Radicals

Watch what you say,
or they’ll be calling you a radical,
a liberal,
fanatical, criminal.

– Supertramp, “The Logical Song” (1979)

This week’s featured posts are “The Privilege of Being Normal” and “Don’t Panic“.

This week everybody was talking about Trump’s racism

In an email exchange, my friend and former editor Tom Stites summed up the pattern:

Trump makes blatantly racist statements. The responsible press and responsible leaders use racist in describing it. Trump’s confederate supporters think, See? All those elitists are calling me a racist!  This pushes their victim buttons, and turns their anger on the responsible press and leaders.

Then Trump repeats that he’s about the least racist person you’ll ever meet, and he calls the Squad racists who hate Israel and the U.S. Trump’s racist supporters feel vindicated by their hero.

More of the press becomes confident using the word racist. Trump turns up the volume a bit and repeats his pot-stirring trick. The confederates respond.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

He’s a twisted genius at manipulation.


I’m sure you already know the basics: Last Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that the four members of “the Squad” — Democratic Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Rashida Tlaib (MI), and Ayanna Pressley (MA) — should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” (Three of them were born in America, and the fourth — Omar — was naturalized as a teen-ager.) A few days later he watched in satisfaction as a rally crowd in Greenville, North Carolina chanted “Send her back” about Rep. Omar.

I’ve given my emotional reaction to this state of affairs in one of the featured posts. Now I’ll do the factual side.


Trump’s case against the Squad in general and Rep. Omar in particular is built on lies. There is simply no reason to believe that they “hate this country”. They criticize America, but so did Trump when he based his 2016 campaign on the claim that America isn’t great any more and that “The American dream is dead.


A previous round of anti-Omar propaganda led to the arrest of a guy who threatened to kill her. Saturday, a Louisiana policeman suggested on Facebook that AOC should be shot. Threats and images of her violent rape have circulated on a Border Patrol Facebook group.

If and when actual violence breaks out, Trump will claim innocence, as he did when a guy who agreed with his characterization of the “invasion” by migrant caravans gunned down 11 people in a Jewish synagogue.


Trump and his defenders have tried to claim that his tweets weren’t racist. However, federal  guidelines specifically mention “Go back to where you came from” as an example of racial abuse.


AOC, Tlaib, and Pressley were born in the United States, so they’re doing exactly what Trump says they should: speaking out against the corrupt government of the country they come from.


Unlike Trump, each of the four congresswomen received a majority of the vote. Omar, in particular, got 78% of the vote in her district, or 267,703 votes in total. Does Trump want to “send back” those quarter-million Minnesotans too?


The Republican Party has decided to own Trump’s racism. National Review’s David French writes: “The near-total silence (at least so far) from GOP leaders is deeply dispiriting.” In a House vote to condemn the tweets, only four Republicans voted Yes. (One is retiring, and another probably will also.) Even most of the Republicans who criticized the tweets and the chant (Mitt Romney for example) were too intimidated to use the word racist.


As usual, Trump is creating a cloud of misdirection around himself. He responded to criticism of “Send her back” by lying, falsely claiming that he tried to stop the chant. But he then praised the chanters as “incredible patriots“.


Robert Kagan and David Brooks wrote remarkably similar columns pointing out how unworthy of the Founders Trump’s nativism is. The Founders believed they were basing their government on universal human principles, not on ethnicity or religion.


BTW, even if you think AOC’s policy proposals are too liberal, you’ve got to admit that she is an all-star at questioning financial big-wigs. Jared Bernstein points out how she got Fed Chair Jerome Powell to admit that the Fed may have been wrong all these years about the “natural” rate of unemployment.


And finally, Trump has to run on racism in 2020 because he really hasn’t done much for his white working-class base. His major policy accomplishment has been a corporate tax cut that created a huge deficit and didn’t trickle down. His trade wars have been a disaster for America’s farmers. He has loosened restrictions on predatory businesses that target low-income workers, like payday lenders that charge interest at rates up to 700%. To top it all off, he has repeatedly tried (and is still trying) to take health insurance away from millions of working-class families.

and anti-Semitism

The major sin that Rep. Omar and the rest of the Squad is supposed to have committed is anti-Semitism. Talia Lavin deconstructs that charge in an excellent GQ article “When Non-Jews Wield Anti-Semitism as a Political Shield“. She picks out Montana Senator Steve Daines, who wrote:

Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals. This is America. We’re the greatest country in the world. I stand with @realdonaldtrump.

Lavin notes just how unusual it is for Daines to stand up for Jews.

Daines has never made mention on his Twitter account of the anti-Semitic people and events in his home state—including [neo-Nazi] Richard Spencer, whose hometown is Whitefish, Montana, nor Andrew Anglin, who released a troll storm so vile on a Jewish woman living in Whitefish that a court awarded her $14 million in damages this week. Daines declined to tweet out a statement of solidarity after a white nationalist gunned down eleven Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh; Daines was silent after another white nationalist attack on a synagogue in Poway, just outside San Diego, earlier this year. But when an issue was made of the President’s naked racism, Daines rode up with a cargo of Jews—imaginary Jews, silent Jews, the easiest kind of Jews to employ—to defend him.

She also recalls Liz Cheney and Meghan McCain objecting on behalf of Holocaust survivors when border internment camps were called “concentration camps”.

Jews are not trees, not animals, not mute props to use as cudgels in a war of escalating rhetoric. We do not need to be spoken for, we who have been here since before this country was a country, and want to remain, and know no other home

Instead she pointed to Jewish protesters chanting “Never again is now”, who

defied those who would use Jews’ bloody history to deny present atrocities; those who would utilize Jews as weapons to silence anti-racists

Michelle Goldberg had more up-is-down examples, like Sebastian Gorka, who belongs to the pro-fascist Hungarian group Vitezi Rend, charging Jewish social-justice activist Max Berger with anti-Semitism. She concludes:

“When they start asking people to go back where they came from, that’s the first line of attack on the Jewish people over centuries,” said [J-Street President Jeremy] Ben-Ami. It’s terrifying enough to have a president who says such things. It’s an almost incalculable insult for Trump and his enablers to act as if he’s helping the Jews when he adopts the language of the pogrom.


The kernel of substance behind the charge is that the Squad has been critical of the Netanyahu government in Israel, and of Trump’s knee-jerk support for whatever Netanyahu wants. They have opposed an unconstitutional law restricting boycotts against Israel. Goldberg comments:

What we’re seeing is the absurd but logical endpoint of efforts to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, and anti-Zionism with opposition to Israel’s right-wing government. Only if these concepts are interchangeable can Jewish critics of Israel be the perpetrators of anti-Semitism and gentiles who play footsie with fascism be allies of the Jewish people.

In addition, Omar got into trouble when one tweet (“It’s all about the Benjamins”) got too close to a classic anti-Semitic trope, implying that Jewish money determines US policy. When this was pointed out, she apologized. It was a real apology, not one of those phony I’m-sorry-if-you-took-offense apologies:

Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.


Meanwhile, Republicans repeat anti-Semitic tropes, don’t apologize, and none of the Republicans who got so upset about Omar’s tweet seem to care. Tuesday, for example, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri railed against “the cosmopolitan elite”.

Gavriela Geller, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Bureau-American Jewish Committee, explained the troubling origins of Hawley’s rhetoric to the Kansas City Star.

“[References to a] shadowy elite class destroying the country from within, loyal only to ‘the global community,’ sound to many in the Jewish community eerily reminiscent of speeches from Germany in the 1930s,” she told the paper.

This is much like the infamous closing ad of the 2016 Trump campaign, in which Hillary Clinton was portrayed as conspiring with “global special interests … that have robbed our working class”. The people identified as Clinton’s co-conspirators were all Jews: financier George Soros, Fed chief Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

and Iran

War is still not inevitable, but it seems to get closer week by week. This week’s crisis has to do with Iran’s seizure of a British tanker, in retaliation for Britain seizing an Iranian tanker.

Remember: Obama had an agreement with Iran, which Trump pulled out of and instead applied crippling sanctions. That’s how the current round of back-and-forth provocations started. If we wind up in a war, the cause-and-effect will trace back to Trump’s decision.

and the Moon landing

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon. At the time, science fiction authors confidently foresaw people landing on Mars sometime in the 1980s and going on from there. Arthur Clarke’s 2001 includes a Moon base, an excavation on one of Jupiter’s moons, and a mission to Saturn.

At the time, that didn’t seem particularly far-fetched. 12-year-old me would have been very disappointed to hear that the six planned landings would be the end of line, or that people in 2022 would mark the 50th anniversary of the last manned landing on the Moon.

Only four of the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon are still alive, and the youngest is 83. Unless somebody starts planning a mission soon, probably at some point there will once again be no living human who has been to the Moon.

and you also might be interested in …

Robert Mueller is going to testify Wednesday. I doubt he’ll say anything that isn’t already in his report, but since Trump and Barr did such a good job of distorting what the report said, much of the country may find his testimony shocking. The public reaction to this hearing will likely determine whether an impeachment inquiry happens.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday an impeachment resolution failed in the House 364-58. I know Speaker Pelosi doesn’t want to get out in front of the public on this issue, but her position hangs on the point that regular House oversight activities can assemble evidence for impeachment just as fast (or as slowly) as an impeachment inquiry would. That dam is going to break if Democrats don’t go to court soon to enforce subpoenas against people like Don McGahn and Hope Hicks.

On another front, CNN has gotten the details of how Julian Assange received stolen Democratic emails from the Russians while he was in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.

Despite being confined to the embassy while seeking safe passage to Ecuador, Assange met with Russians and world-class hackers at critical moments, frequently for hours at a time. He also acquired powerful new computing and network hardware to facilitate data transfers just weeks before WikiLeaks received hacked materials from Russian operatives.

We still don’t know the extent to which the Trump campaign colluded with WikiLeaks, which now looks like a Russian middleman.


In previous weeks, I’ve talked at some length about how concentration camps evolve, and compared our current border camps to Abu Ghraib. A border patrol agent made a similar analogy in an interview with Pro Publica:

It’s kind of like torture in the army. It starts out with just sleep deprivation, then the next guys come in and sleep deprivation is normal, so they ramp it up. Then the next guys ramp it up some more, and then the next guys, until you have full blown torture going on. That becomes the new normal.


When NYPD kills a black man in New York, it’s just not that big a deal. The Justice Department announced that no charges will be filed against the officer whose banned chokehold killed Eric Garner in 2014. Meanwhile, the NYT wondered why the officer hasn’t been fired.

He chose to escalate an encounter, involving several officers, with an unarmed man over a minor violation, then used a dangerous and banned maneuver.

But, you know, it’s not like Garner was white or something. That would be serious.

This is what the “Black lives matter” slogan is all about, and why responses like “All lives matter” or “White lives matter too” or “Blue lives matter” miss the point: Again and again, we see incidents in which black lives seem not to matter.


Here’s another tape of Trump admitting to a sexual assault.


A line-item veto by Alaska’s governor has cut state funding for higher education by 41%. Gov. Dunleavy is imposing the cut (along with many other budget cuts) so that he can keep a campaign promise to increase the dividend Alaska pays to its citizens. The state university might lose accreditation, but a short-term bonus to the citizens is apparently more important than that.


If you’re waiting for Tea Party types to start wringing their hands about the looming trillion-dollar deficits, you can stop. Rush Limbaugh now admits that concern about the deficit was all fake.

Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore. All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.

Rand Paul is still running the scam, though. He may have voted for Trump’s budget-busting tax cut, but now he has blocked unanimous consent for a bill to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, “citing the the rising national deficit and saying the spending should be offset by cuts elsewhere.” Jon Stewart, who has made this fund his major cause in recent years, was not having it:

Pardon me if I’m not impressed in any way by Rand Paul’s fiscal responsibility virtue signaling. Rand Paul presented tissue paper avoidance of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that added hundreds of billions of dollars to our deficit, and now he stands up at the last minute, after 15 years of blood, sweat, and tears from the 9/11 community to say that it’s all over now and now we’re going to balance the budget on the backs of the 9/11 first responder community.


Boris Johnson looks set to become prime minister of the UK. He also is going to run aground on Brexit, because there is no majority for any specific outcome.

but I was thinking about privilege

The other featured post is my answer to the woman in Youngstown who challenged Kirsten Gillibrand about white privilege.

and let’s close with something peaceful

To close a week that has been way too hot, both physically and emotionally, I offer this meditative video of soap bubbles freezing.

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Comments

  • The Serapion Brotherhood  On July 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    You’re quite right that Rand Paul cares nothing about the budget, but I don’t see much discussion of what his real motive is. Surely his opponents in the next election will be able to cripple him on this issue–what clearer evidence could a political ad want of a candidate hating America than stiffing the 9/11 rescuers?

  • Nancy Browning  On July 22, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    I believe you have these reversed; it should be Rashida Tlaib (MI), and Ayanna Pressley (MA); and I LOVE The Sift!

  • nicknielsensc  On July 22, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    Consider the “free to move” image stolen.

    • Anonymous  On July 22, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      I envision it as a bumper sticker…

    • weeklysift  On July 23, 2019 at 8:36 am

      I already stole it. I didn’t credit it because I wasn’t sure it was original there either.

  • ecjspokane  On July 22, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    The words loser dishonest Donald used to describe the counties that the
    the squad come from: “countries whose governments are a complete and
    total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the
    world (if they even have a functioning government at all)” largely
    describe the United States these days. This should be mentioned.

    Thanks for all the good work and words.

    Eric

  • George Washington, Jr.  On July 23, 2019 at 7:06 am

    I remember the excitement of the moon landings and my child’s disappointment over the last one. The Space Shuttle was supposed to be the next step, a reusable vehicle that would make space travel as routine as air travel. The reality was somewhat different.

    The reason we haven’t gone back to the moon is because there’s no reason to. A permanent moon base won’t be a stepping stone to the stars; it will be a fantastically expensive boondoggle. Mankind’s future in space will be robotic probes and space telescopes, not human colonization, despite its romantic appeal.

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