Tag Archives: BLM

ICYMI – Part 5 [The Land of Oz]

The best hope for the country’s survival until Trump can be removed may lie in the inescapable fact that, like Trump himself, his administration is populated with some of the least competent grifters in history. Trump and his acting (like most Trump appointees) Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf don’t have the same understanding of why a federal force was sent to subdue Portland’s protesters:

While Trump said he sent federal law enforcement officers in to restore order, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said federal agents were in Portland primarily to protect federal buildings like the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, which had become a target for protesters. [emphasis added]

[https://bit.ly/3hm1gcW] Trump’s administration remarkably resembles the Keystone Kops of comic book fame. At the same time, I cannot help but wonder why the mayor of Portland cannot initiate a meaningful process involving BLM leaders, among others, to address the concerns that led to the protests. Until that happens, it appears that the turmoil in Portland will continue (assuming Trump does not order his paramilitary forces to start shooting the protesters).

While there is much unknown about the federal assault on Portland, the evidence so far suggests the federal presence has led to escalation in violence, unlawful assaults and arrests by “police” and severe injuries to some protesters. Of course, it’s also true there has been property damage and that is unlawful and, in my view, counterproductive. On the other hand, as I tweeted earlier today, the solution is not physical suppression. If there is a solution at this late stage, it lies in the government addressing in a meaningful substantive way the reasons the protests started.

In related news regarding the federal invasion of Portland, retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore was reported to have said “”Police don’t do this. Watch this, what kind of b—-t is this?!” He added that Chad Wolf needs “to be run out of Washington. He has no business in charge of Homeland Security.” https://fxn.ws/30zUeus

Trump’s Storm  Troopers arrived in Columbus, Ohio and dragged at least one protester off the street into an unmarked vehicle. https://bit.ly/2CyjGIw These “officers” show no outward identification other than “police” on their other clothing. They brandish automatic weapons and threaten onlookers to “stay back.” This conduct is blatantly unlawful and must be stopped through intervention by the courts. I understand ACLU has filed suit. The Trump administration is responsible for these unconstitutional “arrests” in which no probable cause is stated and no Miranda warnings are given.

In a statement inexplicably reported by the Washington Post as an “apology,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who reportedly called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) “disgusting” and a “fuc*ing bitch” during an unplanned encounter on the Capitol steps, denied “offensive name-calling” [is there another kind?] He admitted to the “strife I injected into the already contentious Congress,” but his “apology” referred only to the “abrupt manner of the conversation.” In a masterpiece of linguistic legerdemain, Yoho said, “The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleague, and if they were construed that way I apologize for their misunderstanding.” Thus, Yoho does not deny that he said the words, just that he didn’t say them “to my colleague,” and his apology then only relates to someone else’s mistake in attributing the implicitly admitted statements as directed at AOC. Uh huh.

According to WAPO, and in a replay of the classic Republican response to situations like this, “Yoho appeared to become emotional as he described what he said was his experience with poverty, recounting that he and his wife used food stamps early in their marriage.” https://wapo.st/2X2ZW7d And, of course, the final Republican flourish, ““I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”

Trump would be proud of this performance: His playbook says, “When caught, never actually apologize; deflect, then bring up God and country.” Another interesting aspect of this encounter is that Rep. Roger Williams (Tex.), could hear some of the exchange, but in classic Republican mode, he demurred by claiming he was not paying attention to the confrontation because he was so engrossed in  thinking about issues in his district. The Republican Party should rebrand itself as the Stepford People.

While on the subject of clarity, a favorite, I was stunned the other day to read this in a WAPO news report subtitle: “Kathy Spletstoser is suing Gen. John Hyten for alleged sexual assault in federal court.” Admittedly, the report appeared in Apple News and the subtitle does not appear on WashingtonPost.com [see https://wapo.st/2CUU1Kb ], but the formatting suggests the subtitle was not invented by Apple News. Sooo, first, the allegation is not that the “alleged sexual assault” occurred “in federal court.” Second, and more important,  Col. Splestoser (Army, Retired) is not suing for “alleged sexual assault.” She is suing for “sexual assault,” which at the pleading stage is still just an allegation, but there is no offense (civil, criminal or military) of “alleged sexual assault.” One does not sue for relief from “alleged sexual assault.”

I understand this may be a pretty fine point. But we are in an era in which the so-called Main Stream Media is under attack by the government and is not trusted by a shockingly high percentage of the population. A recent online poll – I don’t much trust polls – by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and The Harris Poll found that “41% of Americans believe the news media are the “enemy of the people.” It is therefore particularly important that the real media (aka the MSM) be clear and as specific as possible in reporting news. People are easily confused by legal  and scientific language (witness the ongoing squabble over the difference between “total tests” and “tests per capita.” Trump does not know the difference and apparently many others don’t either. The  media need to be careful. This is one of the roles of editors. Do we still have editors?

On the merits of Col. Splestoser’s six sexual assault claims, the article reveals some shocking information about the military justice system:

The Justice Department attorneys representing Hyten have cited numerous rape and sexual assault cases that have been blocked over the years, including one in which the court said that “while the acts of sexual harassment served no military purpose, they were incident to” the plaintiff’s military service. Another says “even sexual misconduct can be within the scope of employment” in the military. [emphasis added]

Unfortunately, no specific cases are cited for these points and, not being versed in military law, I can’t address them. But, if accurate, these are genuinely astounding principles to operate in a modern military of the United States. Perhaps yet another example of how far we have to go in achieving the aspiring heights to which the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and basic morality call us. It is hard to understand why independent investigation of these types of charges is not required.

Our boy Matt Gaetz is in the news again with ethics issues. https://politi.co/2BnMdQx

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz has spent nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds renting an office [“at or below market rate”] from a longtime friend, adviser, campaign donor and legal client.

Naturally, Gaetz denies wrongdoing, claims everything was above board, no worries. Trumpworld in action. Read the article if you want a good, but ultimately depressing, laugh.

On a more positive note, the House has voted (with 72 Republicans joining – ooooh, Trump’s not gonna like that) to remove all the Confederate statues from the Capitol. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md  observed that “Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty.” Meanwhile, back at the KKK rally, President Trump lost his appetite at the thought that traitors would no longer be honored in the nation’s capitol. But, maybe he doesn’t have to worry too much. The bill’s chances in the Republican-controlled Senate must be considered iffy in light of this disgraceful statement from Majority Leader McConnell:

What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery  [https://bit.ly/2CUzZiN]

Mitch McConnell — defender of liberty, as long as you’re white, and standing firmly behind the “principles” of the 1800s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Successful Activism is Not a Part-Time Job

I have seen a number of comments by younger people to the effect that voting is a waste of time because after “activist candidates” are elected, nothing much changes. See, for example, Young Protesters Say Voting Isn’t Enough. Will They Do It Anyway? https://nyti.ms/2AKA2fZ

Given the staggeringly long history of racism in the United States, now combined with the militarization of police departments in the age of terrorism and the wanton use of brute force throughout the country , including federal troops in the Capitol deployed against peaceful protesters, the frustration and impatience with this “just vote” message is entirely understandable. There is no doubt that the sad place at which we have, as a society, arrived, is attributable in significant part to the failure of elected leaders to live up to their promises to bring about a more just society.

I am going to offer some thoughts about how this dysfunction has prevailed for so long. To be clear at the outset, I offer these not as excuses. There are no excuses. The racial situation is and always has been a national disgrace.

These thoughts are possible explanations that might illuminate a path forward and provide some hope to those whose frustration with failed progress has overwhelmed them in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the most recent in a long line of tragedies and surely just the tip of the iceberg in what has gone on when there was no one around to video.

I base these observations on a period in my life when I was active in local politics in Virginia, leading a citizens’ group pitted against a large oil company that had purchased the development rights to finish the master plan for our “planned community.” The situation is not, obviously, analogous to the problem of police violence against people of color, but some of the lessons learned may be useful in thinking about the “is voting useless” issue.

For context, the oil company’s interest typically was in increasing development density – more homes and more people per available acre. Deviations from the original master plan for the town were subject to the approval of a Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The Board was the elected governing body for the county in which the planned community) was located.

Our group reviewed every proposed plan deviation and demanded hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. The oil company soon began to refer to us as “rabble rousers” and “troublemakers.” It employed lawyers and experts to fight us at every stage. Sometimes we prevailed, sometimes not.

The governing bodies were typical of many local elected governing bodies across the country; regardless of how compelling our case was in any single situation, we faced resistance from some leaders who were more concerned about protecting developers’ “rights” and assuring rapid economic growth than they were interested in the environmental and social issues we often raised.

We were not without champions on these governing bodies, but the reality was that they had to deal with the other members of the bodies on a regular basis. Conflicts required compromise that often felt to us as “selling out of citizens’ interests to the commercial aspirations of greedy developers.” Our champions often fought hard for us but were outvoted. Sometimes their support was simply not as strong as we wanted. We told them so but were usually met with “you need to understand that to get anything done, we have to deal with the opposition in a measured and respectful way.” In those days the very idea of a “planned” community was anathema to many old-line Virginia conservatives and citizens demanding to have a voice in everything was a noxious concept to many.

We learned a few things from these experiences. It was necessary to show up all the time. Being ‘part-time’ advocates simply didn’t work. The politicians, those on our side and the others, needed to understand that there would be no respite. We would always show up, often accompanied by large numbers of supporters carrying/displaying some kind of identification that could be seen from the dais. Nothing disruptive but something clear enough that they would know we were there, watching. Voters in the room for every relevant decision. No respite.

There was pushback, to be sure. Our issues often were scheduled for late on the agenda, allegedly because they were “controversial,” but really so that it would be harder for our “troops” to stick around. Tenacity was important but ultimately many people with jobs the next day would have to leave the hearing for home before our items were taken up. As the group’s leader and advocate, I always stayed, sometimes until well past midnight. Nevertheless, our group’s unmistakable presence in the room, even for a few hours, signaled to the decision-makers that we were watching. Voters in the room. And the decision-makers also knew that by stalling us, they were offending many constituents. We got a few newspapers to write about it. Politicians hate bad publicity even when their names are spelled correctly. No respite.

My argument here is that it is simply not enough to vote. Bearing constant witness and constant engagement is critically important. After a while, our oil company knew we weren’t going away. Their management was furious that they could not control us. Calling us names just angered people even more. We used that against them to stir up more activism.

Well-healed adversaries, including police unions, can lobby all the time. Citizen activists are at a huge disadvantage, but can compensate to a large degree by (1) voting, voting, voting – the constant threat to remove ineffective politicians who can’t/won’t deliver on their promises (if they don’t think your group votes, they won’t care what you think or say), (2) making clear that you and your crowd will always show up for relevant decisions – pack the room, (3) treating everyone with respect, but (4) making clear you will not accept deflection and will use the tools of public advocacy, including particularly the press, to expose aggressively corrupt and indifferent decision-making, and (5) showing appreciation for victories won, even small ones – name the names; reward … and punishment. We are here. We will always be here. Deal with us and our concerns or pay the price. No respite.

Making change, progressing an agenda of challenging ideas is very hard. The natural inclination of most decision-making bodies is to move in tiny steps, if at all. Offend as few people as possible, go along to get along, etc. etc. Protests are extremely valuable for bringing attention to morally outrageous situations, but they are, standing alone, insufficient. Laws still have to be written, lobbied, passed, enforced. Recalcitrant leaders must be brought around. They must come to see that you are not going away. “Enough is enough” is not just a slogan. You cannot wait us out. Talk, talk, delay, study – no. Not good enough. We are not going away until you do the right thing. No respite.