The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘the others

Good afternoon Widdershins. I hope your Tuesday is a good one.

So much news! Everywhere you look there is another headline screaming or better said, everywhere you look there is a pundit screaming in order to hear his head rattling. As is my chronic condition of being unable to focus on any one subject, I’m exercising a fielder’s choice and offering up a grab-bag of topics.

Picture from a few hours ago...

Picture from a few hours ago…

Turning first to the Middle East, we so often forget that Israeli politics can be even more divisive than our own. True to form, where there is canyonesque political division there is opportunity. Such is the case with young Mr. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. I’m sure you have seen Mr. Dermer on any number of talk shows extolling the regrettable virtues of raining bombs down on a captive population of civilian Palestinians while asking the unanswerable question of, “Would any country suffer rocket sieges without protecting itself?“

If you noticed a pronounced lack of accent in the 43-year-old’s rapid fire debate delivery, it is because he was born in Miami where his father was a conservative Democratic mayor. He went to the University of Pennsylvania for its Wharton business school and happened into a political class taught by Frank Luntz. After graduating, he briefly worked for Mr. Luntz and became completely immersed in GOP politics. Through networking at a speed that would put the Hadron Large Collider to shame, he is now known as “Bibi’s Brain” for his close relationship with Netanyahu. The article is well worth the read to remind us “all politics is local” — it’s just that the definition of local has been enlarged.

Children approaching borderBack home with the refugee situation everyone has dubbed a “border crisis,” there is an enlightening opinion piece by El Paso county judge, Ms. Veronica Escobar. Judge Escobar’s opinion, backed up by a Rio Grande River of facts, is that:

…There’s no crisis. Local communities like El Paso have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants. Rather, the myth of a “crisis” is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place.

Her essay is persuasively written and is well worth the read.

For three weeks now, I have been focused on this child refugee opportunity facing the country. I deem it an opportunity since great leadership can’t select its circumstance. Will we meet the challenge?

Comprehensive immigration reform could be had in the time it would take for John Boehner to hold a roll call vote in the House since the bipartisan Senate bill sits there languishing. But instead, the Tea Party’s tribalism is producing an immigration policy of total undifferentiated deportation. It is deportation without a whiff of due process protection for these children who have trudged through the desert to reach our border.

Along with deportation, the only other facet of immigration policy these nativists will countenance is further One childmilitarization of the border with troops and walls and armed aggression. All the while forgetting, these are children — children who are endangered by drug lords, war lords, or sex traffickers.

I’ve yet to hear the first explanation of the unavoidable circumstance where children, already spent from their desert trek, are stopped at the border by armed American soldiers and turned away with nowhere to go. There will be maybe ten at first, then twenty, then perhaps hundreds. How do we caption that picture for the world stage? We, as a country and as a people, are better than that — or at least most of us are.

Turning north to yet another instance of reining in the “others” there were two differing decisions regarding the Affordable Care Act by two different federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. The issue was whether or not the subsidies are available to those who have enrolled in healthcare plans through the federal exchange versus state exchanges. The case is Halbig v. Burwell and the divergent opinions were from the D.C. Circuit and the Fourth Circuit.

This one is easy — the opinion by the D.C. Circuit, a 2-1 decision attempting to cripple the ACA with a cockeyed reading of the statute, is wrong or as one of my professors used to say, “It couldn’t be wronger.” It will be summarily denied effect by a full en banc panel of judges when it is reargued.

ACA Legal ChallengesThe D.C. opinion was a political opinion. It ignored a basic legal concept taught in first year law school from the case of Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Simply put, a court should defer to a federal agency when there is a discrepancy in statutory language rather than declaring the legislation a nullity. I guess the two D.C. appellate judges missed that day in law school.

Crossing the street from the D.C. Court of Appeals to Capitol Hill, our old friend Paul Ryan is at it again. He just can’t help himself. In an unending quest to breathe life into the vacuous heartless fictional philosophy of the atheist Russian émigré Ayn Rand, he unveiled yet another anti-poverty plan. To be fair, a portion of the plan is laudatory — increasing and extending the Earned Income Tax Credit to the working poor, but that nugget comes at the price of basically “eliminating dozens of programs and block granting a capped amount to the states.”

This state block granting of aid to the poor is where most observers have a massive anal bleed — me included. Block granting aid to the states, the very same states forbidding what is essentially free healthcare to the poor through Medicaid expansion will then be charged with using unfettered block grants as they see fit to help the poor. What could possibly go wrong!?!

After we give the poor people life coaches, P90X is next...

After we give the poor people life coaches, P90X is next…

A piece of Ryan’s plan has gotten little play: A mandatory precursor to receiving any aid is that a poor person would have to craft a “life plan.” In conjunction with a government worker or a deputized non-profit organization, a poor person would have to agree to benchmarks, timelines, sanctions, and cutoff dates for receiving “opportunity grants”.

You read that right — the darling of the small government crowd, the doyen of the government is too big and can’t do anything right crowd, Paul Ryan is proposing the poor must now have “life coaches.” Even conservatives love-struck with Ryan are saying he’s gone a chapter or two too far in his Ayn Randian quest.

Quite surprisingly, since corporations are now people, there’s no mention in Ryan’s proposal for “corporate life coaches” to set timelines for the sun-setting of corporate welfare. I’m sure the oversight was inadvertent.

Sarah and KimSpeaking of failed vice presidential nominees, the long wait is over my friends. For those of you jonesing for more Sarah Palin, your prayers have been answered. For only $99.95 a year, you can subscribe to Sarah teevee — all Sarah, all the time with her wit and wisdom irradiating like an aurora borealis backlit test pattern.

For those of you who think it might be a coincidence that Kim Kardashian also announced a new “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood App” costing $99.95, could it be Sarah and Kim are the new power couple — the Palashian? Don’t forget Kim’s baby is named “North” for no apparent reason until now. Or might it just be Sarah and Kim are the same person? They certainly have the same outlook when it comes to celebrity — it’s great to be paid to be famous.

I could go on and on with other tidbits in the news, but I’ll turn over the discussion to you — this is an open thread.

 

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Good afternoon Widdershins. Unfortunately, the cheeriest thing I can bring myself to say is, “It’s Tuesday.”

By now, if you are anything like me, you are saturated in the ethnic separatist horror manifested by blowing 298 innocent souls out of the sky or by the millennium of tribalism being played out by proxy pawns along the Gaza Strip. No paltry words of mine can salve the grief stricken suffering as it plays itself out before our eyes.

Murrieta Buses

Forgive me for not focusing on those stories, but the images of the shouting, anger-seething hordes stopping those buses of refugee children have inspired quite a bit of thought over the past week. Inspired isn’t quite right. Those images merely reinforced something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time.

In many ways those images are consistent with our long history of ugly prejudice. We always seem to find a way to dressed up prejudice as a concern for public health or an assault upon our national sovereignty. Our entire 19th and early 20th century was infected with attacks on immigrants as diseased intruders upon the American body politic.

In 1832, the Irish were accused of bringing cholera. Later, the Italians were stigmatized for polio. In 1900, the Chinese immigrants in San Francisco’s Chinatown were quarantined out of an unfounded fear of bubonic plague. Not to paint with too fine a brush, but we portrayed Asians as feeble and infested with hookworm. Mexican were diagnosed as lousy. Eastern European Jews were pronounced vulnerable to trachoma, tuberculosis was dubbed the “Jewish disease”, and they were handed the “wastebasket” diagnosis of having generally “poor physique.” In the early 1900s newspapers announced every incoming ship was brimming with syphilitic and leprous heathens.

Buses American FlagsSo the images of the angry mobs attacking buses of children fresh from their jaunty thousand mile desert trek is but a vivid reminder of our heritage of unfocused nativist fears. In reality though, given the mandated required screenings by Homeland Security, these refugee children in all likelihood are better inoculated than American children given the new fear-mongering around vaccines. In short, the odds these migrant children could cause a general infection of anything are slim to none, and slim isn’t crossing the border.

Given that this nativism — this tribalism, isn’t new, it can’t explain away what I sense as a shift in the general ethics of Americans. A few weeks ago I wrote about the differences among values, morals, principles, and ethics. For those of you paying attention you will remember ethics is how we treat one another when we live along side one another. It is my contention the generalized hate, anger, and fear that used to be endemic toward emigrants has now, just like a mutating virus, “jumped the immigration barrier” and infected us as a society at an even broader level. That level is the “others.”

The “others” is a non-specific designation diagnosis. It can be the poor. It can be the uninsured in search of Medicaid. It can be families headed by single women. It can be the jobless or the disabled or gay. The “others” can be race or ethnicity based. It can be women looking for reproductive health care. The “others” no longer have helpful telltale immutable characteristics. Truly, this evolving animosity toward “others” is a work of equal opportunity hatred. It used to be enough to be American, but not so any more.

In order to bolster this theory, I offer you a recent article entitled, The Data of Hate. I don’t often recommend particular articles, but I urge you to click and read it. It’s fascinating and self-described as where “Big Hatred meets Big Data.”

The author is a Ph.D. economist from Harvard who spent a year studying Stormfront.org — America’s most popular online hate site. It was founded in 1995 by a man inconveniently named Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan leader. According to Quantcast, over the last year roughly 200,000 to 400,000 Americans visited the site every month. To bolster its pedigree, a Southern Poverty Law Center report linked nearly 100 murders in the past five years to registered members. Unsurprisingly, one of its most popular “social groups” is “Fans and Supporters of Adolf Hitler.”

What is surprising is this: The Stormfront members are seemingly normal — or relatively speaking, as normal as No New Taxes No New Illegalsmembers of a “social hate site” can be. Members like to read. They are news and political junkies. Members engage in long threads praising Breaking Bad and discussing the comparative merits of online dating sites. And quite surprisingly, they like to read The New York Times. This last data point will be quite the non sequitur to the NYT’s Sulzberger family since “powerful and clever Jews” seem to engender a preeminent amount of hatred on the site.

What is most frightening, at least to me and my theory of this new-found generalized animus, is the relative youth of the members. Seventy-six percent of the Americans on Stormfront who self-identify age are under thirty years old. Again, 76% of the American members are under 30.

Without belaboring my point, don’t expect this new generation of haters to anxiously await every January’s “white sales” in order to pick up high thread count flat sheets. This new generation of hate won’t be as easy to recognize as the Klan was. “For instance, Stormfront member VikingMaiden88 seems like a perfectly nice and intelligent young woman, but her hatred is real. She praises a store for having ‘100% white employees’. She says the media is promoting a ‘Jewish agenda’. And she says she finds Asians ‘repulsive physically, socially, religiously, etc.”

It is my assertion these Stormfront members, through their unfocused anger, are no different in many ways than those who take to the streets in protest over the “47% of takers.” Without any fiscal basis, isn’t cutting food stamps to the poor merely a visceral product of anger? Isn’t withholding Medicaid to Seven Million poor Southerners punishing the “others“? Cutting unemployment benefits while at the same time refusing to pass a jobs bill is nothing more than indicting the victims of the Great Recession as “others.“ And add any qualifier to a single woman — as poor, as unemployed or as a mother, and there is automatic condemnation of being a double “other.”

Child RefugeesThe images of the angry mobs stopping the buses of children were poignant reminders of the ugliness of nativism. While I said I wasn’t going to dwell on the horrors of Malaysian Flight 17 or Gaza, aren’t they just potent examples of the invidious nature of tribalism writ large? The learning they provide is simple: We would do well to weigh the cost of allowing this type of unquenchable enmity to grow unchecked. We should learn from our historical disgraces of blanket prejudice lest we are all one-illness, one job, one child, or one trait away from being an “other.”

This is an open thread.

 

 

 

 

 


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