Here’s what I just wrote—just in case you’d like to call your reps about something similar (and don’t worry if you didn’t call about this today; the issue is sadly evergreen):
SUBJECT: White House corruption and conflicts of interest
I continue to be deeply disturbed by very clear conflicts of interest in the Trump White House. For example, Forbes reported (and Slate reiterated) that Eric Trump will be reporting to President Donald Trump about Trump Organization business on a quarterly basis.
This is nothing remotely like “separation,” let alone a “blind trust”—heck, given this standard, there is more separation between me and my Roth IRA (which I check bi-annually, at best), and President Trump and Trump Org business.
This is so plainly inappropriate that I feel sort of silly harping on it.And yet here we are.
I continue to have a great deal of faith in our system of government and in your office—but only because I’ve seen your unflagging dedication to using the latter to assure the continuing basic function of the former.
Here’s what I wrote—just in case you’d like to call your reps about something similar:
SUBJECT: Plz don’t get distracted by the White House’s “Muslim device travel ban”
Like many of the folks calling and emailing you today, I’m distressed by the White House’s newest arbitrary travel limitation: No laptops or tablets can travel carry-on from 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries.Why?Has there been a specific threat?No.Because recent attacks have had something to do with using laptops and tablets (but not phones or phone-sized game systems) as weapons or to conceal weapons?No.Heck, according to this morning’s New York Times, this new ban was rolled out without sufficiently informing the TSA in advance.
But I’m not writing about that, because I think this “Muslim device ban” is a dumb, arbitrary move that’s perfectly within the Administration’s powers—and I also firmly believe that it is being tossed into the news cycle as a distraction, diverting our attention away from FBI Director James B. Comey’s public acknowledgment that the FBI is indeed investigating Trump/Kremlin ties, and that there is enough substance there for months of investigation, and may include the White House.
Please continue to focus on Trump/White House ties to Russia (both during the election and now), as well as Trump family conflicts of interest (ranging from Trump’s sudden receipt of valuable Chinese trademarks after years of delays to the sudden popularity of Ivanka Trump’s fashion line—which coincidentally followed immediately after the President of the United States publicly scolded a department store for not carrying it, and the Counselor to the President appeared on national television and told citizens to “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”)
And, as ever, please keep up the good work.We shall defeat them one by one.
A couple summers back my wife and I watched THE PURGE on Netflix.We weren’t expecting great chops as either sci-fi or horror (it’s sort of the lazier ends of both), but we were both sorta taken aback by how bafflingly racist the whole thing was.
Just to be super-duper clear: I’m not saying that the filmmaker is racist (I don’t really have any clue who the guy is; he looks white-ish in pictures, but who knows—or really cares—what his identity is).I’m not saying the actors are racist.I’m not saying that any aspect of the conscious intent of the film is racist. In fact, it sorta goes out of its way to be tokenishly multicultural and non-racist (the only totally morally uncompromised primary character is the nameless black male, one of the more prominent secondary characters is a black woman, there’s an Asian man in the mix, and all of the villains are white and explicitly upper-class)—which what was precisely what made it so baffling: even though the film worked to be formally racially progressive, both my wife and I (nominally white people) found ourselves queasy with some of the lines these actors were obliged to say (specifically constantly and exclusively referring to the black man as a “pig”) and found ourselves almost simultaneously asking aloud mid-film:
“Jeez!How the hell would a black person feel watching this?”
Or, more to the point, how would a black person feel watching this film knowing what I know?
Because, through a crazy coincidence, I happened to know something about this film not immediately apperent to average viewers, but certainly known to the filmmakers:
The film opens with a montage of faux surveillance cam footage of various violent crimes, establishing the cultural mood of this near-future dystopia (you see some of this montage at around the 26sec mark in the trailer embedded above).The sort of things you’d expect: Liquor store robberies, riots, a woman getting held up at an ATM, a black man with a sawed off shotgun jumping a police station lobby counter and firing at police officers, etc.
But here’s the catch: I recognized that last piece of footage, which I’d stumbled across in 2013 doing research for a client.It was not faux anything; it was actual CCTV footage from a Detroit police station.The black man with the shotgun was 38 year-old Lamar Moore, his motive is still unknown, and he died during that attack. In fact, he was fatally shot just after the piece of footage used in THE PURGE‘s mood-setting montage.
The final, violent minutes of a black man’s life were used to set the mood for a mediocre Ethan Hawke vehicle.Someone found that footage and edited it in.Someone made sure the rights were cleared, so they wouldn’t get stung on copyright infringement later.And that someone didn’t seem to think, in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, that this might plausibly be a sore spot for anyone (for example, 37 million Americans).
This, for me, finally highlighted the bright line difference between “racism” and “white supremacy.”Racism is really about a conscious framework, a deeply seated belief that people of color or Jews or immigrants or whoever have certain essential characteristics that make them unfit.White supremacy is assigning the interests of white people primacy–generally in complete ignorance of the experience of non-Whites, in much the same way that you probably never think about the impact patching a hole in your eaves has on the squirrels who’d set up house in your attic.A racist thinks black people are lazy and Jews are greedy cheats (or whatever), while the vast majority of rank-and-file white supremacists probably don’t think about them at all.While all white racists are implicitly white supremacists, not all white supremacists are necessarily racist.
Do the makers of THE PURGE think ill of black people?I don’t think so–but I also don’t think they honestly considered the existence of black viewers as sentient entities who might view this film and think “What the fuck are you people doing?!”
’cause Donald Trump is the guy who’s says stuff like this:
“Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”
Meanwhile, I’m a Jew, and even if I’d never met another Jew in my life, I’ve still met me.And earlier today I was hanging out with Brian, and he’s black, and he–likewise–has met himself (as well as his sister, his children, his parents, etc., etc., etc.)Obviously, we’ve met each other.
And I really and sincerely do not believe that Donald Trump is so tremendously stupid or naive that he honestly believes that he is less anti-Semitic than every living Jew and less racist than every living African American.
As such, the only possible way that he could believe the sentence “I’m the least anti-Semitic/racist person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life” is if he either doesn’t conceive of Brian and me as being part of the “you” he is speaking to (which is weird, since I heard him say that in a live presser, and therefore literarily was part of that “you” at the very moment he spoke) or he does not conceive of us as being “people.”
Does this make him a racist or an anti-Semite?No, not at all; he’s a white supremacist, and he really and honestly doesn’t even think about me and Brian existing at all, nor how his words and silences impact our lives.
I imagine some of you are getting damn tired of hearing this, all this whining and “identity politics” that “divide America” by “drawing attention to our differences” because, after all, we’re all the same underneath. I hear you, and I understand. But I’m absolutely terrified that, in the absence of me saying this stuff, then you aren’t thinking about the fact that I exist at all, and might just do things—or fail to do things—that get me and my children killed.
UPDATE: Exactly twenty minutes after posting this I got an email telling me that a bomb threat had been called into my daughter’s daycare at 9:10 AM. They’ve evacuated the building, and my daughter is currently being hidden someplace secure, someplace I do not know where she is, while they sweep the building.
So here we are. This is my day. This is America in 2017.
1. Do you believe that the mainstream media has reported unfairly on our movement?
2. On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans? (Select as many that apply.)
I have never met Putin. I don’t know the guy.
3. 304 is way, way bigger than 332, 365, 379, 370, and 426?
4. Tremendous, tremendous win. So beautiful.
5. Bitches and douchebags, amiright? Yes. Yes.
6. Do you think it’s wrong for one man to kiss another man, or would you not disagree that such a thing is non-unacceptable?
7. Did you know that the current U.S. President lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, with another 8.7 million voters casting their ballots for third party candidates, making this the the most astoundingly lopsi—
FAKE NEWS! So dishonest!
Get over it!
The President’s use of revocable trust under his own SSN “to hold assets for the exclusive benefit of Donald J. Trump” and legally controlled by his son does nothing to insulate him from his international businesses—including hotels, which are currently a conduit for funds from foreign governments to directly benefit him personally.
(this one is sort of a sub-point of the above) The facile suggestion that “money from foreign governments will go to the U.S. Treasury, not the PotUS” is meaningless in the absence of a coherent and detailed question of how that would be done and a neutral, third-party auditing and verifying the same. Such a plan does not exist.
No one has a clue what the PotUS’s business dealings include, because he refuses to release his tax returns.
What you can do:
Call your reps and ask them to support Rep. Bill Pascrell’s request that the House Ways and Means Committee subpoena Trump’s tax returns for private congressional review.
Support Rep Jerry Nadler’s Resolution of Inquiry “directing the Department of Justice to provide the House of Representatives with any and all information relevant to an inquiry into President Trump and his associates’ conflicts of interest, ethical violations—including the Emoluments Clause—and Russia ties.”
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
I know it feels sorta like our democracy is crumbling right now, so I want to reiterate that a lot of this craziness is actually a sign of the our system working, not failing. Yes, we’re a month in and have yet to go a single business day without a new affront to decency and orderly government—but our institutions are still rooting out the weeds and shoveling the bullshit off the paths. Yes, there is always a risk of those instutitons being debilitatingly buried, but your actions—your daily calls, your protests, your agitation—are keeping this front and center in the news, and keeping feet held to the fire.
“On the campaign trail, Trump endorsed killing relatives of terrorist suspects, which is a war crime. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he told Fox News in December 2015.” (source)
If your position is “Trump said we should kill the families of ‘terrorists’—an abominable, authoritarian war crime—and now he’s doing just that!” well, way back in 2016, when we had a President with a Noble Peace Prize on his mantle, we dropped thousands of bombs on Yemen (google it), and it isn’t like those somehow magically only killed sworn soldiers of AQAP. A bomb dropped from a drone isn’t somehow more accurate than a highly trained SEAL with an excellent rifle standing in the same room as someone. But, man oh man, do we suddenly give a fuck about Yemen, and military operations in Yemen, and civilian casualties in Yemen! Better late than never, amiright?
Penn and Teller were scheduled to appear on Letterman, and so they prepared a new twist on a classic “broken and restored watch” routine. In their improved version, they’d borrow Letterman’s watch, smash it, then wheel out a big aquarium and sprinkle the parts in the water, where they’d dissolve and the fish would eat them. Letterman would then freely select one of the fish, Teller would scoop it out with a net, they’d gut and and ta-da!, there would be the whole, ticking watch in the fish’s guts!
But the network standards and practices lawyers wouldn’t let them do that trick; it’d be too brutal to have an animal killed on screen. So Penn and Teller re-jiggered the routine: Instead of an aquarium full of live fish, they’d wheel out a fishmonger’s ice table with six dead fish on it. They’d take the host’s watch, smash it, sprinkle the bits in the ice, the bits would dissolve, the host would freely select a dead fish, and Teller’d fillet it to reveal the watch. Standards loved it, the host loved it, and that’s what went on live TV.
The point of the story—which is the sort of thing that belongs in an atheist’s Bible—is that everyone was more comfortable with six fish dying instead of one, provided they didn’t have to watch.
Same here: Dozens, hundreds, thousands of Yemeni kids are killed by bombs Made-in-the-USA, and we’re fine with it—as long as we don’t have to see her fucking picture, as long as it’s done from 36,000 feet by a drone piloted by some dude drinking a Sprite in a cubicle at Creech AFB and there’s no chance of one of “our boys” having to come home in a box in order to git ‘er done! God forbid we should look at what our tax dollars are buying.
It’s harsh, but it’s an apt summation of American foreign policy: Killing people’s families is our business model.
It was our business model in 2016, it will continue to be in 2017, the party, skin color, generation, and gender of the president notwithstanding. If you don’t like that—well, you’re in decent company, because I don’t like it either. But let’s be honest with ourselves, and just take a damned second to sort out of we really don’t like being in the Murder Business, or if we simply dislike it when a mouthy, pudgy, tactless New Yorker is the one murdering on our behalf.
Finally, if you’re suddenly worried about Trump triggering “World War III,” then I invite you to consider something: Maybe—just maybe—WWIII has been going on for the last 15 years.We just outsourced all the suffering to developing nations—the same way we do with all the rest of our dirty work.
Maybe this is something else to talk about tomorrow, when you call your reps. I dunno; that’s between you and them.
Here’s the thing about dictatorial violations (be they as outrageous as genocide or as comparably mild as yelling at a barista for wishing a “Happy Holidays!”):
They rarely have the support of the majority of the population—and certainly never start with even half the population on board.Atrocities don’t require the majority’s active participation; they just need the majority’s active acquiescence.And the majority will acquiesce even to the most terrible crimes as long as those aren’t too far outside the norm.The wider the margin between “normal” and “atrocity,” the safer we all are; a pot that’s not allowed to even simmer can never boil over.
So here’s a game plan for keeping the Melting Pot lukewarm:
Learn these three sentences:
An honestly curious“I’m not sure I follow you?”(Other options: “Hunh; why do you think that?”)
A bemused: “You don’t really believe that, do you?”
A stern: “Not OK, dude.”Not angry—never angry, because anger energizes the mob—but stern, like scolding a dog or child.
Practice saying your sentences in a mirror. Make sure you’re getting the emotion right for each, and not getting angry.
Use these in person—over the phone or in conversation, your voice in their ear, your eyes on theirs.This tactic doesn’t work online or in print; it’s a matter of emotional connection, and that connection is made one-on-one, person-to-person.
Use this tactic with family and friends and coworkers and guys who are sorta being dicks in the coffee shop.Use it freely and often and in good humor. Connect and connect and connect and connect with your fellow humans, always keep them a little nervous about that “off-color joke” or that “innocent” cat call or “telling it like it is.”
Note that 1.1 and 1.2 are questions—because you always want to knock people off balance, and oblige them to question their beliefs and justify them (even if only internally).1.3 is simple, obvious, disengaged dissaproval.You wouldn’t argue with a child about running out in the street or a dog about whether or not your leg is for humping; you give a sharp “Nope!” and move on with your life.The same here.No one ever argued their way out of a genocide, but plenty of awfulness has been prevented by scolding grannies and scoffing naysayers.
Remember: If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, then the only thing needed for evil to falter is for good folks to do something—shit, almost anything, just as long as you aren’t sitting on your hands, biting your tongues, and looking the other way.Looking the other way is exactly what the lynch mob wants you to do.