Friday, April 30, 2021

Did Sexism Play a Role in the Media's Coverage of Biden and Clinton "Scandals?"

The Pew Research Center has done an extensive analysis of news coverage during Biden's first two months in office. They specifically looked at differences between media outlets that were aimed at (1) a left-leaning audience,  (2) a mixed audience, and (3) a right-leaning audience. Here is one finding that caught my eye.

In the first 60 days of the Biden administration, all three media outlet groupings were much more likely to frame their stories around the president’s policy agenda than his character and leadership skills...Four years ago, around three-quarters of stories about the new Trump administration (74%) were framed around the president’s leadership and character, with very little difference among media groupings.

Of course, that is understandable given that Trump trafficked in conspiracy theories and name-calling while rarely (if ever) talking about specific policies. 

The coverage of Biden also differs sharply from how the media treated Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of course, she lost the election, so we never got the opportunity to analyze how the media would have covered a Clinton presidency. But the Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard found this when comparing coverage of Clinton vs. Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election. 

The media focus was on the so-called "Clinton scandals," while covering the issues Trump was talking about (ie, immigration). That was true even though, as Jennifer Rubin noted, "Hillary Clinton is the most exonerated politician ever." By my count, she has been cleared of four major attempts to smear her reputation: (1) Whitewater, (2) Benghazi, (3) emails, and (4) the Clinton Foundation. But other than an opinion column like the one from Rubin, the accusations against Clinton still hang in the air and are often used by her critics on both the left and the right to claim that she ran a terrible campaign. 

 It is impossible to quantify how much the difference in coverage of Biden and Clinton is the product of sexism. But it is also impossible to ignore the fact that the media was quick to debunk the claims about Biden being corrupt, but lingered endlessly on similar claims about Clinton. Neither were based on any solid evidence. That seemed to matter a whole lot less when the target was a woman. 

Markos Moulitsas has done something that rarely happens with media figures. He wrote a column about the fact that he was totally wrong in his initial opinion about Biden during the primaries. In that piece, he noted this difficult fact:
Black voters in South Carolina took a look at the field, considered America’s relationship with race and gender, and said, “Nope, we ain’t chancing it. Getting rid of Trump is our number one priority, and the old white guy is the safest bet getting there.”

It hurts so much to admit it, because it says things about America that we all wish weren’t true (mainly, that we still have a long way to go on equality), but not only were they right to place all the chips on Biden, but he may very well be the only Democrat who could’ve beaten Trump last year. By virtue of his race, gender, and sexual orientation, Biden avoided the visceral, vitriolic hatred that conservatives muster up for anyone that doesn’t look or love like them.

None of this is meant as a critique of Biden. By all measures he is an older white man that is championing the cause of equality over the challenges posed by sexism, racism, and classism. But we can still mourn the way that the media is treating him differently than they did when a woman ran for president...and be better prepared for the next time.   

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Can we all agree on this one thing: Biden knows exactly what he's doing.

One of the biggest stories of Trump's first 100 days in office was that many his nominees to fill Cabinet positions had spent their previous careers attempting to undermine the work of the department they would go on to lead. That was designed to accomplish the goal Steve Bannon identified during his speech at CPAC: a deconstruction of the administrative state. Between positions left open and those filled by incompetent partisans, those Cabinet nominees did tremendous damage to the functioning of the federal government. For Republicans, that was a feature, not a bug.

That is why, even though Joe Biden wasn't my first choice during the 2020 primaries, I came to realize that his familiarity with what a functioning federal government should look like and the contacts he had developed over the years with competent, experienced people might be exactly what was needed to clean up the mess left by Trump. A functioning federal government might not be something that political pundits like to talk about, but it is critical to building support for a liberal agenda. 

As part of their messaging for Biden's first 100 days in office, the White House released a fact sheet demonstrating that Biden is doing exactly what I hoped he would do. 

The Biden-Harris Administration put in place its Statutory Cabinet faster than any other Administration since President Reagan. President Biden has also announced his intent to nominate 233 individuals to serve in Senate-confirmed leadership roles across the Executive Branch – more nominees than any past administration has announced by the 100-day mark.

You might remember that, following the 2020 election, the Trump administration attempted to delay and obstruct the Biden transition team. That makes the accomplishment described above even more impressive. 

Of course, Biden is doing all of that while assembling the most diverse cabinet in presidential history. As the White House documented, that is also true of the positions that don't require Senate confirmation.

[T]he White House Office of Presidential Personnel has hired nearly 1,500 presidential appointees to serve in key agency positions that do not require Senate confirmation – double the number of appointees hired by any prior administration by the 100-day mark. And, consistent with President Biden’s commitment to leveraging the talent, creativity, and expertise of the American people to build an Administration that looks like America, more than half of all Biden appointees are women, and half identify as non-white – numbers that set a new bar for future Administrations.

Of the approximately 1,500 agency appointees hired by President Biden so far: 

58% are women
18% identify as Black or African American
15% identify as Latino or Hispanic
15% identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander
3% identify as Middle Eastern or North African
2% identify as American Indian or Alaska Native
14% identify as LGBTQ+
4% are veterans
3% identify as disabled or having a disability
15% were the first in their families to go to college
32% are naturalized citizens or the children of immigrants

We can see the results of those efforts at the Department of Justice. Not only has the Civil Rights division opened pattern or practice investigations into the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments, they plan to ask a grand jury to indict Chauvin and the other three ex-officers involved in George Floyd's killing on charges of civil rights violations. On Wednesday, they also announced that the three Georgia men who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery have been charged with federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping. In other words, we now have a Justice Department that is operational when it comes to prosecuting civil rights violations. 

Of course, in addition to his knowledge of how the federal government is supposed to work, Biden knows Congress better than just about any politician on the scene today. And as Ed Kilgore explains, it's showing.

For all their political gifts, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — who, lest we forget, both had a much more firmly Democratic Senate and House the first two years of their presidencies — couldn’t come close to the mastery of Congress Biden has exhibited up until now...While Republicans fret about Trump and rage about “cancel culture,” Biden is eating their lunch.
There are plenty of political pundits on the left who assume that it is their job to tell Biden what he should be doing. But while I'm sure that the president will make some mistakes, I will mostly maintain a posture that allows me to watch and report what I see. As I did with a similar posture during Obama's presidency, I suspect that I'll learn a lot. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Republicans Can't Lay a Glove on Biden...So They Lie

Some Republicans are acknowledging that they're having a hard time laying a glove on President Biden, as Jordain Carney reports.

Republicans are struggling to land attacks against President Biden as they grapple with how to win back power in Washington next year.

Biden is proving to be an elusive cipher for Republicans to successfully message against nearly 100 days into his administration, keeping a relatively low profile and refusing to engage in the day-to-day verbal sparring that has consumed Washington in recent years.

It presents a challenge that, GOP senators acknowledge, they aren’t hitting the mark on.

As Carney explains, the president is keeping a pretty low profile, but it is also true that his policies are relatively popular with voters. Then there's also the fact that Biden has been involved in politics for a long time now. People know him, which makes it more difficult for Republicans to define him as some kind of threat. 

But all of that assumes that Republicans are somehow constrained by the truth—which they obviously are not. So they simply make shit up. We've seen a raft of those attempts over the last couple of days. For example:

Over the weekend, Republicans accused Joe Biden of trying to ban meat.

The claim, which you’ve heard from the likes of Donald Trump Jr. and Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, is that Biden’s climate plan will prohibit Americans from chowing down on burgers in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions associated with industrial agriculture.

On Fox News this Friday, former Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned of a Fourth of July where “you can throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled Brussels sprouts” (Kudlow doesn’t seem to be aware of what beer is made from). Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) dubbed Biden “The Hamburglar.”

Of course, Biden’s climate change plan does not limit meat-eating in any way. A Washington Post fact-check traced the burger-banning Biden myth back to a misleading article in the Daily Mail, a UK tabloid known for sensationalist coverage and right-wing politics. Biden’s actual climate policies so far have focused on reducing emissions from cars and power plants, with no effort to block meat production or consumption.

Then came this one:

What happened, according to The Washington Post’s fact-checking team, was this: After the city of Long Beach, Calif. asked residents for donations of books and toys as it established a temporary shelter for migrant children at its convention center, someone donated a copy of a children’s book written several years ago by Vice President Harris. The book was placed on a cot alongside toiletry items and a backpack. A photographer for Reuters, visiting the shelter, took a photo of the book and its surroundings.

What happened next was that the New York Post somehow decided that this meant the book was a standard part of “welcome kits” given to migrant children...Fox News picked up the story and ran with it, claiming that “photographs” showed its inclusion, though only one such photo existed. What happened after that was that Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked the president’s press secretary Jen Psaki about it.

She was, predictably, baffled.
The New York Post has apparently taken that story down, but not before it was retweeted by a whole host of Republican politicians. 

Both of those lies provide fodder for the right wing culture wars. But another one is being spread in an attempt to undermine Biden's foreign policy - particularly the administration's work to reinstate the Iran nuclear agreement. Here's how it all started:
The New York Times and Iran International, a Persian-language TV channel based in the United Kingdom, reported on a leaked audio of an unpublished interview Zarif conducted in March with an Iranian journalist, in which he discussed his frustrations with the country’s military steering foreign policy.

During the conversation, Zarif said that the military commanders had kept him in the dark on a number of crucial events. “It was former US Foreign Secretary John Kerry who told me Israel had launched more than 200 attacks on Iranian forces in Syria,” Zarif said, instead of learning this from his own government — a claim that Iran International characterized as “not very credible.”

On right wing media, that story morphed into one about Kerry sharing classified information from one of our most important allies (Israel) with a major adversary (Iran). A quick Google search of John Kerry, Iran, Fox News turns up 14 stories about this from just that one network over the last two days.  

Of course, a variety of Republican voices immediately jumped on the bandwagon, including Trump's secretary of state and UN ambassador. 

Former Trump administration secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the audio tape proves "what I’ve said for years: That [Zarif] continued to engage with former secretary of state Kerry on policy matters after Kerry’s public service and, according to Zarif, Kerry informed the Iranians of Israeli operations."

"Before we cut a deal with Iran that reduces Americans’ security," Pompeo said, "it would be good to know what the arrangement, if any, may have been between these two leaders." 

But perhaps the most duplicitous response came from Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary. 

That's a perfect example of "heads I win, tails you loose." If the smear campaign is true, he called on Kerry to resign. If it's not true, the Iranians are liars and we shouldn't be attempting to deal with them. 

Of course, Kerry denied it all. But a simple google search would tell these folks that this might be the worst-kept "secret" in history. 

News sources outside Iran such as The New York Times, Reuters, and Al Jazeera had reported on Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in 2013. Such reports continued in 2018Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even publicly acknowledged the strikes — and also to this very day. This isn’t some closely guarded international secret.

There are those within the Republican ranks who have been itching for war with Iran since the days when John McCain sang "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." Most notable among them are Christian zionists like Mike Pompeo who view it as a prelude to the apocalypse. But regardless of whether their ambitions are religious or steeped in the old neocon tradition of regime change, these lies about Kerry are a dangerous attempt to disrupt the Biden administration's work to reinstate the Iran nuclear agreement. 

The good news in all of this is that, whether we're talking about culture wars or the desire for an actual war with Iran, right wingers have had to resort to making up lies because there are no rational arguments left to make. Anyone with an ounce of integrity would be embarrassed as these lies—which are total nonsense—are debunked almost immediately. But then, no one has ever accused these folks of having any integrity.

Monday, April 26, 2021

"If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie"

The number one goal of Republicans in the 2022 elections is to win back control of the Senate. The man who is in charge of that task is Sen. Rick Scott, who is currently chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

Given that the GOP has broadcast that their strategy for accomplishing that goal is voter suppression, Scott is in an unenviable position. Corporations that are headquartered in states like Georgia and Texas, which are at the forefront of voter suppression, have spoken out against those efforts. So the Republican Party has all of the sudden declared war on corporate American.

To further that claim, Scott wrote an op-ed for Fox News. The title of the piece addresses "Woke Corporate America," claiming that a backlash is coming. But the tag line is beyond irony. It reads: "It turns out that power does corrupt, and you have become corrupt." The senator from Florida doesn't want you to remember this:

In the 1990s, Scott was the CEO of Columbia/HCA, a company that, under his direction, owned more than 340 hospitals, 135 surgery centers, and 550 home-health locations by the time Scott resigned in 1997. That year, federal agents announced an investigation into whether or not the company defrauded Medicare and Medicaid on a massive scale. Turns out, they did...

As part of the settlement, Columbia/HCA agreed to plead guilty to 14 corporate felonies — charges that involve financial penalties, but no jail time. (Corporations are people, but they cannot be sent to prison.) Over two settlement rounds, Columbia/HCA wound up paying the government $1.7 billion in criminal fines, civil damages, and penalties, in what the Justice Department called “the largest health-care fraud case in U.S. history.”

In other words, Scott is the poster-child for how power corrupts. And yet, he now has the gall to suggest that corporate America is corrupt for speaking out against voter suppression. Here's my reaction to that:

Similarly, Sen. Marco Rubio wrote an op-ed for the New York Post titled, "Corporations that undermine American values don’t deserve GOP support." At least he was closer to being honest in admitting that Republicans have favored corporations by giving them tax breaks and deregulation. But according to Rubio, those came in the days when corporate America was patriotic. Now he claims that the "greatest threat" they pose comes from their "aggressive positions on woke cultural issues that tear at our national fabric." Rubio concludes with a bizarre analogy, combined with a threat.

No policymaker would allow a company to dump toxic waste into a river upstream of a thriving town he is charged with governing. Yet corporate America eagerly dumps woke, toxic nonsense into our culture, and it’s only gotten more destructive with time. These campaigns will be met with the same strength that any other polluter should expect...America’s laws should keep our nation’s corporations firmly ordered to our national common good.

Sorry Senator Rubio, but just because people disagree with you doesn't make them "toxic." There's also this thing in our Constitution about "free speech." The 1st Amendment prohibits Congress from making any law "abridging the freedom of speech." I suspect that if congress were to order corporations to align with Rubio's vision of "our national common good," that would be a direct violation of the 1st Amendment, as well as an actual example of "cancel culture." 

I have to admit to a certain amount of pleasure in watching Republican Minority Leader McConnell backtrack from his admonition to corporate CEOs that they should "stay out of politics." He's obviously fine with taking corporate money, but doesn't want them taking a stand on issues (meaning, of course, those that are at odds with the Republican Party).

When a party is willing to abandon democracy in order to sustain a lie, this is what happens. Anyone who rejects the lie must be labelled an enemy to the cause. While these attacks on corporate America are mostly posturing, they are aimed at convincing white working class Americans that the GOP is on their side. That, too, is a lie, as Paul Waldman pointed out.

After all, why bother trying to cram genuinely pro-worker economic ideas about wages or working conditions or health care into your pro-corporate box if you can just shout about Dr. Seuss and the War on Christmas? It works in keeping white working class voters choosing Republicans — not every time, but often enough.

That’s what produces things like the GOP’s current campaign of one-at-a-time retribution against corporations. It doesn’t get to any real issues; all it does is lash out when the culture war makes a company seem too aligned with liberal goals and values.

As has been clear for a while now, Republicans don't actually have an agenda. Former Republican Stuart Steven said it best during an interview with David Corn.

“The Republican Party has been a cartel,” Stevens said excitedly. “And no one asks a cartel, ‘What’s your ideological purpose?’ You don’t ask OPEC, ‘What’s your ideology?’ You don’t ask a drug gang, ‘What’s your program?’ The Republicans exist for the pursuit of power for no purpose.”

Speaking of drug gangs, the Republicans have become Slim Charles from The Wire, who counseled that, "Fact is, we went to war. And now there ain't no going back...If its a lie, then we fight on that lie."

Sunday, April 25, 2021

How the Biden Administration Will Police the Police

On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has opened an investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department to determine whether they have exhibited a pattern or practice of policing that "deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

The authority of the department to conduct such investigations was provided in the 1994 crime bill after the beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers. Here is how it works:

Pattern or practice investigations are civil, not criminal, investigations, and they aim at systemic problems, not individual officers...

In investigations like these, the federal government sends attorneys and investigators to the city to learn as much as it can about the areas of police conduct under scrutiny — such as the use of force, stops and searches, suppression of free speech or all of the above. The team interviews officers and reviews arrest reports, citizen complaints, department policies and training materials. They also hold community forums and interview residents about their interactions with police to gather evidence from across the community. With the help of data scientists and experts with law enforcement backgrounds, they assess whether there is a pattern of unconstitutional conduct and also identify the sources of the systemic misconduct...

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department routinely made its findings public in detailed reports...A findings letter like that, which showed a clear pattern of constitutional violations, would normally tee up a lawsuit where the federal government would seek structural reform.

The negotiation process is hard-fought, but it results in a set of reforms that both sides believe are feasible to implement and strong enough to correct the problems...Once the consent decree is agreed to, the court has the authority to monitor its implementation. If the city doesn’t comply, it can be held in contempt and sanctioned through fines or additional requirements.

During Obama's presidency, the Justice Department opened 25 investigations and reached 15 consent decrees, more than any other administration, thanks to the efforts of Tom Perez and Vanita Gupta, who ran the Civil Rights Division. In January 2017, the division released a report on the use of this tool.

The day before Trump fired him, AG Sessions basically ended the department's oversight of existing consent decrees and stopped opening pattern or practice investigations. So with the announcement last week by Garland, we have yet another example of why elections matter. It is clear that the Biden administration plans to use this tool to tackle the problem of systemic racism in police departments. 

While not a magic bullet, it has been demonstrated that this process works. According to one study, departments that went through consent decrees saw an average of 25 percent fewer police shootings in the first year of implementation. 

In 2011, the Civil Rights Division opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Newark, NJ Police Department. They released their findings in 2014.
[T]he Division identified a pattern or practice of unlawful stops, searches and arrests; discriminatory policing; excessive force; and theft by officers. The Division further identified concerns about gender bias in policing, discriminatory policing against members of the LGBTQ community, and failure to protect from harm in police lock-ups.
In April 2016, the parties entered into a court-enforced consent decree. Thanks to a commitment from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Police Director Anthony Ambrose, the work continued, even as the Trump administration failed to enforce the consent decree. Here are the results:
Newark Police officers did not fire a single shot during the calendar year 2020, and the city didn’t pay a single dime to settle police brutality cases. That’s never happened, at least in the city’s modern history.

At the same time, crime is dropping, and police recovered almost 500 illegal guns from the street during the year.

“This is significant,” says Aqeela Sherills, head of the Newark Community Street Team, a group of mostly former offenders who work to defuse violence in the city’s most violent wards. “It speaks to how reform has really taken hold in the city.”

Larry Hamm, the godfather of police protests in Newark as head of the People’s Organization for Progress, agreed. “Police brutality is still a problem,” he says. “But it’s fair to say the consent decree has had a real impact.”

Much as it did during the Obama administration, this kind of painstaking work by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division will likely fly under the radar during the Biden administration as calls for police reform intensify. But make no mistake, when Republicans attack DOJ nominees like Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, it is at least in part due to their expertise in policing the police.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Choctaw Tribe's Gift of Hope

I often think about a Lily Tomlin line from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, written by Jane Wagner: "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up." These days, it is difficult to imagine how we can be anything but cynical...and it never seems to be enough to keep up. 

But then, something like the story I'm about to tell breaks through. It is definitely not one any of us learned about in our history classes. Here is how it was told by a descendent of one of the recipients.

Of all the devastations to befall Ireland, few have been as harrowing as the Great Potato Famine. Striking in the fall of 1845 and lasting for almost six years, an Gorta Mór left over one million Irish dead as a result of starvation, exposure and disease. When the emaciated peasants looked to their colonial masters for support, the British minister for famine relief responded that the events were, “a mechanism for reducing surplus population… the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of [Irish] people.”...The fact that it had been British policy to constrain the Irish to tiny plots of barren land suitable only for growing basic tubers was conveniently forgotten. When famine hit, the Irish would starve. It was an inevitability brought on by nature but predetermined by acts of man.

Within such a hostile environment, the Irish felt that they had few friends. And yet, 4,000 miles away, the news of the ruin in Ireland had reached the people of the Choctaw Nation. The Choctaw, too, were familiar with how society hemorrhages in the face of tyrannical governance, and in the Irish they saw shadows of their own past. Only fifteen years before, the Choctaw had been the victims of a forced march from their homelands, a wretched exodus that they call the Trail of Tears. But the long march from Mississippi to Oklahoma had made the Choctaw acutely sensitive to the anguish of those desperately in need, and when news arrived of what was happening in Ireland, a group of concerned tribal members promptly rallied together to raise funds for those Irish still clinging on to life.

“We helped the Irish because that’s who we are and what we are,” explains tribal council speaker, Delton Cox, “we remembered the sorrow to befall our people, and we felt the same for the people in Ireland. $170 might not seem like much, we were poor, yet each of us eagerly gave to help our brothers and sisters.”

In that story, we not only see man's inhumanity in consigning the Irish to death and the Choctaw to the Trail of Tears, we see an amazing example of the empathy human beings are capable of extending—even to strangers that are 4,000 miles away. We tend to find the latter more unusual. But is that because humans are more capable of inhumanity than empathy? Or is it because we nurture one more than the other?

The story, however, doesn't end in the mid-1800s. In the summer of 2017, the Irish town of Midleton dedicated the Kindred Spirits monument to the Choctaw Tribe that is pictured above. It was their way of memorializing the generosity of spirit that had been displayed over 170 years ago. 

The sculpture by Alex Pentek is located in Bailick Park, Midleton, in Cork County. It features nine stainless steel eagle feathers placed in the shape of a bowl.

Then last year, the people Ireland decided it was time to pay it forward.

[H]undreds of Irish people are repaying that old kindness, giving to a charity drive for two Native American tribes suffering in the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday, the fund-raiser has raised more than $1.8 million to help supply clean water, food and health supplies to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation, with hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from Irish donors, according to the organizers...

“I’d already known what the Choctaw did in the famine, so short a time after they’d been through the Trail of Tears,” Sean Callahan, 43, an Apple administrator in Cork City who made a donation, said on Tuesday. “It always struck me for its kindness and generosity and I see that too in the Irish people. It seemed the right time to try and pay it back in kind.”

Choctaw Chief Gary Batton says that his ancestors knew that their gift of $170 (which would be about $5,000 today) was small, but that it was a "gift of hope." And now, 170 years later, that gift continues to ripple around the globe. Here is how theologian Rubem Alves answered the question, "What is hope?"

It is a hunch that the overwhelming brutality of facts that oppress and repress is not the last word. It is a suspicion that reality is more complex than realism wants us to believe and that the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual...Let us plant dates even though those who plant them will never eat them.

Even in the midst of their own oppression, the Choctaw Tribe planted seeds they would never eat. Today I am more nourished because I have been reminded that, even with all of our faults, human beings are capable of astounding empathy. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Biden Administration Puts Climate Change at the Center of National Security and Foreign Policy

On Thursday, President Biden hosted a virtual international climate summit. The big news from the administration was a commitment to cut emissions at least in half from 2005 levels by 2030. But once again, it was the president's "whole of government" approach to climate change that caught my eye. For example:

Avril Haines, President Biden’s director of national intelligence, told world leaders on Thursday that climate change was no longer a peripheral issue but now “at the center” of U.S. foreign policy, with far-reaching impacts on force deployments and the stability of hard-hit regions.

Ms. Haines, speaking at this week’s virtual global climate conference, struck a tone of urgency at variance with the attitudes of many of her predecessors, who downplayed the role of rising sea levels, droughts, crop failures, fires, diseases and more frequent severe weather events.

“To address climate change properly it must be at the center of a country’s national security and foreign policy,” she said, echoing the words of Lloyd J. Austin III, the defense secretary, who addressed the conference a few minutes earlier.

“It needs to be fully integrated with every aspect of our analysis in order to allow us not only to monitor the threat but also, critically, to ensure that policymakers understand the importance of climate change on seemingly unrelated policies,” Ms. Haines said.

So...the Defense Secretary and the Director of National Intelligence have said that addressing climate change will be at the center of this country's national security and foreign policy. Here's why:

A pair of recent intelligence reports have presented a grim picture of climate change. The annual worldwide threat assessment, which looks at short-term challenges, said extreme weather caused by climate change would increase the potential for surges in migration and cause instability around the globe.

The changes will “exacerbate political instability and humanitarian crises,” the annual threat report said.

The intelligence agencies issued even more dire warnings with the quadrennial Global Trends report issued on April 8, which argued that climate change would contribute to instability, strain military readiness and encourage new political movements. It said that all societies would be forced to adapt to a warmer planet through changes both small and complex, including the building of massive new sea walls and the relocation of cities and towns.

It is also important to keep in mind that the U.S. military has been the world's largest single petroleum buyer. Back in 2011, leaders from the 4 branches of our military wrote an op-ed about why the development of alternative energy sources is important for our national security.

[T]here may be no better time for our country to increase support for clean energy than now, when our economy is in desperately need of jobs and emerging clean-energy companies are trying to grow — and in doing so, add new employees, many of them veterans.

The military knows climate change is happening and that our current energy posture is a growing threat to national security. Clean energy is a solution we must pursue.

Demonstrating the impact of that kind of investment, here is how Pike Research introduce their report on the military's involvement in renewable energy sources.

The various composite branches of the DOD, as an organization, combine to form the single largest consumer of energy in the world – more than any other public or private entity and greater than more than 100 other nations. Energy consumption is the lifeblood of the U.S. military – and the supporting governmental infrastructure that facilitates and controls it.

Military investment in renewable energy and related technologies, in many cases, holds the potential to bridge the “valley of death” that lies between research & development and full commercialization of these technologies. As such, the myriad of DOD initiatives focused on fostering cleantech is anticipated to have a substantial impact on the development and growth of the industry as a whole.

Here is the result:

The armed forces nearly doubled renewable power generation between 2011 and 2015, to 10,534 billion British thermal units, or enough to power about 286,000 average U.S. homes, according to a Department of Defense report.

The number of military renewable energy projects nearly tripled to 1,390 between 2011 and 2015, department data showed, with a number of utilities and solar companies benefiting. Many of those projects are at U.S. bases, where renewable energy allows the military to maintain its own independent source of power in case of a natural disaster or an attack - or cyber attack - that disables the public grid.

Even the president who called climate change a "Chinese hoax" was not not able to undo that part of Obama's legacy. As Reuters reported in 2017, "the largest U.S. government agency - the Department of Defense - plans to forge ahead under the new administration with a decade-long effort to convert its fuel-hungry operations to renewable power."

Those are just a few examples of why a "whole of government" approach to climate change is necessary. What Biden and his team are demonstrating is a recognition that climate change cannot be addressed in isolation from the rest of the federal government. It must be embedded in every domestic, economic, and foreign policy action we take.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Conservatives on the Supreme Court Just Made it Easier to Sentence Children to Die in Prison

When people refer to this country as "exceptional," this isn't the kind of thing they have in mind: "The U.S. is the only country in the world where kids as young as 13 have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole." 

Back in 2006, some 3000 people were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for offenses committed when they were 17 or younger. Children as young as 13 were among those condemned to die in prison. Seventy percent of those 14 or younger who were sentenced to die in prison were children of color.

Thanks to the work of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative, over a thousand people who were automatically condemned to die in prison for juvenile offenses have been resentenced and hundreds have been released. That success in limiting this horrific practice came as a result of three cases argued at the Supreme Court.

  1. Graham v. Florida (2010) barred life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses.
  2. Miller v. Alabama (2012) struck down mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger because it violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.
  3. Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) applied Miller retroactively.
The seminal case, Miller v. Alabama, eliminated mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children, ruling that judges and juries must consider the defendants age, the details of the offense, or any other mitigating factors. The Court held that requiring sentencers to consider “children’s diminished culpability, and heightened capacity for change” should make such sentences “uncommon.” Dissenting from the majority opinion in that case were Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Jones v. Mississippi. The case involves Brett Jones, who was 15 years old in 2004 when he stabbed his grandfather to death during an argument. He was convicted of murder, and a judge gave him the mandatory sentence of life without parole. During a rehearing of the case, as required by Montgomery, the state court affirmed the sentence of life without parole, but failed to consider any aspect related to the "permanent incorrigibility" or potential for rehabilitation. His lawyer appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court's decision in a 6-3 ruling. Justices Roberts, Thomas, and Alito were joined in that decision by Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett. Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion, which read:
Determining the proper sentence in such a case raises profound questions of morality and social policy. The States, not the federal courts, make those broad moral and policy judgments in the first instance when enacting their sentencing laws. And state sentencing judges and juries then determine the proper sentence in individual cases in light of the facts and circumstances of the offense...

The Court’s precedents require a discretionary sentencing procedure in a case of this kind. The resentencing in Jones’s case complied with those precedents because the sentence was not mandatory and the trial judge had discretion to impose a lesser punishment in light of Jones’s youth.

I will confess that I'm no lawyer. But it seems to me that the Constitution, which the Supreme Court is tasked with upholding, weighed in on those "profound questions of morality and social policy" in the 8th Amendment, which reads: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

Then there is also the issue of precedent from the previous court cases on this matter, which is what Sotomayor zeroed in on for her blistering dissent.

Today, the Court guts Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana. Contrary to explicit holdings in both decisions, the majority claims that the Eighth Amendment permits juvenile offenders convicted of homicide to be sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) as long as “the sentence is not mandatory and the sentencer therefore has discretion to impose a lesser punishment.”... Even if the juvenile’s crime reflects ‘"unfortunate yet transient immaturity,” he can be sentenced to die in prison.

This conclusion would come as a shock to the Courts in Miller and Montgomery. Miller’s essential holding is that “a lifetime in prison is a disproportionate sentence for all but the rarest children"...Today, however, the Court reduces Miller to a decision requiring “just a discretionary sentencing procedure where youth [is] considered.”...Such an abrupt break from precedent demands “special justification. The Court offers none. Instead, the Court attempts to circumvent stare decisis principles by claiming that “[t]he Court’s decision today carefully follows both Miller and Montgomery.” The Court is fooling no one. Because I cannot countenance the Court’s abandonment of Miller and Montgomery, I dissent.

What probably happened here is that the previous court couldn't convince someone like Justice Kennedy to join the rest of the world in categorically eliminating the ability to sentence a child to die in prison. So in the Miller case, they left open the possibility of doing so for "those rare children whose crimes reflect irreparable corruption." 

The conservatives on the court have now driven a truck through that opening and declared that as long as a judge or jury rejects a mandatory sentence, they are free to consign a child to life in prison without the possibility of parole. No one has to take into account the fact that someone like Brett Jones not only managed to get his high school diploma in prison, but by all accounts, has been a model prisoner. Nevertheless, he is consigned to die in prison for something he did when he was 15 years old. There is a word for that: "barbaric."

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"Until Justice Rolls Down Like Waters"

This photo was taken at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama created by Maya Lin (the same artist who created the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.) In the background is a scripture often quoted by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The young man is running his fingers through the layer of water flowing over the names of civil rights activists who gave their lives for the cause. 

I often think of a photo like that when I contemplate the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the memorial service for the four little girls who had died in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Imagine with me for a moment if he had said these words about the killing of George Floyd.
And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. They have something to say to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.
When Dr. King quoted the scripture that says “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” he was referring to something much bigger than what one police officer does. And it was something much more audacious than what happens in a court room. As his words above indicate, justice requires something from all of us...which is what we mean when we talk about the need to address systemic racism. 

We have a long way to go before justice rolls down like waters in this country. The fact that Derek Chauvin has been held accountable for killing George Floyd is a step in that direction. On Wednesday, AG Garland took another step when he announced that the Justice Department will open an investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department "engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests," whether it engages in "discriminatory conduct," and whether "its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful."

But that just begins to scratch the surface of finding justice. As Dr. King suggested, that will require all of us to be concerned about "the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers."

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Step Towards Justice


What Will it Take to Re-Imagine Policing?

As we await the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, it is obvious that, while the outcome is crucial, a guilty verdict won't solve the problems we face in this country with policing. To accomplish that, there are those who took up the mantra of "defund the police." It was an explosive charge, but failed primarily because it addressed what needs to be eliminated without offering an alternative. What we need is a new vision of what policing can be.

Most of the calls for police reform include policies that are necessary, but will eventually prove insufficient. For example, last month Democrats in the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. 

One provision in the bill addresses qualified immunity, a legal precedent that gives government officials, including police officers, broad protections against lawsuits. Among other things, the bill would also create a national database of police misconduct and require federal law enforcement officials to use body and dash cameras. To curtail deaths, the legislation bans federal law enforcement from using chokeholds like the one that ended Floyd’s life, and from using no-knock warrants in drug cases — Taylor was killed when police burst into her home using such a warrant in March 2020.

While it prohibits some behaviors that have led to abuses, it fails to get at the root causes of the problems with policing. And no...simply providing more training won't accomplish that either. 

As many have suggested, it is the "warrior mentality" in policing that is at the heart of the problem.

The warrior mindset now instructs officers on how to approach every aspect of their job. From their earliest days in the academy, would-be officers are told that their primary objective is to go home at the end of every shift. But, they are taught, they live in an intensely hostile world—one that is, quite literally, gunning for them... 

In this worldview, officers are warriors combatting unknown and unpredictable—but highly lethal—enemies. They learn to be afraid. Officers don’t use that word, of course. Vigilant, attentive, cautious, alert, or observant are the terms that appear most often in police publications. But officers learn to be vigilant, attentive, cautious, alert, and observant because they are afraid, and they afraid because they’re taught to be.

As a result, officers learn to treat every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.

But the warrior mindset doesn't begin with training. It begins with recruitment, screening, and hiring. For example, take a look at this recruitment video for the Newport Beach Police Department. They are telegraphing that they want (white male) warriors.

As long as police departments recruit warriors and fail to screen them out in their hiring processes, policing in this country won't change—no matter how many reform laws are passed. 

Back in the early 1990s I got an up close and personal look at what it could mean to re-imagine the role of policing. I was working closely with the Deputy Chief of an urban police department on fundraising for a charitable campaign during the time that the department hired a new Chief who was dedicated to implementing community policing initiatives. One potential donor we met with was obviously more interested in those changes at the police department than he was in our charitable cause. At one point the Deputy Chief said, “This police department will be where it needs to be when over half the officers are women, because police work is mostly about negotiating and women tend to be better at that.”

Of course, the idea that women are better at negotiating is tinged with sexism. But when have we heard an officer say that policing is mostly about negotiating (another way of talking about de-escalating)? What if police departments focused their recruitment, screening, and hiring on skills like negotiation and de-escalation? That would be one way to reimagine policing. The Deputy Chief I worked with is likely right to suggest that more officers would be women, but that would be a byproduct, not a goal. 

What I am suggesting as a re-imagination of policing isn't new. Lately people are contrasting the "warrior mentality" with the "guardian mentality."
Both Warriors and Guardians seek to protect the communities they serve, of course, but the guardian mindset takes both a broader and a longer view of how to achieve that goal. Put simply, the guardian mindset prioritizes service over crime-fighting, and it values the dynamics of short-term encounters as a way to create long-term relationships. It instructs officers that their interactions with community members must be more than legally justified; they must also be empowering, fair, respectful, and considerate. It emphasizes communication over command, cooperation over compliance, and legitimacy over authority. In the use-of-force context, the Guardian mindset emphasizes restraint over control, stability over action. But the concept is even broader; it seeks to protect civilians not just from crime and violence, but also from indignity and humiliation.

What hasn't been included in reform efforts is to tie the recruitment, screening, and hiring of police officers to the guardian mentality. 

The much-faulted crime control bill of 1994 contained new money for policing, but it was tied to efforts to implement community policing—a precursor to the guardian mentality. A similar reform could limit federal policing funds to departments that make a commitment to the guardian mentality. One way to demonstrate that would be via their recruitment, screening, and hiring practices. 

We know that police departments across the country were recruited to implement the "war on drugs" with federal money that was tied to those efforts. So even while they are primarily under local control, federal dollars can influence a department's priorities. It is high time we used that leverage to re-imagine policing. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

On the Moral Question of Racism, We Must Take Sides

Relying primarily on a paper written by a group of political scientists, Nate Cohn suggests that it is sectarianism that threatens our democracy. 

American democracy faces many challenges: New limits on voting rights. The corrosive effect of misinformation. The rise of domestic terrorism. Foreign interference in elections. Efforts to subvert the peaceful transition of power. And making matters worse on all of these issues is a fundamental truth: The two political parties see the other as an enemy...

Whether religious or political, sectarianism is about two hostile identity groups who not only clash over policy and ideology, but see the other side as alien and immoral. It’s the antagonistic feelings between the groups, more than differences over ideas, that drives sectarian conflict.

The bothsiderism of that analysis becomes apparent when Cohn attempts to provide examples.

That contention helps make sense of a lot of what’s been going on in American politics in recent years, including Donald J. Trump’s successful presidential bid, President Biden’s tortured effort to reconcile his inaugural call for “unity” with his partisan legislative agenda.

If sectarianism is, in fact, more about antagonistic feelings between groups than differences over policy ideas, then it is absurd to claim that Trump's presidential bid was the same as Biden's focus on implementing his policy agenda. Cohn eventually arrives at that distinction towards the end of his article.

Joe Biden was sworn in as president — a person who did not attempt to arouse the passions of one sect against the other during his campaign. His nomination and election demonstrates that sectarianism, while on the rise, may still have limits in America...

Mr. Biden is pursuing an ambitious policy agenda, which may eventually refocus partisan debate on the issues or just further alienate one side on matters like immigration or the filibuster. Still, the authors of the Science paper write that “emphasis on political ideas rather than political adversaries” would quite likely to be “a major step in the right direction.”

So if the election of Biden is likely to be "a major step in the right direction," where is all of this so-called "sectarianism" coming from? Cohn finally gets to the point with this:

Republicans made the choice in 2016 to abandon laissez-faire economics and neoconservative foreign policy and embrace sectarianism all at once and in one package: Donald J. Trump. The G.O.P. primaries that year were a referendum on whether it was easier to appeal to conservatives with conservative policy or by stoking sectarian animosity. Sectarianism won.

Sectarianism has been so powerful among Republicans in part because they believe they’re at risk of being consigned to minority status...It is not easy to accept being ruled by a hostile, alien rival. It can make “political losses feel like existential threats,” as the authors of the study published in Science put it...

But changes in the racial and cultural makeup of the country leave conservatives feeling far more vulnerable than Republican electoral competitiveness alone would suggest. Demographic projections suggest that non-Hispanic whites will become a minority sometime in the middle of the century. People with a four-year college degree could become a majority of voters even sooner. Religiosity is declining.

In other words, saying that Trump stoked "sectarian animosity" is code for the fact that the former president stoked racism and xenophobia. But suggesting that both sides are being sectarian, Cohn and the authors of the Science study have equated racism with the response of anti-racists—just as Trump did with the protesters in Charlottesville. That is like putting Jim Crow supporters on an equal footing with civil rights activists and suggesting that both sides were engaging in sectarianism. 

When it comes to policy disagreements, if partisans argue the facts (a huge caveat), then it is laudable to give weight to both sides. But at the heart of the GOP argument at this point is a moral rather than policy question. They have demonstrated a willingness to throw democracy under the bus in order to maintain white supremacy.  It is not sectarian to oppose those efforts, but the duty of every patriotic American. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The KKK-ification of the Republican Party

Tucker Carlson's recent defense of the Great Replacement Theory garnered a lot of media attention, including condemnation by the Anti-Defamation League. But it is spreading like wildfire on the right. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprise that Carlson's segment was heralded by the likes of Charlie Kirk and white working class defender J.D. Vance.  It is, however, worth noting that it has been picked up by Republican politicians. 

During a hearing on the root causes of migration from Central American countries this week, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said this:

“For many Americans,” Perry began, “what seems to be happening or what they believe right now is happening is, what appears to them is we’re replacing national-born American — native-born Americans to permanently transform the political landscape of this very nation.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who never met a conspiracy theory he didn't like, weighed in as well. 

It is important to keep in mind that the Great Replacement Theory spurred killing sprees in Christchurch, New Zealand; Poway, California; and El Paso, Texas, indicating that this kind of rhetoric has the potential to be deadly—even as it becomes a mainstay of the Republican Party. 

Following Carlson's recent use of the rhetoric, Fox Corp. stood behind their television personality. Perhaps that is because what he said has been repeated on that network many times. Take a look at this compilation put together by Media Matters almost two years ago. 

They have recently updated that compilation.

While several "rationales" are used to justify this fear of "foreign invaders," the most common is that it is a ploy by Democrats to build their voter base, indicating that the Republican Party either can't or won't win their votes. That is despite the fact that pundits have been focusing on the increase in Hispanic support for Trump in 2020. One can only surmise that ginning up the racist fears of their white supporters is more important than garnering votes from immigrants or people of color.

This is how things work in the Republican Party these days. Toxic ideas are introduced on right wing media and eventually saturate their viewers sufficiently that elected Republicans pick them up. That is how the GOP became the party that openly embraces KKK ideology. The formation of an "America First Caucus" dedicated to protecting "Anglo-Saxon political traditions" is merely the next step in the process. 

There are many things that have triggered this alignment of the GOP with KKK ideology. But white supremacists Richard Spencer articulated the reason for its most recent escalation back in 2015 (emphasis mine).

“Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America.” He said, “I don’t think Trump is a white nationalist,” but he did believe that Trump reflected “an unconscious vision that white people have – that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon.”

The idea that white people will become a minority due to an "invasion" of foreigners immigrating to this country is—interestingly enough—not only racist, but a lie. Back in 2018, Trump proposed some drastic changes to our immigration system that were undoubtably crafted by white supremacist Stephen Miller. The Washington Post analyzed their impact and concluded that they would merely "delay the date that white Americans become a minority of the population by as few as one or as many as five additional years." Here's why:

[W]hile these effects of delaying the United States' diversification would be significant, they would not fundamentally change the country's demographic destiny. Experts say the main driver of diversification in the United States is the native-born Hispanic population, which grew by about 5 million from 2010 to 2016, just as the native-born white population shrank by about 400,000 over the same period, according to Census Bureau data...

“You can shut the door to everyone in the world and that won’t change,” said Roberto Suro, an immigration and demography expert at the University of Southern California. “The president can’t do anything about that. If your primary concern is that the American population is becoming less white, it’s already too late.”

Republicans can howl all they want about "foreign invaders," but this country's demographic destiny is already baked in the cake. The party of the KKK refuses to accept that, meaning that the next few years are going to be a pretty rocky ride. 

I recently watched the movie, Son of the South, which is based on the true story of white civil rights activist Bob Zellner. I was particularly struck by a scene that happened early in the movie where Rosa Parks (played by Sharrone Lanier) offers a warning to Zellner (played by Lucas Till). It comes at about the 1:35 mark in this trailer.  

Ms. Parks says: "There's gonna come a time when something really bad happens and you're gonna have to decide which side you're on. Not choosing is a choice." 

History is about to repeat itself. One way or another, I suspect that every one of us will have to chose a side in this struggle, because not choosing is a choice. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Discussion About Collusion is a Distraction. We Need to Know if Trump Was a Russian Asset

Thanks to a disinformation campaign by former Attorney General William Barr, the biggest Trump lie embraced by mainstream media was the one about how special counsel Robert Mueller found no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Mueller's report was clear. He documented massive collusion. In case you have forgotten, Rep. Adam Schiff broke it down. 

As Schiff noted, Mueller was not able to document proof of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. 

That is the context for news from the Treasury Department that the Trump campaign's data Paul Manafort turned over to Russian agent Konstantin Kilimnick was passed on to Russian intelligence. At best, it only deepens the story of collusion. 

What we still don't know is whether the 45th president of the United States was acting as a Russian asset. That is because the Trump administration effectively shut down a counterintelligence investigation into the matter. Here is what Schiff told Philip Bump a few weeks after Mueller released his report.
Just as a reminder, this all began as an FBI counterintelligence investigation into whether people around then-candidate Trump were acting as witting or unwitting agents of a foreign power. So it began as a counterintelligence investigation, not as a criminal investigation. Now obviously a criminal case — many criminal cases — were spun off of this but we don’t know what happened to the counterintelligence investigation that James Comey opened.
Schiff told Bump that once FBI Director James Comey was fired in May 2017, intelligence briefings on this matter ended and he had not been able to determine if the counterintelligence investigation had been closed. Apparently it had, which is what Michael Schmidt reported in the New York Times.
The Justice Department secretly took steps in 2017 to narrow the investigation into Russian election interference and any links to the Trump campaign, according to former law enforcement officials, keeping investigators from completing an examination of President Trump’s decades-long personal and business ties to Russia…

[L]aw enforcement officials never fully investigated Mr. Trump’s own relationship with Russia, even though some career F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators thought his ties posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them. Within days, the former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said that Rosenstein led him to believe that such a counterintelligence investigation would be handled by Mueller. But sources told Schmidt that “privately, Mr. Rosenstein instructed Mr. Mueller to conduct only a criminal investigation into whether anyone broke the law in connection with Russia’s 2016 election interference.” So when Mueller appeared before congress, he told them that a counterintelligence probe would be under the purview of the FBI.

This is why the whole discussion about whether the Trump campaign "colluded" with Russia is perhaps the most successful distraction ever concocted by right wingers. The case for collusion has been made beyond any reasonable doubt. Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democratic Network, identified the question that remains almost a year ago.
NDN believes that when it comes to Russia, the President has been committing treason or its philosophical equivalent since the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016. However the illicit bonds were formed, the US has become aligned with Putin, acting as a global partner and ally in advancing his dark agenda, here and abroad...There are many messes which will have to be cleaned up from this terrible chapter in our history – but Trump’s appeasement and embrace of Putin may be among the important and consequential for the world and the future of our once inspiring republic.

If, in fact, Trump was acting as a Russian asset during his presidency, that might qualify as the biggest scandal in U.S. history. There is more than adequate information pointing in that direction. We deserve some answers.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Why Kristen Clarke Scares the Shit Out of John Cornyn

One of the campaign promises President Biden has already kept is the one about nominating the most diverse cabinet in U.S. history, better representing the make-up of the country. As such, much has been written about how Republicans have focused their attacks on the women of color Biden has chosen. I have occasionally joined that chorus

One of the ways that racism often rears its ugly head is the insinuation that a commitment to diversity means elevating less qualified women and people of color over competent white men. But based on my own personal experience in hiring, it actually has more to do with adjusting the qualifications you're looking for. As we watch the nominees Biden has chosen, that is the message coming through loud and clear.

For example, I recently reveled in the fact that this is our Secretary of Interior.

The woman of color that is currently coming under fire from Republicans is Kristen Clarke, Biden's nominee to run the Civil Rights Division at DOJ. During her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, we all got to see how intelligent, poised, and gifted she is. Take a look at how she handled an attempted smear from Sen. John Cornyn.

Right wingers are in a bit of a tizzy over recent remarks by UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. While speaking about the Biden administration's decision to rejoin the UN's Human Rights Council, she talked about the need for some humility on our part. 

I am struck by the fact that we have a UN ambassador who talks openly about how this country's racial history is personal for her - having grown up in the Jim Crow south. She also talked about "not forgetting our past or ignoring our present, but keeping both firmly in mind as we push for a better future."

Those are just three of the impressive women of color who, assuming Clarke is confirmed, will be leaders in the Biden administration. Pretty impressive, aren't they?

All of this reminded me of something Eric Wattree wrote back in 2013 in a post titled, "Why I Love Being Black."

Being Black in America gives one an education and perspective on life that you can't get anywhere else. That's not widely recognized, because public attention is often focused on the most dysfunctional in the Black community. But contrary to popular belief, that might not be an altogether bad thing, because it allows the excellence within the Black community time to incubate, untainted by the public eye. That's what allowed Barack Obama to explode upon the world stage as a fully developed powerhouse, and there are hordes of others just like him who are currently incubating in Black cocoons in suburbs and inner cities all over America...

So this is an exciting time for Black people, because we recognize that the world is about to discover what we already know - that there is nothing in the human experience more impressive than watching the development of a Black child, who's been dragged through the pits of Hell and the brutal experience of “American Exceptionalism,” then emerge on the other side as a well adjusted, uniquely eclectic, resolute, and learned product of his or her environment.

These are society's unsung heroes, and there are many more to come. They've been tested by fire, and they've prevailed. By the time they've reached thirty, they've faced down more adversity than the average American at eighty...So when I come into contact with the "strivers" in the Black community, I may not say it, but my heart whispers, "Thank you for your service."

As we are seeing with the Biden cabinet, those who have been incubating in cocoons all over American are stepping into leadership positions. A woman like Kristen Clarke has overcome challenges that make the one posed by Senator Cornyn pale in comparison. She has already been tested by fire and prevailed. 

Even if on a subconscious level, women like Deb Haaland, Kristen Clarke, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield scare the shit out of those whose power and identity are dependent on the status quo of white patriarchy. That is because these women's very existence exposes the lie that has formed the foundation of their world view. 

The root of the problem is a theology that enables sexual abuse

As someone who was raised in a white evangelical Christian family and church, it deeply saddens me every time we hear that another leader o...