Connecting Thots: Linking Carolyn Bryant to Kellyanne Conway on that Goddamn Couch to the Need for Black People to Be More Woke in Three Arduous Steps

I’m going to cast my web wide and then pull it in slowly, so bear with me, please.

I want to touch on a lot of things in this post, like Donald Trump in a dressing room full of beauty pageant contestants.

I’ll wend my way to Kellyanne Conway and what my sister would refer to as her “dry-faced ass” eventually.

(Excuse that anti-feminist lapse right there. And the use of the term “thot” in the title. Racist capers make me even more angry when they come from women.)

I.

I grew up with a mother that taught literature. So we had a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology on our bookcase. I never understood why we had it, though, until I went to college and declared my English major. Then, I learned: the classical Greek and Roman mythologies are western literary cornucopias (a symbol derived from Greek and Roman mythology, in fact).

So many of the plotlines and motifs (the hero’s journey, the concept of redemptive suffering, the inescapability of fate, the ideas that human goodness is rewarded and human evil is punished by divine forces) in Western literature derive from classical European mythology that if you played a drinking game in which you took a shot for every modern book you know with a mythological allusion, your ass would go into an alcohol-induced coma inside of fifteen minutes.

So, as a student of Western literature, I am understandably fascinated by the tenacity of classical mythology.

From what I have been taught, ancient Greeks and Romans regarded these stories that read like children’s fiction to most modern people like they were religious doctrine. They believed these stories told the truth about the supernatural beings that created and ruled the Earth and humanity, certain natural phenomena (like comets), the differences in the ancient cultures, and the roots of the alliances and anima between those ancient cultures. In fact, until the rise of philosophy (which encompassed empirical science until the 1800s), historiography, and rationalism in the 5th century, mythology was regarded as fact.

That mythology played this role in ancient Greek or Roman culture isn’t what fascinates me, though (it makes sense that these civilizations would’ve clung to mythology until another way of understanding the universe evolved to a point where they felt they could trust it).

It’s the human attachment to ancient mythology I find so interesting, stretching as it has from antiquity to post-postmodernity.

I tend to think those individuals that continue to study and creatively mine the mythologies of ancient cultures today do so because they recognize and appreciate the way myths reflect certain truths about human nature and interactions in relatively simple stories and not overly technical science and microsociology.

On the other hand, there is a certain type of attachment to a certain type of mythology – a sociological “twin” to this literary tradition – that has the opposite effect on me. It doesn’t fascinate – it infuriates me.

You see it in white supremacists and black-white supremacists that remain invested in certain antebellum myths about black people.

The problem, as I see it, with racists clinging to these myths is that these myths do not contain or signify any actual truth. In fact, these myths displace factual narratives that would reveal, if we looked back at them, the falsity of American racial formations – the fact that they are instruments of social, economic, and political advantageousness, not products of science or authentic American history.

Take the myth that the black man is a born rapist, for example.

The myth that the black man is a born rapist was envisaged by the racist quarter of the white male ruling class during slavery to expunge – at least ideologically – black men’s sexual attractiveness and white women’s sexual attraction to black men.

It is one of a collection of pseudo-scientific fabrications the members of that class mobilized to disguise their own racist phobias and violent behaviors.

The myth allowed antebellum white men to subvert their own proclivities to rape white and black women, pretend all sexual relations between white women and black men were rape, and “punish” any black man that had sex with a white woman by torturing and/or killing him, if they wanted.

To this day, racists continue to propagate this myth to justify certain acts of violence they perpetrate against black men, and adherents of these racists – black and white – excuse away this violence in what is essentially a Pavlovian response – even though the hypotheses that all black men are born with a violent sexual psychopathology – or they all have an uncontrollable uniform sexual response to white women – or they will all enact their vengeful feelings against the white power structure by raping a white women any time they are given the opportunity – are patently untrue.

That’s right. The “math” of this myth has never added up, not back then, and not now. Despite what David Duke has claimed in the media.

The infamous Table 42 from the 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey, compiled and published by the Bureau of Justice Statistic,  and said to “prove” the myth is true, doesn’t validate the claims of white supremacists about black rapists.

Philip Cohen explains in his post, “Here’s How Bad Government Math Spawned a Racist Lie About Sexual Assault,” that

Like many surveys, the NCVS is weighted to produce estimates that are supposed to reflect the general population. In a nutshell, that means, for example, that they treat each of the 158,000 people (over age 12) covered in 2014 as about 1,700 people. So if one person said, “I was raped,” they would say, “1700 people in the US say they were raped.” This is how sampling works. In fact, they tweak it much more than that, to make the numbers add up according to population distributions of variables like age, sex, race, and region – and non-response, so that if a certain group (say Black women) has a low response rate, their responses get goosed even more . . .

According to Cohen

[The] BJS extrapolates an estimate of 117,640 White women who say they were sexually assaulted, or threatened with sexual assault, in 2008 . . . Of those, 16.4% described their assailant as Black . . . That works out to 19,293 White women sexually assaulted or threatened by Black men in one year . . . [however] . . . [i]f each respondent in the survey counts for about 1,700 people, then . . . [the statisticians that compiled the results] . . . in 2008 [actually counted]  . . . 69 White women who were sexually assaulted or threatened, 11 of whom said their assailant was Black [emphasis added].

He even illustrates for his readers how to do the math on the survey’s faulty numbers: (19293/1,700 = 11.34).

Despite the fact that it is a lie, the myth that the black man is a born rapist still exercises a powerful influence over the American imagination (versus its intellect and morality) and thus our social interactions, political discourse, and patterns of interracial violence.

It not only freezes the black man in the deplorable image of the uncontrollable sex offender; it also freezes the white woman in the image of his needful victim.

II.

A few years back, there were this novel and movie adaptation titled No Country for Old Men. This referred, of course, to America.

That title made me think of a line from the Tony Kushner play about the American identity, “Angels in America.”

In the play, the character Roy Kohn, based on the real life Roy Kohn, is dying of AIDS, and reflects that “Americans have no use for sick.”

Kushner/Kohn is right. Americans do have a certain affinity for the useful. Because Americans have an affinity for getting shit done, and you need tools to do the things you want to do more efficiently.

Technological systems are currently our favorite types of tools. We have an affinity for them, too. Computer systems, global positioning systems, telecommunications systems – you name it.

Correlatively, Guardian writer Steven W. Thrasher explains that race “[is] a technology, “utilized for specific reasons.”

That’s probably why we love it so much, too.

Thrash filters down – from the upper reaches of the black artistic community – the concept from writer Ytasha Womack that “[t]he deployment of this technology has created [emphasis added] racism.”

He says that since “[biological] race is a fiction . . . [that] has only existed as we presently conceive it over the past few hundred years,” the technology of race is used to  “peddle” race itself to the masses.

That is – to keep us believing not only that race is real, but that people of different races pose a real threat to us simply because they are a different race.

Womack’s concept of race as technology helps to explain why Americans continue to exploit racist myths even though they have been scientifically debunked.

If we think about racial mythology as a form of technology, we can understand how racists use it – to create a reality in which the “fiction” of biological race has actual effects.

II.

Back in January, upon the release of Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till, the media had the dubious honor of running one of the most tragic if anticlimactic news stories in American history, at least in this black woman’s opinion.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman that testified in court that 14-year-old Emmett Till grabbed her by her waist and told her, “You needn’t be afraid of me, baby I’ve (done something) with white women before,” confessed that she perjured herself on the stand. She lied outright about her encounter with Till, who she said never spoke directly to her at all.

In fact, Donham reportedly told Tyson that all these years later she can’t remember whether Till even whistled at her that fateful August evening back in Mississippi.

An article in Vanity Fair about Tyson and his dealings with Donham paints a distastefully sympathetic portrait of the elderly woman, even seeming to suggest that her testimony did not play as vital a role in gaining acquittals for Till’s killers as has been historically assumed since their trial in 1955.

(I’m calling subtextual bullshit on that, though, because even though the jury was not present in the courtroom for Donham’s testimony, I have no doubt her allegations crept into the defense of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, feeding the rabidity of those 12 white men to deliver an exoneration. This was Mississippi in fucking 1955.)

The reason I say this story about Donham’s “confession” is anticlimactic is simple, and I also think it should be obvious.

Dahleen Glanton of The Chicago Tribune spells it out in one elegant sentence, for those that may not get it on their own: “We [Black America] already knew her story was a lie.”

“So did the judge who presided over the murder trial of her husband and another man in 1955,” Glanton insists, “and so did most of the people who lived in the tiny town of Money in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.”

So, too, I say, do most of the white people that live in America today.

Yet, I have never read or heard a recount of Till’s murder – from what one would term a “white” source – whether it was in the news, academic, or entertainment genre – that did not include some intimation that Till “either whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hand” of Carolyn Bryant.

And innocuous as that detail may seem, we know that it’s not. It is a lie spread to diminish the horror of Emmett Till’s murder. To blur the line between his innocence and his murderers’ culpability.

It’s also a signifier that the rapist myth is still alive and seething in the American imagination.

If not in its original form, then in a transposed form – a form that elides the old concept of the black men as an automatic sexual deviant – and carries on with its correlative – the lie that cishetero white women epitomize cishetero feminity and so are sexually irresistible to black men.

Under this guise, which the myth gained post Civil Rights, the myth has regained a modicum of acceptability because it’s less objectionable to believe the widely accepted “truth” that white women are the “most beautiful” than the (also widely accepted) lie that black men are animals.

So, this is what post-Civil Rights white supremacists and eugenicists of the highest order – the Steve Bannons of the world – pretend to do – believe that white women are sexually irresistible to black men – so they aren’t written-off as crackpots or backward, hillbilly “trash” – the common caricature of the American white racist.

In pedestalizing the Tomi Lahrens, Sarah Palins, and Kellyann Conways of this country, they’re not just legitimizing these women’s gimmick(kk)y politics; they’re also valorizing “conservative” white womanhood.

They’re emphasizing to white America that there are still “respectable” (cishetero, non-feminist) women within their ranks that need and deserve “protecting” from predators like Trump’s fictitious Mexican rapists and Dylann Roof’s fictitious black rapists.

These new age supremacists capitalize on the mobility of the “face-lifted” rapist myth to tap into the multifarious race-based fears that motivate whites to uphold structural racism, as they do by executing or going along with things like gerrymandering, gentrification, school choice, standardized testing, mandatory sentencing, opposition to policies like Affirmative Action, opposition to institutions like HBCUs, the propagation of symbolic racism, and the election of a failed real estate mogul and reality game show host to the Oval Office.

(Symbolic racism is an anti-black post-Civil Rights belief system based on the four themes that racial discrimination is no longer a serious obstacle for black people; black people’s failure to progress is due to their own unwillingness to work hard; black people’s insistence that the government should take further measures to equalize our social status has no legitimate basis; and the measures that the government has already taken to equalize our social status, such as Affirmative Action, are unjustified).

Too, like the old slave owners, the Steve Bannons, David Dukes, and Richard Spencers of today – they use the rapist myth to galvanize poor whites into terrorizing blacks (see again: Dylann Roof) so they can keep their proverbial hands “clean,” so that journalists and politicians can still appear to be reliable while deigning to deal with them, and so their “alt-right” rhetoric can gain even more acceptability outside of their insular cultural sphere.

And their female counterparts? The Kellyann Conways? They do what Carolyn Bryant did back in 1955.

They buy willingly into the lie that they are sexually irresistible – and they do not want black male attention but cannot help but garner it – to enhance their self- esteem, which still takes seasonal, politically expedient beatings from the white hetero patriarchy.

This entire dynamic is just what Thrasher described in his article. It is how the use of race technology in America has morphed with the times so it can continue to do its work.

III.

Finally, I have arrived at my thoughts about Kellyanne Conway’s posture on that couch in the Oval Office – and the semiotics of that image are the crux of this text (even though I will not post it here – yuck) – because I believe they convey a really pivotal point about the continued use of racism in this country.

Kellyanne Conway is a 50-year-old, married mother of four and Counselor to Donald Trump, but you know why she propped herself up on the couch in the Oval Office like a college co-ed “studying” in the dorm room of a classmate on which she’s been secretly harboring a crush since Orientation back in August?

Because she has internalized the myth.

Because she is a laissez-faire racist. She believed that those black men – automatically and universally – found her sexually attractive. They were not evolved enough to have any other response to her. They were wolves in men’s clothing.

Look at the photo again. Look at her tossed-back hair. Look at her uncrossed legs and arched back. Shoulders back and breasts lifted. All of these are nonverbal cues that she is keying into the situation sexually. She is offering herself up to be objectified.

Think about her choice to perch on a couch – on her knees – rather than stand up – a much more logical choice of positioning to take a photo of a group that size – her willingness to pose for the room despite the nature of the event and her participation in it – both ostensibly professional. Its illogic tells on her.

I don’t care what she claimed in the press after the pictures were released. I don’t care about any journalists’ attempts to make the controversy about her disrespect of the Oval Office in order to trivialize it. The Office wasn’t the issue. Her posture was.

By climbing her ass up on that couch in that room full of black men – and posing like a buttered-up biscuit on the side of a three piece chicken dinner – Kellyanne Conway created some good old-fashioned phobic imagery for Trump’s America.

She gave all the kinds of racists in our current landscape – overt, ambivalent, aversive – a “reminder” of why they “need” to stick to their “unpopular” beliefs.

She invoked the myth, though I will concede that she might have done it unconsciously.

Still, she invoked the myth.

She came off as a mythical white vixen/victim – an echo of Carolyn Bryant – a “could” whose possibility fit right into the cookie cutter shape of Bigger Thomas that I swear every American has in their mind, even if they’ve never read a page of Native Son.

And that’s what made me so mad about that picture, personally.

Her lack of culpability in the face of dire consequences for Outgroup America.

The way I see it, the white male racists in power are triggered enough.

They don’t need any more encouragement to think of blacks as a danger that needs to be extinguished, infestation that needs to be exterminated, or disease that needs to be cured.

I mean . . . damn.

We don’t need shit like Kellyanne Conway whipping her boss and his boys up into a righteous frenzy by pulling a – I don’t know – it might even have been a “Basic Instinct” power move – to boost her embattled confidence – on some unwitting college presidents just trying to secure their federal funding.

Because that’s how easy it appears to be to get Trump all upset. He has the emotional temperament of a toddler.

Luckily, he didn’t go off about that incident. But what about next time, if there is a next time?

We can’t have Kellyanne out here willy-nilly, blinded by the wealth of her ridiculous white privileges, tapping heedlessly into the deep-seated fears that dwell in the chambers of the heart of the rapist myth.

None of which is the fear of the actual psychopathology of men of color, ironically enough.

No – white male racists in power don’t fear black men or Latinx men’s insatiability or animalism because they know the lengths to which they have historically gone to psychologically neuter men of color in this country.

No – what really has them shook is the very real ability of men of color to culturally overtake them, as demonstrated at least partly by black men’s preeminence in professional athletics. Footnote Latinx men in professional baseball.

Jon Entine in his book, Taboo: Why Black Athlete Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It, writes

To the degree that it is a purely scientific debate, the evidence of black superiority in athletics is persuasive and decisively confirmed on the playing field. Elite athletes who trace most or all of their ancestry to Africa are by and large better than the competition. The performance gap is widest when little expensive equipment or facilities are required, such as running, the only true intentional sport, and in widely played team sports such as basketball and football. Blacks not only outnumber their nonwhite competitors but, by and large, are the superstars.

Entine’s quote does read a bit reductively, so let me say: Black men are extraordinarily capable beyond their physicality. Yet, I don’t believe the critical mass of white male racists in power are able to conceive that black men can outthink them. Even in 2017.

What they can imagine, though, and have imagined, since the explosion of the plantation system in the late 1600s, is black men rising up in arms, banding together, and overturning the white power structure in our society.

Concurrently, white male racists in power fear getting pushed from their place at the top of the sexual attractiveness totem pole by an overgrowing white female demand for seemingly superior, “exotic” black and brown male bodies.

And they fear that black-white and Latinx-white sexual relationships – as they exponentially increase – will swallow up whites’ recessive trait genotypes.

At the very beginning of this post, I wrote that myths reflect certain truths about human nature, but then I wrote that racial myths are lies. And they are lies, but their persistence exposes some really important truths about the microsociology of this current version of America.

Blackness still functions largely as the electrical current powering the social machinery of this country, not whiteness. The technology of race has this horrifying way of staying on the cutting edge.

Still, this “newest” iteration of whiteness is a response to blackness. As American whiteness is. By its needful nature.

It wouldn’t exist if blackness didn’t. That symbiosis hasn’t changed since slavery.

So, since black and white are symbiotic, black people can steer the direction in which the white male racists in power take this country, if that is, in fact, what we want to do.

We have money and votes they need to remain in power. And we can use them as the leverage they are. We can be strategic in the way we use them. We can demand political ransom for them.

We can perch our asses on the proverbial couch of the US Capitol and let Trump ‘nem know – a lot of what they think about us is bullshit, but our political power is not mythical. It’s real.

We can deploy the technology of race to achieve our own ends. It is at least half our intellectual property, according to our history. The white male racists in power don’t have exclusive design rights.

We can change the configuration any time and way we want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daily Prompt: Seriousness

via Daily Prompt: Seriousness

I am beginning to doubt the seriousness of Americans that say they want to stop Trump.

There – I said it.

I don’t believe the Democrats. I don’t believe the so-called moderate members of the GOP. I don’t believe the women. I don’t believe the black people. I don’t believe the undocumented immigrants, their documented family members, or their family members that are citizens.

I don’t believe the families of those affected by the “Muslim Ban.” I don’t believe the Democratic or neoliberal pundits or talk show hosts like Bill Maher or Trevor Noah.

Because everybody is talking about stopping Trump – feeding his martyr complex and narcissistic paranoia – his Twitter feed and whatever personnel machine is rolling out his executive orders like copies of Those Damn Nazis – but nobody is doing anything that will actually stop him.

I chose Those Damn Nazis as my example strategically. I’m pretty certain that very few of you – my regular readers – if any of you – have ever read it. However, it begins with this sentiment that could just as easily undergird Trump’s brand of republicanism as it did Hitler’s “National Socialism.”

“We are nationalists because we see the nation as the only way to bring all the forces of the nation together to preserve and improve our existence and the conditions under which we live,” it reads.

The nation is the organic union of a people to protect its life. To be national is to affirm this union in word and deed. To be national has nothing to do with a form of government or a symbol [emphasis added]. It is an affirmation of things, not forms. Forms can change, their content remains. If form and content agree, then the nationalist affirms both. If they conflict, the nationalist fights for the content and against the form [emphasis added]. One may not put the symbol above the content. If that happens, the battle is on the wrong field and one’s strength is lost in formalism [emphasis added]. The real aim of nationalism, the nation, is lost.

The Constitution established three branches of federal government in Articles I-II and prescribed their respective duties in such a way that each branch would check and balance the powers of the other. That is the form of our republic, to use Joseph Goebbels’s terminology. There is an intentional separation of powers, thanks to James Madison, John Rutledge, Edmund Randolph, James Wilson, and the other members of the Committee on Postponed Parts of the Constitutional Convention. This separation of powers is intended to prevent any one branch of government from taking over the government of the nation.

Luckily, every President from 1-44 has been a Constitutional formalist, more or less. But not 45. No – 45 apparently believes what Goebbels believed, if we take these first weeks of his presidency as indicators of where he stands on the question of whether nationalism should outweigh constitutionalism.

We see this is the way that Trump has consistently circumnavigated the reach of Congress by issuing executive order after executive order.

According to the National Constitution Center, “For almost a century after the founding of the United States, the amount of ‘executive orders’ was relatively limited. That may be because there is no actual provision in the Constitution that speaks to executive orders [emphasis added]. The power has developed over time, with presidents using Article II, Section 3—the “Executive” should “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”—as a basis for creating law without Congress as long as it holds true to the Constitution [emphasis added].”

To contextualize Trump’s issuances, Maggie Baldridge, an intern at the Center, explains:

Perhaps the most famous executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln, marked a shift in the power of the executive branch to essentially circumnavigate Congress when deemed necessary . . . However, the deteriorating state of the nation and the urgency of action on both practical and moral levels could justify what many believe was an increase to the power of the executive branch [emphasis added] . . . While the average number of orders increased in the latter part of the 19th century, three men in the 20th century truly expanded the power of the executive via the executive order: Theodore Roosevelt with a total of 1,081 orders, Woodrow Wilson with 1,803[,] and Franklin D, Roosevelt with a lofty 3,522 total executive orders . . . The federal government [and] executive branch . . . as we know them today are results of these presidents and the actions they took. [However,] [s]ince Eisenhower took office in 1953, no modern president has come close to the number of orders of even Theodore Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan had 381 over his 8 years, George W. Bush had 291 and Barack Obama had a total of 276.

Baldridge notes that Obama issued 10 of his total 276 executive orders in the first nine days of his first term, but she still questions whether Trump should be issuing so many executive orders so early in his administration.

She asks, “Should executive orders be considered constitutional in the first place? Do they give too much power to one branch of government and therefore obscure the system of checks and balances intended by the Framers of the Constitution?”

I think the more relevant question is whether Trump’s executive orders are justified or they constitute an attempt on his part to outmaneuver the separation of power in the Fed and run the country like some sort of dictatorship.

Trump inherited an America in which President Obama, over his two terms in office, maintained a low inflation rate, cut the federal deficit by two-thirds, reduced the unemployment rate (which had skyrocketed during the recession in 2009), and fostered the expansion of US exports, the improvement of stock prices, positive if minimal growth in the GDP, job growth (also minimal), and global growth (yes – also minimal – but positive). Despite the lies Trump propagates about the state of the union after Obama, the US is not in a “deteriorating state” or crisis, as would necessitate his need to push through all of this self-written (or ghostwritten) policy. So, Trump is doing something other than “saving” us with all of these directives, which I think we all knew, but, you know, in the interest of fairness . . .

On the surface – and especially for those with sparse knowledge of the legislative process – it probably just looks like Trump is pandering to his electorate, churning out all these orders to “make good” on his campaign promises. I want to point out, though, what may not be obvious about this approach of Trump’s, but should certainly be troubling to all Americans and galvanizing to the Democrats if they really do care anything about, oh, you know, preserving our governmental structure, honoring the philosophy of democracy, and doing their fucking jobs.

By issuing directives rather than drafting bills, Trump is crafting a style of leadership that is going – at least partially – unchecked and unbalanced by Congress.

Executive orders and presidential memoranda – as – again – I explained in an earlier post – go directly from the Oval into effect and carry the weight of law.

This is problematic, to say the last, for a dubious instrument of executive power, particularly when its use is virtually unlimited.

It’s problematic, but it’s still workable because executive orders can be nullified at the state level, according to Amendment 10 of the Constitution. It reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Since the Constitution does not explicitly or formally grant the President of the US the power to issue executive orders, the states can legally refuse to comply with Trump’s orders, if they want to. They would probably just have to do some form of battle in the Supreme Court with Trump if they refused to comply. But I say, so fucking what?

It should be worth it to the Democrats in Congress – and Republicans, for that matter – because it’s the right thing to do. Trump didn’t win the popular vote. That means the majority of Americans didn’t want him to be our President. So, if our representatives are in fact our representatives, and they are serious about fulfilling that duty, they shouldn’t be going along to get along with this guy and the authoritarian bullshit he keeps pulling out from under his disastrous toupee.

Representatives and Senators from both parties should have by now confronted the fact that heedless power-hunger on the Right and neoliberal arrogance on the Left walled us all into this preposterous Trump presidency. And they should be doing everything in their power to get us out it, and we – the people – should be demanding that they take definitive action lest we refuse to vote them back into office come 2018. Especially the Democrats.

They, in particular, have an opportunity right now to stand up. Literally right now. They can show their seriousness and possibly get Trump impeached. If they’re daring, and they’re dogged.

Because several reputable news sources are reporting that Michael Flynn – Trump’s former security advisor – “former” after less than a month in the position, mind you – lied consistently over that fragment of a month about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and may have played a peripheral role in the Kremlin’s interference in our election.

Flynn told Mike Pence, other unnamed White House officials, and investigators for the FBI that when he spoke to Kislyak back in December he did his appointed duty – he set up a phone call to take place between Kislyak and Trump after the inauguration.

He insisted that he did not discuss sanctions being imposed by President Obama at the time. Sanctions imposed in answer to Russian interference in the election. Interference that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in its declassified report on the incident, described as

 . . . an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election [with the] goals . . . to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency [as well as]  help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.

The intelligence report on this “influence campaign” states that “[a]ll three agencies agree . . . [the] CIA and FBI [with] high confidence [and] NSA [with] moderate confidence . . . [that] [Moscow]. . . followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.'”

The report reiterates: “Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties . . . [and] obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.”

The only thing of which Russia is not guilty, according to the report, is tampering with vote tallying.

This is why Pence and Sean Spicer took Flynn’s first stage lies about his conversation with Kislyak and passed them swiftly on to the media and public in mid-January, on the heels of the release of the intelligence on Russia.

Pence and Spicer knew that anyone with a mustard seed of logic was putting two and two together and reasoning that Flynn was passing covert messages from Trump to Putin through Kislyak.

Yes. It’s not only plausible but likely that Flynn’s “interactions” were assurances that Putin would be rewarded in some form for helping to cement Trump’s victory, the most obvious and simple being that Trump would drop the sanctions against Russia as soon as he got into office.

But even if Flynn wasn’t assuring Putin of his grand prize – or – worse – instructing him on how to hide the fact that he colluded with Trump to tamper with the election – might Flynn still have been legally wrong for talking policy with Kislyak before the inauguration? The American people need to know.

Trump was not President until January 20, 2017, so, if he was ordering Flynn to say anything to Putin about sanctions or any other governmental policy matter in December of 2016, was that treason? The American people need to know.

Did Trump – through Flynn – ask Putin to interfere in the election or grant him permission to interfere? Did Flynn pass along tips on how to most effectively weaponize their espionage or take notes to report to Trump?

I don’t know, but the answer seems to me like a solid-ass “maybe so.”

Disinformation is a legitimate form of electoral fraud. It is defined as the distribution of false or misleading information in order to affect the outcome of an election.

The UC can’t indict Putin for electoral fraud, but, if Trump worked with Putin, then he may be an accessory to disinformation, and the Trump administration might have its first legitimate scandal on its hands – a plot to “fix” the election that could include Trump, Pence, Spicer, Flynn, Comey, and maybe even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The story unfolds with typical political intrigue and tells of typical political subterfuge – and it leaves the same old unsavory taste in my mouth, at least, as establishment politicians’ deception, even though Trump promised he would be “different.”

Flynn’s phone conversation with Kislyak was “intercepted” by the “American intelligence apparatus that typically monitors Russian diplomats.” The Justice Department received and reviewed a transcript of the conversation, and it showed that Flynn did talk about sanctions with Kislyak after all.

What else could he have logically been saying other than Trump would drop the sanctions, so Russia didn’t need to react to them?  I mean – Trump himself said, days before the election, “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?

Trump also downplayed the vitality of Russian interference in the election by insisting that because there was “no tampering whatsoever with voting machines” – prevarication like an MF – “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election” – and I find this suspicious since electoral fraud is such a serious crime in our country.

Too, Trump’s staff sat on the revelation that Flynn had lied about his conversation with Kislyak for days before Flynn resigned yesterday – at Trump’s behest. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times reported, within hours of his resignation: Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general fired by Trump on January 31, told White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, on January 26 that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak during their phone conversation, and Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Moscow because he had lied on the record.

He was a serious – speaking of – threat to national security, but Trump did nothing about him. Not until the story broke in the news that Flynn lied to Pence. Then, Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation. This makes it seem as if Trump had no problem with what Flynn told Kislyak until Trump stood to get raked over the coals in the press for it.

However it went, Flynn is out of the White House now, and the FBI is investigating him. Prominent Democrats and Republicans in Congress are calling for a Senate committee investigation of his correspondences with Russia (there was more than the one), and I heard a few journalists on the cable evening news shows saying there should be an independent, impartial investigation with a high degree of transparency.

I say the Democrats should do something more drastic than “call for” a potentially abortive investigation by the Senate if they want a snowball’s chance in our overheating climate of gaining back some Congressional seats in 2018.

I’ve been watching all of this Trump drama closely, and what I’ve seen so far, as Trump et al. have stupidly ravaged the ACA, the Dodd-Frank Bill, the fiduciary rule, National Security Council’s Principals Committee, federal funding for sanctuary cities, reproductive health advocacy, the TPP, sacred lands belonging to the First Nation people, and perfectly viable immigration policies, among so many other things, is the Democrats in Congress putting up a very weak, ineffectual fight against their autocratic sweep into power.

That’s why I haven’t written here in so long. I’ve been depressed. I’ve begun to think the neocameralist society for which the alt-right seems to be pushing is a mere one or two executive orders away.

A fellow WordPress blogger, a couple weeks ago, wrote an anniversary tribute to the publication of James Baldwin’s canonical text, The Fire Next Time, and began the post with this quote: ” . . . [A] civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”

When I read this, I can’t lie; I thought immediately about the Democratic Party and what is happening politically in America right now.

As I said, though, this Flynn situation is an opportunity. Democrats can use it to do a few things they have desperately needed to do to clean up their share of the mess left after the collision of Hillary and Trump.

First, the Democratic Representatives and Senators should unite with any Republicans they can to formalize a civil resistance campaign against Trump whose main tactic is refusing to follow any of his executive orders that elicit “notable” opposition from their constituents (hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions, phone calls, postcards, and so on).

As I pointed out before, Amendment 10 says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” This can be the legal grounds for their action.

They cannot be charged with treason. The Constitution defines treason as “levying War against [the United States], or . . . adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Even Trump – with his gift for deliberate misconstruance – can’t frame the sort of civil resistance I’m proposing as that. And, anyway, if the campaign is bipartisan, Trump would be hard-pressed to discredit the motives of his own party members. He can’t accuse Republicans of trying to wrest power for their party because they are his party, and they have a super majority right now.

Second, the Democrats should launch a speech campaign. They should have the best-liked members of the party – Warren, Sanders, Pelosi, Booker, Waters – go to the states where they are in the most danger of losing seats in 2018 or where they could finagle seats if they strike the proper chord with fringe voters and hold major televised “meetings” designed to rebrand the party.

During these events, they should talk about the boycott against Trump, couching it in a rhetoric of patriotism and service. They should tell America their reluctance to support Trump is rooted in a deep concern for the future well-being of all Americans – and especially those that held their noses and voted for Trump – who will likely have hardest time swallowing the bitter consequences that are already coming to pass.

Because that’s the Democrats’ biggest problem right now, as far as I can see. Nobody wants to buy their brand. In the aftermath of the election, they look like pussies (no macho). During the election, they looked like snobs.

They made Hillary their proxy, and, even though she is an up-by-her-bootstraps or “self-made” American, she put on airs. She discussed Americans that refused to parse or acknowledge the trickery of the GOP’s antics like they were stupid when she should’ve cast them as “suffering” or “afraid.”

At the LGBT for Hillary fundraiser back in September, we all know what she said:

And if you have read about the ones he says he’s likely to support, he’s not kidding. In fact, if you look at his running mate, his running-mate signed a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT Americans. And there’s so much more than I find deplorable in his campaign: the way that he cozies up to white supremacist, makes racist attacks, calls women pigs, mocks people with disabilities — you can’t make this up. He wants to round up and deport 16 million people, calls our military a disaster. And every day he says something else which I find so personally offensive, but also dangerous. You know, the idea of our country is so rooted in continuing progress that we make together. Our campaign slogan is not just words. We really do believe that we are stronger together. We really do believe that showing respect and appreciation for one another lifts us all up.

She made Trump supporters feel small when she should’ve been offering them “empathy.”

I don’t care what anybody says. Americans can be like spoiled children about our so-called “comfort levels.” We live in one of the most prosperous countries – still – in the world, and we do not deal well with having to forego things we want or feeling like our needs are being overlooked. Even our poverty is less punishing than other countries’ poverty.

So politicians that want to win our favor have to coddle us. It’s true. We buy wholeheartedly into the concept that they are beholden to our votes, and we expect them to be actual public servants. That is why successful politicians like President Obama and, yes, Trump very scrupulously filter out even the slightest undertone of disapproval when they talk to us about ourselves.

These politicians assure us that our fears and petty feelings of rivalry and neglect are understandable and forgivable. They reassure us. I may not be able to give you this, they say, but what about this other thing? See, they say, I’m not asking you to do without everything or accept just anything. I want what you want; I just want these other things, too. Let’s just see if we can’t compromise. I give; you give.

The Democrats should see this more clearly now than they ever did before. They should not go on the offensive, attacking Trump voters or blaming them for getting American into this morass. They shouldn’t attack Trump, either, who is their proxy – the septuagenarian trust fund baby with narcissistic personality disorder that wants to be a hillbilly and holy icon at the same damn time.

Rather than cataloging all of the outrages Trump has committed, the Democrats should explain: ensuring America doesn’t lose its ideals and advantages in the age of globalization is a more complicated matter than attempting to turn back the hands of time, and, even if the government could turn the tide of globalization, which it can’t, the answers to America’s real problems – a relatively sluggish economy, gun violence, pollution, terrorism, dependence on foreign oil, and, yes, partisan polarity in politics, do not lie in the past.

Then, one by one, they should address each problem triangularly: W. did this, and it didn’t work in these ways; Obama did this, and it didn’t work in these ways; Trump is proposing that we do this, and it won’t work, either, in these ways. They should be honest, and they should speak in clear, accessible terms. Fifth grade, sixth grade level of vocabulary. Like Trump.

Establishmentarianism isn’t going to fix our problems – the Democrats should acknowledge – but pulling the rug from out under the establishment won’t work either – they should argue – because it will violently disrupt everything that the US has in place that is working.

Then, they should explain what is working or at least what was working before Trump got into office.

They should tell us that their primary goal now is actual productive bipartisanship. We want to be a party whose different demographics are united – they should say – and we want to unite the different demographics that populate the nation, no matter each person’s individual political affiliation.

They should point out that there are nearly 50 ongoing armed conflicts occurring in the world today in a total of 44 countries – the oldest one dating back to 1922 in Iran – and the majority are not between countries fighting each other; they are between countrymen and countrywomen fighting each other.

They should remind us that just like the boom eras of the 1920s and 1950s are in our history – the one to which Trump appears to want to return – so too is the Civil War era – during which Americans split up regionally and along lines of economic interest and threatened to destroy the entire nation’s solvency with their refusal to work through out their differences peaceably.

They should be serious, but they should not be snobbish.

Bravado has its appeal, but so does vulnerability. So does humility. Americans have shown through their embrace of Trump that they appreciate an unvarnished approach to politicking, but, through their embrace of Obama, they have also shown that they can appreciate a subtle approach just as much.

Obama never called anyone names – well – except Kanye West that one time. He kept the Tea Party at bay and got two terms in office by being subtle. Something Trump will never be. An art the rest of the Democratic Party better master.

Obama legalized gay marriage, but did not make a highly publicized deal out of the fact that he appointed more openly gay officials to government than Clinton and Bush combined (including the first openly gay US Army Secretary). He withdrew troops from Iraq, but kept them in Afghanistan. He dealt diplomatically with Iran, but continued to fight W. Bush’s drone war in Pakistan.

Obama admitted Syrian refugees, but deported millions of undocumented, mostly Mexican immigrants with criminal records. Obama gave highly performative, emotional speeches about the several mass shootings and instances of fatal, racist police brutality that occurred while he was in office, but he didn’t make major changes to gun laws or push in a concrete way for reforms in law enforcement even though he had the leverage to do so (police departments do receive federal funding to which he could’ve attempted to add stipulations).

Obama never directly addressed disaffected lower middle class, working class, and poor white Americans the way Trump did during his campaign, but he demonstrated, in the way he handled certain issues, that he “cared” about the issues that upset and economically affected them. He made sure the ACA was universally effective, created 15 million jobs (800,000 in manufacturing), and spent $80 billion bailing out the auto industry.

Obama had the same neoliberal “high road” patter as Hillary, but without the superiority complex. When he was campaigning for Hillary, he didn’t deride the offensive things that Trump did on the campaign trail. He was savvy enough to realize that Americans are more adept at seeming evolved than they are at evolving.

And that is what the Democrats in Congress have to accept as well. The party ran Hillary because they thought the electorate couldn’t resist the opportunity to put the first woman President in the Oval Office; they mistakenly projected their own smugness about their ability to “transcend” the entrenched racism and patriarchy of our culture onto the American masses.

They thought the rest of America was as high on self-righteousness and self-adulation as they were in the aftermath of Obama. They thought we wanted more – we wanted another eight years of being able to pat ourselves on the back for voting as what that indubitable guru of personal growth Oprah Winfrey calls our “best selves.”

They thought every single woman in the country that wasn’t a Republican would dive at the chance to cast a vote for a woman, despite the fact she is a member of the white ruling class, and her tone-deaf promises that the “future is female” do not placate people of color – some of which happen to be women too – that still need seats at the table of power.

The Democrats also thought they could exploit the public’s mental association of Hillary with Obama – substitute his likability for her lack – and win over his – yes – fans – by making her platform a lazy extension of his slightly over-intellectual – at least by American standards – agenda.

They assumed that smart Americans could see straight through the trumped-up accusations related to what Politico calls the “scandal of [the] ‘home brew’ email server,” and they would delight throwing the GOP’s corruption and Trump’s ridiculousness back in his face.

They ignored the implications of the catalyzation and legitimization of the Tea Party and opted to believe that between 2008-2016 the US realized – pretty much wholesale – the “worthlessness” of institutional racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.

They stuck stubbornly to the idea that people want their government to lead them down the supposed “high road” to safety and comfort when in truth most Americans don’t care how they get “there” just as long as they do.

They also ignored the animal nature of human beings and the way large groups – with their anonymity and companionship and safety – make people feel they can safely misbehave.

They made what amounted to a huge mistake, and, now, they can fix it, but they have make a concerted effort to do something – fuck – if it can’t be new then – else. They have do something other than what they’ve been doing. Obviously.

So, during their speech campaign – I’m back to my plan now – they should admit that Hillary was an imprudent choice for the party’s Presidential candidate. They should acknowledge the need for “fresh” faces and voices in the fore of the party and set the stage to push a carefully selected crop from the back of the proverbial bus.

They should name the names and flash the faces of the new Democratic vanguard that will work “tirelessly” to make up to us – the people – the inadvertent way the forgivable misunderstandings and misconceptions of the old guard pushed so many Americans to put their faith in a shyster like Trump.

To seem like they are on “our” side, and not Trump’s, they should encourage dissatisfied demographics to strike, and they should aim that encouragement very deliberately and sympathetically at fringe Trump supporters that stand to lose their health insurance when the ACA is repealed or Trump supporters that failed to anticipate the stringency of his immigration policies. Their anger is usable.

Politics are a game, but they are a deathly serious one. They are a game, and people don’t like that, but the saving grace is games have rules. People that want to keep playing know that they need to follow them.

If the Democrats in Congress play fair (enough) – if they do right – they can get back into the good graces of the American people – and either depose Trump or vote him out of office in 2020 – God willing.

They just need to get serious about their oath, which says, “I . . . do solemnly swear . . . that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

And the rest of us – women, blacks, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, First Nation – that swear we cannot live under Trump need to get serious, too, and start acting like it. Or shut the hell up, bend over, and take these four years of oppressive political ass-whipping like some Gs.

I’m not saying that we’re not doing anything, but we’re not doing enough.

We can create our own campaigns of civil resistance like a large-scale tax resistance or demonstrations. We can boycott. We can strike. And, when the midterm elections come, we must vote. We must also vote in 2020, especially if Trump is running for re-election. We have to defend ourselves from his manipulation and dangerous misrule.

Because that guy is a domestic enemy of the United States or at least any United States in which would like to live or raise my daughter.

The threat he poses to us is beyond serious, and, if we don’t do something to curb his craziness, we will either live to regret it, or there is the terrifying possibility that some of us – a lot of us – won’t.

(China. Iran. Iraq. North Korea. Russia. Syria. Yemen.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Not ‘Bout No Life: The Logical Fallacy of the Anti-Abortion Conservative & The Reason Trump and His Cronies Can Go Choke on a Communion Wafer

Anyone that has been following me for longer than one post knows I am a stickler when it comes to using words. Or maybe you don’t. So let me tell you. It can take me five or six hours to write a post sometimes because I keep trying to capture my ideas perfectly.

I never write unless I can compose on a computer, so I can open up Edge if I’m using Word, or a second tab in Edge if I’m blogging, and have up the Merriam-Webster website in case I need to look up a word.

I even have a whole collection of axioms I use when I’m teaching to stress the importance of being exacting when it comes to using words. I tell my students there is an entire lexicon of words to capture their ideas, so stop using the same 20 or 30. Do not rely on context clues to define a new word – I tell them – look it up. Do not use a word whose meaning you do not know, no matter how “sophisticated” you think it sounds.

I tell them there are no two less descriptive adjectives in the English language than “good” and “bad” – these words can mean anything to anyone. Adverbs are often just crutches for writers that don’t know a wide enough variety of action verbs. Very few words are truly interchangeable, and that is particularly true of the two words I’m going to break down in this post.

One of the defining characteristics of American political conservatives – who are mostly Republicans – is that they are “pro-life.” This term, as it is customarily used, refers to people purported to believe abortion is immoral and should be illegal.

John Hawkins, in an article differentiating conservatives and liberals, writes, “Conservatives believe that abortion ends the life of an innocent child and since we believe that infanticide is wrong, we oppose abortion.” To me – a liberal black Democrat feminist – this explanation captures perfectly the inaccuracy of the term “pro-life.” Conservatives are not really pro-life; they’re just anti-abortion.

They propagate the idea that human life begins at conception, and supposedly root their beliefs about abortion in that idea, but, when it comes to their other political beliefs, they expose an undeniable callousness about the preciousness of human life that ultimately undermines them.

Their “pro-life” language and optics can be pretty compelling, but I still say they are not convincing, and the majority of conservatives that oppose abortion politically and publically are not actually concerned with the immorality of the act of killing but rather the ramifications of a paradigm shift in America’s racial demography.

They don’t care about the poor lost babies; they care about the fact that white women obtained 39% of abortions in America in 2014 while black women obtained 28%, Latinx women obtained 25%, and other races and ethnicities only obtained 9%.

They care about the fact that 75% of women that obtained abortions in America in 2014 were low income or poor, and these abortions placed them in better positions to attend school, work, build, and retain some wealth.

According to Gallup, the majority of Republicans in America are white (89%),  and we know the majority of political conservatives are Republican.

The majority of conservatives in government are also Republican, white, and supposedly “pro-life,” and this now includes Trump – He Who I Shall Not Call President.

I think Trump’s pro-life views are just another guise for his all-consuming opportunism. I won’t say the thing I want to say about how likely it is that as a philandering billionaire, Trump has paid for more than a few hasty secret abortions in his time, but I will say that up until his Presidential campaign last year, he appeared to be – and he was quoted in 1999 referring to himself as – “very pro-choice.”

I think he flip-flopped to help win over the conservative electorate, and that would be fine with me if it didn’t translate into him making efforts at the federal level to strip American women of their abortion rights.

In regards to staunch “pro-lifers” like Vice President Michael Pence, I won’t say that they are lying about being Christians or believing abortion is wrong because there’s no way I can know that.

But I can and do conjecture that their religious beliefs are not the true basis of their official stance against abortion. They oppose abortion for political reasons and lie about it so they don’t seem like ruthless monsters or machines.

I say this because the prevailing sentiment throughout the New Testament is that disciples of Jesus should go out and try to win and save souls, but disciples are characterized as trained teachers and preachers in the Bible, and not laymen, and no Christian’s salvation is hinged by the Word on his or her ability to keep another Christian or another person from committing sins.

In other words, Christianity doesn’t mandate that believers actively block the sinful decisions and actions of others. It doesn’t encourage believers to interfere with other people’s lives that aggressively. The Bible says tell people about the Trinity, pray for people, model Christian behavior for them, but do not judge or seek to punish them because that is God’s job alone.

And anyway, even if these highly vocal conservatives in government do care about the souls of their constituents, their myopic focus on abortion as the main political conduit for conveying morality to the American people – if such a thing can even be done – says that isn’t the only thing they are trying to accomplish with their anti-abortion antics.

Because drug use, alcohol consumption, pornography, and prostitution are all still booming in America today, but you don’t see conservatives pushing for any legislation to more efficiently block Americans’ access to any of them.

And rape, divorce, defrauding people, gambling, persecuting others, and acting against the poor are all sins, according to the Bible, but American laws actually enable all of these things, and conservatives do very little, if anything, to change, improve, or strengthen these laws.

Unborn babies aren’t the only ones dying because of the wide berth our current laws give Americans to exercise their free will. Conservatives could take political umbrage with the way a dozen different issues are legislated at the moment, or make a dozen different strategic moves in this session of Congress, if saving lives is really what they wanted to do, but, as we should all see from the endless fucking stream of government articles on the Internet, they don’t.

Conservatives don’t want increased gun control in a country where there were 372 mass shootings that killed 475 people in 2015; there were 13,286 people killed by firearms (excluding suicides); and 60% of murders were committed with guns.

Conservatives want to repeal Obamacare before creating and implementing a workable replacement when research shows that 45,000 Americans died each year due to lack of health insurance before Obamacare.

Conservatives want to end government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program a/k/a food stamps), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, yet, again, research shows that 162,000 Americans die annually due to low social support; 133,000 die due to individual-level poverty; and 119,000 die due to income inequality.

Conservatives give blanket support to law enforcement though American police killed an estimated 928 people every year for the last eight years, and there is no way of knowing – because of inefficient tracking procedures – which of these killings were justified and which were avoidable.

And while we’re at it – conservatives believe in a strong military, yet “approximately 165,000 [Iraqi] civilians have died from direct war related violence caused by the US, its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the [US] invasion through April 2015 . . . through aerial bombing, shelling, gunshots, suicide attacks, and fires started by bombing.”

According to their propaganda, human life begins at the moment of conception, but it also seems to end at the instant of birth – the point at which they stop trying to pantomime concern and exploit their preciousness for the sake of political expediency.

Conservatives want to outlaw the 1.2 million abortions that American women have each year, regardless of their reasons, but seem to have no problem with directly or indirectly facilitating the deaths of roughly half that number of full people through the exercise of a malignant passel their other political beliefs.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Where does their supposed Christian concern for life and will to save innocent souls go when they are tussling back-and-forth with Democrats that want to save Obamacare or toughen up gun control or stop the use of military torture on our so-called enemies? I mean, hey, Christians are supposed to love their enemies.

And if anti-abortion laws are really only about getting women to have their babies, then why don’t conservatives focus on getting women to have their babies willingly?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life [emphasis added]. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.”

So where are the conservatives pushing for the laws that increase and equalize women’s wages, mandate paid maternity leave and maternal job retention, subsidize childcare costs, or grant free family health insurance or childcare to enrolled college students?

You don’t see or hear from these conservatives because conservatives’ issue with abortion isn’t really moral, and their campaign against it isn’t borne out of compassion; it’s borne out of their bottomless cunning.

I think when conservatives insist that infant lives matter, they are prevaricating. They are couching shrewd political strategy in seeming ethicality. They’re not talking about saving souls. They’re trying to shore up political and economic power to comfortably sustain them into the country’s uncertain future.

Conservatives are, again, mostly Republican, and Republicans are mostly white. Whites have hegemonic power over America as a result of being the framers of the republic and authors and economic beneficiaries of slavery and the Industrial Revolution in North America.

A primary factor in their hegemony is their numbers; they are the majority, so, when they vote together, as witnessed in the last Presidential race, they can dictate the leadership of the country and choose such that the leadership acts primarily in their favor.

When conservatives fight to take away women’s right to abortion, they are not fighting the wages of sin. They are fighting to stave off the arrival of the mythological majority-minority tipping point date, on which they will no longer be the majority and so easily able to secure their hegemony. They are fighting, behind that, to saddle poor minorities with children they can’t afford, so they have a harder time educating themselves, working, and building wealth or rather encroaching on the money white people want to horde for themselves, and, behind that, they are fighting to keep a perennial underclass in American society that is made of mostly of minorities – a segment of the population that is persistently poor and mired in pathologies of poverty that keep its members from rising to the working or middle classes, where they could become competition for less affluent whites.

Conservatives understand that unplanned, unaffordable pregnancies are often “part of the vicious cycle of poverty,” in which “kids born into poverty are likely to remain there for their whole lives, despite the promise of the American Dream.”

They also know that “compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes,” and “[p]sychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged.” Women that are denied abortions do not end up “happier” than women that are allowed to have them.

I think this is important for women to realize because we are – across communities – conditioned to care deeply about how we appear under the male gaze – to be “good” girls (see – that projective-ass word)  and – when the men with the loudest voices and weightiest opinions censure our options for our lives – it is difficult for many of us to bear up under that and fight for the resources and choices we need to be autonomous.

Conservatives make a lot of moralistic and misogynistic arguments against abortion (not the least is the sub-textual argument that women’s overall wellbeing in politically expendable), but the truth is the majority of women don’t use abortions as a means of birth control, and they don’t relish having to make the decision or go through with having an abortion. They do it because it’s what they feel they have to do.

The majority of women have abortions out of financial, psychological, and/or physical necessity, and they do not choose adoption because to do so they would still have to take on the financial, psychological, and physical of pregnancy, and those are not incidental in the least – no matter what conservative white male members of Congress that know everything they know about pregnancy and childbirth from watching their affluent wives and side chicks go through it might say.

And, despite the misleading way conservatives talk about cutting funding for institutions like Planned Parenthood, federal money does not pay for abortions in any institutional setting, even if abortions are given in that setting.

Sadly, anti-abortion laws don’t ensure either – in conjunction with blocking abortions – that every American child that is allowed to be born is adequately fed, clothed, housed, educated, or loved.

According to Children’s Rights, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the US right now. Nearly six percent of children in foster care stay in for five or more years. More than half of the children entering foster care are racial minorities. Fourteen percent of children in foster care are not in family settings; they are in institutions or group homes.

In 2015, over 62,000 American children whose parents’ parental rights had been terminated were waiting to be adopted, and more than 20,000 young adults aged out of foster care without permanent families.

Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults.”

Too, 686,000 US children in foster care in 2012 were victims of abuse – 78.3% of these babies were neglected, 18.3% were battered, 9.3% were physically abused, 8.5% were “psychologically maltreated,” and 1,640 died from abuse and neglect.

If conservative Republicans were really ’bout that life – as they say in the streets – where so many unwanted American children end up after everything is said and done on Capitol Hill – they’d be brainstorming ways to keep these young ones out of foster care, not shove more of them in.

If they were about life at all, and not just money and power, they’d focus on making America livable for everyone and stop using poor women’s wombs as metaphoric or spiritual suicide bombs.

 

America 101: Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda

Like the abusive boyfriend that I called him in my last post, Trump has conditioned me to be suspicious of his smarmy grin. When I see it, I automatically think he’s up to no good. If he’s not wreaking havoc, why would his orange-colored ass be happy? He’s oppositional. He doesn’t get off on doing what other people want him to do.

News stories swiftly confirmed for me that Trump is indeed busy making trouble; he signed two presidential memoranda and is supposedly drafting an executive order that will bear environmentally racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic effects.

The first – the Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline – directs the Secretary of the Army  to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to . . . review and approve in an expedited manner . . . requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas.”

The Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline invites TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to “promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline” and directs the Secretary of State to expeditiously review the application, if submitted, and the Secretary of the Army, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to review and approve  . . . requests for authorization to utilize Nationwide Permit 12 . . . with respect to crossings of the ‘waters of the United States’ by the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Of course, both directives essentially ignore the fears of the citizens living in the areas through and around which these pipelines will pass, including large numbers of indigenous people from the Standing Rock Sioux and Oglala Lakota Nation.

Finally, the executive order that is in the works, according to The Huffington Post, would “dramatically restrict” the numbers of refugees admitted to the US and deny visas to people from countries Trump and his administration deem “high risk.”

Sources say the details of the order could block Syrian refugees from entering the US indefinitely; block people from countries with so-called “inadequate” security screening from obtaining visas (i.e. entering the country); and, most significantly, target Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – all Muslim-majority countries – because they are “terror-prone.”

It would not constitute a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” as Trump promised during his campaign, but it would be a betrayal of our democratic philosophy and identity as an immigrant nation, as well as constitute a failure to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement, which is regarded as customary international law, according to the United Nations.

I actually think such an executive order, if issued, would also represent an egregious abuse of presidential power because of its potentially fatal ramifications and bigoted logical and political bases. It would target Muslim refugees of color and exacerbate our seeming blindness to the fact that extremist domestic terrorism is a much realer and more dangerous threat to America than Islamic terrorism.

The nomenclature of these three directives – they are “memos” and “orders” and not “bills” or “amendments “- may make them sound less consequential or binding than customary multilateral legislation, but they are not; they have the full force of the law and dictate the actions of departments and agencies under the executive branch of the federal government.

Thankfully, they are still subject to judicial review if the Supreme Court finds that they are not supported by the Constitution or federal law.

Though reporters sometimes talk about them interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Executive orders have more prestige; they are more comprehensive; and they can take legal precedence over – they can interfere with the execution of – a presidential memorandum.

Thankfully again, neither executive orders nor presidential memoranda allow the President to circumnavigate or work around the approval of Congress when it comes to creating or changing major laws and regulations, however both can skirt the need for bipartisanship or cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, which can be problematic with these instruments can affect some very serious, wide-reaching issues.

In fact, the integration of the armed forces (President Harry S. Truman) and desegregation of public schools (President Dwight D. Eisenhower) – historic changes to American history and culture – were both enacted by executive order.

Tragically, an executive order issued by in February 1942 – No. 9066 – also set the stage for the internment of 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans (70,000 of whom were American citizens) during WWII:

Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities [it read] . . . as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War . . . to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he . . . may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.

In response to Executive Order 9066, General John L. DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 1, which designated all of the states of California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona as Military Areas 1 and 2.

Then, with the power to “exclude” people from these areas as a matter of safety, DeWitt determined that all people of Japanese descent in Area 1 (the western half of Washington and Oregon, the southern half of Arizona, the western half of California from the Oregon border to Los Angeles, and all of the area south of Los Angeles) would be “evacuated” and “relocated.”

Japanese Americans in Area 1 were encouraged to “voluntarily evacuate” to Area 2 and other inland states, but, when many failed to move because of financial constraints, DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 4, which prohibited Japanese-Americans from leaving Area 1 and began their forced removal.

This effort culminated in Japanese Americans’ eviction from all of California except war camps in Manzanar and Tule Lake, which entailed the irretrievable loss – in the majority of instances – of their businesses, home, and farms.

This abhorrent episode of our nation’s history reveals how directives from the President can actually facilitate egregious abuses of power by facilitating government actions that disfranchise and oppress less privileged and valorized segments of our population.

As a true example and not a hypothetical scenario, the legality and approbation of Japanese American internment in the US, when weighed with the white supremacist tone of Trump’s campaign platform and erratic personal and professional tendencies, make me afraid for the indigenous people fighting against the construction of DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline, quite honestly.

I am afraid that Trump’s memoranda might rob a large number of them of the protection – which is not always a matter of shielding someone from violent attack – Presidents are duty-bound to provide American citizens.

I haven’t written on the blog previously about the DAPL or Keystone XL Pipeline, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t troubled me. Regardless of what their builders of the federal government says, they’re not energy or employment pie in the sky.

Their means will not justify their ends if in the end they poison American citizens by order of the nation’s top executive. And this is exactly what it appears they will do, according to probability and well-known research on the dangers of oil contamination.

The DAPL is described on Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline Facts website as the “safest and most environmentally sensitive way to transport crude oil from [the Dakotas to Illinois] to American consumer.” The site also claims that the pipeline “crosses almost entirely private land” and not the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

“United States Army Corps of Engineers alone held 389 meetings with 55 tribes regarding the Dakota Access project,” the site says, and “reached out to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe nearly a dozen times to discuss archaeological and other surveys conducted before finalizing the Dakota Access route.”

“We have great respect for the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and plan to continue to work with their leaders to address those concerns.”

In a similarly slick and reassuring tone, the Keystone XL Pipeline is described on the TransCanada website as a “critical infrastructure project for the energy security of the United States and for strengthening the American economy” that will “create thousands of well-paying construction jobs” and “generate tens of millions of dollars in annual property taxes” and an estimated $3 billion in gross domestic profit.

All of this copy makes these projects sound amazingly beneficial for the American public, but I will take an educated guess that ETP and TransCanada paid very high-powered, highly skilled consultants to come up with this transparent-seeming language in an attempt to hide the truth that they cannot control every single variable that could play a part in building and maintaining these pipelines.

According to the sales pitch, the DAPL will whisk oil out of the Dakotas on to Iowa and Illinois, and a panoply of perfectly functional, impeccably maintained, and painstakingly inspected safety measures will prevent it from hurting anyone – the same with the Keystone XL Pipeline, transporting oil sands from Alberta, Canada. Yet, numerous credible media reports counter this copy with negative claims about what the DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline will really do once they are completed and operational.

ETP and TransCanada – and now Donald Trump – posit that these projects will resolve major issues with energy development and production, employment, and our economy. The Standing Rock Sioux argue that as it passes underneath their Lake Oahe, the DAPL may poison their main source of drinking water, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) warns that by providing more oil to America, the Keystone XL Pipeline will contribute drastically to global warming by producing high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport of tar sand.

Toxic leakage into ground water from the Keystone XL Pipeline is also a likely possibility with extremely harmful results.

Time Magazine captures the wholly justifiable upset indigenous residents in the Dakotas are experiencing in regards to the construction of these pipelines in an article entitled “What to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests.” 

“Builders . . . insist that they have taken extraordinary measures to safeguard against disaster,” it says, “but . . . even the safest pipelines can leak.”

As with math, history is not on the side of ETP or TransCanada, either: “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has reported more than 3,300 incidents of leaks and ruptures at oil and gas pipelines since 2010,” according to Time. “And even the smallest spill could damage the tribe’s water supply.”

Research posted on the Auburn University website elucidates the “damage” referenced in the Time article.

It reads: “Ponca City, Oklahoma is an example of one of the cities that is being affected by the expansion of the Keystone pipeline. Ponca City is now receiving an increased amount of toxic emissions from tar sand transport  . . . Tar sand produces 17% more greenhouse gases than traditional crude oil [here the author cites NPR].

“The air quality [in Ponca City] has become life threatening, and residents are forced to breathe in dangerous emissions. Children in surrounding [areas of] the new pipeline are 56% more likely to develop leukemia versus children that live ten miles away.”

The Tar Sands Blockade website explains in further detail: “Tar sands, a mixture of sand, petroleum, and mineral salts, must be diluted with a highly toxic class of chemical . . . [they] are known to sink in water, making cleanup exorbitantly expensive and practically impossible . . . [and when] exposed to air, its diluents [diluting agents] evaporate like paint thinner forming heavy toxic clouds near at ground level.”

CNN report also confirms that, yes, extracting oil from oil sands does pump approximately 17% more greenhouse gases into the air than standard oil extraction

Toxic exposure from breathing these clouds, the Tar Sands Blockade says again, has happened in every instance when tar sands leaked from the existent Keystone Pipeline near residential areas, and it has given people “painful rashes, breathing complications, chemical sensitivities, nausea, migraines, and exacerbated cancer activity.”

I couldn’t locate exact numbers of people essentially poisoned by leaks and emissions from the existent Keystone Pipeline, but I did find this interesting, and horrifying, anecdote about the effects of oil sand poisoning on a Canadian newspaper website (the pipeline transports oil sands from Canada into the US):

In 2006, Dr. John O’Connor, a traveling physician in Canada’s northern Bush found in Fort Chipewyan, downstream from the tar sands’ processing operations, exceptionally high incidences of cancers in the Mikisew Cree residents: ‘The cancers are sort of one extreme — blood and lymphatic cancer, thyroid cancer, central nervous system cancer and bile duct, biliary tract cancer … I saw a lot of auto-immune diseases, like Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, a lot of skin disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders of various types, just a lot. Taken as a whole in the population that was only 850 — it was just phenomenal. It didn’t make any sense.’

“It didn’t make any sense,” O’Connor says, i.e. its causes weren’t genetic; they were environmental.

Federal policy that fails to protect a specific racial group, even in the case of environmental policy, is illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states, “Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.”

In pushing forward the construction of the DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline, Trump is breaking Constitutional law, shirking his duty to faithfully execute the law, violating human rights, and potentially sacrificing thousands of indigenous lives for billions of dollars, yes, but just 50 permanent jobs, at least in the case of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Whether the indigenous population of America was 1 million, 5 million, or 12 million before colonialism and westward expansion – theories various camps of historians argue among one another – what is fact is there were only 250,000 indigenous peope left in the continguous US that by the end of the 1800s. The indigenous that died were killed – at the highest level – by government policy – a shameful truth for which America can only atone by working as hard as possible to honor the descendants of those lost.

Trump’s memoranda are mere extensions of the US government’s history and perennial policy of taking over indigenous lands, disfranchising indigenous people, and murdering them, even if this time it will happen indirectly and “accidentally.”

These memoranda – along with the executive order on immigration – which is not only ahistorical and isolationist, but also reductive, triangularly biased, and morally disingenuous (it pretends to be fair to Muslim refugees seeking asylum but is really rather simple to misuse) – distort what should be the true purpose for the President to issue a directive. That is to make the executive branch of our government run more smoothly so that it may better serve us – the people.

They distort the true purpose of Presidential office as a whole, but they reveal the true nature of the person this country has elected to be its President.

Trump is a nihilistic capitalist with so little respect for the lives of people of color that he might end up putting Millard Fillmore, Andrew Jackson, or Andrew Johnson to shame when it comes to instituting racist policies with profoundly negative effects on the entire culture.

He said he would make America great again, but he also said he doesn’t read, which might be why he can’t tell the “GR” phoneme from “H.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A hortatory memorandum is issued as a broad policy statement