Tuesday Reads: Antisemitism and Extremism in the U.S.

Good Afternoon!!

Nicholas FuentesLast Tuesday, Trump hosted a dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Kanye West and and Nicholas Fuentes. West has been spouting virulent antisemitism recently, and Fuentes is a white supremacist, holocaust denier, and Hitler admirer. Trump was reportedly quite taken with Fuentes, and during the dinner said, “I like this guy. He gets me.” Public outrage built over the holiday weekend. At first Republicans were hesitant to criticize Trump for this, but yesterday some of them actually spoke out against his behavior.

The Washington Post: Pence, other Republicans issue rare rebuke of Trump over dinner with Fuentes and Ye.

Former vice president Mike Pence and numerous Republican lawmakers on Monday criticized Donald Trump for dining with the white nationalist Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, both of whom have a history of antisemitic remarks, marking a rare break with Trump in the upper echelons of the GOP.

Pence was most clear in his condemnation, saying in an interview with NewsNation, “President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table. I think he should apologize for it, and he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.”

He joined several Republican senators who also directly criticized the former president in statements disavowing the dinner with Fuentes and Ye. Pence’s comments were also one of the clearest instances of the former vice president trying to set himself apart from Trump, whom he served for four years, amid the expectation that Pence will challenge Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — each rumored to be eyeing a presidential run — were quicker to criticize Trump.

Christie tweeted on Saturday: “This is just awful, unacceptable conduct from anyone, but most particularly from a former President and current candidate.”

“Well, I hope, someday, we won’t have to be responding to what former President Trump has said or done,” Hutchinson said in an interview Sunday on CNN. “In this instance, it’s important to respond. … I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that is setting an example for the country or the party to meet with an avowed racist or antisemite.” [….]

“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) tweeted. “These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said Trump should have “certainly” known who he is dining with, telling reporters Monday, “I totally think it’s ridiculous to be sitting down with somebody who espouses such views.” [….]

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement that she condemns “antisemitism and white supremacy” and that “the president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes.”

The public critiques of Trump were notable after years in which many Republicans remained silent as he courted extremists. Still, many stopped short of a full denouncement.

Mitt Romney delivered the harshest rebuke. From Charlie Sykes’ Morning Shots at The Bulwark:

“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” Romney said.

“I voted to remove him from office twice… I don’t think he should be president of the United states. I don’t think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024. And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”

More Republican condemnations from Semafor:

“It was ridiculous,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa said.

“I just think that was a really bad idea,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D, the second-ranking Republican leader, said. “He shouldn’t have done it.”

While some lawmakers were reluctant to single out Trump by name, and many paired their statements with attacks on Democrats and reassurances they didn’t consider Trump racist, they almost all made clear he’d crossed a line. Importantly, they did what Trump would not — condemn and disavow the hate his dinner guests preached.

“There’s no room in the Republican Party for white supremacy and antisemitism,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., a close Trump ally, said. “It’s wrong. I think Republicans should all condemn white supremacy and antisemitism.” [….]

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. called Fuentes an “ass clown” and told CNN he hoped Trump would condemn the “evil” and “disgusting” figure. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas told NBC News he was a “racist clown.”

And even some top supporters were, at minimum, willing to concede it wasn’t the best look. “There’s a lot of other people, I would think that he could have met with to help the country be stronger and go more in the right direction,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. said.

And what about Jewish Trump supporters? Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times: Jewish Allies Call Trump’s Dinner With Antisemites a Breaking Point.

For much of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, Jewish Republicans rationalized away the bigoted fringe of Mr. Trump’s coalition, arguing that the unsavory supporters in his midst and the antisemitic tropes he deployed paled in comparison with the staunchly pro-Israel policies of his administration.

221125155305-trump-fuentes-west-split

Trump, Nick Fuentes, and Kanye West

But last week, Mr. Trump dined at his Palm Beach palace, Mar-a-Lago, with the performer Kanye West, who had already been denounced for making antisemitic statements, and with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and Holocaust denier, granting the antisemitic fringe a place of honor at his table. Now, even some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters say they can no longer ignore the abetting of bigotry by the nominal leader of the Republican Party.

“I am a child of survivors. I have become very frightened for my people,” Morton Klein, head of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, said on Monday, referring to his parents’ survival of the Holocaust. “Donald Trump is not an antisemite. He loves Israel. He loves Jews. But he mainstreams, he legitimizes Jew hatred and Jew haters. And this scares me.”

Not all Republican leaders have spoken out, but Jewish Republicans are slowly peeling away from a former president who, for years, insisted he had no ties to the bigoted far right, but refused to repudiate it. Jewish figures and organizations that have stood by Mr. Trump, from Mr. Klein’s group to the pro-Trump commentator Ben Shapiro to Mr. Trump’s own former ambassador to Israel and onetime bankruptcy lawyer, David M. Friedman, have all spoken out since the dinner.

For Jews, the concern extends far beyond a single meal at Mar-a-Lago, though that dinner has become a touchstone, especially for Jewish Republicans.

“We have a long history in this country of separating the moral character of the man in the White House from his conduct in office, but with Trump, it’s gone beyond any of the reasonably acceptable and justifiable norms,” Jay Lefkowitz, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and a supporter of many of Mr. Trump’s policies, said on Monday.

For American Jewry, the debate since the dinner has brought into focus what may be the most discomfiting moment in U.S. history in a half-century or more.

“The normalization of antisemitism is here,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League.

From New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg: Antisemitism’s March Into the Mainstream.

Jews are thriving in America, and even with the violent resurgence of antisemitism in the Trump era, I’ve rarely felt personally threatened, perhaps a function of my privilege. Over the last week, though, I’m reminded that well-off Jews in other times and places have also imagined that they’d moved beyond existential danger, and been wrong.

At this point, there is no excuse for being shocked by anything that Donald Trump does, yet I confess to being astonished that the former president dined last week with one of the country’s most influential white supremacists, a smirking little fascist named Nick Fuentes. There’s nothing new about antisemites in Trump’s circle, but they usually try to maintain some plausible deniability, ranting about globalists and George Soros rather than the Jews. Fuentes, by contrast, is overt. “Jews have too much power in our society,” he recently wrote on his Telegram channel. “Christians should have all the power, everyone else very little.”

Fuentes was brought to Trump’s lair by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who was evidently serious when he threatened to go “death con 3” on the Jews last month. (The relationship with West is a bit of a coup for Fuentes, who, openly wishing for conflict between Jews and Black people, has been willing to sublimate his anti-Black racism in the service of his antisemitism.) According to Axios, at one point during the dinner Trump turned to Ye and said of Fuentes: “I really like this guy. He gets me.”

Since then, Trump has claimed he didn’t know who Fuentes was. I find this unlikely. In September, I wrote a piece about a Trump-endorsed congressional candidate named Joe Kent that mentions Fuentes in the first paragraph. Trump scrawled a note of congratulations on the print version and mailed it to Kent, who sent the image out on his email list. But even if Trump’s ignorance was sincere, he still didn’t denounce Fuentes after learning his identity.

Most Republicans, in turn, spent days declining to criticize Trump, though former Vice President Mike Pence and several senators finally spoke out on Monday. There is a good argument that politicians and journalists should avoid responding to every one of the ex-president’s provocations. In this case, however, the reluctance to rebuke Trump erodes the already-shaky taboo against antisemitism in Republican politics.

US-ENTERTAINMENT-FASHION-METGALA-CELEBRITY-MUSEUM-PEOPLE

Elon Musk

Goldberg goes on to note that “other narcissistic celebrities are now joining him in reveling in reactionary transgression.”

Ye is launching a vanity presidential campaign run by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who recently wrote on Telegram, “We’re done putting Jewish interests first.” After buying Twitter, Elon Musk enthusiastically welcomed both Trump and Ye back to the platform, and has been tiptoing up to the edge of antisemitism himself. On Sunday, he tweeted that Alexander Vindman, the Jewish retired Army officer who testified about Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine’s president, is both “puppet & puppeteer,” echoing an old antisemitic trope about Jews pulling the strings behind world events. On Monday, Musk tweeted an image of the alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog.

And now Musk owns Twitter, which has become a kind of public square that is important to people, causes, and even government agencies around the world. I knew nothing about Musk until recently, when he began making noises about buying Twitter. Now it’s clear to me that he is a full-blown malignant narcissist, very similar to Trump. He appears to be on a path to turning Twitter into an unmoderated hell scape like 4chan and 8chan, where Qanon and other crazy conspiracy theories festered. Recently Musk announced that he will reinstate all of the account that were previously banned by Twitter moderators. According to NPR,

In the days after the Capitol insurrection, Twitter banned 70,000 QAnon-linked accounts for spreading the conspiracy theory. Some belonged to influencers with large followings, including high-profile Trump supporters Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, who had also spread false claims of election fraud and had tried to get the election results overturned.

Many more accounts have been banned since then. Even more concerning, despite his claims that protecting children is important to him, Musk’s layoffs and firings have made Twitter more dangerous for children.

Wired: Layoffs Have Gutted Twitter’s Child Safety Team.

REMOVING CHILD EXPLOITATION is “priority #1”, Twitter’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk declared last week. But, at the same time, following widespread layoffs and resignations, just one staff member remains on a key team dedicated to removing child sexual abuse content from the site, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who both requested to remain anonymous.

It’s unclear how many people were on the team before Musk’s takeover. On LinkedIn, WIRED identified four Singapore-based employees who specialize in child safety who said publicly they left Twitter in November.

The importance of in-house child safety experts cannot be understated, researchers say. Based in Twitter’s Asian headquarters in Singapore, the team enforces the company’s ban on child sex abuse material (CSAM) in the Asia Pacific region. Right now, that team has just one full-time employee. The Asia Pacific region is home to around 4.3 billion people, about 60 percent of the world’s population.

The team in Singapore is responsible for some of the platform’s busiest markets, including Japan. Twitter has 59 million users in Japan, second only to the number of users in the United States, according to data aggregator Statista. Yet the Singapore office has also been impacted by widespread layoffs and resignations following Musk’s takeover of the business. In the past month, Twitter laid off half its workforce and then emailed remaining staff asking them to choose between committing to work “long hours at high intensity” or accepting a severance package of three months’ pay.

The impact of layoffs and resignations on Twitter’s ability to tackle CSAM is “very worrying,” says Carolina Christofoletti, a CSAM researcher at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. “It’s delusional to think that there will be no impact on the platform if people who were working on child safety inside of Twitter can be laid off or allowed to resign,” she says. Twitter did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Twitter in-house child safety team is vitally important to outside organizations who work to protect vulnerable children, because the metadata and analysis are only available inside Twitter.

Whether you love or hate Twitter, that is frightening. We’ve spent the past 7 years dealing with one narcissistic psychopath who could still run for president again. Now there’s another one in charge of the most important platform for communication with journalists, government leaders, historians, researchers, and more. Why do we do this to ourselves? That’s a topic for another day.

What do you think? What stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Twin Narcissistic Sociopaths

Eileen Rosemary Mayo (1906-94)

Painting by Eileen Rosemary Mayo (1906-94)

Happy Caturday!!

The long holiday weekend continues. I’m still having trouble sleeping at night, so once again this post is embarrassingly late. What news there is is still pretty ugly, with twin narcissistic sociopaths Donald Trump and Elon Musk dominating the headlines.

Trump News

People are still talking about Trump’s dinner with anti-Semite Kanye West and holocaust denying Nazi Nick Fuentes. Dakinikat wrote quite a bit about this yesterday. Here’s the latest:

Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer at The New York Times: Trump’s Latest Dinner Guest: Nick Fuentes, White Supremacist.

Former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday night had dinner with Nicewk Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and racist who is one of the country’s most prominent young white supremacists, at Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida, advisers to Mr. Trump conceded on Friday.

Also at the dinner was the performer Kanye West, who has also been denounced for making antisemitic statements. Mr. West traveled to meet with Mr. Trump at the club, Mar-a-Lago, and brought Mr. Fuentes along, the advisers said.

The fourth attendee at the four-person dinner, Karen Giorno — a veteran political operative who worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign as his state director in Florida — also confirmed that Mr. Fuentes was there….

In recent years, Mr. Fuentes, 24, has developed a high profile on the far right and forged ties with such Republican lawmakers as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, largely through his leadership of an annual white-supremacist event called the America First Political Action Conference.

A Holocaust denier and unabashed racist, Mr. Fuentes openly uses hateful language on his podcast, in recent weeks calling for the military to be sent into Black neighborhoods and demanding that Jews leave the country….

During the dinner, according to a person briefed on what took place, Mr. Fuentes described himself as part of Mr. Trump’s base of supporters. Mr. Trump remarked that his advisers urge him to read speeches using a teleprompter and don’t like when he ad-libs remarks.

Mr. Fuentes said Mr. Trump’s supporters preferred the ad-libs, at which Mr. Trump turned to the others, the person said, and declared that he liked Mr. Fuentes, adding: “He gets me.”

Aleksandra Aleks

Painting by Aleksandra Aleks

I’d have to agree. Trump is clearly an anti-Semite and fascist would love to turn the U.S. into a dictatorship. He’s also a needy narcissist who will listen to anyone who shamelessly flatters and sucks up to him. And it sounds like Fuentes did that.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Trump said: “Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago. Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about.” The statement said nothing about Mr. Fuentes’s views.

In a post later Friday on his social media website, Truth Social, Mr. Trump said that Mr. West “unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about.” He said the dinner took place “with many members present on the back patio. The dinner was quick and uneventful. Then they left for the airport.”

Early Friday evening, Mr. Trump made a third attempt at defending himself, saying that Mr. West had sought business advice from him, “expressed no anti-Semitism, & I appreciated all of the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson.’ Why wouldn’t I agree to meet? I also, I didn’t know Nick Fuentes.”

Well Trump has to know who and what Fuentes is now, and he’s still not willing to say anything against him. I’m reminded of the time in 2016 when Trump refused to reject the endorsement of David Duke and claimed to know nothing about him or the KKK. But The Washington Post documented statements by Trump about Duke in 1991 and 2000, in which he “condemned Duke and his views.”

Even taking at face value Mr. Trump’s protestation that he knew nothing of Mr. Fuentes, the apparent ease with which Mr. Fuentes arrived at the home of a former president who is under multiple investigations — including one related to keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago long after he left office — underscores the undisciplined, uncontrolled nature of Mr. Trump’s post-presidency just 10 days into his third campaign for the White House.

Marc Caputo at NBC News: ‘F—ing nightmare’: Trump team does damage control after he dines with Ye and white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

…[D]espite Trump suggesting that the event was “uneventful,” the fallout over his dinner with Fuentes appears to have thrown Trump’s campaign into damage control mode. The former president took hours to respond publicly after multiple media outlets reported that Fuentes was present at the dinner.

Cat on the Counter, Joanelle Summerfield

Cat on the Counter, Joanelle Summerfield

Even the two Trump advisers winced at how a Holocaust denier like Fuentes was able to wind up with Trump at dinner — even if it was by mistake — along with the rapper, who had just had his Twitter account restored but lost major endorsement deals for making antisemitic remarks.

“This is a f—ing nightmare,” said one longtime Trump adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of stoking the former president’s ire at “disloyal” people who criticize him. “If people are looking at [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis to run against Trump, here’s another reason why.”

All three sources familiar with the dinner told NBC News there was one glaring inaccuracy in Trump’s statement: Trump knew one of the three “friends” brought by the rapper, Karen Giorno. She was the Trump campaign’s Florida director in 2016 and the former president knows her by name and sight, the sources said. In addition to Giorno and Fuentes, Ye also brought along another man who was an associate, according to the sources.

The source familiar with the dinner conversation said the dinner grew heated after Ye — who announced another run for president in 2024 on Thursday — asked Trump to be his running mate. Trump then began insulting Ye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, according to the source and a video that Ye posted to Twitter on Thanksgiving Day recounting the dinner.

The source also said Fuentes is helping to advise Ye in his second presidential campaign. The rapper has said the campaign would be managed by Milo Yiannopoulos, a far-right provocateur and former Breitbart editor who was banned from Twitter in 2016 for inciting a racist campaign against comedian Leslie Jones.

How anyone could possibly vote for someone like Trump is a mystery to me.

John Bolton told the Guardian’s David Smith that: Trump’s act is ‘old and tired’, says his own former national security adviser.

John Bolton, former national security adviser to Donald Trump, has described the former US president’s act as “old and tired” and said the Republican party is ready to move on to a “fresh face”.

Bolton is the latest ex-White House official to condemn Trump after Republicans underperformed in this month’s midterm elections, which added to a losing streak that convinced some he is now hurting rather than helping the party.

“There are a lot of reasons to be against Trump being the nominee but the one I’m hearing now as I call around the country, talking to my supporters and others about what happened on 8 November, is the number of people who have just switched Trump off in their brain,” Bolton told the Guardian.

“Even if they loved his style, loved his approach, loved his policies, loved everything about him, they don’t want to lose and the fear is, given the results on 8 November, that if he got the nomination, not only would he lose the general election, but he would take an awful lot of Republican candidates down with him.”

Musk/Twitter News

NPR: Twitter has lost 50 of its top 100 advertisers since Elon Musk took over, report says.

Half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers appear to no longer be advertising on the website. A report from Media Matters for America states that these 50 advertisers have spent almost $2 billion on Twitter ads since 2020 and more than $750 million just in 2022.

Oh Boy, by Barbara Hranilovich

Oh Boy, by Barbara Hranilovich

Seven additional advertisers have slowed their advertising to almost nothing, according to the report, which was published on Tuesday. These companies have paid Twitter more than $255 million since 2020.

Chevrolet, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Ford, Jeep, Kyndryl, Merck & Co. and Novartis AG all issued statements about halting Twitter ads or were reported and confirmed as doing so. The others ceased advertising on the platform for a “significant period of time following direct outreach, controversies, and warnings from media buyers.”

The report wrote that even with these hits to advertising revenue, Twitter CEO Elon Musk has “continued his rash of brand unsafe actions — including amplifying conspiracy theories, unilaterally reinstating banned accounts such as that of former President Donald Trump, courting and engaging with far-right accounts, and instituting a haphazard verification scheme that allowed extremists and scammers to purchase a blue check.” [….]

Eli Lilly and Co. stopped showing ads on Twitter the day after an account impersonating the pharmaceutical company — complete with a purchased blue check mark — posted, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.”

Eli Lilly asked Twitter to take it down, but the tweet remained up for hours, because the platform’s staff was stretched thin due to recent layoffs and resignations. The tweet garnered hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes, and Eli Lilly’s stock soon took a dive.

Endpoints News reported that 12 pharmaceutical giants soon stopped buying Twitter ads, citing Pathmatics, which collects data on corporate advertising and digital marketing trends.

Inc: The ‘Myth Of Elon Musk’ Was His Most Valuable Asset. The Twitter Debacle Means It’s Over.

For Elon Musk, the idea that he is a once-in-a-generation super genius is central to the success of everything he does. It’s one of the most important narratives in business–that he is capable of rallying companies to do what seems to be impossible for everyone else.

Leona Kashigin, Early December Morning

Leona Kashigin, Early December Morning

That myth has taken Musk far in life, including making him the most wealthy man in the world. It’s tempting to think that it must be at least partially true.

If you [are] a Tesla shareholder, for example, you want to believe that Musk is uniquely qualified to bring into existence things like mass-scale electric vehicles (EVs), or autonomous cars that can navigate city streets more safely than human drivers. You also want to believe that when Musk promises to do things like get humans to Mars, that he has a plan and isn’t just throwing things against the wall to see what doesn’t blow up. You have a financial interest in the myth. 

To be fair, the companies Musk leads are–by all of the ways you might measure such a thing–incredibly successful. Tesla has almost single-handedly made EVs a thing normal people will buy. SpaceX is easily the most important private space exploration company ever. It has been able to do in a decade what the full resources of the United States Space program hasn’t been able to do–mostly build a rocket that you can land and use more than once.

Those successes are almost always attributed to the genius of Elon. I’m sure there’s some credit due to him, but I can’t help but think it’s equally as possible that those companies have been wildly successful not because of Elon Musk, but in spite of him. Over the past few weeks, it has become more apparent that the genius of Musk is a myth.

If nothing else, the past month of Twitter under Musk’s ownership–and, more importantly, his leadership–has broken through the myth and revealed that he doesn’t always have a well-thought out plan for success. Sometimes he’s just winging it and gets lucky. Sometimes he’s able to impose his will by the sheer force of his personality. Other times, he pushes too far and things break.

At Tesla and SpaceX, everyone knows who is in charge. The culture is completely built around the myth. Your job, if you work for one of those companies, is to figure out how to turn the myth (or the promises, no matter how detached from reality) into truth. That’s it. That’s what you do. Musk makes a bold claim and you work “extremely hardcore” until it’s accomplished.

None of that is true at Twitter. What is true is that the company is a mess and Musk has no real plan to fix it beyond imposing his personality and hope that the people still there will jump at his latest whim.

Click the link to read the rest.

Ruby Cramer at The Washington Post: Elon Musk says he would support Ron DeSantis in 2024.

Billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk said he would back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) if he runs for president in 2024. Tweeting into the night on Friday, Musk described DeSantis as a “sensible and centrist” choice.

Roxanne Driedger

By Roxanne Driedger

He said he had been a “significant supporter” of the Obama administration and “reluctantly” supported President Biden over Donald Trump in 2020, but had been disappointed with the results of the last two years. On the eve of the midterm elections this month, Musk urged his more than 115 million followers to support Republicans.

“Would you support Ron DeSantis in 2024, Elon?” a Twitter user named @ProudElephantUS asked on Friday. “Yes,” Musk replied.

Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion late last month. He has made his partisan preferences known on the platform, replying to questions from users about his political worldview and his decision to allow Trump back on the site, breaking with major technology executives who try to maintain a neutral posture in the public eye.

Advertisers are very likely turned off by Musk’s choice to express his partisan views. Either he really believes that people will pay to use what’s left of Twitter, or he is actively choosing to destroy his $44 billion investment.

I’ll add a few more stories in the comment thread and I hope you will too. I hope you are enjoying the long weekend. 


Monday Reads: Ball of Confusion

prince-purple-rainGood Morning Sky Dancers!

You know it’s just another week in Drumpfistan when I’ve got this old song by the Temptations stuck in my head.

Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, 
humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball Of Confusion that’s what the world is today (yeah, yeah)
The sale of pills is at an all time high 
young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky 
Cities aflame in the summer time, and oh the beat goes on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
Evolution, revolution,

 

 

 

Former first lady Michelle Obama spoke out Saturday at the U.S. Summit of Women in L.A.  Her big question was this. ‘What is going on in our heads where we let that happen?’  Indeed.

“In light of this last election, I’m concerned about us as women and how we think,” she said at the event. “What is going on in our heads where we let that happen, you know?”

In the 2016 election, 54 percent of women voted for Clinton, though that figure was sharply divided by race.

“When the most qualified person running was a woman, and look what we did instead, I mean that says something about where we are,” Obama said, referencing President Trump‘s victory in the 2016 election. “That’s what we have to explore, because if we as women are still suspicious of one another, if we still have this crazy, crazy bar for each other that we don’t have for men … if we’re not comfortable with the notion that a woman could be our president compared to … what, then we have to have those conversations with ourselves as women.”

Obama encouraged women to have high aspirations, but went on to add that she wished “girls could fail as bad as men do and still be OK.”

“Watching men fail up is frustrating. It is frustrating watching men blow it, and win,” she later added while discussing standards for women.

Obama also touched on the importance of education for women and encouraging young girls to speak their minds.

The United State of Women describes itself on its website as a “national organization for any woman who sees that we need a different America for all women to survive and thrive.”

Nothing has made me more sharply aware of my white womaness than this last damned presidential race. Black women were not fooled and they worked hard to get Clinton elected down here in Louisiana. Many white woman simply will not Surrender the Ivory Pedestal.  Figuring this out and correcting it is something only white women can do with each other. Making sure that we do not disenfranchise the women of color around us is our challenge.

Why does any white woman vote for some one like this?  This is from Republican Whisperer Jonathan Swan writing for Axios.  These candidates make me feel like we’re still choosing sides in the Civil War.  Where do they come from? 

Republicans in D.C. are panicking over Tuesday’s West Virginia Senate primary.

The problem: Don Blankenship, a coal baron who’s spent time in prison, is running a demagogic campaign in which he’s repeatedly invoked the Chinese heritage of Mitch McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

  • He’s also taken to calling McConnell “cocaine Mitch” in his ads — which, according to Politico, “is in reference to a 2014 report that drugs were once found aboard a shipping vessel owned by McConnell’s in-laws; however, he always found the products from https://urinedrugtesthq.com/whizzinator-review/ to pass his drug tests in one day.”
  • Blankenship is outspending his opponents on TV and has a ton of his own money to play with. He’s aired one ad that refers to “China people,” which you can watch here (or not).
  • And yet … he’s gaining in the polls and may win on Tuesday.

20140306_103546_Michael-Jackson-FilesBlankenship is a doozy of a candidate.  Even KKKremlin Caligula fears a repeat of Alabama’s Roy Moore. This is from Emily Stewart writing for VOX,

Blankenship is running against Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to be the Republican nominee to challenge Manchin in the fall. Their primary race is Tuesday, May 8. His credentials, and campaign tactics, have Republicans on edge about the prospect of him potentially becoming the party’s nominee.

Blankenship is a former coal baron who ran a company, Massey Energy, found to be violating federal safety regulations when a 2010 mining explosion killed 29 people, marking the worst coal disaster in 40 years. Blankenship stepped down after the incident but years later was indicted on conspiring to willfully violate federal mining regulations before the accident and lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission after it happened. He was convicted of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards and served one year in prison, and was released in May 2017.

exbdphlhra-1467533239There’s a behind the scenes look at this Hillbilly shoot out also at Vox by Dylan Scott.  This is for the seat held by Joe Manchin who is the Democrat we count on when we need a senate majority and little else.

Blankenship is, in many ways, an only-in-West-Virginia story. He grew up in Mingo County and got his college degree from Marshall University. He rose through the ranks at the Massey coal company, helping build it into one of the largest mining outfits in the country. By 2010, he was making nearly $20 million a year.

But then on April 5, 2010, 29 miners died in an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia.

Blankenship stepped down soon after, but four years later, federal prosecutors indicted him on conspiring to willfully violate federal mining regulations before the accident and making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission in its aftermath.

The investigation laid bare Blankenship’s cutthroat vision of capitalism. This was a businessman who broke unions, laughed off climate change, despised federal regulations, and described his industry in Darwinian imagery.

It’s an interesting read from there on out and I recommend it because this race will stay in the news for some time.  I don’t even think I’ve been to West Virginia so all I can do is watch and wonder.

 

 

Meanwhile, black men are trying to figure out what it means to be Kanye.  It’s the ongoing necessary discussion of what it means to be black in America. Again, I’m watching this all with an eye to being understanding and checking my own frames. I’ve also learned a lot by watching this new video by Donald Glover.  This thread  on Twitter is worth reading.

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the Kanye at The Atlantic.  He does this by first explaining that Michael Jackson–the idol of many a child in the 80s–was dying to be white. 

Even his accouterment felt beyond me—the studded jacket, the sparkling glove, the leather pants—raiment of the divine, untouchable by me, a mortal child who squinted to see past Saturday, who would not even see Motown 25 until it was past 30, who would not even own a copy of Thriller until I was a grown man, who no longer believed in miracles, and knew in my heart that if the black man’s God was not dead, he surely was dying.

And he had always been dying—dying to be white. That was what my mother said, that you could see the dying all over his face, the decaying, the thinning, that he was disappearing into something white, desiccating into something white, erasing himself, so that we would forget that he had once been Africa beautiful and Africa brown, and we would forget his pharaoh’s nose, forget his vast eyes, his dazzling smile, and Michael Jackson was but the extreme of what felt in those post-disco years to be a trend. Because when I think of that time, I think of black men on album covers smiling back at me in Jheri curls and blue contacts and I think of black women who seemed, by some mystic edict, to all be the color of manila folders. Michael Jackson might have been dying to be white, but he was not dying alone. There were the rest us out there, born, as he was, in the muck of this country, born in The Bottom. We knew that we were tied to him, that his physical destruction was our physical destruction, because if the black God, who made the zombies dance, who brokered great wars, who transformed stone to light, if he could not be beautiful in his own eyes, then what hope did we have—mortals, children—of ever escaping what they had taught us, of ever escaping what they said about our mouths, about our hair and our skin, what hope did we ever have of escaping the muck? And he was destroyed. It happened right before us. God was destroyed, and we could not stop him, though we did love him, we could not stop him, because who can really stop a black god dying to be white?

Kanye is deconstructed thusily:

And he is a god, though one born of a different time and a different need. Jackson rose in the last days of enigma and wonder; West, in an accessible age, when every fuck is a tweet and every defecation a status update. And perhaps, in that way, West has done something more remarkable, more amazing than Jackson, because he is a man of no mystery, overexposed, who holds the world’s attention through simply the consistent, amazing, near-peerless quality of his work.

West is 40 years old, a product of the Crack era and Reaganomic Years, a man who remembers the Challenger crash and The Cosby Show before syndication. But he never fell into the bitterness of his peers. He could not be found chasing ghosts, barking at Soulja Boy, hectoring Lil Yachty, and otherwise yelling at clouds. To his credit, West seemed to remember rappers having to defend their music as music against the withering fire of their elders. And so while, today, you find some of these same artists, once targets, adopting the sanctimonious pose of the arthritic jazz-men whom they vanquished, you will not find Yeezy among them, because Yeezy never got old.

Maybe that was the problem.

Coates argues that West is dying for ‘white freedom’.

I see these guys–Prince for that matter too–as men in a country that is deeply troubled and yet oddly awed by black male sexuality and strength.  I harken back to the days of Boney M when we were all allowed to demonstrate a bit of that obvious human need for sex and Boney M looked like Prince with a lower level of production value.  But, the shock and awe of black male sexuality harkens more back to slavery. This is why Glover’s video has images that both remind us of Black Lives Matter and Django.

 

 

 

 

The Drumpf occupation of the Oval Office keeps sorting us up into tribes then pitting us against each other.  It’s a long standing tradition in the white patriarchy to do that so that’s no surprise. What is a surprise is that it still works when so many of us are educated, aware of what’s going on in the world, and have choices.

180413-gillon-kerner-comission-hero_mtjkbo

So, since Der Hair Fury has suggested he might be holding a summit on Race Relations it seems appropriate to review the granddaddy of these kinds of efforts. ‘The 1968 Kerner Commission report harshly described a country increasingly polarized by race. Its findings inspired positive change, but also more polarization. ‘  This is from The Daily Beast and dated from last month.  This is the tale of how The Fair Housing Act was passed and the role of a Republican in doing it in House Committee.  It also reminds us how fragile even our laws can be as one Black Cabinet member enabled by a hell of a lot of Republicans is trying to water it down.

People movin’ out, people movin’ in.
Why, because of the color of their skin.
Run, run, run, but you sho’ can’t hide

These short-term victories—more effective policing, improved media coverage, and passage of the Fair Housing Act—were significant for the commission’s report, but its long-term legacy is less clear. Lindsay and Harris had fought for a summary that would grab attention and generate flashy headlines. Soon they began to worry that reporters were focusing only on the report’s most provocative language and ignoring its detailed descriptions of the problems facing America’s cities. Harris recalled that he knew the commission had a perception problem after talking to his father, a small farmer in southwestern Oklahoma who had worked hard his whole life and had little to show for it. Based on the media reports he had seen, his father interpreted the report as saying, “You should pay more taxes to help out the black people who are rioting in Detroit.” That did not make a lot of sense to his dad. “I’m already paying a lot in taxes and getting nothing for it,” he responded. “Why doesn’t someone pay attention to me? Is it because I’m not rioting?”

Lindsay was probably right in believing it necessary to include striking language in the summary about “two societies” and “white racism” to ensure that the report would garner the attention it deserved. But the downside to this strategy was that the summary distracted attention from the heart of the report—the thoughtful narrative about the cause of the riots and the detailed, statistical evidence to support the existence of persistent discrimination. Lindsay and Harris assumed that racism persisted because most middle-class whites were unaware that it existed, and they thought that if confronted with clear evidence that discrimination imposed undue hardship on African Americans, white suburbanites would embrace new social programs, accept higher taxes, and demand more aggressive efforts to integrate their communities. “I believe that white people in America are decent people,” Harris told the New York Times in February 1968, and that “if they can be shown the terrible conditions in which other Americans live and how this threatens our society, they will join together to try to solve these problems.”

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2014 - Weekend 1Today, I wonder how many white women are “decent people”.  Surely, the majority of us are but what is going on with the group that’s larger than it really should be?  Let’s take this one for example that once again proves that really, I would never vote for just any or this particular vagina bearer. From the Des Moines Register: The nation’s strictest abortion ban is now law. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill.”  Goddamn!  Iowa!  Really?

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed into law the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation, surrounded by toddler-toting supporters.

As Reynolds inked the bill, backers’ cheers nearly drowned out the echoing chorus of “My body, my choice” shouted by protesters just outside the door.

“I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred,” Reynolds said from her formal office before signing a bill that will outlaw nearly all abortions in the state. “And as governor, I have pledged to do everything in my power to protect it. And that’s what I’m doing today.”

Senate File 359 will take effect July 1, though Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said they plan to quickly  challenge the law.

Under the legislation, physicians will be barred from performing most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Experts said that heartbeat can be heard about six weeks into a pregnancy — often before a woman realizes she’s pregnant.

adidas-hasnt-discussed-dropping-kanye-west-bloombergWhat matter of insanity causes a white woman to do this?

So,let me stir this pot a bit more.  From the Guardian: Kei Miller essay about white women sparks tensions among Caribbean writers. Miller’s essay has been withdrawn after divisive reception, but supporters say it is part of a necessary conversation about race and privilege.  Kei is a black man from Jamaica.

Miller’s essay, The White Women and the Language of Bees, was published last week in Pree, a new magazine highlighting writers from the Caribbean. Asking “how many years and decades must pass before we can belong to a place and to its words? How much time before we can write it?”, the essay saw the Forward prize-winning author discuss his interactions with four white women writers from the region, evaluating their books, and the way they have interacted with the local literary community.

“Was she really afraid? Was she nervous about people like me reading her book and throwing words like ‘appropriation’ about? Am I a part of her anxiety?” he wrote of one. In another scene, he imagines one of the women telling another: “You can’t be writing this place and putting the wrong words in people’s mouths. This rock is not made of granite or limestone, but with words. You must be given the right words. And these, my dear sister, are things you have yet to learn.”

The essay drew both praise and condemnation from writers. Rhoda Bharath called it “a necessary addition to the global cultural conversations around identity, appropriation and privilege”, while Veerle Poupeye wrote, in an open letter to Miller, that “parts of the essay are indeed breathtaking, because of the writing and because of the sublime insights you offer”, but took issue with Miller’s publication of private conversations, his focus on white women and not white men, and his representation of the women in the essay.

Judy Raymond said: “Almost everything that has happened since Kei’s essay has been based on emotion. It’s clear we need to have urgent conversations about race, racism, gender and privilege. Instead, careers and friendships are being broken and those conversations are being replaced by the verbal equivalent of hurricanes.”

So, yeah … good luck to Herr DrumpfsterFire and his Race Relations Summit.  I’m sure Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway will be put in charge of it.   

One of President Donald Trump’s most trusted black advisers wants the president to hold a summit on race relations at the White House with rapper Kanye West.

Darrell Scott, a pastor from Cleveland, is scheduled to meet with the president on Thursday to discuss his proposal for the summit, which would also include other prominent artists and athletes, Politico reported.

Scott said the summit would be “totally unscripted” and no topic would be “off the table.” He’s reportedly pitching the summit alongside Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and an aide in the White House Office of Public Liaison.

Some one drop a mic please.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?