Category Archives: racism

Re-up: Hillary’s Emails? Hillary Smails!

nothinandlikeitUpdate, July 14, 2016: The news today is that Hillary Clinton’s once-formidable lead has shrunk to basically nothing, in a contest with a candidate who is pretty obviously trying to gift her the election.

 

If you are casting about for explanations of what is it about HRC that fails to connect with the voters, I’d like to re-up a little thing I wrote a couple months ago…. Bernie Sanders is apparently out of the race now, but that does not change the basic fact that Hillary’s is the “You’ll Get Nothing And Like It” candidacy.

***

Everybody’s got Hillary Clinton all wrong. So many words spilled about Hillary’s emails, sure, but nothing about Hillary Smails! There is only one letter that’s different! I have googled around and have not seen this argument advanced anywhere, so let me be the first to assert that Caddyshack gives us the key to understanding the 2016 race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Hillary’s email issues are not nothing, especially for a politician who was high-handed and hawkish when it came to, oh, say, Snowden’s leaks. Definitely, Snowden has a point:  “Others get prosecuted for what Hillary Clinton did.”

I don’t know the status of the investigation, but a potential FBI indictment is a hell of a thing to have hanging over a campaign, especially for a candidate widely considered a lock for the nomination.

Let those chips fall where they may. I’m with Bernie: enough with this talk about Hillary’s emails. A single letter is the difference between Hillary’s emails and Hillary SMAILS. And THAT’S what I want to talk about.

Hillary Smails, as in Judge Elihu Smails. Don’t go saying Murray or Dangerfield or, God forbid, Chevy Chase was the star of Caddyshack. They were all good, but Ted Knight so completely ruled.

THIS SCENE!

Feel free to savor this terrific compilation reel of Smails highlights at your leisure. I started the clip at 1:30, where there are three straight scenes where Smails’ nervous little non-verbal chortles are just genius. “Ohh? Ho Ho. Ha Ha!” And of course at 2:38 comes the line that defines the character. “You’ll get nothing and like it!”

Now, cue up the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, SHOUTING something like Elihu’s catchphrase: that single payer “Will never, ever come to pass.” You can see her crew nodding their heads sagely. Tsk. Tsk. Those silly single-payer dreamers.  “You’ll get nothing and like it!” is an applause line for her! Last week we learned that consultants working for the Super PACs backing Hillary Clinton are joining in the battle to defeat a single-payer proposition for the state of Colorado. So not only is it, “Single payer is never ever going to happen.” It’s “Single payer is never, ever going to happen, because my people are working to prevent it from happening.” One wonders how that would play as an applause line.

Just as Judge Smails had a foil in Dangerfield’s crass interloper Al Czervik–utterer of the the film’s ultimate line,“Hey everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!”–so too does Hillary have a a foil in Senator Sanders, portrayed (widely and wrongly) in mainstream accounts as a naif promising everybody “free stuff.”

Even as the consensus says he has no path to victory, he continues to surge, filling stadiums, dominating primaries as he did Tuesday, winning every county in West Virginia. West Virginia! (I know. It’s become home to racists since Hillary won there in 2008, apparently, a state of affairs that can only be explained by Carl Diggler.)

My admiration for Bernie is neither absolute, nor unconditional. I don’t agree with him on all policy fronts. There’s the gun control thing, and the fact that he’s a little too accepting of the foreign policy consensus–drone bombing, extrajudicial assassination, and whatnot. But all in all, for a candidate that actually still has a (slim) chance to win the whole thing, I mean, my God. He has ideas, good ones, and speaks his mind. This is a once-in-a-generation politician.

Whatever happens over the next 180 days or so, Bernie has changed the expectations of what government can offer. His proposals for tuition-free public college and single payer are far from idealistic, or unrealistic. They are what governments offer in virtually every other civilized country. Sanders putting those ideas out there is an embarrassment to Clinton and the DNC, and their promise of nothing–of basically not being Trump. (Do I even need to say I find Trump terrifying? But he is a symptom, not the disease.) I may be wrong, but there’s a fair bit of evidence that the neoliberal experiment–from the Atari Democrats forward–is in its last days. Add up the Sanders and Trump supporters, and you’ll find something like two-thirds of Americans are contemptuous of the pitiful things the Democrats (and their Republican partners) have offered in exchange for economic security. You may have lost your job and your pension, but LOOK: NAFTA and 401(k)s!

Hillary’s going to get the nomination. The MATH! They say. And she will go on to win easily. If you say so.

Ignore all the polls that have Sanders easily beating Trump head to head, and Hillary struggling. Just today a Quinnipiac poll reveals that Clinton’s until-very-recently substantial lead is gone: she and Trump are virtually tied in three key swing states, and yes, that Bernie beats Trump in all of them.

Contrast the images from, say, the Sanders rally in Washington Square Park with this pitiful clip from an appearance by the front-runner in Los Angeles earlier this week. Which candidate looks like a future president?

 

“You should just do what’s right”: Dean Smith, the death penalty and desegregation

Dean Smith was more than simply a basketball coach.

The great basketball coach Dean Smith died this weekend. His coaching prowess was legendary. Less widely known was the fact that Smith was also a committed and vocal advocate of progressive causes.

Writing in the Nation, Dave Zirin celebrates Smith’s passionate opposition to the death penalty:

Current approval of the death penalty in the US is at its lowest level in 40 years, but is still favored by 63% of the population. Dean Smith opposed capital punishment publicly his entire life, even when support for it nationally was over 80% and even in a state where the death penalty was a matter of bipartisan consensus. Smith often invoked his religious beliefs to explain his opposition to capital punishment, but he had to go beyond the realm of the religious to explain his opposition in North Carolina, where pro-death row politicians have never been shy about using the Bible as justification for the noose. Therefore, Dean Smith also spoke about the racism that infests death row cases. He spoke about his fears that the innocent could be killed. He spoke about the system of capital punishment being, in his words, “barbaric.” As he once said, “If it’s a deterrent, as some people say, why don’t they hold the execution in a shopping mall so everyone can attend?”

He also never hesitated speaking truth to power. This was never clearer than in 2003 when Coach Smith was part of a delegation visiting North Carolina’s governor Jim Hunt, pleading for the life of a mentally ill death row prisoner named John Noland. Smith had met Noland on one of his trips to “the row.” As reported by Bonnie DeSimone of The Chicago Tribune, Smith erupted at Hunt, saying, “You’re a murderer!” He then stuck out his finger at Hunt’s apparatchiks saying, “And you’re a murderer—and I’m a murderer. The death penalty makes us all murderers.”

In Mother Jones, Ian Gordon cites a passage from a Washington Post piece, written by John Feinstein, on how Smith more or less single-handedly desegregated Chapel Hill restaurants:

One of the people I interviewed for the story was Rev. Robert Seymour, who had been Smith’s pastor at the Binkley Baptist Church since 1958, when he first arrived in Chapel Hill. Seymour told me a story about how upset Smith was to learn that Chapel Hill’s restaurants were still segregated. He and Seymour came up with an idea: Smith would walk into a restaurant with a black member of the church.

“You have to remember,” Reverend Seymour said. “Back then, he wasn’t Dean Smith. He was an assistant coach. Nothing more.” [emphasis mine.]

Smith agreed and went to a restaurant where management knew him. He and his companion sat down and were served. That was the beginning of desegregation in Chapel Hill.

When I circled back to Smith and asked him to tell me more about that night, he shot me an angry look. “Who told you about that?” he asked.

“Reverend Seymour,” I said.

“I wish he hadn’t done that.”

“Why? You should be proud of doing something like that.”

He leaned forward in his chair and in a very quiet voice said something I’ve never forgotten: “You should never be proud of doing what’s right. You should just do what’s right.”

 ***

 By way of context, there is this 2009 remembrance from Tim Bassett, who played basketball for Georgia in the late 60s and early 70s, describing his interaction with one of Smith’s coaching contemporaries:

The first time Bassett and the Bulldogs played Kentucky was a home game on Jan. 17, 1972. Georgia won that game, 85-73. Bassett had 27 points and 13 rebounds. After the game, the legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp approached Bassett.

“He said I didn’t belong in the Southeast Conference, and he said, ‘We’ll get you back when you come to Lexington,’ ” Bassett said.

When the Bulldogs went to Lexington a month later, they entered the gym to find Bassett hanging in effigy from the ceiling. Stunned, Bassett’s teammates offered not to play the game if Bassett were too uncomfortable there. A motivated Bassett played anyway and had 17 points and 17 rebounds, but Georgia lost, 87-63.

After the game, Bassett wanted to let Rupp know just how he felt about Rupp’s allowing the effigy in Kentucky’s gym. He went searching for Rupp’s office but was stopped before he could get there.

“I just wanted to let him know that I was a man, and I was just trying to figure why he felt it was O.K. to disrespect anybody in that way,” Bassett said. “What was his mind-set? This is a leader of men, you know, all these years, and for him to allow that, it just didn’t make sense.”

Bassett never had the chance to speak his mind to Rupp. That was the final time Bassett faced Rupp’s Wildcats. Rupp retired after that season.

A good place to remember that, to this day, the Kentucky Wildcats still play their games in Rupp Arena.

“Strangling, siege and isolation”: A few things to read about Gaza

BtGPEgtCIAAAVlF

There is a depressing air of plus ça change about this siege of Gaza, but there is something else as well.

At times I think this will play out much like the previous Israeli operations that sound like they have been named by children who will grow up to be psychotic adults. Israel will kill five hundred or a thousand more civilians and find some pretext to stop and get out, and we will wait a year or two for the next atrocity. But maybe not.

The world’s media are more horrified and outraged with each passing day. Israel’s spin is along the absurd lines of “self-genocide” (Naftali Bennett) and that Hamas is “deliberately wag[ing] war so that your own people can be telegenically killed” (Krauthammer, quoted approvingly by Netanyahu). The message the Israelis are putting forth  is transparently weak, tone-deaf, and odious. So far, the US political establishment and mainstream media are toeing the line, but perhaps not for long. (Among mainstream reporters, Anne Barnard has been terrific for the Times, not known for its balance on Middle East topics). Reading reports from inside Israel, it is scarily apparent that the nation has descended into mad racial panic and aggression more quickly than the most pessimistic could have imagined.

Netanyahu, monster that he is, certainly deserves his day in front of an international criminal court. But, in no small part thanks to his genius for racial incitement and provocation, has been eclipsed by his one-time followers. In the landscape of Israeli fanaticism, he has become something he never imagined, a moderate. His ugly rhetoric now appears to be weak sauce compared to that of Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, with his steely-eyed and lunatic idea to expel all residents of Gaza into the Sinai before flattening the place, and rising Home Party star Ayelet Shaked, who quoted Uri Elitzur charming words about Arabs on her facebook page (to thousands of “likes”:BsxyG8EIMAEqUoj

they are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Again, I have absolutely no sympathy for Netanyahu, but I can see his predicament clearly now. From behind, in Israel, there is a loud call for blood. Abroad, he knows there are limits on how far he can take his butchery. He has to find that Happy Place where the Israeli right is satisfied with his cull of Arabs (for that is what this operation is, at bottom), without horrifying the west to the point of taking meaningful action. Complicating things is that Hamas is putting up a much better fight than was expected, and in spite of the heavy losses it is sustaining, is emerging as the clear leader of the Palestinian resistance. Samantha Power is making noise about partnering with the hapless Abbas.

I don’t know how this will play out. I don’t think anyone does.

All I can do here is share what I have been reading.

About ten days ago, at the beginning of Israel’s assault on Gaza, JJ Goldberg, self-described “devout Zionist” published an incredibly damning piece on Netanyahu’s machinations. Its main points have turned up elsewhere since then, but for me it was the first laying out of a chronology that has been (purposefully) blurred. No, Hamas did not break the ceasefire. Netanyahu told two egregious lies about the kidnapping  of three yeshiva students — one, that Hamas was responsible, and two, that that a massive hunt for the kidnappers was necessary. And so it came to pass. Mouin Rabbani, in another essential essay, described the hunt as ” really an organised military rampage” that involved

the killing of at least six Palestinians, none of whom was accused of involvement in the disappearances; mass arrests, including the arrest of Hamas parliamentarians and the re-arrest of detainees released in 2011; the demolition of a number of houses and the looting of others; and a variety of other depredations of the kind Israel’s finest have honed to perfection during decades of occupation.

And, as another piece, this one by Matt Duss in The Week:

At a security briefing on July 9, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said the attack on Gaza “will expand and continue until the fire on our communities is over and the quiet is back.”

But the key thing to note here is that Israel already had quiet. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority provided years of quiet through security cooperation with Israeli security forces. Yet Netanyahu’s response to this unprecedented calm — which Israel had long sought — was to undermine his ostensible partner Abbas at every conceivable opportunity through settlement construction, incursions into Palestinian cities, on top of the daily harassment and humiliations of Palestinians that are the reality of the occupation.

In Gaza, Hamas had largely held to the terms of the cease-fire signed in 2012. While rocket attacks did occur, they were usually launched by competing extremist groups. Israeli forces also carried out their own periodic attacks and incursions inside Gaza during that time. But in general, things were very quiet for Israel.

 The Rabbani essay makes the point that it was too quiet, and the thing that frightened Netanyahu the most was Palestinian cooperation and unity. First, with the April reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and then,

on 2 June, when a new Palestinian Authority government was inaugurated, following the April reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas endorsed the new government even though it was given no cabinet posts and the government’s composition and political programme were virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor’s. With barely a protest from the Islamists, Abbas repeatedly and loudly proclaimed that the government accepted the Middle East Quartet’s demands: that it recognise Israel, renounce violence and adhere to past agreements. He also announced that Palestinian security forces in the West Bank would continue their security collaboration with Israel. When both Washington and Brussels signalled their intention to co-operate with the new government, alarm bells went off in Israel. Its usual assertions that Palestinian negotiators spoke only for themselves – and would therefore prove incapable of implementing any agreement – had begun to look shaky: the Palestinian leadership could now claim not only to represent both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but also to have co-opted Hamas into supporting a negotiated two-state settlement, if not the Oslo framework as a whole. There might soon be increased international pressure on Israel to negotiate seriously with Abbas. The formaldehyde was beginning to evaporate.

At this point Netanyahu seized on the 12 June disappearance of three young Israelis in the West Bank like a drowning man thrown a lifebelt. Despite clear evidence presented to him by the Israeli security forces that the youths were already dead, and no evidence to date that Hamas was involved, he held Hamas directly responsible and launched a ‘hostage rescue operation’ throughout the West Bank. It was really an organised military rampage. It included the killing of at least six Palestinians, none of whom was accused of involvement in the disappearances; mass arrests, including the arrest of Hamas parliamentarians and the re-arrest of detainees released in 2011; the demolition of a number of houses and the looting of others; and a variety of other depredations of the kind Israel’s finest have honed to perfection during decades of occupation. Netanyahu whipped up a demagogic firestorm against the Palestinians, and the subsequent abduction and burning alive of a young Palestinian in Jerusalem cannot and should not be separated from this incitement.

This is a mess, and the incursion into Gaza continues to get bloodier. Protests are occurring all over the world, some of which might (or might not) be devolving into race-based rioting.

What more to read? There is a great deal of excellent writing and photography at +972 magazine. Mondoweiss as well. I often check the twitter feed of Emily Hauser, always current and humane. She also maintains a useful Israel/Palestine/MidEast public list.  I cannot recommend highly enough two Israeli writers for Haaretz, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.

Levy, whose July 13 column, Israel’s real purpose in Gaza: to kill Arabs, begins like this:

The goal of Operation Protective Edge is to restore the calm; the means: killing civilians. The slogan of the Mafia has become official Israeli policy. Israel sincerely believes that if it kills hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, quiet will reign. It is pointless to destroy the weapons stores of Hamas, which has already proved capable of rearmament. Bringing down the Hamas government is an unrealistic (and illegitimate) goal, one that Israel does not want: It is aware that the alternative could be much worse. That leaves only one possible purpose for the military operation: death to Arabs, accompanied by the cheering of the masses.

“The most hated man in Israel” was right. Of course.

And then there is Amira Hass, whose Haaretz column from yesterday, Reaping What We Have Sown in Gaza, was angry and poetic and absolutely spot on:

I’m fed up with the failed efforts at competing with the abundance of orchestrated commentaries on Hamas’ goals and actions, from people who write as if they’ve sat down with Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, and not just some IDF or Shin Bet security service source. Those who rejected Fatah and Yasser Arafat’s peace proposal for two states have now been given Haniyeh, Hamas and BDS. Those who turned Gaza into an internment and punishment camp for 1.8 million human beings should not be surprised that they tunnel underneath the earth. Those who sow strangling, siege and isolation reap rocket fire. Those who have, for 47 years, indiscriminately crossed the Green Line, expropriating land and constantly harming civilians in raids, shootings and settlements – what right do they have to roll their eyes and speak of Palestinian terror against civilians?

Hamas is cruelly and frighteningly destroying the traditional double standards mentality that Israel is a master at. All of those brilliant intelligence and Shin Bet brains really don’t understand that we ourselves have created the perfect recipe for our very own version of Somalia? You want to prevent escalation? Now is the time: Open up the Gaza Strip, let the people return to the world, the West Bank, and to their families and families in Israel. Let them breathe, and they will find out that life is more beautiful than death.

Shame, Come Back!

Really good article by Neal Gabler in Politico today. In How conservatives lost their moral compass, America’s Republicans, Gabler writes, have decided that shame is some sort of liberal plot designed to hobble tough, robust Conservatism. Hence, Perry’s unseemly boast about his record-setting execution numbers. And Paul’s (theoretical) condemning of an uninsured 30-year-old man to death if he can’t pay for medical care.

As Gabler notes, the crowds at the debates cheer for this sort of nastiness.

An excerpt:

American history can be read as a series of episodes in which we reached what could be called a “tipping point” of shame — when our behavior became so egregious that we, as a people, decided to desist from our worst excesses, whether it was slavery or antipathy to immigrants.

Take civil rights. The majority of Americans, even outside the South, might originally have had little real enthusiasm for the civil rights movement. Most urged patience. It was only after the public saw the beatings during the Freedom Rides, the firehoses and police dogs at Selma and the church bombing in Birmingham that Americans were shamed into accepting the claims of African-Americans to equal justice under the law. Shame was the moralizing force.

Shame also defeated the hatred of Father Charles Coughlin, the famous “radio priest” who laid the Great Depression at the feet of Jewish international bankers, and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who recklessly accused his critics of communist treachery. Both had reached that tipping point at which ordinary Americans felt these provocateurs had gone too far. Americans felt shamed.

There is a reason we have never previously had a hatemonger like Rush Limbaugh enjoy popularity for as long as he has. The reason was shame. You couldn’t find enough people, let alone a broadcaster, who wanted to be identified with that sort of viciousness. The initial enthusiasm for it eventually waned.

But that was then. Surely when a group can publicly cheer a man’s death for not having health insurance, the sense of shame is gone. It faded not only because liberals had subverted it by casting it as a conservative scheme to corset society, but because conservatives managed to delegitimize it. They attacked it as yet another elitist scheme, contrived to neuter strong conservatism.

Great stuff. I highly recommend reading it. I would only add that Gabler could be a little more inclusive.

I would stop short of saying this shamelessness is shared equally by liberals, but you’re not paying attention if you don’t see it across the political spectrum. Consider how giggly  the Secretary of State became when she sat down with Diane Sawyer to have a Just-Us-Girls chat about the death of Gaddafi (“We Came We Saw He Died”), or Obama’s joking about using predator drones to assassinate the Jonas Brothers. Ha-ha. You thought he was joking? Nope. Sixteen-year-old boys in foreign lands are legitimate targets these days. Or maybe not. Maybe Awlaki’s son, vaporized as he sat down to eat with some friends, was “collateral damage.” Obama won’t say,  because he doesn’t have to ask permission, and he doesn’t have to explain.

I wrote in an earlier post about the giddiness I notice when politicians like Madame Clinton play at being tough guys. In the last week, Ice T said she should be the next president and brought the tough-guy schtick to an entirely new level:

She did the Secretary of State job, she was a G, she held it down, she didn’t cry.

Set aside for a moment the patronizing “she didn’t cry.” This is a shout-out from Ice-T! Hillary Clinton an honorary “G”! I’m pretty sure that HuffPost piece has been printed out and taped up somewhere conspicuous at the Secretary’s office. Did it gave Hillary and her staffers another case of the giggles and high-fives all-around? I have a feeling it did.

True, the Democrats do not seem to revel in cold-heartedness (theirs is still a little school-marmish, “it’s for your own good” affect–see Albright, M.),  but let’s look at the bipartisan coldness that is at large in the land.

Start by taking a look at Adam Gopnik’s recent New Yorker piece on our sprawling, and growing, prison complex, and the ugly fact that, according to a 2010 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “nonviolent offenders make up more than 60 percent of the prison and jail population. Nonviolent drug offenders now account for about one-fourth of all inmates, up from less than 10 percent in 1980.”

Is that only the product of Republican mean-spiritedness? I think not. Is it possible for a situation like the one described by Gopnik to exist without broad support from politicians of all stripes?

For most privileged, professional people, the experience of confinement is a mere brush, encountered after a kid’s arrest, say. For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.

As Gopnik notes, the fact that we’re sticking millions of our citizens down a hole for decades at a time is just the beginning. Absurd numbers of prisoners are singled out for solitary confinement. The very existence of even one “Supermax” prison is pretty much enough to indict our culture as broadly vindictive, even sadistic. There are dozens of  prisons with Supermax wings, and I would venture to bet they are in districts represented by politicians of both parties.

And, if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the criminal justice system, not only will you be locked up, you will be pretty much on your own vis a vis preventing yourself from being raped. This should be the subject of much outrage, right? Uh, no. Gopnik again.

Prison rape is so endemic—more than seventy thousand prisoners are raped each year—that it is routinely held out as a threat, part of the punishment to be expected. The subject is standard fodder for comedy, and an uncoöperative suspect being threatened with rape in prison is now represented, every night on television, as an ordinary and rather lovable bit of policing.

Again, I’m not rejecting Gabler’s point. There’s no question: the state of “conservative” discourse has changed into something that is unspeakably ugly to behold. The past months of virtually non-stop debates have put this fact on dramatic display (while at the same time setting the range of topics for whichever candidate emerges from this clown/monster show to debate Obama).

There are of course significant differences between the parties, but a similar agenda gets enacted no matter who wins. Bold prediction: It will be More War, More Austerity and More Prisons for the foreseeable future. Three things few voters are clamoring for. And you’ll have a hard time finding a politician of either party willing to apologize for (let alone be ashamed of) that state of affairs.

"There's nothing hatred about what we're doing…"

If you can’t jump… form your own damn league.

And so  someone has. The All-American Basketball Alliance, based in Atlanta, is looking to begin play in June. An important roster restriction:

Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.

Hey, but don’t worry about racism and all that, says Don “Moose” Lewis, AABA commisioner,

There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing. I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like…

Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch? That’s the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction.