Saturday, July 20, 2019

Friday, July 19, 2019

Too Late To Turn Back Now

The New York Times:

Nervous Republicans, from senior members of Congress to his own daughter Ivanka, urged President Trump on Thursday to repudiate the “send her back” chant directed at a Somali-born congresswoman during his speech the night before at a rally in North Carolina, amid widespread fears that the rally had veered into territory that could hurt their party in 2020.

In response, Mr. Trump disavowed the behavior of his own supporters in comments to reporters at the White House and claimed that he had tried to contain it, an assertion clearly contradicted by video of the event.

Mr. Trump said he was “not happy” with the chant directed at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a freshman Democrat who is Muslim. At the rally Wednesday evening, he had been in the middle of denouncing her as an anti-American leftist who has spoken in “vicious, anti-Semitic screeds” when the chant was taken up by the crowd.

Pressed on why he did not stop it, Mr. Trump said, “I think I did — I started speaking very quickly.” In fact, as the crowd roared “send her back,” Mr. Trump paused and looked around silently for more than 10 seconds as the scene unfolded in front of him, doing nothing to halt the chorus. “I didn’t say that,” he added. “They did.”

Of course nothing he does is ever his fault and if someone takes it the wrong way, that’s their fault, not his.  Remember, he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.  (Easy to say when you have an exoskeleton.)

And now the Republicans are getting nervous?  Oh, they think that this might somehow reflect on them and what they believe?  Gee, how could that happen?  None of them were tweeting about sending people back where they came from, so how could anyone think they agree with that?  “We saw nothing!  We know nothing!”

Via.

Mr. Trump’s cleanup attempt reflected the misgivings of political allies who have warned him privately that however much his hard-core supporters in the arena might have enjoyed the moment, the president was playing with political fire, according to people briefed on the conversations.

Among them were House Republican leaders, who pleaded with Vice President Mike Pence to distance the party from the message embraced by the crowd in Greenville, N.C. Mr. Pence conveyed that directly to Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the exchange.

“That does not need to be our campaign call, like we did the ‘lock her up’ last time,” said Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina, a top official in the party’s messaging arm, referring to the chant that routinely broke out whenever Mr. Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Midway through that race, Mr. Trump told reporters he did not approve of that chant, but he never intervened.

Mr. Walker, who attended the rally on Wednesday night, later posted on Twitter that he had “struggled” with the chant. “We cannot be defined by this,” he said.

Well, guess what, pal.  It’s too late to suddenly realize that every Republican now running for office is lashed to this particular mast.  Or tree.  Or cross.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Party Of George Wallace

Over to you, Mr. Pierce:

“…the Federal Government has adopted so-called “Civil Rights Acts,” particularly the one adopted in 1964, which have set race against race and class against class, all of which we condemn.”

The Platform of the American Independent Party, 1968.

Congratulations, George Corley Wallace, you old snub-nosed revolver of an evil-adjacent man. It took a little over 50 years, but you finally did it. You got one of our two major political parties to remake itself in your image. Your deep drilling into the foul national Id has finally come home a gusher. All the demons you unleashed from history are now on the main stage and dancing in perfect rhythm and singing in perfect harmony. It took a little over 50 years, and the effort of a lot of people inside the Republican Party establishment and outside in the conservative movement, but you won, you old bastard. You truly did. Born as the Party of Lincoln, the Republican Party is now yours. It is the party of racist bastards, up and down the scale.

As I said, it took a lot of work from a lot of people. The conversion of the Dixiecrats into Republicans over a relatively banal civil-rights plank at the 1948 Democratic Convention. “Massive resistance” in the South. Two dead at Ole Miss. Three dead in an earthen dam. The slow simmering backlash underneath the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, which you felt deep in your bones, but for which many people did not yet have a vocabulary. Harry Dent, whispering the Southern Strategy into Richard Nixon’s shell-pink ear. The gradual development of the code, the evolution of which was described in detail by the late Lee Atwater, its master modern cryptologist.

Forced Busing. Government Intrusion. Intrusive Courts. Soft On Crime. The Silent Majority. Government is the problem. The gradual inflation of the blame to encompass all of the Others in America—not just black people, but also what you called “pointy-headed” bureaucrats and intellectuals. Not only did they want to run the lives of Ordinary Americans, but they also wanted black people to live in their neighborhoods, go to their schools, and be Ordinary Americans, too. And, finally, the Republicans realized what you had surmised all those years ago—that, in many ways and in many places, the whole country was Southern.

In 1976, at the height of the crisis over busing, South Boston greeted you like a hero not three miles from where Crispus Attucks fell in 1770. You’d arrived then, you old bag of sins.

And they bought it. Oh, lordy, did they ever buy it. Not openly, of course. The GOP became masters of the coded word, of the slanderous cipher. And, as more and more groups began agitating for their rights—women, LGBTQ people—a whole roster of new Others became available with which to scare not only your base audience, which became whiter and older, but which still turned out like gangbusters at election time, energized in their attacks on these new Others by two generations of reactionary preachers and conmen, whom the Republicans eagerly welcomed into the tent, and also energized in their attacks on these new Others by a lushly financed conservative media operation that encouraged them in their hate and distrust over the publicly owned airwaves 24 hours a day. Oh, George Corley. Damn, Bubba. You were born too soon.

And, finally, with the GOP having imbibed your political homebrew for nigh on 50 years, along comes El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago. Every conman loves to find a drunk with money, and the president* found his in the Republican Party. (“Ain’t like playing winos in the street,” Harry Gondorff cautions Johnny Hooker in The Sting.) He gave the party everything it had been asking for since 1968, when it adopted your ideas without adopting you. He gave it Others, trucks and trains full of them, and, going even further, he put them in camps. He wrecked government, ignored the laws, spat on Congress, and, finally, gave voice to the muffled chorus behind everything that the Republican Party has become. And practically every Republican of true influence in the government of the country sang, “Amen,” to it. And we are living your final triumph now, George Corley. The party of racist bastards is here.

There’s no longer any place to hide. Functional racism and enabled racism have merged in this moment, with this president*. His world is your world. His words are your words. No place to run, no place to hide. The President* of the United States proved himself to be a racist bastard. If you support this president*, you become indistinguishable from a racist bastard yourself. And, for the most part, the Republican Party couldn’t find a way to condemn him as the racist bastard we all know he is. Worse, many Republicans tried to turn the arguments of the racist bastard against his primary targets—four elected members of Congress, all women of color, whose only real crime was to identify the racist bastard as a racist bastard. And, on Tuesday, when a measure to censure the racist bastard for his weekend apartheid cosplay came to the House floor, the Republican Party fought it so hard and so long that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri eventually abandoned the chair.

[…]

I’m not sure where this ends up. But I am sure that the Republican Party, at its highest levels, has decided to ride with being the racist-bastard party through at least one more election cycle. It is doing so consciously, and with its eyes wide open. It is doing it with the party’s whole heart, and with what little is left of its soul. And anyone who denies that now is simply trying to wipe the gun clean.

 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sofi’s Choice

Now we’re getting into Nazi-occupied territory.

At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told a Honduran family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and their three children could stay in the United States, according to the family. The agent turned to the couple’s youngest daughter — 3-year-old Sofia, whom they call Sofi — and asked her to make a choice.

“The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad,” her mother, Tania, told NPR through an interpreter. “And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry. The officer said, ‘You said [you want to go] with mom.’ ”

Tania and her husband, Joseph, said they spent parts of two days last week trying to prevent the Border Patrol from separating their family. They were aided by a doctor who had examined Sofi and pleaded with agents not to separate the family, Joseph and Tania said. [NPR is not using migrants’ last names in this story because these are people who are in the middle of immigration proceedings.]

But this isn’t a movie with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline.

This is reality, being done by people who work for us and in our name.

On The Record

Washington Post:

A divided House voted Tuesday to condemn President Trump’s racist remarks telling four minority congresswomen to “go back” to their ancestral countries, with all but a handful of Republicans dismissing the rebuke as harassment while many Democrats pressed their leaders for harsher punishment of the president.

The imagery of the 240-to-187 vote was stark: A diverse Democratic caucus cast the president’s words as an affront to millions of Americans and descendants of immigrants, while Republican lawmakers — the vast majority of them white men — stood with Trump against a resolution that rejected his “racist comments that have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

Trump insisted in a string of tweets Tuesday morning that he’s not a racist — “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” he wrote — and the top two Republicans in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) made identical statements when pressed on Trump’s remarks: “The president is not a racist.”

So the next time you meet up with your Republican representatives or even your friends who vote that way, ask them where they stand.  If they say he’s not a racist or if they deflect and blame the four members of the House or if they say “Of course I don’t agree but…”, you’ll have your answer: either they’re racists or they’re too cowardly to condemn outright racism from the leader of their party.  Either way, you don’t need to look any further.  Get yourself some new friends and vote the bastards out.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

We Have Liftoff

Fifty years ago this morning — Thursday, July 16, 1969 at 9:32 a.m. EDT — Apollo 11 lifted off from Cape Canaveral for the moon.  I remember the moment vividly.  I watched it from a little TV in our kitchen as I got ready to go out to my math class at summer school.  I may have been a little late to the 10:00 a.m. class, but I wasn’t going to miss it.

The next day I went up to my grandmother’s place in Michigan where we watched Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon Sunday night.

What’s amazing is we did it at a time when computing was in its infancy — your average iPhone has more computing power than the Apollo 11 capsule and LEM put together.  And we did it in eight years; from the first suborbital flight of Alan Shepard to Tranquility Base despite setbacks and tragedy.  Yes, there was the pressure to beat the Russians, but it was also the drive to fulfill a goal that seemed so far out of reach that the only thing to do was to do it.

Don’t Mince Words

Of course Trump is a racist.  Has been from the beginning, and always will be.

Of course the Republicans are cowards.  The only time they’ll stand up to Trump is if in doing so will enhance their chances for re-election, and given the base of the party now, that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.

Of course this is a distraction, like the  ICE raids and threatening war with Iran, thanks to Jeffrey Epstein, Robert Mueller, and caving on the census citizenship question.  We all knew that.  We’ve seen it all before.  It’s a tantrum, pure and simple, and anyone who’s dealt with a child knows how to deal with it: a swat on the ass and pointedly not giving in.

So that’s what we do.  Now get back to work.

Monday, July 15, 2019

“I’m Shocked, Shocked…”

I seriously doubt that anyone is truly shocked that Trump went on a racist rant via Twitter this weekend against four Democratic women in Congress, telling them to “go back where they came from.”  (For three out of the four, that would be here, as in the United States, including Cincinnati and New York.)  He’s merely thumbing out loud what he’s been saying all along in less direct terms, and I am certain that his base has been miles ahead of him on that score.  Certainly his minions have been laying that pipeline all along but couching it in Fox News-friendly fashion so it doesn’t sound like it’s spoken through a white hood in front of a burning cross.  The question is, what’s taken him so long to finally say it?

What will be mildly interesting is how his wormtongues such as Kellyanne Conway and the like will contort themselves into making it either no big deal or attempt to make it a positive for him.  I have no doubt they’ll try and perhaps even come up with colorful and creative ways of turning blatant racism into how great America has been made again.

What will be interesting for the moment is how this plays with the mainline Republicans and the ones who could actually do something about him.  There is no evidence whatsoever that they will grow anything that resembles a spine and stand up to him, and musing about denying him the renomination in 2020 is pure nonsense; of course he’ll be their nominee, and some of them will even campaign with him as the man who stood up against the brown Socialist horde of angry women.  If they didn’t reach the breaking point over his dissing of John McCain even after he’s dead, or the attack on the Gold Star parents, or the pussy-grabbing, or the scores of sexual assault victims coming forth, or the mocking of the disabled, or setting up concentration camps that would earn an Iron Cross from Heinrich Himmler, what makes anyone think that this old tired racist tripe will make any difference?  But let’s see them try to make the case that enough is enough and this time they mean it.  No, really, they do.

If there’s a glimmer of a silver lining or unintended consequence, it may be that this will put an end to the typical summertime dems-in-disarray that they worked themselves into with the spat between the Squad and Speaker Pelosi.  Nothing unites the disparate and disarrayed like an attack from the outside.  The irony is that if there’s a boost for the Democrats, it may well be that they have Trump’s thumbs to thank for it.

Small Favors

It looks like Hurricane Barry did not devastate New Orleans.

On Sunday afternoon, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) issued the all-clear for the city, which regained some sense of normalcy even as the skies periodically opened and unleashed another batch of heavy rain.

“We absolutely made it through the storm. Beyond lucky, we were spared,” Cantrell said in a public briefing about the tropical storm. “As those [rain] bands moved closer to New Orleans, it just seemed to go around us.”

And the ICE raids that were threatened did not occur despite all the tough talk.

The nationwide immigration raids that President Trump said would begin Sunday failed to materialize on the streets of major U.S. cities, even as his statement cast a cloud of fear that kept many families indoors. Immigration enforcement authorities said their plans to track down migrants with deportation orders would continue, but their operations over the weekend appeared more akin to routine actions rather than the mass roundups the president promised.

In either case both the natural and the man-made disasters could strike again, but at least we were spared this weekend.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday Reading

Advice For Immigrants — The ACLU has guidance should ICE show up at your door today, or any day.

How to stay reduce risk to yourself

  • Stay calm and keep the door closed. Opening the door does not give them permission to come inside, but it is safer to speak to ICE through the door.

Your rights

  • You have the right to remain silent, even if officer has a warrant.
  • You do not have to let police or immigration agents into your home unless they have certain kinds of warrants.
  • If police have an arrest warrant, they are legally allowed to enter the home of the person on the warrant if they believe that person is inside. But a warrant of removal/deportation (Form I-205) does not allow officers to enter a home without consent.

What to do when the police or ICE arrive  

  • Ask if they are immigration agents and what they are there for.
  • Ask the agent or officer to show you a badge or identification through the window or peephole.
  • Ask if they have a warrant signed by a judge. If they say they do, ask them to slide it under the door or hold it up to a window so you can inspect it.
  • Don’t lie or produce any false documents. Don’t sign anything without speaking with a lawyer first.
  • Do not open your door unless ICE shows you a judicial search or arrest warrant naming a person in your residence and/or areas to be searched at your address. If they don’t produce a warrant, keep the door closed. State: “I do not consent to your entry.”
  • If agents force their way in, do not resist. If you wish to exercise your rights, state: “I do not consent to your entry or to your search of these premises. I am exercising my right to remain silent. I wish to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.”
  • If you are on probation with a search condition, law enforcement is allowed to enter your home.

Additional resources

Learning To Write, Doggy Style — Ann Patchett on her most influential inspiration.

I first found Snoopy in Paradise, Calif., the tiny town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada that was erased by fire last fall. As a child in the late 1960s, my sister and I spent our summers there with our grandparents. We found the place to be perfectly named.

“We’re on our way to Paradise,” we would say, and “We’ve been in Paradise all summer.”

The sharp detail with which I can remember my grandparents’ house is overwhelming to me now — the room where my grandparents slept in twin beds, the room where I shared a bed with my sister. I remember the cherry trees, the line of quail that crossed the back lawn in the morning to the ground-level birdbath my grandmother kept full for them, “Family Affair” on television. Everything about those summer days is tattooed on my brain. I was an introverted kid and not a strong reader. My grandmother had a stock of mass-market “Peanuts” books she’d bought off a drugstore spinner. Titles like “You’ve Had It, Charlie Brown” and “All This and Snoopy, Too” were exactly my speed. I memorized those books. I found Snoopy in Paradise the way another kid might have found God.

Influence is a combination of circumstance and luck: what we are shown and what we stumble upon in those brief years when the heart and mind are fully open. I imagine that for Henry James, for example, the extended European tour of his youth led him to write about American expatriates.

I, instead, was in Northern California being imprinted by a beagle. When the morning newspaper came, my sister and I read the funnies together, always “Peanuts” first. Even when I was old enough to know better, I was more inclined toward “To the Doghouse” than “To the Lighthouse.” I was more beagle than Woolf. I did the happy dance, and it has served me well.

My formative years were spent in a Snoopy T-shirt, sleeping on Snoopy sheets with a stuffed Snoopy in my arms. I was not a cool kid, and Snoopy was a very cool dog. I hoped the association would rub off on me.

Which is pretty much the whole point of Charlie Brown’s relationship with Snoopy: The awkward kid’s social value is raised by his glorious pet. Anyone could see what Charlie Brown got out of Snoopy, even when Snoopy was blowing him off — he raised Charlie Brown’s social stock. But what did Snoopy get out of it? I’m guessing it was the loyalty, the dog-like consistency, which of course makes Charlie Brown the dog in that relationship. I had no problem with this. I would have been thrilled to be Snoopy’s dog.

Not only was Snoopy a famous World War I flying ace who battled the Red Baron and quaffed root beer in the existential loneliness of the French countryside, he was also Joe Cool on campus. He pinched Charlie Brown’s white handkerchief to become a soldier in the French Foreign Legion and was a leader of the Beagle Scouts, a motley crew of little yellow birds. He was a figure skater and hockey player in equal measure, an astronaut, a tennis star, a skateboarder, a boxer and a suburban pet whose doghouse contained a Van Gogh. This wasn’t just a dog who knew how to dream, this was a dog who so fully inhabited his realities that everyone around him saw them, too. Snoopy heard the roar of the approving crowd as clearly as he heard the bullets whizzing past his Sopwith Camel. Having ventured fearlessly into the world, he could come back to the roof of his doghouse and sit straight-backed in front of his typewriter, to tap out the words that began so many of his stories: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Wait, am I seriously discussing Snoopy, a cartoon dog, as a writer?

Am I believing in him as he was drawn to believe in himself? Did I want to be a novelist because he was a novelist?

I am. I do. I did.

Snoopy worked hard up there on the roof of the doghouse. He saw his own flaws. He typed: “Those years in Paris were to be among the finest of her life. Looking back, she once remarked, ‘Those years in Paris were among the finest of my life.’ That was what she said when she looked back upon those years in Paris . . . where she spent some of the finest years of her life.” Which was followed by the thought bubble, “I think this is going to need a little editing . . .”

Snoopy didn’t just write novels, he sent them out. In those dark days before electronic submissions, he taught me what it would mean to stand in front of a mailbox, waiting to hear from an editor. Snoopy got far more rejection letters than he ever got acceptances, and the rejections ranged (as they will) from impersonal to flippant to cruel.

Later, I could see we’d been building up to this. It wasn’t as if he’d won all those tennis matches he played in. The Sopwith Camel was regularly riddled with bullet holes. But he kept on going. He was willing to lose, even in the stories he imagined for himself. He lost, and he continued to be cool, which is to say, he was still himself in the face of both failure and success.

Linus rings Charlie Brown’s doorbell and says, “Ask your dog to come out and play ‘chase the stick.’ ”

Snoopy comes out and hands him a note: “Thank you for your offer to come out and play .. We are busy at this time, however, and cannot accept your offer .. We hope you will be successful elsewhere.”

I would be hurt and I would get over it. That’s what the strip taught me. Snoopy walked me through the publishing process: ignoring reviews, being thrilled and then realizing the thrill doesn’t last:

“It’s from your publisher,” Charlie Brown tells Snoopy. “They printed one copy of your novel .. It says they haven’t been able to sell it .. They say they’re sorry .. Your book is now out of print ..”

It was painful, yes, but Snoopy loved his job.

“Joe Ceremony was very short,” Snoopy types. “When he entered a room, everyone had to be warned not to stand on Ceremony.” At which point Snoopy falls off his doghouse backward, cracking himself up, only to climb up again and look at his typewriter lovingly. “I’m a great admirer of my own writing.”

Oh, beagle, isn’t it the truth? That moment when you write a single, perfect sentence is worth more than an entire box of biscuits.

I probably would have been a writer without Snoopy. I know without a doubt I would have loved dogs, though my love for writing and dogs might not have been so intertwined. Of all the “Peanuts” koans I live by, the one that contains the deepest wisdom may well be “Happiness is a warm puppy.” Thanks to Snoopy, I have ascribed an inner life to all the dogs I’ve known, and they’ve proved me right. I have lived with many dogs who were my equals, and a couple I knew to be my betters, but I’ve never been able to name a dog Snoopy. It’s a recipe for failure, because no matter how great your dog is, his ears will never turn him into a helicopter. I did, however, name the dog I have now for Charles Schulz, whose nickname was Sparky.

Sparky is a small gray-and-white rescue who comes with me to the bookstore I co-own in Nashville and stands straight up on his back legs to greet customers. Surely he has the talent and the patience to write a novel of his own; I’m just glad he’s never wanted to. I’ve accepted the fact that my dog is cooler than I am, but it would be hard to deal with if he were also the better writer. And anyway, it would take too much time away from our relationship.

Life could have been different. I could have cut my teeth on “The Portrait of a Lady” — but then again, I could have been stuck reading “Archie” comics. Fate and circumstances stacked the deck in my favor, leaving me to be influenced by a cartoon beagle. It turned out to be exactly the guidance I needed.

Doonesbury — Getting the cue.

Saturday, July 13, 2019