“Identity Politics”? You Mean Racism?

I heard a conservative activist at the recent CPAC Conference promoting the concept of “identity politics.”

No one in the media asked him to define the term. To  me, it sounds a lot like racism.

Tribalism is a basic human instinct. Some would argue it’s  a basic instinct in animal life.

You may have heard the old story about the blue-eyed rabbit that was torn to bits when it was put into a cage with brown-eyed rabbits.

I don’t know if that actually happened, but even if it did, surely the human species has progressed beyond the rabbit stage?

“Basic instincts” include a lot of antisocial impulses. Selfishness and greed, for example. Indeed, without socialization human beings can be a sorry lot.

And it seems to me that  today’s”conservatives” are arguing for an abandonment of socialization. In effect, they are advocating a kind of jungle law, in which humans are free to follow their basest impulses.

I imagine that as the world grows more complex, the pressure to “behave” can be uncomfortable. Increasingly, people want to “let it all hang out.”

This revolt against decent behavior is evident not just in America but throughout the civilized world. And global politics is reflecting the trend.

I think the media have a duty to defend decency and expose primitive ideas. This is one area in which journalists cannot pretend to be objective.

When racists are allowed to disguise their ugly doctrine with euphemisms like “identity politics,” it becomes easier for their ideas to become mainstream.

And God help us if they do.

More on CPAC

 

How Bad is it – Really?

Listening to the heated debate raging in this divided country, the rest of the world must think Americans are spoiled.

It’s a debate that presents a distorted view of American society. Donald Trump, for example, talks about the “carnage” in American streets, calls us “losers” and rails against the media. To listen to him, you might think today’s America is a hell hole.

But the truth is Americans suffer far less than most human beings in this “vale of tears.”

Americans live in a bubble, a relatively safe, relatively comfortable bubble. And this privileged existence is to a large extent underwritten by other countries (through the global financial system, lopsided commodities agreements, deals with corrupt dictators…. and so on.)

Yes, the gun violence in cities like Chicago is tragic – and unacceptable. Yes, it’s a shame so many Americans live in “poverty.” Yes, I sympathize with the single mothers who must work two jobs to feed their kids.

But this kind of suffering pales beside the starvation in parts of Africa, the sweatshops in places like Bangladesh and China…And remember those scenes from “Slum Dog Millionaire”?

“Poverty” in America is far, far different from poverty in Africa, India, Nepal – even Jamaica, where I grew up. I haven’t seen a home in America that has the bare earth for its floor, as I did so often in Jamaica.

Have you ever been to the Dungle (Dung Hill?) in West Kingston? As a reporter for the Gleaner, I have. And I have seen nothing like that here in America.

Yes, there are homeless Americans. But how many are homeless by choice? Well meaning activists are partly to blame for the homeless problem. They agitated for release of the mentally disabled who were being detained for their own safety. And now those former mental patients wander the streets at will.

Much of the suffering in America is self-inflicted. What causes the most misery in American homes? I would blame drug use.

What makes so many people unfit for a decent job? Skipping school, for one thing.

To those who buckle down, listen to their teacher, do their homework and stay in school, there is opportunity out there. You may not get to choose the job you like – being a rock star (or a coal miner), for example. But if you will accept what’s available, there’s probably a job waiting for you.

It may not be steps from your home of course. You might have to hit the road. Believe me, there’s a vacancy somewhere in this vast country. But it’s not going to come looking for you.

Of course America is not perfect. Far from it.

An entrenched elite has figured out how to game the system so a few unscrupulous parasites can pocket the bulk of the society’s wealth.

But it’s up to us to make our society better. And we are free to do just that.

Americans do not have a dictator like so many other countries. We can speak freely. And we have a free press.

It’s up to each of us to say our piece, do our bit, hustle our buns. Nobody promised us a rose garden. But we can dig a few yam holes if we have the will.

And we can do our best to grow our own rose gardens.

More on global poverty

 

Black Americans and Obama

At the risk of having my opinion dismissed again as “garbage,” I am going to give you my two cents worth on the complaints some black Americans  have against President Obama.

Of course President Obama did not meet the expectations of all black Americans.  There may even be some justice in accusations that his administration was unfair to black farmers. And the persistent high unemployment among minorities in America is inexcusable.

But think of the fallout if he had favored the 11 percent of the country who happen to have denser melanin than the rest. The other 89 percent would have been in an uproar.

As president, Barack Obama had a duty to all Americans, not just the ones with skin color resembling his own.

Only history will tell how much Barack and Michelle did for black American culture. They were wonderful role models, for one thing.

I don’t think black Americans have much to gain from promoting a racial view of American politics, anyway. They just don’t have the votes. The population is about 70 percent white, and Hispanics have overtaken African-Americans as the largest ethnic minority.

Besides, I would ask Obama’s critics to consider how well Jamaican immigrants have done in this country.

They faced the same barriers but refused to be defeated.

Don’t get me wrong, I know black Americans who have done very well, too. (Of course, they didn’t adopt defiantly outlandish styles and talk like “gangstas.”)

To believe that Donald Trump will offer black Americans a new deal is delusional. Trump is a rogue who is in it for himself, not anyone else.

He will promise anything to get his way, but his promises are worthless. He has what we call in Jamaica “sweet mouth.”

If the Democratic Party has been derelict in representing its loyal black following, I suggest we set out to reform the party – not abandon it.

With all its flaws, it’s still our best bet for racial and social justice in America.

Obama and black America

 

Faking out the Media

I like Don Lemon. He seems to be fair and reasonable. But he does have his candid moments. Last night, for example, he told a guest on CNN:

If you don’t want to participate in the news stories of this network, then don’t come on and participate.

And, moments later, he cut the show short to shut the guest up.

Not text book “journalism.” But I can understand why Lemon decided he’d had enough.

The guest was Paris Dennard (above, left), a former staffer in the George W. Bush administration, and he was doing one of those numbers Trump supporters do on the media. He was trying to make out that Lemon’s interview with him – yes the one they were doing at that very moment – was “fake news.”

How annoying is that?

If you have been following the Trump campaign, you must know who is spreading “fake news.” It’s Trump and his acolytes, of course.

From “alternative facts” to supporters supposedly representing the African American community (but actually promoting a defunct criminal cult) the Trump propaganda machine sprays lies with abandon.

I’m sure the Trump propagandists don’t expect you and me to believe their obvious lies. They’re counting on the low-information Americans, who are easily confused.

And if they can spread enough confusion, they can discredit the entire news industry – real and fake.

It’s an old trick but it works.

The best thing to do is what Lemon did. Stop listening.

Click for the news story.

 

A Mad Guy with a Gun?

OK, so the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. At least that’s the way you see it if you are a faithful fan of  Western movies or an NRA supporter. But why on earth would anyone want to have a mad guy with a gun show up?

Even the most limited intelligence must realize mentally ill people can be dangerous? Especially with a gun?

So why did Congress vote to arm mentally ill Americans?

According to the Associated Press:

Congress on Wednesday sent President Donald Trump legislation blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican, argued that “disabled’ people have rights, too . Even the right to bear arms.

“Disabled”?

Is that the picture you get when you think of some loon on a rampage?

Surely that’s taking political correctness to a bizarre extreme?

Yet according to the AP story, the American Civil Liberties Union and “advocacy groups” for the disabled  joined the NRA’s protest against the Obama regulation.

It’s a mad, mad world – sorry  mentally disabled.

Click for the story.

 

How about a New Democratic Party?

Back when I was a young reporter at the Toronto Star, Canadians formed a political party designed to protect the interests of the “working class.”

At the time, there were two major political parties in Canada – Liberals, who were heavily French Canadian, and Progressive Conservatives, who leaned more toward English Canada.

Both were unabashedly establishment oriented, but being Canadian, they were fairer and far more compassionate than American conservatives.

Traditionally egalitarian, Canadians would probably have denied they had a class system, but they did. If your parents could afford to send you to Upper Canada College, for example, you chances of success were greatly enhanced.

The formation of the New Democratic Party by Canada’s labor unions was a candid admission that a class system existed, and that the working class needed political help.

Over the years, the New Democrats have pressured Canada’s political system to introduce such reforms as free medical care for everyone, fairer wages and better working conditions, and compassionate welfare laws.

I  credit the NDP – and early leader Tommy Douglas – with much of the enlightenment that has occurred in  Canada during the past half century.

And I wonder whether it’s time for Americans to admit they, too, have a class system, and the working class needs help.

The Democratic Party of today seems based on the myth that America is a classless society, in which a rising tide lifts all boats. Party leaders seem to believe that you can please all the people all the time.

It might be a good idea to ditch the baggage-burdened Democratic Party,and create a new political organization candidly dedicated to protecting the interests of the working class in America.

They could call it the New Democratic Party.

More on the NDP

More on the Democratic Party

More on Tommy Douglas

 

Dump Trump? Not So Fast!

There are many reasons to rid America of the blight inflicted by the recent presidential election. But there’s one equally compelling reason to endure it.

Rid the nation of Trump and what have we got? Mike Pence.

Trump is a menace, of course, but Pence would be worse. The vice president is a truly dangerous human being.

To quote a tweet from someone identified as Dr. Kelly Sennholz:

Mike Pence is the walking personification of the banality of evil.

Not just evil, but the banality of evil.

Villains like Pence make evil seem normal. They look so ordinary, talk so ordinary, walk so ordinary.

And yet they stand for so much that J consider loathsome in human nature.

Bigotry. Racism. Xenophobia. Selfishness. Self righteousness. Lack of compassion… In short, the cold blooded inhumanity that so many of today’s “conservatives” embrace.

These are people who would never consider walking a mile in your shoes. They would much prefer to take your shoes away to teach you a lesson.

To them, that’s “tough love.”

What makes Pence especially dangerous is his skill at sugar coating his toxic doctrine. He does it all for your own good, don’t you see?

For example, as governor of Indiana, he advocated praying for the “conversion” of gays while depriving transgendered people of suitable toilet facilities.

No, Trump – blundering, clumsy, tweeting Trump – is less lethal than the man who would succeed him as president.

Our best hope is that as the involvement of Russia is revealed, the election loses so much credibility that a new election has to be held.

I know, it;s a long shot. But, as fas as I can see, it’s our best shot.

 

Trashy Night on TV

I confess. I watched the Grammy Awards on CBS last night. I thought Sandra would like it. But of course she did not. We  went to sleep about halfway through.

If there is any music worth listening to in today’s America, there was no sign of it in the Grammy Awards. If there is any creativity left in this worn-out culture, that was missing, too.

From the moment the idiot of a host tumbled down the fake stairs to the time the TV shut itself off to save power, all we saw was extravagance and pretentiousness, masquerading as showmanship.

Sorry Beyonce’ (picture above), you are no doubt a great talent. But that cloying stuff you served up last night was over the top.

In case any of my faithful readers missed  it…

Beyonce’  was clad head-to-toe in gold, like some Egyptian deity. She even wore a crown! And a veil!  Ghostly images of women and children danced around her and she cradled her pregnant body with reverence as she chanted inaudibly.

One critic raved that:

…she invoked images of both a goddess and the Virgin Mary.

Yes, as expected, the critics are agog this morning. But it was too much for me. I found the performance cringeworthy. (And I was put off by all those family members getting into the act… her mother, Tina Knowles, husband Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy.)

No Beyonce’, if you wanted to eulogize motherhood, pregnant with twins as you are, you might’ve been better off singing “Mother Machree.”

What made last night’s Grammy Awards even more depressing for me was the fact that I had just watched the Pebble Beach Pro Am.

Yes, Jordan Spieth found his groove, so that was something to cheer about. But the tournament, which used to be Bing Crosby’s warm and folksy Clambake, showcased all that reeks in golf.

The last thing I want to see on a golf course is Bill Murray dressed up as Farmer John (at right). And the clumsy old men (sorry Ms. Rice, you were the exception)  – the rich, clumsy old men –  who hogged the cameras, belong in Donald Trump’s world, not mine.

As for the announcers’ treacly  tributes to the folks who pay their way…. pardon me while I gag.

Everything that’s making golf unpopular in America was on display at that wretched tournament.

And, no, I don’t think the Monterey Peninsula looks beautiful in the rain and fog. I think it looks cold and damp.

Scenes like that are a dime a dozen back in Jamaica, where I grew up, anyway.

A different view of Beyonce’s performance

 

When Good People Do Nothing

Martin Luther King Jr. is among historical figures who reminded us that:

Evil only succeeds when good people do nothing.

The world is witnessing evil’s success as Trump and his gang pursue their agenda of plunder and oppression. But it seems this dark cloud might have a silver lining.

Good people are awakening to the horror their apathy has caused. My guess is that it will be a long time before Americans sleepwalk through another election.

Half of the country’s eligible voters neglected to exercise their franchise, and others left the boxes for President and Vice President blank. I am convinced that one reason was the assumption that Donald Trump could not possibly get elected, so why bother?

They were wrong. Trump lost the popular vote by an overwhelming margin, but just a few thousand votes – strategically distributed in an antiquated electoral system – won him the White House. America and the world are paying the price.

Not without resistance, however.

Across America, millions are protesting Trump’s abuses. And bolstered by age-old Constitutional protections, the courts are standing firm against his illegal orders.

While a recent poll shows his base of “deplorables” want Trump to have the powers of a dictator, the vast majority of “the people” oppose his overreach.

With his approval ratings at historic lows, nationwide resistance to Trump is growing daily.

There is even talk on social media of a general strike later this month.

Good people have decided they will no longer do nothing.

But while such demonstrations are valuable, the definitive response to aberrations ike Trump is still the ballot box. Let’s hope the painful lesson of November’s election is not forgotten when the next elections roll around.

Trump vs. the courts

More on the resistance

More on the strike

 

Troubling Signs

I’m sure you’ve heard that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” And I’m also sure you’ve noticed how America’s new president is imitating Vladimir Putin.

He and his minions are deploying a massive propaganda initiative, for example, based on “alternative facts.” And they relentlessly attack the mainstream media while silencing critics like Elizabeth Warren.

Are they also involved in violent “incidents” marring otherwise peaceful anti-Trump protests across the country?

Some observers suggest left-wing Anarchists are to blame.  Rowdy members of the protest movement wear black, carry identifying flags and display the letter A.

But you and I know you don’t have to be an Anarchist to dress like one. Wolves can wear sheep’s clothing. Russian funded troublemakers can wear any type of costume they want. This is still a free country.

I doubt Anarchists are  a significant movement in America today.  Remember those cartoons back when the world was young? Anarchists and their clumsy bomb making were laughed at even back then.

I find it hard to believe that the movement has survived underground all these years and is conveniently reemerging to give legitimate anti-Trump protests a black eye.

In today’s politics, nothing is necessarily as it seems.

But there are trends too obvious to miss. And Trump’s Putin-like predilection for suppressing opposition is one of those trends.

Of course, Putin doesn’t restrict his attacks to churning out abusive tweets  or shushing critics with obscure Senate rules. His methods are much more frightening.

Would Trump dare take his imitation of Putin to such extremes? Thankfully, there’s no evidence of that so far.

But who knows what a hothead like Trump might be up to?

Putin’s Russia

Blaming the Anarchists

Shushing Elizabeth Warren