Put on your Hazmat suit and Sewer Boots, we’re visiting The Daily Stormer

 

Stepping into dogshit isn’t the most pleasurable thing, but journalists sometimes have to subject themselves to nasty experiences in order to understand and report what’s really happening. It was in this intrepid spirit of discovery that I visited the website of The Daily Stormer [TDS], which calls itself “the most censored publication in history.”

I don’t know that that characterization is accurate; at any rate, the “other” most censored publications in history—Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Lolita, The Satanic Verses—are High Literature, whereas The Daily Stormer is the dogshit to which I referred. But as I say, in the spirit of journalism, I offer you this brief description of it, so that you, yourself, don’t have to go there.

Most of TDS’s articles are on these topics:

Pro-Trump

Anti-European

Anti-Immigrant

Pro-Homophobia

Anti-Media [except for fox]

Anti-Black

Pro-Nationalism

Anti-Semitism

of which the last, anti-Semitism, constitutes the core of TDS’s raison d’etre. The attacks on Jews are truly bizarre: it’s not in the particulars, which vary from day to day, but in the psychoneurotic obsession the site’s writers have with Jews. Do they secretly envy us? Hitler too suffered from this obsession; it drove him insane, and because nobody stopped him, 80 million people died, large tracts of Europe were reduced to rubble, and Germany ceased to exist as a country.

Trump may have a similar legacy; we’ll see. In the meantime, if there were a satiric publication that pretended to be anti-semitic, a sort of Colbert Report parody of race-baiting violence, TDS would qualify. It’s so patently ridiculous–think Mad Magazine–that you can hardly believe these people are serious. “Jewish Comic Book Propagandist Stan Lee Finally Dies.” I mean, really?

 The National Enquirer achieved its reputation for satiric humor with funny headlines like “Supreme Court Justice Scalia Murdered By A Hooker.” Intelligent people understood that the Enquirer’s stories were fake, and that its headlines were written by very talented, rather cynical New Yorkers who knew how to catch shopper’s eyes. What we didn’t know (but do now) was that the Enquirer’s publisher, David Pecker, was a closet supporter of Trump; Pecker’s lies were meant to influence feeble-minded, low-information white people to hate on Democrats.

The Daily Stormer is the online equivalent of The National Enquirer. Much creative effort goes into crafting its articles  in a way that maximally excites white, rightwing nationalists. TDS’s publisher, Andrew Anglin, works in the David Pecker mold, with an additional twist: his idol is Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist, who invented many of the modern techniques of inciting race hatred amongst the neurotic, frightened masses.

(Standup segue: Here’s a headline inspired by the National Enquirer and The Daily Stormer: Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin Caught in Gay Sex Orgy With Eric and Donald Trump Junior)

The name, Daily Stormer, was appropriated by Anglin from the newspaper Der Sturmer, one of the Nazi Party’s favorite rags (which, incidentally, Hitler privately ridiculed). TDS’s connection with Nazis stems directly from Anglin’s fascination with them; his most memorable quote is By the Grace of God, I found Adolf Hitler.”

I have found myself lately caught up in debates over what constitutes free speech. Rightwingers have criticized my writings concerning Isabella Chow, the conservative Christian who is leading the anti-transgender fight on the U.C. Berkeley campus. Her supporters ask me why I would censor Chow but allow, say, Bernie Sanders to speak on campus. My response has been that not all “free” speech is equal. We do not allow certain forms of speech that are based on inciting violence. You can’t tweet that you want to kill Trump without expecting a nasty visit from the Secret Service.

Free speech is an important issue, and we do have to tread cautiously when we make decisions about what’s allowed and what isn’t. When all those social media companies—Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Spotify—removed Alex Jones’ (Info Wars) content, they certainly engaged in censorious behavior: let’s be clear about that. But they made the decision—correctly, in my judgment—that preventing the violence Jones’ comments provoke outweighs in importance protecting his free speech rights.

Surely we can agree with their decision: some forms of expression have to be eliminated to protect domestic tranquility, a phrase the Founders included in the Preamble to the Constitution, by which they meant that peace, calm, and law and order ought to prevail in America, for the benefit of all. When you have voices like Jones’, Anglin’s, Chow’s and, yes, Trump’s instigating hatred and fear, that is the opposite of “peace and calm.” They provoke, not domestic tranquility, but domestic terrorism. Unless you desire domestic unrest—which can lead only to the worst possible outcome—you have to be in favor of silencing these voices. If you had a wound you wouldn’t keep picking at it; you’d leave it alone to let the body’s natural defenses heal you. Same thing: Jones, Anglin, Chow, Trump, they all pick at America’s wounds. They don’t want healing.

But why not? They, themselves, are not honest enough to admit their motives, leaving the rest of us to infer what they’re really up to. Here’s my suspicion: they want civil war. They really do. They think their young white thugs are tougher, stronger, more numerous and better equipped at warfare than we snowflake, elite, gay coastal liberals, if it comes to shooting. That’s where things stand: and with each passing day, I sense what’s coming: open battles in the streets in America, the immediate spark being the Right’s insistence that nothing happen to Trump no matter what criminal activities Mueller proves him to have committed. The rest of us—the majority–will insist on Justice being done. Justice will not be done, if Trump and his brownshirts prevail. The clash will be a stark illustration of that old, rhetorical question: “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” We’re about to find out.

 

What hath Trump wrought?

 

If you haven’t yet seen this picture, look at it.

Study it well. Notice how almost all of the dozens of young white men have their right hands raised in the Nazi “Heil Hitler” salute. Notice, too, that some of them (the young man fifth from the left) have their fingers in the “white power” sign.

What hath Trump wrought?

Notice, finally, their facial expressions. They’re all laughing.

All of these men are juniors at Baraboo High School, which is in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The photo was taken late last week.

What’s going on here?

Unless this was some kind of seriously miscalculated joke (which I don’t for a moment think it was), these young men are white nationalists, or neo-nazis, or white supremacists, or fascists—call it what you will. All of them are proud of it—proud enough to have posed for the photo and then put it up on Twitter (from which it has since been removed). And all of them were inspired by—

Whom? Yes, dear readers, you know the answer as well as I do. Trump. He has signaled unstable white people like these Baraboo juniors that it’s Open Season on minorities: African-Americans, Muslims, gays, Jews. It’s okay to come out of the hate-closet. It’s okay to celebrate being a Nazi in America.

Once upon a time, decent people didn’t publicly advertise their racial and religious animosities. They may have felt them internally. But something—call it conscience, or social mores, or the fear of being shunned—made them keep their hatred to themselves. This was a good thing, from a societal point of view. It promoted social cohesion, fostered politeness and good manners, prevented fights, and perhaps made hateful people a little more reflective when it came to examining their own biases.

And then the Republican-Trump Party came along. While its antecedent causes long brewed in the dark national background, it was, of course, Trump himself who lit the fire. Three years ago, it would have been unthinkable for these Baraboo morons to pose for that picture. Today, they know they have the permission and encouragement of the most powerful man in America—a white nationalist like themselves. They have abandoned their consciences, or what was left of them, and declared themselves free of the “political correctness” that doesn’t let them express their real feelings.

This is what Donald J. Trump has wrought.

The Baraboo furor immediately erupted on Twitter in several places, but if you’re interested, check out #Baraboo. It seems to me, reading the string and others, that Baraboo High School’s administration was aware of racism running rampant and did nothing to address it. Baraboo’s principal, Lori Mueller, has come under heavy fire, despite her defensive statement containing the usual platitudes: “not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District,” blah blah blah. As one person tweeted to Mueller, “Funny, you were fine not addressing this racist scourge until the photo went viral.” Another told her, You might want to tell your little nazis that the world sees #Baraboo to mean “Never Hire Me,” or “Never Accept Me To College.” Some of these kids is going to lose scholarships over this. On your watch. Nice work. The adults in your town and you have miserably failed.”

That was my initial reaction when I saw the photo. These idiots really have to suffer profound consequences. No slap on the wrist. No essays on “Why I shouldn’t have done that.” Serious consequences. We know who they are because they weren’t even smart enough to mask their faces. Every potential employer should be notified of what they did. What business would even consider hiring anyone with such racial animus and poor judgment? For that matter, what college or university would accept any of them?

Harsh punishment, yes, but when you’re dealing with a lethal virus, you have to take extreme measures to eradicate it. America is in a very serious situation and we have to combat it by any means necessary. That photo was not a joke. Its intention is clear. Its ramifications are extraordinarily dangerous, especially considering that we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Red districts across America are filled with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of similarly-minded neo-nazis. These Baraboo thugs aren’t alone. Their brothers and sisters are everywhere, and they’re all listening to the same propaganda: Fox “News,” Breitbart, Alex Jones, Stormfront, Limbaugh. This is happening under our noses; we cannot pretend that all is well, or we’ll end up with these maniacs taking over.

Here’s the Baraboo School District’s twitter page.

Here’s the Contact page for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

If you’re outraged by this deplorable incident, and want to express your feelings to the authorities in charge, now you know how to do so.

Hating on trans folk: The moral collapse of the Christian right

 

My blog on transphobia, published yesterday, was highly critical of a University of California, Berkeley student named Isabella Chow, who claims to be a loving Christian but is one of the leaders on her campus to marginalize transgendered people and deprive them of their rights. After I published an open letter to her on her Facebook page, her friends rushed to her defense. They offered the most pitifully weak rationales for siding with her—rationales that a six-year old could easily destroy. But for me, the most objectionable is their theory, constantly resurrected by rightwing religious extremists, that the Founding Fathers were bible-thumping Christians, the implication being that America is a Christian nation.

Nothing is more unacceptable to those who understand History, and who respect our Constitution.

I don’t know what educational level Chow’s friend, Jonathan Sarfati, has reached, but his ignorance of our country’s roots is profound. (His spelling and factual errors suggest a limited education.) He wrote:

This [First] amendment [to the Constitution] was to marginaliza [sic] the government [sic], not Christians. When Jefferson talked about the extra-constitutional [?] phrase of separation of church and state, he was talking about protecting the church from being invaded by the state.

Can you believe it? Here’s what the First Amendment actually says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. It seems to me, and I would think all reasonable people would agree, that this twofold proposition grants to religion the freedom not to be interfered with by government, and grants the American people the right not to have the Congress (the lawmaking branch of government) interfered with by religion.

That’s a wise solution to an old problem: our Founders really got it right. But it’s easy to see that religious fanatics like Sarfati believe only in the first part of the equation (no government interference in religion) but not the second (no religious interference in government). And, in fact, they allege that any attempt to limit religious interference in government represents governmental interference in religion! How weird is that? It’s like saying that if a cop arrests a crook, the cop is interfering in that crook’s freedom!

Of course, these radical Christians want to protect the ability of their particular religion to interfere in government. That’s why they elect fanatics, like Marsha Blackburn, to Congress. They want their religion to influence the debate on gay rights, on abortion, on taxes (Does Jesus really have a position on tax rates?), on the rights of corporations as opposed to the rights of the people (Was Jesus in favor of Citizens United?), on protecting the environment, on creches in front of City Halls, on Christian crosses on public lands, on forcing school children to accept Christian prayers in the classroom, on Trump’s Muslim ban, and on almost every issue you can name. They want to reshape the laws of America so that they foster evangelical/fundamentalist/Catholic/Mormon values, not democratic, pluralistic ones.

Another of Chow’s friends accused me, predictably, of being a Christian-basher. I replied, No, I’m not. Jesus was a Jew; as a Jew, I love his teachings. It’s what the church later became that is offensive. There are many branches of Christianity I respect: Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, in fact any Christian branch that welcomes LGBTQ people. But I an unalterably opposed to the rightwing, Trump-affiliated, homophobic sects, of which the leaders are Catholics, Mormons, evangelicals and fundamentalists.

People like Chow and Sarfati want government to keep its hands off religion (well, their religion, anyway). But they want their religion to get its hands all over our government. (By the way, the Chow-Sarfati argument that religions in America should be free of government interference clearly doesn’t apply to non-Christian religions, such as Islam, Wicca, Native American, etc., which these Christian extremists, led by the former agnostic, now newly-born Christian, Donald Trump, would like to see extirpated from our shores. It’s also bizarre that Chow, who I believe is of Chinese descent, apparently has forgotten that the Chinese were the LGBTQ community of California 150 years ago–hated and discriminated against by–guess who?–Christians!)

Another defense of Chow that is being peddled by her friends is that she’s a decent, loving Christian woman who has only the warmest and most tender feelings towards LGBTQ people. Here, for instance, is Amanda Raghunandan, advancing this howler: “[Chow] has not bashed the lgbtq community, she has been polite in explaining her stance. However, for doing so she has been bashed and harassed by the students at UC Berkeley.”

As I wrote yesterday, this is reminiscent of the Spanish inquisitor, Torquemada, “praying for the souls of ‘heretics’ even as he stretched them on the rack, waterboarded them, tore out their entrails, and set fire to the kindling (the ‘faggots’) upon which their bodies were bound.” I can see Chow saying “I love you” to a gay person, even as she gives them electroshock conversion “therapy.”

The Spanish Inquisition started a war against “heretics,” mainly Jews and Protestants, a war they could not and did not win, and that has stained the Roman Catholic church with a deserved reputation for violence and truth-squashing—a stain that mars the church to this very day, when they have spent billions of dollars defending pedophile priests and covering up their indefensible sexual crimes against children. How anyone could conceivably still view the Roman Catholic church as a legitimate institution, worthy of respect, is beyond me; and I will add fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity and Mormonism to that list of deplorables.

We have got to recognize that there are dangerous people in this country, self-identifying as Christian, who pose a clear and present danger to our way of life. I’ve had it up to here with trying to be reasonable with them, with trying to bargain with them, with trying to teach them that LGBTQ peoples’ rights are worth defending. I mean, their favorite president is a serial adulterer, and they don’t care! I’ve had it up to here listening to their nonsense about the bible, a concoction of fairy tales. I’ve had it up to here with them trying to sneak their hatred and prejudice into our laws. They have to be resisted—indeed, that is one of the main tent-poles of The Resistance against Trump. And let’s remember this: The Resistance just won the midterms in a massive, historic, still-building Blue Wave! So Chow, Sarfati, Raghunandan and all who would destroy American democracy and create a theocracy: you have been repudiated by the great majority of the American people. We don’t want you! Please go away. Nurse your grievances within the halls of your churches and prayer groups, and leave the rest of us alone!

Trans hatred: Who the hell are these people? [Hint: “Christians”]

 

Years ago, I wrote an article about transgendered people in the East Bay. This had been a population little known to the vast majority of Americans, including myself. But over a course of weeks of research, I came to know, and admire, these people, and still do. I don’t pretend to understand the “hows” or “whys” of their gender dysphoria. But I respect their courage and desire to change, and the incredible amount of time, money and energy they must commit. Let’s not forget the physical pain they must endure. All this is not to even mention the hatred and resentment they get on a daily basis from so many straight people.

The transgendered community’s coming-out process to America hit high gear with Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner. When she came out as trans, the news was a sensation. Suddenly, the LGB community had a new letter: T (“Q” has now joined the list). Americans who wanted to do the right thing found themselves scurrying to learn how to be “T”-friendly.

In practice this usually happened on a local level: businesses and civil governments added “T” to the ranks of those against whom discrimination was not permitted. (Trump lately has become the leading trans-hater in America.) Among the organizations that opted to be trans-friendly was the University of California at Berkeley. On Oct. 31, the Student Senate there held a hearing and vote on a proposal to more strongly support the rights of trans people on campus. Eighteen students voted in favor.

One abstained: Isabella Chow, a 20-year old junior majoring in business administration and music.

Had Chow simply registered her abstention and remained silent, probably the resulting furor would not have occurred. But Chow chose instead to issue a “statement” explaining her position. She proclaimed her allegiance to a specific religion: “As a Christian, I personally do believe that…God created male and female at the beginning of time, and designed sex for marriage between one man and one woman.” Chow seems to have anticipated how controversial her remarks would be, because she went out of her way to condemn bullying and bigotry. But, she told trans people, “at the bottom of my heart, I do not believe that your choices are right or the best for you as an individual.”

Chow got the backlash she feared and deserves. Hundreds of students signed a petition asking her to resign as a Student Senator. She’s been attacked on social media, and the Daily Californian (U.C. Berkeley’s widely-read student newspaper) heavily criticized her. In response, Chow has refused to quit her position, “because if I do, there will be no one else to represent the voices that are ignored and misunderstood on campus.”

She means “Christian” voices, but, of course, not all Christians, and perhaps not even a majority, are as transphobic as Chow. Clearly, her particular branch of Christianity, whatever it is (evangelical, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian?) has taught her to take this extreme position. Here is a comment I posted on her Facebook page:

It is very sad that a few religious cultists wish to impose their hateful views upon everybody else. Here in America, we have something called the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that absolutely prohibits government from embracing any particular religion. Sadly, these Christian extremists do not believe in the Constitution. They think that they, and the bigoted “preachers” who teach them to hate, should be determining our laws and practices. Well, that’s not going to happen. We must stand up to the religious right, to Ms. Chow and her supporters, and to the bullies who bash the LGBTQ community. I doubt that Ms. Chow will comprehend these truths because her mind has been so polluted with disinformation. But while she continues to be mired in the swamp of bigotry, the rest of us can sideline her and her associates and make sure they have no power whatsoever to enact their Taliban-like theocracy.

I remain convinced that the greatest threat to our American freedom and democracy are people such as Isabella Chow. Can someone explain to me the difference between her sect, and the maniacs who rule Iran, or the Taliban, or the mullahs teaching stupidity and intolerance in their madrassas? It may be true that Chow and her colleagues are not currently calling for violence against LGBTQ people, but experience has shown that when given the immense power of actual governmental authority, these authoritarian-religious despots frequently move against gay people, as we see in places like Kenya, Uganda and most Muslim nations, where it is a crime (often a capital one) to engage in homosexual acts, or even to “promote” homosexuality, for instance in a blog like mine (by which they mean having anything nice to say about it).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this Christian blather about “hating the sin but loving the sinner” is absolute garbage. It brings to mind the Grand Inquisitor, Tomas de Torquemada, praying for the souls of “heretics” even as he stretched them on the rack, waterboarded them, tore out their entrails, and set fire to the kindling (the “faggots”) upon which their bodies were bound. “Oh merciful God, who sent His only Son to deliver us from evil, we pray for the soul of this miserable sinner, whom we annihilate in the name of Jesus.”

Isabella Chow, you are wrong. Totally, amorally, indecently, stupidly, abysmally un-Americanly wrong. We do not “misunderstand” your voice; we understand it all too well: the moral rigidity, the parochialism, the narrow-mindedness, the judgmental absolutism. You would destroy our pluralistic society for a fundamentalist and essentially undemocratic (with a small “d”) Christianity. (By the way, you might read up on the history of anti-Chinese hatred by white Christians in California in the 19th century, which resulted in decades of laws against Chinese-Americans, in other words, Ms. Chow, against people like you.)

Whom someone loves, Ms. Chow, is none of your damned business. What you believe is in our best interests is of no interest to us whatsoever. Even the Pope asked, “Who am I to judge?” Are you more entitled to judge than the Pontiff? As you do not believe that a transgendered person’s “choices” are best for him or her (and you have no right to assume that the trans experience is a “choice,”), so most of us believe that your choices suck, in a Trumpian damaging and dangerous way. You’re entitled to them, if you really insist on remaining mired in your superstitious darkness. But you are not entitled to any position of power, in any capacity, that allows you to impose that dark, unAmerican vision upon the rest of us.

 

MY BLOG IS BACK!

Very short post today. After being down for days, my web hosting company has solved the problem and I’m back.

You may have noticed the disturbing headline when you tried to get in: THIS ACCOUNT IS SUSPENDED. What happened was, my site came under what my host describes as “brute forced attacks.” These overwhelmed my site’s server, so the web host shut it down (or it shut down automatically) until they could write and introduce new code in order to strengthen the firewall.

What was the source of these “brute forced attacks”? Impossible to say (or so I’m told), but my hosting company could not rule out the possibility that my site was specifically targeted (rather than being swept up in a generalized, broader attack on the servers). I have long suspected that there are individuals on the Right who wish to see this blog perish. It could be people from Breitbart (they regularly threaten me). It could be Trump associates, or people supporting Trump who have some computer skills. It could be Russians, or some wacko white supremacist group. Whoever it is, the Right obviously is in the business of suppressing independent journalism of the kind I produce. They don’t want real reporting of Trump’s crimes and aberrant personality. I personally believe that this recent attack originated with pro-Trump forces. But I can assure them, it will take a lot more than a stupid hacker to shut me down!

So thank you, readers, for sticking with me through this silliness. I’ll have a brand new post tomorrow (Friday) morning. Remember to vote on Nov. 6!!!!

Trump caused these horrible things to happen

 

Trump is complicit in both the Sayoc bombing attacks and the Pittsburg slaughter at the synagogue.

He caused the bombs to be sent. We can argue whether it was direct or indirect causation. It was not “direct” in the sense that (as far as we know) he did not personally tell Sayoc to make and send the bombs. But it was direct in that without Trump’s violent, vicious rhetoric against every single one of Sayoc’s intended victims, Sayoc would not have done what he did. Maniacs like Sayoc need prompting from some external source to carry out their nefarious deeds; and Sayoc got plenty of prompting from the president whom he worshipped, whose images he festooned his van with. As Hitler instigated the Brownshirts and the SS into bloodthirsty violence and murder through insane, incendiary speeches designed to inspire them to fury, so too has Trump inspired the least sane of his adherents to carry out their own acts of violence—in his name.

And the synagogue shooter, Bowers? While his precise motivation, beyond anti-semitism, isn’t clear yet, we do know that Trump created the atmosphere and the conditions in which Bowers committed his atrocities. The atmosphere is the hatred and sickness now rampant throughout the Republican Party, which Trump lit the match to and whose flames he continues to fan every single day. It is an atmosphere that tells unstable people that it’s all right to act out on their homicidal fantasies, because the president says so.

As for the conditions of Bowers’ mass murder, Trump has done everything in his power to prevent reasonable gun control from being enacted in America. There is no reason for any non-law enforcement person to own an AR-15. None whatsoever; it’s insane that a civilized country would allow private citizens to possess these weapons of mass destruction. Somewhere inside his paranoid, defensive mind, Trump must realize this—I’m sure that Melania and Ivanka do—but in his pandering to the N.R.A. and its ammosexuals, he has blocked all gun control, and therefore shares the blame with Bowers for this horrendous deed. When Trump expresses sympathy for the elderly Jewish victims, all one can do is recoil in horror.

So there it is: a president of the United States encouraging, aiding and abetting mass murder. In addition to all his other crimes—collusion, breaking election laws, money-laundering, profiting from the presidency, misleading the Congress and the American people with lie after lie after lie, perjury, obstruction of justice—Trump will be found guilty before the Bar of History with complicity in mass murder, and more: for deliberately seeking to undermine the stability of the United States of America.

What shall we do with him when he’s finally removed from office and at last answerable to the American people? He can’t be allowed to return to a normal lifestyle. That would be intolerable, after all the damage he’s caused to our nation (and to the entire world). It will be immensely pleasing when he falls from power and, embarrassed before the country, is reduced to sputtering, defensive babble. It will be lovely to see his nasty sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, rejected by large swathes of the population, as well they should be. But it would be galling wormwood to think of a fallen Trump still gorging on junk food on expensive china in the splendor of Mar-a-Lago, serviced by porn stars while a brooding, expensively-clad Melania pretends not to notice. No, Trump has to be made to suffer some kind of unpleasant fate.

What about a truth-and-reconciliation committee, like the one South Africa formed after apartheid? I say: Too late…not while Trump lives. We can explore truth and reconciliation with Republicans after he’s gone, but only if they denounce him utterly and clearly. This denunciation can’t be muddy or vague; it has to be explicit, by name, and it has to be expressed by the right people: not some little back-bencher from some Podunk district, but by bigtime Republicans like Peter King, Devin Nunes, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell—in other words, the very enablers who propped Trump up and did nothing while he destroyed America’s foundations. These are the ones who will have to apologize—grovel, to be frank–if there’s to be truth and reconciliation; for how can one reconcile with murder? How can one reconcile with complete, contemptible falsehoods? Do we split the difference with Republicans, with them admitting they went too far with the hatred and Democrats admitting that, Well, maybe Obama is a secret Muslim, and maybe Hillary should be jailed, if only for a short period of time?

No. Reconciliation is fine; compromising on integrity and truth is a non-starter. If I die with a single firm conviction in my last thoughts, it is this: Donald J. Trump began this spiral into national disintegration. Nobody else. Not Obama, not Hillary, not Fox “News,” not Putin, not Nancy Pelosi. The culprit was and is Trump. He is irreconciliable. We can never forgive nor forget what this catastrophe has inflicted upon us. Were we to do so, we ourselves would be complicit in the awfulness of Sayoc, and Bowers, and all the other evils visited upon us by Trump and his regime. As America cleansed its soul with the abolition of slavery, so too are we now called upon to wash away the stain of Trumpism in our time. It is a task we should rise to with joy.

 

 

Putting Kashoggi into perspective

 

To some extent I sympathize with Trump in this MBS-Kashoggi incident. His attitude—portrayed as loathsome by critics including some Republicans—is that America shouldn’t let “mere” moral considerations interfere with our global, strategic interests. Saudi Arabia wants to invest hundreds of millions of dollars here, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. The Saudis also side with us (and we with them) in their proxy war with Iran; we need them (or so it’s said) in the fight against terrorism. Why let a messy extra-judicial killing screw up a beautiful friendship?

This country always has made truck with nasty foreign leaders. The list of countries we protected and supported—countries that harassed, or imprisoned, or murdered their internal opponents—is vast, stretching from the Iran of the Shah to the dictators of Central and South America we shielded and did business with for decades during the Cold War. Always, we did so (and so justified it to ourselves) because it was “good for America.” And maybe it was.

I suppose, if you’re a president of the United States, you have to do some pretty squeamish things. Trump once told a reporter (I can’t find the precise quote but you probably remember) “What, you don’t think we kill people too?” He didn’t go into specifics but he confirmed what, I think, all of us know: occasionally a U.S. president gives a kill order against a specific individual. Osama bin Laden is the textbook example, but there have been many others: commanders from al Qaeda, al-Shabaab, ISIS, you name it, or, in the old days, various Nazis and Communists. It goes with the territory.

So, from that point of view, there’s nothing especially shocking about another country doing it. In this case, MBS rightly or wrongly determined that Kashoggi was an enemy of the Saudi state, and had to be eliminated. Is that any different from Obama or Trump ordering a drone strike against Islamic militants in Nangarhar district? It isn’t really, if you think about it. The Saudi torture and beheading of Kashoggi, in their own embassy in Istanbul, obviously is more shockingly dramatic and gruesome, but the end result is the same: somebody’s husband, son, father is killed violently, on the order of a national leader, who did it for reasons of national security.

This incident, though, does raise larger questions. What is the moral price we pay as a people to achieve economic security? We all want cheap gasoline, we all want our workers to have good jobs. Is the death of one man too high a price to pay for those worthy ends? Put another way, would you give up your job if you were assured it would save the life of a person halfway around the world whom you never knew and never will? You probably would not. Would you do it to save, say, a thousand lives? You might have to think about it a little harder. Maybe you would, because (you tell yourself) you can always get another job.

What if you knew you couldn’t get another job? Your savings would soon run out. Your family would be hungry; you couldn’t pay your rent or mortgage. Those are important things. A thousand lives also are important things. You put one on one side of the scale, another on the other side, and weigh the balance. It’s very difficult.

Citizens routinely shut their—our–eyes to certain things that governments do, and the bigger and more powerful the country, the tighter we all have to close those eyelids. I think most of us can live with the thought that some foul deeds are committed in our names by our leaders, Democratic or Republican. This emphatically doesn’t mean we, the American people, should do nothing. We make ourselves feel better protesting, tweeting, writing letters to the editor, all to cloak ourselves in moral outrage. But in the end, what good does it do?

The governments that kill their political enemies always hope, of course, that these murders don’t come to public light. Kashoggi’s did. That forces everybody to go into CYA-mode. Trump, who probably knew about the murder in advance (and signed off on it), now has to pretend to be “concerned” and perhaps even considering “severe” punishment for the Saudis. He has to make suitable noises about punishing them. But he knows this incident will subside, to be replaced by the next incident, and the one after that, and it will be business as usual, only with this difference: leaders will instruct their henchmen—the ones who actually carry out the killings—to be more discrete, less sloppy about them. “We don’t want another Kashoggi!” they’ll instruct their intelligence chiefs. The word “to Kashoggi” will go down alongside “to Bork” as a surname-become-verb, in this case, to murder a political opponent and have it be discovered through the incompetence of the killers. The word already has gone out from Trump’s Oval Office: “I don’t want any Kashoggis.” Extra veils of secrecy will now mask America’s political assassinations. You, and I, will be happier for not knowing what our government does in our name.

Have a lovely weekend!

 

San Francisco and Oakland: cities in change–and crisis?

 

Spent the day yesterday with my family in San Francisco (only three BART stops from my house). We started with something that’s now become a bit of a tradition: dollar oysters with drinks at Waterbar at noon. I had mine with a glass of “J” brut, such a good drink with oysters.

Waterbar is an absolute joy to go to, with its expansive views of the Bay, the Bridge and the East Bay, which the Spanish Californios called “Contra Costa”: the opposite coast.

Normally, on a day as cloudless and sunny as yesterday, you’d be able to see Mount Diablo, the second-tallest peak in the Bay Area (3,849 feet). But the mountain was totally obscured by smoke hazing up the sky, drifted down from the wildfires up north that continue to ravage the state. My heart goes out to the people around Redding, who have suffered relentlessly from this scourge.

As a kid I wouldn’t have eaten an oyster if you’d paid me, but now, you can’t hold me back. They whet rather than satiate the appetite, even with bread and butter. Hemingway praised oysters “with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away.” Afterwards, we sought lunch. Maxine wanted to check out the rooftop garden in the just-opened Salesforce Transit Center. I hadn’t been there yet, so we walked the few blocks and took the longest escalator I’ve ever seen up to the gardens. (They’re also going to open an aerial tram.) All I can say is, visit this place if you haven’t already. It’s an instant classic. The terminal itself is an architectural marvel (it’s probably the most earthquake-proofed structure in the world), but most marvelous is the rooftop garden. It must be a quarter-mile long, with twisting trails and little nooks where you can rest and eat. The entire site is surrounded by a wall of skyscrapers, including Salesforce Tower, the tallest building west of Chicago.

San Francisco and Oakland: cities in change–and crisis?

This is really a spectacular achievement for San Francisco, a futuristic marvel; I don’t think there’s anything like it anywhere else in the center of a big city. It’s part of a chain of stunning development that stretches from the Embarcadero, on the Bay, west to Moscone Center. Absolutely stunning.

This elicited lots of political talk between us about gentrification and people losing their places to live. It’s stunning to see the brilliance of imperial San Francisco at this, its greatest, richest moment. But it’s sobering to think of all the people forced out of their apartments, many of whom, presumably, are now living on the streets, in BART corridors and God knows where else. I actually wondered how long it would be before there are tent encampments in the Transit Center garden, which is free to access. I doubt that the authorities would permit that, but still…things are tough in the Bay Area if you don’t have money.

The same thing is happening in Oakland albeit at a lesser pace. In my neighborhood alone an entire city-within-a-city is going up, all in the space of the last year or so. I’m glad I got rid of my car (I’m now carless) because traffic here is going to be horrible once all the new residents move in. Being carless (it’s been a month now) has been hassle-free. In fact, I’m enjoying it. I gather that carlessness is more or less a trend among Millennials, what with all the options (Uber, Lyft and so on), which makes me think that all of my life I’ve done things I thought were the products of my rational choices but which, as it turned out, tens of millions of others were simultaneously doing, which made them trends. What does this say about free will?

Anyhow, I personally welcome this new development but I know lots of people adamantly oppose it, for all the reasons I cited above. I think you can’t stop progress. You can manage it intelligently, but you can’t build a wall around a city like San Francisco or Oakland and say, “No more people allowed” when so many people want to live here. And yet the homelessness is extremely troubling. With it comes an increase in filth, litter, crime, human excrement in the streets, and vandalism, and at night, when I’m out and about downtown, the streets are scary, something out of Night of the Living Dead: zombies roaming around, muttering to themselves, gesticulating crazily. I’m an old man now: it’s discomfiting.

And yet I have no more answers than anyone else. The extreme liberals in Oakland insist that the city pay for housing, food and healthcare for the estimated 4,000 homeless people who live here. They even go so far as to say that the Police Department should be defunded, with the money going to homeless services. That’s insane, and is not going to happen. But it is, I fear, the sort of talk that Trump and his followers use as wedge issues to appeal to their white followers, who want simplistic solutions to enormously complicated problems.

 

 

Are tent Cities for Latino Children “Biblical”?

 

CAUTION! I need to vent today, so please bear with the occasional swear word.

I am stunned beyond belief at these tent cities the Trump regime is erecting to jail children stolen from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border.

I usually try to be polite on this blog when it comes to my differences with the regime. But you’ll have to forgive me for today’s lapse; the following is NSFW!

To begin with, What the hell are Trump and Sessions thinking? Locking kids up after they’ve been forcibly taken from their parents? In some cases these kids are just infants—one report quotes a Honduran woman accusing American border agents of ripping her infant daughter away from her as she was breastfeeding her.” I guarantee you, History is not going to take this lying down. How is this different from when Hitler’s Nazis seized children from occupied countries and then forcibly resettled them in German homes, in the so-called Lebensborn program?

It’s not any different. This is an absolute perversion, not only of international law, but of human rights and moral law as well. And once again the Republican Party is standing by their man, supporting this awful, disgusting and cruel practice.

Do you know who the worst perverts are?

Christians. Lying, hypocritical Christians.

The avowed Christian, Attorney-General Jefferson Sessions, “cited the Bible” in defending the seizure and imprisonment of children. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” he said yesterday.

Then, in lockstep, Trump’s press secretary, the admitted evangelical Christian, Sarah Sanders, bragged about the forced separations, claiming, “I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”

Sarah, did you know it’s “very biblical” to stone adulterers like your boss to death? Look at Leviticus 20:10. “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Want to join us when we stone Trump in Lafayette Park? Will you throw the first?

Look, this “Christian” crap has gone far enough. America is a nation where the First Amendment explicitly says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”. And yet these damned Christian fascists are totally ignoring that fundament of our republic and instead foisting their so-called Christian law upon us. In this, they are supported by an increasingly large number of radical Christians in the Congress and by a Roman Catholic majority on the Supreme Court, which usually sides with evangelicals on social issues. Together they constitute a Christian Conservative majority on the Court.

How is this different from a supreme court in Iran that always sides with the Shiite regime?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you can be whatever damned religion you want, but you are stirring up some very dangerous cross-currents in your attack on the Constitution and in your attempts to Christianize America. I’m sure you inherited that nonsense from your father, the Very Reverend Mike Huckabee, champion of women’s and gay rights. I suppose you believe it, and I guess you think that God and Jesus are proud of you (and of your boss, Trump) for Christianizing America.

Do you not know that Trump, a recovering atheist, discovered evangelicals a few years ago, when he was looking to form a base? Prior to that, he thought evangelicals like you were were morons. He still does. But he pretends to be one of you because he needs you.

Problem is, America is not a Christian country! It’s a secular country. Our Constitution guarantees it! The Founding Fathers wanted it that way! If you want to live in a fucking Christian theocracy, then find some other country to move to!

Do these extremist Christians really think the rest of us are just going to sit back and let them run amok? Do they believe that we won’t rise up in righteous indignation and resist with everything we’ve got? Maybe they’re so mentally blighted by their superstitions that they think they can get away with this with no repercussions. Well, it ain’t gonna happen. Oh, they’ll cause some damage—they’re already wrecking the lives of those poor Latino families they’ve declared war upon. But this is just a temporary aberration. We will get rid of Trump and his storm troopers. We will get rid of Jefferson Sessions and the white supremacist movement he longs to lead into battle. We will restore freedom and democracy to America, and it will begin with the next Congress, which will be controlled by Democrats.

Finally, here’s what I really think of evangelicals: You people are pathetic. You’re insane. You’re dangerous fools. You pretend to be holy, even as you sin like animals every chance you get when you think nobody’s looking. You  give a pass to the most irreligious, immoral president in American history, and therefore collude with him. Look in the mirror and see the face of evil.

You will never succeed in your nefarious goal of establishing a Christian America. Go back to your trailer parks, your storefront churches, your pedophile priests, your adultery, your obese, drug-addled backwaters, and leave us alone!

My former Senator, Barbara Boxer, today called what Trump is doing “a sin against God.” That it indeed is. Trump is a sin against God. The Republican Party is a sin against God. The prophets are mobilizing. All Christians and indeed all good people everywhere who do not stand up and speak out against this atrocity against children are sinning against God. There will be consequences.

On the Death of an Archbishop

 

I take no pleasure in George Niederauer’s death on Tuesday. But I am glad that we’ll never again have to hear his voice: negative, hateful, homophobic. Such is death’s blessing and curse, that it silences all of us, the just and unjust alike.

Niederauer was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco back in 2008, when he led the Proposition 8 campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California. He was already an old man who looked as though he had been weaned on lemons and had not enjoyed intimacy with any human being for decades, if ever–an angry, embittered shrew. Not only did he lead the fight for Prop 8, he’s the one who got the Mormons involved—a lovely cult, who gave America polygamy, and many of whose followers to this day are fighting a rearguard action against gay rights.

These so-called “Christian” homophobes always haul out a few sentences from Leviticus and the man, Saul of Tarsus, whom they call Saint Paul, to justify their condemnation of the love that same-gender humans may have for each other. I always wished I could have confronted one of them and asked a simple question: Why do you choose to fasten on a single “abomination” from the Bible and ignore the dozens of others, defined in the Bible as abominations, many of them punishable by death?

Now, before you accuse me of Christian-bashing, I’ll tell you a story about my former friend, the ultra-orthodox Hasidic (Lubavitch) Jewish rabbi of the East Bay, who took a similar stance. In that case, because we were friends, I was able to sit him down and go through every death penalty in the Old Testament. “Rabbi, are you saying it’s okay for parents to kill a child if the child shall strike its parent? Are you really saying it’s okay to kill your wife if she cheats on you?” And so on. Rabbi chuckled each of those away, as well he should have. “No, of course not,” he told me. “God didn’t mean for us to take those literally. They’re metaphors.” But then we came to the infamous passage from Leviticus (18:22). “Rabbi, do you really think it’s okay to kill a man for having sex with another man?” “Oh, yes, certainly,” he said. “That is God’s law.”

I don’t remember if I even pointed out the obtuseness of Rabbi’s remark. But it was the last time I ever saw him, for how could I, in good conscience, be friends with a man—of influence and power—who would happily kill me, and millions like me, were he given the keys to life-and-death?

But back to Niederauer. I don’t know if he, himself, ever messed around with another boy or man, although my gaydar told me he sure looked gay. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. But I do know that an extraordinary number of Catholic priests not only messed around with boys and men, but engaged in child sexual abuse. Niederauer’s own San Francisco diocese itself settled at least 101 abuse cases, and while there’s no evidence he knew about it, it seems logical that he did. This is the man, the fiend, who tormented gay people with his pious denunciations, whose accusation that gay people are “intrinsically disordered” caused so much suffering and pain. He engaged in a years-long witch hunt against many of his own parishoners, even as his church allowed the perverts who also donned the black cloth to continue their heinous sexual activity. So, as I said, I take no pleasure in Niederauer’s death. But I am glad that such a stupid, irresponsible voice will never again be heard, at least coming from his body. Unfortunately, for every Niederauer, there are tens of thousands more in this country who say similarly odious things about innocent Americans; and I will venture to say that almost all of them are Christians, Republicans, and Trump supporters.

I don’t know if Niederauer, or anyone else, will survive death. I don’t know if he, or any of us, had or has an immortal soul. If he did, I don’t know if it’s going to heaven, or hell, or purgatory, or someplace else. But, if you will allow me to engage in a little retrospective emotion, if Niederauer does have a soul that survives death, I hope it goes someplace that will be very uncomfortable for him, a place where he will be tormented, at least for a period of time, until he realizes the awfulness of his sin.