Archive for July, 2019

More Shady and Blue pics – posted 7/28/2019

July 28, 2019 Leave a comment
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The relevance of the Andrew Johnson impeachment – posted 7/21/2019 and published in the Concord Monitor on 8/4/2019

July 21, 2019 2 comments

When progressives and liberals discuss whether Donald Trump should be impeached, the most common historical analogy floated is the example of Richard Nixon. Comparisons include charges of obstruction of justice, perverse use of racism, and crossing the line of criminality.

Bill Clinton’s experience is also cited as a negative example of when an impeachment effort went awry and was seriously misguided. I think there is a consensus that lying about sex acts does not meet a standard of high crimes and misdemeanors.

While it is little known, the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson has more relevance to the Trump situation than has ever been recognized. I am sure this is because Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was so long ago, just after the Civil War. Johnson’s impeachment is little taught in American schools. It is a historical episode passed over.

The historian Brenda Wineapple has corrected the record and has brought to life the circumstances of Johnson’s impeachment in her new book, The Impeachers. Wineapple shows that Johnson got impeached primarily for being a white supremacist.

In February 1868, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Johnson. After a trial in the Senate, Johnson escaped removal from office by the margin of one vote. Impeachment in the Senate requires a two-thirds majority vote.

Johnson succeeded to the presidency after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. As a southerner from Tennessee, Johnson had an unusual background for a President. He grew up in poverty. He was an indentured servant in a tailor’s shop. He ran away from his servitude but he always hated the Southern aristocrats and planters who looked down their noses at him.

When Lincoln picked Johnson to be his Vice-President in 1864, it was an effort to balance the ticket and broaden his base. Johnson was a Democrat and he was a rare southerner who had opposed the succession of Southern states from the Union. For this iconoclastic position, he was hated by many loyal to the Confederacy.

Problems emerged quickly after Lincoln was assassinated and Johnson ascended to the Presidency. While the North was winning the Civil War, Johnson had no idea how to move forward and build on the Union victory. He had no vision of creating an equitable multi-racial democracy.

The problems Johnson faced were admittedly overwhelming. The Civil War cost an estimated 750,000 lives. Four million previously enslaved people were now allegedly free but they had no jobs and no land. They were considered 3/5 of a person under law.

Johnson responded by accommodating the South and the former slave owners. In the aftermath of the Civil War, instead of trying to unify the country and move past racism, Johnson tried to restore white supremacy. Johnson handed out pardons like candy to former Confederates. He looked the other way while Southern states created Black Codes and instituted slavery by another name. This is not too surprising since Johnson was a slave owner himself.

Johnson enraged Northerners, even moderates, as he failed to respond to violent attacks against Southern Blacks and their white allies, including attacks on Black Union army veterans. In New Orleans, a white mob attacked the Republican constitutional convention, murdering over 100 people and wounding 300. In Memphis, white racists went on a rampage and killed 46 Black people while wounding 53. Black homes, schools and churches were burned to the ground.

Northerners saw Johnson giving away the fruits of victory. Johnson opposed the 14th Amendment and Black suffrage. He held viciously racist views which he was not shy about voicing. He hated the Radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner and they returned the hatred.

Johnson had a serious alcohol problem and he was more prone to racist demagoguery when drinking. He railed that the leader of the Radical Republicans, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, should be hanged. Considering that Stevens was an excellent parliamentarian and that the Republicans held supermajorities in Congress, this view was not the most politic.

In the history of the United States, no President had yet been impeached but with Johnson Republicans looked for impeachable offenses. Johnson gave the Republicans an opportunity when he started firing government officials, particularly the popular Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. The Republicans argued that the Stanton firing violated the questionably constitutional Tenure of Office Act which required that the Senate confirm Johnson’s firings. The Senate did not confirm Stanton’s firing.

The House voted 11 articles of impeachment against Johnson. Besides the violations of the Tenure of Office Act, much of the basis for impeachment was that Johnson was a white supremacist who had degraded the country and Congress. In the end, impeachment failed.

There is no roadmap for impeachment and the legal standard of high crimes and misdemeanors is vague. Still, I think the Johnson impeachment set an important and just example. America does not belong to one race. Johnson fought to preserve a white man’s government. Johnson earned his impeachment inquiry even if it did not result in his removal from office.

Similarly, Donald Trump is heading down a road pioneered by Andrew Johnson. He is acting like the president of white people only, while dehumanizing people of color, especially immigrants. He has no sense that the mission of a President might have something to do with promoting an equitable multiracial democracy and representing the whole country.

The worst is not the incessant lying and the self-dealing behavior which have degraded and dishonored the presidency. He will always be known for putting innocent children in cages, conduct that will live in infamy. Trump has become a threat to the Constitution, the rule of law and civil liberties.

It is now up to Congress to act.

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New puppy Blue – posted 7/12/2019

July 12, 2019 2 comments
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Normalizing Sexism – posted 7/6/2019 and published in the Concord Monitor on 7/25/2019

July 6, 2019 2 comments

For the last 50 years or so, many American women have challenged their second class status and have fought for gender equity. On different fronts, women have pushed back against institutional discrimination, sexual objectification, and patriarchal control.

On the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and reproductive rights, women have confronted and rejected traditional sexist views. Progress may have been halting but the movement was forward.

That was true until the presidency of Donald Trump. Now we are turning back the clock. Under Trump, sexual politics have regressed. As is the case with racism, where pro-Trump white supremacists have come out from under the rocks where they were previously hiding, Trump has given sexists and misogynists a new lease on life.

Let’s begin with the example of the President himself. At least 22 women have accused him of sexual misconduct since the 1970’s. The latest was Elle Magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll who recently accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990’s.

Trump has denied all the allegations against him and has called all the women “liars”. About Carroll, he wrote, “I’ve never met this person in my life” even though New York magazine printed a photo of them together. Then Trump said, “Number one, she’s not my type”.

So does that mean Trump might rape someone who was his type? He has had other disturbing responses to allegations of his sexual misconduct. After businesswoman Jessica Leeds accused him of groping her, Trump said, “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you”.

I guess Trump’s victims have to be “10’s” to get a shot at being assaulted.

You have to ask: how does this guy get a pass on all the accusations? Doesn’t every woman who has made an accusation deserve a fair hearing on the merits? Trump may not be approaching Harvey Weinstein-type numbers but when you are over 20 allegations that shocks the conscience.

I thought the federal government had a vigorous policy against sexual harassment. I guess it is two-tiered: one tier for Trump and one for everyone else. If the same accusations had been lodged against President Obama, Obama would have been impeached.

It would appear that Trump is above the law. His behavior is beyond reckoning and a double standard is at play. Whatever electoral calculations the House Democrats are making, their response to these accusations has been weak and overly accommodating.

What is going on is a throwback to a former era when men unambiguously ruled. It was not A Handmaid’s Tale but in pre-1960’s America, powerful men were dominant and women were under their thumb. Male chauvinism was the norm. Sex was a private matter outside public scrutiny. If a man wanted to assault or batter his wife or girl friend, it was nobody else’s business.

Men had the prerogative to behave badly and complaining women were “hysterical”, not to be believed. Religion often provided cover since patriarchal religion taught that men were the head of the household and women were to obey.

It is easy to see why women have been reluctant to come forward and report sexual assault allegations. They get harassed and threatened. After Carroll made her allegations, Trump encouraged his supporters to harass her. Trump said Carroll’s allegations put her in “dangerous territory”, whatever that means.

I think Trump’s behavior has very bad implications for domestic violence victims. As a national role model, he is saying complaining women are not to be believed. The example Trump sets is one that every abuser emulates. The strategy is what University of Oregon psychology professor Jennifer Freyd calls DARVO: Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender. Freyd says perpetrators of violence often use this strategy to silence victims and to force retreat.

Backwards views of domestic violence are also reflected in Trump Administration public policy. The Trump Department of Justice revised its definition of domestic violence to only consider physical harm – not psychological and emotional abuse. This is a major step backward, contrary to modern understandings of domestic violence. Also, the Trump Administration, through former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ruled that domestic violence cannot be a basis for an asylum claim unless very extraordinary conditions are met. The new standard was designed to foil the great majority of domestic violence-based asylum claims. It downgrades and minimizes the crime of domestic violence.

The new sexism is also reflected in reproductive and abortion rights policy. Before our very eyes, abortion rights are disappearing. The right to choose is being rendered a nullity. Trump, his largely male minions and male-dominated state legislatures are denying women their right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest.

Not surprisingly, just as the Trump Administration emboldened a new generation of white supremacists, they have also emboldened a new generation of hateful male supremacists who see feminism as responsible for the decline of Western civilization. Red Pill, incels, and Milo Yiannopoulos come to mind.

We are witnessing an effort to bring back and normalize sexism. In her book, No Visible Bruises, Rachel Snyder quotes a domestic violence activist and survivor, Kit Gruelle:

“We are leaping backwards at an obscene pace.”

I think that sums it up well.

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