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Pride in a Time of Mourning

26 Jun


Friends, especially those in the LGBT community

As we celebrate this Pride weekend, please take some time to watch President Obama’s eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney of Charleston, South Carolina. Let us not just quote Dr. King’s words that the “arc of the moral universe is long , but it bends toward justice”; let us also acknowledge that our histories are intertwined, and our African-American LGBT brothers and sisters are both celebrating and mourning right now – as we all should be, regardless of race or sexual orientation. Today President Obama celebrated the Supreme Court decision granting equal marriage and then left for South Carolina to deliver this eulogy, his best speech ever I think, to a crowd of mourners.

Celebration and mourning can coexist and, in fact, must.

Amazing Grace, indeed.

White People, Listen! or How Not to Talk About Race Post-Charleston

20 Jun
What, me, whitemansplain?

What, me, whitemansplain?

White People, Listen!

This morning I am reminded of the classic piece of black feminist theory, Hazel Carby’s essay White Woman Listen!, where she wrote;

Much contemporary debate has posed the question of the relation between race and gender, in terms that attempt to parallel race and gender divisions. It can be argued that as processes, racism and sexism are similar. Ideologically for example, they both con- struct common sense through reference to “natural” and “biological” differences. It has also been argued that the categories of race and gender are both socially constructed and that, therefore, they have little internal coherence as concepts. Furthermore, it is possible to parallel racialized and gendered divisions in the sense that the possibilities of amelioration through legislation appear to be equally ineffectual in both cases. Michele Barrett, however, has pointed out that it is not possible to argue for parallels because as soon as historical analysis is made, it becomes obvious that the institutions which have to be analyzed are different, as are the forms of analysis needed. We would agree that the construction of such parallels is fruitless and often proves little more than a mere academic exercise; but there are other reasons for our dismissal of these kinds of debate. The experience of black women does not enter the parameters of parallelism. The fact that black women are subject to the simultaneous oppression of patriarchy, class, and “race” is the prime reason for not employing parallels that render their position and experience not only marginal but also invisible.

I’ve been thinking about the intersections of race, gender and privilege since last night, when I read the exchange in the photo above.  Wintana Melekin is a friend, an organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change in Minneapolis, and someone I consider one of the key young voices of Minnesota today who will be a state leader of tomorrow.  Expressing emotional exhaustion after the Charleston Massacre, Wintana suggested in this Facebook post that white people engage with each other on the issue of racism.  It seems an uncontroversial request.

Enter David Koch, owner of the Minneapolis restaurant Seven, who took the opportunity not to talk to fellow white people about racism but rather to lecture Wintana about her ignorance.  Mansplaining doesn’t quite do Koch’s words justice. Whitemansplaining doesn’t even quite do it. This is a colossally, epically perfect example of how not to talk about race to a person of color if you are white, especially after a tragedy like South Carolina. I am stunned and all i can think to say is, White People Listen!:

  • If you feel compelled to tell a black person that you know more about race and racism than they do, Just don’t.  Stop yourself. Don’t.
  • If the country is in the middle of a crisis, with African-Americans being verifiably, explicitly, repeatedly, under attack, and you think you are the one who is being singled out, generalized about and you feel you just have to share that feeling with the world, Just don’t. Stop yourself. Don’t.
  • If your reaction to a white nationalist who wore the flag of Rhodesia on his jacket and killed nine black people in church is a burning desire to lecture a young black woman about the real problem — black on black crime, Just Don’t. Stop yourself. Don’t.
  • If you’re a man feeling compelled to open a conversation with a young black woman with the words, “young lady”, Just Don’t. Stop yourself. Don’t.
  • If you cannot read a cry of pain and react with empathy and real engagement Just Don’t.  Stop yourself. Don’t.

President Obama, Debate Senator Warren on the Trans Pacific Partnership

11 May

In the debate over the Trans Pacific Partnership, we are witnessing something uncommon: progressives are putting a Democratic president on the defensive.

This is only a good thing.

The Republican base does this to their elected officials constantly.  Their base is so feared that respectable politicians even kowtow to bonkers right-wing conspiracy theories.  Democratic politicians rarely show any deference to the base and certainly don’t show much fear of that base.

"The President said what?!"

“The President said what?!”

That’s what we are witnessing with President Obama’s public tussle with Senator Elizabeth Warren.  He is fearing a coherent and informed critique from the left.

This is only a good thing.

Issues of trade and finance are seemingly impossible for progressives to get any traction on, no matter who is elected president.  Whichever party is in power, you can bet money that someone from Goldman Sachs will be heading up Treasury.  And when it comes to “free trade” agreements that end up hurting American and foreign workers while making global corporations richer and richer — well, it was Bill Clinton who got us NAFTA and it’s President Obama who is pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The President’s call to fast track the TPP is supported wholeheartedly by right-wing Republicans, while his own party has slowly woken up to forcefully opposing the deal. Enter Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who heave been the most visible opponents of the TPP.

President Obama has seemed particularly rankled by the Senator from Massachusetts. After giving a pro-TPP speech at Nike the President said in an interview with Yahoo news that Senator Warren is “absolutely wrong” when she says the pact would be another bonanza for Wall Street.

(And, by the way, exactly how tone deaf are the president’s advisers on this issue — Nike, seriously? The corporation synonymous with global sweatshops–that’s where you go to hail the newest free trade pact?  If a Democrat ever disagrees that our side tends to dump on its base while the other coddles theirs — remind them of this: The President gave a speech. At Nike.)

Senator Warren shot back this morning in The Washington Post:

THE PLUM LINE: What’s your response to the latest from President Obama?

SENATOR WARREN: The president said in his Nike speech that he’s confident that when people read the agreement for themselves, that they’ll see it’s a great deal. But the president won’t actually let people read the agreement for themselves. It’s classified.

PLUM LINE: But don’t you get 60 days to review it after the deal is finalized, with the authority to revoke fast track?

WARREN: The president has committed only to letting the public see this deal after Congress votes to authorize fast track. At that point it will be impossible for us to amend the agreement or to block any part of it without tanking the whole TPP. The TPP is basically done. If the president is so confident it’s a good deal, he should declassify the text and let people see it before asking Congress to tie its hands on fixing it.

If only there were some way to get Senator Warren’s ideas and President Obama’s exposed to the whole country so we all can decide who to believe.

Well, this past Saturday, consumer advocate and erstwhile presidential candidate Ralph Nader presented a modest proposal for via The New York Times:

[T]he president ought to debate Ms. Warren in person, much as Al Gore, then vice president, did with Ross Perot over Nafta in 1993. “A president can get away with his soliloquies when he stays on his throne,” Mr. Nader said by telephone. But if he is going to go after critics, he said, “then I think he is obligated to engage in a public debate that will inform the American people.”

That sounds like a fine idea.  Mr. President, I voted for you twice and support this administration on many fronts, but on this we disagree.  Do your base a favor and – instead of taking pot shots at us and the handful of leaders willing to represent our views — go toe to toe with Senator Warren, on national television.  Hell, I’d even settle for the Clinton route and send Uncle Joe out to debate the Senator.  It’s all good.  Nothing to fear about an honest debate, no?

Let’s woman up and take Senator Warren’s ideas seriously.  Debate her.

This would only be a good thing.

Wrong About Everything #53 – Fishing Opener

11 May

Yes, I am very inconsistent about promoting the podcast on this blog. Sue me.  The new episode, is however up. 

  In Minnesota news, we cover the Governor’s Fishing Opener, where Governor Dayton, Senator Bakk and Speaker Daudt competed for walleye, or something.  In unrelated new, “Grumpy Old Men & Their Well-Groomed Nephew” will be in theaters soon. We ask, should State Representative Ron Erhardt get how own podcast?  We thank Senator Paul Gazelka for joining the national outpouring of support for gy-hating bakers, talk MNSure & the Senate’s weird No Eye Contact rule. In national news, we ask why President Obama is trying to keep Texas in the union and how Hillary cornered Republicans on immigration. Oh, also awe have an update on Tom Brady’s Balls. Brian’s McDaniel and i were joined by panda-hating liberal Carin Mrotz and GOP lobbyist Jeremy Esetenson sat in for Mike Franklin, who is on assignment.

“Some Democrats” Suck – Or Maybe Not

9 May

This week Hillary Clinton took a surprisingly bold stance on immigration, one that goes further than President Obama and that both reporters and partisans have acknowledged put Republicans in a box.

Sorry Marco, you can't backtrack your way back to supporting immigration reform.

“Sorry Marco, you can’t backtrack your way back to supporting immigration reform”

How do we know it put Republicans in a box?  Because the response from the other side has been, for the most part, crickets.

This morning The Hill covered the issue, also acknowledging the corner into which Clinton had painted Republicans, but with a caveat:

Hillary Clinton has thrilled immigration activists with her embrace of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

It’s also thrilled Democrats, who think Clinton has taken a smart political step to solidifying support among Hispanics for their party in next year’s presidential election.
They argue the GOP’s restrained response to Clinton shows Republicans are worried about the issue, particularly given the nation’s rising Hispanic population.

“It’s definitely a very aggressive approach in attempting to court the Hispanic vote,” said Mercedes Viana Schlapp, who served as a Spanish-language spokesperson for President George W. Bush.

In part because they have backed immigration reform in the past, Republicans hope former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) could make inroads with Hispanics. But even some GOP critics of Clinton such as Schlapp acknowledge that Clinton may have made the party’s task more difficult.

So what’s The Hill‘s caveat? “Some Democrats privately fear Clinton may have promised too much,” they tell us.  Now we’re used to DC reporters allowing politicos to comment anonymously.  But, guess what? — they don’t even have anonymous sources for this one.

Go read the whole article.  They state as fact that “some democrats privately fear” but don’t even bother to tell us who these people might be or where this might have been heard.  Maybe some are saying it — they just don’t give us any actual evidence this is the case.

Earlier today, I committed a Twitter sin — I forwarded the above article before reading it, reacting to the headline, which used that “Democrats privately fearing” line that no one said.  My take: “Screw those Democrats.”

But it turns out The Hill may be making those Democrats up.

Now, if they looked hard enough I imagine the journal could dig up a weak-kneed Democrat to say something along those lines.  Or maybe, just maybe, this actually just was the correct political move for Clinton and for the Democratic Party.  Maybe that’s why the Republicans the story did quote pretty much said so.

The reality is that the politics of immigration have changed dramatically in the past few election cycles.  For many Latino voters–even those who do not list immigration reform as their top issue–nonetheless see the issue as a litmus test for the question “Does this politician like us?” Pollster Latino Decisions calls immigration a “gateway issue” for Latino voters.

And with Latinos in 2016 poised to be an even greater share of the electorate that in the past two cycles voted upwards of 70% for Obama — Republicans are right to be quaking in their boots.

Maybe The Hill couldn’t find a Democrat to actually say those words to them is a sign that the mainstream of the Democratic Party is finally getting that.

This Latino can dream. 

When did gay-hating bakers become a thing?

7 May

Minnesota State Senator Paul Gazelka joins the national outpouring of concern for the fate of poor, gay-hating bakers. 

 

How much is that cake in the window?

 When did gay-hating bakers become the Rosa Parks of curmudgeons clinging to the past? Was there a memo that went out? Did a convention of bakers pass a resolution or something? Do gay-hating bakers have conventions?  Clearly they have a PR firm, because Holy Jeebus are they getting their story out there. Whoever your agent is, gay-hating bakers, hats off to her. She is working her ass off.

Baking cakes never seemed to me the butchest of professions, but ok.

Oh, and for the record – I don’t want any of your hatecake. 

The Insanity of the “Wage Market”, or Income Inequality at the Capitol

4 May The rich get richer while progressives debate the floor.

This is a great story about the insane juxtapositions of our time.  While DC lawmakers now talk about income inequality as a national problem, they work in a Capitol building where those who serve them food work for poverty wages:

Income inequality is more than a political sound bite to workers in the Capitol. It’s their life.

Many of the Capitol’s food servers, who make the meals, bus the tables and run the cash registers in the restaurants and carryouts that serve lawmakers, earn less than $11 an hour. Some make nothing at all when Congress is in recess.

Members of the House and Senate collect their $174,000 annual salaries whether Congress is making laws, taking a break or causing a partial government shutdown.

“This is the most important building in the world,” said Sontia Bailey, who works the cash register and stocks the shelves at the “Refectory” takeout on the Capitol’s Senate side. “You’d think our wages would be better.”

You’d think.

These jobs were privatized sometime ago.  It is a quote from the subcontractor who employs these workers that I found instructive:

In a statement, the contractor said it “takes pride in paying above-market competitive wages.” 

Here’s the thing: the contractor is not that wrong.  The market on wages is so skewed that an employer who pays people wages that keep them in poverty can actually claim to be keeping pace “with the market” or be “above-market” and think they are sounding reasonable.

I am constantly reminded of the disconnect between lawmakers and people who work in the “real world.”  Back when the minimum wage was being debated in Minnesota, Democratic lawmakers in the Senate were heard saying “Ten dollars seems high to me.”  Too high for what?

When I hear things like that, I am filled with questions.  Do you know anyone who works for that amount of money?  When is the last time you worked for minimum wage?  Can you at least do the math on how much that is a year before dismissing the amount so easily? Do you even understand that when we are debating the minimum wage, we are literally talking about the floor, about the bare minimum we as a society think a person should make while working?  Is it your core belief that someone working full-time should live below the poverty level?

We hear similar reactions not just from lawmakers but others reacting to fast food workers’ demand of “15 and a union.”  “Fifteen for flipping burgers?!?”  I’ve heard both friends and family say things like that.  I have the same questions for these folks.  Do the math.  The demand for 15 is actually not that aspirational.

The rich get richer while progressives debate the floor.

The rich get richer while progressives debate the floor.

I was thinking about this recently and thought, what if we quantified all of the things that US workers used to be able to take for granted and put them out as our demand for workers.  “I’d like to be able to own my home. I’d like to be able to send my kids to college and not have them saddled with debt afterwards. I’d like to be able to retire and be ok.”  I think if unions and other advocates actually listed the things workers used to take for granted not that long ago and called them demands — many policymakers and certainly the media would react with a “well who the hell do you think you are?”

And it’s not that the country isn’t as wealthy as it was back when this kind of quality of life as assumed.  In fact, as a whole the country is much richer.  It’s just that income is going overwhelmingly to the top income tiers while the rest are being left behind.  Things have become so skewed that the progressive movement is subsumed with debating the floor on wages while making demands that do not even come close to what we used to assume.

Just who the hell do we think we are, indeed.

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