Friday, October 22, 2021

Prioritizing Identity

The accolades, focused on identity, were plenty on that cool and cloudy day of November 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C. 

Scott Dworkin, co-founder and director of The Democratic Coalition, tweeted "BREAKING: Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has officially won her campaign for Senate in Arizona. Senator-Elect Sinema is the first woman to even serve as a US Senator from AZ." Appearing on the official Twitter account of the Democratic National Committee was "FLIP ALERT: Kyrsten Sinema has won in Arizona. Krysten ran on the issues that matter most to Arizonans- health care, the economy, and equality for all. We couldn't be more thrilled to se this smart, tenacious woman elected to the US Senate."

However, my favorite was from Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay woman to have been elected to the US Senate. She tweeted- honestly- "Congratulations to Kyrsten Sinema on a well-deserved victory. The upper chamber is lucky to have your steady leadership."

You many know where this is going, especially with that "steady leadership" thing.  Politico on Wednesday noted

As they seek to finalize President Joe Biden’s social spending plan by the end of the week, Sinema (D-Ariz.) remains opposed to one of the party's chief goals of raising tax rates on high-income earners and corporations, a long-sought objective since former President Donald Trump signed his 2017 tax cut law.

Now, party leaders are working behind the scenes to target the wealthy and corporate America without crossing what increasingly appears like a red line to Sinema, according to Democratic lawmakers and aides following the bill.

Though Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has advocated raising rates on high-income earners, corporations and capital gains, Sinema has landed to the right of Manchin on tax policy. And Democrats need to choose, quickly, to keep trying to convince Sinema or to craft workarounds that she can accept....

And many Democrats have grown frustrated with how much control Sinema is exerting, and the secretive way she wields it.

“This is a guessing game with Senator Sinema. Yeah, we're all supposed to be on the same team. And that means transparency, communication and collaboration. Without it, it makes this significantly more challenging,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas). “I don't know what the red lines are for one U.S. senator who has an amazing amount of power.”

Now, that is steady leadership, just as ex-president Trump continues to provide non-judgmental, unity-seeking leadership.  The jubilation felt by many Democrats upon the election of a bisexual because she is LGBTQ contrasts sharply with Justice Thurgood Marshall's much greater wisdom of thirty years ago when he was asked about selecting a replacement for him:: "I think the important factor is to pick the best person for the job, not on the basis of race one way or the other. I mean for picking the wrong Negro and saying 'I'm picking him because he's a Negro.'  I'm opposed to that...  I think the important factor is to pick the best person for the job, not on the basis of race one way or the other."



Thursday, October 21, 2021

Race, Race, And More Race

Mention to northeasterners of an advanced age Freddy's Fashion Mart, Crown Heights, and Steve Pagones, and they may know to whom you're referring. Swap out Steve Pagones for Tawana Brawley, and they almost surely will.  Allow Glen Loury to remind us of that day in November, 1987 when

.... a 15-year-old black girl was found lying in a garbage bag, smeared with feces, with various racial slurs and epithets written in charcoal on her body. She said that she’d been raped by six white men and that two were law-enforcement officials. Mr. Sharpton relentlessly championed her cause. And yet, after seven months of examining police and medical records, a grand jury found “overwhelming evidence” that Ms. Brawley had fabricated her entire story.

Yet Mr. Sharpton proceeded to accuse the prosecutor, Steven Pagones, of being one of the perpetrators of the alleged abduction and rape. Mr. Sharpton was successfully sued (along with Ms. Brawley’s lawyers, Anthony H. Maddox Jr. and C. Vernon Mason Sr.) for defamation. The jury in this civil action found Mr. Sharpton liable for making seven defamatory statements about Mr. Pagones, whose life fell apart as a result of the entire episode. Mr. Sharpton refused to pay his share of damages, which was later paid by a number of his supporters, and he has refused to apologize.

To this day, as reported in a fawning profile in March, 2018 unfortunately appearing in The New York Times, Sharpton defiantly defends his actions in this matter, stating "If I had to choose between a 15-year-old black girl and a white legal system that has always done us wrong, I’m going with her."

As a New Jerseyan of a certain age, I recall  being confident that the matter was a hoax, only because it was obviously so. . And now anyone who has a clue would recognize the same Al Sharpton defending racial bias and discrimination. Politico reports

The Rev. Al Sharpton has made calls to at least one member of Congress to convey his concerns that the full axing of the so-called carried interest loophole that’s being discussed for inclusion in the reconciliation bill would hurt Black businesspeople trying to build wealth, four sources tell Daniel.

 — Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), a member of the House Financial Services Committee and chair of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus, told POLITICO that Sharpton called her twice in mid-September to ask her whether a carve-out for those businesspeople could be created. Such a carve-out would be unprecedented and of questionable legality. Two sources said Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) has also called Sharpton to hear his views on this issue, and a spokesperson for the congressman said the two spoke “about ways to help Black-owned businesses. Reverend Sharpton’s National Action Network has a chapter in Las Vegas, and he and Congressman Horsford speak often about priorities for the Black community"....

Asked about his stance on this issue, Sharpton said in a brief interview that he “raised a question about whether there could be a carve-out about Black first-generation people who say that it affects their money. … I’m concerned about the unintended consequences.” He said he was not being paid to bring the issue up with lawmakers, calling it a position of his National Action Network, which has worked on advancing civil rights for decades. Sharpton said later that he wanted the businesspeople's concerns to be considered as Congress deliberates the provision. “I’m concerned that Black businesses that I fought for be heard and that their concerns be heard,” he said.

Sharpton evidently is not concerned about small businesses. He's not concerned about even black small businesses.  He's concerned about wealthy black business owners.

Al Sharpton is lobbying against closing the carried interest loophole in the Biden budget - a rule that allows billionaire investors to pay as low as 20% on taxes, lower than their janitors -- and he's saying he's doing it to protect Black businesspeople trying to build wealth.

That's because Al Sharpton has little interest in social justice even less in economic justice.  His passion is race, and he is little more than a race hustler.  Yet he retains credibility among some Democratic politicians as well as a show on MSNBC, which should be disturbing among people who actually do care about social and economic justice.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Missing The Moment

In a speech at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, Pa. three months ago, President Biden declared “Help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our election and the sacred right to vote. Have you no shame?”

Well, of course, Republicans do not. And though the righteous indignation may have been real, the determination to do much about it is absent.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer has announced that he will set a procedural vote for the Freedom to Vote Act as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, October 20. However, even with the support of Senators Manchin and Sinema, it will die because of filibuster while Minority Leader McConnell has said no Republicans will vote for it.

The week after Biden's stirring endorsement of the right to vote, Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, the prominent civil rights leader who founded and has led the Poor People's campaign, urged the President  “Go to Texas, and meet with a diverse group of people on the ground to put a face on this issue. Then go to Arizona. Go to West Virginia,” he said. “There ought to be a speech from the well of Congress.”

Certainly, eliminating the "sacred right to vote" is not Joe Biden's preference, but neither is it his priority, nor is eliminating the filibuster, which is preventing Congress from curbing voter suppression.  Peter Nicholas of The Atlantic writes

When I mentioned the alarm coming from activists, the White House official told me that the Biden administration is “pushing full force” to pass voting protections. “It’s fair for activists to continue to push,” the official said. “Every constituency has their issue. If you ask immigration folks, they’ll tell you their issue is a life-or-death issue too.” (Democracy’s preservation would seem more than a pet issue.) In one crucial respect, Biden has been holding back: He has yet to give a full-throated statement that Senate Democrats need to end the filibuster.

The right to vote is not immigration. It's not police reform or child-care subsidies, and it's not building roads and other hard infrastructure. It's the foundation of democracy, without which nothing more will be gained and most of which has been procured will be lost with the imposition of one-party Republican rule.

Action on the Build Back Better agenda, coronaviruses, and supply chain disruptions, which has characterized this presidency, is necessary but not sufficient. Walter Shaub understands:


Sunday, October 17, 2021

More Than A Temper Tantrum

In a piece in The New Republic, Donald Trump's outspoken niece, Mary L. Trump, recognizes the media

are so invested in the horse race that they fail repeatedly to inform Americans what is at stake—specifically, in this case, about the very real dangers facing American democracy—and instead speculate about whether a twice-impeached, two-time popular vote losing wannabe autocrat is going to run again in 2024. And if that is, indeed, the most important question they believe they should be asking, then perhaps they could, at the very least, explain why his doing so would be so dangerous to this country’s survival.

Ms. Trump refers to uncle Donald's statement on Wednesday in which he wrote

If we don't solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented) Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.

Perhaps attributable to Ms. Trump's training as a clinical psychologist, she unfortunately believes that this

most recent threat, delivered via that Wednesday statement, is just another temper tantrum designed to coerce the Republican Party not simply to conduct “audits” in all states but to protect his terribly fragile ego. His compulsion to punish those who fail or refuse to support his delusions overwhelms his ability to think strategically. In order to get Donald to stop holding voters hostage in the next two elections, his party is going to have to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. At this point, it’s a sucker’s bet to assume they won’t at least try in order to assuage him. But trying won’t be enough for their perpetually enabled leader. They’ll have to succeed.

But the former President knows the math. In order to overturn the results of the 2020 election, results would have to be reversed in Pennsylvania and Michigan; or in Pennsylvania and Georgia; or in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Nevada.  It would take more than one state. It's not going to happen, and he knows it.

ABC News' Chief Washington correspondent, though not specifically speculating on Trump's motive, notes the 2020 loser "helped Republicans lose two Georgia Senate seats in January. Now he seems ready to try it again in the midterms."

That's central to understanding the likely reason Trump is trying, by emphasizing "election fraud of 2020,"  to depress the vote in 2022. He knows the presidential election won't be overturned and promises Republicans therefore "will not be voting in '22 or '24."

If Republicans stay home, Democrats would retain control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It's not as if Trump hasn't gone this route before.

In 2016 he successfully targeted blacks, evidently successfully, to discourage them from casting a vote for President that November. He attacked Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the state of American culture and society generally, in his inauguration speech giving it the name "American carnage."  He called the US Senate races in January in Georgia "illegal and invalid," a charge which kept GOP turnout down, which consequently delivered victory to Democrats Warnock and Ossoff.


It's a strategy of discouraging voting, and it's in Trump's interests for Republicans to stay home in November of 2022, also. If Democrats thereby retain control of the House and the Senate, the ex-President would be well positioned in the primary contest and the general election to ridicule Democrats specifically and American government and life generally. 

Harry Truman was famously elected in 1948 by attacking the GOP "do nothing" Congress. But Democratic and Republican presidential candidates alike have profited handsomely from criticizing a congress controlled by the other party. For Donald Trump especially, that would be electoral gold. He is the favorite to win the nomination is 2024 but might need need a Democratic Congress to get elected, delusions and fragile ego aside.

Friday, October 15, 2021


"I do not believe you're an idiot but..."

As we travel down memory lane, recall the moment in a presidential debate early in the cycle when candidate Kamala Harris turned toward candidate Joseph R. Biden and charged

I do not believe you are racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe- and it's personal and it's actually very- it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.

As seen on the video above, the CNN morning duo in May interviewed Edward Isaac-Dovere, author of "Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats' Campaign to Defeat Trump" .During the first commercial break after his opponent's attack,, Joe Biden turned to Pete Buttigieg, leaned over and reportedly whispered "that was some f***ing bull****."  Jill Biden told supporters the following week "with what he cares about, what he fights for, what he's committed to, you get up there and call him a racist without basis? 'Go f*** yourself.'"

Perform an acrobatic sex act upon yourself- or join the ticket as vice-presidential candidate. In the interview, Isaac-Dovere noted that Mr. and Mrs. Biden took the attack "very personally." However, contrary to my cynicism, Isaac-Dovere claims

And it lasted for a long time. It lasted through when they were deciding what the running mate process was going to look like. It left a mark and they have gotten over it since, obviously.

Not so obviously, and we have the evidence from an excerpt from the book, in which Isaac-Dovere wrote

A poll from CBS a few weeks later, in the run-up to the second debate, captured that dynamic. Biden was still ahead, but Warren and Harris were given much higher numbers on being stronger and readier to fight.

“My guess,” Biden said at a campaign stop in Dearborn, Michigan, when asked about the poll, “is that to the extent that it occurs, I was probably overly polite in the way I didn’t respond to an attack, ‘You’re not a racist’—which is a nice thing to say, really reassuring.”

"You're not a racist"- which is a nice thing to say, really reassuring.

The context in no way suggests that Biden was being sarcastic. And no one is that stupid. No one hears "you are not a racist" and doesn't realize that the person is saying "you are a racist." The denial would be unnecessary were the speaker not implying the subject of her remark is racist. Isaac-Dovere explains that during a debate preparation session, advisers to Harris 

argued, go right in, starting the shredding with, “I do not believe you are a racist … ” Make Twitter explode. Become the story of the night.

when Harris asked, “Are you sure this is the right thing to do?” Sean Clegg, another outside consultant, backed her up. That was like saying a person wasn’t a child molester.

In selecting a one-time vicious critic as his running mate, it is unlikely that Biden was convinced of Harris' inherent decency. Rather

The debate was just one night in the campaign, but what it revealed about Biden and about Harris—and about how issues of race and identity factored in for Democratic primary voters—had implications that stretched into the running mate selection process, and beyond.

Biden’s fundamental liability remained that he was an old white man running in a party increasingly defined by young people, Black and Latino voters, and women. That boosted Harris.

Harris was at most only marginally, more popular among young people, and there was no fear that Biden would be pummeled by a charge of being "ageist."  And the Delawarean earlier had pledged that he would select a woman. 

Race had become salient with Harris' remarks and represented a land mine for the front-runner Moreover, Biden had no reason to be confident that an individual who had undressed him publicly on that issue would not do so, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, were he to be elected.  That would be political death for a Democratic president.

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," doesn't mean to reward them profusely, as Biden did by nominating Harris as his running-mate but to remain wary while keeping track of them.  Joe Biden didn't select the California senator as his heir apparent because he decided to let bygones be bygones. Nor was he convinced of her apparent decency or that they would become friends in time.

Instead, he realized that if ever someone were to accuse a President Biden of being racially intolerant or insensitive, it would be Kamala Harris.   The Joe Biden who was thoroughly intimidated decades earlier by Clarence Thomas is still alive and well and living in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Larger Context

The New York Times has reported

The Irish novelist Sally Rooney said on Tuesday that she would not allow the Israeli publishing house that handled her previous novels to publish her most recent book, “Beautiful World, Where Are You,” because of her support for Palestinian people and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

In an email, Ms. Rooney said that she was proud to have her first two books, “Normal People” and “Conversations With Friends,” published in Hebrew. “Likewise, it would be an honor for me to have my latest novel translated into Hebrew and available to Hebrew-language readers,” she said. “But for the moment, I have chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house.”

Support on Twitter for Rooney's position was impressive, including from one individual maintaining

Sally Rooney did not turn down her work being translated into Hebrew, she turned down allowing an Israeli publisher with ties to the IDF translating her work. Do not let people miss the latter part to smear this as anti-semitic.

Nonetheless, a contrasting sentiment:

Sally Rooney’s novels are available in Chinese and Russian. Doesn’t she care about the Uighurs? Or Putin-defying journalists? To judge Israel by a different standard than the rest of the world is antisemitism.

Fortunately, there is an answer to Franklin's question.   On The New Statesman's article "TheSally Rooney Hebrew row-explained, Emily Tankin asked "what about other countries with human rights abuses, such as China or Saudi Arabia?" Tankin noted

Rooney’s response to this was: “Of course, many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses. This was also true of South Africa during the campaign against apartheid there. In this particular case, I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions.”

Without actually conceding that China or Saudi Arabia is guilty of human rights abuses, Rooney has stated the undeniable: "Many states other than Israel are guilty of grievous human rights abuses." This is analogous to an individual making an insensitive, offensive remark and responding to criticism resisting apology, stating "I apologize to anyone I may have offended."  Rooney deftly avoids accusing any nation, in this case China or Saudi Arabia, of human rights abuses.

But she does name Israel, "responding to the call from Palestinian civil society." She thereby pivots quickly from the notion that any nation other than Israel may abuse human rights, and invokes the apartheid previously practiced by South Africa. She cannot call out China or Saudi Arabia.  Nor Cuba, Libya, Pakistan, Bolivia, Russia, or any other nation abusing its own people.

No, it's only Israel she can name. And she does so by smearing it as an apartheid state, comparing it to the long discredited and overthrown South African regime.

It is impossible to determine whether Rooney is anti-Semitic as opponents of BDS suggest she is an anti-Semitic while supporters of the movement will vigorously defender her against the charge. Additionally, her particular motive is relatively inconsequential. She should not be canceled; her works still should be published if of literary value, and individuals comfortable with the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East should personally disavow her.

Of more importance is the BDS movement itself. Last month, as preparations were being made for the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, law professor, human rights activist and former Canadian politician Irwin Cotler informed us

A global campaign against Israel as an “ethnic cleansing, criminal, and apartheid state” was launched in the immediate aftermath of post-Durban calls for the dismantling of Israel as a “racist apartheid state.” The first UN Human Rights Commission meeting in the aftermath of Durban sought to single out Israel for differential and discriminatory treatment with a majority of all resolutions passed indicting Israel, while the major international human rights violators, such as Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Iran, enjoyed exculpatory immunity. A meeting at the University of Michigan that served as a launching pad for the BDS Movement rejected a resolution “calling for a two-state solution if Israel were to become a democratic state” — problematic in itself — in favor of a resolution “calling for the dismantling of Israel as a racist apartheid state.”

This is about the perseverance of a vulnerable, pro-American and democratic state in the Middle East. It is bigger, far more important than one highly acclaimed, misguided Irish novelist.  


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Silence, A Bad Option

In a statement posted on the White House's website on Mat 25, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris revealed

Today the President and I met with the family of Mr. George Floyd. Mr. Floyd should be alive today. He should be with his family who continue to show courage, grace, and resilience....

We must address racial injustice wherever it exists. That is the work ahead.

There is someone else who should be with family members, who continue to show courage, grace, and resilience.  That would be 58-year-old Maria Ambrocio, a Bayonne, New Jersey resident who on a visit to New York City

was in Times Square Friday afternoon with friends when police allege Foster plowed into her outside a pizzeria while running away after stealing another woman’s phone moments before.

Ambrocio was pushed. She fell and cracked her skull, and later died.

Sources say Foster took off but was arrested minutes later, adding he was also involved in a home invasion robbery shortly before at a woman’s apartment nearby, as well as a groping incident in Midtown last month.

According to his family in NJ, 26-year-old Jermaine Foster had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since he was a teenager and was devastated when his father died last year of Covid-19. Foster currently was homeless was prescribed medication. (He has been arrested and is charged with burglary, robbery and murder.) In a measured response on Facebook, the Philippine Consulate General in New York wrote in part

Beginning January, we have seen several of our kababayan, most of them senior citizens, violently assaulted by individuals with mental health issues.

We have joined calls for authorities to take the necessary steps, including heightened police visibility, to protect the public after we noted the surge in anti-Asian hate incidents that targeted some of our kababayan. 

We also supported calls for authorities to take the necessary measures to address mental health issues, especially among the homeless.

We reiterate these calls as we mourn our loss but we also ask ourselves: How many more Maria Ambrocios do we have to mourn before the streets would be made safe again?

Ambrocio was an oncology nurse. It is a time when health care professionals across the nation have been lauded and celebrated, when many areas across the nation have been wracked by a major surge of violent crime. and New York City reportedly has been plagued by a rise in anti-Asian incidents.

The Administration should take notice. While President Biden has been consumed by the pandemic, infrastructure, and other problems which demand his attention, the Vice President, whose only significant duty (other than in the month following a presidential election) is to cast a deciding vote in the Senate when the chamber is evenly split, should speak up.

When George Floyd was brutally murdered, Vice President Harris took sides, recognizing "we must address racial injustice wherever it exists." The slaying of Maria Ambrocio highlights the injustice many Asian-Americans believe they suffer in New York City and elsewhere. It's a perfect opportunity for Kamala Harris to find her voice again and emphasize that 58-year old women should not have to fear for their lives or be at the mercy of violent men on the streets of America.

Prioritizing Identity

The accolades , focused on identity, were plenty on that cool and cloudy day of November 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C.  Scott Dworkin, co...