Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's Not White "Privilege"; It's White "Insulation"

A friend of mine -- white, civil libertarian, thoroughly opposed to racism and as appalled as I am by how modern American police enjoy the de facto legal right to kill any innocent (and usually black) person they see, so long as said cop later takes the time to say "Whoops, I was really totally scared for my life" -- was talking about the concept of "privilege," most often seen in the term "white privilege," and said he opposes it on the following grounds:

...however well-intended its original purpose (and let's assume here that it was well-intended), it has devolved into a tool for delegitimizing people on the basis of their race and/or sex. It doesn't allow for looking people at individuals, but defines them based solely on group characteristics. In that, it perfectly mimics the racism it supposedly targets.

The concept embodied by that use of "privilege" is real, but the actual word "Privilege" is probably the wrong one to use, in part for the reasons he mentions. I prefer the suggestion of another friend of mine, who once said that the word should instead be replaced by "insulation." If your house is insulated, you're not completely protected from temperature extremes, but the more insulation you have, the less likely those extremes are to bother you.

My being white and speaking with what Americans call an educated middle- or upper-middle-class accent doesn't guarantee me immunity from bad cops, for example, but it gives me a lot of insulation compared to any American black person, even with the same or better educational and financial status. 

Imagine if you will an upper-class modern black family -- no doubt their wealth in many ways gives them an easier life than I have had, and opportunities I lack. On the other hand: I've never had cops arrest me for trying to enter my own house (or a friend's house in a ritzy neighborhood), whereas Henry Louis Gates did -- even though he was surely dressed better at the time than I usually am. Gates is a Harvard professor who is friends with an ex-president, much richer than me, and has a far better career too -- I am not "privileged" compared to him, but I have a hell of a lot more insulation than he does, against such indignities as "Cops in a rich neighborhood look at my complexion and automatically, wrongly assume I must be up to no good."

The idea "innocent person minding his or her own business is not hassled by the cops" should not be considered a "privilege" in an ostensibly free country. In the country we actually have, unfortunately, even innocent people who mind their own business often find themselves harassed by cops, arrested by cops, even murdered by cops (who rarely face any legal consequences, provided the cop remembers to say "Whoops, I was really totally scared for my life" afterwards). I cannot guarantee nothing like this will ever happen to me -- but so far, my skin tone has provided me excellent insulation against this extreme example of modern American injustice.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Of Gun-Free Zones and Transgender Bathrooms

I've noticed an odd left wing vs. right wing dichotomy regarding belief in the magical power of signs: if you believe "A person intent on committing mass murder will be deterred by a sign saying 'This is a gun-free zone'," your politics most likely lean toward the left. By contrast, if you believe "A person intent on raping a child in a public bathroom will be deterred by a sign meaning 'This bathroom off-limits to those who genitalia at birth looked like your own'," your politics most likely lean toward the right. Both ends of the political spectrum have adherents who manage to believe "A person evil enough to commit major felony harm against another human being will surely be scared off by the prospect of misdemeanor charges being added on."

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Trumpism Is A Cult, Not A Political Movement

There's far too many lies spewing out of the Trump administration for a single part-time blogger to keep up with them all, but one particularly facepalm-worthy event from yesterday is when Sean Spicer made repeated references to non-existent “Islamic terrorism” here in my new hometown of Atlanta. (Fact check: Atlanta did suffer from terrorist attacks in the 1990s, most infamously the 1996 Olympic bombing – but the terrorist in question was no Islamic import but Eric Rudolph, a home-grown right-wing American Christian white guy.)

How many Trump fans called Spicer out on this? Not a single damned one that I saw. Of course, they were eager to commend Spicer for his honesty the next day, when he stated that he merely “misspoke” (he'd meant to say “Orlando,” not “Atlanta”),  yet they even managed to give that a dishonestly partisan spin – the people who readily forgave Spicer's multiple Atlanta-related slips of the tongue and Kellyanne Conway's “accidental” repeated mentions of the non-existent Bowling Green Massacre were the same ones who, back in the day, insisted that Barack Obama was a clueless stupidhead who genuinely believed there are 57 states in the U.S. Thus, Obama's one-time slip of the tongue becomes a deliberate lie (or admission of ignorance), whereas the oft-repeated lies of the Trumpsters were all mere slips of the tongue.

Trump supporters act more like a cult than members of a political party. Of course American politics has always had its share of unprincipled hyper-partisan hacks – we've all known our share of Democrats who outright refused to see or admit to any flaws in Obama or Clinton, and Republicans who took the same view toward Romney or Bush (I remember one man back in the day, swear to Zod, who insisted that only a hardcore Democratic shill could possibly doubt the intelligence and qualifications of then-vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin) – but the majority of people on both sides of the political aisle took a more moderate approach: “I voted for [Obama or Bush] because I thought he was better than his opponent, but I still don't like the time he said this, his policy in support of that, or his appointment of what's-his-face to whatever cabinet position.”

But I have yet to meet a single Trumpster who has admitted to any flaws in the man or his mouthpieces. At this point, you'd have better luck trying to find a Sea Org Scientologist who's willing to admit that L. Ron Hubbard had some kooky ideas about human psychology.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Trump Signs Executive Orders Without Reading Them

I won't even try making a punchline for this, since nothing could top this straightforward quote from the New York Times:
Mr. Priebus bristles at the perception that he occupies a diminished perch in the West Wing pecking order compared with previous chiefs. But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.
Think about that: not only does our dumbshit president not write his own executive orders, he doesn't even read the damned things before he signs them! To the point where he didn't even realize who he was appointing to his own security council. Remember that the next time some Trumpster insists he's a savvy businessman; a truly savvy businessman (or halfway intelligent teenager) would know better than to sign any contract without reading it first.

The same day the Times reported this story, Trump took to Twitter and said "I have instructed Homeland Security to check people coming into our country VERY CAREFULLY. The courts are making the job very difficult!" But I offered an even better idea: why not have Homeland Security check the contents of his executive orders before he signs them? You know, since Trump can't be bothered to read them himself.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Only Way To Save The World From Trump

Too much insanity coming out of the White House lately to keep up with it all, but here's two headsmacking highlights from Wednesday's news: in a phone call last Friday, he allegedly threatened to send the U.S. military into Mexico to "stop bad hombres down there." The next day, during a phone call with Australia's prime minister, the Washington Post says this happened:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “This was the worst call by far.”
Apparently Steve Bannon forgot to tell Trump that Mexico and Australia are both U.S. allies.

Will somebody other than Melania please give Trump a blowjob so the Republicans will finally impeach that narcissistic nutcase? I'd volunteer to take one for the team myself, except I'm not young enough: judging from his track record, any candidate for his adulterous intentions has to be at least seven years younger than his most-recent wife.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump's First Nine Days

Where collective national morality is concerned, Germans in the 1930s had an advantage which Americans in 2017  lack: those Germans could not look back at Nazi Germany as a historical cautionary tale of what can happen when ethno-religious scapegoating is encoded into law. They could say they didn't know any better. We damned well cannot.

And here we are now, little more than a week into Trump's presidency, and even my cynical, government-distrustin' self never thought things would get this bad this fast. (Not that we're anywhere near Full Nazi – even the actual Nazis were in power for four years before kick-starting the Holocaust with the 1938 Kristallnacht – but Trump's rang up an impressively awful collection of achievements in nine mere days.)

Start with his inaugural speech, apparently written by his white nationalist adviser Steve Bannon and filled with racist dog whistles, such as the references to “poverty in our inner cities” and “crime and gangs and drugs” and “American carnage” (read: black people, black people, black people), and the appalling use of the phrase “America first,” the exact slogan adopted by American fascists in the 1930s.

Then Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer held his first press conference and offered a ridiculous, easy-to-disprove lie, claiming that Trump's inaugural  crowd was the biggest one ever, even though social media had spent all of inauguration day sharing photos comparing the enormous inaugural crowd for Obama in 2009 compared to the much sparser turnout for Trump.

You'd think that for a wannabe president, Inauguration Day would be one of the proudest and happiest of his life, but a couple days after the inaugural, the Washington Post published a disturbing account of how our thin-skinned new president spent the day:
President Trump had just returned to the White House on Saturday from his final inauguration event, a tranquil interfaith prayer service, when the flashes of anger began to build.
Trump turned on the television to see a jarring juxtaposition — massive demonstrations around the globe protesting his day-old presidency and footage of the sparser crowd at his inauguration, with large patches of white empty space on the Mall.

As his press secretary, Sean Spicer, was still unpacking boxes in his spacious new West Wing office, Trump grew increasingly and visibly enraged.

Pundits were dissing his turnout. The National Park Service had retweeted a photo unfavorably comparing the size of his inauguration crowd with the one that attended Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony in 2009. … 
(For what it's worth, had I been one of Trump's babysitters that day, I'd have tried to reassure him by pointing out that Obama's first inauguration would naturally have a larger turnout, due to its historic impact: no surprise that the nation's first-ever black president would have a larger turnout than its umpteenth white one. But then, had I pointed this out Trump likely would have fired me.)

Fast-forward to last Friday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when President Trump released a (presumably Bannon-inspired) statement which made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism – which, incidentally, is a favorite technique of Holocaust deniers: they don't deny that the Nazis killed some people, they simply deny that the Nazis had any particularly murderous animus toward Jews.

Worse yet, that same day Trump signed a monstrous (and likely unconstitutional) executive order banning Syrian refugees from entering the country, and also denying entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries – including U.S. residents with green cards, and people already issued lawful entry visas. (On the other hand, none of the Muslim-majority countries where Trump has business interests are on the list.) Iraqis who aided American forces in the war over there are banned from entering the US, since Iraq is on the list.

I'm not personally acquainted with anyone affected by the ban, but I have several friends who are. One woman I know, a childhood friend who graduated from MIT and is still active in school functions (mentoring students and the like), said that an Iranian student attending school on a student visa visited her family over winter break and is now forbidden from returning to her school, apartment and worldly possessions. Another friend of mine, a man living in Washington State, had an even more infuriating story to report:
A cohort from graduate school of Syrian birth with a multiple entry student visa was denied reentry to the US earlier in the week for his scheduled return from work in one of the refugee camps. He was told at the airport in Turkey that his visa had been cancelled. He has a pregnant wife and a job here that he's been separated from, because he went back to help people. 
Such pointless, gratuitous, wanton cruelty. And Trump's only been in office for nine days.

Friday, December 30, 2016

No, Mr. 2016, I expect you to die

I'm definitely staying up past midnight on New Years' Eve, and recommend all my friends do the same. If James Bond movies taught us anything, it's this: you can not merely walk out of a room and assume your arch-enemy will die during your absence; you must personally see to this death yourself.
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