Article Review:Should We Be “Terrified”?

 

The following is a REVIEW of an article from the Daily Intelligencer. This review is written by Richard Bramer, Editor in Chief at the Blackboard. Below is the article’s headline, tagline, photo and caption, for illustrative purposes.

 

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Above is the headline, tagline, photo and caption of the reviewed article.

 

I DO NOT want my peeps to calm down, give up or “wait and see”.

OTOH, I am aware, painfully aware, that social media pushes fear and anger.

I DO NOT want my peeps to calm down, give up or “wait and see”, but I also wonder if my Peeps can see the “FEMA Camps”, “they’re coming for your guns” or “Birther Conspiracies”, etc., etc., etc.. equivalents on our side being pushed by that same media?

As an exercise in Rational Thought, and NOT an effort to get you to Calm Down, I offer the following analysis of a recent headline that had “terrifying” in it’s headline. (Full Disclosure: the one thing I find terrifying, in the sense that it keeps me up nights, is the damage we are currently doing to the environment… So I don’t deny there are some things to be afraid of..)

The article referenced here is:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/every-terrifying-thing-that-donald-trump-has-done.html

The Headline: “Every Terrifying Thing That Donald Trump Did This Week”

I will review each of the claims to terror individually.

1. “Derided protestors as paid professionals whose acts of free speech are fundamentally “unfair.””

This claim is based on a tweet where Trump criticized protesters under the patently false claim they were paid. (The story was debunked: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/nov/17/blog-posting/no-someone-wasnt-paid-3500-protest-donald-trump-it/) and was repeated by patently falsified websites (http://abcnews.com.co/donald-trump-protester-speaks-out-i-was-paid-to-protest/).

What did Trump actually do, in context? He Tweeted a false story and nine hours later seemed to counter it in a second Tweet. Was there harm done? Sure. Should we be terrified? No.

2. “Invited the manager of his “blind trust” to a meeting with the prime minister of Japan.”

Trump has set up a blind trust with his children at the helm to look after his business affairs while he’s in office. The headlines decrying this move almost always have put the words “blind trust” in quotation marks, in that age-old effort to imply lack of faith in their meaning. The Truth is that setting up a “blind trust” is the time-honored method of separating oneself from one’s business affairs and oneself while in office. Hillary Clinton was going to leave The Clinton Foundation under daughter Chelsea’s control while in office. Mitt Romney was going to leave his under the control of friends at Bain Capital, where he once worked and made his millions, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/11/donald-trumps-questionable-blind-trust-setup-just-got-more-questionable/). Daughter Ivanka Trump was then invited to his first meeting with a Foreign Leader, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.

What did Trump actually do, in context? He has used his children in his transition team even while naming them as heads of the “blind trust”. Such positions frequently land one a job in the new Administration as well. We don’t know if the Trump children will be working in the Trump Administration, but the claim to be putting them in charge of the blind trust would lead one to believe the answer is “No.” Was there harm done? Not yet, not really. The transition team doesn’t set policy – but their work does set up the team that WILL set policy. It isn’t good, but this has been the nature of American government for decades. It IS ugly and fraught with opportunity to put profit before country, but it is not new and it isn’t even confined to one person or one party. This is how Washington is run – Trump just didn’t bother with the thin veneer of respectability, much as his supporters said he wouldn’t. Now, one could (and SHOULD) argue that this is exactly counter to “draining the swamp” as he said he would, but should we be “terrified”? Not if every Administration since Eisenhower didn’t terrify us, no.

3. “Assembled a team of racists to lead his White House.”

The team so far is Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and Michael Flynn. If you haven’t read up on them yet, you can start here: (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/donald_trump_is_bringing_america_government_by_the_worst_men.html). Bannon has never held a government post, but he helped immensely in Trump’s victory. Campaign Strategists are almost Always given plums in the new Administration. The other two, Sessions and Flynn, have both been working in the Federal Government for decades. Flynn is a Lt. General from Military Intelligence and Sessions is one of Alabama’s Senators since 1997. All three are ideologues from the extreme right.

We need to resist them and act up against the horrible policies they will undoubtedly push, but what did Trump actually Do, in context? Rewarded a Campaign Leader and hired two long time public servants. This is not different, in form, than the same decisions made by all incoming Administrations. Should we be terrified? I think here we have a mixed bag. How much of their poison can make it into Public Policy remains to be seen. We still have an existing Judiciary, though weakened by the GOP in recent years. This is surely an area of grave concern for the nation and will undoubtedly be one of significant conflict in the years to come. We need to resist the racism. We need to continue our socio-political revolution. I think our reaction here should be intense concern and resolve; the claim to “terrifying” is closest to rational in this area, (especially if you intend it as the product of terrorism) but to call it “terrifying” does us no good.

4. “Took credit for the fact that Ford will not be relocating a plant to Mexico (which they never had any intention of relocating to Mexico).”

Trump tweeted the claim that his discussion with Ford CEO Bill Ford saved the plant and the jobs. Some sources have called this a lie, but Bloomberg’s reporting on it gives his claim some validity: (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-18/trump-says-ford-called-to-say-keeping-lincoln-plant-in-kentucky).

What did Trump do, in context? Bluster, brag and ignore other people’s discomfort – in this case Ford Executives. Should we be terrified. No – especially in the context of easily checked facts.

5. “Declared America’s leading newspaper a “failing” institution.”

Again, an unsubstantiated, false claim in the form of a tweet, unless you look at the context of print newspapers across the country. Many folks HAVE declared that medium “failing” – hence the move on the part of EVERY leading newspaper – to subscription websites.

What did Trump do, in context? He hurled an easily misinterpreted false claim against journalists who criticized him. Is it unprecedented? Not really, it’s just unpolished, as is so much of what Trump does. Should we be terrified? No. I don’t think even the journalists who are the object of his unfounded derision should be terrified. They shouldn’t be toning down their criticism of him though, and that is where we might have a real issue. So far that is patently not the case, however.

6. “Abandoned his press pool.”

He did not escape the public eye this way… he went to dinner with his family and was seen. The reason for a “protective pool” around a President or President elect is because in the case of catastrophe (we’ve had one ever since JFK was killed in Dallas) the public will know how the government is handling it.

What did Trump do, in context? Snuck out of Trump tower with his family for a steak dinner. He was recognized at the restaurant to a standing ovation by onlookers. Should he have? No. Will he make it a habit? We’ll see – perhaps this was one of the mistakes that newcomers make. Should we be terrified? No.

7. “Floated the idea of hiring his son-in-law to a White House position, in possible defiance of laws against nepotism and norms against conflicts of interest.”

He mentioned the possibility of putting Jarod Kushner in the new Administration. It hasn’t happened yet. The position he might hold hasn’t been named yet. Lyndon Johnson signed the anti-nepotism law as President – he was known to Despise Robert F. Kennedy, whose brother, President John F. Kennedy, had appointed Attorney General.

What did Trump do in context? Talked about giving an appointment to a key campaign person. (Read about Kushner’s steadying hand to the campaign here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/us/politics/jared-kushner-donald-trump.html). Should we be terrified? No.

8. “Took calls from foreign leaders on unsecured phone lines, without consulting the State Department.”

The content of these calls was undoubtedly congratulatory and requests for future meetings. Foreign heads of State would NOT start divulging Top Secret material in such calls. I mean – Would You?? These calls are always the same and any policy references are only of the type that set out markers – inform the other party about where, what, why they will be pursuing whatever they will be pursuing in the real talks, if that much.

What did Trump do, in context? Hypocritically put conversations with foreign leaders outside the reach of Federal Record keeping – the very grounds of the criticism of HRC’s private email server. He can’t do this for long – the State Dept. will secure the lines to Trump Tower and/or his calls will be from the White House. Should we be terrified? No; if it continues we should be critical however. But this is mostly a records-keeping issue, not a ‘keep American secrets secret’ issue; if it continues it becomes more the latter and less the former.

9. “Referred to his White House transition as though it were the next season of The Apprentice.”

Another ill-informed tweet from Trump. He’s unpracticed and unprofessional. We know he’s not ready for the Presidency. He IS getting schooled, however. Obama proved that he can learn his lessons pretty quickly. He’s not dumb.

What did Trump do in context? Tweeted out a self-aggrandizing message about the transition process. Should we be terrified? No.

Now, as I’ve said, the danger to our Environment really DOES scare me. This article didn’t even mention the environment on its “terrifying” list, even though the Chinese government sent a message to Trump that he was wrong about his claim they invented the Climate Change “hoax’ as a maneuver to weaken the American economy. Notably, Trump hasn’t responded yet.

The racist ideologists taking positions of power in the White House should concern everyone – and raises to the level of “terror” if we consider them potential legal terrorists – but all in all I think when the social media sells us headlines that induce “terror” they are doing us a profound disservice. And it is up to us as consumers of information from that same social media, to be aware of the appropriate reading of and the appropriate response to that information.

Bako’s Rainbow Underground

I recently took an online test that purported to measure how much of a Californian you are. It asked questions about how to give directions – you make liberal use of the article “the” when describing highways – neighborhoods, beaches, avocados and parks. I scored 100%. Yeah. I’m not sure of the validity of the test, but WTH. I’ve been here more than 20 years, which is more than I’ve been anywhere, including my boyhood in Michigan and West Virginia. Among others.

So.

On the basis of that credential, I am going to offer the following commentary on my neo-hometown: Bakersfield. I surely know more about that than the rest of California, so there you go.

First: I get the Okie past and the OilJesus™ present. The Good Ol’ Boys and their sons are right proud of all that and hugely dependent on it. They are also victims to it. The oil market is famously volatile and Bako’s fortunes rise and fall with the price of crude. Check. It’s small wonder the downtimes are understood to be the fault of gummint intervention and whatnot. The GOP has got them convinced that the Invisible Hand of the Market cures all ills but don’tcha dare ask for a higher minimum wage! So the vagaries of an International Commodities Market? Shoo. No worries, boss.

Second: it’s just historical description by now to understand how the Christian Evangelical crowd got pulled in by the GOP. I mean all that Radical Inclusion on that side (sark light burning bright). Letting just anybody get incorporated into the body politic? Oh Gawd. It was bad enough when they were building Joss Houses downtown. But now it’s Mosques and Gurdwaras and Temples and Lord knows what-all. And now they claim the RIGHT to be taught in the schools by some other language than good ol’ English! And the Prayer in Schools and the War on Christmas. And the Babies. Oh, the Babies don’t forget the Babies.

Third: the junkie-like addiction to suburban development has struck Bako like so many other California towns. But in Bako’s case there is a distinct dearth of anything else. We’ve only EVER had A) Oil and B) Agriculture. After those two? Nada. So now we have the City and the County opening up the fields to suburban developments by the dozen. The big housing bubble we just barely survived? It only just sorta slowed them down.

If you’re not familiar with the suburban jonesing that mid-size California towns in particular get themselves involved in, just ruminate on this cycle: first, a plot of land is put up by a farmer or other landowner for a pretty handsome price, compared to years of farming it. The ‘Developer’ has to pay taxes and fees to the City and/or County to get that land prepped for building. An influx of real American DOLLARS into the local coffers!! Yay!

Except after the next nearly identical row of ticky-tacky goes in, (with as small a yard as possible to maximize the fees and profits of all involved), there is the required upkeep of that neighborhood. Garbage, utilities, emergency services, etc. The upkeep costs are relatively low house by house, but they Never Stop. Your Property Taxes DO NOT cover the entire cost to your local government of supplying you with those services. Property taxes are, at best, a sort of insurance policy. You pay your premium so an ambulance will show up to your door should you need one. But when you don’t need one, there are always plenty of others who do. So what do they do to bridge the property taxes/real costs gap? Try their darnedest to get more fees and taxes in bulk from another ‘Developer’ on another tract. Which, in turn, cannot pay for itself in the long term. And so it goes. A cycle of addiction as real as any a Meth Head has faced.

The fact that the older neighborhoods, with the older homes and therefore lower prices overall (what “used” home can really compete in a market swamped full of cheap Built-Just-For-You!! shiny boxes?) , then become havens for the poor, uneducated and – in an all too common American city truth, full of POCs – makes the self-fulfilling prophecies of racists come true. The crime rates are higher there. The social needs are higher there. The upkeep of those communities cost more.

Which gives birth to such programs as the Red Light Cameras, which generate more money supposedly only on the backs of miscreants – a policy explanation and law as ex post facto as they get. But the fact these cameras are almost exclusively in the older, POC neighborhoods goes almost completely unnoticed among the electorate. And for those that notice, the veneer of putting the cost back on the guilty serves as a pretty handy foil.

This modus also supplies the rationale for Police Brutality in those neighborhoods. With Search and Seizure laws as they are in the US, it only makes sense to over-police those neighborhoods so’s we can retrieve some of those hemorrhaging tax dollars from them, right? Over-policing and Red Light Cameras have pretty much the same rationale and about the same efficacy in getting cash from the right people, but who really cares? It’s real currency and the collectors in blue are happy – no, make that Very Happy – to collect.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about today.

That’s just my Bako primer. A quick catch-up for those that don’t already know.

No, today I want to write about those folks that aren’t in one of two or three Crowds That Count in Bako: the white male laborer (probably once worked in the oil fields) and the Country Clubber. There is a huge intersection between these two groups and the Evangelicals, as the Trump campaign has demonstrated, despite the obvious fact that the Evangelicals really do want to hew to some semblance of ethics and morality. They are just too easily led astray by Fear Mongering, Anti-Science and Racism.

So who, in Bako, doesn’t fit into the GOP mob? The OilJesus™ faithful? The short answer: everyone else. There are a lot of “others” living elbow to elbow with the crowd that distrusts all others.

First and foremost: Latinos. These folks are actually more than half the population of Kern County already. Unfortunately, there are a very few of them (we’re looking at You, Chad Vegas) who work overtime to bury that family connection. Like ex-smokers are extreme in their condemnation of current smokers,  they are often some of the most virulent anti-latino voices in the county. Their racism is open, vitriolic and sometimes just centimeters shy of actual violence.

But most of the Latino population (overwhelmingly of Mexican descent) is mildly traditional, pro-education, church-going and family-oriented. They have huge, regular, family functions that SO make their neighbors want to be a member.  These might be at home or they might be in a park. If you are at the neighboring picnic tables and you see the women pulling whole onions as big as a baby’s head out of grocery bags, you Just Know there’s gonna be a mess of cookin’ going on and it’s gonna be GOOD.

They are hardworking and often have several members of the family who, because of teen-perceived-financial needs or actual later-life desperation, have worked in the fields. They will be glad to tell you that doing so really and truly sucks in ways you can’t even imagine.

When Cesar Chavez is described by OilJesus™ as a bully and an extremist (yeah, this really is the claim) you can see them smile faux demurely, like one does at a dog barking from behind a fence.

They are the Actual Future of Kern County and the dregs of centuries past have yet to admit to that basic truth. At least not with anything approaching equanimity or aplomb.

There are more people with Disabilities than Blacks in Bako. There are more people under the age of five than Blacks in Bako (both those groups around 8%, Blacks around 5%). Yet despite their statistical swamping in terms of their overall numbers, their Juvenile Incarceration Rate is eight times greater than Latinos, Whites or Others, and that rate is 25% higher than the rest of California. (http://www.kidsdata.org/topic/166/juvenilearrest-rate-race/table#fmt=2334&loc=2,127,347,1763,331,348,336,171,321,345,357,332,324,369,358,362,360,337,327,364,356,217,353,328,354,323,352,320,339,334,365,343,330,367,344,355,366,368,265,349,361,4,273,59,370,326,333,322,341,338,350,342,329,325,359,351,363,340,335&tf=79&ch=7,10,9,127).

Are there Black Youth Gangs in Bako? Oh yes. Rest assured there are and rest assured that some of those people are quite unredeemable.

But there are also Latino Gangs. And White Gangs. And Mixed Race Gangs. There are all kind of Gangs – folks on the street know full well the recent Heroin outbreak and upsurge in Pointless Shootings on the Street are not just coincidentally linked.

But Bako has also seen Black youth kicked out of classes – K-12 classes – at a rate 50% higher than for White kids for non-violent ‘offenses’ and at a rate three times the California average (https://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/10/14/15938/suit-against-kern-county-schools-alleges-disproportionate-discipline-minorities).

I’ve personally spoken with a member of Kern’s Law Enforcement who laughingly described actual torture of a Black man – who was brought in not because of any infringement of the law, really, but because the last time he WAS brought in he sucker punched one of them and sent him sprawling. After I registered my disgust, he defended the Officers’ actions (he was not personally involved, he said) on these grounds: “That’s how folks in this county WANT us to act!”

Being Latino in Bako is bad. Being Black in Bako is nightmarish.

There are also Asians of all kinds in Bako. Many are pushing the Bell Curve upward in the finest neighborhoods and schools. A close look at Always-On-Top Stockdale High School’s data quickly underscores how much these kids bring the school along with them, rather than the school pushing them up. (http://instruction.kernhigh.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2015_School_Accountability_Report_Card_Stockdale_High_School_20160120.pdf).

But Bako’s Asian communities are deeply divided. There are the sons and daughters of Doctors and Engineers performing Academic wonders for Stockdale HS, Centennial HS and a few others and the sons and daughters of Truck Drivers and Farm Workers toiling away in ELD classes everywhere else. These kids share the same pressures and school-born shortcomings as the Spanish-speaking sons and daughters of La Raza. Their success rates are as abysmal.(http://instruction.kernhigh.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2015_School_Accountability_Report_Card_South_High_School_20160120.pdf). (*These schools used only for representational purposes. I am not knocking the schools here per se, but only offering a description of the communities. I’ll knock the schools in their own time, in a different article!)

There is also a Muslim presence in Bako, amazingly. When I first got to town and spoke a smattering of Hindi to an Indian student of mine, who was coincidentally Muslim, another student asked me surreptitiously afterward: “What was that? Were you speaking in tongues with him?”

I have assisted some of the hapless Hijabis hereabouts. The openness with which North Bakersfieldians show derision of these ladies would shock the sensibilities of even the marginally racist. They seem actually to believe that Muslims are dogs – rabid dogs – and need to be called on it. Reined in. Put down.

If their children were actually out on the streets I’m sure they would have some pretty startling statistics also. I suspect they are kept at home, strictly, under lock and key and watchful eye. If I were a Muslim in Bako that’s exactly what I would do.

Bakersfield boasts of an LGBT Center with an actual storefront downtown. It is active and supportive and inclusive and wonderful. (It was for them, actually, that our own Nano Rubio first constructed the Rainbow Bakersfield illustration featured at the top of this article.) This small community has boasted of some of Bako’s most prolific Activists: Nancy Bailey; Audrey Romero; Whitney Weddell and Robert Peterson. These folks are Community Organizers in the Obama tradition: always working, always there, always Fired Up.

So. In future articles I hope to flesh out this Rainbow Underground. To examine it, coddle it and encourage it to move on and move up. It has already scored successes that most in Bako don’t give it credit for (oddly): the many-times-over election of Nicole Parra, (D, 16th District California Assembly) who ran out her term limits, is one. Dean Florez (ditto) and her predecessor is another. And while Dems and Progressive folks from the South Central Valley bemoan their lack of representation, they now number 35.6% of the population to the GOP’s 38.6%. With only three percent separating them, the Progressive Rainbow Underground could swing a vote with a superior ground game.

I’m looking for the local Democratic Women’s Club or one of the above to get right on that. With a sincere GOTV effort, this county is ours.

Begin Again?

Why would we do such a thing? Start this old rag up again, for the third/fourth/(who’s counting?) time… A saner group of people would notice the raspberry colored knot on their collective forehead and stop knocking. But we figure saner people aren’t hopelessly addicted to the notion that they can be the best bad little newspaper between Porterville and Gorman.

There’s also that little thing about a truly Free Press. An un-incorporated,  feet in the gutter, fist in the air source of information that delivers what you need and what you need to know. The little paper that could. And did. A couple times. Maybe a few times. We got notches on our belt and tic marks on the brick walls. We pwn dwntwn.

We are gonna do things a little differently this time. Number one, we takin’ it slow and building the machinery ourselves. We are gonna be online and in print. We gonna be on your cell phone. We gonna have our own App. (Of course – who doesn’t?) We gonna have swag.

We are pulling together a lot of the old crew: R. Bramer gonna have his post-cancerous digits on the steering wheel. G. Goodsell gonna have his maniacal ways with layout and map-out and stay-out and crap-out. Nano gonna bring you Real. Art. as much as his fast-growing notoriety will allow. There are others… Stay tuned.

But we’re also gonna do some things that you’ve never seen before: Junior Reporter recruitments from area high schools; an Expanded Community Calendar that is a pleasure to read just for entertainment value; several new regular columns – on Gaming, on Visual Arts, on Music, on Education, on Politics… and local Cartoonists with their whimsical ways. We’ll have Fact-Checking!

Last time we tried this we had a head full of steam just like today. And the time before that we did also. For reals, why the hell do this again? Are we really that dumb? Or stubborn? Yes, to both. Can’t give up can’t stay down. We getting to like this dusty little town, such as it is. We figure it needs a Real. Free. Press. and we aim to provide just that. We are gonna keep our doors wide open – always – for anyone and everyone who wants to help. We gonna keep shifting and changing and redefining ourselves and we gonna keep up with the times and keep up with you and your community.

Here’s what You Can Do: 1) purchase some swag. We promise to pocket just enough of your hard-earned American dollars to keep us in coffee and sammiches. Every other penny goes directly back to producing the paper. 2) keep your eye on the Facebook page. Since that’s a freebie for everyone, just about, we’ll make our big announcements there first and foremost. At least until everyone gets used to the website and starts clicking their way over there in numbers. 3) Write and submit your BS. Each and every syllable will be considered for publication. We can’t guarantee that any of it will actually BE published, because let’s face it: sometimes y’all forget to leave the drugs behind in your ramblings. And it shows on Monday morning. 4) READ the fucker. 5) Be a constant and conscientious patron of our advertisers. And tell them so: “Hey, comrade, I saw you in The Blackboard!”

That’s it for now.

There will be more.