Despite Trump’s praise of Rob Porter, domestic violence remains a deadly threat

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has received 4 million calls, texts, and chats in the last 20 years.

The emerging facts and photos about former White House staff secretary Rob Porter spell out a dark truth about the prevalence of domestic abuse.

It happens no matter how “strong” women are. White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway foolishly argued in a CNN interview that White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is dating Porter, was “immune” to such abuse because she was a “strong woman.”

Earth to Kellyanne: The perpetrator can be a Harvard graduate and a Rhodes Scholar, like Porter, or a high school dropout. He can work at the White House or be unemployed. He can be a Mormon or not take part in any religion at all. As Porter’s first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, the one with the black eye in the photos, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post:

Abuse comes in many forms. It is visited on the poor and the rich, the least educated and the most, people with a strong and deep network of friends and family and those without a support structure. And an abusive nature is certainly not something most colleagues are able to spot in a professional setting, especially if they are blinded by a stellar résumé and background.

Domestic violence is an equal-opportunity evil. It transcends race, economic status, income level, education level, religion, political party, sexual orientation, and ethnic background.

Of course, in the case of this White House, it wasn’t just one case. Speechwriter David Sorensen also resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse. Instead of having a black eye like Colbie Holderness, Sorensen’s ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, alleged that Sorenson ran a car over her foot and put out a cigarette on her hand.

Rob Porter was one of more than 100 White House staffers with only an interim rather than a permanent security clearance (a scandal all by itself) as late as last November. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders keeps telling ever-changing stories on why that’s so. When she’s not spouting that nonsense, she’s making laughable claims that “we’ve condemned domestic violence in every way possible.” Sanders touted the fact that the budget proposed by Donald Trump “fully funds” the Violence Against Women Act.

As if there should ever be any question about that funding. But in the age of President Grab-’em-by-the-pussy, nothing is sure.

Here are some quick facts about domestic violence:

  • The United Nations reports that worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
  • Every day, an average of three or more women in the U.S. are murdered by husbands or boyfriends, says a report from the American Psychological Association.
  • Also from the APA: One in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. More than one in three women and more than one in four men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every year, some 10 million women and men are victims of violence by their intimate partners.
  • In 2016, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (and loveisrespect, the hotline’s partner project for teens) answered nearly 325,000 calls, texts, and chats. The hotline (1-800-799-SAFE, or 7233) is open 24/7. Together, both programs have responded to a total of 4 million communications over the last 20 years.

Those are some pretty big numbers and impressive statistics. But apparently they aren’t big enough for Donald Trump.

Just like he did with the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Virginia (some “very fine people”), Trump refused to condemn Porter. Likely because of his own checkered history with women and the charges from 22 women about his own sexual misconduct, Trump always falls back on the “he denied it”  and “he says he’s innocent” lines, refusing to acknowledge the obvious. He praised Porter’s work (“We wish him well. It’s obviously been a tough time for him”) without a word about how tough it’s been for the two wives and girlfriend who were abused.

Comedian and satirist Randy Rainbow has some ideas why.

Trump was finally forced to grudgingly admit that he was “totally opposed” to domestic violence.

“I’m totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that. And it almost wouldn’t even have to be said. So, now you hear it, but you all know.”

We all know? Actually, we don’t know, because Trump tends to excuse men accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and trolling for teenage girls in shopping malls. Why acknowledge the harm done to women when there are so many great, stand-up guys to praise?

The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, a law that former Vice President Joe Biden always claims as one of his proudest accomplishments. It established the Office on Violence Against Women as part of the Department of Justice. Congress has reauthorized the law three times, although there have been fights over funding and pushback by Republicans over whether the law should apply to same-sex partnerships. (It does.) It also has been expanded to cover Native American women and undocumented immigrants, although since Trump took office, there have been numerous reports that many of those women now fear deportation if they report a partner and thus are making fewer calls.

Here’s what that office’s website has to say about domestic violence:

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.

Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children, who grow up witnessing domestic violence, are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life — therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society’s next generation of victims and abusers.

Yet Trump, the guy “totally against domestic violence,” hasn’t even nominated anyone to head the Office of Violence Against Women.

Actually, the most chilling facts about domestic abusers are these: More than one-half of all mass shootings in the United States are related to domestic or family violence. And nine of the perpetrators of the top 10 most deadly mass shootings in modern America committed violence against women, threatened violence against women, or disparaged women. Those with a history of domestic abuse are supposed by be barred from buying guns. But the quick-check doesn’t affect the guns already owned or those obtained in states with lax gun laws.

If all of this is not enough to take domestic abuse — not to mention the issue of gun safety — seriously, I don’t know what is. And in case there was any doubt: Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school, reportedly had a history of abusing an ex-girlfriend, fighting with the ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, and stalking and threatening other girls at school.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Feb. 18, 2018.

Path to resistance may travel through faith

A paper “quilt” of collages depicts numerous approaches to resistance.

There are countless ways to resist the current (and with any luck, temporary) occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Ever since the 2016 election and a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, people across the country have found ways to fight back. To resist.

Almost immediately, grassroots organizing evolved into local Indivisible groups. The thousands of groups across the country are locally based and have local agendas, although the group offers coordinated actions each week. “We’re not the leaders of this movement: you are,” the Indivisible website reminds us. The website also lets users search for local groups and events in their own areas.

Marching; attending town halls; calling, emailing, and pressuring elected officials; running for office; and (especially!) voting and getting others to vote all have been hallmarks of the modern resistance movement. While those tactics are hardly brand new, they have intensified and multiplied. But people have always protested, worldwide.

Some images of protest are burned into our brains. Who can forget the anonymous man who faced down Chinese tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in a huge student-led protest in 1989? The wave after wave of Indians protesting the British salt tax during the 1930 Salt March led by Mohandas Gandhi, only to be beaten and arrested by British troops? And we remember the searing image of Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis as a young man in 1965, joining the throngs going across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on a voting rights march and getting his skull cracked by state troopers’ batons.

This protest photo went viral. (REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman photo)

More recently, there was the July 2016 photo of a calm lone woman who stood up to police officers dressed in riot gear amid the protest of cops shooting an unarmed black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The protestor, Iesha Evans, was detained, and she later took to Facebook to assure friends that she was alive and well. Just as important was her message: “I appreciate the well wishes and love, but this is the work of God. I am a vessel!”

Anyone reading this may or may not believe in a higher power, and even such beliefs may not lead to political activism. But for some, the path to resistance is grounded in their faith.

Throughout history, resistance and protest movements have included people of faith, from every culture and every religion. Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church when he nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, 500 years ago and set the Protestant Reformation in motion. Gandhi based his movement of nonviolent civil disobedience in the early to mid-20th century in India at least partly on the Hinduism and Jainism he learned from his mother, along with a respect for all religions.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights movement and protests throughout the South in the 1950s and 1960s. He and a group of 60 pastors and other civil rights leaders formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which he was the first president. Many clergy were involved in the civil rights movement and in protests against the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.

An East German Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Christian Führer, started weekly prayer meetings in 1982 at his church in Leipzig to spread the message of peace during the Cold War. By October 1989, those meetings grew to the point where 70,000 people were on the streets to protest the Berlin Wall; a week later, the wall came tumbling down.

Despite acts of terrorism from Islamic extremists, the vast majority of Muslims around the world have been vocal against those attacks. In June of 2017, 10,000 Muslims gathered in Cologne, Germany, to rally against Islamic extremism. The sponsoring group was called NichtMitUns, or Not With Us. At the same time, some 300 imams in Austria signed a declaration calling ISIS the “black sheep” of Islam.

Today, using faith as a basis of protest is no different. Here are just two examples.

The Rev. John Pavlovitz writes about channeling his faith into the need to resist on his well-read blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said. Besides calling out Trump, he doesn’t shy away from criticizing conservative evangelicals who support him. And he’s unapologetic about resisting.

If you’re waiting for me to apologize for emotionally wounding someone with the suggestion that they may not be all that keen on people of color, or that they’re likely afraid of gay people, or that their nationalism is showing because they defend what’s happening here—it’ll be a long wait.

You may want to ask why you’re more willing to protest those who protest, than you are to speak into the injustice itself; why the only thing you feel burdened to openly resist is our resistance. You may be fighting the wrong battle, here.

If you’re more outraged by the tone of this President’s critics, than by his bigotry, dishonesty, misogyny, racism, and environmental recklessness—you’re enabling him, you’re normalizing him, you’re encouraging him.

The Rev. William Barber II has built a movement around Moral Mondays. Barber, who also served as president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, started Moral Mondays in 2007. What started as a move to protest actions by the North Carolina Legislature on issues such as voting rights and living wages has turned into a national movement. A Washington Post story about Barber described what’s behind his activism:

Barber’s admirers say his sermons and speeches, which have intertwined the religious tenets of love, justice and mercy that exist in all faiths with an American vision of morality baked into the Constitution, steal the moral high ground long claimed by political conservatives. …

Between 2013 and 2014, more than 1,000 people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience orchestrated by Barber at the state house in response to legislation.

Barber was one of the first in handcuffs.

He believes that the image of religious leaders getting arrested in full garb fired up like-minded people and was impossible for the media to ignore.

And if newspapers wrote about the arrests, they had to write about the reason behind the arrest.

Those supporting Trump aren’t afraid of using their faith as a basis for that support, even when that support is hypocritical. Eighty-one percent of conservative evangelicals backed Trump in the 2016 election—a figure that has dropped by a mere three percentage points despite continued revelations about Trump’s obviously nonreligious lifestyle. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Trump “gets a mulligan” for his alleged affair with and payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. And don’t discount religious “influence” from foreigners: The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington had more than three times the number of Russian attendees this year than it usually does.

I recently returned from a weekend retreat with some 60 women from two Chicago-area churches. Our theme for the weekend was “Resistance and Hope.”

We were more than ready for it. Many in our group—women ranging from college-age to those in their 90s—joined the Chicago Women’s Marches in both 2017 and  2018. Our involvement in political activities varies greatly, and, while many felt energized by the Women’s March, some wondered exactly what the best direction for all of that energy should be.

The Rev. C.J. Hawking

Our retreat leader was the Rev. C.J. Hawking, executive director of Arise Chicago, a faith-based organization that addresses workplace injustices. She is also a pastor specializing in social justice at another Chicago-area church and an adjunct instructor in labor and social movements. One of the first things we learned is that resistance can be defined many ways and take many forms.

“Resistance,” C.J. told us, “is an outward expression of the inward longing for all of us to be united as one human family.” She told of times in the labor movement when she had been arrested (14 times!) and described instances of wage theft where workers later found justice. For instance, a couple working at a car wash weren’t being paid a fair wage and didn’t get paid when there were no cars to wash in bad weather, even though they had to be at work. When both the father and mother were ill, the owner threatened to fire them if they didn’t show up to work, so their teenage children had to skip school to fill in. Arise Chicago found similar situations at car washes throughout the city. It took court intervention to resolve the injustice.

Resistance can take a faith-based approach, C.J. reminded us. Two of the original resisters can be found in the first chapter of Exodus. In Egypt, Pharaoh worried that the transplanted Israelis were becoming too numerous and made them slaves. He ordered two Hebrew midwives, Shiph’rah and Pu’ah, to kill any male newborns of Hebrew mothers. But they resisted and let the babies live. When Pharaoh demanded an answer why, they told him, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and are delivered before the midwife comes to them” (Exodus 1:19). It’s just like a man to buy that excuse.

You certainly could say that Jesus was a resister. Even the presence of Jesus on Earth was “to start a movement, not to build up institutions,” C.J. said. She firmly believes the resistance movement has a place for a faith-based contingency.

A 45 RPM adapter to protest the 45th president.

C.J. also gave us all a new protest symbol. If you’re old enough to remember buying singles, or 45’s, you remember the little plastic insert (official name: 45 RPM adapter) that allowed the 45 RPM record to fit and play on a turntable with a thin silver spindle that was designed to play an LP album at 33 RPM.

What better image to serve as a metaphor to adapt and fight the presidency of No. 45?

The path of resistance is different for each individual. Not everyone has the physical health or stamina to march. Taking part in such actions, with the chance of getting arrested, raises red flags for those worried about how an arrest record might affect chances of employment.

So whether your path to resistance takes you through a house of worship or not, that path will be what’s right for you. It’s just as important to protest an injustice at a local workplace or municipality as it is to participate in a national march.

“This isn’t about destroying what we hate,” C.J. said. “It’s about saving what we love.”

Originally posted on Daily Kos, Feb. 11, 2018.

Not just Cleveland Indians: It’s time to retire ALL offensive Native American logos

A new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian takes a look at the predominance of Native American images in American culture.

The news that the Cleveland Indians are finally retiring Chief Wahoo, the offensive, grinning image that serves as the team’s logo, is long overdue. But actually, it’s long overdue to get rid of every offensive image of Native Americans on sports teams, advertising, products and even official government seals.

The Indians won’t remove the image until 2019, which means the silly face with the single feather will still be on team uniforms, hats, and banners at Cleveland’s Progressive Field throughout the season. The team probably thinks it will earn public relations points for Chief Wahoo’s retirement while it unloads Indians’ merchandise that’s still in stock. (“FINAL YEAR!” You can see the ads now.)

The Indians are not the only team with a name or image that co-opts an offensive image of a Native American for profit—that’s true for teams throughout professional and college sports. Some have changed team names or removed the worst of the images, but too many still keep the red-faced logos.

As bad as the logos are, fan behavior (especially when fueled by alcohol) can be even worse. Use of these logos often encourages some fans to emulate the teams’ images, showing up to games wearing headdresses and other interpretations of Native American garb.

Here are just a few examples—and a look at a new exhibit at Washington’s National Museum of the American Indian that highlights the problem.

The Washington Redskins are still one of the biggest offenders, but don’t expect team owner Daniel Snyder to come up with a new team name. “We’ll never change the name,” he told USA Today in 2013. “It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.” Oh, and Snyder also donated $1 million to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Most sports team owners tend to be Republicans who donate money to GOP politicians while demanding local tax breaks for new stadiums.

In Illinois, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (full disclosure: my alma mater) retired the mascot of Chief Illiniwek in 2007. For years, many groups, including Native American organizations, had lobbied for the removal of the barefoot dancer dressed in buckskin and feathered headdress and adorned with orange and blue warpaint who danced and entertained the crowds at halftimes of football and basketball games. It finally came down to money: The NCAA ruled that no post-season tournaments could be held on the campus as long as the mascot was still around.

But fans refuse to give up “the Chief.” At a recent home basketball game, a student dressed in full chief regalia prepared to make an appearance, only to be stopped by a faculty member armed with a smartphone camera. As described in the Chicago Tribune:

Jay Rosenstein, a professor and filmmaker who has made a documentary critical of the symbol, said he went to the arena to investigate his suspicion that university employees were helping the Chief, an act he said would undercut the university’s agreement with the NCAA.

He overheard security guards talking about the Chief’s planned appearance, he said, and while recording with his cellphone, followed them to a bathroom he believed served as a staging area.

He said he walked in and encountered Illinois graduate Ivan Dozier, who portrayed the Chief from 2010 to 2015 and is part of the Honor the Chief Society.

Dozier’s version is slightly different. He said he spotted Rosenstein in a concourse and ducked into the bathroom to avoid a confrontation. Rosenstein soon entered, Dozier said, holding up his cellphone.

“He caught me between the urinal and the sink,” Dozier said. “It was definitely a violating experience. There was no way he would have known what he would have seen when he walked in.”

Rosenstein was arrested (“unauthorized video recording”) but the local state’s attorney declined to prosecute. He’s on paid administrative leave while the university investigates. And it wasn’t the only incident.

It was the third Chief-related dispute in recent months to draw police attention. In October, anti-Chief protesters temporarily blocked the route of the homecoming parade, and in a separate incident, a school employee allegedly tore up posters during a presentation Dozier was giving on Chief Illiniwek.

Eleven years after the removal of the Chief Illiniwek mascot, the university still hasn’t chosen a new one. A Tribune editorial thinks more is needed:

Sorry, but simply picking a new mascot isn’t going to solve the problem. College kids who fervently believe the Chief must live on aren’t going to be swayed by the new mascot in town, be it Eagle, Tiger, Bear or Duck.

They might be willing, however, to hear out a reasoned, back-to-basics discussion about how and why a prancing, headdressed mascot in war paint is offensive to many Native Americans. That’s the tack that Chancellor Robert Jones wants to take, and we think it’s the right move.

For some time now, the country has been moving — albeit slowly — away from stereotypical depictions of Native Americans. In the 1990s, the Marquette Warriors became the Golden Eagles. New York’s St. John’s University Redmen are now the Red Storm, and Miami University (Ohio) switched from the Redskins to the RedHawks.

See? It’s not hard to do.

The Smithsonian Institutions National Museum of the American Indian has a new exhibit called “Americans.” It gives a history of the how images of Native Americans became so prevalent in American life. This introductory video, “The Invention of Thanksgiving,” takes a look at that process.

The Los Angeles Times offered a glimpse of the new exhibit, which will run through 2022, in a recent story.

“Many Americans have no interaction with American Indians,” says Paul Chaat Smith, who co-curated the exhibition with Cécile R. Ganteaume, “yet they do know these images and symbols really well and have emotional connections with them.”

A central gallery, which serves as the exhibition’s spine, gathers examples of the ways images of indigenous people have been employed over the centuries: early government seals, fruit crate labels, a Native Barbie doll, an Indian brand motorcycle and even the aforementioned Tomahawk missile. It’s part of the phenomenon that Smith describes in his 2009 book, “Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong,” in which the American Indian became “a kind of national mascot.” …

“It’s looking at how those events entered the national consciousness and lingered there, and how, over time, they entered the popular culture,” says Ganteaume, who is also the author of the highly informative companion book, “Officially Indian: Symbols That Define the United States.” “We are walking the visitor through a shared history that is the history of the country.”

That shared history is wildly complicated. It is one of brutal dispossession, moments of triumph, curious celebrity and a historical narrative that has over time inextricably woven together the Indian with the American in ways that are both meaningful and spurious: the Indian Removal Act, the Battle of Little Bighorn and the tale of Pocahontas, who over the centuries has evolved from key historical figure to Disney princess to racialized term employed by a sitting U.S. president in reference to a senator’s purported Native heritage. …

But the most common visual trope when it comes to American Indians is linked to the cultures of the Plains: the image of an Indian man in an eagle feather headdress.

That image has been featured on T-shirts, matchbooks, feed sacks, baking powder (the still-popular Calumet), hydraulic brake fluid, World War I Army uniforms, fruit company logos, the cover of Cher’s 1973 “Half Breed” album and pouches of chewing tobacco (Red Man — still going strong). There are countless others.

The museum’s website lists other examples: the Land O’Lakes Butter maiden, classic Westerns and cartoons, episodes of Seinfeld and South Park. “Pervasive, powerful, at times demeaning, the images, names, and stories reveal the deep connection between Americans and American Indians as well as how Indians have been embedded in unexpected ways in the history, pop culture, and identity of the United States,” the website adds.

Hey, you think Donald Trump will ever stop referring to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas”? Nah, me neither.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Feb. 4, 2018.

 

#MemoDay: A tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. “To call Devin Nunes Donald Trump’s lapdog would be an insult to dogs and laps,” said comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

Congressional Republicans have shown they are willing to sacrifice what little honor they had left by backing the release of the infamous Devin Nunes memo alleging abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department. Too bad they will get nothing for their trouble but the increased enmity of the men and women of the entire U.S. intelligence community.

The memo is a tempest in a teacup. A nothingburger. To quote Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The focus of the memo written by GOP staffers from the House Intelligence Committee is the FISA warrant application for Carter Page, the former foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Page used to be an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, specializing in Russia and other Eastern European countries. He lived in Russia from 2004-07. A Bloomberg profile of Page described him as having “deep ties to Russian business” and being highly critical of U.S. sanctions against Russia.

The memo is an obvious attempt to undermine the ongoing investigation of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. It is filled with cherry-picked facts, claiming that a surveillance warrant on Page was obtained and renewed with information from a person “with an anti-Trump agenda” without mentioning other intelligence sources justifying the warrant. Here’s how The Washington Post sums it up:

It accuses former officials who approved the surveillance applications – a group that includes former FBI Director James B. Comey, his former deputy Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and current Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — of signing off on court surveillance requests that omitted key facts about the political motivations of the person supplying some of the information, Christopher Steele, a former intelligence officer in Britain. …

The memo is not an intelligence document and reflects information the committee has gathered, which Democrats, the FBI, and Justice Department have criticized as incomplete and misleading.

The memo’s release has been strongly opposed by those in the intelligence community because of the obvious harm it could cause for intelligence agents. The plans for the release even drew a public rebuke of Trump from the FBI.

The Post story further quoted California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committe who (unlike Nunes) has read the intelligence reports. Schiff pointed out the obvious: “No, Mr. President it’s worse than that. The country’s top elected leader has agreed to selectively and misleadingly release classified info to attack the FBI — that’s what would have been unthinkable a short time ago.”

Trump was on a Twitter rampage before the memo’s release, claiming that those same top people at the FBI and the Department of Justice obviously were “in favor of Democrats.” Here’s a reaction to that silly statement from one Democratic senator.

The memo’s release is drawing predictable reactions. Trump and congressional Republicans are thrilled, even though there’s no there there. Trump claimed that “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.”

I can think of lots of people who should be ashamed, and they all have an “R” after their names.

Trump and Republicans further claim they are releasing the memo because of the need for “transparency.”

You know what would be really transparent? The release of Trump’s taxes. That would give Mueller lots of information about the Trump family’s business dealings in Russia, and the American people could see just how deep those ties run.

Here’s one Republican who wasn’t so thrilled with the memo’s release.

When Macbeth speaks the line quoted at the beginning, he is referring to life, which he now sees as meaningless. His wife is dead, he has committed multiple murders, he has betrayed everyone around him, he is haunted by ghosts, and his power as king is fractured and gone. How long until Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress realize that “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage”?

We can only hope that Republicans’ hour may be running out before too long.

Documentary offers teen-level views on race issues in schools

High school cafeterias are often segregated, just like the rest of America. A new documentary series gives a look from teens’ perspectives.

Sometimes works of art reflect our own experiences; sometimes they reflect the country as a whole. The new documentary series America to Me seems to do both.

America to Me is a 10-part documentary series by filmmaker Steve James whose first five parts are now being shown at the Sundance Film Festival. It tells the story of a full year in the lives of students, families, teachers and administrators at Oak Park and River Forest High School. OPRF is a school with an enrollment of about 3,200 students in a progressive Chicago suburb that is racially and socioeconomically diverse. The series follows multiple students—African American, Asian-American, Latino, white, biracial—and listens to the choices they make in their lives.

America to Me follows freshmen through seniors, from those just starting high school to those who have seemingly thrown in the proverbial towel. By all accounts from those who have watched the beginning parts of the series at Sundance, it’s a rich, poignant, and sometimes painful story. It doesn’t hold back on what has been called the “achievement gap” between black and white students and the struggle to find why it exists and what to do about it.

Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune saw the first parts at Sundance and reports back:

It’s an unusually revealing mosaic, depicting in heart-rending detail a full, teeming year in the lives of students, parents and educators in the Oak Park and River Forest High School community. …

There are some indelible portraits here, of struggling, striving, hopeful teenagers and of instructors and administrators up against obstacles they can see and hear, as well as more elusive matters of racial bias, ingrained prejudice, white privilege (“to name a phrase,” James said, “that only existed in academia and critical theory up until recently”) and opposing educational beliefs.

Oak Park also happens to be where I live, and OPRF is where our two daughters went to high school. If the documentary series is anything like our daughters’ experiences, it will be a 10-part series worth watching—and learning from.

If you attended a racially integrated school, or if your children did, you probably hoped that racial issues would be simple and noncontroversial. But in America, nothing is simple.

In grade school, our daughters had both white and black friends in class, Girl Scout troops, drama groups, T-ball teams, ice skating shows, etc. Our younger daughter, especially, spent a lot of time hanging out with an African American friend who lived a few blocks away and whose mother also became a good friend of mine. When that friend went to a different middle school, as the mother was worried about atmosphere and the lack of academic challenge, the two girls lost touch. The adults did, too.

Despite interracial friendships, our daughters freely admitted that, yes, the grade school cafeteria was segregated. There were definitely “black” tables. Why? No one knew.

By high school, friendships had solidified, yet there were opportunities for more. New relationships often depended on class projects, after-school activities, teams, church youth groups. There were interracial friendships and interracial dating, and some of those friendships remain to this day. Yet racial divisions were still prevalent. Another viewer of the series reported in Indiewire:

James’ documentary investigates each possible facet for the widening gap between races. His cameras go home with students to see what their home lives are like. They’re at football games and school dances. They’re on the bike ride to school and after-school assemblies. Such presence pays off in many moving portraits of the children themselves, be it Kendale McCoy, a senior who gets up every morning at 5 a.m. to cut weight for the wrestling team, or Ke’Shawn Kunsa Jr., a junior who feels like he’s destined to the same fate after school no matter what he does in it (so he doesn’t do much).

Then there’s Tiara Oliphant, who loves cheerleading but notices that the dance squad is mostly made up of white kids while her team is almost all black girls. (The dance squad requires more experience to get in, like expensive classes outside of school some students can’t afford.) Charles Donalson Jr. is pretty popular, but he admits in the first episode that, growing up, “I wanted my life to be like the white kids because their lives seemed so perfect compared to mine.”

The racial achievement gap is a problem that our community faces each year. Our two girls were in honors classes, and they had fewer African American kids in their classes. It’s a constant source of discussion among parents, teachers and administrators as to why.

And it’s a nationwide problem that really isn’t getting any better. A 2016 national report found that, despite a variety of approaches over the last 50 years, the achievement gap is still wide. U.S. News and World Report had a story about an analysis of that report, quoting Eric Hanushek, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, who wrote the analysis.

But 50 years later, that gap has barely narrowed, Hanushek’s analysis shows. The average 12th grade black student, according to data from the 2013 National Assessment for Educational Progress, placed only in the 19th percentile. In reading, the achievement gap has improved slightly more than in math, but after a half century, the average black student scores at just the 22nd percentile. …

He estimates that if the achievement gaps continue close at such an incremental rate, it will be roughly two and a half centuries before the black-white math gap closes and over one and a half centuries until the reading gap closes.

Steve James

Steve James lives in Oak Park, and his own children graduated from OPRF, the last one in 2010 (which is a few years after our younger daughter graduated). He spent years seeking and finally obtaining permission to get nearly free rein at the school to follow his subjects in all aspects of their lives. He and his team shot about 1,300 hours of footage during the 2015-16 school year.

A local weekly paper, The Wednesday Journal, has covered James’s journey to make America to Me. “When I first presented this to the school board and we were trying to get permission to move forward, one of the points raised by a board member was, ‘How can you capture what goes on in this school in a single documentary?’ I agreed with that,” James said of his decision to turn the documentary into a multi-episode series instead of a single feature-length film.

James came to prominence with his 1994 documentary, Hoop Dreams, which told the story of two African-American teenagers dreaming of a professional basketball career and hoping that playing for a predominantly white suburban school would take them to the promised land of NBA stardom. As expected, their road wasn’t so simple.

Hoop Dreams won multiple awards from many film groups, including the Audience Award for Best Documentary at Sundance, a Peabody Award, a documentary directing award from the Directors Guild of America, and the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Non-Fiction Film.

Here is a preview of America to Me now being shown at Sundance:

James’s title for the series comes from a poem by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again,” which The Advocate called “The Antidote to Trumpism.” It was quoted by Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and contains the repeated lines, “America never was America to me.”

O, yes, I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

The full 10 parts of America to Me will air this fall on the Starz network (meaning—dang!—I will have to enhance my cable package or manage to get invited to someone’s house whose package includes it). According to The Wednesday Journal, Carmi Zlotni, president of programming for Starz, called the documentary series “extremely socially relevant and timely, which exemplifies our diversity strategy. Steve’s ability to bring the real and honest portrait of these students and the complex and compelling issues they face through this series is admirable.”

I can’t wait to watch it.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 28, 2018.

Mothers against gun violence running for office

Lucia McBath, center, was among the Mothers of the Movement, the mothers who lost sons and daughters to gun violence who addressed the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Now she’s running for the Georgia House of Representatives.

Fighting for legislative action against gun violence always seems like an uphill battle. But at least some activists are going a step further and running for office to try to pass common-sense gun safety laws.

Take Lucia McBath. She lost her son, Jordan Davis, in 2012 when a white driver approached the vehicle Jordan was in at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida. The white driver, Michael Dunn, complained that the teenagers’ rap music was too loud. Words were exchanged, and Dunn fired 10 shots into the teens’ car, killing Jordan. It took two trials, but Dunn was finally found guilty of first-degree murder in 2014.

McBath became active in the gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, eventually joining the staff as a national spokeswoman in charge of outreach to faith communities. Now she’s running for the 37th District of the Georgia House of Representatives in Atlanta, a seat now held by Republican Sam Teasley.

As it turns out, McBath isn’t the only activist against gun violence who is seeking office.

According to a story from ABC News, “a growing number of gun control activists, mostly women, [are] seeking elected office next year, especially at the state and local level.”

The trend is a perhaps a sign of a changing conversation nationwide over gun safety, but is also clearly the result of the work of an increasingly powerful grassroots lobbying group, Moms Demand Action. The organization has encouraged its volunteers to not only petition lawmakers, but run themselves.

Moms Demand Action was founded in 2012 after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 young children and six adults. Over just the past three years, it has grown from 4,500 active volunteers to nearly 70,000, with chapters in every state.

“For nearly five years, Moms Demand Action volunteers have been working in statehouses to demand that more is done to prevent gun violence,” the group’s founder, Shannon Watts, told ABC News. “I couldn’t be more proud of the volunteers who are now determined to run for their statehouses, school boards and city councils to ensure constituents’ voices are louder than gun lobbyists.”

The ABC News story describes McBath’s journey and that of two other candidates.

Amber Gustafson

Amber Gustafson is a lifelong gun owner and was a Republican until 2012. This year, the mother of three from Ankeny in central Iowa near Des Moines is running in Iowa Senate District 19—as a Democrat. She became active in politics after Sandy Hook and launched her state Senate campaign in October 2017, the day after the Las Vegas gun massacre that killed 58 people. The current incumbent is Republican Jack Whitver.

On her Iowa campaign website, Gustafson also talks about other issues such as health care, technology, education, community safety, and the environment. On her campaign’s Facebook page, she describes her stance on guns as “the radical middle ground.”

Gustafson faces an uphill battle, as the Republican incumbent in her Iowa district has won by big margins in past elections. But if we’ve learned anything from state elections in 2017, it’s that Democrats are outperforming conventional wisdom, winning seats in special elections where victories were unexpected and coming closer in what are normally not close races. Just ask Democrat Patty Schachtner, who this week won an election to be the new state senator in Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District, a district in the western part of the state that the former state senator, a Republican, won in 2016 with 62 percent of the vote.

Nancy de Pastino

Another example is Nancy de Pastino, who is running for the Montana House of Representatives District 91, from Missoula. The current state representative, Democrat Bryce Bennett, is not seeking re-election because of term limits and instead is running for the state Senate.

On her Montana campaign website, de Pastino lists her positions on jobs, the environment, public health, health care, and education.

Both Gustafson and de Pastino became active in Moms Demand Action after the Sandy Hook shooting. Neither was an activist before Sandy Hook. Both were especially affected because they had children who were also in first grade at the time. De Pastino started the first state chapter of Moms Demand Action in Montana and managed the group’s work in 17 other states. Gustafson worked directly with law enforcement and legislators to improve a bipartisan firearms bill in Iowa.

Much of the information on McBath’s website includes her work against gun violence. McBath was featured in the film Armor of Light which told the story of Rob Schenck, a conservative evangelical pastor and anti-abortion activist who turned away from guns after interacting with McBath. The film has been shown on PBS and is available on Netflix. Here’s the trailer:

By no means do these three candidates make up a comprehensive list. There are other Democratic women candidates who are gun safety advocates, too. Former Arizona Congress member Gabby Giffords, who was severely wounded when she was shot in the head at a constituent event in 2011, formed a gun safety group with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Their group, now called Giffords: the Courage to Fight Gun Violence, has announced primary endorsements of four women candidates running for Congress whom Giffords described as “champions for gun safety.” They are Ann Kirkpatrick, in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District; Angie Craig, in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District; Susie Lee, in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District; and Veronica Escobar, in Texas’ 16th Congressional District. Giffords’ endorsements also include three other women: Mikie Sherrill, in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District; Stacey Abrams, running for governor in Georgia; and incumbent Gov. Kate Brown, running for re-election in Oregon.

According to the ABC News story, Giffords’ political director, Isabelle James, sees the same interest on gun violence. “I definitely see a huge surge of candidates who want to run on this issue, candidates who want to make it a key part of their primary, who are trying to tell voters that being a gun violence prevention champion is a central issue of their campaign,” James said.

Win or lose, these women join the surge of women candidates running for office in 2018 in what could prove to be not only a blue wave but also a women’s wave. Whatever the outcome, they will move the conversations about guns forward.

Originally posted on Daily Kos, Jan. 21, 2018.

#WomensMarch2018: A laser-like focus on voting

No subtlety in the message of this year’s Women’s March.

Last year’s Women’s March was an angry reaction to the election of Donald Trump. This year’s march was about taking back power and voting.

That was the general theme and feeling of the marchers at this year’s Women’s March in Chicago, which had the theme, “March to the Polls.”

It certainly is.

We just got back from marching with fellow protestors in downtown Chicago. Many people thought we would get a lower turnout than last year’s 250,000 people, a number that greatly exceeded the expectations of 75,000. As of right now, the estimate for the size of today’s crowd from The Chicago Tribune is even higher — 300,000 (!) people.

Whatever the official number ends up being, there were a lot of people just itching to get themselves into a voting booth. There’s no doubt that 2018 is turning into the year of the woman.

Speaker after speaker reminded the huge crowd about the importance of voting in the Illinois primary in March and in the midterm election on Nov. 6. Not that anyone needed any reminders, judging by the signs they were carrying and the chants they were shouting.

Representatives of the League of Women Voters, carrying red balloons, were out in force to register new voters. Candidates for state legislative seats and even state attorney general were out in force. Many candidates carried signs echoing the sentiments on the cover of the latest issue of TIME: Last year they marched. This year they’re running.

As usual, the signs carried the day:

  • Grab ‘em by the midterms. (Variations: Grab ‘em by the polls, grab ‘em by the patriarchy, etc.)
  • Still here, still nasty, still voting.
  • Voting is my superpower.
  • I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.
  • I’m the daughter of immigrants from a shithole country.
  • Very stable women vote.
  • Can we put the smart people in charge now?
  • Women are the wall against Trump.
  • I have a dream that someday women will have the rights that guns have.
  • When they go low, we go vote.
  • Dear Mr. Mueller, please hurry!
  • Hey, shithole! Never, EVER piss off a Puerto Rican woman who has the power to vote.

Whoever thought of this: Brilliant.

I’ve got to hand it the Chicago organizers. They did such a fantastic job lining up music and speakers. We heard from mostly women activists, white, African-American, Latina, Muslim. They were able to raise enough money for all needed expenses, so that the huge crowd got to watch and hear the speakers on Jumbotrons.

One of the speakers was Monica Raymund, who stars on the series Chicago Fire. “Hey, Mr. Trump,” she said. “I’m a woman. I’m a Latina. And I’m queer. I’m your worst nightmare!”

And speaking of shitholes, the names of women who donated $100 for Porta Potty rental received extra special treatment. There’s something to tell your grandchildren one day: My name was on a Porta Potty to fight Donald Trump.

Besides all the pink pussy hats, there were new blue wave hats. Another theme seemed to be signs with photos of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia (including one women dressed as Princess Leia, bagel hair and all) and the message, “A woman’s place is in the Resistance.”

“Last year’s march was about waking up,” one speaker said. “This year’s march is making sure we stay woke.”

I don’t think there’s any chance of that.

You bet we will.

Sorry, Trump: Biggest U.S. terror threats come from white supremacists

Heather Heyer died in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a car driven by a white supremacist plowed into a group of protestors. But she wasn’t the only one who died at the hands of right-wing activists.

The Trump administration is trying to peddle tired stories and false conclusions about foreign-born terrorists as a way to argue against immigration, but these numbers are real: The most terrorist deaths in this country are committed by U.S.-born, right-wing white supremacists.

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism finds that the number of right-wing, terror-related deaths doubled in 2017. Extremists killed 34 people in 2017.

Unlike 2016, a year dominated by the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, committed by an Islamic extremist, a majority of the 2017 murders were committed by right-wing extremists, primarily white supremacists, as has typically been the case most years.

Yet Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are touting different figures, claiming that most terrorism convictions are of foreign-born terrorists. A new report from the Trump administration Department of Justice claims that three out of four individuals convicted on international terrorism charges in the U.S. were foreign-born.

The report restricted the definition of “terrorists” to those who are influenced by movements outside the U.S. (“international terrorism” included only Muslim groups) and did not include right-wing extremists. The report was even disingenuous enough to include people who committed acts in a foreign country and were brought to the United States to stand trial. So of course many of those people were born elsewhere. But they certainly aren’t immigrants. As House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer pointed out in a statement criticizing the DoJ report:

Their report cannot be taken seriously because it is so deeply misleading. The fraction of immigrants who engage in terrorism is minuscule, barely registering against the overwhelming share who contribute positively to our economy and national security. The report counts those who committed terrorist acts overseas and were brought here to face trial – such individuals are not “immigrants” by any stretch of the imagination.

I’m sure it’s merely a coincidence that this report was issued at the same time congressional negotiations are taking place over immigration and the fate of “Dreamers,” or those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

The Trump administration figures were so silly that very few were buying the claims.

Let’s go back to real facts. Here are a few other key findings from the ADL report:

  • The white supremacist murders included several killings linked to the alt right as that movement expanded its operations in 2017 from the internet into the physical world—raising the likely possibility of more such violent acts in the future.
  • An Islamic extremist still committed the single deadliest incident in 2017: the New York City bike path vehicular homicide attack, which killed eight people. Adherents of several different extremist movements, including white supremacists, anti-government extremists, and black nationalists, have also used vehicles to commit attacks in the U.S. in the past several years.
  • Firearms remain the most common weapon of choice for extremists committing deadly acts in 2017, followed by vehicles and stabbing/cutting implements.

A piece in The Atlantic further explained the ADL report and described numerous instances when white supremacists killed, attacked, or tried to attack African-Americans, Jews, and other minorities.

Global totals may tell a very different story, but in the United States far-right extremist murders far exceed those carried out by Islamic extremists over the last decade: 71 percent of all murders were carried out by right-wing extremists, and 26 percent can be linked to Islamic extremists. …

It is important to note that the deaths described here represent merely the tip of a pyramid of extremist violence and crime in the United States; for each person actually killed by an extremist, many more are wounded or injured in attempted murders and assaults. Every year, police uncover and prevent a wide variety of extremist plots and conspiracies with lethal intentions. Moreover, extremists engage in a wide variety of other crimes related to their causes, from threats and harassment to white collar crime.

Both the Justice Department report and the ADL report don’t include victims of gun violence, such as the 58 people killed in October in the Las Vegas shooting massacre. There’s a whole other group of terrorists to study.

Trump’s ‘fake news’ awards put him in dictator territory (UPDATE)

Who will win Trump’s dubious “fake news” awards? Who cares?

The undisputed king of fake news has been bragging about holding his own “awards” show: Giving out “THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR.”

Too bad a real group beat him to it. Now Donald Trump has been given a new title of his own in one of the “Press Oppressor” categories from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Trump has won the competition in (drum roll, please):

“Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom.” Congratulations, America.

The CPJ announced the awards in advance of Trump’s giving out his fake news awards, if he ever gets around to it. Since Trump is so bad at follow-through, he has already postponed his fake news “awards ceremony.” He first tweeted (how else?) that his “awards” would be given out on Jan. 8. Then, for no apparent reason except that he likely had an overload of “executive time,” the awarding of the dubious honors was postponed until Jan. 17.

To paraphrase Hamilton, tweeting is easy; governing (and award shows) are harder.

So the U.S. president, who is always so willing to throw the First Amendment in the dumpster, has joined the ranks of some of the world’s worst despots and dictators in tamping down journalistic freedom. That’s Trump—he always finds new ways to lower the bar. I guess #MAGA really means “Make America Goose-step Again.”

As described on its website, the Committee to Protect Journalists is an “independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.” Its 40-person committee is composed of journalists and experts on five continents. When a reporter is threatened, the committee mobilizes correspondents “who report and take action on behalf of those targeted.” For more than 35 years, the committee has kept track of journalists who are imprisoned, kidnapped, and killed. Nearly 1,300 journalists have been killed since 1992, and 44 were killed in 2017.

Trump and some of his fellow “Press Oppressors.”

In the wake of Trump’s announcement about his “fake news awards,” the CPJ published a blog post to announce its own “Press Oppressor” awards. Trump is now in such non-august company as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, and China’s Xi Jinping.

All the winners of the CPJ awards are “world leaders who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media,” said the committee in its announcement. “From an unparalleled fear of their critics and the truth, to a relentless commitment to censorship, these five leaders and the runner-ups in their categories have gone above and beyond to silence critical voices and weaken democracy.”

Erdoğan was a winner in two categories: “Most Thin-Skinned” (Trump was the runner-up), and “Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press.” “Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 73 behind bars,” the committee said in its explanation of its choices for Erdoğan.

Here’s the reason why Trump was chosen for “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom.”

The United States, with its First Amendment protection for a free press, has long stood as a beacon for independent media around the world. While previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad. Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi, Erdoğan, and Sisi. Authorities in China, Syria, and Russia have adopted Trump’s “fake news” epithet, and Erdoğan has applauded at least one of his verbal attacks on journalists. Under Trump’s administration, the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists’ sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression. As Trump and other Western powers fail to pressure the world’s most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom, the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high.

What Trump is doing is dangerous and despicable, but it’s nothing new. While the 2016 election was awash in actual fake news on social media, much of it spread by Russia, Trump criticized attempts at legitimate reporting at every turn and brainwashed his Trumpinista followers into believing him.

Elections in other countries such as France, the United Kingdom, and Germany also were on the receiving end of actual fake news electoral assaults, again mostly sponsored by Russia. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron plans to introduce a law to ban online fake news during French election campaigns. According to a story in The Guardian:

New legislation for websites would include more transparency about sponsored content. Under the new law, websites would have to say who is financing them and the amount of money for sponsored content would be capped.

For fake news published during election seasons, an emergency legal action could allow authorities to remove that content or even block the website, Macron said. “If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must be strong and have clear rules,” he added.

It’s unclear how that idea would fit into U.S. law, but it will be interesting to see how it affects French elections if the proposal is enacted. Another way to combat actual fake news is to use one of the many tools to sniff it out, such as this field guide by publicdatalab.org. The guide “explores the use of digital methods to study false viral news, political memes, trolling practices, and their social life online,” and can be downloaded for free. The Poynter Institute for Media Studies calls it a cookbook for investigating fake news.

In the meantime, Trump will keep touting his fake news claims. Late-night comedians in the U.S. decided to nominate themselves for Trump’s dubious honors, and get in a little fake news trash-talking at the same time. Stephen Colbert of The Late Show took out an actual “For Your Consideration” billboard in New York’s Times Square, just as movie studios advertise for film honors during awards season:

Who wouldn’t be proud to earn the “Eric Trump Memorial Award for Disappointment”? “Best Sound Mixing”? “Best Chex Mixing”?

Colbert labeled these awards #TheFakies. “Nothing gives you more credibility than Donald Trump calling you a liar,” he said in one of his monologues.

Well, take that, Colbert. Trevor Noah of The Daily Show launched a fake news awards campaign of his own with a full-page ad in The New York Times:

The Daily Show also touted itself as “Fake News You Can’t Believe In.”

And what does Samantha Bee of Full Frontal have to say about all of this?

A story on Vox about Trump’s fake news awards also described the reaction from ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.

“The ‘Stupid People’s Choice Awards’ is what they’re calling it,” Kimmel said. “This is a real dilemma for the president, because on the one hand, he loves awards and trophies, but will he be physically able to give a trophy to someone other than himself? I don’t think so.”

Added a story from Slate: “After all, what could be a greater honor than being crowned the best liar by the world’s most famous liar of all?”

UPDATE: As expected, we might not have #TheFakies after all. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the fake news awards have been downgraded to a “potential event.” What is there to say but — Sad!

NEW UPDATE: OK, the “awards” were finally announced in a blog post at a website that didn’t even work for several hours. The Washington Post did a little fact checking and found (surprise!) that some of the “fake news awards” were pretty fake themselves.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 14, 2018.

Dear world: We apologize for this shithole of a president

Just when you think Donald Trump can’t go any lower, he always finds a way.

There has been swift and worldwide condemnation of Trump’s remarks questioning why the U.S. should accept immigrants from Haiti and other “shithole” countries — you know, where black people come from — and why America doesn’t take more from countries like Norway — one of the whitest of the white. Trump was meeting with congressional leaders on immigration issues, once more see-sawing between “signing whatever you put in front of me” (his words earlier in the week) and his descent into the shithole in the latest meeting.

Condemnation of Trump’s racist remarks came from all corners — except from congressional Republicans. Only four members of the GOP criticized him, while the others kept silent, blamed his incendiary words on political naivete, or dragged out the old chestnut of being “not politically correct.” (House Speaker Paul Ryan finally was forced to weigh in, saying only that the Trump remarks were “unfortunate and unhelpful.” That’s not nearly good enough, you wuss.)

Trump tried to tweet back his racism, claiming that the shithole remark “wasn’t the language that was used,” but acknowledged that the language was “tough.”

(Not that we should ever believe anything the shithole-in-chief says — we’re not quite a year into his presidency, and he’s already told more than 2,000 lies, according to the running count of falsehoods and misleading statements from Trump by The Washington Post. It’s also worth noting that the White House has not denied the remarks, even suggesting that they might help with Trump’s base.)

Trump’s hate speech was confirmed by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was in both immigration meetings. In an account from NBC News:

“(Trump) said things which were hate filled, vile, and racist,” Durbin told reporters.

“The most disheartening thing to me is my belief that that was the first time words that hateful had been spoken in the Oval Office of the White House,” Durbin added. “I think back at presidents throughout history and I cannot imagine a moment where a president sunk to that depth, that’s what breaks my heart.” …

“He said, ‘Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?’ And then he went on when we started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure. That’s when he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from ‘shitholes,’ Durbin said. “The exact word used by the president, not just once, but repeatedly.”

You know who has been silent about Trump’s language? The Republicans in the room.

That’s actually six, but the point is the same. Durbin added that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham did call out Trump during the meeting for use of the vile words. But Graham has been silent since.

Nothing about Trump’s racist language is new:

  • Trump’s history as a real estate developer includes settling with the federal government over his racist and discriminatory housing practices.
  • He continued to favor convictions for the Central Park Five, the black and Latino young men accused and later exonerated for a brutal rape in New York City after DNA evidence showed that they were not guilty. Trump continued his hate campaign even after another man confessed to the crime.
  • When Trump descended his Trump Tower escalator in June 2015 to announce his candidacy, his remarks were filled with hate speech about Mexicans and other non-white immigrants, claiming that Mexico was sending rapists, drug dealers, etc.
  • Trump’s entire 2016 presidential campaign was based on appealing to the racism of angry whites, especially men, with his constant calls for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Despite his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, he’s requesting $18 billion from Congress (and thus U.S. taxpayers) for its construction.
  • After the white supremacists’ march in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which one of the alt-right participants killed a protestor with his car, Trump refused to condemn the alt-right marchers, saying there were good and bad people on “both sides.” Remember, these were NAZI supporters we’re talking about.

We could go on and on, but it’s just too disheartening. The candidate who received 26 percent of the vote from all eligible voters, lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million, and yet somehow eked out a win in the Electoral College, with the help of Russian influence on social media, is proving to be the most hate-filled president ever to sit in the Oval Office. As the poet Maya Angelou said, which Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton repeatedly reminded us during the campaign, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan truly is a wish to “Make America White Again.”

So to the rest of the world: We’re sorry. Most of us didn’t want him, and we wish the rest of you didn’t have to face the hate that we hear daily.

We’re stuck with him, but the rest of the world has had enough. Multiple countries issued letters of condemnation. The U.S. ambassador to Panama resigned, saying he could no longer work for this administration. The UN human rights office condemned the remarks. According to a story from The Guardian:

“There is no other word one can use but racist,” the UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a Geneva news briefing. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

The African Union said it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s language. “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told the Associated Press. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”

Tweeted former Mexican President Vincente Fox, who has never been shy about criticizing Trump’s racism:

More and more, we’re stuck with a hateful, foul-mouthed racist who not only is lowering the level of public discourse but also is lowering America’s status in the world. Trump was forced to cancel an upcoming trip to the United Kingdom to dedicate a new U.S. embassy. His nonsensical reason was to blame President Barack Obama, but the real reason was the fear of widespread protests. Tweeted London Mayor Sadiq Khan:

In a way, it’s too bad the visit is cancelled, because some British comedians had a somewhat (ahem) cheeky reception planned:

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