Month: January 2017

A Fortnight of Trump

It’s been two weeks since I’ve written about Trump here! And what a two weeks it’s been! Herewith, not-especially-well-organized thoughts on a fortnight of a not-especially-well-organized administration:

1. I mean, these are remarkable times, aren’t they? There are moments in life when you are very truly aware that you are living in history — things that will prominently be in history books fifty or a hundred years down the line — and there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind we’re right smack dab in a middle of some bona fide history, people. It’s kind of exhilarating! Mind you, I’m hoping it’s the exhilaration of a nation reawakening to a commitment of democratic principles, rather than the exhilaration of a consumptive’s moment of clarity before they finally hork out the useful portion of their lungs. But either way, it certainly is a time.

2. I’m feeling many things about the Trump administration, but I have to admit one of the primary emotions I am feeling is a deep and abiding embarrassment. I’m embarrassed that my president and his administration are clearly malign, but I’m also embarrassed that they are so clearly incompetent. These people are both ignorant and stupid, and while on one hand that’s a silver lining — it blunts the effectiveness of the previously-mentioned malignancy — on the other hand the fact that a great nation installed these bumptious yahoos in the first place says very little good about us.

3. This is also why I am mildly exasperated at the idea floating about, that the fumbling bullshit nonsense these numpties are up to represents 11-dimensional super-chess political moves. Folks, no. Really, just, no. If they were 11-dimensional super-chess masters, they wouldn’t have had a negative polling rating eight days into their administration; they’d instead have made us delighted to waltz down the path to a comfortable and complacent fascism. But they didn’t, because they can’t, because they’re not that smart. A White House that spends four days litigating the size of an inauguration crowd is not a clutch of masterminds. Masterminds wouldn’t have given a shit about how many people showed up on the goddamn National Mall.

But don’t you see, Scalzi? All of this is distraction from their true mastermind evil plans! Folks, you realize that needing these jackasses to be masterminds is a form of vanity, yes? We couldn’t have possibly chosen to be ruled by custard-headed bigots who can’t find their asses with GPS and an Eagle Scout! They must be smarter than that! Well, no, they’re really not, and yes, we really did. There are lots of ways to explain that — I favor the whole “the GOP’s decades-long plan to undermine its voters’ dedication to truth and public institutions really paid off” angle of things personally — without having to haul out the 11-dimensional chess board.

4. But don’t worry, folks! Blundering numpties are dangerous enough! And to be clear our blundering numpties have a plan — white authoritarianism is a thing, y’all — and fundamentally what they have on their side is that they don’t really respect law, or tradition, or you. You’re either useful, or fuck you. Incompetent or not, they’ll keep going until they can’t, and they expect you to follow the rules they have no intention of following. The thing is, the rules can stop them — from the Constitution on down — but only to the extent that people hold them to those rules, and plant their feet.

Our problem as I see it is that the House and Senate are currently controlled by the GOP, i.e., the folks who spent the last few decades undermining inconvenient truths and political comity, and whose current leaders, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, apparently are working on the motto of “Whatever, man, so long we get to kill Social Security and Medicare, too.” So, yeah. It does help that Trump is busily antagonizing Republican senators who offer even the mildest of complaint regarding his policies and incompetence, but let’s face the fact that spines are in short supply on the right side of the aisle at the moment. Will that change? We’ll find out!

And the Democrats? They spent the first week apparently under the impression things were normal, and it took two solid weeks of protests and phone calls to suggest to them that maybe just going along might not be the thing for them to do. As I’m typing this they’re putting sticks into the spokes of several cabinet confirmation processes of especially problematic candidates, so that’s good! But then Rick Perry just passed his Senate panel vote with Democratic votes, so maybe not every Democrat got the memo (I actually personally think Perry is likely to be one of the least problematic of the cabinet picks — he’s ignorant as hell about his position, but I think he’s more likely to listen to people who aren’t ignorant with regards to his duties, and isn’t that just a perfect encapsulation of the Trump years, when “ignorant but maybe trainable” is a positive). I’m mildly optimistic that the Democrats will generally get the memo that giving a pass to the incompetent and malign will not age well, especially when the incompetent and malign have no intention of ever returning any political favor. Again: We’ll find out!

5. What about Bannon? He’s smart, right? Well, he appears to be the smartest person in the White House right now, which is not the same as actually smart. But inasmuch as his personal philosophy appears to be “I’m a bigot and I have a box of matches” and he’s found a useful idiot in Trump, he’s definitely a problem. Is he the actual president, a la Cheney? He’s certainly got his hand up Trump’s ass, and he and Putin seem to be having a thumb war around the vicinity of Trump’s epiglottis in order to see whose turn it is to work the puppet. I think it’s self-evident that Bannon’s a racist piece of shit who shouldn’t be anywhere near the White House, but I also thought it was a self-evident Donald Trump was a racist piece of shit who shouldn’t be anywhere near the White House, too, and look where that got us.

Bannon’s reflexive racism and anti-semitism makes the Trump administration do stupid things, a fine example being it offering up a release on Holocaust Remembrance Day that somehow didn’t manage to mention the Jews, i.e., the principal targets of the Holocaust and the reason the Nazis built out the entire apparatus of the Holocaust. When called on it, the White House offered the same rhetorical line — “well, others suffered in the Holocaust, too” — that Holocaust deniers use to minimize the extent of the atrocity done to the Jews. Bannon’s fingerprints are all over this, and it’s appalling both that the White House put out a release like this, and that it either didn’t realize that everyone would see the dog whistle to America’s home-grown Nazis… or it didn’t care whether everyone saw it or not. Either, to me, is all Bannon; neither is especially smart.

6. What’s really remarkable about the Trump administration is that we are literally in week two, and its managed to have enough scandal and constitutional crisis for an entire year of a normal administration. Hell, even Dubya, the former modern low benchmark for incompetence, stretched out his nonsense. Now, you might recall that I predicted this the last time I wrote about Trump — I said we’d see a hundred-day “Gish Gallop” of nonsense from them (to the extent the Trump folks had any plan at all) — but it’s one thing to say “yup, this is going to happen” and another to see it in full effect in just two dizzying weeks.

I don’t think this is sustainable, and I don’t mean in terms of people’s ability to protest, which I think is capacious. I mean that, while it is prudent to plan for four years of Trump, I’m going to be surprised if he lasts that long. I mean, this is the goddamn honeymoon for his administration. It is protests and chaos and possibly even Democrats in Congress locating (or at least borrowing) spines, and a subterranean approval rating. Even worse, Trump just isn’t enjoying himself. He’s been fucking miserable for two straight weeks and it’s not getting better from here. I suspect that not too long in the future he’ll find a way to declare victory and bug out.

Maybe that’s wishful thinking (scratch that, it is wishful thinking). But here’s the thing: The Trump administration has already set the tone: It’s racist, it’s nationalistic in the worst way, it’s authoritarian, it is petulant and thin-skinned, and it’s not actually competent. It’s been jammed up from day one and the resistance to it is just going to get stronger from here. Whatever Trump thought he was going to achieve, in his fever dream of the office of the President being some combination of a king and his “Apprentice” shtick, he’s now unlikely to get it. He’s not used to being told “no” and he hates being unpopular, and by all indications he doesn’t actually like working much. I think he’s gonna say “fuck this” after a while and leave the whole mess to Pence (I almost said “poor Pence,” but that fellow signed up for this, so). I also think it’s more likely for him to leave of his own accord then to be impeached or removed via the 25th Amendment.

Is there any way for Trump to save his presidency? Sure, there are lots of ways! But most of them would require Trump getting a personality transplant and/or ditching the core of his brain trust, and I don’t see that happening. Bear in mind “save” is a loaded term; the man is president and he’s entirely capable of weathering four years of this out of sheer cussedness. It’s entirely possible I’m wrong, Trump doesn’t care to “save” his tenure, and he’ll just do what he’s going to do because screw you, that’s why. I’ve been wrong before! Sadly, in this particular case.

7. Leaving aside the ethical dimensions of Trump’s actions to date, from a purely economic and political point of view he’s pretty much been a nightmare. Businesses have to be watching his incipient trade war with Mexico, his immigration ban and the domestic protests and thinking to themselves “well, this is no good.” Trump’s nationalism is going to end up being bad for business, and in particular it’s likely to be bad for businesses in the very states where Trump had his strongest support. This more than anything else may be what turns a sufficient segment of the GOP against Trump — in the end, you don’t screw with the GOP’s money. There’s a racist, nationalist core of Trump supporters who value that more than business, mind you — they’d rather be pure than rich — so now I guess we get to see whether the GOP would rather be racist or rich. Should be interesting!

8. I’ve noted before that Trump is the end result of decades of the GOP working to undermine its voters’ faith in the system and in truth — but that Trump arrived about a cycle too early for the GOP’s plan to really pay off like it wanted. It was hoping for a bland, unobjectionable tool (think: Rubio) to be the front man while it dug itself in like a tick into the processes of government, and instead got a loud, racist incompetent with a pack of racist reactionary pals, who see the GOP as just another tool to use or to thump on when it doesn’t do what it’s told.

This is no good for the GOP, because now that Trump has alienated women and immigrants and the Latinx/Hispanics and LGBTetc and Jews and everyone who knows and cares for anyone in those groups, and the GOP is likewise putting the fear of god into people who want health insurance, who is left for them? Old white people (especially the ones who haven’t twigged to the fact that Ryan wants to take away their Medicare and Social Security), evangelicals who want cover for their racism, homophobia and worldly greed, and the sort of white dude who still thinks Pepe the Frog is the height of wit. Annnd that’s pretty much it! Not a lot to grow on, unfortunately for the GOP, and the longer Trump’s in office, the worse it’s going to get.

I’m not saying that everyone who is appalled by Trump is going to go to the Democrats, who have their own stew of issues, which I will leave to others to essay. But unless Trump actually does manage to destroy American democracy and replace it with a white authoritarian government in the next six months, I think all he’s really going to do is destroy the GOP. Which, you know. Sow the wind, etc. This is what the GOP has been working toward. That they didn’t expect that Trump was the form they’d get is neither here nor there to that.

9. What have I been encouraged about? I’ve been encouraged to see slightly more spine in some elected officials. I’ve been encouraged that blue states, particularly Massachusetts and California, seem to be ready to take the fight to Trump. I’ve been encouraged that news organizations have decided to call lies lies and decide there is more to news than filling up a 24-hour cycle with crap (they still have the 24-hour news cycle, and it is, alas, still largely filled with crap. But the ratio of useful-to-crap seems to be getting better). I’m encouraged that organizations like the ACLU have gotten right into the fight from day one. I’m encouraged that people like Sally Yates put their careers on the line to point out the injustice of Trump’s orders. I’m encouraged that nearly every creative person I know, liberal or conservative or otherwise, has decided that Trump’s nonsense is not for them. I’m encouraged that a large number of the conservative people I know and/or respect have decided to stand for the rule of law rather than a rule of Trump.

And most of all, I’m encouraged by the millions of people from everywhere and all walks of life who went out into the streets in the last couple of weeks, and who called their elected representatives, and who donated money and time and expertise to protest against Trump and his people, and their plans, and their morality, or lack thereof. As many people have noted, the alt-right have called them “snowflakes” but you get enough snowflakes in one place and you get an avalanche. It’s heartening to see millions standing for a diverse and vibrant America, and not for a mean and racist one. I noted before that Trump is president and as such he and his crew got to make all the first moves, nor are they done making those moves. There’s more to come from them. But it’s clear they weren’t prepared for the pushback. Good.

10. I hate that we are where we are now, but it’s also not wrong to say that I feel weirdly optimistic. Trump is terrible, his administration incompetent, and we’re confronted with the fact that our nation’s bigotry and awfulness has its head right now. But what’s happening because of it is the exact opposite of a shrug and quiet acceptance. I didn’t want us to have to have this political moment — I would have been happy with a Clinton administration, honest! — but if we have to have this political moment, and we do, I am heartened by the response to it. Our country is going to suffer damage because of Trump. We won’t be the same nation we were before. But we get to find out whether at the end of it we become a better nation. I think we might! If we keep at it.

And that’s an encouraging thought. I plan to keep at it. I hope you will, too.


Ellen DeGeneres hits back at Trump ‘Muslim ban’ by explaining ‘Finding Dory’ plot

DeGeneres voiced Dory in last year’s movie

Ellen DeGeneres has hit back at President Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ after explaining the plot of Finding Dory.

The talkshow host voiced the lead in Finding Dory, Disney’s hit animation about a forgetful fish, which was Donald Trump’s choice of the first film to screen at the White House on Sunday.

On Friday (January 27), he signed an order putting a four-month hold on allowing anyone into the United States who is from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia and Libya. Even those holding valid green cards and visas issued by the US or who have dual citizenship with another country not on the list will not be allowed entry to the country under Trump’s new rule.

DeGeneres commented on Trump’s ban by pointing out the irony, considering the movie’s moral message.

Explaining that Dory is Australian and on a mission to locate her parents, who are in America, DeGeneres added; “I don’t know what religion they are, but her dad sounds a little Jewish. It doesn’t matter,” said DeGeneres, before explaining that Dory and friends, once in America, are barred from re-entry by a large wall.

“They all have to get over the wall and you won’t believe it, but that wall has almost no effect in keeping them out,” said DeGeneres.

However, after crossing the wall, Degerenes explains how Dory is still separated from her family, enlisting the help of “animals that don’t even need her. Animals that don’t have anything in common with her. They help her, even though they’re completely different colours. Because that’s what you do when you see someone in need – you help them.”

Meanwhile, Rihanna also responded to Donald Trump’s executive order to ban immigrants from seven countries.

Rihanna wrote on her account: “Disgusted! The news is devastating! America is being ruined right before our eyes! What an immoral pig you have to be to implement such BS!!”

Watch video


The post Ellen DeGeneres hits back at Trump ‘Muslim ban’ by explaining ‘Finding Dory’ plot appeared first on NME.


American Muslims Worry the Worst Is Yet to Come

The only memories Alaa Amora has of his childhood in southern Iraq are of roaring airplanes and deafening bombs. He came to the United States in 1995 as a refugee along with his family, but says he always felt welcome—until Donald Trump came on the political scene.

"I love this country. I wouldn’t want to go to any other country besides this, but it’s starting to get scary," Amora, now 32, told me before pausing to help a customer pick out new cell phone in his Dearborn, Michigan, electronics store.

"This is my business," he said, gesturing towards displays of jeweled phone cases and shelves of flatscreen TVs. "Without coming here, without America welcoming me to this beautiful place, where would I be right now? I would probably either be dead, locked up somewhere for no reason, or just worrying about when the next bomb is going to fall on my head."

It was Trump’s campaign trail call to ban Muslims from entering the country made him begin to feel that he didn’t belong.

For years, Amora told me, he and his extended family have taken a summer trip to upper Michigan. Although that part of the state is far less diverse than his hometown of Dearborn (which has a large Muslim population and is sometimes the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories), they were always treated with the warmth typical of the American Midwest.

When Amoraand his relatives boarded a ferry to take them to the old-timey resort town of Mackinac Island last summer, however, he said, "Everyone on that boat stared us down as if we were about to sink the ship on them."

Amora blames what he sees as rising anti-Muslim sentiment on how Trump’s executive order singled out people from Muslim-majority countries "to protect the American people from terrorist attacks," to quote the order.

"When you have the president of the greatest country in the world saying that Muslims are terrorists, a lot of people are going to believe him," Amora said.

Jeanon Jawech has the same fears. "This is just going to fuse more [bias]," the 19-year-old college student said of Trump’s executive order after a demonstration against it at the Detroit Metro Airport.

Her mother Nala Jawech, an immigrant from Syria, agreed. "To target Muslims directly, it’s something dangerous. They judge all the majority for a small number and that’s what’s scary," she told me.  Both women wear hijab and are worried about becoming the targets of Islamophobic attacks.

In the aftermath of Trump’s election, Muslims across the country have come under attack. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) compiled a list of 867 hate incidents in the ten days after Trump’s victory. There was a 67 percent year-over-year increase in hate crimes against Muslims reported to the FBI in 2015, the year when Trump—then just a Republican presidential candidate—first called for "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."  

Many experts have attributed a rise in hate crimes against Muslims to Trump’s vitriolic comments, among other examples of Islamophobic rhetoric. "We’re seeing these stereotypes and derogative statements become part of the political discourse," Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism told the New York Times in September. "The bottom line is we’re talking about a significant increase in these types of hate crimes."

Trump has never explicitly endorsed anti-Muslim violence, and when asked about the harassment immediately after his victory, he said he wanted the perpetrators to "stop it."

But during the campaign he supported a variety of extreme, seemingly Constitution-defying policies, including the surveillance of mosques and the creation of a database of Muslims. Friday’s order, while maybe not as outlandish as those ideas, was certainly of a piece with them.

According to Kevin R. Johnson, author of The Huddled Masses Myth, exclusionary policies barring certain groups of would-be immigrants have led to further discriminatory policies and actions against members of those groups within the US.  

"When the government is saying we gotta get rid of these—whatever group you want to say—it is an important signal to people in those groups [in the US] what their worth is and how much they’re desired," Johnson told me. When certain types of people are singled out by immigration policy, members of that group who are in the US often suffer as well. Johnson said the phenomenon is "one of the ripple effects that isn’t often paid attention to" but a consequence has been borne out by history.

Passed in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first significant immigration policy to ban a specific group of people. Its ban on Chinese workers led to a series of laws barring people of Chinese origin in the US from working in certain industries or owning land.

"There was rampant discrimination in employment and discrimination against Chinese businesses and none of it went checked by government," Johnson said. Similarly, he added, policies singling out Muslim immigrants could lead to discrimination against Muslims in America. "Minority groups… understand that the immigration debate, even if they’re citizens, even if they’re born and raised here, at some level it’s about them and people like them," he said.

Alaa Amora now fears discrimination and violence in his adopted country so acutely that he’s considering buying guns for his wife and sisters so that they can defend themselves if they’re attacked because their headscarves mark them as Muslims.

"I’m really starting to think about it because they go out shopping by themselves," he told me. "I’m really scared for them now."

Beenish Ahmed is a reporter, writer, and the founder of THE ALIGNIST. Follow her on Twitter.


Boy Scouts End Transgender Ban

13117scout.jpg Rally for equality in the Boy Scouts of America in 2013. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Boy Scouts of America, which has come under fire in recent months over its ban on transgender boys joining the scouts, announced Monday that the ban would be lifted.

In a statement posted on the BSA website, the century-old organization said that any individual identifying as a boy would be eligible to join the Cub or Boy Scouts, removing a requirement that only children assigned “male” at birth could participate.

“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the statement said. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.

“The Boy Scouts of America is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible—all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”

In December, the Secaucus Cub Scouts chapter became a lightning rod for criticism after an 8-year-old boy was booted from his scout troop because of his gender identity. (The organization said that gender identity assigned at birth, rather than what a family wrote on the application to the scouts, determined eligibility.) On Monday, reported that the boy’s family was planning on filing a discrimination complaint with the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.

The Boy Scouts have long been a flashpoint for larger cultural battles, serving as a stand-in for the imagined notion of the “All-American” boy. For years, gay rights activists pushed for the organization to lift a ban on the participation of openly gay youth, as well as openly gay scout leaders. In 2013, the youth ban was lifted and two years later, the scout leader ban was also lifted. (The New York state Boy Scouts affiliate hired an openly gay scout leader several months prior to the removal of this ban in defiance of the national organization.) According to NPR, segregated scouting troops endured in the American South for much of the 20th century, with some still segregated as late as the mid-1970s


Talking Trump, Syria and humanity with Orlando Von Einsiedel


In the opening scenes of Orlando Von Einsiedel’s Oscar-nominated The White Helmets, viewers hear the sound of an explosion. Seconds later, the pitch black screen snaps onto the streets of Aleppo, revealing the heart-stopping damage that has been done. Someone’s home, half destroyed and with debris still smoking, has been bombed. The shaky camera then pans to a group of people…

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MoMA opens free, safe space for LGBTQ-identifying teens

Open Art Space

For the most part, the world is very angry right now. We are protesting, striking, marching, writing, <a…

read more »


MoMA opens free, safe space for LGBTQ-identifying teens

Open Art Space

For the most part, the world is very angry right now. We are protesting, striking, marching, writing, <a…

read more »


MoMA opens free, safe space for LGBTQ-identifying teens

Open Art Space

For the most part, the world is very angry right now. We are protesting, striking, marching, writing, <a…

read more »


MoMA opens free, safe space for LGBTQ-identifying teens

Open Art Space

For the most part, the world is very angry right now. We are protesting, striking, marching, writing, <a…

read more »