America’s guns though she does want to pass basic regulation like prohibiting those on terrorist watch-lists from purchasing guns and instituting universal background checks. Most Americans, according to polls, agree with these common sense approaches. Gun rights and gun laws are a complex subject from understanding the 2nd amendment in history (“well regulated militia” to “citizen soldiers” e.g. National Guard) to debating how that applies now but a good deal of research can be done utilizing what other countries have tried and done. In short, criminals may not care about gun laws but with less guns in circulation there are less non gun-owning non-criminals to steal from but regardless, Hillary has no intention of confiscating all guns and this is a false alarm claim just as it was with Obama to sell more firearms which is why the NRA (now a lobbyist for the gun manufacturers rather than a hunting and sports shooting conservation group) loves these worries.
  2. Economic Stability: Like many others, the author believes that since Trump is a businessman he will run this country like a business and as President running our country will be his job. The author writes that Trump refused to pay taxes or bad workers as good business practices. Stories have shown he stiffed good workers as well and we’ll leave the tax question alone now other than to say that’s a lot of funds for schools, military, roads, fire and police etc. that went unpaid. But Trump’s record as a businessman isn’t that great which is likely a large reason he doesn’t want his tax returns released—he’s probably not as rich as he says he is and doesn’t like people who say so. Regardless, financial experts think he’d be richer if he’d just invested his money in index funds and left it alone. *** He started out rich with connections and since has lost a lot of money for a lot of people bankrupting companies along the way. As actual billionaire Mark Cuban recently pointed out—name one person who has claimed Trump helped them personally become richer or more successful, one person he’s mentored, one lasting business claim he successfully can make. Furthermore, you can’t run the country like you run a business. You’d never intentionally create a national debt by absorbing state debts as Alexander Hamilton did in our country’s first administration in a private business but you do in the government because it creates the index for all federal government functions. “Wealthy people are usually successful business people who EMPLOY other people” is also a highly debatable claim as a huge percentage of the wealthiest individuals do not employ anyone, run any company or contribute to society—they simply inherit a good deal of money or make money by having money invested.
  3. Supreme Court- The author is correct that this is important. She and I would disagree however as I believe severe damage could occur if the court drifts too far to the right. But even assuming a far-right Supreme Court would be a good thing, what makes you think Trump would appoint anyone you like or that such a nominee would get through the House? Heck, he may even appoint his sister who is a judge (Elizabeth Trump Grau) and she is very liberal.
  4. Pro-Life – Avoiding an entire discussion on this issue as it’s never-ending (though you can read my previous post on the subject here) I will simply say though the author and I may disagree on this issue I understand the importance of this issue to many voters and that it often pushes many to become single issue voters simply over the passionate beliefs they have about it. But if we look at history we find previous Presidents post RoevWade who were pro-life, even adamantly so and fundamentalist about it (Reagan) yet nothing happened to roll back abortion access rights. Even while George H.W. Bush “came around to the issue” at Reagan’s prompting, his son George W. as an evangelical was even more stridently pro-life; yet Laura, Barbara and Nancy remained by all accounts pro-choice and nothing did change. There have even been times in history in which the Republicans had control of the House, Senate, Court and Presidency and nothing changed to roll back abortion access and legality. It’s been alleged that keeping abortion legal and using anger directed at it works better to fire up a base and win elections. My opinion remains that if you are pro-life you should: refrain from having an abortion; support policies that reduce the desire for women to seek abortions; and encourage laws and practices that value and support life from childhood through old age encompassing the rights and livelihood of immigrants, refugees, the less fortunate and the “other”. In fact abortions go down, as they have under President Obama, more under Democratic presidencies due to policies which support the social safety net, increase access to birth control, and promote women and child health.

PS: The author adds a PS that she supports Trump because his first “hire” was Mike Pence, a man (according to the author) of “character, faith and integrity.” However it is likely Pence would have lost re-election in his own state had he not been scooped up by Trump as he failed Indiana economically and in the undermining of the social safety net. An AIDS epidemic broke out due to Pence’s delay and early refusal to sign a needle exchange bill, LGBT teens were directed into “conversion therapy” which has historic notoriety for increasing teen suicide and depression rates (not to mention no evidence of “working”), factories shipped overseas, etc. Pence’s role thus far as VP seems to be to deny Trump has said what he has said or that he meant something else and I don’t consider that indicative of “integrity” in any way.

So, these are the points I posted as my comment challenging the author’s assumptions. I do this not to be vindictive but to challenge her to consider her points and evaluate them for factuality. We are losing something in this election—respect for facts, respect for debate, respect for reason and tools of logic. We are doubting the veracity of our entire democracy, of the party system and of the value in public service and government. We are losing respect for considered rational yet kind conversation with those with whom we disagree.  Recent studies and stories have shown that we don’t just disagree on issues but WE DISAGREE ON FACTS. We tunnel-vision into our catered news while rejecting the “Media” for not agreeing with us, we reject science when it conflicts with our feelings or preferences and we overlook the parts of history that don’t justify the narrative we want to tell. This is dangerous stuff and if we don’t create a space where we can discuss with compassion the issues that face us and seek ways to equip everyone with the tools of discernment we are doomed.

I spent so much time on this author’s post not because of who she is or really even the points she makes but because her piece is indicative of those I know that agree with her but that are kind, decent and seemingly rational folks.  There’s no arguing with those who resort to character assassination and racist rhetoric, there’s no debating with those who approach this election with sheer panic and misplaced fear of their own place in the world but there should be a place to discuss the issues with those who simply disagree.

I will also end with a caveat–Hillary is by no means a perfect person or a perfect candidate and though I strongly support her now and believe her to be an honest, hard-working person who will make a solid President she was not my first choice either. Once she is elected I will be critical of her–of her military enthusiasm and role in perpetuating endless wars, of her refusal to reign in Wall Street excess, etc. But I will not dehumanize her or work against her in any way that might prevent genuine positive progress.

*https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/10/11/the-facts-about-hillary-clinton-and-the-kathy-shelton-rape-case/

**http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/oct/12/donald-trump/trump-ive-been-proven-right-about-clinton-wanting-/

***http://www.moneytalksnews.com/why-youre-probably-better-investing-than-donald-trump/

****https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/15/americans-now-live-in-two-worlds-each-with-its-own-reality/?postshare=5451476708300360&tid=ss_fb

keep-calm-and-obey-your-reptilian-overlords

It’s been a big week or two. Like 1960s level big,  particularly in the context of all other social-political issues going on in America. On the one hand the supreme court finally stepped in and cleared up the matter for the divisive states by making gay marriage legal in all 50 states. They also upheld the President’s Affordable Care Act, struck down portions of the “three strikes law”, and the President authorized progressive overtime pay-rates for workers shifting things in that arena closer to their levels pre-Reagan era erosion. National discussions are leading to the removal of the Confederate flag from government sites. On the other hand, violence against African Americans in their places of worship have accelerated with the Charleston shooting and the arson of historic black churches across the south. As if to show they can’t deal down only on the Progressive side the Supreme Court struck down EPA regulations and ruled against clean air safeguards thus giving the dirty energy lobby and industry a big win. They also upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection. Some progress, some slip-back, and miles to go before we even approach justice and equality.

I understand most responses to these issues even when I do not agree with some of those responses. Here I want to address the most baffling and in some ways most infuriating response as it in its subtlety does damage and undermines progress in any area. The response I’m referring to I dub the “reptilian overlord” response. Obviously that’s a bit tongue in cheek because not everyone that gives this response is deep into conspiracy theories. In short, this response is: “While you and everyone else are worried about (fill in the blank), this (fill in the blank) is going on.” To the one giving this response, every issue reported anywhere with enough reach to inform the general public is simply distracting the masses from the real issues at hand. At the extreme end of this line of thought are those who think there is indeed a real conspiracy by a group of political, financial, and news industry leaders to control, manipulate and utilize the news to keep civilians unaware of the “real” issues. Now, there are of course many kernels of truth in this rationale. Certainly there’s no shortage of bad journalism corporately owned and used to spread particular views with definite agendas. And yes, there is always something else going on that is arguably “bigger” than any other issue at hand. Unfortunately there are always ongoing wars (declared or not) and conflicts around the world that result in death, destruction, and all levels of damage. There are always “bigger” systemic issues and societal ills as well–poverty, class-ism, unchecked corporate greed, ecological destruction, etc.

Yet…some things that make the news are still a big deal. Some news is worth reporting. Hell, some things are worth celebrating, debating, discussing, and being aware of–and regardless of the issue, when really discussing a particular issue it’s usually best to initially limit one’s focus only to that issue in context and peripherally at most the issues that directly intersect with that issue. Global warming and ISIS are still threats but do not factor into the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. Let’s debate, discuss, and celebrate that decision in isolation of such other discussions for a moment. It’s historic. It matters. If you think it does not matter in any form or fashion good or bad I am thoroughly confused and have to assume you do not know or care about a single LGBT person.

Yes, I know–we should all be worried about the TPP trade deal that the President and a shadowy council of villains have met secretly to devise in order to bring about the Armageddon. Truthfully, there may be a good deal to debate about that trade deal–its precedent, Clinton’s NAFTA bill, certainly didn’t benefit US blue-collar workers in the long run. But most people who point at TPP before (and instead of) the issues of Charleston and legal gay marriage show a certain level of callousness and lack of compassion. For such naysayers, issues of equality and justice for particular groups are unimportant whether progress or pitfall and only large, overarching goals without a particular immediate human face are what matter most.

So sure, the celebritarianism aspects of Caitlyn Jenner’s public coming out might strike some as PR overkill in light of the Kardashian media machine from whence many first came to know her but that doesn’t make Transgender issues, rights, and celebration any less important nor her re-introduction “not news”. Sure the legalization of gay marriage in all 50 states does not spell the end of the struggle for LGBT equality but it is historic, it is a big deal and it is news. No the removal of the confederate flag from government institutions will not spell the end of racism in America but it is right to have this conversation now and more than that to go ahead and move those flags from public spaces to museums. These things are news and are worth talking about. I can’t help but wonder if the same folks angry at these topics being so widespread would have wondered why everyone was talking about Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedy assassination and Vietnam in the 1960s.