By now it should be clear that President Trump seems intent on just wishing away the covid-19 pandemic so that it doesn’t interfere with his re-election chances.
Thus his proclamation yesterday that all schools have to re-open in September, so that we can pretend that everything’s normal again.
Notwithstanding that the federal government has no control over school hours or openings, which is generally a function of local (and not even state) government.
Notwithstanding that states like Arizona, Florida, Texas and South Carolina are breaking records in new coronavirus infections.
Notwithstanding that a lot of hospitals in those states are already at full capacity.
Trump is still calling it the “China” virus; he’s still claiming that jobs are coming back (they’re not); he’s still claiming the economy is coming back (it’s not); and it’s all for one thing: to get him re-elected.
Now if Trump really wanted to bring the economy back, he would invoke the Defense Production Act in a much more serious way, and get us the testing and contact tracing that we need. That would allow parts of the economy to re-open safely, as has been done in (for example) South Korea.
You would think that at some point Trump’s supporters would pick up on the fact that he doesn’t give a shit about their lives.
But they haven’t.
Our malignant narcissist keep’s proving over and over again that the only person or thing he cares about is himself.
Various media outlets reported yesterday that the Trump family managed (in their second attempt) to get a temporary restraining order against Mary L. Trump relative to the publication of her “tell all” book.
Mary L. Trump is the daughter of Fred Trump Jr. (Donald’s elder brother), who passed away from alcoholism back in 1981.
Fred Trump Jr. had two children, Mary L. Trump and Fred Trump III.
When Donald’s father, Fred Trump Sr. passed away, nothing was left in his will for Fred Trump Jr.’s children.
Fred Trump Sr. had suffered from Alzheimer’s before his passing in 1999. Mary and Fred III alleged that the other siblings (especially Donald) used undue influence to cut them out of the will.
Mary and Fred III sued the estate (as well as Donald and his three surviving siblings, Maryanne Trump Barry, Elizabeth Trump Gau, and Robert Trump) for their share of the estate.
Because of the suit, the Trump family cut off funds for Fred Trump III and for his son, who had recently been born with cerebral palsy. (The Donald has previously admitted that he did this to punish them for suing.)
The case was settled in the early 2000s, including a non-disclosure agreement as part of the settlement.
Now, I doubt that the non-disclosure agreement can silence Mary L. Trump permanently with respect to writing about her family. It can probably silence her with respect to the litigation around the estate and how the case was settled.
I doubt Simon and Schuster would invest the time and resources in editing and publishing the book if they didn’t think they could get it on the market and sold.
After all, Simon and Schuster have lawyers who specialize in this kind of thing.
Mary — who has a PhD and is a licensed psychotherapist — clearly wants to get the book out before the election, when it can still influence some people with respect to how to vote.
And I want to read it.
My prediction is that she will be allowed to publish it (with maybe a few redactions), and it should make for an interesting to addition to all of the existing tell-all books that are already out there with respect to the Donald.
In a story reported by NPR, the Trump administration submitted an 82-page brief an hour before a court-imposed midnight deadline, arguing that the act had been rendered unconstitutional when in 2017 (as part of their tax “reform”) the Republicans Congress repealed the individual mandate.
What? We’re still fighting about Obamacare?
Yes, dear reader. We’re still fighting about Obamacare.
Now, you could be excused if you’ve lost track of where we are in this never-ending saga, so let me refresh your recollection.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became effective on March 23, 2010.
I used to like to point out that if you lived in the city of Newton Massachusetts (one of the wealthy suburbs of Boston which, during the 2010 census, had a demographic make-up of 79.6% White, 11.5% Asian, 2.5% African American, 0.07% Native American, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.71% from other races, and 1.46% from two or more races) that for the years 2010 through 2015, your President, your Governor, and your Mayor were all black men (or in Obama’s case, at least bi-racial).
The liberal Democrats of Newton, most of whom are white, had the chance to vote for a black man for President, for Governor and for Mayor not just once, but twice. And they did so. In large numbers.
For this period of time, the citizens of Newton demonstrated the ability, at least in their voting patterns, to heed the advice of Martin Luther King and judge these men not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
That had to be evidence of some kind of forward progress, didn’t it?
And then, of course, the backlash: the election of Donald Trump.
We now seem to be bifurcating between Democrat and Republican, urban and rural, reasonable and unreasonable, racist and anti-racist.
It’s not like racism had gone anywhere, but at least it had been considered in poor taste. Now it’s just out in the open and unashamed.
Donald Trump, as I’ve repeatedly noted, is the “fuck you” President, the Divider-in-Chief, whose racism has gone from dog-whistle racism to bullhorn racism.
And those are only the ones that happened to make it onto video.
For various practical reasons, I’m not so sure that defunding the police is a practical or desirable objective. But clearly, we need to dramatically reform the way policing is done here in the United States.
Katie Anthony is a good writer, and her essay was strong. The bottom line is that she believed that there are five responses that progressive white women shouldn’t indulge. Those five responses were identified as:
The Self-Flagellating “I’m So Ashamed to be a White Woman” Response
The “Not All White Women Are Like That, Personally I Hate Her” Response
The “Focusing on a Non-Racist Element of the Video” Response
The “If I Had Been There, I would have . . . ” Response
The “Graduate of An Anti-Racism Seminar Explains The Roots of Systemic Racism” Response
The correct response, according to Katie Anthony, is to say “I see you,” or “that’s awful,” which is “an expression of connection that isn’t about you and your feelings.”
So, Katie Anthony is not wrong that when it comes to racism white people should be more concerned about the actual racism than with their feelings about the racism. And people who are outraged by racism but then don’t follow up with actions should learn to do better.
But my friends, why be so quick to reject and diminish the support of people that you’re going to need?
Consider Katie Anthony’s post. She says that these five responses are not only undesirable or not optimal, but she labels them as “racist.” That’s pretty strong language, and not necessarily helpful.
When the Charlie Hebdo shootings occurred back in 2015 I, like a lot of other people, was outraged. I put the French flag on my Facebook account and posted some pictures, but there wasn’t a lot more that I could do. It happened in France, it involved fundamentalist Muslims, it included a lot of dynamics that I know nothing about. Does that make me morally deficient?
Likewise, when various school shootings have occurred, I’ve also expressed my outrage on social media, and I have, from time to time, contacted my Senators and Representatives asking them to support certain legislation. I did so after the massacre of elementary school children at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown CT. I figured at the time that if anything could get the federal congress to act, it would be the massacre of elementary school children.
But someone who follows my social media posts wouldn’t know whether I have or have not donated to the SPLC or contacted my Senator or Representative unless I announced that on social media as well. And Katie Anthony seems to think that there is only one way to be a proper anti-racist.
On of the criticisms that the right has often made of the left is that we’re too “politically correct,” and that viewpoint is not completely wrong. If you think that there is only one way to be a “correct” anti-racist, then you’re drawing your requirements too narrowly. In my opinion.
At this moment in time, where we are at a potential inflection point on the race question, I wouldn’t be so quick to reject or diminish anyone’s support, whether “performative” or not.4
And finally I just want to say to whomever is out in the streets today and who doesn’t vote in November, you’re an asshole. Voting is the clearest and most direct way that you can have an impact.
On the same day that George Floyd took his last breath, Sunday, May 25, 2020, Amy Cooper tried to railroad Christian Cooper (no relation) in New York’s Central Park. I wrote about this recently, and the video of the incident has been viewed millions of times by now.
The outline of what happened is pretty well known:
On the morning of May 25, 2020, Amy Cooper an investment banker for Franklin Templeton, was walking her dog in Central Park in an area known as the Ramble. At the same time Christian Cooper, a black birdwatcher, noticed that Amy’s dog was unleashed and running free. He asked her to leash him. She refused
Christian began to record their interaction on his cellphone; she asked him to stop recording her.
Amy then pulled out her own phone and dialed 911. When connected, she repeatedly told the operator that “there’s an African American man” recording her and threatening her and her dog.
Their interaction ended shortly thereafter, and by the time the police came, neither Cooper was in that area of Central Park.
Christian Cooper’s sister subsequently posted the video on her Twitter account, while Christian himself posted the video to his own Facebook page. Within hours of the uploads, it had been viewed millions of times.
If someone had asked me to leash my dog — I have cats, so in reality I don’t have to worry about this — never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that it would be an appropriate response to call the police. In fact, my relationship to the police has been mostly polite but adversarial. Almost all my encounters with the police involve traffic stops, where I am very polite, and they are mostly polite in return.2 On the rare occasions that our family needed the police — two break-ins and one snow blower stolen from our garage — the police did exactly nothing for us.
If I had thought to call the police under these circumstances, I wouldn’t have done it for the same reason that I don’t jump off of a bridge: impulse control.
And if I didn’t have enough impulse control not to call the police under these circumstances, I still wouldn’t have done it while some was filming me because I sure wouldn’t want there to be a video of me calling the police circulating on the Internet.
That Amy Cooper thought calling the police and lying about being threatened in response to being asked to leash her dog was an appropriate suggests that there is something seriously miswired in her brain.3 She might want to think about therapy.
Now maybe Amy Cooper is more representative of white women than I realize. Maybe I have other friends who would consider this a reasonable option under the same circumstances. I have no proof either way. All I know is that none of my friends have ever called the police for any reason while I was hanging out with them. Not my white friends, not my black friends, not any other friends.
I’m not saying that my friends and I have never engaged in micro-aggressions. I haven’t done so consciously or with intent, but I can’t swear that I have never done so. But what Amy Cooper did was not a micro-aggression. That was a macro aggression, my friends, and now she’s unemployed and has acquired lasting Internet infamy.
I’m sure she wishes she had chosen to walk her dog somewhere else that Sunday morning.
By now many people have seen the viral video of Martin Gugino, a 75-year old protester who was shoved to the ground during a Black Lives Matter protest in Buffalo NY on June 4, 2020.
Martin Gugino turns out to be a 75-year old peace activist associated with the Catholic Worker Movement who worked with the Western New York Peace Center after his retirement. In the video Gugino is seen approaching the officers to engage with them about something, two of whom then shove him away from them.
Now, to be fair, it didn’t look like the two officers who shoved him were trying to hurt him. Tall and gangly, he stumbled back awkwardly and clearly fell very hard. He can be seen bleeding out of one ear.
At that point, it was the officer’s duty to take care of him, and they didn’t do that. Instead, they just walked past him. Adding insult to injury, the police in their official reports initially claimed that Gugino had been injured when he “tripped & fell,” (conveniently omitting the helpful push).
Because it was all captured on video (which subsequenty went viral), the two police officers –Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski — were charged with a 2nd degree assault and fired from the police force. In response, all 57 police officers from the Buffalo Police Department resigned from an emergency response team (but not the Department), demonstrating once again the power of the thin blue line.
Never one to leave well enough alone, President Drumpf soon weighed in with a tweet suggesting that Gugino was an “ANTIFA provocateur,” after “appearing to scan police communications to black out the equipment,” and that it “could be a setup.”
Proposals to “defund” the police make us on the left look completely ridiculous to the rest of America.
Now, I realize that what people mean when they say “defund the police” is not always as it sounds. As reported recently:
Supporters say it isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. They say it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the US need, like housing and education.
The Associated Press, Updated June 7, 2020, 8:26 p.m.
Well, if that’s what it’s about, then don’t call it “defunding the police.” Policing is one of the core functions of local government, and it doesn’t have to be done the way that we do it here in the United States. Take, for example, the country of Norway, where their police haven’t killed anybody in almost a decade.
As it is, we have all of right wing America taking it literally that the left wants to defund the police, and raising the spectre of lawlessness and chaos in the streets.
Now, forgetting for a moment about the fact that this tweet (supra) is from a Trump and that means it is at least partially incoherent — what the hell is he talking about not defunding private security and what does that have to do with the price of eggs in China? — Trump Jr. mirrors the reaction of a lot of right wing America.
It’s a shame too, because this is a potential inflection point where one might really be able to change something significant about policing. Two of the most important things that have to change are (1) attitude and (2) police protection from liability.
Attitude, needless to say, is hard to change. Some police officers will change their attitude by observing what is happening in the country right now, and a few may change their attitude because of training or other efforts to widen their consciousness. But widening someone’s consciousness, as we already know, is hard to do. The “blue line” mentality is deeply ingrained in policing.
Liability is another matter. Right now, police are generally protected from liability for their own misdeeds, and a lot of the blame for that goes to police unions who are only interested in protecting their own.1 The rules around liability, those can change.
There have been a few serious attempts to tackle the current crisis, and one of them has been put forward by a coalition of Democratic House members and Senators who released the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which includes the following proposals2:
Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
Bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
Mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
Establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave on agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
Amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
Reforms qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
Establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Task force on 21st Century policing.
Requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
Establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.
These are good ideas, for the most part, and I hope they actually get enacted. Especially important are the proposals to change rules around qualified immunity. Nothing will change police behavior as quickly as the knowledge that officers can be held personally liable for abusive behavior. While that might not put more police officers in jail, it will put others in risk of personal bankruptcy and that’s a powerful incentive to avoid doing certain things.
President Drumpf has been working overtime to accuse Antifa of the violence and looting at the George Floyd protests around the country.
Unfortunately for Trump, Antifa is barely a thing. As recently explained in the New York Times:
Antifa is not an organization, and it does not have a leader, membership roles or any defined, centralized structure. It is a vaguely defined movement of people who share common protest tactics and targets.
There have also been people on the left who have claimed that white supremacists have infiltrated the protests and are responsible for much of the looting. I don’t think we have much evidence for that either yet.
A number of looters have been filmed on cell phone and surveillance cameras, and if they’re identified, we may have a better idea of who they are. My guess is that many of them are simply opportunists who are taking advantage of the situation to wreak a little havoc.
But who knows. I don’t have any more evidence for that then do the people accusing either Antifa or white supremacists.
Now, President Drumpf didn’t just accuse Antifa, he also accused the mainstream media of supporting the looters.
Of course, neither CNN nor MSNBC nor any other mainstream media outlet have been in support of the looters. That’s just plain silly; all you have to know that it’s not true is to watch the coverage. If anything (like most ordinary people) the media have worried about how the looting will hijack the needed conversation on racial inequality.
But as we know, that has never stopped President Drumpf. Even if the truth is right before your eyes, he will lie about it.
As most people know by now, there were two racially charged incidents which took place on Memorial Day, and both of which ended up on YouTube. One was of little relative consequence and one was of great consequence and has since blown up to cause massive protests and riots in some cities. To wit:
A woman named Amy Cooper made a 911 call in Central Park NY to accuse a black man of threatening her, after he had asked her to leash her dog.
A police officer in Minneapolis killed a black man named George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes, while his fellow officers did nothing to intervene.
Here is the remarkable thing that both incidents have in common: they perpetrators could see that they were being filmed.
Let me say that again: they could see that they were being filmed. And yet that fact did not restrain their behavior in any way.
Amy Cooper was an investment manager at Franklin Templeton who was walking her rescue dog in Central Park, but not on a leash. A black man who was bird watching in Central Park and who (ironically) shares her last name — Christian Cooper — asked her to leash her dog. This so offended her that she threatened to call the cops on him and then did so, claiming that he was threatening her.
The whole incident was filmed by Mr. Cooper or his sister. The video eventually went viral, the woman was recognized and outed, and Amy Cooper was fired from her job. She is now the poster child for what entitled urban white privilege looks like, and it’s possible that she never recovers from this. (Like, who is going to hire this woman now?)
Amy Cooper is a liberal Democrat who previously donated to the Presidential campaigns of John Kerry, Barack Obama and Pete Buttigieg.1 She later apologized for her behavior. By the time the police showed up in Central Park both Coopers were long gone. No consequential harm was done to the bird-watching Mr. Cooper.
But seriously, this was her response to being asked to leash her dog? By a black man. OMFG!
The Death of George Floyd
In an incident that was remarkably reminiscent of the Eric Garner “I can’t breathe” incident from Staten Island in 2014, a black man (George Floyd) was restrained by a white officer for a potential forged check — even though he was demonstrably not resisting arrest — by a white officer who put his knee on the man’s neck for almost nine minutes.
Two other white officers and an additional officer of Cambodian heritage either assisted in restraining George Floyd or did nothing to help him, even after he became non-responsive. Floyd was arrested for allegedly passing a bad check (clearly not a violent crime). Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he could not breathe. And yet, the officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, and for almost three minutes after he became non-responsive.2
All of this was, of course, being filmed on someone’s cell phone, which the officers in question could clearly see. But that did not restrain their behavior in any way.
In the Aftermath
By now we know that the officer in question is Derek Chauvin, an officer who had 18 complaints filed against him in his 19 year career.3 All four officers have since been fired, and Chauvin has been indicted for third degree murder.4 Since then:
Protests started to spring up, first in Minneapolis, and eventually in different cities around the country.
Some (although not many) of these protests turned violent and included looting.
The conversation has since been hijacked from one about why unarmed black men (and sometimes women) cannot interact safely with the police.
President Trump has, naturally (for him), fanned the flames by calling the protestors thugs and by demanding (in a phone call with the nations’s Governors) that they “dominate” the protestors.
So right now it’s important to remember that there are a lot of good police officers who don’t mistreat black men, and there are thousands upon thousands of protestors who have voiced their displeasure in completely appropriate ways.
But 52 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King we have made so discouragingly little progress in dealing with the race issue here in the United States.
These are the ramblings of a disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
About this Blog
This blog tackles the two bête noire of dinner-table conversation, politics and religion. What politics and religion have in common these days is the almost complete absence of critical thinking. Religion is mostly characterized by wishful thinking, whereas politics is mostly characterized by increasingly polemicized rhetoric designed to inflame instead of inform. If nothing else, I want people to wake up and stop being seduced by deluded thinking.