Politics

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: Normalizing 'White Nationalism' Down to 'Nationalism'

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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A neo-Nazi group met in Washington D.C. over the weekend celebrating Trump's victory. The keynote speaker proclaimed the superiority of whites (though he preferred the word "Europeans"), referenced Nazi Germany and ended his speech by shouting "Hail Trump! Hail Our People!" which was greeted with cheers and Nazi salutes from the crowd.

Since the election, Trump has unleashed Twitter storms against the media, anti-Trump protesters and the cast of Hamilton, but the only comment about the neo-Nazi event and similar outpourings of racist and antisemitic hate around the country came from someone in his transition team who wrote, "President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind." Weak tea from a man whose revels in full-throated condemnations of everything and everyone he's against. Trump's racist supporters know a mild statement like that is the equivalent of calling a naughty dog over for a hug. "Come here, you bad dog. Who's a bad dog? Who's my bad dog?"

At a meeting with the New York Times Tuesday, Trump went a bit farther and decided to "disavow and condemn" the white nationalists, though he acted like he didn't know much about them and denied he had anything to do with their current prominence. At the same meeting, he said maybe there's something to climate change and maybe waterboarding isn't such a good idea after all. Oh, and after bashing the New York Times at every opportunity, he called it a "great, great American jewel." That places his comment about the white nationalists as part of a temporary reversal while he was in the room with the Times guys. Someone accused his racist dog of crapping all over their lawn, and Trump gave the dog a light whack across the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

A few different terms are used to describe the most racist and antisemitic of Trump's supporters—alt-right, white supremacists, white nationalists. Shades of meaning differentiate the three terms, but they're all in the same ballpark. Whites should rule the country. Non-whites should be kept in their place, and their numbers should be kept as low as possible. All three terms have well-deserved negative connotations, which is why Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and the man who brags he created "the platform for the alt-right" at Breibart News, wants to normalize the term "White Nationalism" to a more neutral, even patriotic-sounding "Nationalism."

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Education Groups Call for 'A Physically and Emotionally Safe Learning Environment'

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 11:22 AM

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Spurred by reports of increased harassment of students who are members of ethic and religious minorities since the election, a number of education organizations have issued a call to action. Most of the organizations are as mainstream as they come: the National PTA, the National School Boards Association and so on.

From Education Week:
The organizations issuing the call to action are: the AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the American School Counselor Association; GLSEN, an LBGT student group; the National Association of Elementary School Principals; the National Association of Secondary School Principals; National PTA; the National School Boards Association; the National Association of School Psychologists; and the National Association of Independent Schools.

"We come together as national education organizations in the wake of the troubling rash of reports of bias incidents and violence occurring in schools across the nation in recent days," the groups said in a statement. "As learning communities, schools and school systems are responsible for providing all students with a physically and emotionally safe learning environment. This principle is the foundation of academic achievement, healthy individual development, and civic engagement. Violence, intimidation, and purposefully harmful expressions of bias undercut the core mission of schools and have no place in our school communities."

The statement applauded the schools and districts "that have already taken meaningful steps to develop and support positive school climate in their communities." It did not list any examples. In recent weeks, districts like Los Angeles Unified have approved resolutions following repeated school walkouts by thousands of students. Those resolutions call for safe and supportive learning environments, and some have made special mention of a refusal to cooperate with possible future federal immigration enforcement.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: 'I Threatened and Insulted You, So You Owe Me an Apology.'

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 11:00 AM

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Vice President-elect Mike Pence was booed and cheered when he entered the theater to watch the musical, Hamilton. At the end of the show, a member of the cast read a short statement directed at Pence. That's what actually happened. Trump tweeted that Pence was "harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton." That didn't happen. The cast didn't "harass" Pence. In another tweet, Trump wrote, "The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!" That also didn't happen. The cast wasn't "rude" to Pence. It doesn't owe him, or Trump, an apology.

What we have here is another post-election shot across the bow of the First Amendment. Trump is once again putting people on notice that criticizing him is dangerous business. For now he'll respond verbally. Later, well, we don't know what will happen later. His response as president could be more than words. The country could become a Trump rally writ large, with dissenters treated like protesters were treated during the campaign, with Trump's consent and assistance. "Get 'em out! Get 'em the hell out of here!"

Let's go through the Hamilton incident piece by piece.

The cast didn't "harass" Pence.
Here is the full statement read by Brandon Victor Dixon, a cast member, while the rest of the cast stood behind him, holding hands.
“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton, an American Musical, we truly do. We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
That is a pointed, eloquent statement. There isn't a word of harassment, no threatening tone of voice. It is polite dissent, spoken with theatrical diction by a man wearing a formal, American Independence-era suit.

Dixon prefaced his written statement by noting that Pence was in the audience and that he was leaving, and he hoped Pence would stay to listen to the statement. When some audience members booed, Dixon said, "There's nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen, we're all here telling a story of love." You can watch a video of the statement here.

Trump criticized the cast, not the audience.
If anyone could be accused of harassing Pence, it's the audience, some of whom booed him when he walked in, then booed the mention of his name by Dixon after the show. Why did Trump go after the cast and not include the audience in his condemnation? Well, the audience is a well-heeled, predominantly white crowd who could afford to pay anywhere from $300 to thousands of dollars for a ticket. They're Trump's class of people, one percenters to five percenters, even though many of them are of the liberal persuasion. The cast, but for their costumes, could have been a Black Lives Matter demonstration, predominantly people of color with some white faces thrown in. They're among Trump's prime targets.

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Education In a Trump Presidency: Reading Tea Leaves

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 9:00 AM

COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Shutterstock
Trump didn't talk a whole lot about education during the campaign, but he said enough to give us a sense of the direction he wants to head. More vouchers, more charters and a modification or elimination of Common Core. "Choice," not Common Core. That pretty much sums it up.

If you want a model for the educational direction Trump plans to take us, look at Indiana, Mike Pence's state. As governor, Pence expanded vouchers and pushed aggressively for more charter schools. On the campaign trail, Trump proposed $20 billion in federal dollars for "choice." And though Trump used the "widows and orphans" appeal for charters and vouchers—helping out all those poor children trapped in "failing government schools"—it looks like the Trump/Pence approach will embrace vouchers for billionaires as well as paupers. According to Pence in September:
“Donald Trump and I both believe that every parent in America should be able to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income and regardless of their area code, and public, private and parochial and faith-based schools on the list."
Close to 60 percent of Indiana children are eligible for vouchers. The number is only that low because that's as far as Pence has been able to expand it.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

What Will We Tell the School Children?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 5:15 PM

COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA.ORG
  • Courtesy of wikimedia.org
How should teachers deal with the Trump presidency in their classrooms? Tough question. Genuinely tough question. The campaign was a hard enough call in the classroom, what with its graphic accusations of Trump's history of sexual predation and the allegation that Hillary should be spending time in jail, not in the White House. But now the election is over. Trump is president. How should teachers discuss the president elect in class?

Before delving into the present, I want to take a look at a classroom controversy during Obama's first year. It came in September, 2009, when Obama planned to give a back-to-school talk to the nation's children. The first President Bush delivered a similar talk in 1991. Before him, in 1988, Reagan did the same. No major fuss was raised about either event, accusing those presidents of trying to brainwash impressionable children with partisan speechifying. But the anti-Obama scream machine cranked its outrage up to eleven, calling the speech part of Obama's agenda to corrupt the youth of America, as if classrooms across the country were giving the Grand Wizard of the KKK an hour to poison innocent minds. The topic dominated the news for days. The result was, some schools refused to air the speech, others gave teachers the option, and many said students could only watch if they had a permission slip from their parents, like a speech from Obama was the equivalent of an R-rated movie.

So anyone who says teachers and everyone else should simply say Trump is our president and he represents all of us needs to remember Obama's back-to-school speech and the never-ending Tea Party outrage directed at our current president. To tell people to cool it about Trump is to say, "We all need to respect the president, starting . . . NOW."

Some teachers believe, as I do, that Trump and what he represents has the potential for being the worst thing that's happened to this country in our lifetime. Others are overjoyed with the election results. I don't think teachers should walk into the classroom and launch into diatribes about their opinions on the election. But the Trump presidency and its ramifications is a fit subject for spirited, even controversial classroom discussion.

If there are instances of bullying at school related to the agenda Trump pushed during his campaign, those issues deserve a complete, open airing. If some students seeing Hispanic students start chanting, "Build a wall. Build a wall," if some students seeing students of Middle Eastern dissent shout, "Terrorist, get out of my country!" those are direct results of the campaign. Schools should condemn those students' actions and punish them for their behavior, but schools are also justified, I would say almost duty bound educationally, to relate the incidents back to Trump's rallies which encouraged that kind of behavior. To do anything less would be to pretend our president elect never said what, in fact, he said over and over.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: Lock Harry Reid Up! Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up!

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 1:30 PM

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A post-election shot across the bow of the First Amendment.

Kellyanne Conway:
"I find Harry Reid's public comments and insults about Donald Trump and other Republicans to be beyond the pale. . . . And he should be very careful about characterizing somebody in a legal sense. He thinks — he thinks he's just being some kind of political pundit there, but I would say be very careful about the way you characterize it." [boldface added for emphasis]
Throughout the campaign, Trump claimed Hillary should be in jail, that if he were elected, he would appoint a special prosecutor to go after "crooked Hillary." Gleeful crowds responded, "Lock her up! Lock her up!" Trump called the women who accused him of sexual assault liars and threatened to sue them. His antagonism toward the media led him to say he would "open up our libel laws" so the press could be sued for what is now legally protected speech. But all that was before the election, when Trump was only a candidate. It was just idle talk—vicious, dangerous, but idle talk.

The election is over, and Trump is president-elect. Nothing he or his closest advisors says is idle talk anymore. Kellyanne Conway made the statement above five days after the election, so it means something. It was Conway letting everyone know that outgoing Senate minority leader Harry Reid better be damn careful about the way he criticizes Trump, or else. Of course, she wasn't just addressing her comment to Reid. She was telling everyone who was listening, politician, pundit or private citizen, to watch what they say about Trump, or his administration just might come after them with the full force of the U.S. government.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Anti-Trump Rally at UA

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Part of the growing crowd a few minutes before the rally began. - DAVID SAFIER
  • David Safier
  • Part of the growing crowd a few minutes before the rally began.

I'm a day late writing about the rally against Trump on the UA Mall Monday night, and four decades too old to be an age-appropriate witness to the student-organized, student-led and student-centered gathering, but that won't stop me from saying a few words about the event which, for me, ranged from positive to inspiring.

I arrived around 4:30pm when there were a few dozen people milling around on the grass and a handful of organizers setting up the stage. By the time the rally began at 5, the numbers had grown to a few hundred. I was near the front, so I couldn't get an accurate read on the size of the crowd, except that I saw the arc of bodies surrounding the front of the stage swelling as the event progressed. The Star, which isn't known for exaggerating numbers at events, wrote that there were thousands of people. I'd say that's about right.

The vast majority of the crowd was college-aged. There was nothing "professional" about the organizers or the crowd, contrary to the accusation from Trump that the people on the streets since he was elected have been "professional" protesters. Seven UA students planned the event and got all the necessary permissions from the university, and the crowd was dominated by young-adult faces with younger and older folks mixed in. I'm guessing many of the participants haven't attended a whole lot of protests before this rally.

The rally on the Mall lasted two hours before the crowd headed to Catalina Park. Mostly, people took turns talking onstage. That's a long time to listen to speaker after speaker, time enough for people to get bored and drift away. But the crowd stayed, and grew. I was surprised to feel its energy increase with each speaker.

The early speakers embodied the youthful idealism of Love, Peace and Righteous Pain and Anger. I enjoyed being in the midst of all that energy—it took me back to my college protest days—but I have to admit I'm too old and jaded to feel like I was a part of it. But as more people came to center stage and spoke, something gripped me which was more important and visceral than a condemnation of Trump and a celebration of the speakers' values. The people who came to center stage one by one or in twos and threes represented a rich tapestry of races, ethnic groups, religions and sexual orientations. If I remember correctly, most of them were female, with straight, white females in the minority. Many spoke of their fears. They felt targeted directly or indirectly by Trump and his followers. They felt unsafe. A country that seemed to be leaning in the direction of tolerance and acceptance over the past eight years was threatening to turn angry and vicious, with Trump and his allies who will soon run the country leading the way.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump Human Rights Erosion And Termination Watch (THREAT Watch)

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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I can't just sit by and do nothing. As worried as I am about the fate of this country under a President Trump, I have to do something. Actually, I have to do a number of somethings. The question is, what?

This post is a start. It's the beginning of what I plan as a continuing feature: Trump Human Rights Erosion And Termination Watch. THREAT Watch.

All kinds of terrible things are going to happen with Trump in the White House, a Republican majority in both houses of Congress and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Taxes and business regulations will favor the rich even more than they do now. Entitlement programs for the poor will be cut dramatically. Comprehensive women's health care which includes abortion will be nonexistent in many parts of the country. Obamacare, Medicare and Social Security will be savaged. The list goes on. We absolutely must fight to limit the damage in all those areas using every legislative, political and people-powered means at our disposal.

But as bad as those changes will be, my worst fears for the country have to do with the loss of human rights and the suppression of dissent. Trump and his allies don't have to pass new laws to persecute minority groups and target enemies. All it takes to create a police state and a climate of fear is an increased use of force against citizens and credible threats directed at the media. A Trump administration can do that on its own. It can make people afraid to congregate, afraid to act, afraid to say and write what they think—even afraid in some cases to come out of their homes.

If we're paying attention, it's not hard to notice when new laws are passed and new court decisions are rendered, but suppression and repression can creep up on us so gradually, we hardly know they're coming until they're here. It's far too easy for us to turn into frogs in a pot of water being brought to a boil. ("Is it getting hot in here?" "No, it's your imagination. Well, yeah, maybe it's getting a little warmer, but nothing we can't handle.") Repression can be targeted against one group while the rest of us look the other way. ("First they came for the immigrants, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't an immigrant. . . .") The media can be badgered into normalizing the administration and its actions by perpetuating false equivalencies and downplaying the dangers of its most dangerous words and deeds.

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