Thursday, May 24, 2018

No respect

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post takes a look at white males who voted for the nasty guy and their demand for respect. There is an assumption that if Democrats would show these people more respect they could take back Congress. Waldman says that’s foolish advice.

The Democratic “lack of respect” doesn’t come from Democrats and the policies that Democrats promote. That lack of respect comes from an industry and political movement constantly pushing the idea that Democrats look down on rural white males. This industry promotes such things as excesses of political correctness or a liberal professor who said something “offensive.” And pundits demand why aren’t you showing more respect?

Democrats either have to abandon their values and policies – the policies that help these same voters – or try for symbolic gestures of respect, that will be rejected anyway.
In the world Republicans have constructed, a Democrat who wants to give you health care and a higher wage is disrespectful, while a Republican who opposes those things but engages in a vigorous round of campaign race-baiting is respectful. The person who’s holding you back isn’t the politician who just voted to give a trillion-dollar tax break to the wealthy and corporations, it’s an East Coast college professor who said something condescending on Twitter.

So what are Democrats to do? The answer is simple: This is a game they cannot win, so they have to stop playing. Know at the outset that no matter what you say or do, Republicans will cry that you’re disrespecting good heartland voters. There is no bit of PR razzle-dazzle that will stop them. Remember that white Republicans are not going to vote for you anyway, and their votes are no more valuable or virtuous than the votes of any other American. Don’t try to come up with photo ops showing you genuflecting before the totems of the white working class, because that won’t work. Advocate for what you believe in, and explain why it actually helps people.

Finally — and this is critical — never stop telling voters how Republicans are screwing them over.
All that makes me think is what these voters want is respect for their racism.

Diplomacy didn’t work

Equality Michigan is an organization that advocates for LGBT issues at the state level. It also has a victim advocate program for those hurt by people or by the state’s laws. EQMI sent me an email to report that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission voted to adopt an Interpretive Statement saying that discrimination because of sex (already in the law) includes discrimination because of gender identity and sexual orientation. This action was taken because EQMI and many other groups have been pushing the legislature to add orientation and identity to the state’s Civil Rights Act for decades and haven’t gotten anywhere (and won’t as long as the GOP controls the legislature).

It didn’t take long for various lawmakers to shout: You can’t do that!

There was a lot of news a while back about football player Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem to protest the way minorities are treated by police. The National Football League has now ruled that teams can “impose discipline for those who protest publicly during the song.” As a compromise athletes may stay in the locker room during the anthem.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville reminds us this rule is designed to silence black players trying to draw attention to state-sanctioned violence against black people.

After the NFL announcement the nasty guy jumped on Twitter. Part of what he said:
You have to stand proudly for the national anthem [or] you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there, maybe they shouldn't be in the country.
Yes, he suggested that those who object to state violence should have their citizenship revoked and be ejected from the country.

McEwan reminds us that is not an acceptable thing for the president to say. And let’s stop suggesting the nasty guy was joking.

The nasty guy dumped talks with North Korea. Lots of commentary out there, including from NPR. I’ll only paraphrase a tweet from Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut: Well, gosh, diplomacy didn’t work. We can check off that box and move on to unauthorized military action.

Leslie Stahl reports that she told the nasty guy his attacks on the press are getting old. She said his response was:
You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.
He’s not joking here either.

The nasty guy’s son-in-law and chief advisor finally got his security clearance. That’s in spite of lying on his security application, which is a crime. That prompted Sarah Kendzior, someone who studies authoritarian regimes, to resurrect a tweet from a month ago:
My litmus test for whether the Trump presidency may end early (and whether criminals will be held accountable) is Kushner. If Kushner is removed or indicted, admin is vulnerable. If he remains, it indicates a consolidation of power by Trump and backers -- a dynastic kleptocracy.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Fed up with gerrymandering

In Colorado the Dems run the state House and the GOP runs the state Senate. Even so, since the Dems also have a majority in the state Supreme Court, the districts for the legislature are gerrymandered a bit in their favor. So it is good news that in this divided legislature both chambers unanimously approved for the fall election a pair of constitutional amendments to set up an independent redistricting commission. There are two amendments because one is for legislature districts, the other for Congressional districts.

Ohio has passed a redistricting law. Utah and Colorado will have proposals on the November ballot. Michigan and Missouri have collected the signatures and waiting for certification. Sounds like citizens are fed up with gerrymandering.

Only a dictator

This is bad. Yesterday the nasty guy sent out a tweet that began, “I hereby demand...” The rest is somewhat irrelevant. Someone who values democracy does not begin communications with those words. Only a dictator does.

We’ll take a look at the rest anyway. The nasty guy wants to know whether the FBI or Department of Justice infiltrated his 2016 campaign.

Leah McElrath tweeted:
Trump appears to be setting up his own Attorney General (Sessions) and Deputy Attorney General (Rosenstein) to be forced to refuse a presidential order.

Which he might then use as justification for firing them.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville adds that some in the media still portray the nasty guy and his minions as “stupid” and incapable of long-term planning. But one doesn’t get to control the US government by accident. The nasty guy has a very clear long-term strategy, to be an authoritarian. Others may see it as “stupid” because if one is pursuing a goal of democracy – which the media expect – the things he does look stupid. But he’s after something entirely different.

McEwan concludes:
That was the plan. He didn't achieve it by accident.

Trump might not be sitting in the Oval Office without intervention from the Russians, but that is not an argument that he had no long-term plan on which he was executing. To the contrary, it's an argument that collusion became part of the plan.

As a result of the tweet mentioned at the top of the post, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI director Christopher Wray met with the nasty guy. Afterwards Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement:
Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's or the Department of Justice's tactics concerning the Trump campaign. It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.
McEwan translates:
The president is currently under investigation. He's essentially asking to see what they've got on him.

That is just a brazen abuse of power.

And, as usual, there's no one around with the power and willingness to stop him.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A new opera

I went to the opera last night. The story of this opera revolved around … baseball. This is a new opera, premiered only last year, titled The Summer King.

The story follows the career of Josh Gibson, a real person. Never heard of him? You likely haven’t because he was black. But he was good. Some say he was the black Babe Ruth. Others insist Ruth was the white Josh Gibson.

In discussing this opera I have to use the N-word, no way around it. Gibson played for the Negro League – that was indeed its title. This was an alternative to Major League Baseball, which, in the 1930s, was all white. The Negro League had its own teams, including one in Detroit (actually in the enclave of Hamtramck). Gibson played for the Pittsburgh team and did play a game in the Hamtramck stadium.

An early scene is of Gibson playing in Yankee Stadium, in which he hits a ball out of the park, becoming the first person – white or black – to do so. Gibson is good enough that a local newspaper reporter begins to talk about Gibson being the one to break the Major League color barrier. A team owner actually talks to Gibson about joining his team, but into the conversation we see the owner held the meeting as a publicity stunt for the newspaperman and was really telling Gibson that it was a bad idea for him, or any black man, to consider joining the white teams. Gibson replies, what do I care? We have our own teams, playing fields, and fans. Though there is that little matter of pay.

Before the opera we heard a discussion featuring the composer, a baseball historian (I think), and Gibson’s great-grandson. The moderator commented that the Major League white players were not opposed to black teammates. They could see how good the Negro League players were and knew they’d be a great help in winning. Many white and black players were together on barnstorming teams during the off-season. While white players might have been welcoming, white owners and white fans were not.

Gibson and his teammates were offered jobs playing for a team in Mexico. The pay was much better and they were treated as the kings of summer (thus the opera title). A few years later when the Negro League offers to pay them the same as their Mexican teams they returned to America. But Gibson was beginning to have medical issues (the nature is never explained). A few years after that Jackie Robinson is announced as the one who will break the color barrier. Gibson is quite disappointed, but his medical issue takes his life a few months later.

The last bit of the opera declares that Gibson really was as good as his legend (he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame). And though he didn’t break the color barrier he played so well that other black men could figuratively stand on his shoulders and cross the color barrier he wasn’t allowed to cross.

A friend who also saw the opera said Gibson’s story didn’t really fit well as an opera. I agree. I also didn’t particularly care for the style of music (not all that melodic) and that the orchestra was frequently too loud and covered the singers.

Even so, a good evening.

Michigan Opera Theater does only four operas a year. This is the third year where one of the operas has been contemporary, written within the last fifty years. I thought the previous two made for excellent theater. This one, not so much. I applaud the for their efforts.