Good billboard ads

Illustrating that advertising can be used for good rather than strictly for evil, or the indifference of an honest buck. (Assuming the business they’re advertising is not some kind of Apple-type product, using iconic images of Gandhi, Einstein and Martin Luther King, in conjunction with a similar one of Apple’s CEO, to illustrate Apple’s world-changing genius).

These two signs will make some people think and feel just a little, a good thing in our brutally divided, black and white time of gathering violence and destruction. Friendship, pass it on. Not a bad message.

Check out the great documentary on Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, an inspiring story of a great man. I knew virtually nothing about him before I saw the movie, but I have great admiration for him now. In the case of Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, consider for a moment that it was not until after World War II, the war we fought against fascist racism, that our national pastime was “integrated”. Robinson was chosen to be the major leagues’ first Black baseball player because of his toughness and his ability (which he had to promise to maintain) to be spit on and jeered as a “nigger” without retaliating (except, once in a while, on the base paths).

Obstruction of Justice 101

I buried the lede yesterday in writing about the Trump-appointed Federal Election Commission quorum voting 2-2 not to recommend prosecution of Donald Trump for the federal campaign-finance crime he ordered Michael Cohen to commit. The lede should have been:

Donald Trump successfully obstructs justice, again. Add another count to his federal indictment for obstruction of justice.

I laid out the mechanics of Trump’s latest daring escape from prosecution in the previous post. The rest of the story is the largely successful war Trump has been fighting, to this point, against all accountability for himself and, more scary still, against objective reality. The election that he lost, and fought and lost dozens of increasingly desperate fights over in court — and then incited a riot to try to overturn? He won that election in a landslide.

That millions of our fellow citizens now believe the deranged, conspiratorial myth that a powerful, bipartisan cabal of monsters, including diehard Trump supporters in various states Trump lost, stole the election from the beloved Trump is very troubling. I don’t know what the solution to that kind of mass delusion is. The only remedial action I can think of is a public accounting of Trump’s seamless obstruction of justice, conviction of which should land him locked up (“Lock him up! Lock him UP!”) and finally unavailable to terrorize his craven supporters and enablers in the upcoming national elections.

Obstruction of justice is the federal crime Trump must be tried for, in order to reaffirm the rule of law. Trump’s mouthpieces have regularly insisted that nobody is above the law, with the obvious exception, of course, of their peerless leader, and any one of his associates who has incriminating information about Mr. Trump.

Trump may have been “morally and practically responsible” (Mitch McConnell) for sending a tsunami of rioters down to the Capitol to violently disrupt a joint session of Congress and prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s “victory,” and that might be solid grounds for bipartisan impeachment, but as McConnell also made clear, the Democrats missed their deadline for legally filing the articles of impeachment (under a rule he just made up and guaranteed they’d violate by his refusal to take the articles sooner) and, since the shit don’t fit, we must acquit!

Any unbiased observer who has followed current events knows that the compulsively untruthful Trump engaged in a seamless pattern of obstruction of justice for his entire presidency, and beyond. He accomplished much of his obstruction, and escaped accountability for his violations of laws and norms, by terrifying anyone who challenged him in any way. He has an impressively consistent record of publicly and vitriolically punishing those he feels lack sufficient personal loyalty to him. Let’s look at that pattern and practice a bit.

Trump had a clear legal right to fire the FBI director, for example, unless he did it with a corrupt motive. It was the appearance of an attempt to obstruct the investigation into Flynn and collusion with Russia that led to Mueller’s appointment to investigate. The qualm some legal scholars expressed in bringing legal action against Trump for actions that appeared designed to obstruct justice, was the difficulty of proving an essential element of the crime of Obstruction of Justice, a corrupt intent behind any of Trump’s otherwise legal exercises of power.

A consistent pattern or practice of behavior in response to an ongoing situation can be used to show intent. Trump has been 100% consistent in his behavior, has, in fact, shown himself capable only of one set of reactions to anything he feels is a threat, criticism, or, worst of all, disloyalty. He reacts with rage and takes swift and brutal revenge. Here is a small sampling of his consistent pattern of behavior showing his ongoing intent to obstruct justice.

His expressed intent in firing Comey, to end the FBI investigation and conceal Flynn’s connections with Putin (a “fix” he promptly celebrated with Russians in the Oval office), was shown again when he made numerous attempts to fire Mueller, who was investigating the many ties between the Trump campaign and Putin. As Mueller’s “witch hunt” heated up Trump forced the “weak” AG Sessions to resign and replaced him with former short-time Bush 43 AG, crime cover-up expert Bill Barr (he put the Iran-Contra affair to bed forever), who wrote, in auditioning for the job, that the Mueller probe was an illegal incursion onto the powers of the Executive.

As soon as Mueller sent Barr his report, Barr immediately lied about the contents of the Mueller report as to Obstruction of Justice (the federal judges who later found that Barr had deliberately misled the public in relation to his dismissal of Mueller’s findings and the false classification of a DOJ memo to hide it from scrutiny, used “lacked candor” and “disingenuous” [1] to describe Barr). Barr supported Trump over and over, announcing investigations into the investigators who had “exonerated” Trump, declining to prosecute Trump allies, spreading unfounded lies about the likelihood of election fraud, authorizing (and lying about authorizing) the use federal riot troops to break up peaceful demonstrations.

Trump fired inspectors general (like the one investigating Mike Pompeo), intimidated witnesses (in real time) as they testified in the House against Trump allies and took swift, public revenge against several of those witnesses. Trump also rewarded several of his top campaign advisors with pardons, an open, facially legal, quid pro quo in exchange for them dummying up for Mueller investigators, withholding evidence Mueller would have used to make a criminal conspiracy case.

Facts have come out since Mueller submitted his report that provide several of the missing evidentiary links that forced Mueller to conclude he didn’t have a chargeable criminal conspiracy between Trump operatives like Paul Manafort and Vladimir Putin. That Mueller didn’t get the facts because Trump loyalists withheld information is another obstruction of justice, and these loyalists getting the pardons Trump held out to them as motivation to stay quiet, and lie if necessary, are also clear examples of obstruction of justice. We also have Trump’s assertion of an absurdly broad blanket protective privilege that Bill Barr made up to allow Trump to refuse all subpoenas for anyone who’d ever worked with him and to defy various court orders.

I am only touching the basics, which include the ten damning incidents laid out by Mueller in the report that Barr falsely claimed “exonerated” Trump, incidents set out in the short summary Bill Barr substituted his own disingenuous summary for the day after Mueller turned over the massive two-volume report. Mueller immediately objected, by letter, to Barr’s mischaracterization of the report, which he called “misleading,” but Americans were not told about Mueller’s objection until weeks later, once Barr’s lying characterization of the findings, and Trump’s continual lying about the “witch hunt,” and his “exoneration” had become the last word on the matter. Now, it turns out, Barr was lying about a confidential memo he claimed was a privileged part of his deliberations on whether or not to keep his promise to Trump and make the Mueller findings go bye bye.

The ease with which Trump evaded all responsibility for open and continuous obstruction of justice, including crushing numerous investigations into himself, top cabinet officials and allies, underscores the weakness of an idealistic belief in democracy.

A system that depends on the ethical behavior of government officials to carry out its functions is easy for unethical types to exploit, as we have seen here, increasingly, during the last decade, especially during the Age of MAGA. Look no further than McConnell’s refusal to allow Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court to be filled by an Obama appointee, or that well-qualified, moderate nominee even getting a hearing, as the Constitution requires.

If ethics oversight is cast aside, as it was repeatedly by Trump and his officials (Sessions, a Trump outlier who followed the sound legal advice of his ethics advisors, was cursed as a weakling and traitor and punished for following ethics advice) we’re in open seas. If ethical norms are routinely ignored, the field is clear for any corruption imaginable. Mike Pence’s crime, for which he was hunted to be strung up, was his “weakness” in following the law and not exercising a power he didn’t have by refusing to count the Biden Electoral College votes.

Trump raised the bar for bad Executive branch behavior from the standard “avoiding even the appearance of impropriety” to the almost insurmountable “incontrovertible proof of criminal wrong-doing that no jury anywhere could deny. Proof beyond a shadow of a doubt!” The matter of Trump’s guilt or innocence for violating the law (see, e.g. repeated Hatch Act violations during the 2020 campaign) longstanding customs and norms is as immaterial to Trump as the felony lies Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to telling the FBI were, in the end, to disingenuous Trumpist Bill Barr when he attempted to quietly bury the Flynn prosecution and conviction.

Hitler and his colleagues exposed the vulnerability of an idealistic democracy when they exploited and unseated the liberal Weimar Republic, high-minded in its “supine passivity” when actual fascists violently attacked it. The Weimar constitution, the most enlightened of its day, extended every civilized right to the accused, including those accused of waging violent revolution against the government, and a smart revolutionary could take advantage of these liberal rights.

Because the right-wing German judge who tried Hitler for his failed Beer Hall Putsch admired him, the future Fuhrer was given a platform to speak to the German people from the courtroom hours a day during his trial. Adolf emerged from the well-publicized treason trial a martyr for Germany, a patriot, and famous, particularly after writing his little read best-seller during his brief stay in comfortable quarters in Landsberg Prison [2].

So far, mostly, we still have the rule of law here in the USA. Even if some powerful criminals seem to constantly escape its reach, systemic injustice is widespread, and the wealthy have a tremendous advantage in court over everybody else, the rule of law has so far held here.

Things like the Federal Rules of Evidence prevent a judge from pulling a decision not based on evidence out of his partisan ass, except in the rare case (like the 10% of controversies in which Kavanaugh voted differently from Merrick Garland on the DC Court of Appeals) where judicial discretion can result in the desired partisan outcome.

You can have Trump-appointed, Federalist Society vetted, federal judges rule on cases involving Trump, but, to this point, they have not felt free to make up the law, except in rare cases.

When Judge Neomi Rao, the rabid Trumpist who was elevated to fill Boof Kavanaugh’s seat on the DC Court of Appeals, ignored existing law and invented a new legal doctrine to uphold Bill Barr’s decision to obstruct justice by attempting to throw out the Flynn guilty pleas, without a hearing, she was overturned by the full panel of appeals judges on her court.

When Trump lifetime appointee J. Nicholas Ranjan was asked to make a counterfactual finding in a case brought to severely limit mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, he dismissed the case not only for lack of credible evidence of potential fraud (or any evidence, actually, as he showed in detail) he spent 140 pages making his decision appeal-proof, giving endless legal and factual grounds that would instantly extinguish any chance of a successful appeal.

No matter how much Trump partisans in positions of public power may have wanted another result, in those voter suppression cases, in the 2020 election, they all, in the end, followed the law. Which is why the law in state after state is being changed to comply with what Trump wished had been existing law, which would have enabled him to stay in office regardless of election results, as far as his supporters can tell.

Which is why this latest obstruction of justice by Trump (disabling the FEC from performing any oversight function over elections or electoral campaigns until after he lost the election he “won in a landslide”) should be added to the long list and left to a jury, and the judges, to rule on, and without delay.

Anything less would amount to Obama’s “we, uh, tortured some folks” after Dick Cheney dragged America on his long, brutal trip to the Dark Side, cheered on by his lovely, torture-loving daughter Liz.

[1]

among the synonyms/common definitions for disingenuous:

insincere, calculating, deceitful, underhanded, hypocritical, duplicitous, sly, dishonest, pretending that one knows less about something than one really does, being a lying sack of shit, etc.

[2]

Landsberg, which was used for holding convicted criminals and those awaiting sentencing, was also designated a Festungshaft (meaning fortress confinement) prison. Festungshaft [de] facilities were similar to a modern protective custody unit. Prisoners were excluded from forced labor and had reasonably comfortable cells. They were also allowed to receive visitors. Anton Graf von Arco-Valley who shot Bavarian prime minister Kurt Eisner was given a Festungshaft sentence in February 1919.

In 1924 Adolf Hitler spent 264 days incarcerated in Landsberg after being convicted of treason following the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich the previous year. During his imprisonment, Hitler dictated and then wrote his book Mein Kampf with assistance from his deputy, Rudolf Hess.

source

Federal Election Commission– nothing to see here!

We learned yesterday that the Federal Election Commission [1], the federal agency that oversees all electoral campaign finance-related issues, declined to recommend prosecution of former president Donald Trump for ordering Michael Cohen to make the illegal October 2016 hush money payments to two women Trump paid for sex, a crime that landed Cohen in prison.

You wonder how this is possible, especially after learning the 6 FEC commissioners deadlocked 2-2 (tie goes to the malefactor, under FEC rules) and therefore no action will be taken against “Individual One” for ordering the crime Cohen went to prison for.

Then you recall (with the aid of Wikipedia, less than two seconds away) that until December 2020, after he lost the “rigged, stolen” election, Trump left the FEC without a quorum to vote on ANYTHING. There was no enforcement of anything campaign finance-related by the FEC because Trump left four positions vacant.

Wikipedia tactfully soft-pedals Trump’s deliberate, and convenient, dereliction of duty this way:

Because of the quorum requirement, and the failure of President Trump in nominating replacement commissioners, the FEC was unable to function from late August 2019 to December 2020, with an exception of May to July 2020.

They provide a handy graph that tells the story succinctly, after giving the bones of the explanation of how the six member commission deadlocked 2-2:

Once again he successfully obstructs justice and avoids prosecution.  Mazel tov, Don!

So, here we have another example of Mr. Trump’s defiant and unimpeachable public corruption that, like every other immoral, arguably criminal act of his long and unrepentant life so far, he will not be held accountable for. The FEC “exonerating” Trump, in spite of his proven guilt, is just another reason for Trump’s wildly loyal 38% base to celebrate, their guy got away with it again– in your fucking face!

A parent who treats a kid this way, never reining in the child’s anti-social impulses, never holding the kid accountable for anything no matter how extreme, creates a monster. Frederick Christ Trump, Donald’s unloving father, a monster himself, built angry little Donald in his own image.

A legal system that allows monsters to game it is itself a kind of monstrosity, since it depends on the moral qualms of the powerful monster CEO not to treat it as the monster’s play thing. The monster will fire or obstruct every regulator, investigator, inspector general and anyone else who serves “at his pleasure,” with predictable results. The rest of us are just along for the hideous ride, until we organize and figure out how to stop the vomit-inducing tilt-a-whirl.

It’s incredible how stupid you fucking idiots are! Your dumber than me, covfefes!

[1]

The FEC administers federal campaign finance laws. It enforces limitations and prohibitions on contributions and expenditures, administers the reporting system for campaign finance disclosure, investigates and prosecutes violations (investigations are typically initiated by complaints from other candidates, parties, watchdog groups, and the public), audits a limited number of campaigns and organizations for compliance, and administers the presidential public funding programs for presidential candidates.[8]

Until 2014, the FEC was also responsible for regulating the nomination of conventions, and defends the statute in challenges to federal election laws and regulations.

The FEC also publishes reports, filed in the Senate, House of Representatives and presidential campaigns, that list how much each campaign has raised and spent, and a list of all donors over $200, along with each donor’s home address, employer and job title. This database also goes back to 1980. Private organizations are legally prohibited from using this data to solicit new individual donors (and the FEC authorizes campaigns to include a limited number of “dummy” names as a measure to prevent this), but may use this information to solicit political action committees. The FEC also maintains an active program of public education, directed primarily to explaining the law to the candidates, their campaigns, political parties and other political committees that it regulates.

source

Nazi fucks among us: Mitch McConnell edition (with a side dish of Kevin McCarthy hock)

Talk about unprincipled, one-trick, power-mad, right-wing piles of dreck ready to weaponize any lie, no matter how transparently dangerous, to keep the millions from big donors coming in, to fund campaigns nationwide to regain (with the help of Manchin and Synema) intricately gerrymandered Republican majorities in both Houses in 2022 and another Electoral College presidency in 2024 (we’ve had two of those, Dubya and Trump, since 2000).

“Frankly, we’d rather see every average American slowly choke to death, or shoot himself, and every child in poverty die of starvation, than work with the hated opposition and give them anything they could call ‘bipartisan’ or a popular policy victory. Those evil Democrat [sic] radicals only pretend to be bipartisan, so they can steal from us! If retaking power (and then immediately ending the filibuster) requires publicly gang-banging an implacable Liz Cheney, Daughter of Satan, on the floor of Congress, so be it. Whatever it takes — by any means necessary, as an infamous Black guy once said.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch... - Congressman Adam Schiff | Facebook

Same position McConnell took while shamelessly hamstringing Obama, with the stated goal of making him a one-term president. In spite of his firm commitment to obstructing everything the evil Biden administration tries to do, Mitch is being attacked by hopping mad MAGA man, for being too weak to overturn the election results back in January:

For his part, the former president today attacked Cheney, and also Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump blamed for refusing to stop Biden’s election.

Far from abandoning the Big Lie, Trump doubled down on it, insisting that the 2020 election was fraudulent. If only Pence and McConnell had been stronger, he wrote, “we would have had a far different Presidential result, and our Country would not be turning into a socialist nightmare!”

He ended with words that proved right the concern that he will continue to back attacks on our government: “Never give up!” he wrote.

source

Moral Monday To Stop McConnell's Misery, Meanness, & Mayhem — Repairers of  the Breach

Thinking about another, much less historically consequential contemporary Nazi fuck, I’m looking forward to House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy perjuring himself when called to testify before the January 6 Commission. To remain consistent with all recent public statements McCarthy has to insist he never had the shouting match on the phone with Trump on January 6th that was witnessed and described by colleagues.

To support his current position, McCarthy will have to lie about the former president refusing to intervene to stop the riot McCarthy now claims Trump immediately stopped, as soon as McCarthy explained to him that what Trump was busy watching on TV was actually a violent riot-in-progress that had disrupted a joint session of Congress and threatened the legislators and staff hiding in terror from a violent, angry mob calling for the execution of various elected officials [1].

I will like seeing McCarthy, not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, squirm (assuming Democrats muster the resolve to convene this Committee very soon, as their window to do so is quite possibly closing) as he denies that Trump told him “well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are…” or that he ever yelled anything like “who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” at Mr. Trump, his not always truthful, sometimes disrespectful, commander-in-chief.

Call it hyperbole, if you like, but there is no difference in character between these spineless, power-mad, Big Lie embracing fanatics, and their lockstep willingness to sacrifice every virtue in demonstrating their loyalty to an insane, cruel and super-vengeful idiot, and any of the Nazi careerists that surrounded the equally brilliant, equally cool Mr. Hitler back in his day.

Our best hope today, which has been bolstered many times in recent years [2], is that Trump’s loyal, ambitious, terrified lackeys are, in the end, as vainly stupid as the ones who followed the hubristically triumphant Mr. Hitler to the very end.

[1]

From notorious Communist rag The Wall Street Journal:

“He’s getting reports of what is happening. He did not accept people doing this type of the behavior. I know he’s getting reports as well. I wanted to give him a first-hand report,” Mr. McCarthy told Fox News on Jan. 6.

But Mr. Trump initially claimed the protesters were linked to antifa, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R., Wash.) said in a statement Friday night, referring to the loose network of antiracist, antifascist protesters.

When Mr. McCarthy pushed back, saying that the protesters were Trump supporters, Mr. Trump fired back, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Ms. Herrera Beutler said in her statement, recounting the the conversation as described to her by Mr. McCarthy.

The call got heated and at one point, Mr. McCarthy angrily retorted, “Who the f—- do you think you’re talking to?” according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Mr. McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the aftermath of the call, Mr. McCarthy wrestled with whether Mr. Trump was fit for office. He asked some GOP lawmakers whether he should press Mr. Trump to resign, according to someone familiar with the discussions.

One week after the riot, when the House voted to impeach Mr. Trump, Mr. McCarthy said Mr. Trump bore responsibility for the events of Jan. 6.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack by mob rioters,” Mr. McCarthy said in a speech on the House floor, although he voted against impeaching [the vindictive, all-powerful party leader].

source

We are all, of course, following Kevin McCarthy’s defamation suit against the Wall Street Journal for reporting these baseless lies about a totally private conversation that was nothing like the one reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Plus, McCarthy has incontrovertible documentary proof that Donald J. Trump took immediate, decisive action to stop the riot, once McCarthy told him about it.

Not only did he post a one minute video on Facebook, thanking his righteous supporters, Trump also tweeted, in one of his final tweets, after federal law enforcement (whose deployment was delayed by three hours) had restored order at the ravaged Capitol, to call off any lingering violent MAGA rioters by tweeting this clear denunciation of the violence:

[2]

There are many good reasons for this hope, a partial list:

Trump’s bellowing, terrifying, essentially toothless threats against “Anarchist Jurisdictions,” his attempts to provoke nationwide riots by sending in troops authorized to use violence pursuant to his powerful Executive Order to Preserve American Federal Greatness and Monuments, sending armored riot troops against protesters during demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd, his threats to invoke the Insurrection Act and impose martial law on “anarchist jurisdictions”, liberal shitholes he’d also starve of federal tax dollars, during a pandemic Jared Kushner and Mike Pence were handling superbly, Louis DeJoy’s exhibitionistic attempts to hobble the USPS and disable mail-in voting for Democrats, federal judges finding Bill Barr’s rationale for misleading America about the Mueller Report, and his attempt to improperly classify and conceal documents to keep them secret, and dismissing the prosecution against and vacating a guilty plea by a close Trump ally, at Trump’s request, “disingenuous” (insincere, calculating, deceitful, underhanded, hypocritical, duplicitous, sly, dishonest, pretending that one knows less about something than one really does, being a lying sack of shit, etc.), the bungling of Trump’s many lawyers, increasingly less skilled and more crackpot, in literally hundreds of pre and post-election lawsuits, lawful application of the rules of evidence in those election cases, even by Trump-appointed judges, the distinct anti-Trump bias of fact-based debate, the many pending lawsuits against the most litigious winner ever to occupy the White House, including possible criminal prosecutions in Georgia and New York, the fact that even power-crazed, disingenuous culture warrior Bill Barr jumped off the sinking, criminal ship in the end — just days before Trump held a rally and called for violence to disrupt a joint session of Congress and prevent the peaceful transfer of power, etc.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-05-01-at-10.53.50-pm-1.png
I’ll kill all of you insect bastards

Very fine corporate persons

Corporations are people too, the U.S. Supreme Court says so, over and over. They have a right to speak on political matters, an unlimited one, beyond the First Amendment rights of the individuals who make up the corporation. They have a right to infinite wealth, if they can get it. They have a right to lock customers they injure out of the courts with clever, binding arbitration clauses, developed by legal geniuses like our current Chief Justice John Roberts. They have a right to use negotiated loopholes in the tax code to pay zero tax, no matter how many billions in profits they make. Some of the wealthiest, like the fossil fuel industry, get generous cash subsidies from taxpayers, . It’s easy to condemn some of their practices, heck, most of them, but try being a corporate person– not so easy.

From the New York Times, almost a year ago:

When Bayer, the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical maker, acquired Monsanto two years ago, the company knew it was also buying the world’s best-known weedkiller. What it didn’t anticipate was a legal firestorm over claims that the herbicide, Roundup, caused cancer.

Now Bayer is moving to put those troubles behind it, agreeing to pay more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims while continuing to sell the product without adding warning labels about its safety.

source

Ten billion is a mountain of money, unless you do the math and view at it as a tiny percentage of Bayer’s profits (which I am too lazy at the moment to look up and calculate). Maybe the article sheds some light on this further down… no. But this will give a sense of scale:

Bayer, which inherited the litigation when it bought Monsanto for $63 billion, has repeatedly maintained that Roundup is safe.

I had a friend who spent years in federal court, on behalf of organic farmers Monsanto somehow countersued in connection with alleged unauthorized use of Monsanto products (which the organic famers hated, were suing to stop the use of and certainly had no motive to use themselves). Monsanto sent an army of brilliant lawyers, including one of Antonin Scalia’s spawn, to fight these cases brought by environmental groups trying to get the EPA [1] to enforce its laws against Monsanto. They fought most of the environmental suits to a draw. Monsanto has always been evil. Now they are owned by Bayer, which has also nakedly embraced evil whenever it had the chance.

When the massive work/death camp Auschwitz was constructed in occupied Poland after Mr. Hitler’s conquest of Poland, Bayer’s parent company, I.G. Farben (Bayer joined the giant chemical conglomerate in 1925), built a factory there, serviced by disposable prisoner workers they rented from the SS for $1 a day. The deal worked out great for pharmaceutical giant Bayer and also for the Nazis. Arbeit Macht Frei, indeed.

Of course, powerful corporate persons taking advantage of puny human persons is not limited to those who love the Nazi way of looking at things. The ostentatiously philanthropic billionaire Sackler family, certainly no Nazis, in the strict sense, (they’re Jewish) have done a lot of killing too, many tens of thousands of Americans have died at their own hands using Sackler products the Sacklers knew the dangers of — and lied about– as they aggressively distributed these powerful, highly addictive products — marketed as safe– under the corporate veil of Purdue Pharma. You can sue the hell out of Purdue, if you want, and they will declare bankruptcy (as they have) — but there seems to be no way to hold the Sacklers themselves responsible for decades of deliberate lying and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of American deaths. The corporation did it, you see, not them! Only a small proportion of the $35,000,000,000 in Oxycontin profits the Sacklers made are reachable by prosecutors.

The great Bill Moyers once said “I’ll believe corporations are people when the state of Texas puts one of them to death.”

You don’t think a corporatist 6-3 Supreme Court majority, the last three selected directly from the corporatist Federalist Society list, plus a billion dollar army of professional lobbyists in Washington, makes all the difference in the world? Think again.

Headline news recently about corporate giant Facebook, the brainchild of the arguably psychopathic Mark Zuckerberg, one of our most stable and successful American geniuses, dithering about possibly banning Trump for life from the popular platform. After Facebook gleefully collected dump trucks of ad money in 2016, from bad actors, including big buys from Putin in support of Trump, and played a huge role in the political rise of Trump, and QAnon and other pernicious fever dreams of sick minds, they decided that in urging his most rabid fans to storm the Capitol and take care of the weak, disloyal Mike Pence, the former president had gone too far.

After arguing in Congress, during the lead up to the 2020 election, that Facebook wouldn’t stop false political ads because Americans are smart enough to separate truth from a torrent of targeted, self-reinforcing lies constantly beamed to their computers and phones, Zuckerberg vowed to do more to control the wild (and hugely profitable) flow of dangerous lies on Facebook.

Zuck, we should note, is the same cuck who seethed, during an in-house address to his executives that one recorded and released, that if the US government tried to regulate Facebook, if it threatened something as “existential” as his right to make as many additional unlimited billions as fast as possible, “YOU GO TO THE MAT” and call out your armies of litigators. You don’t want to sue the US government, God forbid, but every corporate person has its limits.

If corporate persons had faces, this would be what they’d look like

So “Facebook” decided yesterday to revisit the question of Trump’s lifetime ban from Facebook in six months, presumably once MAGA-man learns the lesson Senator Susan Collins earnestly promised us all he’d learned after his first impeachment trial, a trial that exonerated him of all wrongdoing as strongly as Bill Barr had, as Barr promised to do when auditioning, by legal memo dismissing the Mueller Investigation as a partisan stunt, for the job of enthusiastic Trump gunsel [2]. Six months to clean up his scandalous act, and, of course, Mr. Trump has given us all every indication that he can learn another trick besides the reflexive doubling down on self-serving lies he learned as an abandoned, enraged, born-entitled two year-old.

[1]

The EPA:

The Environmental Protection Agency ruled last year that it was a “false claim” to say on product labels that glyphosate caused cancer. The federal government offered further support by filing a legal brief on the chemical manufacturer’s behalf in its appeal of the Hardeman verdict. It said the cancer risk “does not exist” according to the E.P.A.’s assessment.

Then in January, the agency issued another interim report, which “concluded that there are no risks of concern to human health when glyphosate is used according to the label and that it is not a carcinogen.”

This week, a federal judge in California referred to the agency’s pronouncement when it ruled that the state could not require a cancer warning on Roundup, writing that “that every government regulator of which the court is aware, with the exception of the I.A.R.C., has found that there was no or insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.”

Critics have countered that regulators based their conclusions on flawed and incomplete research provided by Monsanto. Several cities and districts around the world have banned or restricted glyphosate use, and some stores have pulled the product off its shelf.

source

[2] Dashiell Hammett (whose life would later be destroyed by the House Un-American Activities Committee*) snuck this one by the censors when he had Sam Shpade tell the heavy, in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon, to tell his gun-toting “gunsel” to back off. Hammett was referring to this definition:

Noun. gunsel (plural gunsels) (slang, dated) Synonym of catamite: a young man kept by an elder as a (usually passive) homosexual partner. (slang, dated) Synonym of bottom: a passive partner in a male homosexual relationship.

source

The word today, of course, is defined: a criminal carrying a gun.

*The HUAC was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having fascist or communist ties.

source

Harkening back to that quaint, Hitlerian era, when patriotic Americans still opposed fascism, rather than opponents of fascism. From Wikipedia:

In 1939, the committee investigated people involved with pro-Nazi organizations such as Oscar C. Pfaus and George Van Horn Moseley.[15][16] Moseley testified before the committee for five hours about a “Jewish Communist conspiracy” to take control of the US government. Moseley was supported by Donald Shea of the American Gentile League, whose statement was deleted from the public record as the committee found it so objectionable.[17]

A very stable genius — a disingenuously fond retrospective

Pardon this trip down a hideous twist of memory lane, I’m trying to clean some crap (that caught my eye at on time or another) off of my computer’s home screen.

NOTE: do not attempt to look at this post while eating.

The collection of headlines from youTube tells the whole story, which is, sadly for us all, ongoing (hi, Liz Cheney, hi, voters, hi, First Amendment). A bullying scofflaw president, “exonerated” for trying to corruptly bully a newly elected foreign leader into helping him in the upcoming “rigged” election, proceeds to take revenge on every truthful witness he can think of. The vitriolic victory lap (nice turn of phrase, CNN) continues in defeat, since he and his party are united in claiming that he won the rigged, stolen, corrupt 2020 election — in a landslide, no less.

Anyone who points out this lie about a “landslide” and a “stolen election”, of course, is perpetrating the actual Big Lie, in MAGA world, just like anyone who claims Trump planned and caused a riot at the Capitol on January 6. “I know you are, but what am I?!!!” Liz Cheney has to go — she’s off message, lying about the lie that the liars who rigged and stole the country in a fake election are trying to insist is true.

A special shout out to Liz Cheney, whose unpardonable crime, as a leader of the MAGA party, is a refusal to lie about a direct and ongoing threat to democracy. I don’t like anything about her Cheneyesque political views, which are truly and consistently abhorrent, but I have to admire her unique refusal (among her colleagues) to lie about a violent anti-democratic insurrection fomented by a long advertised lie that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen. The line she won’t cross is the one between democracy and open fascism, a system of brutal one-party control always based on a myth of betrayal and a muscular vow to take revenge on all enemies. Good for her, Daughter of Darkness though she is!

Where is the principled Mitt Romney on this? Where is anybody in the Republican party beside Liz Cheney? Hello? Hello, you spineless lickspittles.

I’m watching you, disloyal pieces of shit…

Thoughtful exploration of fact vs. disinformation in current politics from historian John Meacham

Historian and presidential biographer John Meacham has a new documentary podcast called Fate of Fact. The podcast’s producers describe it this way:

Throughout the course of five episodes in season one of this audio documentary, Pulitzer-Prize winning and best-selling historian, Jon Meacham and esteemed guests, will explore the question of how fear conquered truth, the history and origins of the strong grip misinformation and disinformation have on our politics, and how we got here today.

Meacham will trace the roots of America’s prevailing culture of polarization, with an emphasis on why the right has chosen to break with a governing consensus that, however imperfect, was once embodied by the figurative conversation between Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Fate of Fact offers a historically grounded perspective on the forces that led to the presidency of Donald Trump and the insurrection of January 6—an attack on the Capitol and on democracy as grave as any American moment since the Civil War.

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Thought-provoking stuff, here in Berlin 1932. This is is from episode one:

Change and Terror of Change

The story of life is change, a reality that can be hard to embrace sometimes. Cycles of change, and life’s adaptation to change, are the animating force of nature, and the story of human history. The only constant in life, we learn, is constant change — and, as we also learn, constant resistance to change. Most human conflict has its origins in change and resistance to change.

I recall a racist teacher at my elementary school, snarling at some of the Black students who’d been bused into PS178 starting when I was in third grade. This nasty woman was a fifth grade teacher I would later butt heads with when I was in her class, but I barely knew her as I sat in the lunchroom that day. I had a front row seat, on the long lunch table bench, to her shameful performance shortly after the first Black students arrived in our quiet little public school on a hill.

She was on lunch duty, tasked with keeping order in the lunchroom. As a teacher years later I’d learn how odious this rotating duty was. It was a thankless job trying to keep a lid on childish energy during their lunch break, a work assignment, during what was usually your own lunch hour, requiring patience and humor — neither of which this woman had that day.

I vividly remember my disgust, as a boy, watching her mistreatment of a Black kid named Adrian, who was probably ten years old. For some reason, she was telling him over and over that he’d be on Welfare in a few years. I remember his face as he shot back that she’d be on Welfare, and her face. I didn’t know, at the time, that this snobbish woman was a racist, I barely understood what that was, but I know it very well now.

She was upset about a big change, I realize decades later, and being on the losing side of what she felt was a righteous war, and she was acting out like angry people often do. Her side had lost the long battle to keep PS178 segregated. There were two armed camps in the PTA, one stridently opposed to busing kids from other neighborhoods in to integrate the school as the Supreme Court had ordered a decade earlier (this group sometimes derided the other side as “Commies”), the other faction, the “Nigger-lovers,” (in the colorful phrase used in liberal NYC in the mid-sixties) put on a Brotherhood play called the Lonely Abelonian, shortly after the school was finally de-segregated when I was in third grade.

We went to school one evening to watch the play put on by our mothers in the school auditorium. They were dressed as various animals, in pairs (my mother hopped around in a tan kangaroo outfit with her fellow kangaroo, their big ears flapping, their long, sturdy tails slapping the stage, my classmate Rani’s mother crawled on her stomach in a snake outfit alongside her snake friend played by my mother’s best friend Arlene). When the solitary Abelonian tried to join, she was shunned by the other animals. I recall my mother and the other kangaroo, turning tail and hopping indignantly away when the Abelonian asked “will you be my friend?” In the end, of course, everyone discovered the Abelonian was a lot like them, and remembered how painful it is to be lonely, and they were all playful friends as the curtain fell.

The white kids in school, as far as I recall, didn’t need the lesson of this idealistic play. I don’t remember any tension between neighborhood kids and the new students who arrived on the E, F and G buses (though, it could be, as is my prerogative as someone not the object of racism, that I didn’t see it because it wasn’t directed at me). The presence of Black kids, and their parents, was only a major problem to people like that racist teacher.

They no doubt felt that their perfect little school (it had the highest test scores in Queens, NY, possibly all of New York City, at the time) was being ruined by the forced admission of Black kids from other, less desirable, neighborhoods (with worse schools, kind of proving the whole point of de-segregation…), with all that goes with being forced to associate with people you didn’t want to associate with.

We can go down the catalogue of change in human history, and there is always this tension between those welcoming, or at least adapting to, a given change and those dreading it and resisting it by any means necessary. There are changes large and small, eternally taking place and the challenge we humans always face is adapting to our constantly changing world.

Sekhnet and I are both assailed by sometimes severe joint pain when the humidity is on the rise. When I grimace and grunt walking up or down the stairs the night before thunderstorms, she reminds me “you’re old.” I am old, and while most aspects of aging are fine, some changes are unwelcome. I don’t like having to acknowledge the wisdom of Kurt Vonnegut’s “be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.” I am also no fan of nocturia, or hematuria, for that matter.

I am constantly angry, for example, when confronted with corporate practices, routinized indignities, that are now ubiquitous in our Free Market. The people I complain to about having to wade through long recordings before you can elect to talk to a representative, the long waiting times on the phone, the constant advertising and blaring loops of muzak while you’re on hold, the endless reminders of how important my call is, and that I can get faster service on-line, and so forth … correctly regard me as a griping, cranky old bastard.

These people, I have to remind myself, never lived in a different world, have no concept that banks once paid interest to depositors, didn’t charge you a monthly fee to have an account, or every private business you deal with requiring your social security number (essential for collecting a debt against you), and an ironclad legal agreement not to sue them, no matter what, before you can do business with them.

Change is inevitable, as is resistance to change, which emerges from terror about change and/or anger about changes for the worse. Look at what’s happened to the Republican Party, as it was steadily taken over by fabulously wealthy right-wing liberty lovers like Charles Koch and associates and turned into the extremist John Birch Society.

What was the premise of the John Birch Society? It was a group of wealthy right-wing freedom lovers fighting a vast conspiracy of godless Commies who were using the imagined grievances of American Blacks, and other disgruntled Americans, to drive a stake into the heart of American society and our cherished liberties. You can visit their website today, the John Birch Society (founded by Koch’s dad a few years after the scandalous Supreme Court decision that ruled segregated schools were inherently unequal, and therefore unconstitutional), they are peddling the same pile of reeking scats right now, in our giddy age of Alternative Fact.

What is the current premise of the modern Republican Party, its hope for regaining power? That an election their candidate lost by a substantial margin was stolen by fraud, somehow rigged in a way that avoided detection, left no evidence, fooled election officials of both parties, and defrauded the American public of the one-party state we actually want, need and deserve. 70% of Republicans believe this wild conspiracy theory about a massive, vicious betrayal of democracy, no so-called “proof” needed. Alternative facts, that’s all. Let’s agree to disagree, you cheating, thieving fucks.

I heard the term Limpieza de Sangre, purity of blood, for the first time today. It came into use during the dawn of propaganda, when the Pope was using the printing press, and outfits like the Jesuits, Defenders of the Faith, to propagate the One True Faith, against the mounting Protestant incursion into Christianity. The Spanish Inquisition had made it a capital offense not to believe in the teachings of the Son of God and many of the tortures we know today were developed to torture the truth out of godless people trying to save their lives by pretending to worship and adore Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, while secretly rejecting His love.

The doctrine of Limpieza de Sangre was designed to separate Catholics of pure blood, born into a long line of devoted believers, from those who had converted from Muslim or Jewish backgrounds, simply to escape torture and death. You understand, the blood itself must be pure for your faith to be pure, as Jesus never taught.

Change is eternal, but the techniques of reaction have certain constant features. Every regime that has ever set armies to murder enemies has first had to reduce those enemies, whether civilian or another army, into hated, dangerous insects, deadly, inhuman infecters of the life blood of the rest of us. So we have the long line of insane ideas like Purity of Blood, used to justify the spilling of impure or polluted blood.

In the former slave states, during the “Jim Crow” era, the amount of Negro blood in a person’s lineage determined his or her status under law. Never mind that almost every drop of the “white” blood in a “mixed race” person was the result of rape of the darker person owned by the lighter one. You know, if you teach a disgusting thing like that to children you should be ashamed of yourself– and fired from your job!

OK, OK, calm down…

You have Homer Plessy, a light-skinned, blond-haired octoroon (one of his eight great-grandparents was Black), on an interstate train down south, sitting in a car reserved for Whites Only. His blood, you understand, made him, according to the laws of Louisiana, where his offense took place, a Negro. Looked as white as Ronald Reagan, boys and girls, but the law’s the law.

Plessy was a Negro, somebody blew the whistle on him as he sat in the Whites Only car and he had to be ejected from that car and put into the less plush Coloreds Only car. Plessy made a small fuss, I believe, and was arrested. He’d been planted there, in 1892, by civil rights activists, as was the person who outed him to the authorities, to challenge segregation under federal law (hence the interstate train, one of the few 14th Amendment rights recognized by the Supreme Court was the right to travel freely from state to state, and there was, possibly, also the Commerce Clause– federal oversight of interstate commerce).

The federal case got up to the Supreme Court where segregation was upheld, in Plessy v. Ferguson, under the famous slogan of “Separate But Equal”. Check out the photographs of the segregated south, the water fountains and bathrooms of the respective races.

Segregated Water Fountains in North Carolina, 1950 ~ Vintage Everyday

Also, consider: the southern racial blood laws were even stricter than the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws the Nazis promulgated decades later after studying the race laws of the states of the former Confederacy. Teach that in an American public school and you’re asking to be lynched, just sayin’…

Makes you think.

I think about the rash of police violence that has resulted in the killing of dozens of unarmed, mostly Black and brown, people just since the recently concluded trial of the murderer of George Floyd started. A long parade of victims, one as young as thirteen, shot dead or otherwise killed by police, leading to a series of scrupulously nonviolent protests in just about every case. Leading, in turn, to renewed urgency to pass a series of identical laws to redefine the term “riot”, making it harder for people to organize and participate in First Amendment protests without risking 15 years in prison for a newly created felony. Because, while the right to protest may be protected by the First Amendment, the “right to riot” may be forcefully prevented, and vigorously prosecuted under the criminal laws of the state.

It is, of course, no accident that these dozens of proposed anti-protest laws, like the 361 laws making it more difficult to vote, now being debated in 47 states, are more or less identical. They are drafted by the same highly partisan weasels, distributed to individual state legislators through outfits like ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. “Stand Your Ground” laws, for example, a law that allows citizens to shoot other citizens in the street if they are truly afraid for their lives, were drafted by ALEC.

The influential outfit, formerly known as the Conservative Caucus of State Legislators, was founded in 1973 to “counter the Environmental Protection Agencywage, and price controls, and to respond to the defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election [1]. ” You know, to organize and fight progressive policies of any and all kinds in the interest of preventing meaningful change of the status quo.

I know most Americans don’t care much for history, or a nuanced debate over every little damned thing. We are organized into tribes now, embracing the big picture emotion of our tribe and reflexively believing what the rest of our tribe believes. This tribalism has been wildly accelerated by “social media” which constantly and instantly buzzes updated, self-confirming opinion into our phones, and ads:

I get all this, it just makes me crazy, being constantly forced to hear idiotic arguments over fact-based things like which Big Lie is actually THE Big Lie — the one about the 2020 fake election results that has been supposedly proved in the courts, challenged, confirmed by recounts, by bipartisan certification, all faked — or the one the always truthful leader of the loyal 39% says is a Big Lie — that an election without “integrity” was free of widespread fraud, a lie peddled by the dangerous, radical, corrupt liars who are trying to destroy our great, unified nation by violence in the streets by claiming the stolen election was NOT stolen by these evil maniacs. You know, Communists like Mitt Romney.

[1]

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives who draft and share model legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States.[2][3][4]

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Is the US racist, a little?

Sekhnet and I found a wallet on the street the other night. I put the guy’s name and address into a search engine on my phone, and websites were eager to sell me his phone number, though I was not eager to pay the fee for what was, until monetized recently, free public information. 311 was no help, outside of suggesting we bring the wallet to the local police precinct. Sekhnet did exhaustive research when we got home, trying to contact the owner of the wallet, a 22 year-old — nada. The next day we drove over to his house, which was not far away, to give the kid back his wallet.

His house was located in a middle class neighborhood called St. Albans, which has long been home to financially successful Black Queens families. I recall as a boy going to visit a classmate whose father was an architect, they lived in a large house in St. Albans [1]. The daughter of the architect, Rani, had been recently admitted to my class, over the long, organized protests of local white racists. Our elementary school had been de-segregated two or three years earlier pursuant to the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling that all public schools must be racially integrated with “all deliberate speed” — which in the case of PS178Q was about a decade and a half.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny spring day, everything in bloom, the lawns green under brilliant sunlight. We found the address. I went to ring the bell, Sekhnet went to talk to the man working on the edge of the property. When Sekhnet told the man why we were there he said he was the kid’s father. I approached and filled in a few details.

“Oh, his girlfriend lives over there,” the father said, when I told him where on the service road we’d found the wallet.

Before turning over the wallet Sekhnet asked a clever question. “What is your son’s middle initial?” The man looked confused, hesitated. “I’m not good with that kind of thing, I don’t even… see him, I don’t even know his name,” he pointed to his other son, who laughed, and told Sekhnet “N”.

We stood there a moment (the kid wasn’t home, didn’t even know his wallet was missing) exchanging wallet-related pleasantries as the father, his other son and a smiling young woman thanked us. I mentioned that I still felt the pain, from 15 years ago, of losing my wallet, knowing the security guard who’d definitely found it, and being unable to prove it or get the wallet or any of its contents back.

The father, a small, wiry man with a Jamaican accent and dark brown skin, a mechanic and owner of the shop where at least one of his sons worked with him, nodded and told me he’d found a wallet outside of his shop one time. When he went to return it he got no thanks, only suspicion, the people treated him like he’d stolen it, wanted to know how he got the wallet. I looked into his reddened eyes as he said “that’s the last time I return a wallet. I’m going to leave the next one on the ground.”

Sekhnet and I, being two respectable-looking white people (looks are deceiving, in my case), could drive up to a home, walk into the front yard, return a wallet and be thanked, with grateful smiles all around. This guy, a successful entrepreneur who was living the American Dream, with his fine home, his grown kids hanging around as he worked on the property on his day off, was treated as a suspect when he went to do a good deed. The understandable pain in his eyes as he told me the little story had to be addressed.

“No, you did the right thing, you should do the same thing next time, you just met up with some assholes,” I said. He nodded at the word assholes, which his accusers no doubt were, he may have repeated the word.

What troubled me afterwards was whether I should have modified “assholes” as “racist assholes?” It seemed to go without saying, even if the assholes he was returning the wallet to were “nonwhite”. The reality for this hardworking American taxpayer is that he is a hundred times more likely to be confronted by this kind of asshole than somebody like me, a shiftless daydreaming bum born with “white” skin and a free pass not to be profiled by racists, is.

Do we have widespread racist assumptions here in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Is the Pope Catholic? Do Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham bend the truth?

That night I read this excellent op-ed (below), which makes short work of the asshole argument that there is no racism built into our culture. “Nothing systemic,” insist brazen professional liars like South Carolina’s morally dextrous Lindsey Graham, senator from one of two states that had Black majority populations during the Confederacy (Mississippi was the other, Louisiana was close to 50/50 in the 1860 Census). Graham’s South Carolina colleague, the Republican party’s lone black senator (the Democrats currently have two, 4% of their caucus, Booker and Warnock, two of eleven Black senators from either party over the centuries) [2], made the same point, when he spoke to the nation to rebut Biden’s recent address to Congress.

“Red” states across the country are now in the process of mandating a curriculum for public school students that stresses the uniqueness, freedom and equality of America and its unity, and specifically disallows teaching “controversial” subjects, like slavery, in a way that makes us look bad, and ordinary, and not like an Exceptional Shining Nation on A Hill. This plays strongly to the right-wing base in the all-too familiar double down on demonstrable bullshit for which their recent master is so rightfully famous.

Trump’s Department of Education formed the 1776 Commission, to respond to, and refute, the documentation of America’s long history of racism contained in the 1619 Project published in the NY Times. The first slaves arrived here in 1619, a year before the famous Mayflower brought persecuted, intolerant English Puritans to Plymouth Rock.

The 1776 Commission produced a draft of its democracy-embracing patriotic curriculum, right before Trump reluctantly allowed a peaceful transition of power after the rigged stolen election, and released the report on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, for good measure (in your face, Black racists!). The report strikes back forcefully at the Civil Rights bullies that tyrannize the persecuted, beleaguered “whites” of MAGA nation.

The short report could have been written by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos herself, it was so detailed, so vague, so idiotic and clueless a denial of reality. Biden immediately disbanded the “commission” and removed the report, a piece of white supremacist propaganda citing the New Testament as its ultimate source of authority, and America’s moral strength, from the government website.

Here is just a piece of its inspirational message:

“The principles of equality and consent mean that all are equal before the law. No one is above the law, and no one is privileged to ignore the law, just as no one is outside the law in terms of its protection.”

A principle we saw demonstrated over and over during the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

You can read more about the 1776 Commission’s patriotically revisionist message here.

I’ll give Charles M. Blow the last word on this “controversy”

Is America a racist country?

Last Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina added himself to the long list of Republicans who have denied the existence of systemic racism in this country. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday” that “our systems are not racist. America’s not a racist country.”

Graham argued that the country can’t be racist because both Barack Obama and Kamala Harris had been elected and somehow, their overcoming racial hurdles proves the absence of racial hurdles. His view seems to be that the exceptions somehow negated the rule.

In the rebuttal to President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, the other senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican in the Senate, parroted Graham and became an apologist for these denials of racism, saying too that the country wasn’t racist. He argued that people are “making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal.”

Scott’s argument seems to leave open the possibility that America may have been a racist country but that it has matured out of it, that it has graduated into egalitarianism.

I personally don’t make much of Scott’s ability to reason. This is the same man who said in March that “woke supremacy,” whatever that is, “is as bad as white supremacy.” There is no world in which recent efforts at enlightenment can be equated to enslavement, lynching and mass incarceration. None.

It seems to me that the disingenuousness on the question of racism is largely a question of language. The question turns on another question: “What, to you, is America?” Is America the people who now inhabit the land, divorced from its systems and its history? Or, is the meaning of America inclusive of those systems and history?

When people say that America is a racist country, they don’t necessarily mean that all or even most Americans are consciously racist. However, it is important to remember that nearly half the country just voted for a full-on racist in Donald Trump, and they did so by either denying his racism, becoming apologists for it, or applauding it. What do you call a country thus composed?

Historically, however, there is no question that the country was founded by racists and white supremacists, and that much of the early wealth of this country was built on the backs of enslaved Africans, and much of the early expansion came at the expense of the massacre of the land’s Indigenous people and broken treaties with them.

Eight of the first 10 presidents personally enslaved Africans. In 1856, the chief justice of the United States wrote in the infamous ruling on the Dred Scott case that Black people “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The country went on to fight a Civil War over whether some states could maintain slavery as they wished. Even some of the people arguing for, and fighting for, an end to slavery had expressed their white supremacist beliefs.

Abraham Lincoln said during his famous debates against Stephen A. Douglas in 1858 that among white people and Black ones “there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of the superior position being assigned to the white man.”

Some will concede the historical point and insist on the progress point, arguing that was then and this is now, that racism simply doesn’t exist now as it did then. I would agree. American racism has evolved and become less blunt, but it has not become less effective. The knife has simply been sharpened. Now systems do the work that once required the overt actions of masses of individual racists.

So, what does it mean for a system to be racist? Does the appellation depend on the system in question being openly, explicitly racist from top to bottom, or simply that there is some degree of measurable bias embedded in those systems? I assert the latter.

America is not the same country it was, but neither is it the country it purports to be. On some level this is a tension between American idealism and American realism, between an aspiration and a current condition.

And the precise way we phrase the statement makes all the difference: America’s systems — like its criminal justice, education and medical systems — have a pro-white/anti-Black bias, and an extraordinary portion of America denies or defends those biases.

As Mark Twain once put it: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Being imprecise or undecided with our language on this subject contributes to the murkiness — and to the myth that the question of whether America is racist is difficult to answer and therefore the subject of genuine debate among honest intellectuals.

Saying that America is racist is not a radical statement. If that requires a longer explanation or definition, so be it. The fact, in the end, is not altered.

[1]

The visit was memorable because it was the first time I heard a wah-wah guitar (on a Temptations track, Cloud Nine or Runaway Child) — which excited me greatly– and the first time I saw girls dancing in a way that also filled me with excitement, though I wasn’t sure exactly why. My classmate’s little brother and I kept smiling at each other and replaying the record, to keep them dancing.

[2]

And check out African-American P.B.S. Pinchback, who would have made an even 12 all-time Black Senators, elected by Louisiana in 1873, but denied his seat, as these things happen. It should be noted, the current Senate has the all-time record for Black Senators at one time, with three.

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