Compromise does not work with our political opponents. When will we learn?

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/25/compromise-doesnt-work-political-opponents-chelsea-manning

In Chelsea Manning’s first column since her commutation, she writes that Barack Obama’s legacy is a warning against not being bold enough

Thursday 26 January 2017

Barack Obama left behind hints of a progressive legacy. Unfortunately, despite his faith in our system and his positive track record on many issues over the last eight years, there have been very few permanent accomplishments.

This vulnerable legacy should remind us that what we really need is a strong and unapologetic progressive to lead us. What we need as well is a relentless grassroots movement to hold that leadership accountable.

On the night of 4 November 2008, Barack Obama was elected on a platform of “hope” and “change”. He was hailed as a “uniter” in an age of “dividers”. I experienced a political awakening that night. I watched as the hope that President Obama represented was tempered by the shocking passage of Proposition 8 by a majority of voters in California. This reversed a major marriage equality court victory from earlier that year.

Throughout his two terms in office, these types of contradictions would persist. Optimism and hope would be met with backlash and hate. He faced unparalleled resistance from his opponents, many of whom wanted him to fail.

I remember during his first inauguration, on an icy January morning in 2009. I sat on the floor of a military headquarters office in Fort Drum, New York. With a dusty overhead television showing the ceremony, I sat, working in support of a half dozen military officers. We had our weapons ready, and our rucksacks heavily packed. Selected as the active duty army unit to deploy to Washington DC in case of an emergency, we were prepared for rapid deployment.

Ironically, many of the officers and enlisted personnel that were selected for this security detail openly despised President Obama. The seething vitriol and hatred simmered quietly in that room. In retrospect, it was an ominous foreshadowing of things to come.

On domestic issues, his instinct, as former First Lady Michelle Obama explained at the Democratic national convention this past summer, was to “go high” when his opponents would “go low”. Unfortunately, no matter how “high” the former president aimed to be, his opponents aimed to undermine him anyway. There was absolutely no “low” that was too low to go.

Even when they agreed with him on policy, they resisted. For example, when it came to healthcare reform, Obama opened the debate starting with a compromise. His opponents balked. They refused to move an inch. When he would push for the concessions they asked for, they only dug in deeper in opposition. Even when he tried proposing a bill that had been proposed by opponents years earlier.

When it came to foreign policy, even though he was only carrying out the expanding national security policies of the previous administration, they would ceaselessly criticize him for being too weak, or too soft or too sympathetic. After months of comprise on his end, they never cooperated a single time.

In December 2009, I sat in a hot and stuffy plywood room outside Baghdad, Iraq, as President Obama made speeches. He argued that military action was necessary. An unusual statement to present while receiving the world’s most prestigious peace prize. Yet, the people around me still spoke about him quietly, with a strong criticism, and even sometimes, pure disgust.

In November 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, I sat in a civilian jail cell in suburban Baltimore, awaiting a court martial hearing. Surrounded by a different crowd of people, the excitement and elation of his re-election was genuine. Even among those being penalized merely for being disadvantaged or a minority. Even in those unbearably unfair circumstances, there was genuine hope, faith and trust in the president.

For eight years, it did not matter how balanced President Obama was. It did not matter how educated he was, or how intelligent he was. Nothing was ever good enough for his opponents. It was clear that he could not win. It was clear that, no matter what he did, in their eyes, he could not win.

In the aftermath of the deadly shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that took the lives of nearly 50 queer and brown people, it took Obama over 300 words of his speech to acknowledge the queer community, and even then, as an abstract acronym.

Never did he acknowledge the particularly painful toll on the Puerto Rican and wider community that was also navigating through this horrific tragedy. Even in the midst of a shocking and horrific tragedy, he attempted to comprise with opponents who were uninterested and unwilling to meet him halfway.

Now, after eight years of attempted compromise and relentless disrespect in return, we are moving into darker times. Healthcare will change for the worse, especially for those of us in need. Criminalization will expand, with bigger prisons filled with penalized bodies – poor, black, brown, queer and trans people. People will probably be targeted because of their religion. Queer and trans people expect to have their rights infringed upon.

The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama’s legacy: do not start off with a compromise. They won’t meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader.

We need someone who is unafraid to be criticized, since you will inevitably be criticized. We need someone willing to face all of the vitriol, hatred and dogged determination of those opposed to us. Our opponents will not support us nor will they stop thwarting the march toward a just system that gives people a fighting chance to live. Our lives are at risk – especially for immigrants, Muslim people and black people.

We need to stop asking them to give us our rights. We need to stop hoping that our systems will right themselves. We need to actually take the reins of government and fix our institutions. We need to save lives by making change at every level.

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What the Pussy Hat Debates Reveal about the Desperate Need for (Inclusive) Cis Feminism

Sometimes the Transgender Movement needs to stop and get its ideology and rhetoric straight.  The movement has long taken the position that gender is between the ears and as long as people are viewing our genitals then what we have there is irrelevant.

This is a major aspect of the fight for rights to use the appropriate bathroom.

I posit there is such a thing as a socially assumed pussy,  That is this:  If someone appears to be a woman, I assume they have a pussy.

From there follows the not so long logic leap that if a person is assumed to have a pussy then the same issues that apply to those who physically have a pussy tend to apply to those socially assumed to have a pussy.

At this point we are at war.  Some of the fine points of academic studies and coffee house discussions are going to be lost in the heat of battle.

Instead of arguing over the feminist symbols chosen, perhaps trans-women wishing to be part of the Women’s Movement should embrace those symbols as including them too.

Way back in the 1970s I was one of the few WBT women in the Second Wave Feminist/Lesbian Feminist movements.  Sometimes it took a thick skin, but as a woman I faced all the same issues as AFAB women.  Further just by being there and standing along side other women I broke the stereotype many had regarding us.

From The Forward:  http://forward.com/sisterhood/361631/what-the-pussy-hat-debates-reveal-about-the-desperate-need-for-inclusive-ci/?attribution=home-top-story-8-headline

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

When I first noticed concerned social media postings asking whether the pussy hats worn at the Women’s Marches (and, I can now report, by a not insignificant number of pro-immigration protestors this past weekend) had been transphobic, my thoughts quickly turned from the question at hand to, well, where anyone was getting that idea that pussy hats had Sparked Outrage in this way. All I could find were some right-wing articles mocking a handful of posts (and one Mic Identities story) to that effect. Articles, in other words, concerned not with protecting feminism from potentially detrimental infighting but with denigrating feminism and trans sensitivities.

My hunch, then, was that the ‘trans-exclusionary pussy hat’ was a non-issue. I assumed it was, like so many progressive micro-scandals, fodder for conservatives drawn to stories of liberals devouring their own. (If you think ‘Gender Studies’ is inherently hilarious, what fun you’ll have with the concept of there being people criticizing pussy hats from the left.)

Alas, my hunch was wrong. There is in fact an intra-feminist discussion about pussy hats. Are they too gender-essentialist? Too joyful, too representative of a protest taken lightly by women who will probably be just fine under Trump (except can this really be said of anyone)? The current conversation doesn’t amount to the left descending into self-destruction, but that could, yes, go in any number of ways, some more productive than others.

I keep thinking about a line from Josephine Livingstone’s article in the New Republic: “An uncomfortable part of the truth is that bourgeois women thought that the hats were cute, and so the hats conferred a kind of talismanic sense of community on their wearers.”

I don’t think we have to find that prospect “uncomfortable.” It’s worth pointing out, as Livingstone does, that “pussy” messaging excludes women who don’t have that anatomy. But… what does “bourgeois” mean in this context? Were the pussy-hat-wearing women rich? Not necessarily – knitted hats are not luxury items. Or were the women just… a bit square? Genuinely oppressed, if not the very most oppressed, but too out of the loop to know pussy hats might be problematic?

Or had they thought through the relative benefits of utmost inclusivity and a stark visual message of feminist solidarity and consciously selected the latter option?

And is it really so terrible if protestors enjoyed wearing pink hats? If the thrill mixed subversive politics and the feminized and therefore denigrated joy of accessorizing? I think of Katha Pollitt’s – and my own! – initial, partly aesthetic, aversion. Mine I got over not when seeing the aerial shots, or even when showing up (gray-hatted as usual) to the NYC March, but en route, on the subway. A woman standing next to me hat a pink hat and pins. At first I thought maybe this was going to be a pink hat and anti-xenophobia safety pin combo, but no: She was pinning a teeth and fangs patch to her hat, vagina dentata-style. The pussy grabs back, indeed.

This is what we need to ask: Is the intra-feminist, intra-left conflict over pussy hats primarily a disagreement between “TERFS” (that is, trans-exclusionary radical feminists) and trans activists, or is it a generational or maybe even aesthetic conflict among mainly cis women, where ‘optimal enlightenment on trans issues’ serves as a proxy?

While there’s of course no official stance from All The Trans Women on pussy hats, it’s worth reading Katelyn Burns on her ambivalence, as a trans woman and feminist protestor, to the hats. While she confirms that the hats did in fact put her off, Burns’s conclusion is by no means a denunciation of the Women’s March. The last sentence of her piece: “I hope we can march again soon.”

Continue reading at:  http://forward.com/sisterhood/361631/what-the-pussy-hat-debates-reveal-about-the-desperate-need-for-inclusive-ci/?attribution=home-top-story-8-headline

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Trump and Bannon’s “America First”

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/156554516145

Robert Reich
Sunday, January 29, 2017

Donald Trump has reorganized the National Security Council – elevating his chief political strategist Steve Bannon, and demoting the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bannon will join the NSC’s principals committee, the top inter-agency group advising the President on national security.

Meanwhile, the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will now attend meetings only when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed,” according to the presidential memorandum issued Saturday.

Political strategists have never before participated in National Security Council principals meetings because the NSC is supposed to give presidents nonpartisan, factual advice.

But forget facts. Forget analysis. This is the Trump administration.

And what does Bannon have to bring to the table?

In case you forgot, before joining Donald Trump’s inner circle Bannon headed Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet that has promoted conspiracy theories and is a platform for the alt-right movement, which espouses white nationalism.

This is truly scary.

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice calls the move “stone cold crazy.” Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also served under George W. Bush, says the demotions are a “big mistake.”

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/156554516145

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White supremacist Richard Spencer agrees with Trump administration’s decision to omit Jews from Holocaust statement

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2017/02/01/white-supremacist-richard-spencer-defends-white-house-statement-on-the-holocaust/

He wrote in a post that the activist Jewish community was “all about their meta-narrative of suffering”

Richard Spencer, the prominent white supremacist who was on the receiving end of a punch to the face on Inauguration Day, found nothing wrong with President Donald Trump’s statement that recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning the Jewish community and the anti-semitism that oppresses them.

 “Trump’s statement on Holocaust Memorial Day is, on the surface, utterly defensible within the current moral paradigm,” Spencer wrote in a post on his new site Alt Right.

The alt-right ideologue claimed the “activist Jewish community” was only voicing complaints about  Trump’s statement because they wanted attention, “It is all about their meta-narrative of suffering, and it shall undergird their peculiar position in American society, and theirs alone.” He deplored the fact that Hitler and the Holocaust has become the “negative moral center of the liberal universe.”

A champion of President Trump and the movement he has inspired, Spencer was once a PhD candidate at Duke University who helped popularize the term “alt-right.” He has said he rejects the name “Nazi” and has even conceded that Hitler did some “despicable” things. Still, he was seen in November leading an alt-right gathering in what was widely seen as a Hitler salute.

The Trump administration faced intense blowback for their statement on the Holocaust; more so when they double downed on the language, asserting that “everyone” felt the consequences of Nazism. Critics argued that this was an example of Holocaust denial and required revision. On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said  that “everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust including, obviously, all of the Jewish people affected and miserable genocide that occurs — it’s something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad. If we could wipe it off of the history books, we would. But we can’t.”

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