Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make the case for abolishing borders

On one issue, at least, Donald Trump can claim an ally in Hillary Clinton. Clinton told the Guardian she “think[s] Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame [of right-wing (authoritarian) populism].”[1] Here’s Donald Trump spewing word-vomit in July:

“Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame,” Trump said. “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

“So I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad,” he continued. “I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”[2]

Continue reading “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make the case for abolishing borders”

  1. [1]Patrick Wintour, “Hillary Clinton: Europe must curb immigration to stop rightwing populists,” Guardian, November 22, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/hillary-clinton-europe-must-curb-immigration-stop-populists-trump-brexit
  2. [2]Philip Bump, “Trump’s comments on European immigration mirror white nationalist rhetoric,” Washington Post, July 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/13/trumps-comments-on-european-immigration-mirror-white-nationalist-rhetoric/


I got called in for jury duty, yet again. As it happened I used a hardship—being reduced yet again to Uber and Lyft, I’m just barely getting by, and a two-week trial would be ruinous—to get out of it, but as long-time readers know, our system of injustice is one of many features of our system of social organization that I dissent from.

In general, I object to the reduction of justice to law, especially law passed predominantly by wealthy white men. Jeffrey Reiman has noted the consequent discrepancy: The system of injustice is lenient towards the wealthy, but the poor and people of color face discrimination at every stage of the process, from suspicion all the way to sentencing.[1] Those sentences don’t merely harm the accused but their families and communities, while incarceration takes on the character of an epidemic.[2] And when the accused receive trials at all—there’s a lot of pressure to accept plea bargains, which count as guilty pleas—the outcomes will be the result of a profoundly flawed process.[3] Continue reading “Avarice”

  1. [1]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  2. [2]Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America(New York: New Press, 2011).
  3. [3]Dan Simon, In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2012).

Barack Obama asks, “Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?”

It seems like a clever line:

“Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?” [Barack] Obama asked a crowd of 4,000 as the fifth interrupting protester was escorted out of a Miami rally on Friday [November 2]. Any further shouts were drowned out by the crowd’s roar.[1]

And it would seem to have earned the audience’s approval. But what this line actually illustrates is how utterly clueless the former president is—and a lot of other folks are—about authoritarian populism. Continue reading “Barack Obama asks, “Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?””

  1. [1]Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “Obama rips hecklers: Why are the people who won the last election ‘so mad all the time?’” Washington Post, November 3, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/11/03/obama-rips-hecklers-why-are-people-who-won-last-election-so-mad-all-time/

This is not just extremist right-wing violence. It is our violence. And we must own it.

In the wake of three incidents of xenophobic and extreme right-wing violence,[1] some are pointing a blaming finger at Donald Trump, who feeds and feeds upon what’s properly called hierarchically invidious monism, a prominent feature of—some might call it a “mother’s milk” for—authoritarian populism: Continue reading “This is not just extremist right-wing violence. It is our violence. And we must own it.”

  1. [1]Ray Sanchez and Melissa Gray, “72 hours in America: Three hate-filled crimes. Three hate-filled suspects,” CNN, October 28, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/28/us/72-hours-of-hate-in-america/index.html

Musings of a San Francisco kid

Even after all these years, it feels weird to be in the Los Angeles area.

I was raised in San Francisco. We learned that Southern California steals all our water (actually it mostly goes to wasteful corporate agriculture) and that you can cut the air with a butter knife (this is certainly not true now).

Oh yes and, of course, the traffic. The traffic is Southern California is the stuff of legends. When I first encountered what we in the San Francisco Bay Area call the “South Bay,” I referred to it as a northern outpost of Los Angeles because it boasts something of a maze of freeways, smog, and urban sprawl. Continue reading “Musings of a San Francisco kid”

On understanding the ‘other’

One of the curious issues that cropped up, that unfortunately I did not have a chance to address at the time, at the recent Human Science Institute retreat, following a presentation by Milton Reynolds, was that a couple of white women apologized to Reynolds, a Black man, for imposing upon him to explain his worldview. Both of them are entirely worthy scholars so I mean absolutely no disrespect here.

Rather, I think I know where they were coming from. I was there once, too. Continue reading “On understanding the ‘other’”

Criticism of Elizabeth Warren for revealing her DNA test confuses the potential for the actual

Update, February 7, 2019: Now that she wants to be president, Elizabeth Warren has apologized for calling herself Native American.[1] To be honest, I don’t see how this apology helps her: If the claim is really that serious, it will stick, regardless of any apology, especially an apology given in service to a presidential candidacy.

Our story begins, yet again, with Donald Trump, who bundles misogyny with racism in calling Elizabeth Warren, a possible Democratic Party presidential contender in 2020, “Pocohontas.” He did this much like when he was a “birther,” questioning Barack Obama’s U.S. birth. And we might remember that Obama eventually released his long form birth certificate—also in response, partly, to Trump’s protracted goading.[2] Warren now has released a DNA test demonstrating that she probably does indeed have some American Indian heritage.[3] Continue reading “Criticism of Elizabeth Warren for revealing her DNA test confuses the potential for the actual”

  1. [1]Annie Linskey and Amy Gardner, “Elizabeth Warren apologizes for calling herself Native American,” Washington Post, February 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/elizabeth-warren-apologizes-for-calling-herself-native-american/2019/02/05/1627df76-2962-11e9-984d-9b8fba003e81_story.html
  2. [2]Mike Vilensky, “Trump Roasted and Skewered at White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” New York, May 1, 2011, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2011/05/whcd.html; Jacob Weisberg, “Are Republicans losing their grip on reality?” Slate, May 20, 2011, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_big_idea/2011/05/fantasy_island.html
  3. [3]Masha Gessen, “Elizabeth Warren Falls for Trump’s Trap—and Promotes Insidious Ideas About Race and DNA,” New Yorker, October 16, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/elizabeth-warren-falls-for-trumps-trap-and-promotes-insidious-ideas-about-race-and-dna

Why we won’t respond to climate change

I let a passenger down yesterday.

I’m going through a particularly rocky transition at the moment, with woefully inadequate financial resources, so I’m back doing the Uber and Lyft thing, which pays abysmally, but in a weird way manages to keep me barely afloat. I was in the East Bay yesterday, initially to get my car inspected so I could resume doing this so-called ‘ridesharing’ driving, but then to make what money I could—fast.

One of my passengers in Berkeley was a physicist. Like a lot of people in the Bay Area, she’s unhappy with what all that has been happening in the world, particularly with Donald Trump in power. Somehow we got onto the topic of climate change.

I have downloaded and archived the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report[1] but not yet reviewed it—it looks like a pretty dense read. She hadn’t read it either but was meaning to. So we’re both relying mostly on headlines in mass media about the report which, it appears from those headlines, is pretty much in line with what I’ve been saying, privately at least, for years.[2] This is pretty much that we have a very short time to accomplish massive social change to avert catastrophe.

I said I had all but given up paying attention because it was so clear we would not respond.

She asked if this was because 1) we would not believe climate change science, 2) policies would not be based on the science, or 3) people would cheat on any regulations that were imposed. I admired her list. Honestly, I couldn’t have come up with it myself. I said, all of the above.

None of her listed reasons for our failure are good reasons. They are venal reasons and I think they are true reasons. Taken together, they amount to one—only one—damning indictment of who we are as a species.

I recalled what Joel Federman had said to me in the first year of my Ph.D. program (probably in 2012) when I asked him about whether humans were fundamentally good or evil. He replied that humans fundamentally have a range of potential to be either or both or, most likely, anywhere in between.

I would layer onto Federman’s suggestion that this range is substantially constrained and influenced by our (insane[3]) society. Which is to say that an adequate response to climate change will involve social change, not just in the usual senses of power relationships, including those we have with non-human animals and the environment, but of our culture itself. This reaches where vegetarian ecofeminism leads: Our entire attitude about how we treat everyone and everything around us must change from one of domination and exploitation to one of harmony, cooperation, and compassion.

Which brings us back to the problem I began confronting in my first Ph.D. program (the one I had to withdraw from before getting into the one that I ultimately completed). This is about how we change our species, really, to be what we desperately need to be.

I’ve never found an answer to that question. There are multiple problems, beginning with that of persuading a diverse multicultural population of over 7 billion people and including how we avoid replacing one set of thugs (the ones currently in power) with another.[4] And what I have concluded is that societies don’t change, certainly not within the time frame we face with climate change, except organically, that is, by their own growth and development,[5] or through extreme violence.

My passenger had been hoping for reason for optimism. I couldn’t offer it to her.

  1. [1]Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Global Warming of 1.5 °C (draft), June 4, 2018, http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/
  2. [2]This is based in part on a combination of my understanding of General Systems Theory with Fred Pearce, With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate change (Boston: Beacon, 2007). Also see David Benfell, “‘We have found the enemy, and he is us’ — and our system of social organization,” March 6, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2013/03/06/we-have-found-enemy-and-he-us-and-our-system-social-organization
  3. [3]Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (1956; repr., Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2010).
  4. [4]From an anarchist perspective, the problem of replacing one set of thugs with another is most vividly how Marxist-Leninism failed: See Emma Goldman, “There Is No Communism in Russia,” in Red Emma Speaks: An Emma Goldman Reader, ed. Alix Kates Shulman, 3rd ed. (Amherst, NY: Humanity, 1998), 405-420. As with the Soviet Union, violent revolution has consistently failed, even when it ever attempted, to eliminate authoritarianism. Rather, it may produce structural changes and it may change who is in power, but not the authoritarian relationship itself.
  5. [5]I read somewhere that culture is not something kept under glass in a museum case, but rather something alive, developing and growing. It changes as the people of each new generation reinterpret its traditions. I have been kicking myself ever since for having failed to highlight that passage. My searches for it have failed.

Emily Yoffe asks if “anyone still take[s] both sexual assault and due process seriously.” She certainly doesn’t.

I am not going to delve very deeply into debates over the statistics about how many women are raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed. Let’s just stipulate that there are many such cases, that incidents of this nature can be considered ubiquitous, and that many more offenses occur than are reported to police or otherwise come to light. Continue reading “Emily Yoffe asks if “anyone still take[s] both sexual assault and due process seriously.” She certainly doesn’t.”

Damn it, Rondi! I’m a doctor, not a medical doctor!

Note: I am, of course, borrowing my title from the original Star Trek’s Doctor “Bones” McCoy, who in various adventures reprimanded his captain with the line, “Damn it, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a [fill in the blank]!” I particularly recall a case, in the episode “The Devil in the Dark” involving a silicon-based life form called a horta, injured before the Enterprise crew figured out that she was an intelligent life form and how to communicate with her, that had been trying to protect her eggs from Federation miners. In it, that blank was filled with “bricklayer.”[1]

So this morning, I saw that the Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed lampooning the use of the honorific “Doctor” with the author claiming, “I am fortunate to spend a lot of time in Italy, where very nearly everyone is a doctor—a lowly bachelor’s degree will do.” Context here is important: As Ms. Rondi Adamson notes, “during the [Brett] Kavanaugh confirmation madness[,] Christine Blasey Ford was scrupulously referred to by media and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as ‘Dr. Ford.’ Failure to comply was frowned upon.”[2] And we should note that the opinion pages of the Journal were as friendly toward Kavanaugh as those of the National Review and the Daily Standard. Which is to say, very friendly indeed, and utterly dismissive of any questions of Kavanaugh’s alleged sex offenses. Continue reading “Damn it, Rondi! I’m a doctor, not a medical doctor!”

  1. [1]Star Trek, episode 26, “The Devil in the Dark,” directed by Joseph Pevney, written by Gene L. Coon, featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley, aired March 9, 1967, on NBC.
  2. [2]Rondi Adamson, “Is There a Doctorate in the House?” Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-there-a-doctorate-in-the-house-1539298906