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Quoting one of the tweets from the article:

    [Sanders] is a broken-down bitter and racist old man.

This is why Democrats keep losing. It's especially stupid to call Sanders racist, given his start in politics. Sanders was an organizer of CORE and SNCC in Chicago while in college, and organized a protest of segregated campus housing ("We feel it is an intolerable situation when Negro and white students of the university cannot live together in university-owned apartments"). Dude saw MLK speak at the March on Washington.

When the bar for the "racist" label becomes so low it becomes meaningless, and this does a huge disservice to people who have actually experienced racism. When it becomes a magic argument-ender, it no longer means anything.

Stories from my own life, and some ranting follow.

First, I spent a couple of years hearing unemployment cases for my state. Basically, my job was to do a hearing if someone (either the company or the ex-employee) appealed the lower decision. I fast became incredibly cynical when it came to charges of racism, because every single time it was a shitty employee who was trying to blame the employer for their own failures. Now you may wonder how I know, and the simple reason is that I would ask. This is paraphrasing from memory, but is indicative:

    Claimant: I was harassed.

    Me: What did [employer] do that you felt was harassment?

    Claimant: They wrote me up after I was late 37 times in 2 months.

    Me: ...

I'm sure racial discrimination at work still happens, but shit like that (which happened every couple of weeks) makes it impossible for the legitimate claims to be taken seriously. I pity people who work for the EEOC.

Second. I volunteered at our local legal aid organization while in law school. This was a group funded by a combination of private donations and the Legal Services Corporation, and provided civil representation to low-income people (so not criminal defense). We did a lot of housing stuff (Richmond sadly has plenty of slumlords), some divorce and custody (but only if there was abuse, so those were fun), just kind of whatever. We'd go after anybody: our state's sole power utility (a lawyer for which once accused me of legal malpractice for suggesting that they can be sued, which even as a lowly 1L I knew was ridiculous), Wells Fargo, whatever.

Random aside: knowing tenant's rights served me well as a tenant myself. If any of you still rent, do some research on what your state's laws are if you haven't already.

Anyway, the "high" point of my time there was being told I was a racist while standing in the clerk's office of Richmond Circuit Court because our client had spent over a year (I worked on this case both summers of law school) ignoring everything we told her. We'd arranged a way to solve her mortgage problem by having a private investor take over the note, but she was convinced she could get the money together. She was wrong, got foreclosed on, and then this was our fault (and we were racist).

Now I get it, people (in both examples) often look for someone else to blame. It is what it is. But it doesn't excuse it either, and ultimately does more harm than good.

One, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. As cathartic as it may be to yell at a racist, there's no evidence (whether anecdotal or more formal) that this actually helps. MLK didn't do it. There was a guy who has converted a bunch of white supremacists by simply sitting down and talking to them, which is a hell of a counterexample. And it's consistent with the conclusion that most racists have very little actual experience with the people they hate. I saw a stat awhile ago looking at Germany, and the folks who were most afraid of immigrants were also the ones with the least contact with them.

And second, as I mentioned earlier, it cheapens claims of racism. It's easy to be dismissive of someone crying race when your overwhelming experiences have been of people using it as excuse. For white folks, we don't generally see racism the way other races will, and it's difficult for anyone to trust a stranger over our own lived experiences. It took me until the shooting in St. Louis and all these protests to think that where there's smoke there's probably fire. Plus, talking to some folks there (mostly cabbies and the janitors in the building I was working in) really helped, and I am grateful to this day for their willingness to share their impressions and their fears with some white stranger who for all they knew could've been wildly unsympathetic. It was an interesting time, actually, and I'm hoping to write more about it one of these days.

Ultimately, we're all in it together, and none of us can solve this problem alone. It sucks that so much of the onus is on the same people who are taking the brunt of it, but pretending reality is other than it is doesn't lead anywhere. We can complain or we can get to work, but I don't think any of us have the energy to do both.

johnnyFive  ·  233 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: U.S. State Department has been gutted, with no end in sight

Absolutely. He's a war criminal by any sane definition: we invaded Iraq based on intelligence that the government knew was false, after lying to our allies. The Afghanistan invasion was shaky but not wholly so, but in both cases the post-war period was so colossally mismanaged that it makes parts of Trump's presidency look magisterial. They chose loyalty and ideology over experience; for example, a 24-year-old with no experience in finance (and who had applied for a job with the White House) was instead sent to re-open the Iraqi stock exchange. They authorized the use of torture if we thought someone might have something to do with terrorism, they locked up people in Guantanamo Bay without proof of wrongdoing or access to lawyers, and generally torpedoed US credibility abroad. He also withdrew us from the Kyoto Protocol (an earlier treaty on greenhouse gas emissions).

On the home front, his administration brought us the Patriot Act, and the president of the United States saying that you're "either with us or you're with the terrorists." Not long after the Justice Department ruled that the precursor program to the current domestic spying programs was illegal, then-AG John Ashcroft was in the hospital for acute pancreatitis, and possibly dying. The administration sent the White House Counsel (Alberto Gonzalez) and Chief of Staff Andrew Card to Ashcroft's hospital room to try to get him to reverse the DOJ's decision (Ashcroft refused). The acting AG, who witnessed all this, was none other than James Comey. Bush also signed laws requiring stricter standards on driver's licenses, a highly anti-consumer change to the bankruptcy code, and subsidies for energy companies that didn't incentivize green power generation.

They also did things like No Child Left Behind, which was roundly considered a failure. He pushed for and signed a law cutting taxes on the wealthy, turning the first budget surplus since World War 2 into a deficit. His first ever veto was a law that would have allowed federal funding for research on new stem cell lines. His administration also thoroughly botched response to Hurricane Katrina, fired eight US attorneys for political reasons (which would result in the resignation of Karl Rove and then-AG Gonzales), leaked the name of a covert CIA operative for political reasons, and, wait for it, used a private e-mail server. The list goes on.

Overall, he presaged the worst of Trump's policies and rhetoric: he was anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT rights, botched healthcare reform (pushed for Medicare Part D, which was a massive giveaway to drug companies), and mismanaged the financial crisis. He totally wrecked any pretense of moral credibility by the United States, including labeling countries as "evil" (at the same time we were happily torturing random folks from the Middle East at black sites all over the world). In any actually just society, he would've been impeached and sent to jail, but we just got left with someone who set a new low for presidential competence, comportment, and integrity. It's worth noting that Bush finished his presidency with an approval rating of 19%, lower than any president in history.

johnnyFive  ·  607 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: You Are Still Crying Wolf

I was with Scott's explanation until the Mexican immigrants statement. He had to twist himself into such contortions to explain why saying that Mexican immigrants coming into the U.S. illegally were rapists and murderers isn't a statement about Mexican people that the rest of it lost a lot of persuasiveness. I mean, he literally says that Trump saying that "Mexico isn't sending us their best" means that Trump thinks that Mexicans are some of the best people (completely ignoring what "their" means in this context). Talk about starting with your conclusion and then twisting the evidence to fit it. I also think that while it's not the same as actively supporting the KKK, if the KKK is supporting you then it's important to at least explore why.

But at the end of the day, I don't actually think Trump is truly a racist, and I think Scott totally and completely misreads who Trump is as a person.

The thing is, I almost wish Trump were a true racist. As the great Walter Sobchak said, "I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."

As the saying goes, hate is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is indifference. Trump doesn't hate Mexicans, black people, Jews, women, whomever. He simply does not give even a single fuck about any of them (or any of the rest us). As David Brooks wrote in early October:

    Imagine you are Trump. You are trying to bluff your way through a debate. You’re running for an office you’re completely unqualified for. You are chasing some glimmer of validation that recedes ever further from view.

    Your only rest comes when you are insulting somebody, when you are threatening to throw your opponent in jail, when you are looming over her menacingly like a mafioso thug on the precipice of a hit, when you are bellowing that she has “tremendous hate in her heart” when it is clear to everyone you are only projecting what is in your own.

    Trump’s emotional makeup means he can hit only a few notes: fury and aggression. In some ways, his debate performances look like primate dominance displays — filled with chest beating and looming growls. But at least primates have bands to connect with, whereas Trump is so alone, if a tree fell in his emotional forest, it would not make a sound.

Trump doesn't insult people because he feels anything about them, he insults people because he literally feels nothing. He didn't say the judge hearing the Trump University case is biased because he's Mexican because Trump actually believes this to be true, it was just the first insult that came to mind, and one that would get him attention.

I don't remember if I ever said it here, but the underlying feeling I kept getting through the campaign was that Trump wanted to be elected president, but that he doesn't want to be president. Sure, he has ideas (or gets them from other people), but they're not tethered to anything. That's why he keeps changing positions and why everything seems so schizoid. He doesn't seem to have the courage of his convictions because he has no convictions. He wanted the validation from the outside, because he's wholly incapable of finding contentment within himself. That's the same reason he's purging his inner circle with a priority on loyalty rather than ability; he has to be the center of adulation.

He can brag about groping women or be perfectly comfortable calling his daughter a "piece of ass" because he's never really had an emotional connection with anyone. He wants the approval of those immediately in front of him, so he takes a guess at how to do that and runs with it. He was okay calling his daughter that because he was on the Howard Stern show, and he thought that was the best way to get Stern (and his listeners) to like him. He was Mr. Right Wing Crazypants during the election, because that's how he got his supporters and campaign staff to like him. He got to speak to crowds of thousands who thought he was just the greatest. Why would he change? The more outside criticism hurt him (and I believe that it does), the more he would just shift his focus to those who were worshiping him while lashing out at the outside. The best way to feel like part of one group is to talk about how you're all under attack.

Notice how now that his "circle" has expanded, suddenly he's become more moderate? It's because he wants the rest of us to adore him too.

So I for one don't hate Trump, and am not angry at Trump for being who he is. I pity Trump. I can feel sorry for all those who will be hurt by his latest round of narcissism, and can only hope that our country and our world are strong enough to survive it (and I think they are). He's like the dog chasing cars, and now he's caught one.

johnnyFive  ·  625 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Undercover with a border militia

This was originally a reply to oyster, but expanded a little as I went.

I was going to say that gender identity is a huge part of this, I think.

    I mean we live in first world countries which in a way give many opportunities to be a part of something bigger...

That's the problem, though, as they're so big that they're abstractions.

Think about it this way. I grew up in the southeastern US. If I had been born even 60 years previously, I would've been on a farm. I would've learned to hunt by the time I was 10, I would've worked the fields, etc. I would've had real responsibility that mattered in a way I could see. I would see the crop fields, I could see my family eating what I helped provide, even from a very young age. It's all very tangible, and it'd be easy to to connect my own efforts with real results. I may not have been able to easily talk to people on the other side of the world, but I'd know everyone in my county, even if they lived miles away.

But now? Maybe I get to do a DIY project or something. Ever since I moved out of my dad's house at 18, I've never really known my neighbors. My ability to provide for my family centers on a job, and God help me if I lose that, because my identity goes with it. The highest rates of suicide in the United States are middle-aged white men in the mid-West, at 44 per 100,000.

I'm about as comfortable, educated, and liberal as they come, but I continue to struggle with this to this day. I was born in the early '80s, and while my mom is as liberated as could be, there was still the more traditional underlying dynamics in my parents' relationship, to say nothing of my grandparents'. So I was still kind of raised with this idea of being the provider, even though that dynamic doesn't really exist in our society beyond some echos. My wife has said she'd love to be a stay-at-home mom, but economically that's not in the cards right now.

Women's Liberation or Feminism or whatever was great, and as we've seen still has some work to do. Unfortunately, we can't have a corresponding conversation about what men should do too--Feminists too often get defensive, and Men's Rights Activists have utterly failed to come up with a reasonable alternative. These guys seem to have a lot of that going on, with militarism being the stand-in for masculinity. I mean, it's a little hard to take seriously with the code names and the names of the groups themselves. It really reads like an attempt to regain some ego. I notice too how (and I've seen this elsewhere) they talk about themselves as those who know what's really going on, and how they're the beginnings of some new elite. There's also the sheepdog nonsense, after a letter that's been circulating around the internet for awhile.

What's kind of sad about this is how easily taken advantage of these guys are. The firearms industry (and those that make associated stuff) makes a killing on this mindset. The prices for guns and ammunition go through the roof every time a mass shooting happens, because people assume the ban is coming. After Sandy Hook, you couldn't find an AR-15 if you wanted to.

And this mindset can have real consequences. If you watch the video of when LaVoy Finicum (part of the armed occupation of that wildlife refuge in Oregon) was shot by police, you can see the battle in his head. This was a guy who had written a book that culminates with the narrator quick-drawing on and killing corrupt federal agents (another review of sorts is here). Watching the video with this context, and you can almost see his thoughts as he struggles with the fact that his moment of glory has finally come but that reality is far different. He paid for this conflict with his life.

This line from the article sums it up nicely:

    It's as if many militia leaders know they are dealing with a pool of volatile white men, some of whom are convinced that society has screwed them and are at risk of exploding. For some, like Doc, the militia seems to rein them in by giving them a sense of purpose.