The inevitable backlash of the Alpha Boys and White ISIS

Because the subject has come up several times with a variety of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, two weeks ago I wrote a long discussion on the need for and difficulties involved with implementing reparations for several of America’s past and current mistakes, and sins against its people.

So in summary, we’ve had 250 years of chattel racial slavery, followed by 100 years of racial terrorism and lynchings, sharecropping, black codes, Jim Crow, segregation, poll taxes, literacy tests, and the denial of voting rights. This was followed by another 50 years of a racially biased police and criminal justice system; red-lining; housing, lending, and job discrimination; voter suppression; white-flight; re-segregation; and a rapidly increasing wage and wealth gap.

And frankly, as bad as this is, the injustice and crimes that America rendered upon our Native American population is actually far, far worse than any of this and certainly should be addressed as well.

Reparations aren’t just about slavery itself (which again, didn’t technically end in 1868). It’s about all of this, all of these various issues of continued racial injustice and violence which have spanned more than 400 years.

Many people pointed out that this would likely spark a major backlash and that pushing this issue would likely guarantee a second term for Donald Trump. In reponse, I wrote a piece on the history of affirmative action, which documented how insufficient it has been as a form of reparations. Still, affirmative action has generated its own fairly rabid backlash and resistance during the past 50 years. 

This week I will examine how even the smallest attempt to balance the scales, or even the most minor pubic statement by either a lawmaker or a movie star, can spark a virulent backlash—or white-lash if your prefer—of anger, umbrage, and outrage, which is completely out of all reasonable whack.

If they’re going to distort your position and come after you for being too #woke; being openly in support of #Black Lives Matter and #MeToo; admitting to being a #Social Justice Warrior (SJW); or supporting reparations, you might as well get ready for the white-lash and buckle up.

It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

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Democratic lawmakers indicate they’ll move quickly to demand Mueller report—and Barr testimony

It was evident from the outset that House and Senate Democratic watchdogs weren't going to accept Trump Attorney General Bill Barr's terse, ambiguous summary of the Mueller report's claims as the end of investigative efforts into Trump campaign actions during 2016.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler almost immediately announced that he would be calling Barr before his committee to explain, in light of "the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report", why he went beyond Mueller's report to make the decision that Trump would not be criminally charged—a decision that appeared to watchers of Mueller's work to rest on a tortuously narrow interpretation of the known evidence.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were more pointed still in a joint statement responding to Barr's letter.

Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers. The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay. Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.

And most obviously, for the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility.

“Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise. The American people have a right to know.

Barr's summary is an indication that the Justice Department itself will not be indicting Trump based on their interpretation of the presented evidence—an expected outcome, based on Barr's own public hostility towards that outcome prior to his appointment. But the same summary mentions only in glancing reference that evidence was found suggesting Trump acted to obstruct justice; Barr did not dispute that the evidence existed, but came to a conclusion that it was not sufficient to lodge criminal charges against the sitting president.

That's not the same as saying the evidence in the report is not sufficient to warrant congressional deliberation, and possibly an impeachment investigation, against Trump. Barr is only making the determination that he himself won't be touching it.

And that's not going to fly with Democrats. They're going to insist that lawmakers from both parties see that evidence, and make those determinations, themselves.

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Barr summary of Mueller report is quite narrow, possibly slanted, and still very, very disappointing

Neither the Congress nor the the American public has seen the report created by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and at this point it’s difficult to know how closely the summary document prepared by Attorney General William Barr reflects the contents of that report. But—assuming Barr is not outright misrepresenting the contents of Mueller’s conclusions, or spinning those results beyond recognition—there’s nothing to say except that statements coming on Sunday have been deeply, deeply disappointing.

No matter what information trickles out from this point, no matter what action other prosecutors may take, the nation has missed a singular opportunity to address a festering cancer. That opportunity will not return. And the manner of its dismissal, a letter that’s already being heralded on the right as complete exoneration, no matter what the text says, is certain to empower even more undemocratic, disruptive, and simply ugly behavior. 

Donald Trump got a pass. He will walk away from this not just free from consequence, but emboldened in the idea that he really is above and beyond any rules. And on the possible charge of obstruction, he got a very special intervention from Barr, who had advertised this part of the pass in his job application to be attorney general.

It's very hard to pretend that the summary as Barr has written is is anything other than severely disappointing, as well as confusing. After all, we already knew that Russia had made extensive efforts to reach out to the Trump campaign, and those efforts were welcomed. From Donald Trump, Jr. eagerly inviting Russian operatives to stroll into campaign headquarters, to Paul Manafort ferrying polling data to a Russian agent, to George Papadopoulos working both ends of the campaign-Russia pipeline, there was never a moment where Donald Trump’s campaign was anything other than enthusiastic and receptive about the idea of working with Russia.

And for the investigation to end in such a state seemingly leaves a thousand threats still unresolved. What about Erik Prince’s meetings in the Seychelles? Why did Jeff Sessions hold a multi-hour private meeting with the Russian ambassador when no other Senator did the same? What about the dozens of connections that seemed to exist between the Bannon-created Cambridge Analytica and both Russian operatives and WikiLeaks?

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Vaccines are essential for a healthy society

In 1796 Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine. This vaccine was for smallpox, a disease that had been eradicated in the wild by 1980. A vaccination for measles became available in 1963. Measles is the fifth disease to be eliminated from the Americas, following smallpox (1971), polio (1994), and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (2015). In all five cases, the Region was the first in the world to achieve elimination. Measles continues to circulate in other regions of the world, and countries in the Americas report sporadic imported cases. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), smallpox was eradicated in the wild in 1980, although small quantities of smallpox virus officially still exist in two research laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Russia.

With the development of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk single-handedly put the iron lung industry out of business. 

When I was a child the recommended vaccines were for smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio (OPV), measles, mumps, and rubella. For chicken pox, I had to play with the neighbor kids when they had it so I would get it and get over it. I would not wish the experience of chicken pox (and an increased risk for shingles as an adult) on anyone. In the Army I received these vaccinations and more when I arrived at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. 

My son, born in 2000 was vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio (IPV), Hib, Hepatitis B, varicella, and Hepatitis A. As a pre-teen he was vaccinated against HPV after I consulted with my family doctor. In my doctor’s words, “It prevents [certain types] of cancer and it would be irresponsible not to have him vaccinated.” Before he entered college he was vaccinated against meningitis.

According to the Pan American Health Organization

At the global level, measles continues to be one of the leading causes of death among young children, despite the fact that there is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent it. There is no specific antiviral treatment against the measles virus. Before widespread vaccination began in 1980, measles caused 2.6 million deaths a year throughout the world, 12,000 of them in the Americas. Between 1970 and 1979, Latin American countries reported about 220,000 cases of measles a year. There has been a 95% drop in cases over a 35-year period, from 4.5 million cases in 1980 to approximately 244,700 in 2015.

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Violent white supremacy is nothing new, especially in America

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In a darker vein, the arc of bigotry and hatred is long, but it inevitably bends toward violence—and there’s no shortage of violence by right-wing terrorists these days.

The terrorist attack by a white supremacist who killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, is just the latest in a series of attacks by angry white bigots, whether they identify as neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, anti-Semites, the alt-right, or whatever new label they’re claiming, even as Iowa Rep. Steve King (R-Bigotry) wonders how those terms became offensive. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the number of hate groups in the U.S. is at an all-time high of 1,020. The FBI saw a rise in the number of domestic terrorist arrests in late 2018. White supremacists committed the most extremist killings in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

We are horrified by white supremacists' terrorist killings, such as the mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018 that killed 11 worshipers. Or the June 2015 shooting in a prayer service at a Charleston, South Carolina, African-American church that killed nine people. Or the 2014 shooting deaths of three people at a Jewish Community Center and a Jewish retirement community in Overland Park, Kansas, where the gunman yelled, “Heil Hitler!” Or the 2012 shooting in a Sikh gurdwara in a Milwaukee suburb that killed six people. Or the 2008 shooting in a Knoxville, Tennessee, Unitarian church that killed two people, done by a man who described his hatred for African-Americans (along with Democrats and liberals) to police after his arrest.

As the New Zealand attack shows, the white supremacist movement is not limited to the U.S. One of the worst incidents was a 2011 terrorist attack in Norway in which an anti-immigrant extremist, Anders Breivik, killed 77 people through a bombing and a mass shooting. The New Zealand shooter’s “manifesto” listed the Norwegian perpetrator as an inspiration, as did the writings of a Maryland Coast Guard lieutenant who planned a mass attack but was arrested in February before carrying out his scheme. The term “going Breivik” is used by those in white supremacist circles to show a full commitment to the cause.

Racism has always existed and persisted in human history. In the U.S., the subjugation of Native Americans by killing them and taking their land and the institution of slavery itself are by definition violence by white supremacy.

The modern movement, however, really solidified after the Civil War.

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Women’s History Month: They ran—and are running—for the highest office in the land

I would be remiss if, during Women’s History Month, I failed to shine a light on the six women making a historic run for the Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States.

In alphabetical order, with links to their campaign websites, they are: Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Marianne Williamson.

These thumbnail descriptions are from the Center for American Women and Politics:

Tulsi Gabbard (2020) - Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013. She is the first Hindu member and one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress.  She previously served on the Honolulu City Council from 2011-2012.  She also served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 2002-2004. When she was first elected to the Hawaii House in 2002, at the age of 21, she was the youngest legislator ever elected in Hawaii's history and the youngest woman ever elected to a U.S. state legislature.

Kirsten Gillibrand (2020) - Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was appointed to the U.S Senate in January 2009 and won re-election in 2010, 2012, and 2018. Before being elected to the Senate, Gillibrand represented New York’s 20th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009. Prior to her congressional career, Gillibrand worked as an attorney in both the private and public sectors, including time spent as a special counsel at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and law clerk for the United States Court of Appeals (Second Circuit).

Kamala Harris (2020) - Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Before being elected to the Senate, Harris served as the 32nd Attorney General of California (2011-2017). From 2004 to 2011, she was the District Attorney of the city and county of San Francisco.  Harris – who is both South Asian and African American – is the first South Asian-American, second African American woman, and just one of five women of color in history to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Harris was also the first African American and first woman to serve as Attorney General of California.

Amy Klobuchar (2020) - Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has served in the U.S. Senate since 2006. She was the first woman to be elected to the Senate from Minnesota. A graduate of Yale University and the University of Chicago Law School, Klobuchar was a corporate lawyer before running for public office. Klobuchar was first elected as Hennepin County Attorney in 1998, making her responsible for all criminal prosecution in Minnesota's most populous county, and she was reelected in 2002.  

Elizabeth Warren (2020) - Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. Before being elected to the Senate, Warren served as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), was instrumental in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and served as a law professor for more than 30 years, including nearly 20 years as the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Marianne Williamson (2020) - Williamson is an author, lecturer, entrepreneur and activist. She is the founder of Project Angel Food, a volunteer food delivery program that serves homebound people with AIDS and other life challenging illnesses. She is also the co-founder of The Peace Alliance, a nonprofit grassroots education and advocacy organization supporting peacebuilding projects. In 2014, she unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in California.

Before continuing, I want to say, “Thank you, Hillary Clinton.“

I truly believe that without Hillary’s nomination and 2016 campaign (which won the popular vote and fell short of winning the Electoral College), inspiring so many of us, this wealth of women running wouldn’t be happening.

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What is the biggest issue where time and resources are wasted arguing with idiots?

I sometimes wonder how much of life is spent waiting. How much of life is spent waiting in a room or in a line on someone else to do something? Even though some places go to great lengths to make the experience less painful, with great coffee and entertainment, I despise having to wait because of the waste of it. Every time I’m in a waiting room, I think about how there will come a day when I’ll be dying and think about all the wasted time I could have used for more productive things.

I have this same feeling when arguing with idiots about issues with clear answers.

After the Democratic National Committee announced their intention to exclude Fox News from the 2020 primary debates, the whining in media circles went the usual direction of reporters and pundits attempting to show how “fair and balanced” they are, instead of acknowledging reality. To listen to the brainiacs in the Fifth Estate tell it, Democrats are slitting our own throats by not trying to reach out to Fox News viewers and exposing them to the unvarnished progressive views of candidates without any conservative spin. And even the likes of Bill Maher argue Democrats appear “weak” for not wanting to give Fox the time of day. Because not only should the Democratic Party reward a “news” enterprise which demeans everything it stands for any chance that it can, but also because the viewers who watch a network that likens Democrats to “demons,” accuses the DNC of a criminal conspiracy to murder its own staffers, and employs hosts who peddle white nationalist dog whistles? Those viewers are probably really persuadable.

But the media’s pursuit of twisted “balance” is predicated on the belief that reason can persuade people of any stripe if they’re exposed to different views. This is not only false, but it presupposes the “both-sidesism” to every issue the press just loves to indulge. Instead of calling dumb things dumb, modern media objectively apparently indulges the fairy tales which violate every natural law of the universe, just to be “fair.”

So this got me to thinking about which issue and which partisans are the biggest waste of time. On which issue is the other side just a mass of stupidity on which reason is wasted?

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Nuts & Bolts: Inside a Democratic campaign—public forums

It’s another Saturday, so for those who tune in, welcome to a diary discussing the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic Campaign. If you’ve missed out, you can catch up anytime: Just visit our group or follow Nuts & Bolts Guide.

In almost four years of writing Nuts & Bolts, there are some subjects I have stayed away from, for varying reasons. Some of those subjects are difficult to convey in a post, while others are best shared only when I or others go to a location and help walk candidates through them in person; and the one I’m discussing today—well, it’s because I love the subject matter so much.

For a lot of people, public speaking is a great fear. Some of us, on the other hand, live for public speaking. The majority of my life, from high school through today, has been spent writing speeches, prepping debate, organizing arguments, and either speaking myself or preparing others to present—whether it is helping candidates for Congress, Senate, or governor plan their speeches, or sitting in a room with a small crowd walking through a plan for how to handle a debate.

Whether you are an elected official or a candidate, community forums and town halls, be they friendly, partisan-run events, incumbent services, or multi-candidate general election voter-assistance events, happen all over the country and in almost every race. In downticket races, these events can be covered by the local press and livestreamed on YouTube or Facebook, and can give you a chance to inform voters. Ready to start?

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Cowardly Republicans ignore Trump’s John McCain slurs because it’s ‘not worth inflaming GOP voters’

In the days since Donald Trump inexplicably renewed his attacks on the late Sen. John McCain, the response from Senate Republicans has been—at best—tepid. But hey, who can blame them? It’s not like McCain was held up by them for nearly 50 years as a war hero. Oh, wait—that happened. Well, at least most of them didn’t serve side by side with him in Congress for almost 40 years. Oh, wait—that happened too. Okay, but to be fair, they didn’t all line up to glowingly eulogize him following his death, claiming friendship and deep respect. Strike three.

But it turns out these Senate Republicans have a very good reason for ignoring the insulting slurs that Trump has been lobbing against McCain for nearly a week. Because while they’re “uncomfortable” with Trump’s attacks, they’re feeling “boxed in.” After all, many of them are up for re-election this fall. Like Lindsey Graham, who “is keenly aware that if he blows up his relationship by criticizing [Trump] too hard, he could lose the Oval Office access he currently enjoys.” Graham, as you may recall, was John McCain’s best friend. Or Sens. Cory Gardner and Thom Tillis, who boldly “didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.”

There was one senator’s aide who bravely offered an anonymous explanation for standing silently by, saying the “dilemma” was whether one should risk drawing Trump’s “wrath” or ...

… let the news cycle pass without their fingerprints? This senator decided to stay mum after determining it was not worth inflaming GOP voters at home.

And this was probably the right choice for these cowards. After all, the media will move on and ignore this in a day or two, as they do on every outrage by Trump and the enabling silence from his fellow Republicans. Lather, rinse, repeat.

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Jimmy Carter is now the longest-living former president in history, but he’s too busy to celebrate

Friday marked another milestone for 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter. He officially became the oldest former president in United States history on March 22, at the age 94 years and 172 days.

Jimmy Carter surpassed these past presidents in age:

George H.W. Bush lived to be 94 and 171 days. Ronald Reagan lived to be 93 years and 120 days. Gerald Ford lived to be 93 years and 165 days. John Adams lived to be 90 years and 247 days. Herbert Hoover lived to be 90 years and 71 days

George Washington, on the other hand, only lived to age 67.

Is there reason for celebration? Yes. Is there time for a celebration? Hardly.

Former President Carter stays busy overseeing the Carter Center, which he and his wife Rosalynn, 91, co-founded in 1982. The Carter Center’s mission includes building hope, waging peace, fighting disease and promoting democracy and fair elections worldwide.

“We at the Carter Center sure are rooting for him and are grateful for his long life of service that has benefited millions of the world’s poorest people,” the center said in a statement.

Each year, Jimmy Carter heads out to a city, in the U.S. or abroad, and with Rosalynn, helps build homes for Habitat for Humanity. Their time and effort goes to aid struggling families. In 2019, the Carters are scheduled to be in Nashville. Despite being in his mid-90s, Carter still physically gets out there and contributes directly to the construction of these much-needed homes.

He’s just that kind of awesome. And he always has been.

Over his 94 years, Carter has been a nuclear physicist in the Navy, the governor of Georgia, as well as president of the United States. He continues to work, write and fight for women’s rights and civil rights for all. In 1976, he facilitated a historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which is still in effect, over 40 years later. Carter was the first to put solar panels on the White House and is close to seeing the complete eradication of the Guinea Worm Disease—after helping to bring down three million active cases in 1980 to less than 2 in 2016. He continues to raise the bar and set an example of what a long-lasting beautiful marriage looks like,and he spreads his Christian faith through fighting for peace, his many good deeds, and his message of love. 

Jimmy Carter is one of the most beloved humanitarians this world has ever known. He has spent his lifetime helping others, and in 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here are some photos of days gone by. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

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