Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Rim Country Gazette Blog is on vacation.  We'll be back with new posts on Saturday, May 28.  Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Donald Trump, President of the Confederacy

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally. (photo: Charlie Leight/Getty Images)
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally. (photo: Charlie Leight/Getty Images)

By Chauncey DeVega, Salon
17 May 16
A decades-long pattern of racist appeals has left the Republican Party with no one but the racists

here are two consistent themes about the American right-wing in the Age of Obama. First, racism and conservatism is now one and the same thing. Second, the Republican Party is the United States’ largest white identity organization. I am not the only person to have made such observations.

Of course, Republicans and conservatives find these twin facts offensive and unbelievable. They hold onto their founding myth of Lincoln and “Great Emancipator” while simultaneously being dependent on voters from the former Confederacy for power—states that still fly and honor the American swastika, a rebel flag of treason and anti-black hatred.

Despite their protests, the evidence is overwhelming.

The ascendance of Donald Trump and his coronation as the presumed 2016 Republican presidential candidate is the logical outcome of a several decades-long pattern of racism, nativism, and bigotry by the American right-wing and its news entertainment disinformation machine.

For example, in response to the triumphs of the black freedom struggle and the civil rights movement, the Republican Party has relied on the much discussed “Southern Strategy.” Lee Atwater, master Republican strategist and mentor to Karl Rove explained this approach as:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N****r, n****r, n****r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n****r”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N****r, n****r.”

Ronald Reagan and other Republican elites would leverage Atwater’s approach to winning white voters and elections. To point, Reagan began his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the locale where American civil rights freedom fighters Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were killed by white racial terrorists. In that speech, Reagan signaled to the ghosts of Jim and Jane Crow and the neo-Confederacy by stating his support for “states’ rights.”

Reagan would continue to use overt and coded racial appeals to gin up white support through his references to a “lazy,” “violent” and “parasitic” class of black Americans who he described as “welfare queens” and “strapping bucks.” George Bush would continue with the Southern Strategy when he summoned up white racist stereotypes and fears of “the black beast rapist” in the form of Willie Horton during the 1988 presidential election.

The Age of Obama witnessed an explosion of anti-black racism by the Republican Party and conservatives en masse. Birtherism, the rise of the Tea Party, the use of antebellum language (which was used to defend the Southern slaveocracy) such as “secession” and “nullification”, both overt and coded racist invective by Republican officials and news media, and a pattern of disrespect towards both the idea and literal personhood of Barack Obama as the United States’ first black president has been the norm. This deluge of anti-black animus towards Barack Obama does not exist in a separate universe outside of American society: it has real impact on the values and behavior of citizens.

To wit: in discussing his recent work on racial attitudes and political polarization, Professor Michael Tesler has noted how:

After at least two full decades of being unrelated to party identification, both old fashioned racism and anti-black affect have once again become significantly linked to white partisanship in the age of Obama…After at least two full decades of being unrelated to party identification, both old fashioned racism and anti-black affect have once again become significantly linked to white partisanship in the age of Obama.

In all, Barack Obama’s presidency has been so disruptive to the white right-wing political imagination that it has resurrected a type of overt racism which was thought to be largely vanquished from American public life.

The intersection of white racism (“modern” and “old-fashioned”), nativism, a sense of white victimhood, and grievance mongering in the form of conspiracy theories and other unfounded beliefs is evident in other ways as well. 

Fifty-four percent of Republicans believe that Barack Obama is a “secret Muslim.” Forty-four percent also believe that Obama was not born in the United States. Forty-two percent of Republicans believe that Muslims should be banned from the United States. Sixty-four percent of Republicans believe that “racism” against white people is as big a problem as discrimination against black Americans. 

In a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 66 percent of Republican and Republican-inclined respondents want to return to the “good old days.. This number is higher for Trump backers. It is important to note that this era was one of Jim and Jane Crow anti-black racism, legal sexism, and unapologetic discrimination against gays and lesbians. This yearning for a return to a fictive golden age of white male Christian domination over American social and political life is reflected in other work that shows how white people are much more pessimistic about their futures than Hispanics and African-Americans.

Donald Trump is not a political genius. He understands what the Republican base yearns for and has been trained to believe–like a sociopolitical version of Pavlov’s dog–by its leaders.

Trump says that Muslims should be banned from the United States because Republican voters respond to such hatred and intolerance.

Trump lies that undocumented Hispanic and Latino immigrants are rapists and killers who want to attack white women because Republican voters find such rhetoric compelling.

Trump uses social media to circulate white supremacist talking points about “black crime” because modern conservatives nurtured on “law and order” politics believe that African-Americans are out of control “thugs” possessed of “bad culture” who live to prey on innocent and vulnerable white people.

Trump talks about China “raping” the United States because this arouses anger and fear of a new “yellow peril” where the manhood and honor of (white) America is sacrificed to a “sneaky” and “scheming” “Oriental” horde who twist their Fu Manchu mustaches and seduce white women in opium dens while simultaneously negotiating multibillion dollar trade deals.

And perhaps most damning, Donald Trump has been endorsed by neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and the Ku Klux Klan: he has been reluctant to publicly reject and denounce their support.

The corporate news media has aided and abetted “Trumpmania” by normalizing his racist, nativist and bigoted behavior. In response to Trump’s crucial win in last week’s Indiana primary, Slate’s Isaac Chotiner skewered this failure of journalistic integrity and responsibility among the TV news chattering class as:

On TV Tuesday night, there was hardly a whimper. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox contented themselves with bright chatter about Ted Cruz’s hurt feelings, about Donald Trump’s political skill, about the feckless, pathetic Republican establishment. None of the commentators I saw mentioned the import of what was happening. Large chunks of the media have spent so long domesticating Trump that his victory no longer appeared momentous. He is the new normal….There was little talk of ideology, or racism, or bigotry, or fascist appeals. Instead, the conversation was about process; Trump had been fit into the usual rhythms of an election season. The closest thing I heard to open-mouthed shock came from Rachel Maddow, who wondered, correctly, why out of 330 million people the Republican Party had chosen this particular reality-television star.

Elizabeth Bathory was a 16th century Hungarian countess who killed hundreds of young virgin girls and then bathed in their blood with the hope that it would maintain her beauty. Since at least the end of the civil rights movement, the Republican Party and movement conservatives have followed a similar “beauty” regimen. Instead of the blood of female virgins, they have washed themselves in racism and bigotry in order to buoy their political vitality.

Donald Trump decided to move this political ritual out of the shadows and into the light of prime time television and the 24/7 news cycle. Trump, with his background in professional wrestling and reality TV simply took what has always been implied by the American Right-wing and made it obvious.

This move vanquished Trump’s Republican rivals.

The question now becomes, will Trump’s version of Elizabeth Bathory be enough to defeat Hillary Clinton and win the White House in November 2016?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

'Transgender people are not imposters intending to deceive unsuspecting girls.'

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist 

Fractured We and the Bathroom Conundrum
The relationships of gender identity were shown in the comedy movies Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman and Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams.  They reveal its malleability.  They were not about a permanent, innate and consistent behavior rooted in the mind or that some feel that they don’t belong in the body they were born into.
It’s different than the slippery slope alleging that our Federal Government authorizes any curious fourteen year old boy to use the girl’s rest room.  We have serious laws about sexual assault, and this isn’t that.  Transgender people are not imposters intending to deceive unsuspecting girls.
A “cisgender” person’s sex matches their birth certificate, their biological genome, their bodies, and their personal identity.  It does not depend on appearances, orientation, mental, or physical characteristics.  By this definition, everyone of an original gender group is and always remains the same.  Laws based on this assumption guarantee problems because they require a manly female to use the woman’s rest room.  They are self-referential because they create the problem they are supposed to fix.  They exist within the tension between narrow legal precedent and broad morality. 
Some people are born differently.  They would have to prove what they are.  What they look, act, and sound like is not enough.  If you are different, they’ve got you trapped, identified as one of those people.
Transgender people can’t feel comfortable unless they use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity.  Otherwise, they would be viewed as “out of place” and could be harassed by laws requiring them to prove their gender.  What does one do if they don’t look male or female according to expectations or were born with blurred characteristics?  What if they are a female muscle builder or a long haired male?  Rock Hudson, the manly movie star, was gay.  He did not look that way.
It is part of election politics.  New state laws would roll back and prohibit anti-discrimination policies in employment, the public square, the marketplace, and municipalities.  The law is authoritative, taking away personal responsibility.  It implies that it represents the “will of the American people”, so why should anyone buck the tide? 
John Kavanagh, Arizona Republican, introduced a 2013 restroom bill that would have prevented transgender people from using the restroom of their chosen gender identity, but it failed before reaching Governor Brewer.  Now conservative lawyers in the deep pocketed Arizona Alliance Defending Freedom are manufacturing problems by writing laws for state legislators that divide Americans.  They are interested in “reasonable” fees and want people to be able to sue for $2500 plus psychological and emotional damages resulting from seeing a person who does not belong.  The police must cringe at the likelihood of being swamped by calls from hysterical girls.  Lawyers are the only winners when the states, Federal government, and people who have always got along in the past sue each other. 
Now’s Their Chance
This hullabaloo could be a reaction to “legislation from the bench”, allowing gay marriage.  Strict conservatives will never be able to accept that.
Some folks are deeply worried about the possibility of inappropriate exposure to the opposite sex.  State’s rights mean this can play out differently depending on the situation.  It matters whether bathroom policies result in discrimination at schools receiving federal funding or whether you might be called upon to “Show me your ….” to use a public bathroom.  Some state regulations would go so far as to require you to dress according to the sex shown on your birth certificate.
Absolute Truth
Pat Robertson depersonalizes transgender people, forgetting that the last will be first.  He claims a greater discrimination against the bulk of the American people will occur if there aren’t laws that roll back LGBT protections.
The TV preacher explained to this enthralled mega-congregation that if you had doubts about all the animals coming out of Noah’s ark and the sun and moon stopping at the battle of Jericho, you were persecuting his tribe.  It was an unconstrained supernatural war with liberals, and his congregation would be either in the light or dark.  There could be no in-between.  His religious freedom required you to have no doubt that God did not make those kinds of people.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, reaches further from the Bible than any justice when he chastises his opposition saying, “For them, truth is all relative.  There is no absolute truth anymore, so they can bend the rules and twist it however they want to push their agenda.”
There Is No Doubt about It
God’s laws are revealed in the simplest things.   In power electronics, a good question is, where does the energy go?  Conservation of energy is fundamental to the ac current we have in our homes and it manifests itself in motors, transformers, power supplies, and the complex math that describes ac power by separating stored energy from losses.  It is in the earth and moon’s motions and how they appear from our frame of reference.  The sun does not move around the earth.  The earth’s mass, orbital, and rotational motions contain a lot of energy.  It does not make sense that God would choose only one time to violate his own laws as a publicity stunt. 
How we know anything at all is a very old question going back to the beginnings of philosophy.  Most people think that we can intuitively know the concept of identity.  Descartes claimed, “I think, therefore I am.” It becomes increasingly unclear as we move away from such simple ideas.
The ancient Greeks gave us the logic that mathematics and rational thought are based upon.  We once thought that it was the path to understanding and absolute truth, but not anymore.  Math is a universal language, coming from geometry.  It is a way of thinking that is much more than just a set of repeated boring operations.
The gambling casino works because of the mathematics of expectation, but that is based on independent events that are equally probable, can be intuitively identified, and are countable.  There are “after the fact” tests for randomness, shown by the bell curve, but they do not have complete certainty.
When nature imperfectly aims at a target, the bell curve emerges in the long run.  It is the link between intuition and experience, between thought and observation.  Probability helps us, because it bounds the uncertain.  Statistics are an abstraction, especially when they concern polls, people, and pills.  It is the individuals that are real.
To make use of the statistical functions of the bell-curve’s random variable is to in some way know them.  They are numbers that can’t be known, but to know that they can’t be known is to know them.  It goes in circularity, round and round, regenerating and paradoxically feeding back.  Our thoughts are self-referential and incomplete, containing ambiguity that denies an absolute truth.
The distinction between truth and belief is blurred in books written by PHD philosophers who see no difference.  You can believe anything you want to.  It is only in the simplest relationships, like the conservation of energy, that truth can be separated from belief.  The deeper reality is that self-referential ambiguity is precisely what unites us in faith.  In a way, this partly justifies Mr. Perkins contention, but it cannot fix the transgender bathroom dilemma.
Global Commodes
The ancient Greeks had communal baths and toilets, often with no privacy.  Their culture viewed gender in terms of relationships instead of body parts.  Could it be that they were partly right? 
Greek baths reflected a culture answering to technology that had no sewers, plumbing, and little understanding of disease.  Two thousand years later those problems have gone away, but many reality demons remain.
In India, tens of millions of people have no bathroom.  It is not the focus of the bathroom leading to sexual assault, but its lack.
An old-fashioned bathroom in China consisted of a bare concrete floor that slopes toward a hole in the middle, with a garden hose to accomplish the flushing.  People who can’t squat were discriminated against.
In contrast, the expensive Tokyo hotel had a toilet that was so complicated that you needed to consult the user’s manual before going.
Where I grew up, some families were still using out-houses.  They were not heated.  The better ones had two holes and a seat that you sat on.  No flushing was necessary.
The overseas night club had a second floor urinal.  It splashed into the open sewer along the street below.  It works well in places where it often rains.
The only restroom at the tropical train station had a twenty foot plugged latrine that was overflowing leaving urine everywhere to ankle depth.  There was no cooling and it was 110 degrees with near 100 percent humidity.  The only ventilation was a tiny window at the far end, about the size of a sheet of paper.  The sun shone through it revealing a green fog that condensed and dripped from everything.
It’s not nice!  In Europe, they put bathtubs in hotel rooms but not commodes.  There was only one, serving all the hotel rooms, and it was located one hundred yards through the snow, outside, containing barely enough room for one person.  There was no problem with voyeurism, but you could be attacked traveling between your room and the toilet.
When I told the waitress, put lots of hot sauce on those tacos, I made a mistake that would hit me three quarters of the way between Seattle and Yuma.  Thank God, the roadside rest area had a toilet.  Imagine my dismay when I found that it was filled with feces extending two feet above the toilet seat and there were beer cans imbedded in what was like a large pile of modeling clay.
Then, there is the only rest-stop between Phoenix and Payson, closed for years, leaving just the road side bushes.
What Really Matters
We have selected leaders who would destroy what has always worked, and what we should appreciate, just to divide us.  It’s time to let them go.  Sanitation, health, and availability matter more and are less expensive than the inherent discrimination of creating special bathrooms for fuzzy classifications of misunderstood human beings.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Donald Trump Named in Latest Panama Papers Leak

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (photo: John Taggart/Getty)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (photo: John Taggart/Getty)

By teleSUR
At least 140 politicians from more than 50 countries are linked to offshore companies.
epublican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been linked to anonymous companies created by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, according to documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists known as the ICIJ, according to an NPR report.

The leaked documents show that the Trump empire is linked to 32 offshore companies, including the real estate project Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama.

His name appears 3,540 times in the database, but according to media reports that doesn’t mean he is directly involved since Trump has sold his name to other investors in different countries.

The latest release of documents includes the names of more than 320,000 people and companies around the world, including politicians, businesspeople and movie stars.

Among the people named in the papers are Argentine President Mauricio Macri, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud, and actress Emma Watson.

Offshore companies are not illegal, but are often used to evade taxes.

Mossack Fonseca has rejected the publishing of this database, which they say was stolen from their offices. They have announced legal actions against ICIJ, according to a statement.

“Beside being obtained illegally, the database is filled with errors and leads to wrong conclusions among people, companies and middlemen,” said Mossack Fonseca in a statement. “The use of stolen private information is a crime in every state that we work in.”

Friday, May 13, 2016

Trump Promises Paul Ryan That He'll Sound Slightly Less Like Hitler

Donald Trump. (photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
Donald Trump. (photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker

n what is being hailed as a productive closed-door meeting between two leaders of the Republican Party, Donald J. Trump promised House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday that he would try to sound slightly less like the former German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.

Speaking to reporters at the U.S. Capitol after the meeting, the presumptive G.O.P. nominee said that Ryan had expressed concern that so many of the billionaire’s public utterances were reminiscent of the Third Reich.

“Paul basically said, ‘Can you help me out here? Can you not sound like Hitler all the time?’” Trump said. “And I was like, ‘Paul, I can absolutely do that for you.’”

As an example, Trump said, “Instead of saying I am going to round up people based on their religion, I’ll say that’s just a suggestion. Just like that, I’m fifty per cent less Hitlerish.”

Trump acknowledged that the challenge for him will be to sound somewhat less like Hitler to please congressional Republicans while still sounding enough like Hitler to avoid alienating his key constituencies of Nazis and white supremacists.

“Figuring out just how much like Hitler I’m going to be at any given time is the kind of thing I’ve always been fantastic at,” he said.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kenya Burns 106 Tons Of Ivory

“A time has come when we must take a stand and the stand is clear…Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants,” Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s current president said.

SOURCE NationofChange 

Kenya Nairobi National Park just set fire to the largest stockpile of ivory yet. Over 106 tons of ivory, taken from elephant tusks and rhino horns, was burned in order to protest illegal ivory trade. They are hoping this will send a message saying ivory no longer has commercial value.

“A time has come when we must take a stand and the stand is clear…Kenya is making a statement that for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants,” Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s current president said.

Despite this fight, the demand for ivory continues to put the future of elephants and rhinos in danger, as hundreds of thousands continue to die every year for their tusks. Let’s hope this move the Kenyan government has made will help spread the message that the poaching of animals to sell their tusks is not okay!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why Bernie Will, Should and Must Stay in the Race

Bernie has substantively — even profoundly — changed American politics for the better.
By Jim Hightower
Nation of Change

Surprisingly, this week’s prize for “Stupidest Political Comment in the Presidential Race” doesn’t go to Donnie Trump or Ted Cruz.

Rather, the honor goes to the clueless cognoscenti of conventional political wisdom. These pundits and professional campaign operatives have made a unilateral decision that Bernie Sanders must now quit the race for the Democratic nomination. Why? Because, they say: “He Can’t Win.”

Actually, he already has. Sanders’ vivid populist vision, unabashed idealism, and big ideas for restoring America to its own people have jerked the presidential debate out of the hands of status quo corporatists, revitalized the class consciousness and relevance of the Democratic Party, energized millions of young people to get involved, and proven to the Democratic establishment that they don’t have to sell out to big corporate donors to raise the money they need to run for office.

Bernie has substantively — even profoundly — changed American politics for the better, which is why he’s gaining more and more support and keeps winning delegates. From the start, he said: “This campaign is not about me” — it’s a chance for voters who have been disregarded and discarded to forge a new political revolution that will continue to grow beyond this election and create a true people’s government.

From coast to coast, millions of voters have been “Feeling the Bern.” That’s the campaign slogan that grassroots supporters created to express their passion for the unconventional presidential run being made by Bernie Sanders.

Yes, passion — an outpouring of genuine excitement that is (as we say in Texas) “hotter than high school love.” All this for a 74-year-old Democratic Socialist who is openly taking on the corporate plutocracy that’s been knocking down the middle class and holding down the poor. Sanders is the oldest candidate in the race — yet, politically, he’s the youngest candidate, exuberantly putting forth an FDR-sized vision and agenda to lift up America’s workaday majority. And, guess what? It turns out that workaday Americans really value democracy over plutocracy, so that’s where his passionate support comes from.

Need I mention that the moneyed powers — and the politicians hooked on their money — hate this affront to their cozy politics-as-usual/ business-as-usual system? Especially shocking to them is that Sanders’ supporters have found their way around the usual Wall of Big Money that the establishment always throws us to thwart populist campaigns. This time, though, a counter-force of common folks has created a widely-successful campaign fund of their own to support their Bernie Rebellion. How successful? A whopping $182-million has been raised in millions of small donations. How small? They average $27 each.

That’s a revolution, right there! Every revolution needs a slogan, so here’s one that used to be on the marquee of a vintage, locally-owned motel just down the street from where I live in Austin: “No additives, No preservatives, Corporate free since 1938.” That perfectly sums up the unique people’s campaign that Bernie-people have forged for themselves.

The keepers of the Established Order fear this grassroots uprising by no-name “outsiders,” and they know that this year’s Democratic nomination is still very much up for grabs, so they’re stupidly trying to shove Sanders out before other states can vote. But Bernie and the mass movement he’s fostering aren’t about to quit — they’ll organize in every primary still to come, be a major force at the Democratic convention, and keep pushing their ideals and policies in the general election… and beyond.

As Sanders puts it: “I run not to oppose any man or woman, but to propose new and far-reaching policies to deal with the crisis of our times… It may be too late to stop the billionaire class from trying to buy the presidency and congress… But we owe it to our children and grandchildren to try…We need to face up to the reality of where we are as a nation, and we need a mass movement of people to fight for change.”

That’s what real politics should be — not merely a vacuous campaign to elect a personality, but a momentous democratic movement fighting for the common good.